Baseball hats have been around for almost as long as the game itself. In the begging, baseball hats were a mere reflection of the surrounding society.
If you look at any picture from the second half of the 19th century, you’ll notice that all men are wearing some sort of hat, and baseball was no different.
Today, baseball caps are a part of American tradition as much as an apple pie or a bald eagle.
Their use has overgrown the sport itself and they’re worn as a part of work gear, in military and police, or simply as a fashion statement.
Of course, they’re also still a staple on a baseball field, although for no obvious practical reason.
So, why do baseball players wear hats?
I’ll dig a bit deeper into the matter and explain the reason why are the hats still an irreparable part of baseball equipment.
Why Do Baseball Players Wear Hats?
Unlike in most other sports, headgear in baseball (except helmets) offers no particular protection or competitive edge.
Some sports, like football, hockey, lacrosse, or wrestling, would be too unsafe without the headgear.
In some of the others, like swimming or water polo, caps provide athletes a strategic advantage. In baseball, it’s hard to find an obvious reason for wearing a hat.
If you’ve ever been to a baseball game or seen on TV, you’ve noticed that all ballplayers wear hats.
However, the Official Rules of Baseball do not state, at any point, that players have to wear a hat.
The only rule addressing headgear for fielders is the one saying that the catchers must wear protective helmets.
Theoretically, the rule stating that all players must wear the same uniforms could apply to hats, but that’s only if all players are wearing them.
Basically, if they decided that way, no player would have to wear a cap. Still, they all do.
After all this, the logical question is why do baseball players wear hats?
Here are a few of the main reasons:
Blocking Out the Sun
If you’ve ever tried to look up and track the plane as it moves across the sky, you know that it’s almost impossible without shielding your eyes from the sunlight.
Baseball players may find themselves in a similar situation multiple times during the game as they track the ball that is coming their way.
The brim of a baseball hat provides a shield from the sunlight allowing players to fully concentrate on the ball and not let it out of their sight for a second.
In today’s game, batted balls easily fly over 100 mph and every minor distraction can cause troubles catching and handling the incoming ball.
Not to mention that a lack of reaction to the ball of that speed can cause serious injuries.
The time of the year when baseball is played also has a role here. It’s an outdoor sport and baseball season starts with spring and lasts until early fall.
These are the seasons with most sunny days in the year and a lot of games are played under the bright sunlight.
This especially goes for Little League and amateur leagues where ballparks usually don’t have lights and all the games are played during the day.
Even when the sun doesn’t shine that brightly, the glare from different sources can distract players.
Shielding from the Stadium Lights
In the old days, when baseball was still in its infancy, the bulk of games were played during the day.
As the technology developed and more money was poured into baseball, more and more stadiums installed night lights.
Today, most of the professional teams play at the stadiums and a lot of smaller grounds have them, too.
It’s helpful for both the players and spectators as it helps avoid playing the games in the scorching summer heat.
However, stadium light also can obstruct the players’ vision, often even more than the sunlight.
As the balls fly off the bat at high speeds, fielders need to be able to react and make the ball quickly.
Also, the stadium lights hinder the outfielders’ vision when the balls are hit high in the air.
The baseball often gets caught in the way of light, both on the way up and the way down.
Same as with sunlight, brims on the baseball hats provide some shield for the players and help them track the ball throughout its whole trajectory.
A Source of Team Identity and Pride
A baseball hat also marks that you belong to a certain team and are a part of one big family.
Baseball teams are often the fabric that ties the whole community together and a baseball hat with team colors and logo is a way to show that you’re a part of it.
Receiving the team hat for the first time is one of the proudest moments in every player’s career.
It’s not by accident that the first thing rookies receive upon being drafted is a hat of the team that selected them.
It signifies that they’re now a part of that team and the whole community gathered around the franchise.
This is also the reason why baseball hats are so popular among fans.
It has become an essential part of the gameday attire for every devoted fan.
This also makes hats a great source of income for the franchises and many of them are releasing several alternations of the team’s baseball hats every season.
Baseball hats are inseparable parts of the American tradition and have been around for more than 150 years.
They’re worn by ballplayers of all ages and genders as well as athletes in some other sports, such as golf or tennis.
They’re also worn by many people just going for a jog or a walk outside.
Besides the sport itself, they’re also a part of pop culture and a piece of work attire for many people.
As I explained, they’re not just stylish, but also have a very practical purpose, both on and off the field.
With their popularity only rising, they’ll likely be around for a long time.