It may look more like it belongs on a character out of Tron rather than for a hurler on the mound, but there is a greater likelihood that pitching helmets will make their debut in the big leagues this season.
“There may be,” agreed Major League Players Association President Tony Clark, likening it to the gradual implementation of the batting helmet. “We had a number of guys who wore them early on and they were a little challenging to deal with and we eventually got to a place where it was comfortable enough for everybody to use. Our expectation is that will happen this time but there may be guys in the interim that decide to use them.”
With Aroldis Chapman becoming the latest pitcher to be felled from a line drive back to the mound, more pitchers may forgo their machismo in favor of safety.
In January, Major League Baseball approved a padded hat made by isoBlox that is said to provide protection at speeds up to 90 mph in the front and front boss impact locations and 85 mph on the side impact location. Use of the hat is optional.
When asked about their willingness to wear such a helmet, a number of Cardinals pitchers didn’t reject the idea—but shared they had only seen pictures and had yet to be able to try one out.
But others like Chicago Cubs pitcher Jeff Samardzija have been more outspoken.
“They look stupid,” Samardzija recently told the Chicago Tribune. “It’s like the old school days in hockey. Those guys weren’t asking for helmets. They made them put them on. We know we put ourselves at risk when we go out there. And you need to be ready for that any time.”
Clark, who was in Jupiter on March 5th for the St. Louis Cardinals union meeting, has tried on one of the pitching helmets.
“I’m glad I’m not a pitcher,” he joked before returning to more serious consideration on the topic. “Fundamentally, we get the idea. If there’s a way to protect guys on the bump and the way guys swing the bat and the way guys are throwing balls—it’s an unfortunate occurrence. If a hat is going to help protect a guy in a way that he wasn’t otherwise protected before I think it’s a great idea. A great option for guys to have.”