When Spring Training starts in a few weeks, you might see some big heads out on the pitcher’s mound at camps. That’s because Major League Baseball approved the use of new padded caps for pitchers of all levels to begin wearing. The new safety precaution comes as no surprise as pitchers such as J.A. Happ and Brandon McCarthy have been seriously injured from line drives that ricocheted off of their heads.
The new caps were developed by a company called isoBlox and weigh 7 ounces heavier than a standard 3-4 ounce cap. What does this mean for pitchers? It will be hard to tell until Spring Training starts and players are actually able to wear the new caps. I think their usage will be very little at first with that much difference in weight. Pitching is something that needs routine and consistency, and a cap that is twice as heavy may not be worth the extra safety features to most players.
Pitchers who wear the new caps can expect protection from line drives up to 83 mph, which was the established average speed of a line drive by Major League Baseball and the basis on their approval of the caps. Frankly, many pitchers probably have the reflex ability to dodge or defend themselves against something slower, and the line drives that they can’t are probably faster than 83 mph to begin with.
Balls can come off the bat much harder than the speed thrown by the pitcher. But due to the rarity of line drives that do come close to a pitcher’s head and the discomfort of the new caps (my prediction), I think there will be very few pitchers with the new safer caps.
Heavier caps are a contrast from the Spring Training hats that were released last season by New Era. The Diamond Era collection was designed to be lightweight and provide UV protection. The new padded pitcher caps are all about safety and are the complete opposite of stylish. You won’t see this new style of caps for sale in stores anytime soon, but this could be the start of a new safety requirement, much like how professional, collegiate, and many high school organizations now require coaches to wear helmets in coaching boxes at 1st and 3rd base.
Safety always is and always will be a topic of discussion. The new pitchers caps aren’t going to hurt anybody, aside from embarrassing a pitcher the first time he wears one. If they do what they are supposed to and prevent an injury after a line drive to the head, it shouldn’t matter what they look like.