The safety practices in many sports have changed a number of times throughout history. Luckily baseball is not as dangerous as many other sports, so it does not have to have as many changes as others such as football. The only real changes have been to pitchers and batter helmets. Batter helmets are necessary because if a stray pitch hits a batter in the head, it can cause severe damage.
The brain is the most important thing to protect, and the helmet does just that. If you have ever inspected the helmet that a major league baseball player wears, you may have noticed something interesting. There is only one ear covering on the helmet. Why is that?
Why is there only one ear covering?
There are a few reasons as to why the baseball helmets only have one ear flap. First, you have to travel back to the days before they were forced to wear the helmets. The players were used to not wearing helmets and learned to play without them.
Once they were introduced, players were having a hard time getting used to them. They wanted to wear them as little as possible. The double flapped helmets were tight, hard to remove and sweaty. They were throwing off the game for players, and the players did not like it.
The way that they could compromise was to have the helmets only have one ear flap. The ear flap that is on the helmet is on the ear that is facing the pitcher so that they can mitigate the damage that would happen if the ball were to strike the batter. So the missing ear flap is alway on the ear that is facing away from the pitcher.
After a hit, the players tend to toss the helmet off as soon as possible. So that they can run unhindered and have their entire range of vision. A helmet with two ear flaps fits more snugly to the players head if properly sized. This kind of fit can make it more of a feat to pull the helmet all the way off quickly and easily, which is another benefit of having only one ear flap.
To take off the helmets with two flaps, you have to reach up with both hands and slide the helmet straight up over the head. If you do not remove the helmet off correctly, it can get stuck, or even pinch the ear of the player. This is a large distraction for a player trying to run to first base after a hit. Conversely, the helmets with only one flap can be removed with one hand grasping the brim of the helmet and pulling. This is a much more natural motion that is conducive to the sequence of actions that a player goes through after hitting a ball.
The one earflap helmets are also quite a bit more comfortable than ones with two earflaps. There are considerably less pinching and tightness around the head, and it lets the player feel not so enclosed. It is easier for the player to focus on the game fully without much distraction from the helmet making their batting more difficult.
It is also less sweaty under the helmet with only one ear flap. The lack of the second flap lets the helmet breath, and the air flows through with ease. This is another factor that makes the helmets with only one flap far more comfortable than those with two flaps.
You may notice that league that are not the MLB sometimes have two flapped helmets. There are a few reasons for this. It is cheaper for smaller leagues to have two flapped helmets. You don’t have to buy multiple sizes in helmets with flaps on either size to cover both right-handed and left-handed batters. You could have a pile of helmets that would work for anyone.
When a player reaches a league that has some clout or has the resources to buy their own helmet they often convert to having a one ear flap helmet. Is there a reason to switch to the one flap if they grew up used to the two flap helmets?
Well yeah. It is a sign of being a pro player. Not many pro players have a two flapped helmet, and it is a sign of having made it, to put on that one flapped helmet and take your turn to bat. There is really no reason to keep wearing the two flapped helmet when you reach this level of play, and so why would they if they don’t have to? This means that there is a large social aspect to the particular helmet choice in higher level baseball leagues.
Some players will have helmets with two ear flaps on their helmets. Most notably a player that is a switch hitter, that can bat either right or left handed. Because the ear flap needs to face the direction of the pitcher, a switch hitter will have ear flaps on both sides because they can bat facing either direction.
It is more comfortable
When helmets were introduced, the players were not used to wearing them and found them uncomfortable. They were sweaty, pinched the head and were not quick to remove. They were something that was difficult for players that were used to playing without them to adjust. But the clubs wanted the professionals to wear the helmets for safety reasons. A compromise was made, and one flapped helmets were allowed.
These styles are often only found in the majors because most newer players have grown up used to the double-flapped helmets. They have been playing with these helmets so long it is second nature to have them on while batting. Though when these players enter the major league, they may likely swap out for a single flap helmet. It has become kind of a social symbol in the higher leagues. Although, switch hitters may not have a single flap helmet because they may want to change the hand in which the they bat.
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