EP Mustangs hats

The Evergreen Park baseball team will wear Stoneman Douglas hats during the regular season in support of the Florida high school that was the site of a mass shooting in February. The hats will be auctioned off in May for charity. (Review photo)

Near the start of baseball season, Coach Mark Smyth had one last item to check off his list: hats for his team.

That’s when he had an idea.

Following the example of Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo, Smyth decided that the Evergreen Park Mustangs would wear Stoneman Douglas (SD) hats in tribute to the Florida high school where a gunman killed 17 and wounded 17 in February. A Stoneman Douglas alumnus, Rizzo wore an SD hat during a Cubs spring training game.

Smyth said his idea for the hats was probably meant to be.

“I saw Rizzo on TV wearing the hat during a game,” Smyth said. “I hadn’t ordered our hats yet and thought, ‘Maybe this is why I didn’t order them yet.’”

A math and history teacher at Evergreen Park High School, Smyth is in his 18th season coaching the baseball team. He said he hopes the hats will remind people about an important issue.

“We should not become numb to these shootings or view school shootings and mass shootings as the norm,” Smyth said. “It’s an issue everyone needs to be responsible for and look at.”

The Stoneman Douglas shooting prompted enormous reaction across the country, including many organized student walk-outs from thousands of high school and elementary school students.

Smyth said he wanted to make sure all his students learn valuable lessons about expressing their opinions.

“I’m teaching history for the first time in a while, and we’re going over the Constitution and Second Amendment,” Smyth said. “As young people, they need to know they have a voice. They have control over the situation. If you’re strongly against the Second Amendment, stand up against it. If you’re strongly for it, stand up for it.”

Evergreen Park will wear the SD hats during the regular season. Illinois High School Association rules require teams to wear their own uniforms and hats during state playoffs.

In May, the Mustangs will auction off their SD hats, starting at $25 each. All money from the auction will go to the charity of the players’ choice.

“We’re going to auction these off at the end of the year, and the kids will do a community service project,” Smyth said. “The money goes wherever that student feels it would make a difference, a charity, use it to make lunches at a homeless shelter, wherever they see fit—wherever they want to make a difference.”

For more information, contact Smyth at msmyth@evergreenpark.org.