Softball Memory / Protect Thyself

Good morning and welcome to the last day of February 2018 ever!

So today I recorded my 34th edition of my re-vamped podcast (The Freak Show on Podbean) and I was giving updates on various things since my last podcast which included softball for this weekend and status updates on the tournament I am hosting for Greg Fusco’s family on March 10th-11th. In the process of putting this tournament together, I have been in contact with Greg’s mom a little bit. For those who do not know about Greg Fusco, he was a softball player in Florida who was struck in the head by a batted softball. A line drive hit him in the temple while he was pitching and he was momentarily rendered unconscious. A few minutes later he was helped off the field and later went to the hospital. During his extended stay in the hospital his condition worsened and he later died due to the serious head trauma sustained. This in itself is utterly tragic news in our softball community. We who play this game of softball enjoy and love it like an outsider cannot begin to understand. I came to find out that Greg had recently gotten married and was just back from his honeymoon when the injury occurred. To compound this horrific event, the universe allowed this to happen so soon after his married life had begun; it also unfolded right before his birthday would have come about and just before Christmas. All of this is a lot to process much less absorb and far too much for a mother and new wife to have to endure.

After reading a news story about Greg’s accident, I started communicating on Facebook with an old softball friend who had moved to Florida and knew Greg. Something on a deep internal level moved me and I decided to put on a benefit tourney up here in St Louis to show our communal softball spirit and togetherness. I never got to meet Greg personally and although hundred miles separate Missouri and Florida, it just felt like a good idea to give back to the game I have enjoyed and played literally thousands of times. For those of you interested and on Facebook you can search the public page for the event to find out more information: Greg Fusco Memorial Tournament – St Louis

Like I said above, I have had a couple occasions to communicate with Greg’s mom and we’ve talked a little bit about the event and compared notes with how their benefit events in Florida have gone. In doing so we became Facebook friends; thus whenever she makes a comment or shares something I get a notification in my feed. Over the last several weeks she has noted more incidents on the softball field (it’s Florida so they can play ball all year round pretty much) where more pitchers are getting hit and seriously hurt. This made me reflect on my time pitching and one such incident in 2013 where I got hit in the face. On Facebook I put a post up with three pictures to Cliff Notes the incident. First picture showed my safety glasses that I wore to play in. The second one was my bruised and cut face (camera phone flipped the image to invert the sides) with butterfly band aid and longer normal band aid to cover the gash sustained. And the third image shows me able to smile and still be ‘in-the-game’ later instead of having to see a facial reconstruction specialist with my season, softball career and possibly life over with. The ball that did this damage came from a big dude who ‘cut’ the ball with his swing. I was able to get my glove up and tipped the ball but my hat and safety glasses took most of the force of the hit. Just an awkward swing from a powerful guy trying to get a hit, no malice intended there, and just a split second for me to react in the moment. Nine times out of ten I catch that ball but the one time I missed it and the results take your breath away.

Some states like Florida have started implementing a mandatory face-mask rule but not everywhere has yet followed suit obviously. For anyone who plays, no matter how good you are or think you are, I implore you to strongly at least consider wearing a protective mask. A blink of an eye, an accident, an oops and your whole life can change…or be over. Softball is a great game but accidents will happen no matter how many precautions we take or how ‘ready’ we think we are on a given play. Look at the pictures of my face from 2013 and also think about Greg Fusco when you play ball. It’s better to be safe than sorry. And if you are so vain that you think people need to see your pretty mug, show them in the dugout, in between innings do photo ops or give them your Instagram ID. Let me tell you, it would be a shame to have it messed up forever just because you are too macho or because the mask ‘feels weird’. Having your jaw wired shut or your vision permanently impaired or worse can feel pretty weird too.

That is my soapbox message for today. To everyone out there who loves to play ball or knows someone who does, have a great day and we’ll talk to you soon.


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