Skip to main content

The carbon fiber Half Cap provides practical protection for major league pitchers

PIT@STL: Hughes knocks down Piscotty's line drive
Batting helmets have been mandatory gear for MLB players since the 1970s, and they have saved countless players from serious injuries or worse. The risk of being hit in the head or face with with a 90-mph pitch is obviously something that warrants protection, but isn’t the player who launched that ball at risk as well? A fastball can be returned just as quickly or even faster off the hitter’s bat, and a pitcher isn’t ready, he can also face injury. Even with the best reflexes, a pitcher might still be finishing this throw when a line drive comes straight at him. A full-size batting-style helmet might be impractical, but a compromise has been reached that could protect pitchers without impeding their abilities.

Working with the MLB and the MLB Players Association, manufacturer Boombang has engineered and constructed a product called the Half Cap, which is described as a “hybrid of a cap and a helmet.” It debuted in time for spring training this year.

Related Videos

Boombang Half Cap protects MLB pitchersThough the odds of a pitcher taking a shot to the head is very small at 1 in every 300,000 pitches, MLB still wanted to offer some protection for these players, who hold a position that is among the most vulnerable to get hit by a hit. “That’s still one too many,” said Robert Reich, Boombang’s strategy and research director. “especially if you’re the man on the mound.”

The specifications called for the cap to be lightweight, comfortable, and attractive so that pitchers would actually want to don them. Boombang consulted industry experts to find the ideal materials to construct the product. After several iterations and testing phases, designers chose a carbon fiber composite for the outer shell, which features an energy-absorbing impact layer. On the inside, a foam liner conforms to the players head, while moisture-wicking materials add to the comfort level.

The potential for risk to pitchers was made apparent in a string of incidents last year, as reported by CNET. Five pitchers were struck in 2015 (part of the 12 total who have been hit since 2012), including the Arizona Diamondbacks’ Archie Bradley, who took a shot to the face, and New York Yankee Bryan Mitchell, who suffered a broken nose and concussion. In August, Jared Hughes of the Pittsburgh Pirates barely avoided serious injury when St. Louis Cardinals hitter Stephen Piscotty smacked a line drive straight at his face. Hughes was saved by his fast reflexes, as he deflected the ball with his glove and caught a graze along his cheek. But he took the near-miss to heart, as he agreed to test out the Half Cap just a month later, along with 20 other pitchers.

“It’s light, sturdy and super comfortable,” said Hughes during a recent interview from the Pirates’ spring training complex in Bradenton, Florida. “It feels great … Sure, it may look silly and I might get teased, but that’s stuff I don’t care about.” He is joined by fellow Pirate pitcher Mark Melancon and Juan Nizasio. Atlanta Braves pitcher Alex Torres is also on board to try out the new gear.

Editors' Recommendations

Do you need a smart toothbrush?
Oral-B iO Series 9 Smart Toothbrush in hand

When will we come to a time when every accessory in our home is smart? Is there a limit to what should actually be smart? Let's talk about a category that may not be what you traditionally think of as a smart device -- the toothbrush.

I'm all for having smarter health products and having the best technology in our hygiene products (like bidets), but I've not put a lot of thought into how, or why, my toothbrush is smart. It's time to dive in and see if it's even worth it.

Read more
How Hawk-Eye cameras are making football fairer and faster than ever
Hawk-Eye goal line camera

Football can be a tough sport -- and nowhere more than at its most elite level where highly trained players compete for gridiron glory. There is a lot at stake, and a lot that can go wrong, too. From calls that are tough to make in real-time to the ever-present risk of season-ending injuries, you need a whole lot of eyes on the game to ensure that it runs smoothly.

Hawk-Eye is a company that's there to lend an automated assist. Used in an ever-growing number of sports, including the NFL, Hawk-Eye's tech consists of synchronized multi-angle cameras that can help track large numbers of data points on the sports field.

Read more
The NFL wants to predict injuries before they happen. Here’s how
A man sets up RFID technology in the Ravens stadium.

For the athletes who compete at the highest levels of sport, preventing injury can sometimes seem impossible. And in most cases, it is.

When you put two dozen of the country’s most elite players -- with adrenaline pumping through their veins -- in a 100-yard playground where they're told to bump, push, and tackle one another in pursuit of glory, things are bound to get boisterous. Bones break, tendons snap, and heads collide.

Read more