The assistant professor in the Sport Management Department offered insights on how baseball players and organizations view safety protection, a national topic following Durham Bulls pitcher Tyler Zombro sustaining a head injury from a line drive.
A recent News & Observer article delving into baseball’s safety protocols and equipment includes analysis from Mark Cryan, assistant professor of sport management. The safety of baseball players, particularly pitchers, drew national attention after Durham Bulls pitcher Tyler Zombro sustained a head injury from a batted ball on June 3.
The frightening scene prompted Durham to suspend the game in the eighth inning, and Zombro eventually had emergency brain surgery.
In the June 4 article, titled “Pitcher improving after being hit by batted ball,” Cryan was interviewed and provided historical perspective on how safety changes are made ind professional sports. He explained that professional athletes across all sports are often hesitant to change, noting that hockey players resisted face shields for decades. Additionally, baseball’s base coaches didn’t wear helmets until Tulsa Drillers first-base coach Mike Coolbaugh died during a 2007 game.
In general, Cryan said, change comes when it is mandated at youth levels.
“There have been some fits and starts in areas like padded or lined hats for pitchers, or even a version of a helmet/hat that was subject to some experimentation in the past,” Cryan said in the release. “But baseball is also a very traditional game, steeped in machismo. Nobody wants to be the guy with the weird looking hat, and everyone figures it won’t happen to them.”
While the N&O release is behind a paywall, the same article is available on the Rome News-Tribune.
Cryan has taught at Elon since 2007, originally working as an adjunct professor, and joining the faculty full-time in 2012. Cryan is a former general manager of the Burlington Indians, the Cleveland minor league baseball affiliate in the Appalachian League, and was one of the founders of the Coastal Plain League.
He is also the author of “Cradle of the Game; Baseball and Ballparks in North Carolina,” considered the definitive book on baseball in North Carolina. The second edition was published in 2014. A third, completely updated edition was scheduled for publication in 2020, but was postponed due to the pandemic. That book is now scheduled for publication this year, and will include a comprehensive look at major changes in the state’s baseball landscape.