New, safer batting helmet ready for use Sept. 10

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Rawlings' new, safer batting helmet - designed to protect against the sort of head injury that David Wright suffered Saturday - will be ready for major-league action Sept. 10, Newsday has learned.

Major League Baseball and the Players Association sent out a joint memo, dated Aug. 17, to inform players of the development. The helmet will be introduced "on a trial basis," the memo reads.

"The new S100 model helmet has been designed to better withstand impact at higher speeds, and has been independently tested by MLB and the Players Association to measure its performance against pitches thrown at 100 miles per hour," the memo reads. "The test results indicate that the new helmet significantly reduces the likelihood of serious head trauma when a batter is hit on the helmet by a higher velocity pitch."

On Saturday at Citi Field, San Francisco pitcher Matt Cain hit Wright in the helmet with a fastball registered (by MLB.com's PitchFX) at 93 miles per hour. Wright immediately left the game, and Sunday, the Mets placed him on the disabled list with what the club called "post-concussion symptoms." Earlier this month, Cincinnati's Scott Rolen suffered a concussion when Colorado's Jason Marquis hit Rolen in the head with a pitch.

On July 18, Colorado's Jason Hammel hit San Diego's Edgar Gonzalez in the head with a pitch. Gonzalez reportedly suffered vertigo and hearing loss and hasn't played since.

Despite the new helmet's endorsement by both MLB and the union, some players have expressed reluctance about switching helmets.

"I'm sure it does the job that they say it does, but it is pretty hideous-looking," Mets catcher Brian Schneider told Newsday on Sunday. "It looks just like a regular helmet, but the padding is like twice as much. It is huge on your head. You would have to get used to it."

Added the Mets' Jeff Francoeur: "The helmet is kind of big and doesn't look good. If you get hit with a 95-mph pitch, I don't care if you are wearing a football helmet. There is a good chance that you are going to get a concussion."

Nevertheless, the game's leadership is hoping the talent relents. The memo reads, "We strongly encourage players to try the new helmet in September."

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