ELMWOOD PARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — If a softball player gets hit by a pitch, she heads to first base. But if she gets hit by a line drive, she may be headed to the hospital.
One New Jersey school doesn’t want to take that risk, and is now requiring its softball players to wear protection.
Just last year, a cringe-worthy scene unfolded involving an Elmwood Park high school pitcher.
“All the bones — the orbital bone, the cheek bone and parts of her jaw — were damaged,” Elmwood Park Memorial High School Athletic Director Joe Colangelo told CBS 2’s Vanessa Murdock on Thursday.
The injury was so severe that the Board of Education now requires the softball team’s infielders to wear facemasks.
“The rule is that you put the mask on or you don’t play,” Elmwood Park varsity softball coach Jillian Torrento said.
The girls recently took the field for the last practice of the season, taking a few more ground balls with masks on. But when the season started, there was a little protesting.
“I think they’re kind of ugly,” second baseman Caitlin Gilmore said. “So I think that a lot of the girls on the team didn’t really want to wear them.”
But third baseman Brittany Matsko certainly did after suffering a concussion last year.
“Even if it wasn’t going to become mandatory, I was going to get one either way,” Matsko said.
“The number one reason is safety,” one player’s mom said when asked why the girls wear them.
But this entire situation begs the question: Why not require facemasks for the boys, too? It’s because of the difference in field dimensions, Murdock was told.
“My first and third basemen are probably playing — at closest — 25 or 30 feet away from the batter, so it’s pretty close,” Torrento explained.
And composite bats make a big difference, too.
“They’re hitting the ball a lot faster and harder,” Torrento added.
Center fielder Milana Gilaga said she doesn’t have to wear one, and she admits that she’s a little jealous, as those hard-hit ground balls make her nervous.
“I’m a go-getter when I’m out there — that’s why I love the outfield — but sometimes it gets a little scary,” Gilaga admitted.
And even though she said she thinks that the masks are ugly, second baseman Gilmore admitted that wearing one has its perks.
“If the ball is coming at you, or you miss the ball and it hits you in the face, then you don’t get hurt,” Gilmore acknowledged.
The facemasks didn’t affect the Crusaders’ season. In fact, it was their best season ever, as they finished the campaign 13-5.
The entire town, from the recreation level all the way to varsity, is now wearing facemasks for fast-pitch softball
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