To Face Mask or Not to Face Mask?

With fall ball getting underway, the fastpitch softball community is still decidedly divided on the subject of defensive face masks (for fielders, as opposed to the universal acceptance for their need in the batter’s box.)

I don’t think our position back then was entirely self-serving, although we do sell some great face guards. But maybe we were coming at it from the parent side of the question a little too heavily. The thought of “our girls” getting hit in the face with a rocket-like softball, along with the potential facial devastation was too much. As parents, that feeling still lingers.

Parents Push for Face Masks

At this writing, the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) has not made the use of defensive face masks mandatory. But that doesn’t mean some states don’t “rule the roost” differently. Some state governing associations are now requiring pitchers, as well as 1st and 3rd basemen, to wear a face guard. No exceptions.

Kentucky leads the way, with Missouri quickly following suit. Others, including your own, may decide to go this route by spring of 2018. These are, again, at the high school level, but you can expect a greater number of youth and travel programs to react in a similar way sometime soon, if they haven’t already.

LSUE Pitcher, Abigail Leonards advocate for Fastpitch Fields Face Masks

Abigail Leonards, LSU-E pitcher, back to sporting a face mask after suffering multiple injuries including permanent damage.

The parental point of view, let’s call it the “Safety First” POV, runs rampant in dramatically recounted tales of tragedy averted on comment sections and blogs addressing the pros and cons of face guard use in softball. That was our initial reaction, (Face Masks?) too.

Face Masks: Player’s Preference

On the other hand, I/we haven’t played competitive fastpitch softball wearing a face mask. That is, apparently, a big game changer in one’s opinion on the subject. Those young women who have played while “masked-up”? Well, let’s just say they have more complicated feelings on the subject, at least as they’ve expressed on boards, blogs and comments sections.  Their input runs the gamut from effusive thanks for this awesome product to rebukes along the lines of “Learn how to catch, losers!”

The simple fact that baseball players (i.e., boys/men) haven’t been subjected to a face guard mandate seems like a double standard. And that’s a point about which there doesn’t seem to be any getting around. But it’s a weak story to tell in the emergency room at your local hospital.

So…what are your thoughts on the great face masks debate? Are you “PRO” face guard? Or “ANTI” face mask? Or should it be left to the player (or parent)?  And why?