My name is Zoe, and I am 16 year old fastpitch player. I am a power hitter. I normally hit in the 3-5 spot, because my coaches pretty much trust me to hit the ball HARD, and move runners around.
When I am not hitting, I play catcher and as you may know, I wear a ton of protective gear. None of it is comfortable. Most of it makes hot days even hotter, and yet no one would expect me to take the field without it. Even with the equipment I wear, I have been cleated, suffered a concussion from taking a hard hit by a runner at the plate, have broke a few fingers and walk away from most games battered and bruised. I know that my equipment is not only necessary, but mandatory.
When I saw that you guys were doing a facemask awareness, I have to admit that I was happy about it. Most of my teammates do not wear masks. Some started out wearing them when we were younger, but have started leaving them in the bottom of their bat bags as time has went on.
Last year, during a 3 day tournament that many teams traveled from far away to play in I caused an accident. In a particular competitive game, I came up to bat and was lucky enough to get thrown the perfect pitch for me. Waist high, straight down the middle. And as I always do, I swung with all my might hoping to score some runs for my team. The bat and ball connected perfectly, like so perfectly that I didn’t even feel it sting my hands. And the ball was hit directly back to the pitcher. It her square in the face, breaking her nose, her orbital bone and knocking out 3 of her front teeth. She was not wearing a mask.
As a hitter, that was probably the worst day of my entire life. When she got hit, blood immediately spewed everywhere and I can remember running to first base in what felt like slow motion. By the time I arrived, time had been called – and the pitcher was lying on the ground with her coaches and teammates huddled around her. The next thing I remember was the sound of sirens, and then an ambulance arriving to take the girl to the nearest children s hospital.
During those moments, knowing that even thought the injury was unintentional, I was responsible for hurting another player to this extent, I fell apart. I was inconsolable with tears. All the girls on the both teams were distraught after witnessing something like this firsthand. That night, I could not sleep, I kept replaying the incident in my head, worried about the girl that I hit. For weeks, and months after wards every time I came up to bat, and saw a pitcher without a mask, I would replay that horrific day.
In fact, the guilt and fear, and trauma that I suffered was almost enough to make me never want to hit again. It’s been one year since this happened to me, and I have to admit that I am still not all the way ‘over’ it. Sometimes I have dreams about it. Things like this, even though they are accidents, truly make an impact on your brain, and change the way you think.
For a while after this incident, most of the players on my team went back to playing with their masks on. The sound of a ball hitting the bones of the face and crushing teeth is not something that you want to happen to you or anyone else. And we all know that it can happen anytime, during any game, for any reason. When you go many years without a tragic incident its easy to forget.
I was able to talk to the girl that I hit, and to see her face to face to know that she was okay. So far, she has not been back on the field, because the ball did some damage to one of her eyes that has impacted her vision, likely permanently. She also had to have several dental surgeries to correct her teeth. And thankfully, she was not mad at me, and I think that she has forgiven me. The hard part is forgiving myself, and trying to forget, even though I know it was just an accident. But I always think now that had she worn a mask, she probably would have been hurt – but not-nearly as severely as she was without one.
I just wanted to share my story, because as proud as I am of being a great power hitter – I have to admit that I feel a sense of relief when I come up to the plate and pitchers are wearing their masks. It has taken a lot for me to recover from this as well.