Of the four major American sports, baseball is by far the most traditional. With a few exceptions, the rules, uniforms, and equipment are basically the same as they were 100 years ago. But as technology becomes a bigger and more important of everyone’s life, baseball stands to change in some radical ways — radical for baseball, anyway.
In fact, it’s already happening. From what pros use on the field to the ballparks they play in to how everyone experiences the game, baseball is evolving before our eyes. This month, Sports Illustrated Kids is looking at some of the changes already impacting baseball. And as the 2016 MLB season rolls along, we’ll dive into more aspects of the game and how they might change in the years ahead.
We started with the bat. Next we look at what players wear on the field.
The first official uniform — worn by the Knickerbocker Base Ball Club of New York in 1849 — consisted of blue wool pantaloons, a white flannel shirt, and straw hat. This season, MLB players will take the field in Majestic's new Flexbase uniforms, a cutting-edge polyester set built around keeping players cooler and more comfortable than ever before.
The technical aspects of the system – like side panel gussets on the shirt — will likely guide how baseball jerseys develop in the years ahead. But the look of tomorrow might already be here.
"We're always showing Major League Baseball the uniform of the future," says Rob Grow, Majestic's Director of Product. "It's also conversations we have with the teams. Which team is ready to step out? For '16, it's the Diamondbacks."
Arizona overhauled its identity and created a new on-field look — though new might be an understatement. The team has a total of eight uniform combinations this season, and most of them include some form of sublimation (a diamond pattern digitally printed on the uniform): on the shoulders, down the back, at the bottom of the pants, even on their alternate caps. The team also introduced the darkest gray road uniforms in the league, which include a teal color treatment that gives the jerseys something of a Tron look.
The Dbacks were inspired by teams in other sports at both the pro and college level, as well as ideas from their players. They knew they were doing something totally out of the box, and they knew they would be criticized for it. (Which they were.) "You're going to get that, especially from traditionalists, with something new that hasn't been seen before," says Derrick Hall, the team’s President and CEO.
But, he adds, it's easier for a young team like his — which doesn't have a hundred years of history — to "take that first step on behalf of Major League Baseball" and begin the conversation about what the MLB uniform can be.
"We have to adjust. We have to go with what is popular, what's trending, and we're seeing that it's going in that direction," Hall says. "It's the right move for us. It's probably where uniforms are going to have to go."
Photos: Alex Gallardo/AP (away/teal), Matt York/AP (home/white, Peralta), New Era (cap)