Nothing says Big Leagues like a one ear flap helmet. It's unmistakable. Turn on the TV and see one of these babies, you know you're watching the world's very best. Its unusual lop-sided style is revered by all who play the game, not so much for its looks but its exclusivity. It's the helmet that my generation saw on the heads of our favorite players growing up, and it's the helmet that every young ballplayer dreams of some day wearing.
If I were to make it to the Big Leagues tomorrow, priority number one would be getting myself a one ear flap helmet - I firmly believe that's the first step to being taken seriously as a Major League hitter. When a guy steps to the plate wearing a normal double ear flap helmet, what half the crowd sees is an at-bat long window to run to the bathroom or grab a hot dog. Nothing is expected from Mr. Double Ear Flap - he doesn't wear a Big League helmet, why should fans give him Big League attention?
It's Little League stuff. I compare the Big Leaguer who wears a double ear flap to the college player who still wears his hat underneath his helmet. It doesn't mean they're not a good player, but until they look the part, they'll never be fully treated as one. It sounds ridiculously superficial - mainly because it is - but it's true. The one ear-flap helmet is a privilege, something that represents more than just head protection. It's the helmet reserved for the best. Not in the Majors? Sorry, nothing we can do - Big Leaguers only. It's an honor. Ahh, what it must feel like to track a fastball while the wind tickles my liberated left ear.
But still, some Major Leaguers refuse to conform to the Big League style, and for the life of me I can't understand why. Not to knock the likes of Shane Victorino and Orlando Hudson - two of the most notable offenders - but they've seen themselves in these things, right? I know they're both switch-hitters and you could make an argument for not wanting to carry two helmets around, but you're telling me that's worth a lifetime of looking like an emergency call-up? In today's world of assistants and clubhouse attendants, I find it hard to believe using two separate helmets is all that cumbersome. Maybe Shane and O-Dawg just don't have the resources that are available to other switch hitters who are able to carry two helmets, such as Mark Teixeira, Chipper Jones, Carlos Beltran, Lance Berkman, Ben Zobrist, Jimmy Rollins, Victor Martinez... ok, that can't be it.
I suppose they just like it? Who knows.
What I do know is that when I see former teammates finally make their Big League debut, it doesn't quite hit me until I see them wearing that iconic helmet. Once I've witnessed them hitting with a naked ear, that's when it starts to sink in. They made it.
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