A Vancouver Island softball player who was critically injured over the weekend while playing in a recreational league tournament is receiving an outpouring of community support.
Chris Godfrey was struck in the back of the head with a softball on Saturday during a play on first base. The 32-year-old was flown from Courtenay, B.C., to a hospital in Victoria, where he has been on life support ever since.
On Monday night, more than 100 friends, teammates and fellow league members held a vigil on a ball field in Comox to show their support.
"He lived to play softball and sports," said teammate and longtime friend Nicole Lebrun. "He's the kind of guy you know you can just always have a good time with."
Godfrey is married and has a one-year-old daughter.
"He's the kind of guy who will give you the shirt off his back if it's the last thing he owns," said Scott Parsons, who organized the weekend tournament and knows Godfrey through the league. "He's always there for you."
Helmets to become mandatory
Parsons said Godfrey was running to first base when a ball thrown by the shortstop struck him in the back of the head.
Godfrey was not wearing a helmet at the time, which is common practice in recreational leagues, including the Comox Valley Slowpitch League in which Godfrey was playing.
League officials say such accidents are extremely rare, but that helmets will be mandatory in the league beginning Wednesday.
"We wear safety gear at work, and we came down here to have fun, so why not wear the gear?" said league president Adrienne Elliott.
"If we can stop this from ever happening again, that's all we're looking for."
Other leagues considering changes
Most recreational softball leagues do not require their players to wear helmets. Still, Gabe Melizza, president of the Victoria Slopitch Association, said helmet rules are a recurring issue in his league.
"Every year we have a vote on whether to use helmets, and it's been voted down by at least 90 per cent every year," Melizza said.
Scott Wood, president of the Greater Victoria Mixed Slowpitch Association, says he can only think of four of five instances of people being hit in the head with stray balls in the last 10 years in his association.
Godfrey's accident may lead some leagues to change their stance on helmets.
"In our sport we do recommend it, but it is not mandatory," Wood said. "Maybe we have to look at the future of our sport and maybe we have to change that."
With files from CHEK News.