Pete Iussig was coaching at Lowell about a decade ago.

His pitcher, Jacki Fletcher, was doing her magic in the circle.

She fired a pitch that was hit like a bullet right back at her. The softball struck Fletcher in the head.

"We were lucky," Iussig said. "It was a glancing blow."

On Tuesday, the Kentucky High School Athletic Association announced that face masks, or facial protection, will be mandatory for all high school pitchers, first baseman and third baseman.

The Bluegrass state should be applauded for being smarter than everyone else.

The KHSAA submitted its proposal to the National Federation of State High School Associations in Indianapolis, but the logical move was not approved.

There are two opinions on this matter. One is questionable. The other is what the folks in Kentucky just adopted.

My daughter, Marley, pitched at Hanover Central the last four years. Some early liners near her head when she was younger brought about the use of a face mask. It was the best decision we ever made.

And now like Fletcher, she will attend and play at Illinois-Chicago.

"I think it's a good thing," said Iussig, who led Crown Point to the Class 4A state championship in June. "The bats are getting stronger. The girls are getting stronger. There isn't much reaction time."

When he started coaching at Lowell many years ago, the thought of protective head gear never entered his mind. Why? Because no one did it or talked about it.

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But there have been some horrific near misses over the last few years. Missouri's Tori Finucane and Paige Lowary. Ball State's Kelsey Schifferdecker. And many others.

When Crown Point was playing Chesterton in the regional, a bad hop hit the Trojan second baseman, which resulted in five stitches.

"I am really in favor of this coming to Indiana," Iussig said. "Flexing your muscles is not the smartest thing in the world."

Few today know who Jacques Plante was. Or Otto Graham. Or Fred Thayer. But Plante was the first NHL goalie to wear a mask, Graham the first NFL football player to wear a facemask and Thayer patented the first catcher's mask in baseball.

And more than likely they were all ridiculed for being smarter than the herd.

"I'm sure they all heard the same thing over and over again," Iussig said. "'You're weak. You're weak. You're weak.' No, you're smart."

The NCAA and the NFHS have said that there isn't enough data available to drastically make mandatory rule changes on this subject. But thank goodness Kentucky did what it did.

Here's hoping this smart idea will grow and ensure the safety of all the young ladies playing this great sport.

The biggest point about this issue is it will not take anything away from the game.

"I am all in favor of the mask, this rule," Iussig said. "If my daughter played third base, I'd make sure that she was wearing a mask."

Been there. Done that. No regrets.

This column solely represents the writer’s opinion. Reach him at steve.hanlon@nwi.com.


Sports Reporter

Steve has won awards during two different stints at The Times. In addition to being the Prep Beat columnist, he covers football, boys basketball and boys track. He is a long-suffering Cubs fan.