In Brandon McCarthy, manufacturers appeared to have a ready-made endorser for a new cap designed to protect pitchers from scorching line drives. After all, it was only in September 2012 that the former Diamondbacks pitcher needed emergency surgery after a liner struck him in the head, leaving him with a fractured skull.
Yet, on the day Major League Baseball approved the first of what could be several new protective caps, McCarthy said he had no plans to use the current version. After participating in early product testing, McCarthy said on his Twitter feed that the caps were not “game ready.” In an interview with ESPN, McCarthy called the hats “too big.”
He also expressed doubts about whether other big leaguers would embrace the added protection, which will remain optional.
Officials from the cap’s makers countered that McCarthy had yet to try new custom-fitted versions. Still, the pitcher’s reaction only underscored some of the reservations that may discourage others from adopting the new technology.
Mets righthander Zack Wheeler harbors similar concerns about the size and weight of the caps. He’s leaning against wearing one during an actual game.
“I may put it on and throw a [bullpen] with it to see how it feels,” Wheeler told Newsday. “But I’m guessing it would be a ‘no.’”
The caps don’t appear to be as conspicuous as typical batting helmets. Instead, protective material will be sewn into the new caps, which will appear slightly wider and could weigh up to three times more than a standard-issue cap. That extra bulk might be enough to discourage pitchers concerned about comfort.
Also, while testing showed that the caps offered benefits for front impacts up to 90 mph, liners hit during games have been clocked at speeds in excess of 100 mph.
MLB plans to have the caps available for players to try during spring training, according to the cap’s manufacturers, New York City-based 4Licensing Corporation. A youth baseball version of the caps under the isoBLOX brand is also expected to be available in March and will retail for $59.99.
While the isoBLOX cap was the first to meet baseball’s testing standards, other firms continue to develop protective caps, which may also become available to players.