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MLB approves safer hats for pitchers

 

 

Sam Isdale/Sports Columnist

Sam Isdale/Sports Columnist

When it comes to sports, safety is always going to be a concern. No matter what sport it is, injury is definitely a possibility. Major League Baseball (MLB) knows about the potential hazards a pitcher can face when on the mound, so they made the approval of a protective hat for pitchers to wear. The MLB approved the hat in hopes to decrease the damage that line drives to the head can deliver.

The hat was introduced on Tuesday and will be available for testing during spring training. It’s a heavier and bigger hat, and will be worn on a voluntary basis.

“We’re excited to have a product that meets our safety criteria,” Dan Halem, MLB executive vice president for labor relations, told ESPN’s “Outside the Lines.”

“MLB is committed to working with manufacturers to develop products that offer maximum protection to our players, and we’re not stopping at all.”

In order for the hat to be approved it had to provide protection at 83 miles per hour. An MLB-commissioned study concluded that 83 miles per hour was the average speed of a line drive when it reaches the area of a pitching mound.

It seems like a no brainer to me; why not wear the hat? If I were standing at the mound as professional baseball players smashed the ball toward me, I’d be suited up in full catchers gear. I guess I have to take into consideration if the hat feels comfortable on pitchers’ heads and whether they’re thrown off by having something larger on top of their head as they play.

Someone that has already taken that into account is Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Brandon McCarthy. Although McCarthy was sent into emergency brain surgery after a line drive struck him in the head in 2012, he has already said that he will not be wearing one. He doesn’t believe the hat is “major league-ready.” His opinion was that the hat is too big, too hot and it just doesn’t feel right.

“The technology is there,” he told ESPN.com. “It helps. It’s proven to help. But I don’t think it’s ready yet as a major league-ready product. And I told them that. I told them that’s where it’s at.”

4Licensing Corporation subsidiary isoBlox is the company who created the new hat. isoBlox says that the caps are slightly more than a half-inch thicker in the front and an inch thicker on the sides, than the standard baseball cap. They say the cap stands frontal protection against line drives up to 90 mph and for the side impact locations up to 85 mph. The cap is also custom fitting.

So what’s this stuff made out of that can protect pitchers’ from line drives to the head? isoBlox says the soft padding is made up of “plastic injection molded polymers combined with a foam substrate.” The padding was designed to diffuse energy upon impact through dispersion and absorption techniques.

“What we’ve given [pitchers] is a product with protection they’ve never had before,” 4Licensing chief executive officer Bruce Foster said. “It changes the game for them.”

What also changes the game is the way the pitchers look in the hats. It really shouldn’t be about how cool they look, but it’s definitely something pitchers are going to be thinking about. The LA Dodgers Clayton Kershaw told the MLB network that, “You don’t look very cool, I’ll be honest.”

The reason one would wear it is to protect their heads, not to look stylish or cool. Safety should be one’s top priority. When baseball season rolls around I’d like to count how many pitchers are wearing them.

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