Staying up late to play outside with your friends, the all-dirt infield, sitting on a bench so big your feet can’t reach the ground, those bright, colourful, pullover uniforms — the first uniform you ever owned, with your own number on the back and everything. Today Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association are tapping into those memories to remind each of us that we all started playing the game the same way, even those on the big league diamond.
MLB and MLBPA jointly announced today the first ever “Players Weekend”, a series of games the weekend of August 25-27 (as well as the Little League Classic game in Williamsport on August 20th) in which uniform restrictions are loosened a bit, players get to feel like a kid again being able to use custom designs on their cleats, bats, wearing nicknames on the back of their jersey instead of their last name, and of course those bright, colourful pullover “youth league” style jerseys.
“We wanted to reach out in the direction of youth, and really allow the players show their personalities”, Noah Garden, MLB’s Executive Vice President, Business told SportsLogos.Net. “As you start to reminisce about playing when you’re a kid, there’s different colours, my son plays t-ball on the Orioles this year, he loves the bright colour of that uniform.”
The thirty uniforms, one for each team, all follow the same basic template: pullover style, a collar and cuff with a single white stripe through it, sleeves/collar/cuffs all match and in the case of 29 of the 30 teams the cap also matches this secondary colour (the Marlins are the lone holdout).
A look at the entire league:
When you see the jerseys in person you’re surprised just how bright they really are and you’re quickly reminded of the old batting practice jerseys of the 1980s and early 1990s, just about any one of these jerseys would look fantastic on the front of a 1987 Topps baseball card.
Across the entire league there are only six “secondary” colours used — this being the colour used for the cap as well as the sleeves and collar: yellow, purple, orange, blue, red, and grey. There are no deviations in the shade of colour used within each of those colour groups, if you’re wearing blue it’s the same blue right across the board. The jersey base does allow for tweaks to each of the colours.
These colour tweaks also apply to the cap logos themselves, for example the navy blue acting as the trim on the Cardinals “STL” cap logo will now be a much lighter blue, the same can be said for teams such as the Mets, Cubs, and Brewers:
All caps and jerseys will feature a new take on the familiar MLB silhouette logo, the “evolution” logo which invites us along on the journey a player makes as they go from the Little Leagues up to the Majors:
“Our idea here is we start from the Little League logo, then watch the progression, the stances based on a child and their progression during those periods,” Anne Occi, MLB Vice President of Design Services told SportsLogos.Net.
The logo eventually evolves into a flip of the silhouette from the actual MLB league logo, now extending beyond just the head and shoulders we’re so used to seeing, and no it’s still not based on any one particular player.
“What we did was we took into account different stances and obviously our batter, to make him full-bodied,” Occi explained. “It doesn’t flow quite as well because it’s usually truncated but it still gives you a nice stance and it still gets you from ‘Point A’ to ‘Point B'”.
Where players will certainly have a lot fun during the weekend is with coming up with a nickname they can put on the back of their jersey instead of their last name. The list of possibilites are fun to come up with, from “BRINGER OF RAIN” to “THOR”, you kinda wish David Ortiz could have stuck around a few more months to give us a Red Sox jersey with “BIG PAPI” across the back.
“The nicknames are cool nicknames, ones that you sorta get, the iconic ones like ‘Thor’, ‘All Rise’, then there’s other ones like ‘Skywalker’, there’s just so many ideas, you’ll see ‘Carl’s Jr.’, there’s lots of fun ways that they got behind it.”, Noah Garden added.
You’ll notice quite a few trademarks in the examples Mr. Garden provided us, that leads to the question of whether there’d be an issue with a player wearing another company’s trademarked name on the field or with the league selling it.
“In the cases we’ve felt there have been trademark issues we’ve reached out to the appropriate folks and got them behind it, we have some relationships with many of those folks whether it’s on the sponsorship/advertising side or the partnership side, so we’ve been able to clear it.”, Garden told us. “You certainly couldn’t see Syndergaard come out and not wear ‘Thor’, it would defeat the purpose, having said that we had to respect trademarks and we cleared that.”
Garden added that players started off slow with nicknames, with enthusiasm building over time as they saw what teammates were coming up with.
“We’ve had some stories, especially with the nicknames, some not as comfortable with a nickname, but players talking with each other and getting excited about it. From the first time we got the list of nicknames to where we are today, nicknames have changed, at first pass 50% of the players had nicknames and now most, if not all have some.”
Players are also getting a chance to show their appreciation for someone special via a customized patch which will appear on the right sleeve of the jersey.
“You got these players that made it to the highest level of their profession, as they look back upon their career path and how they got there, who do they thank? Everybody’s different. That’s where the patch came in”, Garden added. “Being able to handwrite whoever they want — moms, dads, coaches, teachers, friends, it gives the players an opportunity to contribute to a person who was really important to them.”
The customization doesn’t stop there, we alluded earlier in the article to players getting to really express themselves through what they wear — spikes, batting gloves, pre-game workout/post-game interview t-shirts, wristbands, compression sleeves, catcher’s masks, and bats… the designs of these will all be able to be tinkered with for Players Weekend. Personally I’m really hoping for some hockey goalie mask style paint jobs on those catcher’s masks, too bad Canada’s Russell Martin wears the traditional style, he’d really have fun with this.
Stance will once again be providing a special league-wide sock, this one design will be used by all thirty teams and incorporates each of those six cap colours:
All game worn items from this weekend will be up for auction on MLB.com with 100% of the net proceeds going to the MLB-MLBPA Youth Development Foundation. So even if you don’t like it, at least it’s all going towards a good cause.
Here’s a look at all the uniforms matched up against each other, you can see a few light blue vs navy blue matchups in there but there is no game in which both teams are wearing the same colour cap:
Best uniform? St Louis Cardinals, no contest (although the White Sox are a strong runner-up). That shade of red and yellow on the dark navy blue looks fantastic, especially in person, it feels like a uniform the Cards should be wearing as an alternate. Pirates vs Reds may be the best looking matchup of the bunch, it legit looks like a game from the 1970s but with present-day logos. Choosing from the colour vs colour games, my vote is for Rangers-Athletics, love the baby blues on Texas.
Players Weekend will run from Friday August 25th through Sunday August 27th, teams will wear these special uniforms with the nicknames on back and the custom accessories for each game during that weekend. The uniforms will also be worn for the 2017 MLB Little League Classic between the Pittsburgh Pirates and St Louis Cardinals at Williamsport, Pennsylvania on Sunday, August 20th.
Please enjoy this gallery of photos I took when I had an opportunity to see the uniforms in New York last week, click any photo below to see a larger version: