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Gomez, teammates embrace high-tech helmets

PHOENIX -- Major League Baseball and Rawlings jointly announced Wednesday that players will be required this season to wear the new S100 Pro Comp batting helmet, which is made of aerospace-grade carbon fiber composite designed to withstand ball strikes up to 100 mph.

Brewers outfielder Carlos Gomez happily reported that it stands up equally well against a baseball bat.

"I tell you what, man, this helmet is tough," said Gomez, who voluntarily wore the Rawlings S100 last season. "One time I got ticked off and I threw this like seven, eight times against a wall, and then I swung with my bat, and that thing won't break. I guarantee you this.

"I've tested it myself."

That helmet now sits, autographed, in equipment manager Tony Migliaccio's office at Miller Park. Gomez beat it so badly that the paint chipped, but the helmet remained otherwise intact.

Compare that to traditional batting helmets, which Gomez says he could break apart with his bare hands.

Which begged a question: Why is he so hard on helmets?

"I don't know. It's part of the job," Gomez said, laughing.

The speedy center fielder has taken brain health seriously since he was beaned by a 91-mph fastball from Cubs reliever Brian Schlitter in a blowout Brewers win at Wrigley Field on Aug. 2, 2010. Gomez was sidelined three weeks by the resulting concussion.

"It was scary," Gomez said. "After that, I got to the pharmacy, looked around and was like, 'What am I doing here?' I was freaked out. Concussions are no joke."

When he returned to the batter's box, Gomez used an earlier version of Rawlings' improved helmets, but like many players he found it too big and bulky. Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun, who has worn both the larger and the new, slimmer helmets during All-Star Games, predicted players would embrace the S100.

"There's a big difference between these new ones and the first attempt -- the big one," Braun said. "The first one was drastically larger and heavier. This one is only a subtle difference than what we're used to, and the health benefits make that well worth it."

Migliaccio said the S100 costs clubs about three times more, but is banking on the budget evening out over a season because players will not be breaking their helmets in moments of frustration. He cited another advantage to the new model: It can accept padded inserts to produce a more custom fit.

Players are required to wear the new helmets with the start of Spring Training games, a component of baseball's Collective Bargaining Agreement.

"It's a different feel for guys, but I put them out right away and told players, 'Here, wear these in the cage and see how they feel,' and by the time we get to the start of the season, it will be second nature," Migliaccio said.

Gomez agreed, citing performance over style.

"It's about safety, not looking good," he said.