When I last played competitive baseball, as the score-keeping-foul-ball-chasing-outfielder-warm-upping benchwarmer on the junior varsity team at Kickapoo High School in the palindromic summer of 1991, I hated wearing a cup. It was bulky and uncomfortable and horribly awkward. The baseball field at the high school was not the beauty it is now. We ended many practice sessions picking up rocks off the infield dirt. There were a couple of occasions during practice I received a cup-check bounce and was grateful everything was covered.
Fast forward a couple of decades. I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that, even for a one day tryout, wearing a cup is a must. Even on a turf field. Even for a hopeful benchwarming outfielder. Even if it’s a millionty August humidity-filled degrees.
There are four ways to talk about the importance of proper protection for baseball players.
Statistics. Humor. Story. Science.
Less than 13% of 700 high school and college male athletes surveyed wear a protective athletic cup.
A ball traveling in excess of 90 mph delivers an impact of more than 2,000 pounds of force.
Bob Nelson is a stand-up comedian whose collegiate football routine rocketed him to fame in the mid-1980s. Starring in multiple HBO specials, his alter ego Eppy Epperman’s babushka dance is one of my family’s favorite comedy routines.
Shortly after Jamie and I got married, my entire family saw Bob perform live as he was at a comedy club directly across the street from our first apartment. A portion of his routine was reserved for taking requests and he performed an abbreviated his famed college football all-stars. In this routine, he talks about “the most important piece of equipment — the cup. It ain’t no Dixie cup and it ain’t no coffee mug and you certainly won’t want to be drinking nothin’ out of it…There are no ways to get hurt when you’re wearing your cup…Unfortunately, I’m not wearing my cup right now and I can’t see.”
The physical comedy of it is perfection.
Wearing a cup can improve one’s vision.
Here’s a video of Eppy’s baseball story.
Last spring, Yadier Molina was hit in the groin by a tipped-pitch and suffered a traumatic hematoma which required emergency surgery. Yadi was on the injured list for weeks. Of course catchers need to wear cups. With the speed pitchers throw, there are tons of stories of catchers’ cups breaking. Even though I will never play that position, I am positive a cup is imperative. I have had all the surgeries I ever want to have.
I know of outfielders who wrongly think they don’t need to wear a cup. I witnessed one particularly speedy outfielder on first base taking a sizable lead when the pitcher threw to first to pick him off. The throw was errant and hit him where he didn’t want to be hit. He ended up having to go to the hospital, suffered an extreme testicular contusion, and was on the disabled list for a couple weeks.
I’ve seen players hit themselves on foul tips that take bad bounces and wicked line drives into dugouts. My simple contention is that every player on the field should have one. Even 44-year old potential benchwarmers.
I love Sport Science, the TV show that explains the engineering and scientific principles of athletic feats and undertakings. Some of my favorite episodes include the differences between natural and artificial adrenaline and the Jennie Finch myth episode.
Since 1991, the design of cups hasn’t really changed all that much.
Enter Nutty Buddy — not to be confused with the Little Debbie snacks.
Missouri-born founder Mark Littell pitched for both the Royals and the Cardinals. Mark designed Nutty Buddy as the perfect protection system for male baseball players. An anatomically-correct cup design. He was invited on Sport Science to stand behind his claims. Literally.
By taking a 90-mph direct hit to the groin.
A company with a sense of humor providing an important service to the game I love.
By far, the Nutty Buddy is the most comfortable cup on the market. And it does exactly what it is intended to do. There’s no way I will ever volunteer to test the efficiency and effectiveness of a cup, but I don’t have any problems wearing this one or encouraging all players to wear protection.
If you can’t be an athlete…
All bases and body parts are covered for next week.
Tryouts are exactly one week away.