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Saturday, September 20, 2014

MLB Feature: Alex Torres and his cap


By on 9/20/2014 01:15:00 PM

On June 21, 2014 San Diego Padres relief pitcher Alex Torres came into the top of the eighth inning of a game the Padres were losing to the Los Angeles Dodgers by the score of 3-0. Torres didn't give a very good performance as he walked Dee Gordon, struck out Hanley Ramirez, and walked Yasiel Puig. Gordon scored when Adrian Gonzalez singled. Torres then struck out Matt Kemp and induced an Andre Ethier groundout. The Padres lost the game 4-2 and continued their entirely mediocre 2014 season.
Alex Torres on June 21, 2014
(Screen cap via MLBAM)


But in that unmemorable inning of a forgettable game in the midst of a subpar season, Torres did something no major league pitcher had done previously. As we reported. Torres wore a padded cap designed to protect him from a head injury. That cap, the isoBLOX Protective Cap, now has a place in the 2014 Hall of Fame exhibit, "This Year in Baseball."

As part of the exhibition, Torres spoke to media via a conference call on Thursday (September 18) regarding his experience with the cap over the 2014 season. He said, among other things:
  • Yes, people laughed at him, but "I'm protecting myself. I'm thinking my way." He got used to the cap "after about two weeks." 
  • Yes, he was hit by a ball, although not as a pitcher. When he was 13 or 14 he was hit as a batter on his back/neck below the helmet and "everything went black." He's never been hit in pro ball but has had close calls and seen other players hit, in particular his teammate (at the time) Alex Cobb of the Tampa Bay Rays. 
  • He plans to wear the cap for the rest of his career.
  • When asked if the extra weight (the padding adds about six ounces to a regular cap) affects performance or would be tiring if worn by a starter over a period of several innings, he replied that he did not think so—he puts it on in the bullpen after he warms up and when the adrenalin kicks in "I don't feel the heaviness of the hat." 
  • Although none have done so as yet, Torres hopes other pitchers will follow in his footsteps next season and he has spoken to several, including Henderson Alvarez of the Miami Marlins (who is a starter) about it. He told Alvarez, "You are out there a lot more than one pitch or one inning. You need it than I do. You should wear it."
  • He is "very happy" to be a role model for young people in sports, and places great emphasis on player safety.
According to Paul White of USA TODAY Sports, a contrary opinion was expressed  by right handed pitcher Brandon McCarthy when MLB approved the cap Torres wears. McCarthy, who was hit in the head by a comebacker on September 5, 2012, said he would not wear the cap in its current form, although the technology is headed in the right direction. White notes that McCarthy "cited snugness, weight displacement and heat retention as potential issues, all suggestions he's made to isoBLOX."

  (Rose Ingberman) and read her blog Lady and the Nats
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