Pitchers Will Soon Wear Padded Caps

I was 12-years-old in 1995 when Norm Charlton got hit in the head with a line drive at Veterans Stadium. He wasn’t very good that year and all throughout his appearance that night – from the time he left the bullpen to the time he stumbled off the field with blood dripping down his face – pre-pubescent me was all over him: You stink! Go back to Cincinnati! When will I touch a boob?!

When he got hit, as a hush fell over the whole stadium: I TOLD YOU YOU SHOULD’VE GONE BACK TO CINCINNATI!

The guy in front of me turned around and looked at me, and then my Dad, with what can only be described as extreme condemnation. I was an asshole even at 12.

Truth is, I was too young to realize how dangerous such a thing could be. I was used to seeing big hits in football, bloody fights in hockey, and bone-jarring collisions at home plate. But now, 19 years later, the world is more aware and conscious of the dangers of head injuries in sports. The conversation started with football, then moved to hockey, and now has turned towards baseball. Pitchers, in particular.

Today, Major League Baseball approved the use of experimental padded caps for pitchers, according to an Outside The Lines report:

“We’re excited to have a product that meets our safety criteria,” Halem told Outside the Lines, adding that baseball will continue its efforts to come up with more options. “MLB is committed to working with manufacturers to develop products that offer maximum protection to our players, and we’re not stopping at all.”

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 miles per hour, below the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment (NOCSAE) standard severity index of 1,200. Severity indexes higher than 1,200 are considered 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.

The newly approved caps, manufactured by 4Licensing Corporation subsidiary isoBlox, will be made available to pitchers for spring training next month. Their use is optional.

The hat shown here is a prototype from Unequal Technology. We’ve talked about them quite a bit on this site— they partner with the NFL, and specifically Michael Vick, to protect players against concussions and rib injuries. From the looks of this prototype and others shown in the Outside The Lines report, the caps will be significantly less awkward than those giant David Wright helmets, which is a good thing.

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  • Popular Science January 28, 2014 at 12:18 pm

    Oh yeah, super useful except for that whole face part of the human head.

  • Chris Ely January 28, 2014 at 12:28 pm

    Funny; I’m wearing a padded hat of sorts right now.

  • Cartman January 28, 2014 at 12:37 pm

    People say I’m crazy for being a catcher, deliberately putting my body in front of balls in the dirt and foul tips. I always say I’m not the crazy one- yes, I get beat up, but I’m protected for the most part. Pitchers are the crazy ones. No protection, especially for the head/face. If I was going to pitch at any level, let alone the major league level, I’d be out there with a fucking catcher’s/goalie mask on at all times. That shit could kill you.

  • Uncle Meat January 28, 2014 at 12:43 pm

    First comment is that those guys are REALLY going to sweat their balls off now with those things! Second is that no matter how much padding you have OUTSIDE, it doesn’t prevent your brain from rattling around INSIDE (if you’re hit hard enough), which is what causes concussions. In baseball, these things might work. I don’t think anything is going to work in football, short of getting rid of them (helmets) altogether.

  • Your Mother January 28, 2014 at 2:30 pm

    Pitchers almost never get hit in the cap when it’s above the shoulders. This protection won’t help much unless you’re hit directly in the cap.

  • Bill conlin January 28, 2014 at 6:25 pm

    This will throw off the balance of the pitcher and his precision to throw solid pitches this will be an overtaking mistake to overprotective the pitcher unnecessarily and ruin his craft

  • Bill conlin January 28, 2014 at 6:25 pm


  • MIKE DITKA January 29, 2014 at 12:28 am

    What’s next, padded cups?


  • MIKE DITKA January 29, 2014 at 1:24 pm

    Bunch of freakin’ pussies! In my day if you got hit in the head, you shocked yourself back into consciousness with a gatorade shower, and got back out there!


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