It’s every baseball parent’s worst nightmare. One moment your young pitcher is hurling a fastball toward home plate. A split second later, he’s crumpling down onto the mound, the victim of an 80 mph line drive to his right temple.
According to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, traumatic brain injury is the number one cause of death among sports and recreation injuries. In fact, a 30 mph baseball to a kid’s temple, if hit in the right place, can kill them on the spot.
Forget 30 mph! Our boys are driving balls at 65, 75, 95, 105 mph, quite often, straight up the middle, where the pitcher happens to be standing. He sees the ball shooting toward him and reacts instinctively, turning and exposing his temple, the most vulnerable part of his head, which, of course, is where the ball will make impact. The outcome can be anything from a safety wake-up call (best case scenario) to death… or permanent disability.
Having met a few parents who’ve lived through this nightmare, I can’t ignore the danger that our players, especially pitchers, face each time they take the field.
I recently took a casual survey of travel ball coaches to find out where they stand on the pitcher head protection issue. Nearly all of them recognized the need for cap guards on the mound and during defensive play, but recognizing the need was about as far as it went.
“They should probably wear them, but we just don’t think about it” or “the players feel silly wearing them” or “they say they’re uncomfortable” were the responses I got over and over.
Really? I bet they’re more comfortable than the effects of a brain bleed.
My favorite was “We bought a head guard for our team, but no one has been interested in wearing it.”
Interested? INTERESTED? Seriously, Mr. Authority Figure who supposedly has his team’s best interests at heart? Are people interested in wearing seat belts? Interested in wearing batting helmets? Interested in wearing condoms? “INTEREST” HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH IT! It should be mandatory!!!
After that disheartening bout of research, I had the privilege of talking with retired MLB all-star left fielder, Cliff Floyd. We know him these days as the straightforward, impeccably dressed MLB Network analyst who tells it like it is, regardless of the topic.
Cliff is on a crusade to scare every parent and coach into realizing the absolute imperative of protecting our kids’ brains.
“We have cups to protect the family jewels, chest protectors for the heart, but it’s so baffling to me that we only protect our kids’ brains when they’re hitting,” Cliff exclaimed.
“As a dad, watching kids play ball, I see so many near misses, he points out. “And they make these bats better and better every year. The ball is coming off the bat so hard! Parents don’t realize that their almost grown kid is holding a lethal weapon.”
“So, how do we get parents to make head protection a priority?” I asked (thinking I already knew the answer).
“People don’t get serious about it until after their kid has been hit,” he responded. “We get calls and emails all the time from parents whose players have been hit and they never want to go through something like that again. I’m thinking ‘why are we going down this road? I’m making it easy to keep them safe with a product that fits on the head like a glove, that you can’t even see under their ball cap. It’s only 4 ounces! You can forget that it’s on your head.”
Cliff is so committed to protecting our kids’ brains that he’s developed a product called the Ball Cap Liner that pitchers and fielders wear right under their caps.
He sent me one. I was astounded at how light it was. That something so thin could save a life was hard to fathom. But it substantially outscored other popular baseball head protection brands in independent tests. (See the chart below.)
My 11U pitcher tried it on and admitted that it was quite comfortable. The only parts that are noticeable from beneath a cap are the temple protectors on each side. So luckily, his swag was not affected.
Here’s that chart I was talking about.
During our conversation, Cliff stressed that ball cap liners shouldn’t be worn just in games. “Even if you don’t wear it in a game, PLEASE wear it in practice. Practice is where injuries happen the most because, first of all, we’re not paying attention near as much as we are during a game, you’re getting way more reps, balls are flying all over the place. And on dirt infields, balls are coming at you even faster.”
I’ve interviewed lots of people over the years. Cliff is super down to earth and easy to relate to. With the constant stream of idiot celebrities that we’re subjected to, Cliff Floyd is a refreshing reminder that there are still some TV personalities who have plenty of common sense and aren’t afraid to use it.
My own kids sometimes push back against wearing a ball cap liner. But I’m the parent. It’s my job to keep them safe. I wouldn’t think of letting them ride in a car without a seat belt. This is no different. Please don’t be one of those who doesn’t realize the importance of head protection until it’s too late. Make your kid’s safety on the mound a top priority.
To order a ball cap liner for your player, visit the BallCapLiner Store online. Enter BCL16-TBP to recieve a 15% discount off the regular $39.95 price. Right now, BCL is offering free shipping to Canada and the U.S.
*Ball Cap Liner has been thoroughly tested in an independent lab (results here for reference: http://www.ballcapliner.com/ics-results/), and meets the high standards set out by the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment.