ESPN is reporting MLB is set to roll out a new set of protective headwear for pitchers in Spring Training, as 20 pitchers will get a new hybrid helmet cap which was made collaboratively by MLB and the MLB Players Association.
The product is designed to be lighter than the previous incarnations, which drew criticism for how they looked. The new version is said to resemble visors.
Patrick Houlihan describes the customized hats that weigh 10 to 12 ounces, depending on head size, have a carbon fiber shell and roughly resemble sun visors with extended forehead and temple coverage and single earflaps like batting helmets. The average thickness is about 0.7 inches and is greatest in places most susceptible to catastrophic injury, according to Boombang, the company hired to design and produce the headwear.
Houlihan and MLBPA assistant general counsel Bob Lenaghan told ESPN’s Outside the Lines says they’re optimistic pitchers will like the headwear and hope pitchers outside the 20 selected will request their own.
Last season, only one pitcher wore one of the caps created to protect pitchers’ heads – Alex Torres of the Mets. He was roundly mocked by the Internet because of how silly the cap looked.
The league has collaborated with Boombang since 2014 on the project. ESPN reports MLB gathered input from pitchers who have been hit in the head by line drives, and that those group of players will be the first to test the caps.
Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Alex Cobb, who suffered a concussion and dealt with vertigo after taking a line drive to the head, said the headwear looks and feels good.
“It felt great and looks good, similar to a helmet with the top cut off,” Cobb said.
“If I put it on and it’s close to wearing a baseball hat and I’ve got nothing to complain about, I think I’d be open to it.”
Houlihan hopes eventually versions can be made for minor leaguers and baseball players in non-pro ranks.
League officials told ESPN they put a substantial amount of resources into the project.
“This is a loss leader to address player safety, not a money-making venture,” said Houlihan. “It’s an unprecedented collaboration between us and the union to design safety equipment from scratch, and Boombang had no restrictions on materials or design.”
No matter how they look, it’s always good to see the league look after the health of its players. Time will tell pitchers embrace the headwear.