The debate over how best to protect pitchers from baseballs to the head has been ongoing for years. Major Leaue Baseball approved a protective cap in January but some pitchers, including those who suffered skull fractures from line drives, said they wouldn’t wear them. It wasn’t until late last month that a pitcher, San Diego’s Alex Torres, used the special cap for the first time in a game.
A few weeks ago, the Nationals received a protective cap to try and starter Doug Fister, who was hit by a liner in Game 2 of the 2012 World Series, tried it on. He used it during pre-game batting practice and his review of the demo cap was far from rousing.
“I don’t like them,” Fister said. “Too bulky, too heavy. Throws you off balance to me so far. If it’s gonna be something that’s usable, it’s got to be smaller and lighter.”
The Nationals received the approved cap, isoBLOX, made by 4Licencing Corporation, but not until last month. Fister used it and third base coach Bobby Henley tried it on, too. Even though Fister likes the idea of protecting his head, he believes the protective caps need more work.
The cap that Torres used was bulky and looked like an oversized Padres cap with padding underneath. The cap has limitations, too, beyond its size. A ball to the temple or face can still cause serious damage. The current ones only protect the top of the head under cap.
“Without putting a face guard on, you’re not really going to be protecting those kinds of things,” Fister said. “It does protect the skull and things like that. I’ve seen some of the testing things. It helps out the neck with less recoil. They’re on the right path. It’s just a matter of being bulky.”
When Fister was hit in the head by a line drive in October 2012 while pitching for the Tigers, he was lucky and remained in the games. Other pitchers such as Aroldis Chapman and Brandon McCarthy underwent surgery after balls to the head and missed significant time. But until the protective caps improve, Fister won’t be donning one.
“At this point, I’m okay to go out there and take the risk,” Fister said. “I like what they’re doing and that things are being looked at. It’s definitely gotta come down in size.”