Out of the estimated 700,000 pitches thrown each year in Major League Baseball, only about .004% of the time (or twice a year) will a batted ball make contact with a pitcher's head. But when it does happen, it's one of the scarier sights in pro sports and has become enough of a concern that MLB was intent on providing a solution to protect its pitchers.
To address this unique challenge, we eagerly dug into the ergonomics, culture of sport, and materials science to guide our development efforts. The goal: to create an innovative solution for a low-profile, lightweight cap to protect against line drives to the head. Working on behalf of MLB, we designed a cap-helmet hybrid, dubbed the "Half Cap." The design criterion didn’t just include making a product that could withstand 100 MPH impacts; the new protective caps had to be comfortable, light, and attractive so that pitchers—a notoriously finicky group—would voluntarily choose to wear them.
After dozens of iterations and significant NOCSAE safety testing, we arrived at the optimal solution: an aggressively-styled asymmetrical carbon fiber composite shell, lined with an advanced energy-absorbing impact layer, a conforming foam membrane, and a breathable moisture-wicking liner. The all-new Half Cap is barely larger than a normal baseball cap, weighs just under a pound, and has extensively more protective capability.
While there is still no mandate for pitchers to wear protective headgear, the Half Cap offers a lab-tested, field-ready solution to alleviate the threat of dangerous line drives. The solution has even enticed MLB's exclusive hat producer, New Era, to license the Half Cap technology. New Era is currently testing for widespread professional, minors, and youth use, which is further proof that MLB and the MLB Players Association are proactively setting the standard for player safety.
" Houlihan and MLBPA assistant general counsel Bob Lenaghan told ESPN they are optimistic the pitchers will take a liking to the new protective system and hope it will lead to usage in games. "
" Houlihan said the project is a success because it offers 'a viable, legitimate product that is the best available at this time.' "