Problem Solver - August 2007
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Improving Safety on the Ballfield

We want to make our baseball and softball fields safer for both youth teams and adult patrons.

It's an excellent sign that you're eager to make your fields safer because in 2008 it will be more than just a managerial aspiration—it'll be a Little League mandate. Starting next season, the international baseball and softball organization will require all local leagues to utilize bases that disengage from their anchor. If your league hasn't already started the process, you should start making plans to do so immediately.

The traditional stationary base currently consists of two major parts: a metal post sunk into the ground and fixed in concrete and a pillow base bolted to a metal pole that fits into the pole in the ground, making it a rigid, unmoving object. It takes 3,500-foot pounds of force to dislodge a stationary base, meaning a runner who slides into it can be hurt quite seriously.

A recent five-year study showed that 55 percent of injuries to runners occur when sliding into base, and 47 percent of all runners' injuries result in fractures. Given these eye-popping statistics, any good risk-management policy would advocate the abolition of the old, troublesome bases.

The new systems often consist of three major parts. First, a metal pole is sunk into the ground and fixed in concrete, just like a traditional system. A rubber mat is then bolted to a pole that's inserted into the ground, while a separate pillow fits onto the rubber mat. When a runner slides into a releasable base, the pillow has the ability to release from the mat and move with the motion of the runner. When stepped on by a player crossing the base, however, it will stay in place.

Fortunately, installing a releasable base system does not, in most cases, require any permanent changes to existing below-ground structure. Some systems fit on the base anchors that are in cement below ground, and are easily removed after each game. Though this makes it convenient for high school games, you may want to consider installing the releasable bases for adult softball and baseball leagues, where the aging players are just as injury-prone—or perhaps even more so!—than the kids the Little League mandate intends to protect.

Soft Touch Bases: