New ideas in baseball are always divisive. We’ve gotten a lot of them in recent years and some are better than others. But make no mistake here, Players Weekend, MLB’s new initiative to let its players’ personalities shine, is a 100-percent winner. The best baseball has had in a long time.
Players Weekend starts Friday and runs through Sunday, giving three days for players to show fans a little more of who they are. This is happening because MLB is loosening the uniform regulations and letting customization take over. Players will have free reign to wear custom cleats, special batting gloves and arm sleeves, colorful socks and various other accessories.
They’ll swing custom-made bats, wearing youthful and colorful Players Weekend uniforms and — this is the part that might shock some fans the most — they’ll have nicknames on the back of their jerseys. Everyone. Even the Yankees, who don’t usually have last names on the backs of their jerseys.
I can see how this might be tough for some baseball traditionalists to swallow. They’re the ones shouting “leave the game alone!” every time MLB makes a new rule about pace of play. How do you think they’re going to feel about Sonny Gray wearing “Pickles” on the back of his Yankees jersey? Or Cubs reliever Carl Edward’s Jr. wearing yellow cleats with the Carl’s Jr. logo?
If these things bother you, it’s OK. Baseball teams play a lot of games every year. One hundred and 62 of them, in fact. So letting players have fun and go wild with customizations and nicknames won’t ruin anybody’s baseball season, I promise.
What it will do — and this is why I love it — is pump some much-needed life into MLB. We get to see which players are clever or funny or what music or TV shows they’re into. Example: CC Sabathia’s cleats with E-40 and Mac Dre on them. Another example: Aaron Hicks’ A-A-Ron jersey, which is a reference to a “Key & Peele” skit.
Baseball players are people too. They have interests and hobbies and personalities that they’d like to share for a weekend too. It’s why their union conceived this idea and made it happen.
If baseball is to continue to grow and attract new fans, the game can’t stay stuck in the past. So if that means putting a weird nickname on a Yankees jersey for three games out of the season, bring on the pickles.
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