That is the issue the College of the Canyons baseball program is currently dealing with. Those who follow the team closely are concerned for the players overall safety. As we have seen, many of those gruesome injuries have been caused by players running into the wall.
“As a dad it worries me a little bit. I mean, with warning tricks you’re still going to hit the wall, but you can jump or do something to kind of lessen the blow.” Said Daniel Vela, father of outfielder Ivan Vela.”
It’s no surprise that parents are going to be more concerned than others when it comes to their children. According to players and coaches, the lack of a warning track isn’t something they are concerned with.
“It really doesn’t make much of a difference honestly, simply because these guys do a great job of letting each other know when that wall is coming.” Says manager Chris Cota. “You may have a half second to react to a warning track anyway, especially if you are running full speed.”
Fortunately, there haven’t been serious injuries caused by the absense of a warning track, and it should be noted that many of the most gruesome injuries have occurred in the major leagues, where there are warning tracks in place. That isn’t to say that warning tracks could be the cause of injuries, but it is to say that maybe they do in fact make little to no difference. However, if a player were to be seriously hurt by running into the wall, don’t be surprised if the finger is quickly pointed in the drection of the COC athletic department. Whether that is fair or not, people are always going to look for someone, or something to blame, and hopefully, that is not a situation that we will see play out.
“I think it all depends on what you’re running into. You can have cement walls, plastic walls, or tarp like ours.” Said Cota. “If you watch Bryce Harpers injury with the Nationals, he ran into an electronic scoreboard, and the warning track made no difference.”
Apparently, the question should be, “why aren’t warning tracks wider?” That is a whole other discussion in itself, but whether or not you feel that it’s necessary to have a warning track for player safety, the fact remains that the players don’t seem to care. COC outfielder Nick Vigo has played on fields both with and without warning tracks, and he too feels that benefits of a warning track are almost non existent.
“Our guys are so good at signaling when the wall is coming that it doesn’t even matter.” Said the former Pepperdine Wave. “As long as guys are aware and do all the right things, like put your hand back to feel the wall, and listen to the call of your fellow outfielders.. then you should be fine.”
Baseball, like many sports, is all about reaction. When the ball is put into play, there isn’t much time to think, therefore, how can a 15 feet wide patch of dirt provide players enough time to react and come to a stop before hitting a wall? Based on the results we’ve seen in both major league and collegiate baseball, it can’t. Baseball has gruesome injuries because they play with dangerous materials, such as a near rock hard ball, and walls that aren’t exactly soft and cuddly. Many of the walls are made from material that can be in fact painful when running into face first, so perhaps players relying on one another to signal the wall is far more affective than a warning track. At least, that’s been the case for COC.