McCarthy: Pitcher protection easier said than done

LOS ANGELES — Brandon McCarthy knows what it is like to be hit in the head full force by a baseball. He also knows what it will take to provide viable protection for a pitcher: good old entrepreneurship. Greed, even.

“We’ve put things on the moon before, so I feel like we can create some sort of device that fits over your head and protects you,” McCarthy said.

“It’s going to be a money-maker, whatever it is, because you can sell it to youth leagues and people will wear it all the way through. Usually good ideas go where the money is, so I think if enough companies look at that, or people in the basement that are really creative … Someone will do it. It’s just a matter of when, not if.”

McCarthy suffered a life-threating brain contusion, a fractured skull and an epidural hematoma when he was struck on the right side of his head by line drive with Oakland last Sept. 5. He underwent surgery to remove pressure on the brain that night and missed the rest of the season.

Toronto’s J.A. Happ was struck in the left ear by a line drive Tuesday, hours before McCarthy took the mound against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Happ was taken by stretcher from the field suffering from a head bruise and lacerated ear before being released from a Tampa area hospital Wednesday morning, on crutches. McCarthy was not in the D-backs’ main clubhouse area, where the game was being shown on TV. The clubhouse immediately grew quiet as the players looked on.

“No,” McCarthy said when asked if he saw the replay.

“And I won’t be.”

McCarthy said he didn’t need any visual confirmation to stir his emotions: “It reminded me of everything I went through (and) more of a fear that he would have to go through that. That was the first time I ever really had something cross my mind.”

Major League Baseball has studied ways to help protect pitchers, but nothing has been found. Cap inserts like batters wore decades ago have been suggested, but how much protection would they provide?

“Most everything that has come out wouldn’t have protected me, and it wouldn’t have protected (Happ) if he got hit directly in the ear,” McCarthy said.

“You’re at the point now when you are looking at hitting helmets. You’d have to have something that would protect the ear, and at that point how vulnerable is the face. It’s kind of a slippery slope. Someone will have to come up with something really good and really sound … Until someone makes something that works, it is going to be tough for everybody to wear.”

Given McCarthy’s intensely personal interest in the subject and his avid participation on Twitter (he has 113,955 followers), he was more than just a casual observer on Wednesday when the groundswell reaction to Happ’s injury surfaced: Baseball needs to implement mandatory protection for pitchers.


McCarthy has

nothing but sympathy for Happ, but he considers the instant reaction

overly simplistic and misguided. He took to Twitter to share his

sentiments, and quickly found himself immersed in a spirited

dialogue.


McCarthy tweeted that he’s not opposed

to the idea — “whatever feels OK and works is all I care about” — but

he doesn’t want to confuse reality with

idealism.


And that set off some

critics, including one particularly callous

response.


To which McCarthy could only

tweet “wow” in response.


At Dodger Stadium prior to Wednesday night’s game, McCarthy explained that his issue was with “people talking about something they know nothing about. That just kind of upsets me, hearing people talk in the mind and trying to get notoriety out of it. I don’t care who argues with me. It’s a matter of trying to get some truth out there.”

And he stressed that while there’s no practical solution now, he believes one is possible.

“I have a neighbor who is unbelievable at creating stuff. I told him this offseason, do it, there is a lot of money here if you do it right.

“There is an altruistic side where you can protect people, which is nice. (But) people who make seat-belt parts don’t do it for saving lives, they do it to make money. That’s how everything works. If someone does it, we’ll all benefit.”

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