Unless you live under a rock or just sleep really late, J.A. Happ got struck in the head by a pitch. Here it is:
Obviously, this is pretty scary stuff. I mean, the guy was unable to walk-off the field as he was carried out onto a stretcher. While this does not happen very often, it has occurred a good enough amount of times where it has become an issue. It serves as a very sobering a reminder about how fragile life is. One minute, you can be pitching a baseball or crossing a street and boom. Everything changes.
Without sounding too dramatic or getting too deep, it is truly amazing to think that such damage can happen in apparently 1/3 of a second. This is according to ESPN and shows the very minuscule amount of time that a pitcher has to react towards a line drive.
Obviously, this brings a very important discussion of changing the game. While moving the mound further or altering how the game is actually played seems unlikely, and for good reason, there does need to be some modifications.
On Sportscenter, there was the discussion of a padded cap which would cover 40% over your head, which is a good start.
According to the report, the manufacturer of the cap said that there has not been a mandate or a demand to produce something that would offer much greater protection. While the MLB does not prohibit the wearing of such a padded cap, it does not promote it either.
This is bound to change, as I believe the frequency of these incidents will rise as pitchers are throwing harder, they are getting taller (pitching prospects generally all fit the saber-metric model), and hitters are also getting bigger. This combination of increased mph, bat speed, and larger target increases the likelihood of such an incident. I also think that of all sports, the MLB continually “gets it right”. For instance, while other sports had lockouts, MLB prevented such an event and swiftly resolved this issue. Also, they always recognize tragedies such as the Boston marathon bombing and 9/11 very well.
In my opinion, the greatest resistance to this will be ignorance by the players in that they believe it will never happen to them and pitchers experiencing discomfort with a new cap. To the former, I say make it mandatory then it doesn’t matter. To the latter, this is something that should be started in youth leagues. By integrating these hats into the early stages of careers, this new cap will become the “norm” and players will not experience such a discomfort. Even at the major league level, perhaps slow mandates, like wearing it during practices/bullpen sessions to spring training in order to increase pitcher’s familiarity with the padded cap. Then make it mandatory in the MLB, minor leagues, and college.
Either way, something needs to be done in order to prevent a tragedy. While effected game-play is important, it pales in comparison to the possible consequences.