Tale of the helmet snatchers

When Ian Desmond returns to the Nationals dugout after hitting a home run, he gets the usual handshakes and high fives. But if you watch MASN, you’ll see another courtesy extended a player who returns after circling the bases or some other significant offense accomplishment.

The batting helmet on a player’s head doesn’t stay there for long. In a sea of arms, a teammate’s hands reach out and pluck the headgear.

What started as a simple congratulatory maneuver has become a celebratory rite in the dugout, with players jostling to be the guy who removes the lid from a player who has just scored.

“It’s a ‘Good job’ kind of thing, like a high five,” Desmond explained when asked about the routine. “You hit the homer? Go relax. You did something good? Go relax. We’ll take care of the helmet and batting gloves. You sit down and rest and get ready for the next (at-bat).”

The process is extraordinarily gentlemanly, quite unlike the mob of players who pummel a guy who has just delivered a walk-off hit.

“You expect one of the guys to pick you up,” Desmond said. “It’s just like when a player brings your glove out to the teammates on the field. It’s a respect thing, like, ‘I got you.’ “

And the action has had an unexpected consequence: team-building.

“It was never intended to be that,” Desmond said, “but I think guys like it. They like to be the one to pull the helmet off. Helmet snatchers.”

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