Tuesday, September 1, 2009

First to Third: Pride (In the Name of Safety)

I don't know what it is about athletes, but very few consistently embrace changes in equipment that improve a player's safety. In the NHL, players were reluctant to wear helmets and now won't wear face shields even as their peers get slashed in the face. In baseball, Larry Bowa, the Dodgers' notoriously gruff third base coach refused to wear a helmet in the coaching box even after a minor league coach was killed by a line drive foul ball a season earlier. Now, Rawlings has created a helmet that can withstand the impact of a 100 mph fastball, but players have yet to storm the Rawlings office asking for one.

In fact, Cubs pitcher Ryan Dempster wore one on Sunday and thought the larger helmet made him look like a bobblehead. Mets outfielder Jeff Francoeur said it's too bulky and uncomfortable. His teammate and recent victim of a ball to the helmet, David Wright, is one of the few proponents of the helmet. Wright said that if "it provides more safety, I'm all for it." More players need to start thinking like Wright and concern themselves with safety and not their looks. Minor leaguers will get a head start in adjusting to the new helmet, as it will be mandatory in all levels of the minors in 2010.

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Marc Edelman said...

I am a huge proponent of the new helmet and hope players at least give it a shot.

With respect to some players not wanting to wear the helmet, however, I am nor surprised. I remember taking a legal ethics class back at Wharton with Thomas Dunfee (excellent man who sadly passed away last year). He spent a lot of time talking about how in Korea most employers could not get factory workers to wear hardhats and that these workers would rather have comfort over a lower risk of injury.

So, with that in mind, the response by some baseball players' in the U.S. in opposition to the helmet should not be surprising.