August 31, 2009
Once the new Rawlings S100 helmet is inevitably adopted by suspicious Major League Baseball players, we're going to point to today as one of the major turning points.
As announced earlier this morning, every minor league team will be required to wear S100s for the 2010 season. The helmets contain thicker cushioning and Rawlings says they have been engineered to withstand the force of a 100 MPH pitch.
The S100s also figure to get a boost from Mets third baseman David Wright(notes), who's planning on wearing one on Tuesday night when he plays in his first game since being unintentionally drilled in the head by a 94 MPH fastball from Matt Cain(notes) on Aug. 15.
As you might have heard, some pro ballplayers have been extremely wishy-washy when it comes to the bulkier helmets. The new lids are heavier than what players currently wear and the change has proven jarring for some. Cubs pitcher Ryan Dempster(notes) (above) wore a S100 during Sunday's game and said it felt "like my own bobblehead day."
"I imagine they got some pretty smart people that designed them so I'm sure it works pretty good. If it provides more safety, then I'm all for it."
Rawlings is sending six S100s to each MLB team to try out for the rest of the season and here's hoping that the players eventually come around to them. Players like Wright, Ian Kinsler(notes), Scott Rolen(notes), Marco Scutaro(notes) and Edgar Gonzalez have all survived beanings this season, but there's no reason not to adopt safer technology if it's there for the taking.
George Vecsey of the NY Times makes an interesting point when he argues that you can't trust stubborn athletes to make the best safety decisions — think Dale Earnhardt Sr. and the HANS device — and that the leagues and unions are responsible for keeping a clear head and looking out for the safety of their charges. Even if the players union doesn't work toward adopting the S100 on a permanent basis, baseball has done the right thing by mandating its use in the minors and getting players used to its fit at an early age.
But something tells me that common sense will ultimately prevail with the help of this simple shove and that the S100 will be as commonplace in big league batting racks as pine tar and batting donuts. Players used to be against ear flaps (mandated in 1983) and even helmets altogether (1971), but everyone eventually came around.
They'll come around to the S100, too.