Chris Godfrey, left, was critically injured in a slo-pitch game in Courtenay Aug. 19. The incident has prompted Campbell River’s Slo-Pitch president to call for manadatory helmets for all ball games played on city fields.

Slo-pitch tragedy prompts call for mandatory helmets on all Campbell River ballfields

In light of a tragic incident during a recent slo-pitch game in Courtenay, Campbell River Slo-Pitch is urging the city to make helmets mandatory during every single ball game – no matter the league or organization – played on a city field.

Chad Braithwaite, president of the Campbell River Slo-Pitch League, said his league has made the use of helmets mandatory, effective immediately. He’s concerned, however, that there are still players out there left unprotected.

“We want to call on those who run the city fields to please follow suit with our league rule and make it mandatory for anyone who rents the fields to play slo-pitch, hardball, fast ball; make those leagues or organizers know that they cannot rent the fields unless a helmet is worn at all times by a batter and a baserunner,” Braithwaite said.

“We feel if this does not happen, it undermines what we (as a) league and countless leagues on Vancouver Island are trying to do and that is protect players, so no one has to make that call to a husband, wife, child or family member that their loved one will not be coming home,” he stressed.

The call for mandatory helmets comes after a life-altering incident that occurred during an annual tournament organized by the Comox Valley Slo-Pitch League. During a game Aug. 19, 32-year-old Chris Godfrey, a husband and father of a young girl, was critically injured when he was hit in the back of the head by a ball as he was running to first base. Godfrey is currently in Victoria on life support. It’s a situation described by Campbell River’s slo-pitch executive as a “horrible tragedy” and it’s one the local league is trying to avoid happening here.

“Courtenay has gone ahead and made helmets mandatory starting this week and we, as a exec, feel we must follow suit and make sure we do everything we can to keep everyone safe and that this never happens again,” reads an Aug. 20 post on the Campbell River Slo-Pitch League’s Facebook page. “We had a close call in our league tourney and I’m sure a lot of us had helmets in our minds after seeing or hearing about that. So, as an exec, we have decided…helmets will be mandatory. You don’t have a helmet, you don’t bat.”

Braithwaite, in a letter written to city council last week, urged Campbell River council to implement those same rules for everyone who plays on the city ballfields, including players scheduled to use the fields in an upcoming Labour Day ball tournament.

“We want to see everyone playing the game they love but protecting themselves too,” he wrote.

Council, at its Monday meeting, voted to send a letter to the tournament organizers encouraging the use of helmets. Council also directed city staff to report back on the feasibility of adopting a mandatory helmet rule, in particular addressing what the city’s liability may be and how, if it is implemented, the city would enforce the rule.

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