The St. Louis Cardinals hosted the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sunday Night Baseball this past week and it’s safe the say the bad blood was more than boiling. From hard slides to intentional bean balls (to potentially non-intentional, intentional beanings), emotions were overflowing.
Also overflowing were paint chips from the helmet of St. Louis Cardinals catcher Tony Cruz, who was drilled by a foul ball late in the game.
Preparing to catch an incoming pitch, Cruz reached his glove out but Los Angeles Dodgers infielder Justin Turner was able to get a small sliver of the ball. The foul made it’s way straight into the helmet of Cruz and in slow motion could be seen shattering pieces of paint off his catcher’s mask.
Of course, this is something that happens on more than one occasion per game to catchers and considering they take such a beating, it’s understandable as to why MLB is growing more concerned with the safety of backstops.
We’ve already seen catchers have their career shortened by choice (Joe Mauer) or for medical reasons (Mike Matheny) so you’d hope continued advancements in technology will help improve the safety at the position. For now though, it remains one of the more physically demanding and damaging positions in all professional sports.
It also should be noted that there are many across the league who feel the ‘hockey style’ catching mask is a problem and does not allow for even distribution of energy in comparison to the more traditional mask placed over the helmet. When a foul ball (like the one seen above) hits that particular style, the mask will often fall to the ground, reducing the impact to the head of the catcher.