Daniel Murphy and Ryan Zimmerman’s bats for Players Weekend. (Courtesy the Nationals)

Beginning Friday, Major League Baseball is giving its players a chance to express themselves on the field with nicknames on the back of their jerseys and colorful equipment, including cleats and bats, during the league’s first Players Weekend. The Nationals are encouraging fans to join in on the fun, too.

Players were given the opportunity to submit a nickname to appear on the back of the youth-league inspired alternate uniforms they’ll wear for games from Friday through Sunday. Some of the Nationals’ best nicknames include Blue Eye (Max Scherzer), El Lindo (Wilmer Difo) and Doooooooo (Sean Doolittle). Ryan Zimmerman and Daniel Murphy will have their nicknames — Zim and Murph, respectively — engraved on their brightly colored bats. (The league normally restricts such expression.)

The Players Weekend jerseys also will feature a patch on the right sleeve with a blank space for players to write the name of a person or people who helped develop their love of baseball and reach the major leagues. Many Nationals players are using this space to recognize their parents’ role in their careers, according to MLB.com’s Jamal Collier. Murphy’s patch will read “Jesus,” Zimmerman’s will read “My Family” and Stephen Strasburg’s will read “TG19″ for Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn, Strasburg’s former coach at San Diego State who died of cancer in 2014.

The Nationals reproduced these thank-you patches as three large panels that will be stationed by the children’s play area next to the Right Field Gate at the start of Friday’s game. From the time the gates open at 5 p.m. until the end of the third inning, fans may drop by the panels and write the name of a person or organization that helped foster their love of baseball. The panels will be displayed at Nats Park through the weekend, if not longer.

The patch that will appear on Players Weekend jerseys. (Via MLB.com)

The Nationals’ four-game series against the Mets, including a doubleheader on Sunday,  also includes the continuation of an initiative to connect with fans that began earlier this month. Any fan who cleanly catches a home run ball hit by a Nationals player, or a foul ball hit by any player, for the remainder of the season will receive a card from an usher that may be redeemed for a certificate to commemorate the catch. The Nationals join several other teams that have started similar promotions in recent years, as documented by the blog FoulBallz.com.


(Courtesy the Nationals)

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