New event to take place in games across MLB from Aug. 25-27
By Mark Newman
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Major Leaguers will let their personalities and passions shine like never before when the newly created Players Weekend takes center stage during all games from Friday, Aug. 25, to Sunday, Aug. 27. Those are just 20 of the nicknames that players across all clubs will wear on their backs while sporting colorful, non-traditional uniforms featuring alternate designs inspired by youth-league uniforms.
MLB and the MLB Players Association announced jointly on Wednesday that Players Weekend will be a player-focused field festival of sorts, different than anything seen before at the top rung of the sport. In addition to nicknames on the backs of jerseys made by Majestic, players can wear and use uniquely colored and designed spikes, batting gloves, wristbands, compression sleeves, catcher's masks and bats.
During Players Weekend, the players also will be able to wear specially designed caps by New Era, and unique socks from Stance. Players also can wear T-shirts highlighting a charity or cause of their choice during pregame workouts and postgame interviews. The same authentic jerseys, tees, caps and socks are available now at the MLB.com/shop.
Additionally, during Players Weekend, the right sleeve of each player's jersey will feature a patch with a blank space for him to write the name of a person or organization that was instrumental to his development. The patch features a new logo that shows a progression of five players increasing in size to demonstrate the process of a player's path from Little League and youth leagues to Major League Baseball. The new "Evolution" logo, which symbolizes solidarity with local youth baseball and softball organizations, will also appear on the back of each club's cap and jerseys in place of the MLB silhouetted batter.
"The journey from youth leagues to Major League Baseball is one that players don't take alone," Commissioner Rob Manfred said. "Major League players have been supported by family members, coaches and organizations that helped them develop their unique skills and overcome challenges to reach the highest level of the sport. These games will allow the players to thank those who were important in their lives while showcasing their personality in a fun way that fits baseball's community-driven focus."
"Players are increasingly interested in finding unique ways to connect with their fans by allowing them to see more of their personalities and interests," MLBPA executive director Tony Clark said. "The collective desire to express their diverse interests and backgrounds is what motivated players to lobby for the creation of Players Weekend. This will be an exciting and unique opportunity for the players to literally wear their passions on their sleeves, and equipment, too, as they embrace this chance to let their true identities shine."
Yes, even the Yankees will have names on the back of their jerseys throughout that weekend series against the Mariners. Just imagine if this happened years ago, with the sight of Bambino, Joltin' Joe and the Mick over their numbers.
"It's America's Pastime, and it's steeped in a lot of history," said Rays third baseman Evan Longoria (Longo). "I think a lot of the gear and the dress code was founded around that belief, and we were really behind [the weekend] in terms of guys expressing themselves on the field with what they wear."
"It's pretty cool -- especially for me, someone who played in the Little League World Series," said Mets outfielder Michael Conforto, who says he will wear the moniker of "Scooter" that teammates gave him, reason unbeknownst to him. "It's cool that at the highest level you can still connect to all the kids that are playing the game that we love. For MLB to have an event like Players Weekend dedicated to that is pretty cool."
Game-worn Players Weekend jerseys will be up for bidding at MLB.com/auctions with all net proceeds donated to the MLB-MLBPA Youth Development Foundation, a joint effort established in July 2015 by MLB and the MLBPA with an initial commitment of $30 million focused on improving the caliber, effectiveness and availability of amateur baseball and softball programs across the U.S. and Canada.
"Any time you can benefit and help people out in any way, that's what we're here for, to inspire people and help people out," said Judge, who originally planned to just go with his last name but was convinced otherwise by teammate Todd Frazier (The Toddfather). "We're all blessed to be in this situation to play Major League Baseball. Anything we can do is pretty rewarding."
The players will support the event by posting to social media using #PlayersWeekend.
The special features of the Players Weekend games will also be adopted by the Pirates and Cardinals during the MLB Little League Classic to be played Aug. 20 in Williamsport, Pa., during the 2017 Little League World Series. The game, which will celebrate youth baseball, will be played in front of a crowd of primarily Little League players and their families at renovated historic Bowman Field.
Earlier that day, MLB players will attend Little League World Series games and cheer on these [youngsters] as a demonstration of the players' passion and commitment to helping grow the game at the youth level. The MLB Little League Classic will air nationally on ESPN's "Sunday Night Baseball" and ESPN Radio at 7 p.m. ET.
Cardinals pitcher Michael Wacha, who will go with "Wach" (and not Pedro Martinez's "Wacha-Wacha"), grew up in Texas playing in the Dixie Youth Baseball Association. They went to the Dixie World Series back then, and said those were "some of the best times I ever had. We'd road-trip out there, make a little vacation out of it, win some games, and makes lifelong friends."
He said the Little League Classic and Players Weekend bring out the kids in all of them.
"I'm looking forward to it, and I know quite a few guys are as well," Wacha said. "I think we all grew up playing some sort of Little League affiliation, youth baseball, to get us to where we are at now. So it's a big part of growing this game and a big part to these people's success."
Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com and a baseball writer since 1990. Follow him @Marathoner and read and join other baseball fans on his MLB.com/blogs hub. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.