Expanding the Roster

Expanding the Roster

Starting this season, D.C. youth baseball and softball players will have another thing in common with their big league counterparts -- they all will be playing as the Washington Nationals.

In partnership with D.C. Little League and D.C. Parks and Recreation, the Nationals Youth Baseball Uniform Program was launched this spring. Through this program, the Nationals are providing a Nationals top and cap to every boy and girl playing in a D.C. Little League or in the DPR Rookie League. This new program is a significant part of the team's overall efforts to promote youth participation in baseball and softball throughout the region. For 33 years, Major League Baseball was absent from the D.C. region, creating a gap between kids and the game.

"Part of the promise of having a Major League franchise in the District were the natural opportunities to enrich the lives of young people through the sport," said Nationals vice president of community engagement Gregory McCarthy. "By outfitting every District Little Leaguer with a jersey and cap, we can help build unity and shared excitement across the city. It's the most effective way to instantly reach almost all youth baseball networks in the city."

By providing the uniforms at no cost to the leagues or individual families, the Nationals aim to break down and minimize financial barriers that can prevent kids from playing baseball. Youth players will also be given the opportunity to experience a Major League game at Nationals Park through a complimentary ticket offer and connect with Nationals players as they visit the leagues throughout the season.

A Little League Task Force has also been established to increase communication between the team and local youth baseball leadership and to identify ongoing opportunities for support.

"It is important to Little League that every child that wants to play baseball in D.C. is given the chance," said Little League District 3 administrator Greg Roberts. "We hope the task force will help us meet that goal.

"We need people to come together to do what's best for the kids and best for the city. I envision the task force will create more opportunities for kids, including creating more and better fields. It's going to be a great plus for the kids and for youth baseball in the District to have the Nationals working with us."

Other youth baseball-focused activities include a variety of complimentary baseball and softball clinics at Nationals Park. These clinics allow for hands-on instruction from Nationals coaches and other baseball leaders, who offer tips on the art of batting, fielding, pitching and baserunning. Additional specialized clinics include those focused on youth skills development; strength and conditioning for older athletes looking to play at a more competitive level; and field maintenance for local coaches and administrators.

Beginning in 2014, the Nationals implemented the Champions Day series, a program that recognizes teams that have won championship titles during pregame ceremonies on the field at Nationals Park.

All of this is in addition to the Nationals Youth Baseball Academy, which uses the sports of baseball and softball as vehicles to foster positive character development, academic achievement and improved health among at-risk D.C. youth.

"We've had tens of thousands of youth visit the park as our guests and we've opened the beautiful baseball academy in Ward 7," said McCarthy. "Now we want to focus on reaching young people in their neighborhoods and on their fields throughout the city."

All eight D.C. Little Leagues and DPR have signed up for the Uniform Program. While all teams will be wearing Nationals uniforms, the teams will be differentiated through the use of various team styles and colors.

"Baseball has the unique capacity to unite," said McCarthy. "As the hometown team, the Nationals are uniquely positioned to bring people together and improve our communities."

For more information visit nationals.com/uniformprogram.

Nicole Murray is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.