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March 20, 2019 | by Brian Duryea | @BatDigest
Batting helmet’s were not used consistently until the 1940’s and were not mandatory until 1983. It would be ridiculous, today, for someone to get in the box without a batting helmet on. How long until some type of pitching helmet is required, too? We hope soon. Such a requirement would force major vendors and their R&D teams to produce low cost and legit options. At a minimum, we would love to see a more concerted effort by Little League to require headgear on the mound. Sadly, we think it will take a catastrophe at the LLWS for them to make a move.
There are some legit options for youth pitcher protective headgear. Here are three pitching helmet’s worth your consideration.
Although we think these are overpriced, we like the design as much as anything we’ve seen in the space. Launched in 2014, the SST is a device made of light, carbon fiber material that inserts into the sweat liner of your baseball hat. They claim more than a few MLB pitchers have used these. The device is designed to protect the crown of the head, forehead region, and above the ear. The design of the SST headguard allows for absorption and redistribution of the energy that is created on impact.
SST is a company based out of Atlanta, Georgia. Matt Meier, the founder of SST experienced being knocked out in a baseball game as a youth and kept in his mind that he needed to come up with a solution to protect pitchers during the game.
The headguards come in different sizes based on the player’s head and hat size. The protective devices are available in single-sided options for RHP or LHP, or you can also purchase the dual-sided options for the best overall chance of protection. This device does push the top and sides of the hat out a little, so you will want to watch out if your hat has a low crown. Multiple players have worn this device on my team last year with success. As well, at least a dozen MLB pitchers have claimed to wear the piece under their hat.
The Ball Cap Liner is another option that I found for protecting a player’s head during the game. Backed by former Major League Baseball player, Cliff Floyd, the Baseball Cap Liner comes in two unique styles. The base device front and side head piece that has an adjustable strap on the back to customize to your player’s head size. The other option for the device includes a section that protrudes down and protects the temples on the player. Please note that the website does recommend that to use this device, the player have an adjustable hat or wear a hat that is 1 to 2 sizes larger than normal.
In July of 2016, the Stoneham Little League in Massachusetts made it mandatory for the pitchers during games to wear the Ball Cap Liner product in the 2017 season. I checked on the website for the little league, but could not find any additional information if that will continue in the 2018 season or not. Needless to say, you can see that player safety is becoming a larger issue today and communities are making strives to protect their players.
Unequal is a company that makes multiple types of athletic protective devices. The product made for baseball caps is called the Unequal Dome. The dome is made of military grade composite materials, that like the other options, reduces the acceleration of the ball on impact, while dispersing force. This device fits inside the baseball cap and is totally unseen. The device is positioned into your players hat and then cut to ensure a proper fit. This looks like a great device, but the only down point is that you must cut the device to fit inside your player’s hat.
Once your player’s head and hat size grows, I am not sure how the device will fit in the larger hat.
Overall, the choice is yours if you want to give additional protection to your player. All three of these devices appear to add some level of protection that some parents may want when their player is on the field. We cannot guarantee the level of protection any of these devices will provide, so be sure to review the manufacturer’s websites to get the most detail and make the best decision. All of these type of devices do take a little getting used to, so there may be an initial rejection by your child due to it being “uncomfortable”, “awkward”, “too warm”, but give it time.
Exit speed of a baseball – a big question today when looking at a hitter crushing the ball. Major League baseball player Aaron Judge recorded an exit velocity in 2017 of 121.1 miles per hour. These are awe-inspiring numbers when looking at the offensive number of a player. A batter goes to the plate wearing a helmet, elbow guards, shin and foot guards and whatever other pieces of body armor they choose to protect themselves. As a pitcher goes through his pitching motion, the defense prepares themselves, gets into proper position, and move to the location of the ball being hit.
There eyes are focused on the batter; they never take their eyes off the batter. But what about the pitcher? A pitcher is less than 60 feet away from the ball being launched back at them at incredible speeds. Usually finishing their follow-through, the pitcher’s body is in a vulnerable position, no gear other than their glove and jersey. You have watched many videos on either the MLB network, Sports Center, or Youtube of pitchers taking the brunt of a line drive right back at them.
I am sure those unfortunate events leave a mark… but what about the times where the ball launches back and hits the pitcher in the head? Trauma caused by a baseball to the head at any speed is a dangerous situation. Mind you that the examples given above are from MLB players who has been groomed from an early age to be the best at what they do. The pitcher has the perfect form and quick reflexes as they have been pitching from a youthful age, allowing them to snag or deflect baseballs with ease.
When someone is looking for a bat, what is a question that is ALWAYS asked, “Is this bat hot?”, “What is the hottest bat out?”. What does that mean for youth pitchers? Most of the youth players today are using bats made of composite or alloy materials, (see our review of composite vs. alloy vs. wood) specially tuned to launch the baseball quicker than a hit off of a wood bat. This puts our youth pitchers in a possible tough situation – but cannot be avoided because it is, after all, the way baseball is designed. Unless, of course, they get a pitcher’s helmet.