The debate over baseball pitchers wearing helmets has been going on ever since helmets were first worn in the early 1900s. Numerous players, including pitchers, have been struck in the head with a speedy baseball over the decades but the idea of wearing protective helmets has been difficult to encourage and even harder to enforce.
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Major League Baseball (MLB) began to mandate batting helmets in 1971 but didn’t require veteran players to wear them. Pitchers were, and various other positions were, never part of the mandate.
Why Don’t Pitchers Wear Helmets?
The reasons given why don’t pitchers wear helmets are that they don’t look good, they aren’t compatible with the arm motion of pitchers, and they aren’t mandated to wear them. They can wear anything they want as long as it doesn’t conflict with licensing agreements or disrupt play.
Line Drives To The Face
Pitchers claim safety is on their side statistically. Those pitching in the MLB throw an average of 700,000 pitches annually. A pitcher may get hit with a line drive to the face only two or three times in a season. That amounts to a .0004 percent average.
Even some of the injuries coming from those two or three hits each year, couldn’t have been prevented with a helmet, according to baseball experts. Player Brandon McCarthy said discussion over helmets for pitchers is worthless because there wasn’t a helmet on the market that was acceptable.
If only some of those injuries couldn’t have been prevented, then the other ‘some‘ could have been prevented, but “hey, why bother, we’re busy here trying to make up excuses“.
In addition, it seems rather odd that Brandon McCarthy, who suffered a fractured skull, a brain contusion, and an epidural hemorrhage can be so dismissive of helmets for pitchers. Positive discussion is never worthless.
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Helmets Look Funny
As trite as this sounds, pitchers state one of the reasons they don’t wear a helmet is because “it looks funny.” They admit that is a shallow excuse but it is the reason.
Baseball has a long history of disagreement over helmets. The first was used in 1905 with a few using their designs in 1908 but it wasn’t widespread. Baseball executives started trying to work out a mandate in the early 1920s after several injuries, but players weren’t receptive.
The lack of enthusiasm was because helmets were cumbersome and didn’t look good. In the 1950s, the Pittsburgh Pirates tried to mandate that all their players wear helmets on the field but that failed quickly.
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Dr. Gary Green, a doctor and sports medical professor at the University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA) said helmets aren’t practical for pitchers. Some designs, that include a chin strap, extra padding, or ear flaps have extra weight. That interferes with the pitcher’s biomechanics.
Helmets for Pitchers
The subject of helmets for pitchers remains an ongoing issue because pitchers are on the receiving end of line drives every year. Keep in mind that it only takes half a second for the ball to go from bat to pitcher’s head. A pitcher would need super-human reflexes to avoid that ball.
The pitcher, standing some 60 feet from the batter, has the same chance of getting hit by a ball that the batter has, according to those who argue the point. Batters must wear helmets so it makes sense that a pitcher should as well.
Dr. Green disagrees. He said batters keep their heads still to focus on the ball while pitchers move their heads much more, making a helmet less practical for a pitcher.
Types of Helmets Mandated
Baseball has gone through several types of helmets over its proposed mandates in its attempts to find one that is acceptable to all players. MLB made a requirement for all new players at-bat to wear a helmet with at least one earflap in 1983 but veterans escaped the mandate.
A new batting helmet came out in 2005 but, again, pitchers and those on the field don’t have to wear them. The Rawlings S100 Pro Comp helmet was required as of 2013 for batters but nothing was designed for pitchers.
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Helmet For Baseball Pitchers
A company, isoBLOX, got the league’s approval to make a padded cap for pitchers in 2014 and tried again in 2015 with a softshell worn over a regular cap. Both attempts were fouls.
It was the looks. Only one pitcher, Alex Torres of the Mets and Padres, wore one.
The MLB and the Major League Baseball Players Association tried to hit a homerun with pitchers to wear helmets in 2016 when they worked on new protective headgear for the spring. This design was a hybrid of a helmet and a cap and would be customized for each player.
It had a shell of a carbon-fiber material and only weighed 10 to 12 ounces. The look was similar to a sun visor with more coverage over the temple and forehead. It had a single-ear flap. It could be worn under a standard baseball cap. At the time, about 20 pitchers received the prototypes.
However, getting pitchers to use it was another matter. Even Alex Cobb of Tampa Bay, who sustained injuries after a 2013 hit in the head from a batter, said he wouldn’t commit to wearing such a device in games. Jeff Manship, a pitcher for the Cleveland Indians, said any helmet or device must “look right.”
Video: MLB Pitchers Getting Hit in the Head With Line Drives
Should Pitchers Wear Helmets?
Why don’t pitchers wear helmets? While helmets are required for Little League Players, men who play baseball professionally have more say in their safety gear. Their resolve to avoid the wearing of protective headgear is based on a lack of cosmetic appeal and, ultimately, a lack of good looks for a helmet is why pitchers don’t wear helmets.
As for the question of should pitchers wear helmets? I think the wearing of helmets or some kind of protective headgear, if not mandated, should at the very least be entirely up to the pitcher. A personal choice.
It’s all very well to say that these are grown men, they know what they’re up against. That’s not much of an argument because no one knows what destiny has lurking around the corner. Accidents happen.
For those pitchers who would like to add some protective headgear to their kit without wearing a clunky, cumbersome helmet, take a look at these 3 options that are currently available online. You never know, one of them might just save your head from serious injury.