Major League Baseball has approved the use of padded caps for pitchers, according to Willie Weinbaum of ESPN’s Outside the Lines. After extensive trials and research, the protective caps were green-lighted just in time for the 2014 spring training season.
Weinbaum reports that the caps, made by 4Licensing Corporation’s isoBLOX® , look like traditional baseball caps, but are one inch thicker near the temples and half an inch thicker in the front. The extra padding can protect against line drives up to 85 miles per hour, which is 2 mph faster than the average speed of a ball once it hits the pitcher’s mound.
According to a report in the Tampa Bay Times, last year, MLB was working with eight companies on the new headgear initiative. The article states that although the chance of a pitcher being struck in the head by a line drive is as rare as one in every 200,000 pitches, the few injuries that have occurred have been life threatening.
In September 2012, Oakland A’s pitcher Brandon McCarthy underwent emergency brain surgery after a line drive hit the side of his head near the temple. ESPN’s Outside the Lines found that in a five-month stretch during the 2012 season, McCarthy was one of five pitchers who suffered a direct hit to the head.
MLB’s approval of the padded cap is a big step for sports safety equipment and a laudable attempt to reduce the number of traumatizing head injuries for pitchers. The NCAA and Little League permit pitchers to wear protective head gear if they’d like, as long as the hat or helmet does not have a glossy finish that could distract batters.
Hopefully, players will put their traditional baseball caps aside in favor of the safer but heavier, thicker, and possibly stranger-looking protective caps, but many have already expressed disinterest.
After testing the current model of the new cap, Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers said, “You don’t look very cool.” And McCarthy told ESPN.com that due to its larger size, he would not be wearing the isoBLOX® cap this season. He responded to questioners on Twitter, stating that after he had tried out the new cap extensively and that it was “headed in right direction but not game ready.”