Just call him ‘Tex.’ At Nation Ford, if you go yard, you get to go big – and gaudy.
Chicks may did the long ball, but the Nation Ford baseball team has given themselves some extra motivation for hitting home runs this season with the Home Run Hat.
The hat is an oversized cowboy hat that looks like something you would win at a carnival passing through town. Bright red to match the Nation Ford colors and even more so to standout proportionally on one’s slightly smaller head.
The hat was the brainchild of the team collectively, said pitcher Matt Levy, but belongs to infielder Xavier Cumbee.
“Xavier said he had a pretty cool hat, so he brought it,” Levy said.
Cumbee bought the hat from the team store of the Chattanooga Lookouts minor league baseball team. He has had the hat about four years, but only recently found a true purpose for it.
“I saw a big red hat and thought 'I got to have that,'” Cumbee said.
The Home Run Hat made its initial appearance in a Nation Ford scrimmage before the regular season started.
“I saw this big red foam hat make its way from the locker room to the dugout and I was like, ‘What is that?’” said Falcons’ head coach Stas Swerdzewski. “And they said, basically whenever anyone hits a home run, they get the hat. I was like, 'so you are telling me this is the (University of) Miami turnover chain for baseball?' And they said, ‘pretty much.’ This was a player-generated idea.”
Cumbee said he felt the team needed some sort of rally prop heading into the season.
“Miami had the chain, so we wanted to do something like that to get us hyped up,” he said.
Closer to home, the Indian Land High School wrestling team has a Pin Chain awarded to wrestlers after sticking an opponent to the mat.
The hat has already made an appearance in the regular season when Evan Lammers smashed a three-run home run against Clover. He was the first to don the hat. Lammers said he was honored to wear it.
“It was awesome,” he said. “I was hoping they would crown me. Rounding third I saw it. I touched home plate and took off my helmet and they put it on me.”
However, Swerdzewski said the team did make one mistake in unveiling the hat.
“We need to wait until they get into the dugout,” Swerdzewski said. “We don’t need to be crowning them at home plate and showing up the other team.”
Swerdzewski said he has embraced the idea of the added extra apparel to the Falcons’ uniform this season, if a player earns the right to wear the hat.
“I totally love the idea,” he said. “It makes it fun and exciting.”
Swerdzewski said he believes the hat gives his team a little extra motivation and helps to get things moving offensively in their direction. After Lammers' home run in the recent game, Nation Ford came back to score seven runs in the next inning.
“To be honest, I don’t want them to go up there to try and hit home runs,” he said. “It is a fun way to celebrate a home run. It is definitely interesting. I think it is a fun idea as long as we keep it in the dugout. Baseball players by nature are a little crazy.”
Mac Banks: firstname.lastname@example.org, @MacBanksFM