For the most part, change in habits comes to sports in waves of inconvenience. You can usually convince players to buy into some radical new tactic if it yields results, but changes that risk sacrificing performance in the name of self-preservation are shut right out. And so it is that baseball players are rejecting a dead-simple solution to a common baseball injury.
Here’s the heart of the issue, from Mark Wilson’s profile on the bat over at FastCo Design:
Today, when a baseball player rolls their wrists through the point of impact with the ball, pressure skyrockets, and their hamate endures forces as great as 80 PSI — meaning [the hamate bone] is ostensibly hit by a hammer. In response, the ProXR isn’t just lathed symmetrically like most bats. Instead, it tilts that knob by 23 degrees (which happens to be the precise range of motion of the human wrist) to work with human anatomy to mitigate hamate impacts by roughly 25%. In theory, that’s enough to prevent many breaks.
So this is a bat that can fix a common, chronic injury in baseball. Think about a shoe that lowers the occurrence of plantar fasciitis by 25 per cent. Players would love that, right? Except, the ProXR has actually been allowed in Major League games for years. But its adoption has still been almost nonexistent.
Even more than other sports, baseball is obsessed with its own meticulous ceremony and superstitions. Batting stances and intricate Garciaparrian batter’s box rituals, disgusting batting helmets and disgustinger caps; baseball players do all kinds of weird shit they think helps them hit the ball. There’s precision in there too. Players can pick up a bat and tell you to within an ounce how much it weighs. So it makes sense that actually changing how the bat is held and feels when you swing it would be a sticking point.
The actual process of changing your swing to use the bats shouldn’t be too much of an issue, in and of itself. Minor leaguer Mike Hessman, who’s spent time with the Mets, told Fast Company that a day of batting practice would probably be fine. In fact, the bat could actually offer a fraction better control during the swing (maybe).
The problems? One is regular, old, dumb brand loyalty. Just like some guys will only wear Nike basketball shoes or hit Titleist balls, a lot of players are fiercely loyal to their brands (or at least have to be because of endorsements). And for their parts, the major batmakers have largely laughed the idea of the ProXR out of the room.
The other is more practical: This is a bat you can hold, mistakenly, backwards — one more thing to think about in the batter’s box.
So it’s an uphill battle. Still, Phelan is still working on getting it a niche run with major batmakers for any players up for saving themselves from themselves. [FastCo Design]