There’s No Wicking in Baseball!

As a runner, I’ve become hooked on so-called “wicking” fabrics like Coolmax and Nike’s Dri-Fit. The stuff uses capillary action to draw moisture away from the skin and toward the outside of the garment where it can harmlessly evaporate, leaving one cooler, drier and less chafed. And if you’ve ever gone running in 90 degree weather while wearing 100% cotton, you know what a big, bloody problem chafing can be (I’ll spare you the gory details).

But et tu baseball?

As USA Today reports, Major League Baseball has announced that beginning opening day this year, players will be tossing aside their wool caps for a newer high-tech, moisture-wicking polyester blend lid that, in theory at least, will keep players drier and more comfortable on the field.

Drier and more comfortable? Baseball? Even though baseball players ditched their flannel uniforms some time back, I figured the wool cap would be the last holdout, an itchy nod to players from the past who suffered and sweated through the long, blistering days of summers gone by. Baseball and wool, peanut butter and jelly, Batman and Robin–there are some sacred combinations, I thought, that you just don’t mess with.

After all, baseball players are the poster boys for “old school”–the more sweat and chafing the better. In fact, mix a little sweat in with that tobacco juice, bottle ‘er up, and you can throw out all those fancy-schmancy, metabolite-replacing energy drinks. Who needs Gatorade when players can slosh a little of that tasty concoction around in their mouths while tracking down a long fly ball?

I can just hear some diehard, Jimmy Duganesque baseball purist out there protesting: “There’s no wicking in baseball!” First the NBA ditches leather (yeah, like that was a great idea), now this. What’s next, synthetic catcher’s mitts and massages in the dugout?

Forget the ‘roids. Are there any baseball purists out there who are itching, so to speak, to weigh in on this latest threat to the integrity of the game?

Ty Cobb must be scratching his head and rolling over in his grave.

  1. Mike the Eyeguy

    I take all that back.

    There is at least one team out there who can benefit from the new caps–the Chicago Cubs. With less sweat dripping into their eyes, maybe they could stop dropping so many fly balls and even manage to get their bats on the ball every now and then.

  2. Terri

    I am a baseball fan from way back. Started going to Braves games when I was 2 years old… hmmm, need to post about that someday.

    One thing I’ve always loved was REAL baseball shirts (the old button up shirts) and REAL baseball caps (lids). I guess as long as they don’t have that plastic thingy in the back to adjust the size, I can go with a wicking fabric. Well, we’ll just have to see.

  3. Mike the Eyeguy

    Yeah, the plastic thingy ruins it for me too. But if you read that article, you’ll see that they’re already using new practice caps that are the stretchy “one-size-fits-all” type.

    What’s this world coming to?

  4. Ed

    This reminds me of the Seinfeld episode where George recommended cotton uniforms for the yankees.

    There may be a revolt on this one. Getting an identical hat, including head size, was a prized treasure for many a kid (and adult). I also think the new ones will loose their shape and form over time, where the wool ones were like a good pair of old shoes-they molded to your features.

    I use coolmax when riding and hiking. Interesting smell when it gets saturated with sweat.

  5. Mike the Eyeguy

    Yes, Eyegal has noticed that smell too and comments on it often.

  6. JRB

    What I want to know is, how will this affect the classic, sacred sweat-stain ring? Many players and boys (including me) have taken great pride in wearing a cap so long and often that the salt deposits start to create an organic halo. This is a mark of long-suffering and toughness.

    How will relievers who have worn the same cap for seven months save a game in the playoffs without it?

  7. Mike the Eyeguy

    To really understand what I’m getting at here and to put things into context, the following quote of mine from my World Cup series last summer might help:

    “This [soccer] is boring? Compared to what? A game where we all sit around staring at nine guys with grass growing up between their toes waiting for something to happen?”

    Surely someone wouldn’t have the gall to diss The Great American Pastime, would they?

  8. Stoogelover

    Every now and then, the very foundations of civilization are shaken and we’re left to try and make sense of it all. I sense a trembling here!

  9. Mike the Eyeguy

    JRB–you raise some very important questions. Time will only tell what effect the new material will have on the classic sweat-stain ring.

    At the rate MLB is going, they’ll soon have a dress code which outlaws such Great American traditions.

    Tea and crumpets anyone?

  10. Mike the Eyeguy

    Sl–steady boy, hotter heads must prevail here.

  11. Nancy

    Oh the memories… I used to sell high performance materials back whenn I lived in New York and worked at a bike shop. haven’t heard the words “wicking” since…

  12. Mike the Eyeguy


    So how do you pronounce the word with a Red State accent?

    Would it be “WU-ICK-UN?”

  13. Donna

    I can attest that you can still get a sweat ring on a wicking visor…of course that is for tennis which involves actually moving from time to time…..

    Not dissing the GAP (I never knew that was what GAP stood for!) I love me some Braves baseball….but really, who cares what they wear???

  14. Mike the Eyeguy

    Thanks, Donna. JRB, did you catch that?

  15. Double vision

    I think they ought to ditch the wool and the new fangled hats for nice old trucker hats like I used in Little League.

  16. Mike the Eyeguy

    Heh, now there’s a thought.

    DV, you are so old school. I bet you had a jersey that had something like “Chico’s Bail Bonds–Let Freedom Ring” printed on the back to go along with that trucker hat (click here).

  17. JRB

    I caught it and am so relieved.

  18. Bill Gnade

    I LIVE in wicking fabrics from head to toe. As an expert in these various materials, I can tell you that they wick everything away but the stink, which, I am glad to say, is a fine feature: Who wants one’s essence to escape through the fence? And, if you manage to wear any color on the light side, these materials can secure a very dynamic ring: there is nothing quite like a sweat- and oil-stained piece of white Polarmax. And these fabrics left unwashed really can stand up in a corner on their own.

    George Constanza may drape himself in velvet if he wishes, or cotton Yankees jerseys, but this former Jersey boy is all about synthetics: I drape myself in Royal Blue Techwick, letting my skin wick-out so fully that it splits like a dried river bed.

    God missed out in adding this stuff as a superdermal layer during Creation, I think, though I don’t believe Adam and Eve would have had much use for Gore-Tex, the other skin. I, on the other hand, have found much use for my Gore-Tex tuxedo.



  19. Mike the Eyeguy

    And with all the snow you guys have had, Bill, I bet you’re even bathing in Gore-Tex!

    Sometimes, I wish I lived where I could take advantage of all those cool L.L. Bean items. Every time I receive one of their catalogs, I gaze wistfully at the parkas, sweaters and all the wicked wicking gear and then toss it in the trash can, knowing full well that there’s only a week or two down South when I could even where the lighter gear.

    Good to hear from you, man! Don’t be a stranger, ya hear?

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