Column: Baseball must act now to protect pitchers
Bryce Florie wonders why any pitcher would resist wearing a little extra protection on his head.
Maybe it would be different if they could look at the world through his eyes. Specifically, his right eye _ the one that was struck by a line drive nearly 13 years ago.
To this day, his peripheral vision remains a blurry mess.
“Normally when you get hurt, the bruise heals, the injury heals, and you forget about it,” Florie said Friday from his home in Charleston, S.C. “When you get hit in the head, it’s a little bit different. I couldn’t get away from it because I couldn’t see well out of one eye.”
Baseball has always been a sport that moves at a glacier-like pace.
Well, it’s time to speed things up after watching another pitcher crumple to the ground, the frightening outcome of being struck in the head by a line drive.
Baseball should immediately mandate some sort of added protection for the pitcher’s head, and the players should enthusiastically agree to it. It might be nothing more than a thin strip of padding that offers minimal defense. That’s OK. Something is better than nothing, and nothing is what they’ve got at the moment.
Seriously, what’s it going to take to wake up a sport that revels in its traditions?
A player dying right on the field?
Surely, that was the immediate concern for anyone who saw Toronto’s J.A. Happ get smashed in the head by a line drive this week, leaving him with a skull fracture behind the left ear.
The doctors believe the injury will heal on its own. Who knows if Happ will ever fully regain the courage it takes to throw a ball while knowing he’s going to end up about 55 feet from a big-league batter.
Florie pitched only seven more games in the big leagues before his career was cut short by his vision problems. He also concedes that he never really got over what it did to him mentally.
“I always thought I was as tough-minded as they come,” he said. “When that happened, my brain was saying things like, `Watch it.’ I had never heard that before. I wasn’t scared. But it’s in there. You can’t explain it until it happens to you.”
Other than putting up a screen in front of the pitcher’s mound, like they do in batter’s practice, there’s no way to totally eliminate the danger that a pitcher faces during the course of a game.
Still, it seems puzzling that baseball has yet to get past the research-and-development phase, even in light of several harrowing episodes over the past year. More troubling are all the players who say there’s nothing on the market they’d be willing to try at the moment _ a group, amazingly enough, that includes Brandon McCarthy.