Major League Baseball is encouraging its players to kick back and have some fun. The league and the Players Association came up with Players Weekend as a way to connect to the baseball players of tomorrow.
Some are creative, some are funny and some are dull – we’re looking at you Chicago Cubs pitcher Jon Lester (he just went with “Lester.”) Others aren’t as straightforward.
That’s where we come in. The Stew has compiled a list of some of the more unique player nicknames you’ll see during Players Weekend. We’ve done our best to explain those names so that you’ll know what each player was thinking when they chose that specific name.
Seattle Mariners third baseman Kyle Seager – Corey’s Brother
It’s never easy being the other sibling. Whether it’s getting worse grades or getting schooled in video games, pride is easily damaged when one feels inferior to their brother or sister. Now imagine being a former All-Star and Gold Glove winner in MLB and still being considered just second best in your own family. That’s the reality for Mariners third baseman Kyle Seager, whose brother Corey was an instant star after his MLB debut in 2015, and it’s also the basis for his Players Weekend nickname.
The good news is Kyle isn’t wearing “Corey’s Brother” out of spite. He’s being a good sport while acknowledging that yes, Corey is the Seager that will be dominating baseball for years to come. But we also sense a subtle reminder that he’s the guy who taught Corey everything he knows. (Mark Townsend)
Texas Rangers outfielder Shin-Soo Choo and Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto – Tokki 1 and Tokki 2
Choo and Votto are wearing complementary jerseys for Players Weekend — Tokki 1 and Tokki 2 — even though they’re no longer on the same team. They were both on the Reds back in 2013, and the story involves both a dog track and Votto’s continual quest to be the best baseball player. In 2013, Votto had a rough start to the season while Choo started strong.
Votto told Choo that he was continually chasing him, just like dogs chase the rabbit during races at the dog track. He asked Choo what the Korean word for rabbit was, which is Tokki. For the rest of the season, they’d call each other Tokki, because they were always chasing each other to be the best. It’s a great story of both friendship and friendly competition, and thanks to Players Weekend, they get to share this cool inside joke — and their lasting friendship — with everyone. (Liz Roscher)
Chicago White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson – B. Moss
Anderson is paying tribute to his best friend Brandon Moss, who was shot and killed while trying to break up a bar fight in May. Anderson, who is the godfather of Moss’ daughter, asked Moss’ mother for permission to put his name on the back of his Players Weekend jersey. Anderson has been outspoken about how much Moss’ death has impacted him this season. He left the team for a few days in May to attend Moss’ funeral, and is seeing a counselor to help him get through it. (Chris Cwik)
Minnesota Twins outfielder Max Kepler – Rozycki
You know Max Kepler as being one of the first European-born players to make the big leagues with the Minnesota Twins. Kepler was born in Germany, but you wouldn’t necessarily know that if you saw his last name on his normal Twins jersey. But his full name is actually Max Kepler-Rozycki. When he came to the U.S., though, he thought putting Kepler-Rozycki on the back of his jersey was too long. So he went with Kepler, his mother’s last name. Now, for Players Weekend, he’ll wear “Rozycki,” his father’s last name, on his jersey for the first time in MLB. (Mike Oz)
Texas Rangers reliever Jake Diekman – Gut It Out
Diekman’s Players Weekend nickname is a phrase he uses in his battle with ulcerative colitis. It’s less of a slogan and more of a lifestyle for Diekman at this point. He has the phrase tattooed on his wrist, and recently started the “Gut It Out Foundation,” which helps raise funds and awareness for people with IBD (inflammatory bowel diseases). Diekman sells shirts with “Gut It Out” on them, with proceeds going to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation. Diekman had his colon removed in January due to the disease, and is currently working his way back. (Chris Cwik)
Miami Marlins second baseman Dee Gordon – Varis Strange
This is a fun one and it provides something you might not know unless you really did some research on Dee Gordon. Gordon’s real name isn’t Dee. It’s Deevaris. So by choosing Varis, he’s putting the other half of his name on his uniform that we don’t usually see. And Strange, that’s his mother’s maiden name. So essentially Gordon is putting his other side on his jersey for once. (Oz)
Milwaukee Brewers first baseman Eric Thames: Sang Nam Ja
Thames is giving love to all his fans in Korea with his nickname, which roughly translates to “badass.” When Thames played in Korea, he was nicknamed “God,” but we’re guessing MLB wasn’t willing to go for that one. Still, Sang Nam Ja is a fitting name for an intimidating first baseman capable of hitting massive dingers. (Cwik)
Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Rich Hill: Brice
This one is as easy and as heart-warming as they come. Dodgers pitcher Rich Hill is wearing “Brice” on the back of his jersey. That’s his son’s name. It’s the perfect tribute to his family and to the father-son bond that has run so deep over the years. (Oz)
St. Louis Cardinals reliever Seung Hwan Oh: Sparky (in Korean)
Oh didn’t go with the “Final Boss” nickname we love. While “Sparky” isn’t exactly the greatest choice, Oh will be allowed to use Korean characters on the back of his jersey. It’s a nod to, obviously, his place of birth, but also the Korean Baseball Organization, where he played from 2005 to 2013. (Cwik)
Chicago White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu: Mal Tiempo
Mal Tiempo translates to “Bad Weather” in English, which is a pretty great nickname for an intimidating power hitter. It’s not just a cool nickname, though. It’s also the name of the town where Abreu was born in Cuba. There are layers to the name. It’s not just some phrase Abreu thought was cool. It also has a personal connection to his life. (Cwik)
San Francisco Giants reliever Mark Melancon: Stretch
Giants closer Mark Melancon has a sense of humor. When he picked “Stretch” as his Players Weekend nickname it wasn’t a nod to pitching out of the stretch. It was actually a nod to a Fox Sports story from earlier this season that made the claim that Melancon changed the stretching routine for the Giants pitchers, and that contributed to his rocky start in San Francisco after signing a big free-agent contract. At least his jokes are on point. (Oz)
New York Yankees shortstop Didi Gregorius: Sir Didi
Didi Gregorius’ “Sir Didi” nickname is more than just a Twitter handle. It’s a title Gregorius earned in 2011 after officially being knighted in his home country of the Netherlands . The honor was a reward given to Gregorius and each of his Netherlands teammates after they competed in and won the the IBAF Baseball World Cup.
To some the moniker might have come across as too much self-appreciation. At least at first. There’s no denying it’s an especially tough name to live up to in New York. But we’d say Gregorius has earned his stripes there too after capably filling the cleats left behind by true Yankees’ royalty, Derek Jeter. (Townsend)
Washington Nationals first baseman Adam Lind: “Donnie”
The nickname Adam Lind settled on is pretty fun in its own right. “Donnie” is both an homage to the character Donny from the classic film “The Big Lebowski” and a nickname from his playing days at the University of South Alabama. But it also sheds some light on a selection process that wasn’t as simple as it seemed.
As Lind told MLB.com, his first two choices, “Sleepy” and “Linsanity,” were off limits due to copyright issues, so he was forced to settle on his third best choice. Personally, I think it worked out just fine. Any reference to “The Big Lebowski” is a winner in my book. But before we beat up anyone else for going “too basic” with their choices, it’s important to know the process was complicated. (Townsend)
Oakland Athletics catcher Josh Phegley: PTBNL
Most people know that PTBNL means Player to be Named Later. It’s a guy that teams throw into a trade at a later date. It’s rarely a player of consequence, so why would Josh Phegley have that on the back of his jersey? Well, he pretty much was a PTBNL, though not officially.
He was one of four (!!!) players the White Sox sent to Oakland in exchange for Jeff Samardzija and Michael Ynoa back in December 2014. Phegley appeared to be a throw-in on that trade, and he probably felt like it, too. But nearly three years removed from that trade, he’s become a pretty decent back-up catcher for the A’s. Phegley is definitely throwing some major league shade by putting that on the back of his jersey, but it’s also a tribute to his past — proof that even a PTBNL can find success in baseball. (Roscher)
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Mike Oz is the editor of Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter! Follow @MikeOz