Pitchers and catchers report for Major League Baseball spring training beginning this week, but only the catchers will be wearing protective headgear.
MLB officials were looking into protective headgear for pitchers and hoped to debut some version of it this month. They want pitchers to avoid situations like those experienced by Brandon McCarthy, who nearly died last summer after a batted ball struck him in the head and cause his brain to hemorrhage.
UnEQUAL Technologies was testing a padded pitchers cap that resembled a basic baseball cap in every way, except that it had a layer of padding in the inner lining. It’s the same padding found on football and soccer helmets.
However, ESPN reported Tuesday that MLB was not ready to debut a protective cap.
(MLB senior vice president Dan) Halem said baseball officials have spent the offseason considering and testing padded linings for caps, with the hope that by spring training, MLB would be able to approve and present to the players association multiple options for pitchers to try out on a voluntary basis.
“We’re not going to approve a product unless our experts say it provides adequate protection,” Halem said.
So far, said Halem, no new cap design satisfies requirements MLB set for providing head protection against high-speed batted balls. He said proposals from six companies are being considered, but that only two have submitted actual prototypes for MLB to test at a University of Massachusetts-Lowell laboratory.
Halem said that there is no rule against a pitcher trying out a padded cap on his own.
He didn’t rule out a lined cap receiving MLB’s endorsement and being ready for use by Opening Day, saying, “We’ll see if the two companies that are farthest along can complete testing, satisfy our criteria, and then produce fast enough.”
– Bill Bradley, contributing editor