America turns 237 on Thursday, and while you jostle for the best viewing spots to see a fireworks show, you won't have to look hard to see Major League Baseball's salute.
Players will wear specially designed caps from the Stars & Stripes collection for the sixth year in a row. It is part of MLB's ongoing fundraising and awareness initiatives for Welcome Back Veterans, which addresses the needs of returning veterans and their families.
Thursday's 15-game slate begins in the nation's capital with the Brewers and Nationals starting at 11:05 a.m. ET, and the last starting time is 9:05 p.m. ET for Adam Wainwright and the Cardinals visiting Albert Pujols and the Angels.
"We as players are extremely proud not only to wear these caps, but also to represent and pay our respects to our returning veterans," said Mets third baseman David Wright, who comes from the Naval community of Norfolk, Va., and was among the speakers at the Welcome Back Veterans introductory event five years ago. "Growing up in a military town in Virginia, I have friends and family who have given up their lives to serve a cause. Because of these men and women, I get the opportunity to play a game and live in freedom. I hope we remember these veterans."
Major League Baseball has committed $23 million to Welcome Back Veterans in those five years, and once again will donate 100 percent of its net proceeds from sales of the caps to Welcome Back Veterans as part of its contribution to the program. Authentic versions of the same New Era caps the players will wear are available now as part of the overall Stars & Stripes Collection at the MLB.com Shop.
The Stars & Stripes caps have changed quite a bit since they were first introduced in 2008. In terms of function, they are the new Diamond Era models, a high-tech lightweight performance cap featuring a diamond-textured fabric that keeps the players cooler on a summer day like Wednesday. In terms of looks, they will have the American flag etched into the team's logo, with white or gray crowns and blue or red brims and buttons. The Blue Jays cap, representing Canada's team, will incorporate a Maple Leaf design instead of the Stars & Stripes.
Welcome Back Veterans, an initiative of Major League Baseball Charities and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, provides grants to university hospitals throughout the country that provide post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI) treatment to veterans and their families in a public/private partnership.
Currently, Welcome Back Veterans is funding programs at Weill Cornell Medical College, The University of Michigan, Rush University Medical Center, Duke University, Emory University, UCLA and the Boston Red Sox' Home Base Program at Massachusetts General Hospital. These institutions are developing new programs and strategies to improve the quality, quantity and access to PTSD and TBI treatment for veterans, particularly those returning from duty in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. Read and join other baseball fans on his MLB.com community blog.