With a little peace of mind for his mind, Andrew Robinson is on the forefront of wearable pitcher protection
Since being assigned to the Harrisburg Senators from Extended Spring Training on May 16, reliever Andrew Robinson has picked up right where he left off from last year. The 29-year-old right-hander is still striking out over 10 batters per nine innings and is once again a reliable arm in the bullpen for manager Matt LeCroy. Saturday night in Portland, Robinson pocketed his second save of the season when he worked a perfect ninth to secure the one-run victory over the Sea Dogs.
Although Robinson has looked like the same pitcher he did in 2016, that’s not entirely true. All season he has taken the mound with a piece of molded carbon fiber and Kevlar tucked inside the brim of his cap above his right ear to potentially protect him from fierce comebackers.
It’s the latest evolution, three years in development, to come up with something both protective and functional for pitchers to wear. Recent years have seen a handful of pitchers try out an oversized foam hat or the half-helmet during parts of spring training, but this is definitely much less cumbersome and imperceptible to the human eye than those attempts.
Robinson was turned onto the product from his off-season workout partner, Houston Astros’ pitcher Collin McHugh, who wears one and is big advocate for the inner hat head protection created and sold by SaferSports Technologies.
“This year when I was down in Florida I started wearing it to just get comfortable with it,” Robinson said. “The first time I wore it after about ten minutes I forgot I had it on. I don’t notice it on the mound. The only thing is I used to take my hat off a lot. If you do that, it will slide around.”
SaferSports Technologies and founder Matt Meier put the guards through a very comprehensive set of tests on a dummy head with pitches ranging from 49 to 93 MPH. They determined that using the guards and the way it disperses energy on impact cut the level of force in half when compared to being hit without the guard.
Robinson knows the guard still leaves him vulnerable to head injuries off of batted balls, but he also knows it will reduce the damage. “It’s still going to hurt, but it may save your life,” the reliever said. “For me, it’s a little peace of mind.”
Professional pitchers only have about one-third of a second to react to a batted ball, but youth pitchers throwing at a shorter distance may have even less. With skull fractures occurring at an exit velocity of only 58 miles per hour, Robinson sees the benefits not just for himself and his teammates but also for making baseball safer for the younger set.
Earlier this season, he went on social media praising the product in hopes of raising awareness of its existence. “That’s why I posted it on Instagram for whatever kids are following me to say if you or your parents are looking for something along those lines where you don’t look goofy, check it out.”
“It’s a really cool thing. You can’t even tell I’m wearing it.”