C-Flaps Becoming Commonplace Among MLB, Minor Leagues
Catch a Brewers' Class A game this year and you may wonder if the Brewers' hitters are some of the unluckiest players around.
Player after player will step to the plate with a batting helmet that sports a C-flap—an additional bit of protection on the batting helmet that stretches to cover a hitter’s cheek and jawbone. Normally, hitters wear the C-flap after they've returned from a serious facial injury. The extra protection helps ensure that an injury player doesn’t suffer a follow-up injury.
But the Brewers hitters haven’t been hit by an epidemic of beanballs. They are wearing them as a preventative measure.
This year, the Brewers have strongly suggested to all of their minor league hitters that they wear the C-flap. For all Brewers hitters from high Class A and lower, it will be mandated.
The Brewers are on the forefront of what’s a burgeoning trend. A couple of years ago, the C-flap and other similar devices were only used by players who had already been injured. Now, Bryce Harper, Jose Altuve, Mike Trout and a number of other major league stars are wearing them to prevent injury.
"Who put it on the map was Giancarlo Stanton,” said Mark Thompson, Rawlings vice president of marketing. "When he got hit two years ago, he came to us and asked if we would develop a protection piece for him.
"It was used by about one guy from every (major league) club two years ago. Last year, this thing is starting to trend. It wasn’t one guy but a lot of key players. Now a lot of players are wearing it.”
The C-flap is actually not a Rawlings device. It’s an add-on sold by Markwort, a sporting goods company based out of St. Louis. Rawlings purchases C-flaps from Markwort and has a stock on hand that they can add to helmets at the factory (to match the paint color of the helmet) or ship out to equipment managers as separate pieces.
But with the trend toward more and more teams and players looking for the added protection, Rawlings is developing its own yet-to-be-named version that should be available this summer. A youth version will also be unveiled.
The Brewers are leading the charge at the minor league level. They are the first team to order C-flaps for all their minor leaguers. They will likely be followed by other teams.
"It’s something the hitters seem pretty comfortable using initially and there isn’t much of an adjustment period for them before they really want to have them,” Brewers farm director Tom Flanagan said.
Facial injuries are rare, but when they happen, they are often quite serious. An orbital fracture can cost a player a month or more on the disabled list. The Brewers are hoping that they can prevent a few serious injuries with some prevention.
"We’ve had a number of close calls already this spring,” Flanagan said. "They’ve really saved a few guys.”