BRADENTON -- They're famously seen during a battle in a galaxy far, far away in the finale to the original Stars Wars trilogy, "The Return of the Jedi."
That's not why Pittsburgh Pirates relief pitcher Jared Hughes is donning the helmet-like cap this spring, which began with a list of pros and cons.
"The negatives, right off the bat, are it looks a little goofy, people are going to make fun of you. Those don't matter, in my opinion," Hughes said. "The ones that might matter are if it's uncomfortable. And it's actually extremely comfortable. There are a few routines I do with my hat. I go to my hat a lot during the inning and wipe sweat and just kind of take it off. And it's harder to do that with a helmet, but really not that much harder. ... I get a lot of attention for wearing it, but I think that will die down once it becomes more normal."
Hughes and closer Mark Melancon are two pitchers at Pirate City who have worn the new technology, a Major League Baseball-approved protective cap called the "Half Cap" by Boombang, the company that makes it.
In the middle of chasing down a playoff berth last September, Boombang was pitching the lightweight -- it weighs roughly 10 to 12 ounces -- helmet-hat to any interested parties.
Hughes and Melancon were on board.
"I want to see if it's capable of doing it. Safety is extremely important,"
Melancon said. "And as a role model to all the kids, I think it's important to kind of put down the pride and show them it's important as well."
Hughes, a ground-ball pitcher with his patented sinker, is susceptible to comebackers. And last August in St. Louis, Hughes had a scare. Cardinals outfielder Stephen Piscotty smacked a line drive that grazed Hughes' cheek.
Hughes said that wasn't the main reason that piqued his interest in the latest advancement in protective pitching caps.
"I get a lot of balls back at me as a guy that throws the ball low in the zone," Hughes said. "Even though they don't lift it that hard, sometimes they hit it hard on a line right at me. So it's one of those things where I was going to give it a chance. I thought, 'Hey, why not stay safe.'"
For Hughes, his health is something he's taken even more seriously since getting hurt in 2013.
He said he realized he needed to do everything to stay healthy. Part of that comes from wearing glasses that filter and block out blue light emanating from cellphones and other technology, which Pittsburgh's strength and conditioning and performance teams have alerted players about.
"They keep coming up with these things that are on the front edge, the cutting edge of recovery," Hughes said. "And if you go on your phone in bed every night, spend about 30 minutes to an hour on your phone, then it's going to be harder to go to sleep and you're just staying awake. Well, if you lose an hour of sleep every night for 365 days, that really plays into how you can be recovering."
He's avoided the disabled list the last two seasons, proving his durability with 139 regular season appearances during the span. This year, he's given up looking at his cellphone in bed before bed for Lent.
"It's not necessarily a really bad thing to do, be on your phone in bed," Hughes said. "But at the same time, it's something I found it hurts me and it hurts how I take care of my body. So I found this is something that I really enjoy doing. I'll give it up. I'll sacrifice it and see how it goes. So far I've been sticking to it and I'm going to continue stick to it, not only throughout the end of Lent until Easter, but even hopefully after that."
And now he's taken it a step further with the "Half Cap" this spring alongside Melancon, who said he's on the fence about it.
"I'm still not sure, just because as shallow as it sounds, there's somewhat of an intimidation factor," Melancon said. "I don't really believe that it would matter, but I'm not sure on that yet. And then the other part is I go to my head. I take off my hat to go to my head so much that I need some sweat. It's not as easy to put back on, because of the earflaps. Those aren't reasons not to wear it by any means, but it's where I'm at."
For Hughes, he said he's thrown his best bullpen session and had a really good simulated live batting practice session wearing the helmet-cap.
And he wasn't hindered in any way when throwing while wearing it.
"That's why you think this might be the one that catches on," Hughes said.
And while it looks like a prop from an old sci-fi film, it also has a chance to become the fashion norm in baseball.
"It's this weird Star Wars-looking helmet," Hughes said. "Someone tweeted at me, 'Hey, what are you pitching on? Endor?' So it's this Star Wars-looking helmet and it's a little funny. But at the same time, this could be the future and there's a chance pitchers could be wearing these in a few years."
Jason Dill, sports reporter, can be reached at 745-7017 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Jason__Dill and like his Facebook page at Jason Dill Bradenton Herald.