SBD/January 29, 2014/Leagues and Governing Bodies

MLB Approves Protective Caps For Pitchers, Will Test During Spring Training

New caps for MLB players would include sewn-in safety plates made by isoBLOX
MLB has "approved a protective cap for pitchers, hoping to reduce the effects of being hit in the head by line drives," according to Ben Walker of the AP. The new hat will be "available for testing during spring training on a voluntary basis," but neither MLBers nor minor leaguers will be "required to wear it." Safety plates made by isoBLOX are "sewn into the hat and custom fitted." The caps weigh "an extra six to seven ounces" and offer protection "to the forehead, temples and sides of the head." The plates make the hats "about a half-inch thicker in the front and around an inch thicker on the sides." isoBLOX parent company 4Licensing CEO Bruce Foster said that the cap "went through extensive testing and provided protection from line drives up to 90 mph in the front of the head and 85 mph on the side." He acknowledged the cap is slightly bigger than a regular baseball cap, but said, "It's not going to be a Gazoo hat." MLB several years ago "introduced larger batting helmets that offered increased safety" (AP, 1/28). MLB Exec VP/Labor Relations Dan Halem said, "We're excited to have a product that meets our safety criteria." Foster said, "Players who've been hit by ferocious comebackers will probably be early adopters." He added that the new cap "won't interfere with a pitcher's comfort or motion." But Blue Jays P J.A. Happ, who suffered a fractured skull during a game last spring, said, "I'd have to see what the differences in feel would be -- does it feel close enough to a regular cap? You don't want to be out there thinking about it and have it take away from your focus on what you're doing" (ESPN.com, 1/28).

TO WEAR, OR NOT TO WEAR: USA TODAY's Paul White notes D-Backs P Brandon McCarthy, who had "emergency brain surgery after being struck by a line drive" in '12, has been "involved with the development of the new caps." McCarthy wrote of the caps on his Twitter feed, "Headed in the right direction but not game ready." He cited "snugness, weight displacement and heat retention as potential issues, all suggestions he has made to isoBLOX." Happ said, "If it was functional and comfortable and didn't hinder performance, I'd definitely be for it" (USA TODAY, 1/29). Rockies P Brett Anderson posted a photo of the cap on his Twitter account and wrote, "I'll pass on the Super Mario Brothers inspired padded hat" (N.Y. TIMES, 1/29). Dodgers P Clayton Kershaw said that he will head to Spring Training "with an open mind" about the caps. He said, "You don't look very cool, I'll be honest. You don't look very cool out there. But technology is unbelievable, and it really doesn't feel that much different once you get used to it." Royals P James Shields: "I can't really say if I'm going to wear it or not, but it's definitely a good thing and something that we should take a look at" (MLB.com, 1/28). CBS Sports Net’s Allie LaForce said, “You’re going to have some stubborn guys who don’t want to change anything about their game. But you at least need to have options for the pitchers willing to make the change" ("Lead Off,” CBS Sports Network, 1/28).

YOUTH MOVEMENT: ESPN.com's David Schoenfield wrote under the header, "Protective Caps Will Take Time To Catch On." Fans "probably won't see many pitchers wearing one this season," as there will be "initial reluctance." Schoenfield: "So I would predict it will take years for the protective cap for pitchers to catch on, unless baseball makes it mandatory at some point. I suspect the bigger impact will come in youth baseball, where you can see this type of cap becoming mandatory" (ESPN.com, 1/28). In L.A., Bill Shaikin writes the "potential bonanza is not in MLB but in youth baseball." isoBLOX President Stacy Weiland said that a "youth version -- smaller, with a one-size-fits-all liner designed to fit into an adjustable cap -- would be available starting in March at $59.99 each" (L.A. TIMES, 1/29).
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