Friday, March 11, 2011

Get Behind That L-Screen - It Could Save Your Life

Please let this be a reminder, as we start the spring season, to use your L-screen, and use it well.

Vinny Ribar, a 15-year-old Freshman baseball player at Kiski Area High School near Pittsburgh suffered a serious injury on February 26th after being struck in the head by a line drive. He was using a protective L-screen in practice, but failed to stay completely behind it as the ball was approaching.

Ribar's story unfortunately does not stand alone as a wake up call to coaches everywhere. In case you need another example of how your life can be turned around forever with one pitch, I urge you to spend some time reading the story of former Sun Valley High School (Monroe, NC) coach Kenn Wright.

Ed Walton of Charlotte Country Day first alerted me to this years ago. Here's a link to Scott Fowler's series of Charlotte Observer articles called The Pitch, which tell of Wright's 1997 brain injury and the struggle for life that followed. In Wright's case, I believe it was the netting of his team's L-screen that had fallen into disrepair, allowing a 70 mph line drive to slip through and strike him directly in the forehead.

If you are going to be serving up batting practice to your players, even at the Little League level, please follow through and duck behind your L-screen. Check the netting for any holes or weak sections. Consider wearing a helmet. And don't let your youth players throw batting practice.

A couple of welts from Alfonso Fernandez in 2005 were a physical reminder for me. But bruises fade away with time. The story of Kenn Wright should never be forgotten.

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