Tuesday, December 21, 2010
MiLB LIFE: New Helmets Issued, Players Respond: "Are You Joking?"
The least cool thing about the Minor Leagues has got to be the batting helmets. The bus rides, the Podunk towns, the long season- it's all tough, but these are all side effects of a profession that for most of us is a dream come true, and so we tolerate them because, quite frankly, we get to play baseball for a living and well, that's pretty sweet. We get paid to play baseball- it's not a whole lot of money, but every now and then I think about that and I can't help but feel a little cool. The least Minor League Baseball could do is let us look cool while we're out on the field feeling so cool.
But no. They don't even give us a chance. Take a look at the Rawlings-S100. These helmets became mandatory in Minor League Baseball last season and believe me, no one is happy about it. It has got to be the worst-looking piece of equipment in sports. Seriously. It looks like a space helmet, and why the hell is it so long? The batter looks alright looking straight ahead (although still ridiculous), and then he turns to the side and BOOM- it just keeps going. It's just painful to look at.
Apparently these new helmets are capable of withstanding fastballs of up to 100 MPH, hence the name- clever. Was there entirely no way to make it any more stylish? Did they really finish making it and not laugh when they all looked at it? "Oh my God, we totally messed up, look how big it is! And why is it so long? No one's gonna wear that! Oh man this is hysterical looking, let's keep the mold just for fun because of how hilarious it looks, but yeah we definitely need to get back to the drawing board on the real helmet." No one said this at the Rawlings factory? Really? I find that hard to believe.
I don't know what's more embarrassing, Rawlings pitching this helmet to MLB officials with a straight face or the fact that someone high up enough to sign off on something like this actually thought, "These are great!" Whoever that is has been cursed in Minor League dugouts across America and some portions of Canada since instituting these new lids, and it won't stop until we get helmets that actually fit in the helmet racks at most stadiums.
I almost cried when I saw Pujols and Ethier (along with others) sporting these moon caps during last season's All-Star Game . I flipped out. I could not believe they were stooping so low- was this change permanent? Was Major League Baseball making the full transformation after the break? Luckily this was not the case, as I rejoiced watching highlights of the two of them on Baseball Tonight a few days later wearing normal, human-sized headgear. Some say they had been offered big bucks to wear the new models for the showcase game, others say the helmets were the only ones available in the clubhouse- either way, what a scare!
David Wright was encouraged to wear this abomination of a helmet because of its added safety when he was coming back from a concussion after getting hit in the head. (Talk about an added incentive not to take one in the head- 'I gotta wear that thing?!') He foolishly did so, and for about a week he couldn't get one girl in New York to take him seriously. It could have been a career-breaker, but he wisely returned to his old helmet shortly after and order was restored in Queens. This is a guy who wore a fastball in the head- a traumatic experience. He is offered a helmet that is proven to be safer and be more suitable for avoiding head injuries, which would be wise with his history of concussions and could even prolong his career, and he turns it down. 'Um, no thanks.' Now THAT is saying something! Could these things be any uglier?
There is one positive thing I can say about the Rawlings-S100: I take two gloves out to the dugout with me everyday, and because of its ridiculous length and volume, I'm able to fit both gloves inside of my helmet and carry it as sort of a basket which is kind of convenient. That's it. It's ugly, it's heavy, it's not comfortable- sure it can help you take 100 MPH off the dome, but so could a football helmet or a Medieval Knight helmet- there have to be some parameters here.
Thanks to these new helmets, Minor Leaguers everywhere want to make the Big Leagues now more than ever.