Major League Baseball has approved a product designed to protect pitchers from potentially dangerous line drives hit at them.
After testing a number of prototypes from various companies, a padded cap manufactured by the 4Licensing Corporation subsidiary isoBlox will be made available to pitchers at all levels when they report to Spring Training. Use of the equipment will be optional.
MLB, which will continue to work with other companies that are developing products to enhance safety, alerted all teams of the development Tuesday morning after consultation with the Major League Baseball Players Association.
Tuesday's development came almost 17 months after pitcher Brandon McCarthy, then with the Athletics, sustained serious head injuries after being struck by a line drive, an incident that triggered increased discussion about ways that protect pitchers.
According to ESPN, Halem and MLB senior counsel for labor relations Patrick Houlihan said the threshold for approval was that the cap had to provide protection at 83 mph, which is below the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment (NOCSAE) severity index of 1,200, above which is considered to be high risk for skull fractures and traumatic brain injuries. An MLB-commissioned study determined that 83 mph is the average speed of a line drive when it reaches the area of the pitching mound.
According to the company, the caps are slightly more than a half-inch thicker in the front and an inch thicker near the temples than standard caps and provide frontal impact protection up to 90 mph and for side impact up to 85 mph.
The padding adds seven ounces to the weight of a cap, which currently weighs 3-4 ounces. The company does not believe the caps will interfere with a pitcher's motion or comfort.
According to "Outside the Lines," 12 pitchers have been hit in the head by line drives in the past six seasons. One was Blue Jays left-hander J.A.Happ, who suffered a fractured skull last May 7. Happ was non-committal when asked if he would use the new product.
"I'd have to see what the differences in feel would be -- does it feel close enough to a regular cap?" Happ told ESPN. "You don't want to be out there thinking about it and have it take away from your focus on what you're doing."
The new equipment will not prevent all injuries and many of the more seriously injured pitchers were struck below the cap line. Halem said there has been no discussion of expanding this initiative to include visors, masks or helmets.
"There would have to be widespread willingness among players to use such a device," he said. "Short of wearing a helmet, I am doubtful there'll be a product to protect against 100 mph. Hopefully there will be."
--- Source: MLB.com