Take A Stand

Many months ago, I received an e-mail from Sandra, the mother of a 9-year-old baseball player. During a game, her son suffered a facial injury while at bat. That minor injury has evolved into a nearly two-year journey of frustration.

After the injury, Sandra was concerned about not only the safety of her child but also that of the other players in the local program, so she did some research. She found that the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Consumer Product Safety Commission endorsed the use of batting helmets with faceguards--equipment that wasn’t available in her child’s program and that would have protected him.

So she e-mailed the president of the local league and asked if he had ever considered obtaining helmets with faceguards. His response was for her to “refer to the safety handbook.” Of course, the handbook contained no answer, and her subsequent e-mails in pursuit of a real answer with some substance were ignored.

Months later, while she was picking up her son’s uniform for the start of a new season, a league official threatened to kick her son off the team if she continued her questions, which the official termed “harassing.”

Is Anyone Listening?

So, after more than 20 months of the mother’s phoning, calling, e-mailing and letter writing everyone from the president of Little League Baseball to those in charge of overseeing programs in her community, you may be wondering how much success she’s had in transforming the program into a safer one.

Unfortunately, her story doesn’t have one of those made-for-television endings--at least not yet, anyway.

Has her local program looked into her suggestions regarding the use of faceguards on batting helmets? Nope.

Have the league officials started using reduced-impact baseballs, which countless studies show cut down on the number of injuries sustained by players? No.

Why isn’t anyone paying attention? Why are her questions falling on deaf ears? Why won’t those in charge of programs at the national level at the very least look into what she is asking of them?

Advocate For Safety

Every so often we encounter special people in our lives with an unquenchable passion and a tireless desire to really make a difference. That’s Sandra. She’s butting heads with Little League Baseball. That’s not an easy battle to win, but what I find admirable is she genuinely cares about the safety of all the kids who step on fields around the country.

She isn’t allowing rude comments and threats from those in her community to derail her efforts. She’s taking a stand for children.

I recently received an e-mail from Sandra detailing the first good news she’s had in quite awhile. The president of the American Medical Association wrote a letter on her behalf to the president of Little League Baseball, endorsing the use of faceguards.

So, there is a glimmer of hope.

We’ll see if that’s enough.

In the meantime, what would you tell Sandra?

Fred Engh is founder and CEO of the National Alliance for Youth Sports (NAYS) in West Palm Beach, Fla., which has been advocating positive and safe sports for children since 1981. He is also the author of “Why Johnny Hates Sports,” which is available on Amazon.com.