Rachel Levitin: Patriotic lids would have capped off perfect military salute

It was announced Tuesday afternoon that the Nationals would honor America's fallen heroes, more specifically the service members involved in the deadly Aug. 6 helicopter crash, with pregame activities.

The Nationals honored our servicemen and women in the Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Navy (including the SEALs division), Marines and all military reserves before the game by donning caps bearing the insignias of the various branches in addition to wearing their patriotic uniform for batting practice. It was noted by many fans via Twitter, however, that the Nationals could not wear the caps during the live game versus Cincinnati.

It is true. Major League Baseball requires its players to wear their regulation uniforms, including caps, for all actual games. According to a Nationals representative, the team was proud to have been given special permission to wear the military caps during batting practice and after the game. Pride aside, fans and media alike took to Twitter to state their disdain for the policy.

The official Major League Baseball rule states that: "all players on a team shall wear uniforms identical in color, trim and style." It goes on to state, in detail, that "a league may provide that each team shall wear a distinctive uniform and all times, or that each team shall have two sets of uniforms, white for home games and a different color for road games."

There are, of course, additional provisions pertaining to what players can and cannot wear on the field. They include that no part of a uniform can include a pattern imitating or suggesting the shape of a baseball and that a uniform cannot be frayed, etc. The point is that a cap is considered part of a uniform. Therefore, there is no straying from the fact that each member of each team must be wearing their uniform cap during major league gameday activity, including batting practice and the actual game. In yesterday's case, Washington was granted a special exception.

It would have been nice for the sole ballclub in the nation's capital to be able to actively support the military beyond a pregame festivity that few patrons (including active and veteran military members) would get the time to see in person.

It is of no fault of the Nationals organization that they were unable to wear the caps during game time, but it would have been nice for Major League Baseball to approve it. Baseball is a game with rules, so it is understandable and respectable that the rules must be abided by. But what, if not any, is a better exception to break a rule than to honor the military?

While the team would still have to seek Major League Baseball's approval for such an addition, a commemorative patch to honor the military might not be out of the question. In baseball's earliest days, patches were including on a uniform to gloat over a World Series victory. Later on, according to Baseball Almanac online, the patriotic fervor of World War I produced an abundance of American flags or red, white and blue shields on team uniforms. It wasn't until the World War II seasons of 1942-45 that Major League Baseball produced a universally applied patriotic shield patch.

Why should America be fighting world wars in order for Major League Baseball to honor the military? If ballpark anniversaries and commemorative markings for recently departed members of a ballclub can be approved and worn as part of a uniform, then why not set a standard patch for all teams (who wish to participate) to demonstrate their patriotism and honor the military?

Rachel Levitin blogs about the Nationals for We Love DC, and will be sharing her observations about baseball in the nation's capital as part of MASNsports.com's season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our little corner of cyberspace. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.

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