The C-Flap Continues its Popular Rise in MLB, Asian Markets
Face-saving measures sometimes come after a ball hits a batter squarely in the face. But more and more Major League players have decided to save face before the trauma of an injury.
As interest in safety grows, the use of the C-Flap product from Markwort Sporting Goods rises along with it. The flap, designed to attach to a batting helmet and protect the face, was originally designed specifically for the Atlanta Braves in the 1980s by Dr. Robert Crow after a player was hesitant to return to the batter’s box following a face injury. The C-Flap eventually made its way beyond the Braves and was bought by Markwort in 2004. But it has seen a recent rise in popularity in professional leagues across the world.
“As you get into conversations with people, even people who haven’t been hit, they know someone who was or was on a team when someone was,” says Herb Markwort, president & CEO. “You don’t forget that experience, even as a teammate, because it was such a traumatic experience.”
As players wear humongous wrist, elbow and shin protectors, protecting the face follows. The C-Flap is designed so that it works in concert with the helmet and its bill so that a ball can’t get through to the eye. Of course, players are free to attach the C-Flap as they want, with some choosing to angle it to protect lower down. Then, there comes the player that wants not just one, but two layers of protection. Philadelphia’s Rhys Hoskins donned a double flap recently, protecting all sides and angles of his face.
“He was wearing one on the right and the left,” Markwort says. “He became our poster boy.”
And when the poster boy traveled to Asia, along with a handful of other players wearing the C-Flap, it grew in popularity with both the Japanese and Korean baseball markets.
As C-Flap continues to make waves, even after all these years, the design hasn’t changed, but the aesthetics have with new colors and matte finishes.
Markwort still wants to see the C-Flap make larger inroads into the high school and college game, but resistance from NOCSAE, the organization that certifies the safety of helmets, has made it difficult. He believes, though, that his product improves safety instead of creating any potential concerns with adding a post-market product to a helmet.
“How far are we going to protect the standard rather than safety?” he asks.
But even with some resistance, C-Flap remains a popular option in professional baseball the world over and many regional organizations, both in the United States and globally. In fact, as C-Flap’s presence grows, Rawlings — an early partner with the product — orders them by the thousands for their players.
The St. Louis-based company has seen the organic growth of the C-Flap, having never paid a player to wear them. Jason Heyward started wearing them with the Cardinals, along with Yadier Molina, but when he was traded to the Cubs a group of players joined in wearing the C-Flap. Now the C-Flap has extended throughout professional baseball.
“Some pros wanted it and when some wanted it, more wanted it,” Markwort says. “And whatever the pros wear, the kids want.”
Markwort wants everyone to have access to C-Flap and the face safety it provides.
Tim Newcomb covers gear and business for Baseball America. Follow him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb.