Future Padres Program is one special outfit

Charitable program dedicated to putting jerseys, caps on area youth players

Future Padres Program is one special outfit

Bill Center, longtime sportswriter for U-T San Diego, is an employee of the Padres.

At the end of every season, the Padres raise funds for their charitable foundation by auctioning the uniforms worn by players and coaches in the final home game.

"Shirts Off Their Back" has become an important event on the Padres' annual calendar.

But a farther-reaching Padres program will put 15,000 jerseys on the backs -- and caps on the heads -- of area youth baseball players this month.

The Future Padres Program is distributing jerseys and caps to teams in 51 Little Leagues and two PONY Leagues plus several Challenger Leagues in San Diego County. And this season -- in a perfect match made in a laundry room -- Clorox has joined the Padres as a corporate sponsor.

Not only does the Future Padres Program outfit players in five Little League Districts, it helps many leagues answer one of their biggest financial issues -- the cost of jerseys and caps.

"I cannot stress how much of a godsend the Padres [uniforms] are for Southeastern Little League this year," a parent wrote in 2012, when the Padres became the first Major League team to outfit youth leagues with free uniforms.

"The jerseys couldn't have come at a more crucial time, as we began the year with 68 cents in our bank account. We are confident that your generosity will not only serve as a catapult for our league in terms of numbers [more happy parents, more returning families], but also serve the purpose of many, many new young fans."

The benefit for the Padres in the program is that players on more than 1,000 teams are "Padres."

Each team wearing uniforms will have Padres in their name while wearing one of the 12 styles of jerseys and accompanying caps.

There will be Camo Padres ... Tony Gwynn Padres ... Bud Black Padres ... PCL Padres ... Trevor Hoffman Padres -- and more.

Some teams are known as the 1998 Padres.

Coaches and league officials send in requests for uniforms in November.

The uniforms are distributed to leagues in January and are unveiled on the backs of players on the Opening Day of various leagues beginning Feb. 21. Although Padres players and coaches will be in Spring Training at the time, the Padres will have club officials at many of those opening ceremonies.

"The Future Padres Program is one of our more rewarding programs," said vice president of community relations Sue Botos. "It's a lot of fun to see the players comparing the various uniform styles and seeing all their teammates and peers proudly wearing their Padres jerseys."

The most popular of the 12 styles distributed to youth leagues are the current camo uniforms inspired by actual camouflage uniforms worn by Marines.

Surprisingly, current Padres uniforms are more popular than the historical brown jerseys favored by many adult fans.

The second-most-popular uniform to the current camos are the current road uniforms followed by the current blue alternate tops and home whites.

Next in line in terms of popularity are the 1984 road, the 1978 home and the tops worn by the 1936 Padres -- although the club made one change to the original Pacific Coast League tops at the request of parents.

"The original color was cream," Botos said. "But parents told us they had problems finding cream pants. So we made a small change and produced the jersey in white."

When the program began in 2012, the free jerseys were distributed to four Little League and PONY League districts within a 10-mile radius of Petco Park. Jerseys are now distributed to leagues in a 20-mile radius.

"We want the Padres to know that not only do the players appreciate this donation, so do the players' families and fans," a parent of a Chula Vista Little League player wrote the Padres.

Part of the Clorox involvement in the Future Padres Program is a chance for teams to win a trip to Petco Park for a game.

The Padres are encouraging parents to upload pictures of their players in uniforms to Instagram using the hashtag #FuturePadres. The best picture each month will earn that player's team a chance to come down to the field before a game and enjoy the game from a Petco Park suite.