Selig not sold that helmets will solve baseball injury issue
OUTGOING Major League commissioner Bud Selig believes it's not as easy for his sport to reduce head or facial injuries, by simply adopting cricket-style helmets.
Last year, Atlanta Braves right fielder Jason Heyward fractured his jaw after he was struck by a fast ball from New York Mets pitcher Jon Niese.
As a cricket fan, that left this reporter wondering why don't baseball batters wear cricket-style helmets, with see-through face and jaw protection?
Heyward was hit flush on his jaw, below the ear flap on his helmet, leading me to ponder why baseball helmets don't go around the whole face of a batter, like cricket helmets do.
I posed that question to Selig last week during the Major League Opening Series, between the LA Dodgers and the Arizona Diamondbacks at the SCG.
"In terms of the hitters I think we've done very well. Back in my day, and this was many, many years ago, hitters wore nothing," Selig said.
"Baseball's been very sensitive - we have a new rule for collisions at home plate this year, because we're trying to reduce the concussions and violence."
"In every way we possibly can we're going to make the game a safe sport. I think the helmets and the flaps have worked very well.
"Remember, you've got a guy on the mound throwing it at 95-100 miles an hour."
In the rules brought in for this season, a runner may not run out of a direct line to the plate in order to initiate contact with the catcher, or any player, covering the plate.
If he does, the umpire can call him out even if the player taking the throw loses possession of the ball.
And the catcher may not block the pathway of a runner attempting to score unless he has possession of the ball.
If the catcher blocks the runner before he has the ball, the umpire may call the runner safe.
Selig, who will step down from his role at the end of this season, after having the top job since 1992, added the league was also looking at adequate protection for pitchers.
He brought up a famous incident in 1957, when legendary pitcher Herb Score, of the Cleveland Indians at the time, was struck by a Gil McDougald line drive, of the Yankees.
The blow shattered Score's facial bones, and he took some time to regain his 20/20 vision.
McDougald, seeing Score hit by the baseball and then lying down and injured, immediately ran to the pitching mound instead of first base, to help assist his opponent.
"Remember 1957 when Gil McDougald hit a line drive back and it hit Herb Score?" Selig said.
"It can happen, but we've taken a lot of steps to make the game safer, and we will continue to.
"We've been looking at a new hat (for pitchers, with protection).
"Every pitcher has a different way they want it and we're going to see if we can work something out."
Selig thoroughly enjoyed his time Down Under, saying it was an intriguing place to visit in his attempts to grow the game internationally.
He joked it would not take another 100 years for more MLB action to come to these shores.
The last baseball match between top American teams, before last weekend, was between the Chicago White Sox and the New York Giants, also at the SCG.
Aussie fans of American sports could be in for another treat soon.
Queensland premier Campbell Newman met with executives from the National Football League in New York earlier this month, where he urged officials to consider Brisbane as a host venue.
Last year, a premiership game was played in London and the sport's governing body is also keen to expand further internationally.
The NFL's top brass are expected in Brisbane in the coming weeks to check out Suncorp Stadium.
There, they will talk about the possibilities of a regular-season game being played in the Sunshine State.
Selig gave Australia the tick of approval.
"They'll watch this, and what is there not to be encouraged by?" he said of the Opening Series at the SCG, converted into a ballpark, which was widely hailed as a raging success.
"This is marvellous. It makes you proud of baseball.
"I know there was a little criticism of this trip from some people in America, and so on.
"But what they don't understand is these are all building blocks.
"If the other leagues are watching, they're going to have plenty to see."