Padres relief pitcher Alex Torres wore a protective baseball cap during Saturday night’s game, becoming the first pitcher in Major League Baseball to do so. The MLB approved the protective caps for use by pitchers in January, but until Saturday’s game against the Los Angeles Dodgers, no pitcher seemed interested in using it.
For Torres, the decision to wear the hat was common sense. He explained to CNN that he will never forget the sound that echoed around the field last year when then-Tampa Bay Rays teammate Alex Cobb was struck in the head by a concussing line drive. That sound of ball on skull still echoes in Torres’ head more than a year later.
The relief pitcher explained Sunday, “I came in after Alex Cobb was hit in the head. That’s really an impression to me, how his head sounded from the bullpen. That was really bad. I was shaking. ‘Oh my God! Oh my God!’ I’m glad he’s alive.”
Torres added of his decision to wear the hat, “It’s a good idea they make this kind of hat to protect my head. You want to protect life.” Cobb isn’t the only pitcher to be seriously injured by a baseball to the head. Brandon McCarthy, Juan Nicasio, and Aroldis Chapman were all struck in the head or face by line driver come backers.
Alex Torres first to wear protective cap. Consequently looking absolutely ridiculous. pic.twitter.com/Ssh4WiiC5a
— Mike Godfrey (@Godfreymike) June 22, 2014
In response to the rash of injuries, Yahoo! Sports reports that the bulky caps manufactured by isoBlox were made available to pitchers beginning this season. While Alex Torres’ performance on Saturday night wasn’t his best (the reliever allowed one run on one hit and two walks), he will likely be remembered for the hat. He noted after the game that the hat itself didn’t appear to be a hindrance to his performance.
While the feel may not be different, the look of the protective cap is unique, causing sports writers to give kudos to Torres for being the first person to wear it on the field. Until Saturday, interest in trying the cap has been fairly non-existent. While experts don’t believe pitchers will rush to put the cap on in Torres’ wake, they believe that a couple more might give it a shot.
The protective cap is made by 4Licensing Corporation and is not yet required. The caps have padding embedded inside the side and front, but the portion of the head below the cap line, where many of the more seriously injured pitchers were hit, remains unprotected.
Alex Torres practiced with the new cap on for three or four days before he wore it in Saturday’s game.
[Image by Keith Allison]