Alex Ovechkin throws out the first pitch, sparks jersey controversy

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Here's Alex Ovechkin throwing out the ceremonial first pitch at today's game between the Baltimore Orioles and the LA Angels.

So the pitch itself is a relatively innocuous affair. It comes in a little high, but we can forgive Ovechkin for overshooting a little, can't we? Lord knows Capitals fans do.

Pitching form aside, it wouldn't be an Alex Ovechkin appearance without some sort of memorable or controversial moment, and we weren't disappointed. That jersey Ovechkin's wearing? Yeah, it sort of has a number eight on the back of it.

And that number sort of belongs to the great Cal Ripken Jr., and it's sort of retired.

Take it away, Tony Harrison:

But before you get up in arms about the intersport jersey foul of the century, take a deep breath and consider a few calming points:

First, eight happens to be Ovechkin's hockey number. It's not like he asked what number he couldn't have, then demanded it. The Orioles honoured him with a number eight jersey because that's the number he wears.

Second, it's not like Ovechkin is ignorant of who Ripken is or what he means to Washington sports. Heck, the fact that Washington has two great numbers eights has already been underscored and exploited.

Back in January, Ripken presented Ovechin with the inaugural "Advocate For Youth Award" on behalf of the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation. From the Washington Post:

For two decades, Ripken was the No. 8 in Washington sports completely defining the number for a generation and causing impressionable young children like me to always choose No. 8 in Little League. And with all due respect to guys like Ike Austin, Mark Brunell and Rex Grossman, no No. 8 since has come close to matching Ripken's popularity with one exception: Alex Ovechkin. So the kind of people paid to think of smart ideas thought of this smart idea: a charity venture pairing the region's two Great Eights.

Thus, Ripken presented Ovechkin with the inaugural "Advocate for Youth Award" Wednesday night during a fundraising event at the Park Hyatt. This meant about 180 guests, each paying $800 a ticket, plus a live auction, with proceeds going to the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation's youth progams, the Friends of Fort DuPont Ice Rink and the Dynamo youth hockey and basketball programs in Moscow.

In short, Ripken is probably okay with Ovechkin borrowing the number for the afternoon, especially since they publicly shared it eight months ago.

Now, if Ovechkin says he really, really likes the jersey's orange and black colour scheme or, say, enters the game in that jersey — and he could, because the Orioles are terrible — then we have a real controversy on our hands.

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