Ed Yeates ReportingLast week a freak accident took the life of a teen athlete at Copper Hills High School. There and at other schools officials are taking a second look at procedures and protections for young athletes, including in the dugout.
Protective fencing or netting in front of dugouts, some high schools have them, others don't. While Ryan Nielson's death involved a bizarre accident that might never happen again, Robert Skokos narrowly escaped serious injury after he was hit with a ball while standing in his team's dugout. It happened at Taylorsville High School almost four years ago.
Robert Skokos: “It hit me here on the side of my face, and it broke my jaw here, here, and over here. And I had to have my mouth wired shut for almost three months.”
At Taylorsville, the dugout is only 40 feet away from home plate. A week after Robert's accident, umpire Mike Hunter was on the same field.
Mike Hunter: “I was the base umpire and watched the ball slice into the very same dugout he had been in when he was hit.”
But it's not just Taylorsville. There are other schools, old and new, without dugout protection.
Mike Hunter: “We get a ball into a dugout, if not every game, certainly every other game. And sometimes it’s the field, the team that’s in the field. It’s their dugout so there’s nobody in the dugout. But a lot of times, quick, scatter.”
Robert and his father, Bill Skokos, believe dugout netting should be mandatory at all high schools. Ryan Nielsen's death hit all too close to home since Robert was hit in the side of his face just above the carotid artery.
Bill Skokos, Robert's Father: “An inch or two higher and it would have hit him in the temple. And the best we would have hoped for is possibly blowing out the eye socket. Or it could have caused death by hitting him in the temple.”
Robert Skokos: “I wouldn’t have ever got hit if there was a simple thing as a fence in front of the dugout.”
Incidentally, the Granite District is currently considering a plan to fence in the dugouts at Taylorsville High.