DENVER - The Mets' prototype of Rawlings' new helmet, the S100, was stored in the top cubicle of the locker belonging to equipment manager Charlie Samuels during the team's weekend stay at Wrigley Field.
With David Wright stuck on the disabled list until Tuesday's game in Colorado, the experiment had to wait for its most high-profile guinea pig. The Cubs' Ryan Dempster wore it Saturday and gave it a positive review. But in Wright, a star player coming off a concussion, Rawlings has the ideal test case.
That's why Rawlings has rushed to move up the delivery date of the new helmets, which weren't supposed to arrive in clubhouses until later this month. As for Wright, he'd like to try the S100 in his return Tuesday, but Samuels wasn't sure if he'd have one that fit.
Unlike the conventional helmets, which range in the same increments as cap measurements, the S100 currently is available in only four sizes. As for the heavily padded shell, the helmet seems to come in just one size - extra large.
Some players, such as Jeff Francoeur, have complained about the bulky S100 and sounded reluctant to make the switch, but that isn't the case with Wright. If it better protects his head, he is all for it. "I don't think a helmet is going to affect if I can hit or not," he said.
The S100 is supposed to protect the wearer from a 100-mph pitch at a distance of 2 feet. That makes it a significant upgrade from the current model, which is certified for roughly 70 mph. By those specifications, Wright presumably would have been spared a concussion when the Giants' Matt Cain drilled him in the earhole with a 93-mph fastball Aug. 15.
The pitch knocked him flat and left Wright with a headache that lingered for roughly 48 hours. Even now, more than two weeks later, Wright can't be sure he's completely out of the woods. But after working out with the Mets in Chicago, he seems to be healthy enough to play again. "I feel good," Wright said. "It's been a slow, gradual process - meeting with a lot of doctors and doing a lot of tests. But in the end, I'm thankful they did it this way because it took it out of my hands and allowed me to recuperate the way I should."
Returning to the lineup is just another step toward getting over the concussion. Jerry Manuel already has outlined his "Wright Rules" - maybe play a day, then sit the next - and Wright will be in close communication with the team's medical staff while in Denver.
Said Wright, "This is something serious that I have to be open and honest with the doctors. But as long as I feel good and feel like I'm capable of doing the things I'm capable of doing, I want to be in there."
Wright reported no concussion-related issues after his flight to Chicago and anticipated the same smooth trip to Denver, which happens to be the place where Ryan Church's condition deteriorated so rapidly last season. Because of its thin air, the Mile High City can be a difficult place for perfectly healthy players. Coors Field may have the only dugouts equipped with oxygen tanks.
But Wright isn't worried about the altitude. "There's not too much advice people are going to be able to give me," he said. "I know my swing. I hope I remember how to play the game. You just go out there and do it."