Injured Softball Player Leads Push For Protective Face Masks

CHATFIELD, Minn. (WCCO) — When you think of sports injuries, you probably think high intensity, contact sports like hockey and football. However, in southern Minnesota, softball coaches are trying to highlight the risk of the game – and push for more protective gear.

On the softball diamond in Chatfield, Minn., the girls’ varsity team practices for an upcoming scrimmage. But there is one player who’s missing, benched at home because of an injury.

“It’s really hard not going to practice,” said Jennifer Hanson, a pitcher for Chatfield’s softball team.

Hanson gets dizzy when standing and her lips and mouth are still swollen from a line drive that hit her face, Saturday, while pitching.

“I’ve had them hit me in the legs and shins and I’ve seen it happen in the face, but I never thought it would happen to me,” said Hanson.

Her coach, Jeff Johnson, watched his player fall to the ground unconscious and then hauled off by ambulance.

“Typically, you don’t have a lot of injuries in baseball or softball, but when you do, sometimes they are pretty threatening,” said Johnson.

Last year, the Minnesota State High School League pushed back the pitcher’s mound by three feet. It increases the chance of making a hit, but many believe it also raises the risk of getting hit.

“It’s making us pitchers throw slower, and girls are getting more contact with ball and hitting it harder. So, it’s affecting us pitchers negatively,” said Hanson.

That’s why Johnson is now encouraging his pitchers and third base players to wear protective head gear. Grace Sagdalen started wearing the mask this season.

“At first, I thought, OK, this is going to be hard to pitch with, but I can’t even feel it’s there anymore,” said Grace Sagdalen, a pitcher on the Chatfield softball team.

Johnson, along with other softball coaches in the area, plan to push for the masks to become a requirement.

“This game has evolved enough that our girls are getting bigger and stronger, and they are hitting the ball pretty hard,” said Johnson.

Jennifer sees the rule as the only way to ensure player safety.

“My mom mentioned wearing a mask this year, and right away, I told her, no way, I don’t want to look silly,” said Hanson. “Now, I will definitely be wearing a mask.”

It’s a lesson learned from an injury that could ultimately change the game.

It will take some time before the Minnesota State High School League can make the change. Before every season, a task force considers new safety measures.

More from Rachel Slavik
  • Rocks in her head

    In the boys game you can ban aluminum bats but if the girls have to swing a wood bat, I doubt most would be able to get around quick enough to make contact or get it out of the infield. Tough call.

    • jackactionhero

      Pitchers should be able to instinctively get their gloves up to stop that ball at their face.

      • scott

        Not true. Although it maybe uncommon, it does happen that the ball is hit so hard and quick that the pitcher doesn’t have time to react. Getting hit by the ball on some part of the body does happen. When it is a head shot, that is a bad day. Head gear is so easy to use. MSHSL would be wise to require it. And for all that would say it’s the parents job, you have never had a 16 year girl play the sport. It is not as easy as it sounds. Requiring it means everyone wears it. If everyone wears it, no one is different.

        • Truth is tough

          Actually Scott – I have had 4 play, one still does HS level.

          I am all in favor of it being an option. Needed??? I guess one thinks so if their daughter gets hit like this yound lady did. So that should be an optional piece of gear required to be on the sideline and used if desired. Encouraged maybe even. (?)

          Where do we stop this over-regulating of sports, what kids can or cannot do, how much protection is required ??????
          A 3rd baseman in baseball – hot corner. Really hot.
          Catcher-maybe we need kevlar suits?
          Let’s stop the sliding —- more kids injured there than anyplace.
          We could even use a pitching machine I suppose in softball or a net. lol

          Seriously – we are destroying sports. My thoughts are to take away parents. They get to see videos. ;-)

          • Hugh

            I really wonder if you believe what you just posted or if you are just trying to be funny.

            For years professional football only used a leather helmet but as the game evolved and progressed the rules had to change. Hockey went through the same evolution as helmets are now required and neck protection is required for goalies. Boxing used to be bare knuckle but that has changed also.

            After ready your last statement I can only think of that great quote from Billy Madison, ‘what you’ve just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it.’

          • scott

            Glad to hear you know the game. I have been a coach of the game for more then 10 years. I do not agree with you, but I do understand your point of view. I will just like to say the difference for a pitcher, then anyone else is that a pitcher is in a very vulnerable position after the release of ball. You being a parent of players, you must have seen what I have said about balls hit back to the pitcher. The skill, and I believe, luck that the player is ok is enough for me to want the rule change.

          • Dan

            We are destroying sports? Man, what an idiot! Thank God you don’t coach.

            Just please stop posting you’re making us all stupid.

            Nobody is saying that we are going to dress them up like the Tin Man. It’s a 1/2 pound mask that they can perfectily see out of and very comfortable.

            Again, obviously you’ve never seen anything like this happen and don’t understand how fast and hard the ball comes back.

            It comes off the bat up to 98 MPH, highschool kids only pitch 60 max. Why wear battling helmets you nob? Get a clue!

      • desert eagle .50

        Clearly not a physics major.

      • Kathleen Crellin

        I have played slow pitch softball. I finished as a pitcher. I quit because balls were just whizzing by my face. No way could I get my glove up until long after the ball had gone by. I was just lucky. I know of some young girls who have gotten severe eye injuries from being hit by the softball. Why not make face protection a rule so that players can have more fun and parents less worry.

    • cullen

      Why would they not be able to get around on a ball quick enough? The wood bats weigh the same they are just proportioned differently to give it a smaller sweet spot.Wood bats also do not have the trampoline effect that the aluminum bats do. Get some knowledge before you talk nonsense. Another post by someone without a clue.

  • Baseballsux

    What we should ban is calling baseball / softball a sport. I suppose there is a ball used, but really few athletes play this leisure activity.

    • Hugh

      I bet you are one of those folks that thinks Poker is a sport and that it should be shown on ESPN. That is a real sport. Takes a lot of physical conditioning and ability to sit there.

  • Bill

    It’s not hard ball, it’s SOFT ball.

    If you want another level of safety, go to NERF ball.

    • scott

      The article is taking about FastPitch Softball. And there is nothing soft about it. It’s a great game. ESPN has many game on now. Very fun to watch.

      • Bill

        Gee, thanks for explaining an article to me that I already read.

        Don’t you have any work to do? What’s your bosses name?

        • scott

          Sorry to have insulted you Bill. Your first post implied the game was SOFT, and some people don’t know the difference between softball and fastpitch. Again, there is nothing soft about fastpitch. And I work the over night if you really want to know.

          • Bill

            Yes but soft ball is softer than hard ball.

            Which would you rather have hit you in the nads, a soft ball or a hard ball?

            PS: I appreciate the apology, it shows you have class.

            • cullen

              Actually a softball is made in different densities. I don’t know exact specifics but thats what the colored dots are on them. Some leagues require certain types of softballs. Some people think they know but in reality they have no clue. Yes Bill people that actually know the game can tell the wanna be’s. Go watch espn highlights and pretend like you know what is going on.

    • cullen

      They do now use a spongy softer ball in baseball for little kids. It is in case one of the little guys takes one to the chest it has a lower chance of stopping that dude’s heart. And look how widespread masks, for hitters, are in the little league world series now! It’s called evolution and we need to evolve as we are supposedly the smartest animals on the planet but obviously we do have some humans that are still lagging behind, far far behind. I think that my dog has more common sense than some. And he eats his own poop!!!

  • john

    Why do you need another rule? If YOU want to wear a mask, then wear one. We don’t need to make another rule EVERYTIME someone gets injured in a sport. It’s part of the game

    • scott

      MSHSL require athletes to wear protective gear. Different sports have different rules. Hockey players to batters wear protective gears. If you have ever watched a ball come off a part of a pitchers body or third base player, you too would understand the common sense this rule makes. It doesn’t have to be part of the game.

  • Dan

    I can’t believe how many idiots post comments that have never played sports. Go post on something you might know about, like checkers or chess.

    Get hit in the face by a softball going about 95-100 MPH and then come on here and post.

    • Truth is tough

      Well then – let’s protect them while on bases, especially 3rd. And kill the sliding. And no throwing a ball if you are facing an advancing runner and throwing to a base behind them.
      And tennis shoes only on the field. Serious on all this – if you want to protect your kid lets do it right.

      Seriosly – manade a mask on bench always available, have the coaches recommend one worn, but DO NOT madate more baloney,, especially the knee jerk variety

      • Hugh

        ‘manade a mask on bench always available’


        • Crazy

          I bet it was “mandate” there Hugh – you have no ability to think outside that box you live in???

    • Crazy

      That is where ya way off base and just got picked off due – we do play sports. Sports…..not Gawd know what you are trying to change them too as you move forward regulating this and that.

      How many teen pregnacies would a chastity belt prevent? Think about that one Danny boy LMAO

  • scott

    Jennifer, way to go. There are many people that play, watch, and know the game on your side. This is a rule that will be, the only questions is when. Soon, very soon I hope.

  • blah

    Wow guys, being a softball player myself, i dont think it wouldnt be a bad idea for a pitcher to wear a mask. I have hit a pitcher myself in the ankle and took her out of the game. And i would never pitch after i saw that, its risky. I dont think it should be a rule but if you want to wear it then go ahead. I also agree 3rd baseman is a hot spot too and short stop but they do have more time to react then a pitcher. And softball is a sport there @baseballsux, what do you not know how to hit or catch a ball is that why you think it should be banned? what an idiot. Sad story, but it shouldnt stop everyone else play the game

  • Coach and Protector

    I am working on a magnetic track that can be placed on the baselines so that the batters can be inside a metal cage and only have their hands exposed. After contact the ball emits a signal to start the cage in motion to 1st base. The player still will have to run inside it to keep up so excersize still occurs.
    The Pitcher also shall have the same style cage but frontal protection facing batter only. The cage shall drop down 1 second after the emitted ping allowing enough time for the ball to pass by them.
    I am unsure of the manner to protect the infielders – do you have thoughts on this?
    The outfielders should be okay I believe – maybe we could adapt a type of leather back protection to wear under the uniforms? I will leave that up to the MSHSL, I mean parents, to address.
    Another solution may be to require a larger cushioned ball ? The trouble here is the current gloves will then not work. We could just make it extra soft and have no need for a glove in the future (?) – any input or thoughts on this also?

    • rockfish

      My thought is your an idiot.

  • Randy

    It only takes seeing one girl hit with a batted ball in the face to change one’s opinion on wearing masks. The girls would not wear them because it was “silly” or “embarassing”. Now, in our league in CT, we mandated that the pitcher and the corners wear them. Now after several since the rule, it has become natural to wear them and are actually more aggressive in fielding. Unfortunately, it won’t be widespread until colleges start wearing them. If you notice, more colleges are now wearing masks on batting helmets, so maybe the fielding masks will catch on.

    • Dave

      No mandates
      I understand and respect what you are trying to do – no one here wants to see someone injured, ever.
      At the same time most are sick of the madates being handed down every time something occurs. If one wants to avoid a face injury and is fearful by all means wear a mask/guard. Support you daughter and encourage it. Yet allow individuals to make the choice. One a personal level
      I teach Drivers Ed and I will only say this – if you honestly want to protect your kid DO NOT let them become licensed until 18. Do not let them be in a car with someone under that age driving. This is a serious statement
      Look at where about 87% of the serious injuries occur under 18 – in an automobile. Direct your efforts to where it is most needed and could do the most good.
      Both are optional activities – I cannot fathom you are demanding this when daeth and permanent ijury on the roads is about 100000 more likey.
      This is way over the top. seriously

      • Hugh

        Thanks for trying to hijack this discussion by trolling your own personal agenda.

        I guess by your logic, we should all have the choice to buy a car without seatbelts and/or airbags because it is a person choice on if it actually helps protect anyone?

        Or maybe we shouldn’t let our kids play sports until they are 18 and they can make their own decisions on wearing safety gear? I am really not sure what you are trying to accomplish with your post.

        • Crazy

          I think you onto something Hugh — make them wait until 18.
          Gotta ask you this – ever let your kid make a decision on anything? thought not
          What you want is the rule for all
          Pull up your panties Hugh … they slippin’

        • Dan

          Nice post Hugh, good thing you’re around, to put idiots in their place.

          • Chimps everywhere ...needin' the Ape

            Yeah Hugh … you be the Villiage Protector and Dictator.
            Lordy – we need more of the Villiage Imbeciles like Hugh. I cannot decide if I want beef or pork right now. Which will you order me to feast on Hugh??? Hurry dude as I am hungry

    • Parent in favor

      I remember running to the circle, praying to God that the pitcher, my daughter was all right. The deals you make with God on that short trip to the circle is enough to fill a library.You are right, it only takes one time seeing that to understand how silly it is that they don’t require a protective gear on the pitcher and third base player.

  • mitch

    Its amazing how softball gets all these requirements and rule changes and baseball is exempted. I know that baseball is all about tradition but at some point we need to protect our athletes. I have played baseball for 20 years and have been hit or seen someone get hit in the head 8 times. My dad, who has coached softball for 35 years has never had a girl get hit in the head. I am not saying that we need to require masks but maybe suggest it for all players.

  • Rockford

    Allow the pitchers to wear it. You are now seeing some little league pitchers wearing chest protector devices to prevent a ball striking them in the sternum thus interferring with a heart beat. anything to protect the kids without changing the sport should be the goal.

    • Me asks

      Absolutely ALLOW them to
      Do not force them to.

      When did having an elective option in America become a friggen NO ???
      Come on all you so-called adults. Think outside the over-reactive little shelled boxes you live in.
      Rights – people have right to elcet and choose.
      Somehow you pompous arrogant do all see all know all protect all do gooders need to wake up. Your little kids will need to make their own choices someday … or will you dictate them to their graves?

      • Dan

        I ask me asks, why you’re an idiot???

        • ChimpSquasher

          You made the point a few making ….. kids controlled my the Helicopter Momma and Daddys from the time of birth until Momma and Daddy pass away.
          A shame but they call us the Country of Wussies for a good reason. We ruled by Control Freaks

          • not that hard of a decision

            In fastpitch softball, batters are required to wear helmets. Batters, at the most see pitches around 60 plus. A pitcher could see a ball batted back at over 90 plus. Why is this different to require a protective gear for someone that is in direct line of danger? And by doing so, gets no advantage. And will not effect them, the pitcher in any way. Requiring this doesn’t make us wussies, it makes us smarter. To place children in danger, and not change the rules as the game changes just makes us barbaric and stubborn.

            • Wondering aloud

              I demand it in the corners and at SS too.
              I don’t care about the 2nd base gal. She can cope.

              Protect the gals from all males too while we covering things….males are bad, creepy and …. men

  • Me asks

    so she made a choice to not and now gets to make all do it huh?
    Great country we becoming….do I use Charmin or Scott TP. Come on – tell me what I have to use.

    “Jennifer sees the rule as the only way to ensure player safety.”

    • bugsy

      Wow you can leave the girl out of this… the fact is that if you know high school girls they aren’t going to make the decision to wear a mask because it isn’t “cool” so it really is the only way to ensure player safety. I would really like to know how many of you posting have ever played softball or baseball because some of the nonsense coming out of you people is ridiculous and makes me embarrassed for your parents

  • Parent in favor

    I can see no clear reason not to have this a requirement other then people want to have a choice, and I question how many of you have, or have had a child in that circle. Again, if you have ever seen the ball hit back to the pitcher, you would understand the request for this rule change. Bats today are different then they were 5 years ago. The game has changed. Requiring a face mask would not hurt anyone, and instead protective the most vulnerable. As adults it is our job to make decisions that are best for our children. It seems silly to even debate this.

    • Dan

      Good post!

    • Prep player

      Have you ever been around hot grease in the kitchen — OMG, it can splatter.
      Ban us from cooking too for our own safety. Trust me – we would like that and care not a bit

      Better still – all you moms and dads who are worried I must ask this. Why not form your own Leagues and set your own rules. You trying to set them for everyone else. Just move on – and if you can field enough teams for a tournament come on over and play with the rest of us anytime

      • Old enough to know bettter

        And this from a child I assume, proving the point you can’t reason with them completely. They do not have the experience nor the age to understand the impact a injury to the head can cause. Something that can last a life time. Requiring a mask doesn’t change the game.

        • Wondering aloud

          You made the case for a chastity belt … or keeping them locked up until 18.
          I sell titanium locks —- discounts available to leagues.
          Call me

    • Prep player

      Did you or someone force her into the role?
      Of course not …. give it a rest.
      You people are nuts

  • From the Sister of the Girl

    I would just like to say we are not hoping for a rule change or this to be mandatory. It was just to build an awareness of masks. And for any of you that think you could have dodged the ball I’ll be the first to watch. Until you experience what we have and been in the ER while your little sister screams in pain then you might understand. Make the arguments about masks not about the girls playing the game. My sister did not ask to be hit on the face or even to be on the news, so have some courtesy when posting.

  • Dan

    To Sister: Please don’t let ignorant idiots bother you. Most of these people have never played the game, and if they have, they’ve never been hit in the mouth by a ball moving 95 MPH.

    You, your family and her coach are doing the right thing…… Just thank God that one of these idiots above aren’t coaching her!!!

    • scott

      Dan, I agree. Ignore them. As for the awareness, they are doing the sport a great service. But for some, unfortunate more injures will incur, and more families will spend a night at the ER wishing they had, or there was a mask on their player. Anyone that has been around the game for the last 10, 5, or even the last 3 years know this is just a millimeter away from a tragedy. And then, and maybe only then will we see a change. Maybe it will be the bats. Maybe it will be a mask. Or maybe it will be both that change. I don’t know, but I do know It is coming.

  • What Am I Passionate About? « deemerli

    […] I have seen many girls get drilled in the back, elbow, sheens, ankles and even the chest and face. This game may seem like there is not a lot of contact, but when you get hit by a pitch or by a […]

  • D1 pitcher wearing mask in game - Page 6

    […] […]

blog comments powered by Disqus
Thursday Night Football

Listen Live