June 30, 2008

Is the future so bright that you have to wear THOSE shades?

The future may not be so bright for MLB players who opt to wear the in fashion of sunglasses as defensive gear, if they lose a ball in the sun, for instance, while fielding a pop-up or fly ball.

Broadcaster Mike Shannon, during a recent Cardinals/Royals game, provided commentary about the pitfalls of employing the modern-day, fashionable shades, instead of the safer, standard baseball equipment while playing defense on a sunny day. The man was irked, to say the least.

And for good reason. Wearing the "coolest" shades on the market doesn't come close to cutting it for proper defensive gear, and may be unsafe. Yet many major league players wear the newest trends in eye wear at their own peril.

Shannon seemed rather upset by big league managers that permit such usage as well.

On and on Shannon harped, for the entire balance of an inning in which the Royals' shortstop (who shall remain nameless because he's not the only one wearing new-age specs) was unable to make a play on a pop-fly. The ball was obviously lost in the sun, and it cost the Royals dearly, the Cardinals extending that inning and scoring more than once because of the incident. There was no error charged on the play, but in the bigger picture, there was a gigantic error.

The potential for injury due to utilizing the stylish sunglasses instead of the standard equipment is probably low, but it is there. Worse, when a player refuses to wear the proper sunglasses, it's a lot like telling his team: "Hey, I don't give two poops about the outcome of this game, as long as I look cool in these shades."

Or maybe it has been so long since managers had the guts to tell mega-paid players what is right and wrong in the game that this generation of player is ignorant regarding proper equipment.

There is no doubt the standard equipment is ugly. You could argue the standard flip-downs are geekier than Clark Kent Specials. Maybe what is needed for safety's sake and so teams and fans don't get the wrong impression about a player's priorities is for a trend-setter in the major leagues to wear the low-fashion sun-cutters anywhere, anytime. Blazing such a fashion trail might be risky, but it just might save some broken noses and lost ball games and gosh, even more importantly, save a ballplayer from looking bad on national TV. (OMG, coach, where's the equipment bag!)

The standard equipment, by the way, takes a short adjustment period when it comes to usage, as the flip-up (and down) lenses require tapping down on the bill of the cap at the right time, as the lenses are so dark, you can't see much else but the dark dot of a baseball coming down at you. They do, however, block the sun's brilliance, something like the special visors on the space helmets in the movie, Armageddon, the one starring Bruce Willis. So yes, the special (baseball) equipment does require a player to learn how to walk (or run) and chew gum at the same time.

Players have plenty of chances to wear (or promote) the hottest shades on the market off the field. And although it might be a terrible fashion statement to wear the ugly shades with the weird nose pieces and the heavy-duty springs and the dinner plate lenses, wearing the proper gear would be much safer and send the right message to young ballplayers, fans, and teammates.

Because to most of us, making the play is as fashionable as a player can get.