Why Major League Pitchers Won’t Wear This Weird Hat
By Melissa Dahl / Follow @melisadahl
Photo by Kent Horner/Getty Images
Alex Torres, a relief pitcher for the San Diego Padres, may very well be forging a new path for Major League Baseball. He just happens to be doing so in an oddly shaped hat. This season, the league introduced the Isoblox, a padded cap for pitchers designed to protect them from brain injuries caused by line drives, which can rocket toward pitchers at up to 83 miles per hour.
The trouble is, as the New York Times reports, that no one other than Torres is wearing these hats. The hesitation is understandable; I mean, look at the thing. But it’s also quite sobering to realize how dearly we humans cling to our pride, even when it could cost us our safety. Because, as the Times notes, there have been some very serious, very recent examples of just how hazardous a line drive to the head can be:
An alarming number of major league pitchers have been hit in the head by batted balls in recent years. Two pitchers now with the Yankees, Brandon McCarthy and Hiroki Kuroda, have been hit in the head by line drives, with McCarthy undergoing emergency brain surgery after he was hit in 2012. Cincinnati Reds reliever Aroldis Chapman left the field on a stretcher after being hit in the face during spring training. He sustained fractures above his left eye and nose.
It’s not clear exactly how much protection these padded caps might provide. Dr. Robert M. Friedlander, chairman of the department of neurological surgery at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, hasn’t examined these caps in person, but he did say in an email to Science of Us that when it comes to protecting your skull from injury, any extra protection helps.
To understand some of the social psychology behind the resistance factor here, Science of Us reached out to Susan K. Whitbourne, who helped explain why baseball players (just like the rest of us) succumb to vanity: