Patriotism and sports are inseparable. But have we lost something important as a result?

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Howard Bryant of ESPN takes a pretty gutsy tack for a Fourth of July column. He takes on patriotism at the ballpark. He starts by making an observation that, I hope anyway, everyone acknowledges to be valid:

The old conventions of sports leagues and fans coming to the ballpark to escape the problems of the world disappeared when the towers fell. Sports, which were once by demand of the paying customers and the league themselves a neutral oasis from a dangerous world, have since become the epicenter of community and national exhalation. The ballpark, in the time of two murky wars and a constant threat of international and domestic terrorism, has been for the last dozen years a place for patriotism. The industry that once avoided the complex world now embraces it, serving as the chief staging ground for expressions of patriotism, and has codified it into game-day identity.

A dynamic that was supposed to be temporary has become permanent.

But then Bryant questions why we engage in these ubiquitous acts of patriotism and what it all means. And whether doing so in such an obligatory manner has caused us to lose sight of the fact that (a) when we make our patriotism mindless, we lose an essential part of it, which is thoughtfulness; and (b) when we make our acts of patriotism obligatory we take away another essential thing: the freedom of dissent.

And, oh, by the way, sports had long been apolitical and now it’s clearly a place where a certain type of nationalist fervor, however benign in intent, is acceptable. Why, then, is political expression of other sorts so loudly shouted down? Why don’t we want to hear what athletes say about politics and freedom too?

Like I said: gutsy column. But the fact that we recognize such expressions as Bryant’s as “gutsy” sort of makes his point for him.

The Nationals’ Gulf Coast League team threw back-to-back no-hitters today

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Baseball started early for the Nationals’ and Marlins’ Gulf Coast League teams on Sunday, with the first pitch of the first game of a double-header getting thrown at 10:01 AM ET. It was the start of what would become back-to-back seven-inning no-hitters on the same day.

The Nats’ Joan Baez — not the singer — threw six shutout innings, yielding one walk and hitting one batter while striking out seven. Jose Jimenez pitched the seventh and worked around a walk for a scoreless frame to seal the no-no, a 4-0 victory.

The second game was a makeup of a game that was postponed on July 18. This time, the Nationals were the home team. Jared Johnson started, tossing four hitless innings on a walk and two strikeouts. Gilberto Chu worked the final three frames, keeping the Marlins hitless with no walks and four strikeouts. The Nats won 1-0.

Here are the box scores for Game 1 and Game 2.

A no-hitter in the Gulf Coast League doesn’t have the same weight as a no-hitter in the majors, even before considering the two fewer innings. Still, doing it in back-to-back games on the same day is pretty cool.

Blue Jays acquire Rob Refsnyder from Yankees

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The Blue Jays acquired Yankees’ infielder/outfielder Rob Refsnyder for first base prospect Ryan McBroom, the teams announced Sunday. Refsnyder was designated for assignment by the Yankees earlier in the week and is expected to report to Triple-A Buffalo, while McBroom could find a landing place on the Blue Jays’ Double-A roster in Trenton.

Refsnyder, 26, had trouble heating up at the plate during his third campaign with the Yankees. He batted .135/.200/.216 with a double and two stolen bases through his first 40 PA in 2017 and was optioned to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre coming out of the All-Star break. His numbers solidified during a 38-game stint in Triple-A, where he posted a .312/.390/.464 batting line with 15 extra-base hits in 159 PA. He’s not slated for a major league gig with the Blue Jays just yet, but could see some time at second base behind Ryan Goins and Darwin Barney, especially with Devon Travis and Troy Tulowitzki still on the mend.

McBroom, 25, was ranked No. 30 among the Blue Jays’ top prospects in 2017. He profiles as a bat-only first baseman with little speed or range in the infield, and was working through his second season at Double-A New Hampshire prior to the trade. He entered Sunday slashing .243/.321/.402 with 12 home runs through his first 392 PA of the year.