HAMEL, Minn. (WCCO) - The family of a young baseball player know that dangerous accidents can happen on the diamond.
During a game for Hamel, a ball ricocheted off Jake Arneson’s bat and struck him in the eye. He wasn’t wearing an optional facemask.
The 16-year-old was rushed to the hospital with a torn iris and a cut above his eye that required 11 stitches.
“Oh no, it’s not going to happen to me,” said Jake. “That’s what I was thinking, but it happened.”
Less than two weeks after the incident, Jake says his vision is still slightly blurry. His doctor wouldn’t clear him to play the rest of the season.
A face mask would’ve prevented Jake’s injury, but masks are not required in boys little league. If it were up to Jake’s mom, Erika Koonce, they would be.
“I thought it was very unusual the first time it happened to a boy on our high school baseball team,” says Koonce. “You just think it’s a freak accident and then it happens to your son the next season.”
USA Baseball tested face masks in some little leagues in the late 1990′s. More than half of the sample leagues stopped using them after the test. According to the survey, one third of players said it was harder to see through the masks.
Face masks have been part of girls’ softball for years. It’s required for batters and pitchers.
Jake’s 14-year-old sister, Taylor, wears one. She thinks the older boys should as well.
“I think they should definitely, I’ve seen a lot of people get hurt without them,” says Taylor.
Since her son’s accident, Koonce has rethought the safety of youth sports.
“I think parents should learn more and we should be more educated to keep our kids safe,” says Koonce.
The next time Jake steps up to the plate, he says he’ll wear the mask.
“Because if it happens again, it will probably be twice as worse,” said Jake.
WCCO reached out to Little League International for a comment about why masks aren’t required. They have yet to respond.