The recent focus on head injuries in sports coupled with traumatic injuries suffered by pitchers Brandon McCarthy, Juan Nicasio, Alex Cobb and, most recently, Aroldis Chapman, who were all struck in the head or face by line drive come backers, has led Major League Baseball to ramp up efforts to better protect pitchers.
One such invention that received MLB's seal of approval were the bulky caps manufactured by isoBlox that are designed with extra padding to help absorb the impact. The caps have been available to pitchers all season long, but we had yet to hear a pitcher express serious interest in wearing one, let alone actually wearing one in a game. That was, until Saturday night, when San Diego Padres reliever Alex Torres became the first pitcher to wear the cap on a MLB pitching mound.
You can hardly even notice it... pic.twitter.com/WF55Ziw9Mg— Brett Anderson (@BAnderson_30) June 22, 2014
Torres, 26, had already appeared in 30 games for San Diego this season and had yet to wear the cap in a game, so his decision to try it out came as a surprise. However, it turns out his reason for doing so was simple and right in line with the reason it was created: peace of mind.
Alex Torres said a close call in spring training scared him a bit. Ordered the protective cap about a month ago. Arrived a week ago.— Dennis Lin (@dennistlin) June 22, 2014
Torres pitched the eighth inning, allowing one run on one hit and two walks. He also struck out two. Not one of his better outings of the season, but he didnt find the hat itself to be a hindrance.
Torres: "It doesn't feel bad. The difference between the regular hat and this hat is not really that big."— Dennis Lin (@dennistlin) June 22, 2014
The feel may not be different, but the look is obviously unique. Naturally, that becomes the focus of those watching.
Pinky and the Brain, Brain, Brain, Brain, Brain... pic.twitter.com/2IMfoVlkQC— Chad Moriyama (@ChadMoriyama) June 22, 2014
With that in mind, Torres does deserve a tip of the cap, so to speak, for being the first to try it. It's impossible to form an opinion unless one actually pitches wearing the cap during a game, so at least now we have one opinion that comes directly from experience.
Up until this point, interest in trying the cap has been nearly non-existent. Pitchers have been willing to sacrifice safety for comfort and routine, and it didn't appear that was going to change until a new model came along. But maybe now that one pitcher has tried this model, a couple more will give it a shot as well.
Time will tell on that. For now, though, a bit of baseball history has been made, and at least one pitcher feels safer standing 60-feet, six-inches from home plate. That's a good start.
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