Ever since Nats Nation documented the helmet-snatching tendencies of this Nationals team, I’ve been curious to hear an explanation.
That curiosity only increased when Chad Tracy joined Ian Desmond in helmet-snatching, grabbing the batting helmets of Nats hitters after they returned to the dugout after home runs or other proud moments and removing the helmets post haste.
So I finally asked Desmond and Tracy what this was about.
“After you hit a homer, you come into the dugout and you just want to shake hands,” Desmond explained. “Getting through the line is kind of a hassle. So [this way], you only have to go through once. Someone takes your helmet off, they put your helmet up there. And then you kind of just sit down, take your batting gloves off, regroup, enjoy it for a second, instead of having to push your way back through.”
“Guys are going down, giving five, and it’s all blocked up there,” Tracy said, echoing Desmond’s explanation. “And then they’ve got to turn around and bring their helmet back and walk back through it. So if you take their helmet, they can go just sit on the bench; they don’t have to bring their helmet back.”
The move is not just done on home runs; it’s done after any trip to the dugout when a large handshake line would make returning the helmet to its perch problematic. The origins, though, are murky. Desmond said he began doing it in the minor leagues, and has brought it to subsequent baseball stops.
“It’s kind of a nice thing, and you also kind of protect your head a little bit,” he said. “I’ve done it as long as I can remember. In the minor leagues, people would just slam your helmet, and players were giving high fives before [they] had a chance to get their helmet off, so they were getting beat up. I’d try to take it off to help ‘em out.”
Tracy, though, seemed skeptical that Desmond had thought of this himself.
“I started doing it in Spring Training,” Tracy said. “I don’t know if he had done it before.”
And while Desmond executed many of the early helmet snatches this season, the torch seems to have been passed.
“I was doing it, then I think Tracy took over, so I’m gonna hand it over to him,” Desmond said. “I think he likes it.”
“No reason,” Tracy said, when I asked about footage of him going after the helmets. “If I’m around it and I grab for it, I want it.”
“It’s just a nice thing to do,” Desmond summarized. “ Not necessarily a baseball unwritten rule or anything like that. Just hey man, I’ve got you.”