After months of testing prototypes, Major League Baseball announced Tuesday that it has approved a padded cap for pitchers to use for protection from line drives, reports William Weinbaum of ESPN.
The caps will be made available to pitchers in time for spring training next month. Their usage will be optional -- for now, MLB is not requiring pitchers to wear them. The newly approved caps, manufactured by isoBlox, are approved to provide protection from objects coming at a speed of 83 miles per hour and can give some protection at speeds of over 90 MPH. However, the line drives that can hit pitchers often are travelling at speeds of over 100 MPH. So while the new caps are a start, they will likely not be able to keep pitchers from serious injury on all liners.
The new caps are designed using "plastic injection molded polymers combined with a foam substrate" according to isoBlox. They will help spread the impact over a large area, reducing and diffusing energy and helping prevent injury. They will be a little bulkier than pitchers are used to; about half-an-inch thinker in front and an inch thicker on the sides. The new caps will be seven ounces heavier than the normal hats.
There has been a sense of urgency in baseball to come up with some sort of security after a recent rash of line drives striking pitchers in the head. Brandon McCarthy suffered perhaps the most severe injury as he required brain surgery and was at one point considered to be in danger of losing his life after an Erick Aybar line-drive hit his head in September 2012. Thankfully, McCarthy recovered fully and is still pitching.
Since McCarthy's injury, four other players have also been hit in the head by liners. Doug Fister was able to stay in the game after being hit in 2012 and Mickey Storey pitched again a few days after his 2012 incident. However, J.A. Happ and Alex Cobb were not as fortunate last year, when both were hit. Happ sustained a fractured skull, while Cobb suffered a concussion. Both landed on the disabled list for multiple months.