They’re goofy, they’re weird, and most recently, Pittsburgh Pirates pitchers have been trying them on.
If you haven’t guessed yet, its protective headgear for the man on the mound.
As the Pirates start to indulge in the activities at Pirate City, in Bradenton, Fla., for their 2016 spring training, some of the Buccos’ bullpen members have been trying the new half-cap. Imagine a batter’s helmet with the top removed and the ear piece smaller.
Yes, it’s as untraditional as you think.
But, could this be a new step for Major League Baseball?
Usually, joining a fraternity is a mutual agreement. Unfortunately, for 12 MLB pitchers, joining the unluckiest group in baseball wasn’t exactly on their game agenda.
Since 2013, 12 pitchers have been struck in the head by line drives. Most recently added to the list was Cleveland’s Carlos Carrasco, who had little time to react during a game last season.
The number seems to be enough to make the MLB start to worry about safety, and so far this year, around 20 pitchers have agreed to try the “caps.”
Since the explosion of injuries to pitchers over the years, new technology keeps arising, trying to help out the pitchers.
Padded caps have already been used. If you have never seen one, it looks like a normal baseball cap, only about a million sizes too big, with stuffing of foam inside.
Sure, it looks goofy, but is it reasonable?
According to an ESPN article from August, out of the 12 players hit by liners, about half were struck below the cap.
Interestingly, MLB hasn’t released any softball-like facemask for the pitchers. They seem to stick with the over-sized, stuffed hats, hoping that’s enough.
Most recently, two Pirates pitchers gave the new half-caps a shot, while throwing in the bullpen.
Pitchers Jared Hughes and Mark Melancon gave the caps a try, and their reviews were split.
Hughes is willing to try it out, saying he knows it’s goofy looking, but if it can give him more confidence to throw a sinking fastball, usually hit straight back, he’s absolutely OK with the look.
Melancon, on the other hand, thinks the only downfall of the headgear is its looks.
I agree with “the Shark.”
If you will, imagine Melancon jogging onto the field in the ninth inning. As AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck” plays, Melancon, trying to get the crowd going, peddles out to the mound.
To me, I envision a bobble-head hustling into the infield.
But, Hughes makes some good points, as well.
Acting as a pioneer for the half-caps, Hughes compares the “goofy look” to those of the batting helmet, which was fully introduced into MLB in 1983.
Whichever side of the argument you choose to stand on is irrelevant, at least at this point in time.
Nothing is forcing pitchers to wear these — yet.
This upcoming season should be interesting, that’s for sure. Knowing that some Bucs will be showcasing the new technology will give some perspective for further down the line. Not only whether it’s more safe, a statement most can agree on, but to see how many of the major-leaguers adopt this new look.
Baseball has changed quite a bit since its inception. For example, anyone who watched the 1860s baseball crew play games at Pithole last summer could easily pick up at least 10 things that have impacted the game in huge ways, besides the fact that in the 1860s gloves were only for the winter months.
It’s too early in the season to know if this will be something MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred decides to make mandatory, although there’s a good chance the choice will be up to the pitchers, as it is already.
I guess when it’s all said and done, the spectators won’t be the ones who battle for the tradition of America’s game. It’s just a different thought to think that in future years, pitchers could be standing in the middle of the diamond with three-inches of padding and carbon fiber around their noggins.
Lohr is the sports editor of The Herald. He can be reached at 827-3634, or at firstname.lastname@example.org