MLB Announces Padded Caps For Pitchers
Yesterday, the MLB announced that it has officially approved a ‘pitcher’s cap’ for any pitcher who wishes to wear one. The caps are not mandatory, but will be available for players to try during spring training.
The cap, created by isoBlox, has been declared as a step in the right direction to protect players. Concussions in sports have been a hot topic recently; pushing major leagues (and youth leagues) to seek alternatives and additional safety measures. This new pitcher’s cap has extra padding on the front and sides (near the temples) and provides protection from impacts up to 90 mph.
While this is a great step forward for protecting pitchers, will it actually be used? There are a few things going against the cap at the moment. Both come from the players the cap is designed to protect.
In September 2012 Arizona Diamondback’s pitcher Brandon McCarthy (then with the Oakland A’s) was hit in the head by a line drive which sparked the recent discussions of pitcher safety.
When asked about the caps, McCarthy responded via Twitter:
Yes, extensively. Headed in right direction but not game ready RT @ggifford19 have you tried the isoBlox that MLB OK’d? Positive step?”
— Brandon McCarthy (@BMcCarthy32) January 28, 2014
McCarthy has a unique perspective on these caps. His injury gives him first hand experience into the need. He was also part of the design committee that created these caps. His opinion on the caps, therefore, carries more weight than any MLB approval committee.
McCarthy did cite in another tweet that there are many aspects that he feels prevents the cap from being game ready; among them being the distraction it puts on the pitcher.
A pitcher needs to be comfortable on the mound to perform at the top of his game. The hat is bigger and thicker (by necessity) than your typical ball cap. This will be a distraction to most pitchers.
The reality is that pitchers only have a fraction of a second to react when a ball comes right back to them. They may feel the impact of the ball way before they ever see it.
The second factor to consider is the ‘macho’ factor. Will a pitcher want to wear a hat if his peers view him as less masculine for taking safety precautions? We like to think that as we get older peer pressure means less to us, but the reality is that we all are pressured to conform to our peers.
There is going to come a point where pitchers will need to sacrifice some amount of comfort in order to protect themselves for the long run rather than focusing on a game or even a season.