Thursday Miami Marlins’ pitcher Dan Jennings took a line drive to the head in a game against the Pittsburgh Pirates. He is not the first pitcher for this to happen to this year and in recent years. It seems to be becoming a scary and more common occurrence, begging the question: why aren’t more pitcher’s wearing the MLB approved protective caps?
#Marlins Jennings take liner off his head. Slumps to mound. Mortorized cart coming out to help him off field.
— Rob Biertempfel (@BiertempfelTrib) August 8, 2014
Jennings is at least the third pitcher I’ve seen take a liner off his head. Also Jakubauskus and Ohlendorf. — Rob Biertempfel (@BiertempfelTrib) August 8, 2014
Jennings raised one hand to recognize crowd, which gave him standing ovation as he was taken off field. — Rob Biertempfel (@BiertempfelTrib) August 8, 2014
Thankfully Jennings remained conscious and was able to answer questions according to Biertempfel. CT scans on the pitcher were negative and he was kept overnight at the hospital for observation. On Friday he was placed on the 7-day concussion disabled list. Jennings was very lucky and even healthy enough to share his experience and thanks on Twitter.
The scans were negative-it seems I’m going to be ok. The support shown tonight has been unbelievable, speechless. God is amazing — Dan Jennings (@LtDanJennings) August 8, 2014
As Biertempfel noted Jennings is not the first pitcher for this to happen to. In 2012 New York Yankees’ pitcher Brandon McCarthy, who was then with the Oakland Athletics, was struck in the head by a line drive that required emergency brain surgery. McCarthy recovered but has had lasting effects from the incident such as seizures.
Incidents like these led to the introduction of new protective pitcher’s caps by Major League Baseball in January. Nick Schwartz of FortheWin.com described the new caps in June, using information from USA TODAY, when San Diego Padres’ pitcher Alex Torres became the the first pitcher to wear one of the new caps during a relief appearance,
“The caps are designed to protect pitchers in the event that they take a line drive to the head, and are fitted with energy-diffusing protective plates that create a bulge around the sides and front of the hat. The hat obviously looks a little strange, but it could save a pitcher’s life.”
Prior to Torres’ first use of the new hat, Cincinnati Reds’ pitcher Aroldis Chapman was struck in the face by a line drive requiring surgery to repair the broken bones in his face and around his left eye. Even then, it wasn’t until June that Torres stepped out onto the field with the protective cap on for the first time in MLB history. Not even Chapman or McCarthy have yet to don the cap. McCarthy told ESPN that the cap was not ready yet,
“Hopefully, in a couple years, they can come up with something that everyone wears and that you don’t notice it being on your head while out there. I hope it gets there. But right now, it’s just not there.”
Torres disagreed with McCarthy once he tried the cap, explaining on MLB.com,
“The difference between how this hat and the regular hat feels isn’t much. I tried it before using it in the game, playing catch. It doesn’t feel really bad. It doesn’t feel like how it looks on my head.”
Although he was mocked by fans and even the Padres’ announcers Torres is the smart one in this situation as the latest injury to Jennings to shows. Jennings, McCarthy, Chapman and others have been lucky for having been in these situations sustaining injuries that were certainly serious but at least survivable.
However just because they survived the damage, it is Torres who is the one with the right idea. Being hit in the head with a line drive is always a life threatening situation. How many more scares will it take for pitchers everywhere to begin donning the protective caps if not for their own lives then for their families and the fans that love them?