MLB Answers My Questions About those New Nike Uniforms – SportsLogos.Net News

Over the past few weeks, the introduction of all-new player uniforms by Major League Baseball, Nike, and Fanatics for the 2024 season has sparked a wave of discussions, debates, and critiques among fans, players, and the media. Much of this criticism focuses on the aesthetics of the new uniforms, such as the reduced size of player names, the elimination of embroidered patches, and, of course, those unfortunate “peek-a-boo” pants.

As a fan of the game’s visual aspect, I was concerned with what I had been seeing — I really loved embroidered sleeve patches; the smaller player names made those of certain players or even entire teams a struggle to read… and how could they approve transparent pants? Didn’t anyone test this before giving it the green light? Could the grandest baseball league in all the land really be having issues with uniform elements that my slo-pitch team handled with ease?

It didn’t make sense to me; I needed to understand what was happening. I contacted Major League Baseball to get some answers regarding the decisions behind these new uniforms.

Throughout an hour-long phone conversation involving multiple MLB representatives, SportsLogos.Net got to ask about the critiques you’ve been seeing on social media and in the news; I brought up all the issues that had been bugging me as a fan of baseball uniforms. To the league’s credit, they addressed each concern for me comprehensively.

Before diving into the specific concerns, it was essential to first grasp the underlying reasons for overhauling the league’s uniform system. Here’s what I learned about the motivations behind the change.

I was surprised to find out that the development of the new Nike MLB uniform system began way back in 2018, shortly after the deal had been signed for Nike to take over the on-field uniform from Majestic (who had earlier been sold to Fanatics). As you’d expect, any new partnership with an athletic wear company will lead to that company focusing on their style of innovation and their particular methods of improving athlete performance. This new deal with Nike was no different. Over those years of development, various uniform fabrics were tested, with Nike working directly with players and clubs to give them feedback. The uniform style that the players are wearing in 2024 is not the uniform style Nike and MLB started with when the whole process began; it’s the result of a lengthy process of tinkering and taking that feedback into account to develop a uniform fabric and fit that the players wanted to wear.

Nike and the league explored many different fabrics and cuts. Players in Spring Training tested these various styles with in both Arizona and Florida to check for any performance issues in different humidity levels. Player performance was said to be at the forefront of this process, with many players requesting a slimmer jersey overall. Ultimately, they landed on a lighter, more breathable jersey with a more significant stretch and a more athletic cut than what had been worn in previous seasons. The new uniform made its big league debut last year when it was worn by each player at the 2023 MLB All-Star Game in Seattle. I was told the feedback from players at the time was positive, and no alterations or tweaks were made to the uniforms between then and now.

The new Nike MLB uniforms were worn at the 2023 All-Star Game in Seattle

With this new system came the elimination of some of my favourite elements that (I feel) make a Major League uniform a Major League uniform — those little finishing touches like the embroidered sleeve patches, the stitching on the Phillies scripted wordmark, and the puffy 3D Blue Jays logo. Why were those removed?

As the new jerseys were made with such a focus on being lighter than their predecessors, it was determined that it didn’t make a lot of sense to undo a lot of that progress by attaching the relatively heavier embroidered patches and tackle twill lettering and numbering to the uniforms. This reasoning makes sense from a performance point-of-view, but it doesn’t mean I’m not disappointed to lose what I loved. The old patches have been replaced with smooth, lighter, printed logos that are sewn onto the jersey sleeves — at least they’re not sublimated into the fabric, I guess (and I hope I didn’t give anyone an idea there)

The changes to the names and numbers on the back of the jersey are hard to ignore, although after watching a handful of Spring Training games, I’ve stopped noticing issues with the numbers. The names, though, are undoubtedly small… why are they so small? And why are they the same size across the league?

There were a couple of reasons for this, the first of which (and I presume most importantly) was that the smaller lettering and numbering led to a lighter jersey weight, similar to why the embroidered patches were scrapped.

Second, before this year, each team had lettering sizes that had been determined by what their long-replaced uniform provider decided to use a few decades ago; we’re talking about companies like Russell, Rawlings, and Wilson back before the days of league-wide uniform deals. Over time, when new companies and new uniform cuts took over, they focused on simply trying to match what the previous company had done in the lettering. Introducing this new Nike system was an opportunity to scrub that and instead make the size of the player’s name and the degree of its arch consistent across the league.

We’ve certainly seen some issues with this in a short amount of time.

Before & after: style of lettering on the back of Justin Verlander’s jersey (via sportskeeda)

While there weren’t many changes made to fonts or designs (that’s good), it has led to some previously larger and, therefore, easier-to-read fonts suddenly being quite tricky to make out at this new smaller universal size (that’s… less good). Another issue with going with a consistent size and arch across the league is for those players with long names (especially those on a team with serifed, multi-layered lettering) and players with short names (especially those on a team with thin, simple lettering) who end up with quite the unusual look on the back of their uniforms. Now, if your last name is six or seven letters long, you’re doing better here, but the overall size of the lettering is still small versus past seasons. The size and layout of these player names absolutely need to be improved; a few teams will definitely need more help than others in this department.

Why did they settle on that size for the name and number? That was Nike’s recommendation, based on their experience developing and designing uniforms globally.

Like myself, you may have noticed the new retail replica jerseys are also using lighter materials and non-embroidered patches. Considering these changes were initially made purely for on-field athletic performance, I wondered why these same changes were implemented for the versions exclusive to fans.

The differences between the on-field authentic and the higher-tier replica retail jerseys

Ultimately, they determined that fans preferred to wear as close to what the players were wearing as possible, which is hard to argue with. Additional considerations were made for fans sitting in hot, outdoor stadiums throughout the summer and how they may also desire a lighter material. A new third tier of retail jersey style was introduced for 2024, an in-between option they’re calling the “Limited” that slides in under the “Elite” style (which is the exact same jersey that’s worn on the field) and above the less expensive “Game” jersey, which is basically for the fan that wants something better than a player’s name and number on a t-shirt. The new “Limited” jersey is the first non-on-field retail option in quite some time that will come with sleeve patches and incorporate front jersey numbers (where applicable) on customized jerseys. So, at least there’s that.

Moving on to the pants, many fans and media immediately pointed out transparency issues, with photos circulating which showed that the bottom of the player’s jersey was still easily visible through the pants when tucked in.

Something about this felt all too familiar to me, so I did some quick research, and sure enough, this same issue existed in 2023. A league representative later sent me a graphic which gave examples of a jersey visible through the player’s pants in every season dating back to 2015. The cause is likely due to the bright camera flashes and lighting used during studio portraits when players have their headshots and other promotional photos taken. Note that we hadn’t noticed see-through pants during ball games in those previous seasons, and we haven’t noticed it during the first few Spring games in 2024.

A graphic sent to me by a MLB rep showing photo day transparency issues since 2015

If this happened yearly for at least the last ten seasons, why didn’t anyone say anything? Well, typically, these photos are only ever seen as cropped headshots on in-stadium scoreboards and player profile pages throughout the season — this year, people were hyper-focused on spotting problems with the new uniforms. Browsing through these photos each year was one method I’d use to see if I missed a new sleeve patch or other minor uniform change; last year, my focus was looking for any new ad patches, and yes, I saw the jerseys through the pants… but I honestly didn’t think much of it at the time.

So, what exactly changed, if anything, with the pants for 2024?

They say the pants’ fabric and material are the same as last year; the thickness of this fabric and material is the same, too, but still, there were some changes made, mainly to the customization options available to players. The new pants now have a “Bucket System,” which offers four different cut styles around their waists and thighs. Bucket one is closer to what an average human might prefer, bucket two allows for a larger thigh, three is larger still, and bucket four is the biggest. Players also have three options for the style of the pant legs — a taper cut that tapers from the middle of the calf down to the ankle, a straight cut that’s exactly as it sounds, and the popular-with-players “puddle” which tapers in on the side at the ankles but flares out on the front which then hangs out over their cleats.

Players were measured for these new Nike uniforms during Spring Training 2023, getting measured this early both so uniforms could be produced on time for the new season and in case these players were selected for the 2023 All-Star Game. Any adjustments requested upon arriving at Spring Training in 2024 are all currently being addressed to be ready in time for the regular season.

As for those “NSFW” pics (you can look those up on your own) — you and I are only left to wonder what happened there. At least one of those photos was taken while a player was wearing last year’s pants, so it doesn’t seem like it’s a “new pants” issue. If I had to guess, someone forgot to wear their sliding shorts on photo day?

I want to thank Major League Baseball for giving me the opportunity to ask these questions. I hope it helps answer some of your questions and concerns (when I was putting this together, I realized I forgot to ask about the MLB logo shifting down the back of the jersey, my bad). This certainly helped me understand why the decisions were made, even if I still don’t agree with all of the aesthetic outcomes of those decisions. I am trying not to be overtly negative about the new uniforms, as I recall my initial feelings about the old Majestic CoolBase and FlexBase uniforms when they were both first implemented — I did eventually grow to like those ones, so who knows. So far, while watching the early Spring Training games, it looks like it could work out; however, adjustments to the size or style of player names really are needed, and such a small adjustment would go a very long way to help a very passionate fanbase with this change.




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