Baseball has finally joined the conversation when it comes to head trauma and concussion related issues in sports, as Blue Jays starting pitcher J.A. Happ was hit in the head with a line drive last week in Tampa Bay. He will be out four to six weeks
Football and Hockey have been under pressure for years to make their games safer, whatever the cost. Football players, especially ones on defense, have had to learn a different way to play than they were taught growing up. Gone are the days of Sean Taylor and Rodney Harrison type hits. Any blow to the head, no matter the size, is going to get penalized.
In hockey, players are not allowed to leave their feet for hits. Shoulders or elbows to the head land players multiple game suspensions.
But I can’t see what can be done for pitchers. Are we talking hats with protective material inside? Or are we talking about ever pitcher pulling a John Olerud and wearing a helmet in the field?
I can’t picture the latter happening for a multitude of reasons. For one, so much has to go right in terms of mechanics for a pitcher to be effective that if the helmet affects them even a little in terms of sight or comfort, it could make them less effective.
If you watch certain players fly around the bases, no matter what their helmet somehow comes off. That is to say, it’s fine to want to put pitchers in helmets to protect them from head injuries, but there is no guarantee it will stay on long enough to protect them.
I’m no genius. Just ask anyone who has ever met me. But there are geniuses somewhere right now making a baseball hat with new technology that will at least better prevent serious injuries like the one to Happ from occurring.
A few weeks ago my father showed me my grandfather’s baseball glove from when he was a kid. There was no webbing. No place for the ball to go into, but rather onto. If I were to describe what this thing looks like in five words or less, I would have to say it looks “like a giant leather hand.”
But technology evolved. The ball actually travels into the glove these days. And I don’t know this for a fact, but I would guess there are a lot less broken fingers and hands in baseball today than when my grandfather played.
Chances are generations from now, my future grandchild will look at one of my old baseball hats and laugh in amazement that people used to actually play in hats that allowed players to be hit in the head with a baseball.