Bryce Florie pleads with pitchers to protect themselves and wear headgear

Protecting pitchers (3:19)

Angels pitcher Matt Shoemaker was hit by a line drive on Sunday and required emergency brain surgery. Bob Ley talks with former major leaguer Bryce Florie, who suffered severe injuries when he was struck in the eye by a batted ball 16 years ago. (3:19)

It doesn't take another pitcher going down after a shot to the head to evoke his brutal memory of 16 years ago this week at Fenway Park.

What happened to Bryce Florie that day, Sept. 8, 2000, has been on his mind every day since.

But when the Angels' Matt Shoemaker took a line drive off the right side of his head on Sunday, suffered a skull fracture and needed surgery for a subdural hematoma, Florie said it affected him more than other such episodes he has been seeing with increased frequency.

Florie was pitching for the Boston Red Sox when a Ryan Thompson liner struck him in the face, leaving him in a bloody mess, with problems in his right eye that derailed his career.

"What happened Sunday [to Shoemaker] hurt me. It scared me," Florie said when contacted by Outside the Lines the next day.

"It made me think out loud that these guys are idiots if they don't try whatever protective headwear is available and see if it fits and doesn't affect their game. For me, such a product wasn't out there, but for them, it is."

In spring training, Major League Baseball, in conjunction with the players' association, offered more than 20 pitchers a new "hybrid of a cap and helmet," manufactured by the California-based company Boombang, to try out. But no pitchers have decided to wear the visor-like padded headgear in a game.

Another product, a carbon fiber partial cap insert from Safer Sports Technologies, has not been tested or approved by MLB and the union, but the Astros' Collin McHugh wears it in games.

There is no mandate for pitchers to wear protective headwear and they're allowed to wear any type they wish, as long as it doesn't conflict with licensing agreements or interfere with play. Two other products, the MLB/MLBPA-approved isoBLOX foam-padded cap and the Unequal Technologies' Kevlar cap liner -- which has not received approval -- have been worn by a small number of pitchers for parts of the past two seasons, but no current big leaguer is known to be using either in 2016.

Florie implored pitchers to think about the risks of getting hit and hurt.

"Until it happens to you, your thought is it won't happen to me, like I won't get cancer or I won't get hit by a bus," he said. "Unfortunately, it does happen and now a guy's had to have surgery."

Brandon McCarthy, then of the Oakland Athletics, also needed brain surgery after a liner struck him four years ago Monday. That life-threatening incident accelerated MLB's efforts to find safety devices for the head that pitchers would accept.

As for Shoemaker and the Angels, Florie cautioned against rushing the pitcher's comeback. He said he tried to return to the game too soon and it damaged his career -- and that part of the problem was that the team did not offer any psychological counseling, which he now considers a must.

"Make sure they fix the physical problem and that you're mentally prepared to go through that battle and be locked in," Florie said.

With the availability of chilling videos of pitchers getting hit in the head -- the Pirates' Jameson Taillon was the last before Shoemaker -- Florie said, "They don't need more awareness. My hope is that this offseason, pitchers will look into any protective piece they can try, and if they want to rule it out after that, OK, at least they tried."

Because of where Thompson's line shot hit Florie, the protective products currently available would not have prevented his eye injury. None extends in front of the face.

Said Florie: "I'm not saying I talk about this a lot, or that it would've helped me. All I'm saying is that guys get hit more often in the head now, so try it.

"The velocity of the pitch doesn't matter, the hitter doesn't matter. Guys 1-9 in the order now hit missiles all over the place and one could put you out for six weeks, six months, six years or 16 years."