One of the biggest hazards in baseball, yet often the most overlooked, is the diamond itself.
Sprinkler heads and gopher holes in the outfield can can cause players to slip, leading to sprained ankles, twisted knees or torn knee ligaments, while balls hitting pebbles on the infield can bounce up and hit a player in the throat, face, eyes, or head.
If a chain-link fence is curled up and the grass becomes high, an athlete, not noticing the hazard, may sustain a laceration to their hand when reaching down to pick up a ball.
Parents can't count on the umpiring crew which, while usually the one responsible for inspecting the field before a game begins to ensure that it is in a playable condition, all too often barely arrives at the field in time for the game itself (if he or she shows at all!) and assumes that the coaches have inspected the field!
Parents can't even count on the coaches, who are probably so busy getting their team ready to play and giving last minute instructions that they also don't have time to check the field for holes, puddles, broken glass, stones or other debris. Most coaches are happy to leave this task to the umpire, so they don't bother to check the field themselves.
The solution? Set up a field detail:
- Before the game: A parent should check the condition of the field, removing debris and eliminating any hazards, including
- checking to see that the fence is in good repair, especially the backstop and the fence along both foul lines, and that the bottom of the chain link in the outfield isn't curled up and covered by grass; and
- making sure there are no exposed sprinkler heads, drains, or gopher holes in the outfield. [Think it can't happen? If you a student of the game, or a fan of a certain age, you may remember that Mickey Mantle tore up his knee in the second game of the 1951 World Series when he caught a cleat in a rubber drain going for a pop fly off the bat of Willy Mays, an injury from which he never fully recovered.]; and
- removing all stones or large pebbles from the infield.
- After the game: When the game is over, the same parent should make sure that the field is left the way it was found, removing all litter from the field, sidelines and around the player benches.
- Setup a schedule. Assigning field detail to the parent bringing the water/sports drink and snacks to the game probably makes the most sense.
- Enlist coaches and players. Before starting practice or pre-game drills, the coach should check it from corner to corner. The players can help too. That way they will learn how important it is to have a clean and safe playing surface
Source: American Academy of Pediatrics; AAP Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness, Policy Statement: Baseball and Softball. Pediatrics. 2012;129(3):842-856. (doi: 10.1542/peds.2011-3593)(accessed February 26, 2012)
Updated May 15, 2015