I think baseball’s dress code could best be described as business casual-shlumpy. What other occupation requires its employees to tuck a short-sleeved button-down into a pair of matching lightweight pajama pants? The modern baseball uniform must be both comfortable for the player and aesthetically reminiscent of the sport’s odd beginnings. While it attempts to combine style and function, in reality it achieves neither. The ideal uniform for most players would probably just be a dry fit t-shirt and, if they were allowed, I bet that 80% of pitchers would wear shorts. Remember, no one practices in a uniform. And as far as style goes, baseball uniforms aren’t particularly formal or anything. You wouldn’t wear one to a Bar Mitzvah, a funeral, a prom, a quinceanera or anything like that.
Baseball uniforms exist in their current state to function as a window to the past. You only see pinstripes in prison, before WWII, or at a ballpark. Baseball is the only sport where the manager wears the same thing as the players—picture Bill Belichick in pads, or Gregg Popovich in basketball shorts—and it’s because managers used to play too. At the heart of it, baseball jerseys are magical amulets, time machines, horcruxes that transport us all back to a simpler age. Though style, these jerseys are meant to convey a blend between the unmovable object of tradition and the unstoppable force of modernity. Uniforms provide a visual representation of a particular time and place that we would never otherwise understand.
Yesterday, we trekked north to Jackson Street in Seattle, to lay our eyes upon a place that maintains the stylistic integrity of baseball’s historic past. Ebbets Field Flannels is a clothing company headquartered in Seattle that specializes in high-end retro baseball apparel. But unlike Mitchell & Ness or Majestic’s Cooperstown Collection, Ebbets Field Flannels focuses on fashioning apparel from exclusively non-Major League teams. This means that their store is lined with jerseys from yesteryear's Minor League teams, Negro League teams, Latin American teams, and even fictional teams. It felt like an Urban Outfitters and an MLB team store, made sweet, sweet love in the back of a 1956 Thunderbird. As soon as we walked in, we began guffawing at the comically amazing selection of throwback hats, t-shirts, jerseys, and sweatshirts that they had in store. Interested in a mid-century Memphis Chicks shirt? Looking for a Winnipeg Whips cap? Can’t find that Shreveport Sports jersey you’ve been wanting since last Christmas? This is the place for you.
After spending over an hour and most of our college funds at Ebbets Field Flannels (just kidding, mom), we finally returned to our car to find that we were almost entirely boxed into our spot. Twenty minutes, a lot of careful maneuvering, and a gentle love tap or two later, we escaped our vehicular prison and drove south towards Tacoma to have lunch with Rainiers radio guy and overall good dude Mike Curto. For most people, meals are structured into appetizers, main course, and dessert. For us, it goes Dr. Pepper, main course, and then bat flip near the restaurant. We did all those things with aplomb, before heading down to Cheney Stadium for our second bitter taste of Triple-A action of the trip. —Jake Mintz
After five seasons in the minor leagues during which he played at every level in the Mariners system, outfielder James Jones spent the first half of the 2014 season as the everyday centerfielder for the big league club. When Austin Jackson arrived, Jones was relegated to 4th outfielder duties. The Mariners’ acquisitions of four new outfielders this offseason left Jones without an obvious place on the Opening Day Roster. Jones has spent all of 2015 with Triple-A Tacoma as the everyday centerfielder with the occasional start in left when Franklin Gutierrez feels like reliving the glory days. We sat down with Jones for a bit before the game to discuss his path the big leagues, and more.
ï»¿On whether he's ever been mixed up for another James Jones:
ï»¿I was actually mixed up with Jon "Bones" Jones, the UFC fighter, in Arizona. I was like, “I don't have the cauliflower ear, so that's definitely not me.”
ï»¿On playing high school baseball in Brooklyn:
ï»¿It was a lot different. Some of the guys think I'm crazy, but we didn't have fences up until like, the end of high school. We used public parks, so we had to have permits for games. We had to move the soccer players out of the way; push them back a bit. I got ran over by a soccer player once. But I used to face most of the good competition when I was with my travel ball team. Luckily, there were some guys with us that got drafted. That motivated us and made us felt like we had a chance.
ï»¿On whether he was a Mets or Yankees fan growing up:
ï»¿ï»¿I was a Yankee fan growing up. It was weird going back over there to play — it wasn't the old stadium, but just going against the Yankees was a great experience.
ï»¿On pitching at Long Island University and why he stopped pitching:
ï»¿ï»¿Well, I stopped because I got drafted as a position player. *laughs* I pitched all through college. My first year, I was outta the bullpen and then I went to being a starter when a couple of the upperclassmen got hurt. Other than that, pitching got bigger for me when I went to the Northwoods League. I was outta the pen there, only throwing one inning at a time. You can just let it go. I was position player in the Northwoods League too; most of the teams were looking at me as a pitcher. But I'm happy I went as a position player.
ï»¿On playing in the Australian Baseball League in the winter of 2011:
ï»¿ï»¿I got hurt my first year in High-A; I fractured my forearm. By the time I was ready, the season was over. So [the Mariners] decided to send me there for a season so I didn't lose any at-bats. I heard it would be a great experience, and it turned out to be a lot of fun. Especially because it was summer time [in Australia] while it was winter time in the States.
ï»¿We asked [Singh] a lot of questions about [the movie]. He was giving us the inside info about the movie. He told us that he was a javelin thrower and you could see it in his mechanics. He was funky. He was not a fun guy to face, especially being a lefty…but he was a good guy. He was trying to teach us [cricket], but I couldn't pick that up. I didn't like the fact that they get a running start.
ï»¿On holding the record ï»¿ï»¿among active players for most career plate appearances without a home run:
ï»¿I gotta keep that going *laughs*. It was really about approach. A lot of time in the minor leagues, you don't have a Robinson Cano hitting behind you. You gotta learn to be a team player, and my job was to get on base. It's looked down upon if I'm going up there trying to hit solo home runs. It depends on the situation. Year-by-year, bunting has been added on a lot more. I'm just trying to bring all parts of my game together.
ï»¿On whether he's going to make an emergency relief appearance at some point:
ï»¿[The coaches] all told me the same thing: it's not gonna happen. *laughs* [Leury] Bonilla's the one that's doing the emergency pitching for us this year. —Jordan Shusterman
Game Notes – Tacoma Rainiers vs. New Orleans Zephyrs
- Outside of Derek Dietrich, who had some semblance of a prospect pedigree coming up in the Marlins organization, there was almost no way you could tell that this was a Marlins affiliate based on Friday’s Zephyrs lineup, unless you really pay attention to minor league transactions. It felt like an all-star team of guys who have recently been bench players for at least three different major league teams: Scott Sizemore, Jordany Valdespin, Cole Gillespie, Reid Brignac and Miguel Rojas Jr. were all starting for New Orleans. In no way would you ever associate any of those players with the Marlins, and yet there they all were, starting in a game a mere level away from the big league club. Triple-A is a weird, weird place.
- Marlins lefty Adam Conley had a very impressive outing last night in his return to his home state. With much of his family in attendance, Conley went 7 â…“ innings, striking out eight and allowing only three runs. The Washington State grad, who was one of the Marlins’ “Factors on the Farm” heading into 2015, featured a tailing fastball that worked between 90-92. In the early going, he threw almost exclusively fastballs, showing the off-speed stuff no more than once or twice in the first two innings. He consistently struggled spotting the fastball on the outer half to righties, missing away off the plate a number of times over the course of the start. His ability to miss bats later in the game was a result of the changeup that he began mixing in from the third inning onwards. Conley’s change sat around 83 and had devastating sinking action to it that left many hitters struggling to time him up. He controlled the pitch well and kept it down in the zone throughout the start, which led to a lot of swings and misses over the top of the change. His slider was more of a show-me offering that he only used a few times here and there. Conley is a two-pitch guy who looks more like a reliever for now, but had the stuff, feel, and smell of a major league arm.
- Jesus Montero started at 1st base and batted 3rd for Tacoma and genuinely looked happier than most baseball players we’ve ever seen in a professional game. After a remarkable offseason during which he lost over 40 pounds and regained his love for the game, Montero has hit pretty well so far in 2015 as Tacoma’s everyday first baseman: .311/.350/.481 in 223 plate appearances. In his first at-bat, Montero crushed a fastball from Conley to deep left-center field that was caught by a leaping Austin Wates on the warning track. Normally, you’d see a guy express some anger or frustration when being robbed as such, but Montero laughed it off before returning to the dugout. His overall demeanor throughout the game could only be described as buoyant, which is funny because [insert overused and now completely outdated Jesus-Montero-Is-Overweight joke].
The penultimate day of the trip will bring us back to downtown Seattle for what could turn out to be the highlight of our 18-day west coast journey. We’ll begin the Sabbath day with a few stops at some of Seattle’s touristy hot spots like the Space Needle and Pike Place Market for some bat flips and other non-threatening activities. Around noon, we’ll head over to the nearest Public Area With A Nice Television to watch the UEFA Champions League Final between FC Barcelona and another team that isn’t FC Barcelona. Afterwards, we’ll return to Safeco Field for our pre-game event that we are co-hosting with the Mariners and Lookout Landing, during which we will break the Guinness World Record for Most Beers Politely Refused In Under An Hour. And finally, for the first time live, we’ll get to watch one of the greatest pitchers of our generation take the mound, as Alex Colome gets the start for Tampa Bay against up-and-coming prospect Felix Hernandez and the Mariners. Colome Day, baby. It’s Colome Day.
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