MLB could force pitchers to wear safety head gear

Oct 30, 2012, 2:29 PM | Updated: Oct 31, 2012, 11:05 am
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Tigers pitcher Doug Fister, a former Mariner, was hit in the head by a line drive during the World Series. (AP)
(AP)

During the World Series, former Seattle Mariner and current Detroit Tigers pitcher Doug Fister took a line drive to the head. Amazingly, Fister stayed in the game and pitched several strong innings. But it’s shots like that which prompt Major League Baseball to consider a new piece of safety equipment for pitchers, as soon as next season.

It used to be that helmets were worn only by batters, who even took them off while running the bases. Then catchers added helmets to their gear. Now, base coaches wear them.

MLB is now thinking about requiring minor league pitchers to start wearing some form of protection for the head. It could be a cap liner, a protective shell perhaps made of Kevlar, the material that protects soldiers and police officers.

Former Mariners pitcher and current ROOT Sports baseball analyst Bill Krueger played 17 seasons in the major leagues. He thinks maybe the time has come to require protective headgear for the player standing 60 feet, six inches from home plate.

“Having been hit by a couple of line drives in the head, you are close to the plate and it is a dangerous thing,” Krueger said.

Fox TV baseball analyst Tim McCarver was calling the game when Fister absorbed the line drive off his temple in Game 2 of the World Series.

“I never thought this before this year but I think baseball is going to have to resort to helmets for pitchers, like catchers wear,” said McCarver.

Easton is among the sports equipment companies developing protective head gear for pitchers.

Whatever the type of protection, Krueger says it must not interfere with the pitcher’s motion, or his mind.

“You can’t pitch defensive,” he said. “You have to be an aggressive offensive player that has no thought of any kind of a thing that would make you flinch.”

Major League Baseball says it might institute some type of head protection for pitchers in the minor leagues as soon as the 2013 season.

“And maybe, just maybe it sets a precedent that trickles down because I think the real danger is Little League kids at 46 feet when they deliver the ball; how close are they?” Krueger said.

In an e-mail response, Little League Baseball executive Patrick Wilson explained that such changes are always based on data and safety standards. He points out that since there is no safety standard about helmets for pitchers and fielders, Little League Baseball will continue to monitor the research and leave the matter of protecting pitchers up to local Little League organizations.

If Major League Baseball adopts some type of head gear for pitchers, Krueger says the kids would follow.

“They love to emulate the big leaguers, so if Little League Baseball isn’t interested in doing it, but the Little League players think it’s cool, who knows?” Krueger said.

Oakland A’s pitcher Brandon McCarthy was hit by a line drive in September, suffering a skull fracture. He had surgery and missed the rest of the season. Krueger says you can’t make pitching 100 percent safe but after seeing what happened to Fister and McCarthy, he says helmets are worth a look.

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MLB could force pitchers to wear safety head gear