How it’s Made: Promotional Batting Helmets
In 1919, philosopher Morris Raphael Cohen describes baseball as “America’s national religion”. Enjoying success in Asia, South and Central America almost 100 years later – the religion has spread. Customising promotional batting helmets occurs at all levels of the game; offering cutting edge protection with a style to suit the athlete. So how are manufacturers progressing the practice of producing promotional batting helmets?
While across the board, all helmet designs are primarily for protection, batting helmet designs are for a particularly different danger. Where with snow sports, for example, minor harm may come frequently – with baseball, it is the dreaded beanball (targeting the batter’s head) or the foul ball. Average Major League Baseball (MLB) pitches clock out at around 90mph, with 3.61 injuries per 1000 with 51.4% of injuries occurring to the upper extremities.
To that end, manufacturers designing the helmets have opted for protection against high-impact localized targets, namely ‘baseballs’. Testing requires absolute certainty with the sport claiming more than a few lives in it’s history. Each design must be approved and quality control tested in batch by NOCSAE for a seal of approval.
As when producing helmets for many sports, it all begins with the shell. Deciding what materials to use depends on the quality of protection appropriate for the level of the participants. MLB implented policy that the Rawlings S100 Pro Cap must be worn, while there are still options for grass-roots. The S100 uses carbon-fibre layers to mould a helmet capable of stopping a baseball travelling 100mph from 2ft away. Comparatively, previous models capably stopped balls at 70mph from 2ft away, fracturing at speeds in excess. Carbon-fibre costs, however, are very expensive.
Traditional models of promotional batting helmets are made using injection moulding machines. Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS) plastic balls are heated, broken down and poured into a titanium mould. Cooling takes moments, with excess plastic being clipped and buffed off by hand operated tools. If ventilation holes are to be drilled into the shell, they are placed into a stock for a robotically controlled drill to apply at a rate faster than a human – 12 holes in 30 seconds. At this stage the custom design can be applied. While singular colours are more traditional, two-tone colours can be used by spray-painting a stencil of the target area. Helmets are left to cure for up to 18 hours. Once ready, any custom designed decals are heat applied using polyurethane plastic for it’s strength.
The inner lining is made up of expanded polystyrene to deal with the trauma, a fabric cushioning is stitched over to give comfort to the athlete. The traditional design of the helmets are minimalist, emphasising the relatively short time they are worn during a match – negating the need for added comfort weight. The Rawlings S100 reflects this with cushioned frabric lining the entirey of the inside shell, as they are compulsary headgear for the MLB. The linings are fused to the inside shell and left to set. Once done, the helmets are finished.
If you have enjoyed this article on How It’s Made, you can find other promotional equipment we’ve covered here.