MILFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Milford father, baseball coach and Lou Gehrig National League board member Mark Kaminski knows first hand what can happen when America’s favorite past time turns tragic.
“We did have a kid, Pete Butanowicz, who did pass away on the baseball field. He got hit by a line drive by the coach and passed away on the field and that was pretty traumatizing years ago,” said Kaminski.
Earlier this month 15 year old Jason Lockhart took a ball to the nose. The son of Atlanta Braves infielder Ketih Lockhart, he’s now in a medically induced coma.
“From a coaches standpoint it is really important to teach the kids the right way to play the game. Be in the right position at the right time, always keeping your eye on the ball. A lot of times kids start goofing around, they might not be paying attention and they might, you know, catch a foul ball or a line drive and it’s scary,” said Kaminski.
Kaminski says having updated equipment like batting helmets and chest protectors can help limit injuries on the field. In Derby, Jason Klein has done his part in trying to make baseball safer. A minor league umpire for ten years he took several hits to the hit.
“I really got to thinking towards the end of my career how I could improve the equipment for umpires and players,” said Klein.
Klein is President and CEO of Force 3 Pro Gear and designed a catcher’s mask that can take a hit from a ball going upwards of 100 miles per hour. It hit the market in 2014 and can be found on professional baseball fields, college fields, and little league fields across the country.
“What you want is to have the most protective equipment you can have. If you should have that happen to you, you get hit in the face, you know you’re wearing our mask and you’re gonna be protected,” said Klein.
Back in Milford Kaminski says it’s always important to remind kids to stay focused.
“This is real. You have to pay attention. You have to play it correctly. You have fun of course but you have to do it the right way,” said Kaminski.