When you conjure an image of a baseball player from any era, a figure wearing a typical hat with a front shield immediately comes to mind. This piece of equipment is so ubiquitous on baseball fields for so long, and so beloved among players that it’s generally called a ‘baseball cap’ or ‘baseball hat’ even when worn casually. Still, many fans don’t know why baseball players wear hats and whether this habit has a practical side on top of the aesthetic value.
Why Do Baseball Players Wear Hats?
Before you put on the hat of your favorite MLB team, consider the following facts about baseball hats and the reasons why the players love wearing them so much.
Baseball hats – functional, fashionable, or both?
Offensive players are mandated to wear ear-flapped helmets (better known as ‘batting helmets’) to protect them from high-speed pitches that could seriously hurt them. On the other hand, defensive players (including pitchers) typically only wear soft hats that lack the hardiness to amortize a hit. It may appear this clothing change could decrease player safety, but that’s only until you consider the practical advantages of wearing a hat. While they may not be effective at preventing head injuries resulting from ball impact, they serve an equally important function that affects baseball performance a great deal. At the same time, they look kind of cool and convey a laid-back attitude.
Shielding the eyes from sunlight and stadium lights
Baseball is always played outdoors, traditionally during daytime hours and in fair weather. That means players looking upwards to locate a flying ball constantly face the issue of being blinded by sunlight and potentially tripping over or missing the catch. Even if the game is played at night, artificial lights can produce the same effect under certain angles. Hence, fielding players need a form of protection for their eyes that can reliably block too bright lights and enable them to see clearly.
As it turns out, a simple hat with a front shied is really good at blocking sunlight, which is why it became a standard part of baseball attire. It can be easily adjusted to fit the current state of light or the size of the player’s head, and it doesn’t weigh very much, which can be important in a long game. If you are looking for the most direct explanation of why baseball players wear hats as often as they do, their light-shielding properties are definitely on top of the list. Catching the ball is much easier when you can see it, and a hat can be of great assistance in this regard.
Keeping long hair and sweat away from the face
Baseball caps are practical in other ways too. As anyone who wore a baseball hat will tell you, they are great for tucking your hair in and keeping it from getting in your eyes while you are running around or attempting to do something on the move. Since baseball players run, jump, and slide at full speed and many of them have long hair, wearing a cap helps to keep the line of sight clear of any obstructions.
It’s also very common for baseball players to sweat on the field, especially if the game is played on a hot summer day. You basically have to wear a hat in baseball on such a day, as the fabric will help to absorb some of the sweat and prevent it from dripping down the player’s forehead and into the eyes. At the same time, a baseball hat is porous enough to allow for normal airflow, so players are not at an increased risk of a heat stroke. This is why a hat is the most optimal garment to be used as headgear for a baseball game.
Wearing team colors strengthens the camaraderie
Of course, baseball is a team sport and wearing gear with the team logo is a matter of pride. Hats represent another opportunity to put team spirit on public display – and they help to identify the player as a member of a certain franchise in photos and video clips. All players on the team regardless of their experience or status wear the same hats, so this is a factor that brings them closer together and allows them to develop a sense of kinship and shared identity.
Hats also provide players with a chance to demonstrate a connection with the fans, who commonly purchase branded items as means of support. It’s very common for a newly drafted or acquired player to ceremonially put on a team hat in front of the cameras, signaling his loyalty to a new team and his likeness to any fan. Wearing the same type of hat during a game, press conference, or official team event represents the next step in the same direction. The whole point of sports is to feel a part of something larger, and baseball hats allow both players and fans to belong to the same, big family.
A hat is a great place to hide wearable technology – and other things
There is another type of utility that baseball hats are suitable for. If you have been watching MLB games recently, you might be wondering why pitchers look in their hats between pitches. The answer is that the league is trying to use technology to eliminate sign stealing from the game, so pitchers have a communication device named PitchCom tucked under the hat they can use to discuss their next moves with teammates without any risk of the opposing team hearing it.
Of course, it’s well-known that pitchers sometimes try to hide other stuff inside the hat, such as illegal sticky substances they can put on the ball to improve the grip. While this is not the most ethical thing to do, it’s another reason why baseball players wear hats during a game. For better or for worse, baseball hats are deeply integrated into the tradition of the sport at all levels and it would be difficult to imagine this game without them.