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Defibrillators as a safety feature at youth baseball parks has seemed a good idea to many league officials.

Now, since an 8-year-old Rohnert Park batter was hit in the chest with a pitch and needed CPR and a defibrillator to save his life, it's more of a necessity.

"It's something we're definitely doing. An event of this kind puts a lot more priority to it," said Keith Warner, district commissioner for the North Bay Babe Ruth Baseball League.

Rohnert Park Cal Ripken Baseball, home league to the injured boy, is buying four of the devices.

In Sebastopol, Little League officials already were gathering information about the cost and types available when board members learned of the near-fatal incident in Rohnert Park.

"The issue with the little boy ramped up the thing," said Sebastopol board member Andy Pforsich. The response was, "Let's go for it."

Sebastopol quickly approved the purchase of two, at a cost of $1,630 each, which were delivered Friday.

Petaluma National Little League already has one and Rincon Valley Little League officials plan to have one in time for a May barbecue, where they'll offer defibrillator and hands-only CPR training.

Rincon Valley Little League safety officer Mark Brown has been urging his board to get one for the past year.

"There was some trepidation. These are not cheap to buy," Brown said.

"When this event happened in Rohnert Park that gave me the event to hang my hat on," he said. "They quickly jumped on it."

On April 13, Matthew Henry was playing at Colegio Vista Park in Rohnert Park with other 8- to 10-year-olds for a game between the A's and the Blue Jays in the Rohnert Park Cal Ripken Baseball league.

After being hit by the ball, Henry dropped his bat and began his earned walk to first base.

But the blow had disrupted his heart beat, officials later said. After a few steps he collapsed.

Two paramedics, Dan and Susan Farren, were in the stands watching the game. They ran down and began CPR.

The chest compressions kept the boy's blood flowing until Rohnert Park paramedics arrived in about five minutes with a defibrillator. The machine shocked the boy's heart back into its normal rhythm.

Henry was kept at Oakland Children's Hospital for about three days.

The second grader has returned to school.

"He still has an intermittent irregular heart rhythm, which we are hoping will resolve with the passage of time," explained his mother, Linda Henry, in an email to the Press Democrat.

"He is to rest and not do any physical activity for the next 3-4 months according to the doctors," according to his mother. "He feels quite normal now and is frustrated with having his activity restricted as he is a very active kid."

Last Saturday, players from four teams, coaches, families and the emergency crews who treated him gathered at the park to celebrate the boy's recovery. He arrived in a Rohnert Park firetruck.

"They picked him up at his house and dropped him off at the very park where he essentially took his last breath," said Aaron Johnson, an official with the Rohnert Park league.

The boy now is expected to rest from sports for about four months but Johnson predicted the avid baseball player will be anxious to return to the field.

After the incident Rohnert Park Cal Ripken officials decided they wanted one defibrillator for each of the city's four fields.

SOS CPR of Rohnert Park donated one $1,500 machine, along with CPR training. The board will raise money to buy four but will pass one on to another league to promote the safety effort, said Johnson.

The best plan for a ball field is to have a defibrillator and people available who can do hands-only CPR as the combination, as in Henry's case, saved his life.

Last Sunday, more than 70 parents and coaches gathered at a Rohnert Park field for training in both, said Johnson.

Matthew Henry's parents, Mike and Linda Henry, wrote in an email to The Press Democrat they were grateful for the outpouring of concern for their son. They also are grateful to the baseball league for taking steps to get the heart-starting machines and train coaches.

"We encourage every youth sports organization to do the same as lives can be saved," they wrote.

Don Goodman, district administrator for 16 Little League clubs in Sonoma and Mendocino counties, supports the initiative.

"It's a major concern. We are making every effort to make certain the leagues have or obtain defibrillators," Goodman said.

Cost is an issue, he said. "I'm searching for a benefactor to offer us an opportunity to buy a dozen or more at a reasonable cost."

While the story of Matthew Henry was enough to convince some baseball officials to add the machines into their budgets or make them top fundraising priorities, they don't expect to need them often for players.

Officials said they're more concerned for older hearts in the stands than the young hearts on the field.

"It's so beyond unusual for a kid to go into cardiac arrest. Our main focus was for the parents and any other fans," said Jim Gallagher of Petaluma's league.

"The reality is we may never use those on the baseball field. It's great insurance ... and we owe it not only to the parents of the kids entrusted to us but to the community we want to come watch these baseball games," Johnson said.

Just as some pitchers now wear protective helmets, there are shirts available for players with plastic chest protector plates. The Cal Ripken district now is selling the $25 shirts and money raised will go toward a defibrillator, he said.

Marc Van Riper, president of Sonoma County Alliance soccer, said the issue of needing a defibrillator hasn't come up in his league.

"If money wasn't an issue it would be something high on the list," said Van Riper.

He suggested that having more people at soccer games trained in CPR would be a better idea for that sport.