After gruesome head injuries to pitchers marred the final months of the 2012 MLB season, the league has taken a significant step forward in protecting its hurlers.
William Weinbaum of ESPN is reporting that a prototype of a padded cap is ready to be sent out to about one dozen pitchers for their inspection.
Unequal Technologies Co. has worked with MLB to develop a new type of concussion reduction technology (CRT) padding for a pitcher's cap. According to Rob Vito, the company's president, the padding "weighs 4.3 ounces, is one-eighth of an inch thick and is made of a three-layer synthetic composite that includes military-grade DuPont Kevlar and a polymer with the properties of rubber."
The padding, which is sewn into the pitcher's hat, is used for helmets in baseball, football, hockey and lacrosse and could be mass-produced for about $60 apiece.
The issue of head injuries to pitchers has come to the forefront after Brandon McCarthy of the A's and Doug Fister of the Tigers were both struck in the head by batted balls in the final two months of the season. While Fister was not seriously hurt, McCarthy's injury resulted in a skull fracture, brain contusion and epidural hemorrhage.
But some think that the padding might not be enough, as it doesn't protect the entire head. For example, McCarthy was struck below the cap line, so it is unclear how much the protection would have helped.
Former manager Tony La Russa told ESPN.com that the padding seems like a step in the right direction, but ultimately there may not be a singular solution.
"You can't take all the risk out of the game," La Russa said. "It's just not going to happen unless you do some very revolutionary things, like put a screen in front of a pitcher, for example."
MLB senior vice president Dan Halem said the league is working with Unequal and five other companies on protective headgear for pitchers. Each project is in a different stage of development.
Although the timetable for the new protection remains unclear, Halem told ESPN that the league hopes to have approved multiple models by spring training in 2013.