Canadian slow pitch rules strongly recommend helmets be worn by players, but for now, the decision is mostly up to the individual. But Chris Godfrey’s injuries are making greater Victoria slow pitch leagues think harder about mandating helmet use in the future. Andy Neal has more.
Three south-Island slo-pitch presidents discussed diamond safety at Topaz Park Tuesday, deeply shaken by news of 32-year-old Chris Godfrey being critically injured during at a weekend tournament in Courtenay.
“Very saddened for Chris and his family,” Greater Victoria Mixed Slowpitch Association President Scott Wood said.
“And we’re sending our best wishes of course up to Courtenay and Comox area and to our friends up there.”
One of the men purchased a helmet today.
“It’s definitely scary. I went and bought a mask as a pitcher because, you know, I’ve had some go by my head,” Tudor House Slo Pitch League President Doug Sturgeon said.
“Last week I got hit twice as a pitcher.”
The president of the Victoria Slopitch League says every year, helmet use is voted down by at least 90 percent.
“I encourage all the teams to at least carry helmets for those players on the team that wish to wear a helmet,” Gabe Melizza said.
Local leagues have enforced rules on equipment use, from bats that must have a USSSA stamp that proves it’s been tested, to the game balls themselves.
“Unfortunately for your average player, that would be hitting the ball 300-plus feet, the ball’s not hit as far, doesn’t come off the bat as quick,” Melizza said.
At Kirby’s Source for Sports, plenty of gear is available for players to stay safe.
But equipment advances with bats is helping some sluggers perform and some pay more than $300.
“Higher the price, typically the better the performance, the bigger the pop off the bat,” Kirby Source for Sports Owner Sean Tackaberry said.
“And by pop I mean you’re getting more distance.”
“You’re throwing a ball maybe two, three miles an hour and it’s coming back at you at a 100, so you have less than a second to react,” Sturgeon said.
But it’s not always a heavy force to the head that does the worst damage.
From the ice to the road to the diamond, the severity of the injury depends on the person.
“Slip and fall on the ice and you know, shake your head around quite mildly and it can cause quite devastating impact,” Victoria Brain Injury Society Executive Director Krissi Spinoza said.
“Whereas you could take a major impact and be ok.”
West Shore is the only slow pitch league in Greater Victoria to mandate helmet use for its players.
Saturday’s incident in Courtenay may lead other leagues to follow suit.
The Victoria Brain Injury Society says resources are available for players and coaches at www.vbis.ca and www.cattonline.com.