"Staying true to the Pirate brand is important to us," Tim Schuldt, the Pirates' vice president and chief marketing and sales officer, told the gathering of die-hard Pirate fans. "Black, gold and red are our colors. This is consistent with our color scheme and it fits with the team: youthful, exciting and improving."
It was fitting that the new jersey, predominantly red with black sleeves and gold trim, was modeled by the newest member of the Pirates, Adam LaRoche. It hasn't been officially decided, but it seems likely that the new duds will be worn for Friday night home games during the 2007 season.
In addition to LaRoche, a few Pirate player-models were on hand to show off the other uniforms. National League batting champion Freddy Sanchez wore the brand new Spring Training and batting practice jersey, which is black with a red stripe down the side of the jersey. It comes with a matching black hat that has a red arc above the ear. Salomon Torres modeled the Sunday day game alternative pinstriped white jersey. Jack Wilson wore the regular home white, while Zach Duke sported the away grays.
"Red has been part of our logo off and on for decades," Schuldt said. "It's been part of the Pirate's bandana in the logo [since 1997]."
The Pirates have never had a predominantly red jersey, though red has been displayed over the years. In 1997, with the change in ownership the previous year, a new third jersey was unveiled. It was mostly black with gold lettering and red trim around the lettering. A third cap, with a black crown, red bill and gold "P" with red trim and red button, was also introduced. It was the first time red appeared on Pirates uniforms since 1946. The decision to bring it back so prominently did not come out of nowhere.
"We got some fan feedback, talking to season ticket holders," Schuldt said. "We also rolled out some red merchandise in the shops [last year] and they liked it. They embraced it."
Early reviews did seem to confirm Schuldt's claim. Season ticket holders on hand to see the new red jersey liked the new look. And that's saying something in a town that clings to black and gold when it comes to sports.
"I liked it. I think it was pretty sharp," said Pat Kirk from Murrysville, Pa. "Red is a nice color."
Liking it is one thing. Wanting to own it is another. The Pirates undoubtedly are hoping the new red jersey will eventually result in more sales in the shop. So the important question is: Are the Pat Kirks of the world ready to use their hard-earned dollars to continue to "Red up" Pittsburgh?
"I think I am," Kirk said.