Baseball isn’t a contact sport like football, however that doesn’t mean players—particularly pitchers—aren’t subject potential head injuries. Fortunately, there might be a solution.
Almost 17 months after then-Oakland Athletics pitcher Brandon McCarthy suffered a serious head injury after behind struck by a line drive, Major League Baseball has approved the optional use of padded caps designed specifically to protect pitchers.
"We're excited to have a product that meets our safety criteria," MLB's executive vice president for labor relations Dan Halem told ESPN's "Outside the Lines" on Tuesday. "MLB is committed to working with manufacturers to develop products that offer maximum protection to our players, and we're not stopping at all."
After testing a number of different prototypes from various companies, MLB chose a cap design manufactured by isoBLOX, a subsidiary of 4Licensing Corporation. According to the brand, the padded caps are a little more than a half-inch thicker in the front and an inch thicker near the temples compared to standard baseball caps. Because of the extra padding, the new caps add seven additional ounces to the overall weight.
"The process that Major League Baseball took was very careful and deliberate. This wasn't something they were rushing to do," 4LC chief executive officer Bruce Foster said in a conference call. "They took their time and made sure that we had dotted our i's and crossed our t's. There was nothing that was left unturned. They were prudent. They understood the importance of protective gear for a pitcher and there was no cutting of any corners. It was very deliberate, it was very practical and it was very valuable testing."
While McCarthy’s incident was the most notable one do to its severity, it was hardly the only example of the potential hazards pitchers face every time they step out on the mound. From September 5, 2012 through June 15, 2013 alone, five major league pitchers were hit in the head by a ball that came off a bat.
The new padded caps will not prevent head injuries all together. After all, many of the pitchers who suffered head injuries were struck below the cap line. However allowing the optional use of some type of protective headwear is a step in the right direction MLB, as well as for baseball as a whole.