Nats' bid to wear Navy tribute caps strikes out

Wearing their regular caps, Michael Morse (38) and Ryan Zimmerman (11) of the Washington Nationals celebrate after scoring in the first inning against the Cincinnati Reds at Nationals Park on August 16, 2011 in Washington, DC. Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images

Wearing their regular caps, Michael Morse (38) and Ryan Zimmerman (11) of the Washington Nationals celebrate after scoring in the first inning against the Cincinnati Reds at Nationals Park on August 16, 2011 in Washington, DC.
Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images

On Tuesday, we noted that the Washington Nationals were set to wear caps emblazoned with the Navy SEAL logo to honor those killed in a helicopter attack on Aug. 6 in Afghanistan.

However, the game came and went - and there was no sign of the special hats.

What happened? As the Washington Post reports, it turns out that the team wore the caps during batting practice but Major League Baseball denied the team's request to wear them during the game.

An MLB spokesman told the Post's Dan Steinberg that the league prefers teams to honor causes with uniform patches rather than hats during the game.

"We reserve hats for national tributes, where every club is wearing them on the same day," spokesman Pat Courtney told me. "But we're happy to work with clubs on alternatives."

As the Post reports, two of those national tributes are Memorial Day and July 4 when white hats with stars-and-stripes logos are worn by every player in the league (with proceeds from sales of the caps going to the Welcome Back Veterans program.)

In one sense, the nixed request is not a surprise as every professional sports league has strict rules about game-time uniforms and headgear. On the other hand, it seems to contradict a tribute paid by the same team just four years ago. The Nationals wore the Virginia Tech logo on their caps during a game following the April, 2007 campus massacre. While other pro teams also paid tribute to the tragedy, there was no coordinated league-wide event that the MLB cited as its policy.

Regardless, the Nationals seemed to take the rejected request in stride and were happy to be able to wear the military hats during BP. A spokeswoman sent this statement to the Post:

"As a team that is dedicated to supporting our military service men and women, we requested permission from Major League Baseball to wear hats representing all of the military branches during batting practice and throughout the game. We realize this was an extraordinary request and were pleased when permission was granted to use the hats during batting practice. The players were honored to wear the hats and in doing so were able to demonstrate the team's solidarity with our military community."

  • Stephen Smith

    Stephen Smith is a senior editor for CBSNews.com

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