In an effort to mitigate life-threatening line drives back to the mound, Major League Baseball on Tuesday approved the use of a padded cap for pitchers.
The caps are manufactured by 4Licensing Corporation subsidiary isoBlox and will be made available next month at spring training.
IsoBlox will work with New Era, MLB’s official cap-maker, to incorporate the added padding. The padding adds seven ounces to the weight of a cap, which weighs 3-4 ounces. Pitchers who want to wear the cap will be fitted before spring training, the company said.
Pitchers don’t have to wear the new cap, and some might not out of fear of how it would impact their mechanics, but isoBlox said in a news release that the caps should not interfere with a pitcher’s motion.
IsoBlox said it tested the cap, which is slightly wider than the current one and that it demonstrated protection from a ball struck at up to 90 mph in the front of the cap and 85 mph on the side-impact location.
An MLB-commissioned study determined that 83 mph is the average speed of a line drive when it reaches the mound.
“We talked to a lot of guys who had been through this, and they provided a wealth of information to help us,” Bruce Foster, CEO of the 4Licensing Corporation, told The Associated Press. “We went through a myriad of different designs to develop this.”
The new caps are clearly a reaction to a spate of pitchers struck on the mound by batted balls, including Brandon McCarthy, who needed emergency brain surgery after being hit with a line drive in 2012.
McCarthy has been vocal about the need to better protect pitchers, but told ESPN and Baseball America contributor Jayson Stark, “I won’t wear it in its current form.”
“The technology is there,” he told Stark. “It helps. It’s proven to help. But I don’t think it’s ready yet, as a major league-ready product. And I told them that. I told them that’s where it’s at.”
Alex Cobb of the Rays and J.A. Happ of the Jays almost missed time after being struck with a batted ball.
Despite the advantages, Happ was skeptical about whether he’d wear the cap.
“I’d have to see what the differences in feel would be—does it feel close enough to a regular cap?” Happ told ESPN. “You don’t want to be out there thinking about it and have it take away from your focus on what you’re doing.”
It’s unclear how minor league teams would be affected by MLB’s decision.