How many more pitchers are going to be seriously injured before head safety gear becomes mandatory?
Another pitcher has been hit in the head by a comeback liner during a Spring Training game.
Earlier this month, newly signed Giants starter Johnny Cueto, threw the first pitch to Oakland Athletics’ outfielder Billy Burns. Although Cueto stated that the smoked ball initially glanced off his glove, it sure looked like it struck his forehead straight on. Amazingly, Cueto stayed in the game and pitched a total of three innings.
I just do not understand what is holding MLB back from making safety equipment mandatory, in an effort to protect a pitcher’s head. It’s bad enough when they take a shot to their bodies or extremities, but when a liner hits a player in the face like what happened to Aroldis Chapman in 2014 or Bryan Mitchell last year, it begs the question, why? Why is this continuing to happen? I can’t think of any other professional sport in which a player is so blatantly exposed to injury. How many times do you see pitchers who barely get a glove up in time to shield themselves or they jerk their heads to the side and feel the rush of air from a near miss? One third of a second is approximately all the time they have to react. The list of active pitchers who have been victims of liners is growing. Shouldn’t the number be going down instead?
There are several safety equipment items which can protect the most dangerous position in baseball. Two years ago, the isoBLOX protective cap was introduced but Alex Torres was the only MLB pitcher who wore one.
This year, a new hybrid of a cap and helmet, designed by Boombang, was introduced to approximately twenty pitchers during Spring Training.
MLB vice-president Patrick Houlihan and representatives from the MLBPA are at least working together on this serious issue. Great news and a step in the right direction.
The problem lies in the fact that most pitchers don’t like the way protective gear impedes their performance. Prototypes either don’t feel right or they wind up being more of a distraction than a benefit. There’s also the image factor and being the butt of jokes for wearing odd-looking or enlarged caps.
Four out of the five pitchers who were hit last year were struck in the face. The aforementioned products do not protect the facial area. Only a face mask or guard will do that. This is the kind of softball faceguard that my youngest daughter wore when she was pitching. She never pitched without it.
It made her perform better because she felt safer. She started out wearing a bulkier plastic version and then switched to the metal one because of improved visibility. I don’t know why MLB pitchers are of the mindset that wearing protective head gear somehow makes them less masculine. I am hopeful that additional players will wear something like this and/or safety caps.
If the Cubs’ starting rotation and bullpen can be more adequately protected from injury by wearing guards like this I am a strong proponent. Better yet, if MLB makes them mandatory, using them will become the norm, just like batting helmets did. Get your head in the game baseball! And protect it when you do.