Good luck, along with the flat brim of his cap, saved youngster Braydon Salzman from serious injury at the Little League World Series on Friday.
Salzman, a pitcher for the Huntington Beach, Calif. team, would have been hit in the forehead with a ball in the third inning were it not for his caps' bill, which cushioned the blow of a line drive smoked back through the middle.
Salzman tried reaching with his glove, but wasn't quick enough to catch or even deflect the liner hit by Ryan McCormick of Cumberland, R.I. Though the impact knocked Salzman backward to the ground, he reflexively got on all fours in an attempt to pick up the ball, though he never made a throw and McCormick was safe at first with a scary single.
Miraculously lucky. As reported by the Los Angeles Times, Salzman not only stayed in the game, but he went 3 for 3 at the plate and got the decision in an 11-0 victory. But what about the liner, kid?
"It hurt a little," Salzman said. "But then I was fine."
Holy smokes! On the left, pre-impact Salzman cap. On the right, a big ol' dent — looks like John Kruk took a bite out of it. The brim acted like an airbag that's 1 millimeter thick. That's right; cap bills are about four-hundredths of an inch thick.
Luckily for Salzman, kids these days prefer their baseball caps a bit oversized, with brims pointing flat to preserve a factory fresh look. I swear, they even bend it slightly upward on the ends so it settles flat as possible on their heads. This also is a phenomenon in Major League Baseball, with the likes of Cody Rasmus and Chad Cordero(notes) coming to mind as big-time flat brimmers.
When I played Little League back in the day, you'd wear your cap super-tight on your head and bend the cardboard in a perfect arc so it looked like a beak on your forehead. Max Scherzer(notes) of the Detroit Tigers still rocks this look, but he's in a minority. Good thing Salzman is a hipster youth.
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The best recent major league example of the flat-brimmed look is probably Chad Cordero, who recently retired with injuries. But no one's cap has had a flatter brim.
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This is what Salzman was facing off McCormick's bat. (That's a nice follow-through, by the way. But yikes!)
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Metal bat, well struck, about 46 feet of reaction space, and this happens. They might want to consider making pitchers wear a modified helmet.
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Here's a longer shot of Salzman scrambling to pick up the ball. How did he keep his head in the game after almost losing it?
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Though he soon would get to his feet and keep pitching, Salzman obviously felt the liner's impact a little bit. It also would leave a red mark on his head.
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But for now, Salzman has a game to finish. Just as soon as he — of course — straightens the brim.