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From the Dugout - Balancing Safety and Competitive Play
Feb. 1, 2022
From the Dugout
By Terry Hennessy
We recently received an email from a pitcher who had been injured by a batted ball in a tournament, asking us to put in screens for pitchers.
We receive this recommendation often – and the National Rules Committee has discussed it for the past several years.
We do believe pitching screens have an important place in the sport – in league play and batting practice.
There is a significant difference between league and tournament softball. In the 250 leagues we sanction, many do use screens because of the difference in age and skill level of the players on each team. This is appropriate in my view because of the difference in age and skill levels in league play.
In tournament play, the players are divided not only by age, but by skill level to minimize the chance of injury. In the past 25 years that I have been in this position, we have not seen an increase in the number of serious batted-ball injuries in tournament play.
That is NOT to say that injuries are not important, but it IS to say that the game of softball has risks, especially for pitchers because they are the closest to the batter.
To that end, we mandate masks and recommend other protective gear for pitchers. There will still be injuries because of the nature of the game.
Our goal is to balance safety while keeping the game active enough so seniors will want to continue to play competively.
We do care. I play 3rd base occasionally, wear a mask and shin guards and still have been hit by balls. I play knowing the risks because I love the sport.
If we see an increase in the number of serious batted ball injuries, we will consider a change. We have not seen an increase in injuries to date.
Terry Hennessy is the Chief Executive Officer of Senior Softball USA and can be reached at: Terryh@seniorsoftball.com.