Concussions have gained a lot of attention in all professional sports as of late. There is nothing that leagues want to do more than protect its players, so in turn, rules have been put into effect that have attempted to put professional sports on the safe track.
As for the MLB, pitcher safety is increasingly becoming a more significant issue, and they can potentially take a huge step in that department as early as this year’s Spring Training. As a baseball player myself, there is nothing scarier than a hitter blasting a ball right back at the pitcher. However, Major league pitchers will have their opportunity to wear protective headgear this season, but even those who have been the victims of frightening line drives to the head will have to be won over in the delicate balance between safety and comfort.
There are many different companies competing to have their version of protective headgear worn during the 2014 Major League Baseball season. Several companies tried without success to make a product that would be approved. While isoBLOX was first to get clearance, other firms still might submit proposals. Basically, the new caps have energy-diffusing plates that upon impact are supposed to absorb the blow and spread it out as much as possible decreasing pressure to one spot on the head.
The version for major leaguers creates a crumple zone for the ball and testing showed the caps absorbed impact up to 90 mph in the front and 85 mph on the side. MLB required the caps to handle at least 83 mph impact; found to be the average speed of balls hit back past major league pitchers without incurring traumatic brain injury.
Teams and pitchers will be provided information on how to proceed with having the caps individually fitted.
However, the caps are about one inch wider than regular caps, but add about seven ounces to the normal 3-to-4-ounce cap. This new hitch is the exact reason why pitchers, such as Arizona Diamondback Brandon McCarthy, refuse to give them a try. This is astonishing coming from McCarthy, who was struck by a line drive in the head in 2012 and had to receive emergency brain surgery.
McCarthy took to social media to Tweet, “the caps are headed in the right direction, but are not, yet, game ready.”
For now, though, it’s matter of whether pitchers can get comfortable with a different feel on their heads. Even isoBLOX officials admitted the growth of pitchers’ headgear will be evolutionary from the youth leagues up rather than a sudden change at the major league level.
“It will look different until it doesn’t look different anymore,” said Bruce Foster, CEO of 4Licensing, parent company of isoBLOX. “Nobody wanted helmets in hockey. Nobody wanted face masks in football.”
If hitters are protected, then there is no reason why pitchers shouldn’t be as well. Perhaps this is the first step in ensuring that that is the case.
If there is logical, operative way to protect players, then Major League Baseball has to take every step necessary to do so.
This headgear is available for testing this Spring Training beginning February 10th.