The new fad on the field

Published 1:50 pm Friday, May 26, 2006

By By ERIKA PICKLES / Niles Daily Star
NILES - If you've attended any area softball games recently, you've probably noticed something a little different about the players.
A new piece of equipment has surfaced and is making a big statement on the field. At first sight, some may think the player just had dental work or a broken nose, however, neither of these are true.
Protective face masks have been around for quite some time now, but they were never seen around here until just recently.
A few recent accidents on the softball fields in the area have made these protective masks almost a requirement by all coaches.
Erica Gordon is a freshman on the Niles varsity softball team who now wears a protective mask while playing third base. Her mother, Jan, had been on her since the beginning of the season to wear a protective mask, but she never wanted to.
What prompted Jan to get a face mask so early in the season was the fact that a third baseman from Kalamazoo Christian took a line drive to the face, which split her nose and broke other facial bones. With her daughter playing the exact same position on the field, Jan became very concerned.
Her next step was the MLIVE website, where she started asking questions to other area players and parents. That's where she got the answer she was looking for. A website called offered the protective masks, so Jan ordered one right away.
Now that she found the mask, the next step was getting her daughter to wear it.
Then, the wake up call happened. Niles was heading into their second game of a double header with St. Joseph on May 9 when a line drive hit by Niles senior Stephanee Schrader hit St. Joe's pitcher Jordan Goslee in the head. Goslee fell straight to the ground and, after being in the ambulance on the way to the hospital, she had a seizure, which prompted a flight to Bronson Hospital in Kalamazoo.
The situation wouldn't have been easy for anyone, but what made it even harder was the fact that Schrader and Goslee were friends.
Goslee is fine today and only suffered a fractured jaw and skull, but her high school playing days have been put on hold.
Niles has purchased six face masks total, three for varsity and three for junior varsity. The first baseman, pitcher and third baseman all wear the masks.
Niles' pitcher Jenna Ignowski was filled with fear after seeing what happened in St. Joseph. So much fear, that her mother, Michelle, said she was afraid to even step into the circle.
Arnold admitted anyone playing at first base, third base or pitching will be required to wear the mask, and all of the teammates feel much safer with it on.
GameFace is a safety device specifically designed for various sports. With proper use, the GameFace will proactively reduce chances of facial and dental injuries.
The mask is made from polycarbonate (the same material bullet-proof glass is made of), which makes the mask ultra-lightweight, but extremely strong. The masks unique honeycomb design gives the strikebar superior strength. The mask is ventilated for cooling and provides full visibility. The mask comes with high-impact, adjustable foam pads to provide maximum comfort and protection.
Most leagues are now requiring infield position players to wear these masks, especially the third and first basemen and the pitcher, who play fairly close to the batter. This mask not only protects the athletes from those fast, line-drives and unexpected “bad hops,” but it also takes the fear away of fielding hard hit ground balls.