Parent of injured softball player calling for changes in the sport

This week high school fastpitch softball teams across the state will open up district play.

Like any sport there is the risk for injury.

This past weekend at the college level we saw just how dangerous a line drive hit back at the pitcher can be.

U-K sophomore Kelsey Nunley took a hit that she deflected with her arm and mask.

Wearing a mask is optional both at the college and high school level.

WKYT's Amber Philpott has the story of two high school players who say after being injured on the mound they want to see a rule change at their level.

It's a distance of only 43 feet with a reaction of only four tenths of a second.

"I heard the crack of the bat and I never picked the ball up it was hit so hard, and then I heard another crack," said Tom Hamm, coach for East Jessamine Softball.

"I heard and then it looked like it was in slow motion and I kept thinking I had time to get it. As soon as I went to put my glove up it hit me," said Haylee Hamm, a senior for East Jessamine Softball.

In the state of Kentucky high school softball sees pitchers throwing 50 to 60 miles per hour with balls being hit back at them sometimes double the speed.

17-year-old Haylee Hamm a senior at East Jessamine High School has never had any fear when she takes the mound that is until a game in April.

Haylee had a 1-2 count on her batter and then it happened.

"Everything went black," said Hamm.

Haylee took a direct hit to her left eye from a line drive.

"She had an orbital floor blowout, basically the floor of they eye socket, it holds your eye in place that blew out, she had a fractured nose and a major laceration above, 20 stitches is what they told me," said her dad Tom Hamm.

Three years ago in 2011 Holly Ham, no relation to Haylee made headlines when she too was hit while on the mound.

"She hit a line drive, literally didn't have any time to react. I pulled up my glove, it hit me in the side of the head," said Holly Ham.

Holly nearly died, she spent a week at UK Children's Hospital.

" I had bleeding on the brain," said Holly Hamm.

Remarkably Holly has no permanent brain damage.

Now a college junior she watches from the sidelines as her little sister takes the field.

In a strange twist of fate, Shelby Hamm just happened to be the batter that injured East Jessamine player Haylee Hamm last month.

"All I remember was that about Holly and her accident, I was terrified for her that the same could happen," said Shelby Ham.

According to the National High School Sports-Related Injury Surveillance Study last year, the most common softball injury nationwide was a head/face concussion, accounting for 18 percent of all softball injuries.

To combat the problem a growing push for infield players to wear face masks.

After five weeks on the bench we were there when Haylee Hamm returned to the mound this time wearing a mask.

"Its a lot better than going through what I went through," said Haylee about now wearing a mask.

There is no rule in Kentucky that says high school athletes must wear a face mask in the field.

"I've already enforced the rule on my team, its not an option if you they want to play for me," said Coach Hamm.

Coach Tom Hamm admits he was never adamant about it, but after seeing what happened to his daughter he has now changed his tune.

"I think that as the sport has evolved as athletes get bigger and stronger like hockey and football there needs to be safety adjustments for kids sake."

In Rockcastle County, Holly Ham's family felt the same way three years ago and called for changes.

Just like Tom Hamm they want to see a rule that says pitchers and infielders especially players at first and third have to wear masks.

The Kentucky High School Athletics Association is listening, Commissioner Julian Tackett says he has already proposed that rule to the National Federation of High School Athletics.

"It is an issue with fast pitch softball, we want to be on the forefront of addressing it in our state first and then nationally is fine, or if we can affect a national ruling thats fine,"said Julian Tackett.

Haylee Hamm has racked up a number of wins on the mound, but quite possibly her biggest win might come if she and her father could see this proposed rule become a reality.

"I'm not really doing this for my daughter anymore she is wearing a mask. From now on I'm trying to save another kid from something like that or worse," said Hamm.

Commissioner Tackett says he expects to see some kind of change by the 2015 season.

As for Haylee Hamm, she will pitch next season for Blufton University in Ohio and has already informed her coach she will be playing with a mask.

Comments are posted from viewers like you and do not always reflect the views of this station. powered by Disqus