Baseball season is back in force and I’m helping to get our student-athletes ready for the short season that commences at the end of this month. It’s a chore to ask the guys to stand a bit further away from the batter than they are, to bring a cup (especially if they’re playing the infield, or if they’re the damned catcher), and to pay attention during practice at-bats so they don’t get decapitated by a foul ball. This is stuff that seems like common sense to me, but I guess that’s why I’m the coach…
Anyway, this also means that I have to start looking at additional items for myself in case I have to play the field because someone forgot their cup or glove or something. I don’t really hit so I don’t exactly need batting gloves, but I think I could use a pair of good cleats. But I was actually really interested in this new item that Major League Baseball just approved:
Pinwrest, the manufacturer, removed the padding from inside the isoBLOX cap it introduced last year in favor of detachable padding to wear over a standard cap. Patrick Houlihan, baseball’s vice president and deputy general counsel for labor relations, told “Outside the Lines” that all 30 teams were informed via email Friday afternoon that the new product passed independent laboratory testing.
Alex Torres was mentioned in the article, and as you recall, he wore the original isoBLOX design that made him look like a Mario Brother. Obviously, pitchers are worried about function more so than style, and it was necessary to reduce the bulky look while still maintaining function and maximizing protection.
The weight of the new cap and padding combination is “approximately the same” as last year’s integrated model, Foster said. “The feel of the cap is consistent with what players are used to — this is the next step that had to happen.
“It’s not something that’ll be offensive to anybody because it doesn’t look cool.”
It sounds like MLBPA, like MLB, has approved the cap. The next step is in seeing who actually uses it. But just like with catcher injuries and with the rising tide of elbow-related injuries in baseball, it is good to see that MLB is being proactive in seeking solutions to protect their greatest assets.
Of course, again, the option is there but the players have to see fit to take advantage of the protection offered to them. Obviously, a line drive to the head is much rarer these days than an exploding UCL, but there is now a preventative measure in place to keep the noggin in one piece. This is like in hockey where even though you have a guy get his neck or other exposed area sliced by a skate every now and then, they still don’t wear too much neck protection or other protection because the injury risk is so rare even if it is morbid and scary. Heck, some players will still play without a protective cup, and occasionally you get the baseball player who won’t wear a cup, like when Jordany Valdespin got nailed in the ‘nads by a Justin Verlander pitch. Even the new isoBLOX product isn’t going to offer 100% protection against the injury it’s designed to prevent:
Houlihan said the new isoBLOX product, like last year’s, earned approval of MLB and the players’ association after meeting a safety standard at 83 mph — which was determined to be the average speed of liners reaching the mound. Industry sources say protection against higher speeds requires bigger, harder and heavier headwear, such as a helmet, but even the official Rawlings MLB batting helmet is not billed as a fail-safe device against baseballs traveling faster than 100 mph.
You can’t prevent 100% of injuries, but you can at least reduce the likelihood of debilitating or life-threatening incidents.
The webpage for the isoBLOX product has a cool picture of the skull cap protector. I guess I’ll take a look at it the next time I go to Dick’s Sporting Goods to check out some cleats.