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July 13, 2015

Dan Halem

Elliot Kaye

Paul Lessard

Devin Mesoraco

Joe Torre


DAN HALEM: Welcome. We're going to start our formal program now. Appreciate your patience and we hope you learn something. So first, my name is Dan Halem. I'm from Major League Baseball. I want to welcome you. Our commissioner, Robert man Fred, would be very happen to see all our baseball players in the room. As you probably know, he, one of his major initiatives is trying to get kids to play baseball. He wants boys to play baseball. He wants girls to play baseball. He wants everyone to play baseball. So the RBI Program is really an important component of what he's trying to do, and we thank the coaches. We know you're volunteering your time. If we're going to really help in terms of your question, having more kids in the inner cities play baseball, Major League Baseball is going to have to do a lot of initiatives and we're going to certainly need help in the community. But we think baseball's a great game, and it's our goal to have as many kids play baseball as possible. So one of the purposes of this event is to show you how to play baseball safely. Baseball is a safe sport, compared to some of the other sports. But still, when you play any sport, you need to use proper safety and we're very lucky to have a very distinguished group of panelists here who are going to help us teach you how to play the game safely. So let me introduce the panelists. To the far left, the man needs no introduction. His name is Joseph Torre. Currently, he is the Chief Baseball Officer of Major League Baseball. He's essentially in charge of everything you see on the field, the umpires. If you don't like a call, you can complain to Joe Torre.

JOE TORRE: That's happened.

DAN HALEM: He interacts with our managers, instant replay, anything you see on the field Joe is in charge of now. Before he became our Chief Baseball Officer, obviously, he had a long and distinguished career in baseball. He was a great player. He was like a nine-time All-Star, I think. He won the MVP award in 1971. Probably none of the kids in the room know Joe as a great player. You probably heard of him as a great manager. Won ten division titles with the Yankees. He won four World Series and he's also the nicest Hall-of-Famer you'll ever meet. I can tell you that, personally. His wife, Ali, is from the Cincinnati area. If you're from Cincinnati, you may know one of her 150 relatives who lives in the area. So that's Joe Torre.

JOE TORRE: She has 15 brothers and sisters.

DAN HALEM: We appreciate Joe devoting his time to be here today. Next to Joe is Paul Lessard. If you ever go to Cooperstown and are lucky enough to see the Hall of Fame induction, every player, after they thank their mother and their father, which they should thank first and their family, they'll thank the athletic trainers they worked with during their career for helping them enter the Hall of Fame. As any player will tell you, certainly Devin will tell you, staying healthy these days is one of the biggest issues for players. Athletic trainers work incredibly hard to keep the players on the field. You don't hear about them a lot. You don't see them. But players certainly appreciate all they do. They work very hard and Paul's here to share his insight. The next man, although he's not a baseball player, he is the only person in this room that was appointed his job by the president, and that's the president of the United States, President Obama appointed Elliot Kaye, Chairman Kaye, as the tenth chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission for the children in the room, that is an agency, and Elliot can tell you more about it than I can, that protects consumers against risky products. Elliot, even before he became chairman, has taken a keen interest in safety in sports. He's worked with baseball for years in creating awareness, particularly on head safety. He's worked with the NFL and other sports, and we're very lucky to have the chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission here with us to talk about head safety. And lastly, we have Devin Mesoraco. He is an All-Star catcher for the Cincinnati Reds. He was telling me he would have been an All-Star again this year if he wasn't on crutches currently. His nickname is "Groundhog". Does anybody know why?

Q. He's from Punxsutawney.
DAN HALEM: Excellent, you're obviously a Cincinnati Reds fan. They call him "Groundhog". Being a catcher is a position in which you're susceptible to injuries, particularly injuries to your head because you're hit by foul balls. You have collisions sometimes at the plate, although we're trying to take those out of Major League Baseball. He can share his experience with that issue. So with no further ado, I think I'll turn it over to Elliot, who will start and certainly we'll have some time for more questions. Thank you.

ELLIOT KAYE: Thank you, Dan, and thank you everybody for joining us. I'm going to ask my son, Noah Kaye, to come up. He's going to help demonstrate helmet usage, and we're going to talk for a few minutes about the dos and don'ts of helmets. So the first thing I'm going to ask you, how many of you have seen this. Noah is going to put on his helmet. How many of you have either seen or wear a baseball cap under your helmet? Okay. Please do not do that. You're not putting the helmet in the best position to do its job. That's the first lesson I want to leave you with is put the helmet or, really, any piece of safety equipment in the best position to do their job. This is already affecting the fit and affecting its ability to sit as it should on your head. The second thing we're going to show you, let's put it on. How about this? Who wears their helmet like that, or has seen somebody wear their helmet like that (loosely)? Even a bike helmet. Have you seen that? What happens? Ball hits you in the head right there. The helmet is not being put in a position to do its job. Let's wear it properly now. Again, same with the bike helmet. You should be able to see the top of the helmet or the front of the helmet when it's sitting level on your head. As Noah turns, you can see his ear through the ear hole. For all of you coaches, and I say this by the way as a coach of our Little League team that Noah's on, so I practice what I'm talking about. These are basic steps you need to be doing as coaches and parents. Walk around. It's nice and level. That's the way it should look. Again, put the helmet, please, in the best position to do its job. That's lesson one. Lesson two: How many people in this room think that a helmet is designed to prevent concussions? Anybody? That's a fair assumption. It's also unfortunately incorrect. A helmet is designed to prevent your skull from cracking. It is not designed to prevent your brain, which is inside of your skull, from moving around and getting a concussion. The best way to look at it is think of an egg. You can take an egg, and you can wrap it in bubble wrap, and you can drop it on the ground, and that egg will not crack. That is equivalent of this helmet. This helmet is the bubble wrap. Your skull is the shell of the egg. But that yolk is going to bang around on the inside of that shell, and that is your brain. And that's important, because a lot of parents and a lot of coaches and a lot of players -- and I'm betting even at the Major League level -- believe that a helmet makes them invincible. It does not. That's a really important lesson and I'm really speaking especially again to the parents and the coaches and the players to understand, whatever sport your child plays or whatever sport you as a player are playing, and this includes football helmets, a helmet is not designed to prevent a concussion. So the answer is don't do stupid things with your head. And I'm serious about that. Don't bang your head around when you're playing football. Don't tackle with your head. Whatever sport you're playing, make sure to protect your brain because at the end of the day, your brain is the most important part of your body. Whatever you want to do in your life, you have to have your brain. So please make sure that you take care of it and that's really the central message in all of this. The last thing that I want to mention in terms of a piece of equipment, and I passed a ball around, and who has that ball, by the way? There was a ball that we passed around where we wanted to get the autographs of all the kids. We have it back there. I hope the coaches took a look at it. This ball and many of the balls that are in use these days for the younger leagues are intentionally designed to have a softer core. My hope is that if you're not using those in your leagues, that you're using the age-appropriate baseballs because unfortunately, we do still see injuries where kids are hit by baseballs that are too hard for them. So you want to make sure that you're trying to get age-appropriate baseballs for your league. So thank you for participating. I hope you go to CPSC.gov or even our sister agency, the Centers for Disease Control, CDC.gov and we've got phenomenal information about head injury prevention and brain injury prevention in youth sports. Thank you.

DAN HALEM: Devin, why don't you share any experiences you have with concussions, head trauma generally. You've been playing baseball, I'm sure, 20 years straight now. So if you have anything that you would like to tell the kids in the room in terms of being safe.

DEVIN MESORACO: Yeah. I think that I had a concussion -- I know that I had a concussion in Spring Training this past year. I had one a few years ago on a collision at home plate. I think that MLB is doing a great job as far as being aware of the symptoms and the signs that you have had a concussion. And then past that, trying to get you back out on the field as quickly as possible and not allowing it to happen again. We've done some different things with my mask and my helmet as far as being as safe as we possibly can. We've done just numerous things to make sure that this isn't something that continues to happen. I think that the rules that they put into place as far as the seven-day concussion list DL is definitely very helpful, because if you're just going to miss a couple days, you don't want to go the whole way on the 15-day DL and miss two weeks and risk yourself not being able to play. You risk yourself going back out on the field and furthering hurting your brain. So they've been doing a great job of addressing everything that we've had problem with as far as catchers. The collision rule at home plate has been very important, also. Just trying to keep everybody as safe as possible.

DAN HALEM: Thanks, Devin. Paul, why don't you explain to the kids and, particularly for the coaches, what we do in Major League Baseball when a player on the field has either contact with another player or some incident in which head trauma, trauma to his head may have occurred. Why don't you take them through what we do at the professional level. I think it holds true at every level of sport.

PAUL LESSARD: First of all, hopefully, common sense kicks in. Hopefully you know your athletes, your son, daughter, whoever is playing. With a head injury, they're obviously acting different, whether they're looking into space or they're rambling on or they're nauseous. There's signs and symptoms there every time there's a head injury. You just have to be educated enough to look for those signs and symptoms. Talking about a website. If you look up the SCAT3, S-C-A-T3 test, I'm not saying that you have to be able to perform the test for the coaches and parents, but it has a tremendous list of signs and symptoms there so you're familiar with things. Some of them are, like I said, very obvious: You don't feel right, you're dizzy, you are falling asleep like this guy, or you can't fall asleep or you're jittery or you're angry or you're quiet. There's tons of symptoms to look for, especially if you know your player ahead of time. If they're obviously different -- Devin gets hit, feeling light-headed, dizzy. Well, we have to take him out of the game, and that SCAT3 test is really the first thing we do to go through the questionnaire and see where he rates on the signs and symptoms. Those totals are added up and really, one symptom is enough to know that the person's not right. There's usually more than one symptom, though, with an initial concussion. As you're progressing, as the concussion is becoming less, those signs and symptoms decrease. Hopefully, you're not entering play until those signs and symptoms are back to zero. And that's the big part of, again, that SCAT3 test. It's just a written, verbal question-and-answer thing that you can see how they're responding. Some of the things are fun, like 6, 5, 7, 3, 2. Can you give me those numbers backwards? Some guys that are quick, yeah. Other guys look at you. You're telling them beforehand, I want you to give me these numbers backwards. Even just the months of the year, can you give them to me backwards? Well, a concussed person can't. Well, okay, something's wrong if they can't. So like I said, common sense hopefully kicks in for the coaches and the parents, as well as for the athletes. They know that they're not feeling well, but you have to kind of decipher those things. I think that would be a good kind of standard for you to be comfortable with.

DAN HALEM: Chairman Kaye, do you have anything to add?

ELLIOT KAYE: No, I don't. The only thing I would say that I should have mentioned earlier is that if you see any products out there that are claiming to reduce the risk of concussion, that is 100 percent false. There is no product, no product on the market right now that we are aware of, and we spend a lot of time on this, that has been proven to reduce the risk of concussion. I don't care if it's supposed to go inside the helmet. I don't care if it's supposed to go on the outside of the helmet, it has not been proven to reduce the risk of concussion. So please do not waste your money on it.

DAN HALEM: Thanks. Does anybody have any questions? I know we had a little Q&A before.

JOE TORRE: Dan, just let me add. As Dan pointed out, I have the umpires as part of my responsibility. And if you're watching baseball games, you'll notice that the umpire, the home plate umpire sets up between the catcher and the hitter. And the reason we do that is because if he sets up right over the catcher, he's more vulnerable to getting hit and getting concussed. So there's a reason that the umpire is set up in that area, because he won't get as many direct hit balls hitting him in the mask. And as you were talking about, it doesn't matter if you have all kinds of protection here, once your head does that (jerks hands), that's when the concussion occurs.

DAN HALEM: Thanks, Joe. Questions?

Q. You hear a lot about young pitchers and them moving towards safety gear for pitchers. Do we see that moving towards professional MLB players, MLB pitchers going to some kind of concussion, not proof helmet, but some kind of protective headgear for them?
ELLIOT KAYE: I think that Dan and Joe should jump in as well, but I can say that we've worked with them a lot and I know they've spent a lot of time on it. I give tremendous credit to Commissioner Manfred and his staff for the amount of resources and time that have been dedicated to MLB to try to develop a product. When I said earlier there's no product that has been proven to prevent a concussion, that's true. But I do think, especially at the youth level, that the idea of at least trying to blunt some of the trauma that occurs in pitchers in particular is a good idea. So we are very supportive of the research that MLB is doing to try to get to a point where there can be some product to lessen the impact. It may not be provable for pitchers in particular that it will help with concussions, but I think a pitcher, and Joe and Dan can jump in ask tell me if they disagree, the biggest scare for them is a catastrophic head injury. These products, if they can get to a point where they can manage and absorb enough energy, they may still allow a concussion, but they will prevent the catastrophic head injury that I'm sure MLB wants to avoid.

JOE TORRE: I think there's one relief pitcher for the Mets that wears the insert for the hat, Alex Torres.

DAN HALEM: We have Patrick Houlihan, he's our point person on pitcher protection, actually. We've spent a lot of time, a lot of resources trying to get a manufacturer to develop a product that our pitchers will wear. I mean, and that's important. Professional athletes are concerned about any type of equipment if it's going to, in their view, impact their performance. So putting an actual batting helmet on a pitcher is not something that our professional pitchers may want to do. But that's not to say that a helmet may not be appropriate for youth athletes or some type of helmet for a pitcher, and that's something, certainly, that manufacturers are looking at. We have contracted with a design company to try to design a -- I don't know if you call it a cap or helmet or combination for a pitcher that they may wear. It's lightweight. The key is balls travel between -- I think they average, when they reach the mound, in the low 80s. But some of them travel as fast as 100 miles an hour. It's very hard to develop something that's lightweight that is going to offer protection against balls traveling very quickly. So that's sort of the engineering challenge for the product engineers that work on this. So if any of the kids in the room want to be an engineer, this is something that engineers work on, and we pay them a lot of money to work on, on these types of projects. So we're hopeful. We think as time goes on and as some of the big manufacturers want to enter this space at the professional level, because it gives them some publicity and they can develop products for the amateur market, that we may get a product. But certainly there is, I think, tremendous opportunity for products to be developed for pitchers in the youth market. And personally, I do think, as Elliot said, that that's important, particularly for amateur athletes. I thank all of our panelists for being here today. Chairman Kaye will be in the room if you have any questions about his agency or any of the work they're doing in terms of youth safety. Joe Torre, obviously, is happy to answer your questions.

JOE TORRE: I've got a meeting with the American League team.

DAN HALEM: Devin, we appreciate you coming here on the All-Star Break. We wish you were playing in the game. But next year, right?

DEVIN MESORACO: Sounds good.

DAN HALEM: Everyone, thank you again. Keep playing baseball.
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