Since 2019, Colorado Springs has been home to the Pioneer League’s Rocky Mountain Vibes. The Vibes recently unveiled two new jerseys that are a bit of a departure for the team: a powder blue Hometown Series top that pays homage to Colorado Springs and a mostly white Home Field jersey that features mascot Toasty.
I spoke with designer Duane Brown, a resident of “The ‘Springs” who works with the Vibes, about the team’s new looks.
The first thing baseball fans in Colorado Springs will notice is that the Hometown Series jersey uses a color that exists in the team’s palette, but that is not often featured prominently. While the powder blue does exist in the Vibes’ identity system, that was not the primary reason for using it.
“At the elevation where the Springs is, there’s just so much sky there,” Brown said. “The idea was doing the sky blue while keeping it on brand with our color palette.”
While the Vibes’ primary identity created by Brandiose has been a hit with minor league baseball fans nationally, the Hometown Series brand had a much more narrow target audience.
“We really wanted to have something that we felt the local community could take hold of, something that would be theirs,” Brown said. “This is very much our love letter to Colorado Springs. We wanted to make something for them.”
The Hometown Series jersey has a decidedly different feel from the Vibes’ other looks, which was an intentional decision by the team.
“We wanted something very different that stands out,” Brown said. “That is definitely not just another Vibes jersey as much as it is truly something unique, so pulling away from the navy and rubine red and really sticking with that secondary color of blue creates something that is individual for the ‘Springs.”
Even the use of the term “The ‘Springs” was a nod to members of the community.
“The idea to go with ‘The ‘Springs’ rather than ‘Colorado Springs’ was that we wanted it to feel like home,” Brown said. “When you’re in Colorado Springs and you’re talking to locals, anywhere in southern Colorado, it’s ‘The ‘Springs,’ the colloquial term for Colorado Springs. It’s just because that’s what we call it there.”
The reception to the 2022 Hometown Series jersey has been largely positive, though a small-but-vocal cadre of social media grammarians has taken to their keyboards to inform the world of their outrage over what they feel is an errant apostrophe in front of the word “Springs” on the jersey.
Since the release of the jerseys, Brown has mulled the apostrophe, which he called “the elephant in the room” during our conversation.
“Is it grammatically correct? From a technical view, probably not, if we’re going to get into the grammar books and get in there and see if it’s on target,” he said.
But Brown points to a larger authority when it comes to the use of the apostrophe: pre-smartphone texting vernacular. Back in the days of “multi-tap” texting, when each character required a series of numbers, brevity was prized, and shorthand was king.
“Everybody would write it as ‘The ‘Springs’ and they would put the apostrophe in front of it,” Brown said. “So I put it in there when I did the design. We actually had a conversation about it, should we put it in or should we not put it in? The conversation was, every time anyone has ever written ‘The ‘Springs,’ they’ve always put the apostrophe in there, and it wasn’t just me that felt that way, so we kept it in.”
Finally, the Hometown Series jersey contains a subtle wink a nod to the city’s previous franchise, the Triple-A Colorado Springs Sky Sox, who now play in San Antonio. The use of the city’s name (or at least half of it) and the powder blue color both call back to the city’s previous franchise.
The second new look for the Vibes highlights the team’s mascot, a s’more named Toasty, on a jersey for the first time.
“Everyone knows with the Vibes, this is the main guy,” Brown said, pointing to the logo on his cap. “The Vibes are all about Toasty, and Toasty makes that team. He’s what sells merch, everybody loves him, and I’m like, why do none of our jerseys have Toasty on it?”
Not only is does the 2022 Home Field jersey mark the first time that Toasty has appeared on the team’s uniforms, it’s the first departure from a template the team has used for all of its looks.
“All of our jerseys were the exact same thing, just with different color blocking,” Brown said. “So the away, the home, the offshoot, the military, all of them said Vibes, just different color blocking. They’re basically the same jersey.”
If you look closely at the sleeves, you’ll notice another feature that highlights the local area: topographical map markings that designate elevation of the nearby Rocky Mountains. While the team’s geographic signifier is “Rocky Mountain,” the Vibes have never paid tribute to the mountains visually. This is especially of note given that the Sky Sox’s logo was an anthropomorphized Pike’s Peak, which looms over the city.
“Let’s pay off the part that we never pay off, and that’s the Rocky Mountains,” Brown said. “We pay off s’mores and and graham crackers and all these things, but let’s pay off Colorado.”
The largely white jersey is also a departure for the team, which typically plays up its vibrant color scheme in its uniforms.
“The reason it is white, is because last year when I did the Salute to Heroes jersey, AKA the military jersey, I got them to experiment playing with a white jersey,” Brown said. “It looked so good to run the team out there with white pants and a white shirt. We weren’t used to it because our colors are so loud.”
Before Major League Baseball’s Vogon Destructor Fleet ripped through minor league baseball in 2020, the Vibes were affiliated with the Brewers at the short-season Class A level. Since then, the entirety of the Pioneer League has shifted to unaffiliated MLB Partner League status. The Vibes will debut their new duds when the Pioneer League’s second unaffiliated season begins in May.