Pitching helmets? Hey, why stop there?


Pitching helmets? Hey, why stop there?

By RichLevine

Dont look now, but the pitching helmets are coming.

They might not arrive this season, or next, or anytime soon, but whether its 5, 10, 15 years from now, the pitching helmets will eventually work their way into the forefront of public consciousness, charge the mound and turn Major League Baseball into a polycarbonate shell of its former self.

By then, there will be great debates about the long-term effects of helmetless pitching. Those who pitch without the equipment will be treated like the games last true warriors. When the last warrior retires, the game will carry on like it always has, and the pre-helmet years will be remembered as a grittier time in baseball history. A time when the league was so cavalier about potential line-drive danger that pitchers actually took the mound wearing only a cotton hat, with nothing but 60-plus feet, a glove and unbelievable reflexes to protect them from certain disaster.

You know that feeling you get when you see pictures or grainy highlights of the days when batters didnt wear a helmet? That weird sensation that gets you wondering: No helmet? . . . What the hell was wrong with those guys?

Thats how the future usses (does "us" have a plural?) will look back on this time.

But thats then. Or whenever. The future.

For now, what we have is the prototype, courtesy of Easton-Bell Sports.

Ladies and Gentlemen: The pitching helmet.

To help explain the new product, heres a description from the press release that EBS sent out to a bunch of people who arent me:

The Easton-Bell Sports pitching helmet prototype uses lightweight energy managing materials to provide protection to the most vulnerable areas of the head, without compromising comfort or performance. The helmet is made of expanded polystyrene polycarbonate, which is attached to a comfortable liner and elastic strap.

And so it begins.

Now I know what youre thinking. Stop being so dramatic. Whats your problem?

Funny, thats exactly what they said when I first stood up against the vuvuzuela.

And now youre thinking: This isnt a joke! Kids Little League, high school, college kids are dying, and have died as a result of line drives to the head. If even one Major League pitchers life is saved by a helmet, then its worth it!

And what can I say to that?

You win.

I wont, and no one can ever, suggest that it wouldnt be worth it. Of course human life is worth it. And despite the fact that no Major League pitcher has ever been killed on the mound (although many pitching careers have ding!), I cant say that its an unfathomable occurrence. Honestly, would you be absolutely shocked if some day a Major League pitcher died from a line drive to the head?

Sure, it would be beyond tragic, but no one would say, Oh my God, I never saw this coming! We do see it coming. Thats why they made this prototype. Thats why, even before this thing came out, Little Leagues across the country had begun requiring some sort of head protection for their pitchers. And thats why, in the end, however long it takes, the pitcher helmet will go from Little League to high school to college to the minors to the Majors.

And thats why people like me, who wonder if the whole thing isnt just a little ridiculous, will ultimately just sit back and quietly (at least after this column) feel weird about it for another 20-something years, or however long it takes. Just waiting until what once seemed so unnecessary becomes an acceptable part of baseball: Like the DH, the Wild Card, or Brian Wilsons beard.

Or until everything about the game starts to feel weird and I just lose touch with baseball all together.

OK, just made it dramatic again. Sorry.

And either way, it doesnt matter.

In the end, the pitching helmets are coming. Too many people are going to push it, and you cant take a moral stand against it. Ultimately, the helmets win. But you have to wonder: Where does it stop?

What about the first basemen? Or the third basemen? What if Miguel Cabrera smashes a drunken line drive to shortstop, only the suns directly in Marco Scutaros eyes? He instinctively adjusts his glove to where he thinks the balls headed, but then loses it completely in the glare . . .


Down goes Scutaro. Ball clocks him right in the head. Maybe hes hurt badly. Hmm, but what if he was wearing a helmet?

And why stop there?

What about fans? Its only a matter of time before Prince Fielder or Jason Heyward or some superhuman bat turns too quickly on a garbage fastball or a decent changeup and kills someone in the stands. Over the course of the average season, I probably worry about that far more often than I do pitchers. Half the fans arent even watching the field. Theyll never see it coming. Give everyone a helmet! Free with admission, or for 20 you can get one fitted with two beers and a funnel.

Getting back to the pitchers, and in the (kind of) words of Dumb and Dumber:

What if they hit you in the face?

These helmets protect a guy from taking a ball off the skull, but what about the eyes, nose or mouth? Or how about the throat? That could all do some serious damage. Maybe it doesnt directly hit your brain, but taking a ball between the eyes would ruin your weekend, too. And thats just as likely.

OK, so why not fit every pitcher with a Hannibal Lecter mask and put the batters in space suits?

I dont know. Maybe some day that will happen. But for now, well just have to embrace the evolution of the pitching helmet.

Coming (someday) to a mound near you.

RichLevine's column runs each Monday, Wednesday and Friday on CSNNE.com. Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrlevine33

All signs point to LeBron James playing against Celtics Tuesday


All signs point to LeBron James playing against Celtics Tuesday

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio -- A sprained left ankle injury kept LeBron James out of all but one of the Cleveland Cavaliers’ preseason games, and has created a certain element of uncertainty as to whether he’ll play against the Boston Celtics on Tuesday night. 
While it has yet to be determined for sure if he’ll play, all indications are that the 15-year veteran will be in the starting lineup as the Cavs kick off their quest to remain the team to beat in the East.

“I never hide stuff from you guys. I really don’t know,” Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said when asked if James would play against the Celtics. “Depending on how he feels, but I really don’t know.”
However, James looked pretty comfortable shooting the ball after practice with a trio of former Celtics in Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder and Jeff Green. 
And if you listen to the man who would likely start in James’ place -- J.R. Smith -- there’s nothing to worry about Cavs Nation. 
According to Smith, James will play. 
“We were talking about it, he’s never missed, since he was 8 years old and he started playing, he’s never missed a first game,” Smith said. “I’m preparing for him to play.”
Despite having played more than 41,000 minutes -- only 33 players in NBA history have done so -- James has been one of the game’s more durable players. Last season James he sat out only eight games, and that was the most he has missed in a single season.
 "He's gonna go [Tuesday]," Smith said. "He's gonna go, trust me [on] that. I don't care what he's gotta do, he's gonna play."

Celtics may spend a good part of the year playing 'Getting To Know You'

Celtics may spend a good part of the year playing 'Getting To Know You'

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio -- It’s hard to believe the Celtics are just hours away from their first regular-season game after having been together for less than a month. 
The quick turnaround isn't all that different than it is for the other 29 teams in the NBA.  But the Celtics, who advanced to the Eastern Conference finals last season, are returning only four players -- and just one starter -- from last year.
Training camp was indeed a crash course called Getting to Know My Teammates 101.
But listening to the players, and coach Brad Stevens, it’s clear there will be lessons learned all season long.


“We have a good feel about how things can look, in the preseason,” said Al Horford. “But it is the preseason. Now it all starts. And right away we face a tough test (in the Cavaliers). But yeah, we’ll start learning even more. We’ve already learned a good amount, but even more when Tuesday rolls around.” 
That's when the Celtics kick off the regular season at Cleveland, which will once again be the favorite to advance to the NBA Finals.
Not too far behind (right behind them, by most accounts) are the Celts, whose season ended in the Conference finals a year ago in a five-game loss to the Cavs.
And the Boston players collectively feel that, despite the short amount of time together, they’ve developed a good sense of chemistry and understanding of how to play effectively with one another. 
Having said that, they also understand that there’s still plenty of room to grow. 
“I don’t expect it to be perfect by any means at all,” said Gordon Hayward. “We’ll definitely have some ups and downs this season. Like I said, one thing is we’ll be able to compete every night. We’ll be able to play together. Those things should stay the same.”
In many respects, the Cavaliers are going through a similar challenge this season.  They've added Derrick Rose, Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder -- and, when he recovers from his hip injury, Isaiah Thomas -- to a core group that’s led by LeBron James. 
While the increase in talent is undeniable, it’ll take some time before they too develop the kind of on-the-court cohesiveness that comes with time. 
“It’s gonna take time,” Rose said. “It’s going to be a process for everybody to learn their roles, learn everybody’s tendencies, and not think while they’re out there.”
And while there’s a heightened level of uncertainty as to how things will play out with the Celtics this season, Stevens embraces the unknown. 
“I think we're going to be learning about ourselves through the middle of the season,” Stevens said. “I think you do that with every team, but I think that's especially the case now. But this is, I've said this before, like, the first week, the first 10 days, the first few weeks, we have such great and unique challenges that it's gonna be really good for this team regardless."
Stevens added: “Because, to have to go into Cleveland with that level of intensity, with that level of attention, distraction, etc., is great. It's great to experience that in game one. A tremendous learning experience for our group. So, we're preparing to play as well as we can. And we know that they're really, really good. But this is, I'm looking forward to it because I want to find out where we are.”

Hayward added, “It’s a fun first game to start the year. Regardless of what happens, we’ll have some improving to do and things to get better at.”