A sampling of Giants, along with pitching coach Dave Righetti, sounded less than enthusiastic when asked to discuss the padded caps for pitchers approved Tuesday by Major League Baseball. They fully recognized the need for such protective headgear. That doesn't mean they have to use it, though.
The new caps will be optional for the 2014 season. For the Giants, it's just as well. They expressed skepticism, at best -- and negativity, at worst -- regarding the caps, which are a half-inch thicker in front and an inch thicker near the temples than what they've been wearing. Also, the padding adds seven ounces to the heft of the traditional caps, which weigh three to four ounces.
For most of the Giants contacted, old habits die hard.
"I won't wear it. No chance," left-hander Jeremy Affeldt said. "The thing is huge and bothersome. I don't want to try and figure out how to keep it on my head and throw a pitch with conviction at the same time."
Right-hander Sergio Romo was slightly more diplomatic.
"I'm not going to wear one unless they make me," Romo said with a laugh. "But I'm all for it. I'm big on substance versus style. I think it's a great idea from a safety standpoint. Obviously, it doesn't really say a whole lot, fashionably. But it's all about protection. We're trying to put on a show for the fans, and the last thing we want is for anyone to get hurt in any way."
Romo said that he might wear a padded cap during Spring Training to determine whether he can cope with it. Righetti also might make it part of his daily routine, though he threw his last pitch as an active player in 1995.
Since his job involves helping pitchers adjust to various circumstances, Righetti might as well share their experience. "So I can understand how it feels," he said.
Righetti is sensitive to the plight of players sustaining head injuries caused by batted or thrown baseballs. He related that his father, Leo, a shortstop for the San Francisco Seals in the Pacific Coast League, twice slipped into comas while being hospitalized after beanings.
"It's not like I don't have a feel for it," Righetti said.
Yet Righetti believes that overcoming fear of being hit by the ball is part of the challenge that separates Major Leaguers from other athletes.
"Being old school, I think that the big leagues should be tougher and, in a sense, a little bit dangerous," said Righetti, who pitched for 15 years in the Majors. "That's what separates you. It's a cat-and-mouse game as it is. If you make somebody blink. ... I know, firsthand, hundreds of guys who were scared to death to throw pitches out over the plate to certain guys because they didn't want the ball coming back at them and getting themselves killed. I'm sure it's the same thing for hitters. They won't admit it, but there are some guys that don't like the ball coming up near their head and freak out when it does."
Overall, the Giants accepted the cap changes as part of a trend emphasizing safety in sports, whether it protects catchers in baseball or skill-position players in football.
"It's nice to see any sport take precautions to prevent injury," left-hander Javier Lopez said. "As a pitcher, we are the closest to the action in the field of play and batted balls can get on you quickly, That being said, I look forward to seeing what the finished product looks like. If it helps just one pitcher, then it's worth it. It's always nice to have safely nets."