MLB pitchers might try safety hat liners next year
Big league pitchers could experiment with protective hat liners
next season, hoping they can absorb the shock of batted balls such
as the ones that struck Brandon McCarthy and Doug Fister in the
Major League Baseball medical director Dr. Gary Green presented
ideas to executives, physicians and trainers at the winter meetings
this week. Among the prototypes being studied is headgear made of
Kevlar, the high-impact material used by the military and law
enforcement and NFL players for body armor.
The liners, weighing perhaps five ounces or less, would go under
a pitcher’s cap and help protect against line drives that often
travel over 100 mph.
MLB could implement the safety change in the minor leagues, as
it did a few seasons ago with batting helmets, but would require
the approval of the players’ union to make big leaguers wear
”We’re not going to force them on anyone,” MLB senior vice
president Dan Halem said Monday. ”We’d like to come up with a
product or two, test it thoroughly with an independent laboratory
and see if players are comfortable wearing them on an optional
Halem had said baseball already was looking at options when
McCarthy was hit in the head by a line drive in September. The
Oakland pitcher was hospitalized with a skull fracture and brain
Fister was hit in the head by a liner in Game 2 of the World
Series. The ball flew 150 feet into center field and, after Fister
was examined by a Detroit trainer, he stayed in for several more
innings against San Francisco.
Major league general managers discussed the issue during their
meetings last month in California. Players’ union chief Michael
Weiner said there have been preliminary talks with MLB, and said
the sides usually come together on safety concerns.
Many youth leagues mandate that pitchers wear helmets. Getting
major league pitchers to try something may take time – finding the
right comfort, fit and feel isn’t easy.
”We might roll out something and have to tweak it a few
times,” Halem said.
Hall of Fame pitcher Phil Niekro pitched against sluggers Willie
Mays, Johnny Bench and Willie Stargell for years, and wishes there
had been a similar product in his days.
”You wonder how guys don’t get hit in the head more often,” he
said Monday. ”That ball coming back at you, a lot of times you
have no chance.”
”I don’t see how pitchers would like wearing something like
that,” he said. ”If they make it a rule, maybe they’ll have to.
But I would guess that after some experimenting, they’ll figure it