Eastwood sophomore pitcher Christine Foster has a very good reason for wearing a mask when she's on the mound.
"I won't step on the mound without it," she said. "My new one is red and I can see a lot better through this one. It protects my whole face and I can see clearly through it.
On July 20, 2006, a 13-year-old Foster was pitching for Eastwood's 14-and-under summer team, coached by her father, Mick, when a line drive hit her in the face.
"It was a Thursday," Christine recalled. "I just remember first it hit me and I bent over. I didn't realize what happened. I just fell and everyone started panicking. I was screaming."
It was the last inning of the last game of the year. A hitter from the North Baltimore team lined a ball that struck Foster in the mouth. She was wearing a mouth guard, and she also wore braces.
"That was the only thing that kept her teeth in," Mick said. "She had seven teeth displaced. The mouth guard protected her top teeth, but she needed surgery the next day and then needed seven root canals. They did three at once and four on another shot. That was several months later, after she got re-braced."
Christine was unable to eat solid food for a week. Everyone wondered if she would ever pitch again. A month after the accident Christine, who began pitching in the fourth grade, started throwing again at a clinic in Curtice.
"That was tough for her," Mick said. "The next spring, she was struggling mentally. We couldn't blame her."
People told Christine that if she wanted to continue pitching, it was best to get back on the mound sooner rather than later.
"My pitching coach at the time, Nicole Long, said the longer I sit out, it will be harder for me to do," Christine said.
The following spring, she took the mound for Eastwood Middle School in a game against Lakota.
"Everyone said I did really well for my first game, but I was extremely nervous," Christine said. "Our third baseman almost got hit by a line drive. I pitched the whole game. I was definitely flinching. My dad told me to go out there and relax."
Two games after that, Christine said, things began to go downhill as the memory of that line drive began to creep into her mind.
"I think we were playing Bowling Green," she said. "I couldn't get the ball over the plate because I was so scared."
Mick and his wife, Nancy, got Christine to talk to sports psychologist Jim Guerci, who lives in New York. The two talked for an hour over the phone. In her next outing, Christine threw a one-hitter.
"He helped me a lot with visualizing and getting the bad images out of my head and finding a good time when I was pitching well to get rid of the bad (thoughts)," Christine said. "I was extremely surprised it worked. I never thought something like that could work over the phone. I was truly amazed."
Almost a year later, as an eighth-grade pitcher, another line drive hit Christine in the forehead, above her mask. Coaches stopped the game for a few minutes so she could regain her composure.
"It freaked me out," Christine said, "but our other catcher was hurt and couldn't pitch, so I knew I had to do it. I actually pitched really well that game. It scared me. I had to shake it off after the game."
Last year as an Eastwood freshman, Christine had a 9-6 record with a 2.27 ERA. This season she is the Eagles' No. 1 pitcher after the team lost Audrey Flores to knee surgery.
Through April 20, Christine had a 4-3 record for the Eagles (6-3).
"Christine has done very well this year," Eastwood coach Joe Wyant said of his 5-4 right-hander. "She wants to pitch every game. She's a competitor. She has worked awful hard in the offseason and really dedicated herself to be a good pitcher."
Wyant said he doesn't talk to Christine about her injury.
"I pretty much let her deal with it," he said. "A couple times I've seen her flinch pretty hard, so that accident is in the back of her mind. She has to work it out. I don't know if I could say too much about it. She has handled it well and has become a very good pitcher."
Christine admitted she still thinks about the accident when she pitches.
"I'll still flinch and duck," she said. "I think it's just always going to happen and I'm going to flinch if a ball is coming at me. It's just a normal reaction now. I've gotten better, but it's still hard."