Baseball's unspoken dress code

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If you play ball at Howelsen Hill these days, you probably already know the dress code.

It's not written down, it's not enforced, but you only need to spend a few minutes hanging around the baseball diamond to recognize it.

Most of the players in this weekend's Triple Crown World Series not only know the code, they live by it.

Players who want to fit in will need a hat -- complete with sweat marks -- the white sliding pants that look a little dingy from use and the ultimate baseball jersey.

The ultimate jersey is not one of those clean, fresh-out-of-the-bag shirts. It's the kind that comes from playing game after game in the heat with little or no regard for whomever is doing the laundry.

You can tell a lot about players just from looking at their jerseys.

A good infielder's shirt has a permanent dirt spot in the front, thanks to the soft dirt and gravel that surrounds second base. Shortstops have made an art of creating the spot either by sliding face first into the base while running or diving for the hard-hit ground ball in the hole.

Outfielders prefer a slightly more subtle look, but it's still impressive to the true baseball fan. The stains on their shirts and pants are harder to see and normally have a green hue, courtesy of the soft grass that cushions their diving catches. Sure, there is some dirt from running the bases -- but most outfielders never come close to collecting the dusty brown stains of their infield teammates.

Either way, most of the players know the dress code.

The good players wear their stains like medals and if they were given their way would never wash their uniforms.

Luckily, for those of us who come to watch them, most players have parents who realize the value of a good rinse cycle.

Still, the really good stains, the ones they earned by diving into the dust or making a great play, can't be erased by soap and water. Not even bleach.

You see, the really good stains will remain in the fabric long after the playing days have faded away, just like the memories the players collect on the field.

The stained uniform, much like the crack of a bat or the smack of a ball in a leather glove, lasts forever in the mind of an athlete who loves the game of baseball.

So while some see children wearing sloppy, dirty untucked shirts at Howelsen this weekend, I see ball players carrying on a tradition that has lived almost as long as the game itself.

It doesn't matter if the players are in coach pitch, Little League or the Major Leagues, the dress code will tell you as much about the game as any scorebook.

The players wear their hearts on their sleeves in the form of stains, dirt and blood.

You can look high and low, but you will be hard pressed to find a player who loves the game wearing a clean uniform after nine innings.

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