We're honored to have Elliot here today, and he's going to give you a demonstration with his son about helmet safety in baseball.
Next to Elliot is Dr. Gary Green. Dr. Green is the Chief Medical Advisor for Major League Baseball. He has vast experience in sports medicine, so he's here to give you the medical perspective in terms of concussions and head trauma. Welcome, Gary Green. And last, but not least because she is the only person on this stage that has three gold medals, probably the only person in this stage. Do you have a gold medal?
MARK LORETTA: I do not.
LISA FERNANDEZ: Lisa Fernandez, 3-time Olympic Champion, Team USA in softball, and she is here to talk about her experiences in softball and how to play softball safely. With that, I'm going to turn it over to Chairman Kaye who will begin our presentation today.
ELLIOT F. KAYE: I think we're going to have Commissioner Manfred speak.
COMMISSIONER MANFRED: You blew your line there, Dan! After I got elected, one of the first things I do literally the next week was I went to Williams Ford to see the Little League World Series, and while I was there a lot of great things about the Little League World Series and they've been a great partner to us. But the most important thing from my perspective was it made me focus on what should be and has become for me the most important part of my job and that is to make sure that baseball gets passed down to the next generation. And the bedrock of that effort is encouraging kids to play our game. It doesn't always have to be 18 kids in uniform, lots of parents providing only positive encouragement, it can be simple games like whiffle ball or as simple as a game of catch.
So we have worked hard under the initiative branded as Play Ball to give kids an opportunity to interact with the game in all sorts of simple ways. You know, concussions are not a frequent occurrence in baseball. But when you are focused on kids, you have to really focus on the issue of safety. You want a sport that's not only healthy for kids to play in terms of the level of their physical activity, but you want to have a sport that's safe for kids to play.
So at the big league level, we also worry about youth players. Players like Mark have tremendous opportunity to learn in baseball and we want to make sure each and every one of those players reaches their full potential, becomes as great of a player as they can possibly become. So we've focused on player safety not only to protect the big league guys but to send the message to kids that are playing the game that safety matters to baseball and to managers.
So in recent years we've changed the rule about collisions at home plate. We've gone to a similar-type rule about sliding at second base, all designed to prevent there from being serious injuries and in the case of home plate, head injuries. We have also adopted a seven-day concussion disabled list. Used to be in the old days that people would not diagnose and treat concussions in the proper way because their only option was to put a player down for 15 days which is too long, even for a concussion.
So we created a more flexible list in the hope that clubs would do a better job diagnosing and treating concussions and people like Dan will talk to you about the Consumer Safety Council, who have worked hard to develop new equipment to make the game safe and we have worked on head protection. Obviously pitchers are exposed to balls being hit back up the middle.
An interesting and important second safety issue in baseball is the issue of specialization. You know, one of the all-time great pitchers, John Smoltz, was elected to the Hall of Fame last year, and in his Hall of Fame speech he went out of his way to talk about the issue of specialization in youth sports. John thinks it's a bad thing not only for kids but for the development of kids as baseball players. It's important for kids to play a variety of sports and fully develop their athletic potential and maybe more important avoid overuse of any particular body part that can result in injury.
One particular concern in baseball is pitchers that pitch too much when they are young, and we have deployed along with our partners at USA Baseball a program called Pitch Smart that's designed to help kids and their coaches make sure that they pitch but pitch in a way that's safe and healthy for them over the long haul.
The last piece of our safety puzzle is focused on the great gentleman sit to go my right, Joe Torre. Joe has helped us in making PSAs that we use on our broadcasts across the league and in our national broadcasts and in ballparks designed to get the message out for kids that baseball is a safe game for them to play and play their whole lives.
So Major League Baseball takes the issue of safety seriously and we have worked closely with Chairman Kaye to try to make sure that we are a safe sport, not only for our athletes at the Big League level but more importantly for kids.
ELLIOT F. KAYE: Thank you, Commissioner Manfred and also to Dan and John and your staffs and everybody else who came together to help us do this for the third year in a row. As the Commissioner mentioned, it is counter intuitive that you would have a baseball event that is focused on head injury because baseball is probably not at the top of the list of sports that you would think of when it comes to brain safety, but the numbers still matter and I think the reason that we're here is because as the Commissioner mentioned, kids are playing and should be playing all different sports throughout their youth.
So we have a bunch of Little Leaguers right now. I'm going to ask how many of you play other sports throughout the year? If you could raise your hand and we have some kids over here, you guys play other sports, too, and that's what you should be doing. You should be playing other sports. What we are trying to do is while you're in the baseball space and this is for players, for you, for your parents and coaches if they're different than your parents, we want you to be focused on safety of your brain. You have to have your brain to do anything else in life or to not do anything else in life. If you're going to choose not to do something you still need your brain for that.
So the point of what we're trying to get across is you have to be much more aware in taking care of your brain during sports. So I'm going to do a brief demonstration. I've got two Little League All-Stars who are going to join me here. If you can come on up. To my left is Noah Kaye, my oldest son, who is a Little League All-Star from the Montgomery County Little League team. To my right is Collin Wolf who was also an All-Star on Montgomery County Little League.
How many of you see kids wearing their hats underneath? Does that happen? Somebody has to admit that they see that. Please don't do this. This impacts the helmet from doing its job. This is lesson number one. Put the helmet in the best position to be successful. The helmet has a role to play in preventing catastrophic head injury, skull fracture, bleeding of the brain. We will get to concussions in a bit. It's not designed to prevent concussion, but it is designed to prevent catastrophic head injury, and you want to put it in its position to do its job. So let's see what it should look like, Collin. That's much better. Please no hats underneath. Second scenario we see, hat tipped back. Who sees this? Yep, you see it a lot, I bet. Ball comes in, boom! You're not putting the helmet in the best position to do its job. Can you put it right, please? Let's turn slowly. You should be able to see the ears through the ear holes. It should be level. This is the way a helmet should look, this is the way a helmet should look. Please make sure as parents and coaches and of course as players you wanted to put the helmet into position to do its job. That's lesson one. Lesson two, do not ask a helmet to do something it can't do and was not designed to do. Who thinks a helmet -- I gave it away earlier, but who thinks it's designed to prevent concussions? Hopefully no one raises their hand at this point. It doesn't. I know it seems like it should, but it just doesn't and I can tell you from the work we do with products every day if anyone is trying to sell you something and they say it's been proven to reduce the risk of concussions, that is false or they've come up with a scientific breakthrough they've told nobody about. But it's likely it's false. So please do not expect a child to have a concussion prevented definitively by wearing a piece of sports equipment. That is not the answer. The answer is to keep your head out of play and to be smart with how they use their head.
The last example I can give about it it is you think of a raw egg, wrap it in as much bubble wrap as you can and drop it on the ground. It is probably not going to crack the shell of the egg. That's your skull. But the yolk is going to bounce around on the inside of that egg, and that is your brain.
So no matter how much bubble wrap you put on the outside of these heads, if they're moving around and getting hit it's going to bang the brain around. Those are the two lessons, the last thing I wanted to say, this is a baseball, this is goes to safety. This has a softer core, different companies, I'm not endorsing this particular company, but different companies have soft core baseballs for age-appropriate play.
Please make sure for your leagues, speak up parents, check and ask the leagues, you want to make sure you have the appropriate soft core for your age group. That's important. I've seen and we've all seen balls that come off these bats very, very fast! That's good, that is a sign of talent, but it can be scary and we don't want it to be deadly. You want to have the appropriate ball used at your level of play. Thank you for paying attention. Please take away those lessons, and thank you to the All-Stars for the help with the demo.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Jeremy Kaye. Our Commissioner has another speaking engagement, so let's give a round of applause to Commissioner Manfred for coming here. Although I think I forgot to give a shout out, do we have La Jolla Youth Baseball here? Raise your hands. Sorry, I forget to give you an early shout out. We like La Jolla. You're lucky kids. Your parents raise you there. I've been there.
With no further ado, why don't we give Joe a chance to give a couple of remarks, and then we will hear from Dr. Green who will talk about his perspective on how to play the game safely.
JOE TORRE: Thanks, Dan. A lot of players, they get so busy and the one thing I've noticed and I think Loretta will agree with me, anytime a young person comes up to them they always have time. You guys are so important. Not only to the boys but the girls, too, okay? Because my wife is still telling me there is going to be a big leaguer someday, right?
LISA FERNANDEZ: That's right.
JOE TORRE: One of these days there is going to be a big leaguer who is a female. So one of the first things as a young person is to be safe. You've heard the talk about helmets, make sure they fit. This goes for the big leaguers. I was a manager and big league players. They grab a helmet and put it on. No, no, you've got to wear one so you let it do its job. Make sure that they're not old, right? Because sometimes you get to a certain point where they've really outlived their usefulness.
So equipment is very important. And, you know, for me if we're going to continue to make and keep baseball the sport it is, I mean, it's a wonderful game, yeah, it doesn't give you the -- you know, maybe the violence -- at least I hope it doesn't, give the violence of football or a lot of the quickness of basketball, but baseball is -- when you get involved with a team, you have your favorite players. Your loyalty to that team, it's more of a marathon because we play 162 games. We play 162 games. There is a lot of strategy involved. To appreciate the strategy we gotta make sure and the Commissioner talked about this earlier. We gotta make sure we facilitate and make sure that we get kids to play our game, because if you play our game you will understand our game and when you understand our game you can really appreciate watching our game. There's a lot of subtle things and I can tell you I managed for almost 30 years, the little things that my players do. They may not all be capable of hitting 30 home runs or winning 20 games, but everybody can run hard to first base. Everybody has the ability to move a runner over. I have 25 players on the team, and at some point during that season each one of those 25 players are going to have an opportunity to do something very important. That's another unique thing about our sport. Size doesn't matter, right, Loretta?
MARK LORETTA: No, it doesn't.
JOE TORRE: Little guys, I always like to tell my players, "Think small and big things will happen." Okay? Knowing how to play the game, how to run the bases, listening to your coaches, listening to your coaches. I know you, like last night the home run hitting contest, that stuff looks easy, doesn't it? No! Trust me. You've got to get a technique. You've got to do things the right way and you've got to take care of yourselves. In taking care of yourselves you've got to make sure you get your rest, make sure you wear the proper equipment and make sure you listen to your coaches and as far as we're here this afternoon basically to protect your health. So listen to your doctors and your trainers. It's very important.
But all you youngsters are so important to our future in baseball. You may not feel like it now, but trust me, you are. Okay? I'll turn it over to Dr. Green because he can tell you all the do's and don't on the medical side.
DR. GARY GREEN: Thank you very much. Thank you, Joe. I want to thank the Commissioner and Chairman Kaye for putting this together, and I really appreciate the chance to talk to you guys. You know, we're very lucky in baseball as the Commissioner said that concussions aren't that frequent, but when they do happen they're often very dramatic. It can be somebody getting hit by a pitch, two fielders colliding, an outfielder going into the wall, and those are usually pretty obvious that the person has had a concussion. But just because someone is not knocked out doesn't mean they didn't have a concussion. Most concussions don't involve someone being knocked unconscious, sometimes the symptoms can be subtle, like sometimes a person doesn't look quite right to you. They can have dizziness, memory changes. And sometimes the symptoms happen at the time of the injury, but other times it can happen later in the game or after the game or even the next day. We've had players that don't have their symptoms until several days later.
So the most important thing with concussions is early recognition. Once the concussion is recognized, we want to make sure the person comes out of the game to prevent further injury. We have a saying in baseball and other sports, when in doubt, take them out. So if you have any suspicion that a player is not acting right or has been concussed, they should be immediately removed from the game, properly evaluated and seen by a physician.
Again, as the Commissioner said, we don't have a lot of concussions fortunately in baseball, but we have to prepare for them and when they occur treat them appropriately. The other thing is once someone has been diagnosed with a concussion we want to make sure they get the appropriate treatment, that they're seen by a doctor and that they gradually return to play. If you sprain your ankle you don't go from sitting around icing your ankle to all of the sudden running at full speed. You have to gradually get back into play and the same thing is true with concussions and we monitor these players every step of the way. So first to make sure they don't have symptoms, then to make sure they can do exertion. They can do all their baseball activities and if they have any symptoms we shut them down and rest until they are ready to go.
Then, once they are cleared, they're evaluated by a physician and then allowed to return to play safely. Because we know if you go back to continued playing while you still have symptoms of a concussion you're at risk for further injury and we want to avoid that. So, to summarize, if you're in doubt, take them out! Although these things are not very common we have to be prepared for them all the time and when they do occur we want to recognize them quickly and then make sure the people are treated appropriately. Thank you very much.
THE MODERATOR: Do you have any advise to our friends from La Jolla here?
MARK LORETTA: Let me start with the helmet issue for a second. Believe it or not, guys, in the not too distant future or in the past, actually people used to ride in cars without wearing their seat belt or go out in the sun and not put on sunscreen. Those days are past, right? So now you should be in the batting cage or up to bat always with your helmet, just part of your equipment, part of your deal. As far as Major League stuff goes, I'm sure you guys have the dream and the goal to be Major Leaguers and that's fantastic, but let me tell you what the most impactful and important thing that I miss about the game is and that's the relationships with my teammates and coaches.
I've been out of the game for seven years and I miss the day-to-day camaraderie. I remember my Little League teammates, Don Hawkins and Travis Rogers, we played for Arcadia Radiator. We went with our sponsor. So that's what is great about baseball, relationships. Joe and I got to be together for one year, my last year of my career, and it was a very special time for me. Obviously, follow your dreams. You will remember your hits and home runs, but you will remember even more your relationships with your teammates.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks, Mark. Good advise. Good education, too. Just like Mark. Lisa Fernandez you won some gold medals, national championships, give us your perspective on safety and baseball and softball general in sports, and then if you can share your thoughts on what it takes, you know, to reach the highest level and whether it's baseball, softball or whatever sport kids choose to play.
LISA FERNANDEZ: When we talk about safety, I coach at UCLA, and I see it in the kids that I coach and especially the younger levels, some of the coaches have a win-at-all-costs approach to the game. I believe it's kind of unfortunate, especially at the younger youth when you are talking 7 and 8 years old and nine year olds who are trying to learn what the game is about, and part of the game is being able to protect yourself. I'm sure Mark can attest to this, you know, when you are young at the plate and you're seven or eight years, old part of learning how to play the game is learning how to get out of the way.
One of the things I did with my own son is I took the softest balls I could find, and they have 'em all over, the squishy things, and I literally threw them at him so he could learn how to protect himself in case he faced a pitcher that was wild or didn't have control to learn how to have that reaction, how to turn away from the pitch and not open up to the pitch. It's mechanics and it's a skill I can learn. How you can drop. Win-at-all-cost coaches, I've seen them tell their kids get on the plate and lean into it and let it hit you so you can advance to the base. Yeah, there is a strategy for that and hopefully as you get older and you have the ability to learn how to protect yourself.
Yes, absolutely, trust me, I did not -- I did that myself when it came to getting a runner on base as I was going about my Olympic career and winning national championships at UCLA, but for the younger kids, safety is the priority, and teaching them those skills is valuable, always wear a helmet, as Mark said, whether you're taking BP in the cage or facing a machine. Don't trust the machine either. They've been known to be wild every now and then especially if you have a ball with a cut in the seam or something like that.
Then when you have the opportunity to compete at the highest level I think part of it is creativeness and having that as they've talked about before it's not just playing the game on the field but playing whiffle ball, being creative, playing in the street, having an imagination, putting imaginary runners at different places and learning how to play the game, playing multiple positions, play defense with only four guys and you gotta figure out how to cover all the bases. That's right. Sometimes the third baseman has to cover home. Sometimes the first baseman has to cover home, and you have four guys on the field. So all of that adds to the creativeness which is ultimately going to reflect your play. If you get to the top, to have that instinct, when you look at players on the field that you wonder, God, how id it even go? That's called instinct. How did someone know how to cover? Talk about Derek Jeter and the play that he made in one of the playoff games against the Oakland A's. How did he know to be down the line to get the ball that was overthrown from the right fielder on a throw to the plate? Because he had an instinct about the game, and that's be not something you learn from a coach telling you what to do. That's creativeness, and to me that's a skill that we look for in future athletes that are going to represent our sport.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks, Lisa. All right, so now I think we have 10 minutes before we can open it up to some questions. I also neglected to mention that Chairman Kaye, although he's not in the Hall of Fame and doesn't have any gold medals, he's the only person on stage that was appointed by the President. So I probably should have added that earlier. Why don't we borrow Gary's microphone? If anybody has questions, why don't you raise your hand? We'll give you a microphone and you can ask anything you want of anybody up here. Don't ask labor related questions, that's what I do for a living. So we're going to keep that out of this program. No questions?
JOE TORRE: We answered everything for them.
Q. What did you like playing baseball as a player or managing a baseball team?
JOE TORRE: The question was, did I enjoy playing the game or managing? What's interesting is playing is -- you feel you have direct results. You can do things, you know, in the game and as Mark pointed out, you know, you have teammates. You really enjoy playing the game for a common goal. I had the most success in my baseball career as a manager, mainly obviously with the Yankees. It sorta took me back to my youth, where I used to go down to my friend's basement and we used to just, you know, pick the teams and play the games and play a regular 154-game schedule, at that time, and now all of the sudden I found myself doing it with real people and it was pretty cool.
As a manager, you know, there is a lot more work there than as a player because you're responsible for everybody. You try as a manager to put a puzzle together and just try to make something work.
You have 25 different people that you want 'em all pulling in the same direction. So it was much more satisfying as a manager, because, you know, when you do accomplish something it just feels so much better.
Q. Mr. Loretta, what was the most difficult part of, being a Major League baseball player.
MARK LORETTA: What was the most difficult part? I think particularly being a hitter, how do you deal with failure? The whole thing of if you're successful 3 out of 10 times then you're a Hall of Famer, right? So that means you're getting out 7 out of 10 times. So the key is, and I think I learned that later on in my career, is to boil down to whatever I can control and worry about only those things. I was just trying to put a great swing on a good pitch if I hit a line drive that's caught by the shortstop with the bases loaded the game tells me I failed.
But I know I put the best swing on that that I could, so for me that's a positive. So find a way even if you are out if you had a good at-bat to take that as a positive. I think that's something players need to probably learn earlier in their careers.
Q. Can we have ice cream when this is over?
ELLIOT F. KAYE: Yes, you can. This is an easy one.
Q. For Joe, I'm from Atlanta, and I know you were on the first team in 1966 and that first game was special -- and Tony Cloninger was in it, and you, of course, so any memories you might give us about that first team in Atlanta?
JOE TORRE: I will never forget it. Atlanta, just to give you a little background, Atlanta used to be Milwaukee, the Milwaukee Braves up until 1966 when we moved to Atlanta, and that's where they remain and they are right now the Atlanta Braves. The first game every I played for Milwaukee -- Atlanta, and I was the catcher, and I caught Tony Cloninger, we played the Pittsburgh Pirates. It was the first Major League Baseball game because they had Minor League Baseball, but it was the first Major League Baseball played in Atlanta, and I do remember that game. I believe it was 14 innings, and we lost to Pittsburgh 3-2, and Tony Cloninger pitched all 14 innings, which, I don't know, he was never the same after that, other than, you know -- well, that's another story. I will tell you about Tony later. We lost 3-2. I hit two home runs and we lost 3-2. But it was an exciting game. It was a homer-friendly ballpark.
But it was an introduction that the people of Atlanta certainly wouldn't forget and I was going to tell you about Tony Cloninger. He was a good pitcher, but he was some kinda hitter. We had a game in San Francisco one time. Tony started the game as a pitcher, hit two grand slam home runs in the same game and another single. He knocked in nine runs in the game. I had a 3-run home run the first inning. I thought I was going to be the hero of that game. I had no chance.
Q. Moms have safety questions. I noticed the helmets didn't have face masks and I know they wear them in softball and my sons wear them and I wonder if they actually do any good because they can take ribbing for it, and we wanted to know about the chest protectors for pitchers if they were worth the trouble?
ELLIOT F. KAYE: I'm guessing this is for me. Interestingly, when we switched -- Noah has been playing in a different non-Little League league, a different league, and he started maybe at 6 years old. They did not have them wear the cage in the front, but when we switched to official Little League this most recent year, and he's now 11 for the league that he was in he did have to wear it, and it was a bit of an adjustment. But as a safety official, I appreciated that. I do think ultimately that might be certainly for the younger kids that might be the direction that things are moving in because at that point as we've all talked about you want them developing skills in a safe environment and as they get older and they take the cage off they're only going to be able to see better. I'm good with that. I think it's a good idea and it is very league specific.
So I think as parents, the best way to get leagues to change is to petition the leagues or ask the leagues to do that. I think it's the same thing with the chest protector, and that's one of the reasons why I talked about the softer core baseball because it is pitchers getting hit in the chest that we're most concerned about. We have been looking at this issue lately. There is probably single digit numbers each year in terms of death for kids, playing sports that's unacceptable, any death is unacceptable in my mind and I know that the industry is working on a volunteer standard for a chest protector and I can say that if -- Noah is a catcher, but if he were a pitcher I would have him wear it. That would be my preference because their health is more important than any outcome in any game.
DR. GARY GREEN: Let me also add, great question, what you're talking about is called Commotio cordis where if the ball hits you in the chest at the recovery time of the heart cycle it can trigger a fatal arrhythmia, and that does happen in several ball sports. Unfortunately, with the chest protectors they haven't come up with something that's really going to make an impact on that. In fact, some of the early chest protectors focused the forces more, so you have to be careful about that, and some of the squishy balls also have that affect as well.
So you have to be careful about doing that, and I think that Chairman Kaye and his Consumer Protection Committee is doing a very good job about mandating athletic equipment to make sure that's okay. So it's a complicated issue. It's a rare event. And as far as the face mask I will let Lisa comment on that because they do that more in softball. Sitting next to Lisa makes me feel old because I took care of her when she was a player at UCLA and now she is a coach there, so it makes me feel old.
LISA FERNANDEZ: Great, that adds me up, too. Thanks! In softball we have athletes that wear the face mask. A lot of it has to do with people who are left-handed and move forward in the box to utilize speed, and that gives them more of a safety thing that they're going toward a ball that's going at them, and we had the issue with balls that were deflected off the bat and would come up and hit some of the girls in the face and either break a nose or have contact with their mouth.
So that was kinda the start of why that came into play. It is a preference, and with the younger kids I completely agree because once again it is a mechanical issue with the technical part of their swing or either the understanding of how to get out of the way. A lot of the kids have issues with getting hit in the face because they open up to the ball, and obviously the ball is coming at them. And if it's a preference as they get older I agree with that as well once they become more skilled about getting out of the way.
THE MODERATOR: I'm going to make a few closing remarks. First, as I mentioned earlier, our Commissioner is trying to get as many kids as possible to play baseball, but we understand the result of that is the parents in the room have to drive their kids all over Southern California to go to practices and games and we appreciate that. And the La Jolla Youth Club, you should thank your parents for making those sacrifices so you can play the game of baseball.
Secondly, who is your coach? Do you have a coach here? What's your name, sir? We appreciate the coaches who help the kids play the game right. We have helmets for your team. All you guys will get helmets from Rawlings that you can wear just like Elliot and Noah showed you. Finally, let's give a big round after applause for our panelists. They're very busy.