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Novato HS takes additional step to protect pitchers

March 30, 2010 7:36:44 PM PDT
There is a growing effort to protect high school pitchers from the speed of come-back balls hit with aluminum bats after a Marin County teenager was hit it the head by a baseball.

The Marin County Athletic League has already moved to ban the use of aluminum bats for the remainer of their season, switching instead to wooden bats, but the coaches at Novato High School have gone a step further.

Novato High School baseball coach Mark Stutzman decided last week his pitchers will now wear catcher's helmets while on the mound.

"What we're trying to do here is solve a problem; we have got to do something about this, let's try to put a protective hat on our pitchers," he said.

After Marin Catholic High School pitcher Gunnar Sandberg was hit in the head by a ball on March 11, parents, coaches and players have become more aware of the safety risks.

"Until we find something better or until a helmet manufacturer approaches us with something, we want to do something that's going to help prevent such a horrible tragedy," Stutzman said.

Dr. Eric Scher, a pediatric trauma physician at Marin General Hospital, said switching to wooden bats along with the use of the helmets is a good proactive move.

"It certainly diminishes the impact to the head," he said. "It doesn't change, necessarily, to the face or the temple, which is where often injuries occur, but it protects some part of the head and that's all important. So, I think it's a step in the right direction."

Novato High School pitcher Matt Mendelsohn says he feels safer wearing the helmet.

"After seeing Gunnar get hit, it just shouldn't happen to anyone," he said.

His father feels the same way.

"I'm thrilled he was willing to step up and do it and I feel much better that he's wearing a helmet," Scott Mendelsohn said. "I hope it sets a trend."

Sandberg remains in a coma but his condition is said to be improving.


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