School institutes no-mask, no-pitch policy

April 9, 2009 7:49:29 AM PDT
The rules are changing for some softball players.Most people consider it a safe sport. But some suburban high schools are making pitchers wear a safety mask after some players were hit in the face by a line drives.

A year ago a pitcher from Marist High School, Michelle Vucsko was hit by a line drive in a game. It knocked out her two front teeth.

Last week, Evergreen Park's Jayme Wazio suffered a concussion when she was hit. Those injuries have led some softball officials to make the players wear face masks.

College softball players take the field for a game between St. Xavier and St. Francis Universities. The batters wear helmets with face masks. The pitchers do not.

But for younger players that's starting to change. Jayme Wazio says she wishes she had been wearing a mask when she was hit by a line drive last week. Fracturing her nose cavity and giving her a concussion.

"It knocked me down. I went to touch my head and i just felt like a huge bump on it and I got really scared, of course," said Jayme Wazio, Evergreen Park High School.

Pitchers in softball stand just 40 feet from the batter. Jayme's parents had been trying to convince her to wear a face mask that would protect her against hard hit balls. She refused because she thought it looks funny.

"I don't care what it looks like. Being teenagers i know they care, but after a few practices and a few games they could easily get used to it," said Jan Wazio, mother.

Jayme is now out for the season. Doctors say another blow to her head could cause serious damage. And her injury has prompted officials with the nearby Lincoln-Way softball organization to make face masks mandatory for pitchers.

"Why wait any longer? We need to get out there, protect the girls before another girl gets injured," said Jennifer Lynch, Lincoln-Way Storm Softball.

Evergreen Park High School has also instituted a no-mask, no-pitch policy. The district will supply masks for anyone who takes the mound. Jayme is a sophomore playing with the varsity... She wants to come back but with a mask.

"Kind of wish I listened to my parents and my coaches. But I didn't want to," said Jayme Wazio.

The American softball association in Chicago has discussed making face masks mandatory the last several years. But they ultimately have voted it down. There is a cost involved with the masks but they say they are more concerned about the equipment, making sure the bats and balls are within specifications that should not cause serious injury.


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