Hats off to Canada with new Toronto Blue Jays batting practice lid

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DUNEDIN, Fla. - Canada's baseball team has the hat to prove it this season.

The Toronto Blue Jays have been showcasing their new batting practice cap at spring training. It's blue with a jumbo red Maple Leaf on the front above the brim. The team logo is on the back.

For the Jays, it's a bid to embrace the country.

"When we redesigned our logo a couple of years ago, we brought back the logo with the Maple Leaf embedded in it," Anthony Partipilo, the Jays' vice-president of marketing and merchandising, said in an interview in Toronto. "That has been a very popular cap for us and it obviously is a tribute to the country.

"Our point with this was to pull the Maple Leaf out, let it stand on its own as both a tribute to the country of Canada and to baseball, and growing the game of baseball in the country. It was a very big opportunity for us to honour the country in the process of producing this new cap."

The Jays will wear the cap at batting practice. It will also be featured on Canada Day, Baseball Canada Day in August and perhaps at few other games.

"We're excited about 2013, new cap, new team, we're ready to go," Partipilo said.

The cap, which is available to the public on Feb. 22, has already drawn good reviews from the Jays players.

"I love it, I think it's really cool," said all-star shortstop Jose Reyes, a native of the Dominican Republic. "Everybody who saw me wearing that hat (the first day), they said 'Oh man I like that hat. Where can I get one?'"

The Canadians in camp are also on board.

"I'm a Maple Leaf guy," said third baseman Brett Lawrie of Langley, B.C. "Obviously (being) Canadian, I like it. I like wearing it on the front. It looks good, it's a new look, for sure."

"I think it's a great look," added Vancouver infielder Adam Loewen. "It's Canada's only baseball team and we represent Canada as the Toronto Blue Jays."

Added American closer Casey Janssen: "It definitely showing support in the Maple Leaf, that's for sure. But if we're going to embrace the country and stuff like that, no better way to do it than the Maple Leaf.

Major league baseball teams change batting practice caps every three or four years. It's a chance to add to the merchandise menu.

Toronto's previous model was blue with the Jays logo complete with small Maple Leaf on the front.

Many of the BP caps feature simple logos, although the Tampa Bay Rays went with a sunburst.

Atlanta has already changed its BP hat, opting not to go with the "Screaming Indian" logo.

There is no controversy with the Toronto design, although pitcher Dustin McGowan is wondering about his noggin.

"I like the logo. They look good. For some reasons these hats don't fit my head good, so they don't look too good on me. But I think it's a cool hat. Good colours too."

"We'll figure something out," he added of the size issue. "I'll have to cut something out of a hat or shrink a hat or something, I don't know. It will take some time though."

Manufacturer New Era says the diamond-textured fabric has moisture wicking to keep the wearer dry. The cap also features 50+ UPF protection to protect the skin it covers from UV light.

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With files in Toronto from Dane Coote.