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Players Weekend: MLB allows nicknames on uniforms and colorful gear

Todd Frazier, Didi Gregorius and Starlin Castro of

Todd Frazier, Didi Gregorius and Starlin Castro of the Yankees stand during the national anthem before a game against the Mariners at Yankee Stadium on Aug. 25, 2017. Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

Batting cleanup and playing rightfield: All Rise. Hitting fifth, the shortstop: Sir Didi. Over at third base: Toddfather.

No, these were not your father’s Yankees. Matter of fact, not Joe DiMaggio’s, either. But there they were, playing ball in the Bronx wearing blue jerseys with gray sleeves and catchy nicknames scrawled across the back.

Some players even sported flashy, one-of-a-kind cleats. As part of Players Weekend all around the majors, the buttoned-up Yankees broke with tradition Friday night and ditched the famous uniforms they had worn exclusively for more than a century.

That interlocking NY logo? Stitched onto a gray cap. The only pinstripes were on the pants.

“I’m not that crazy about it, man. I’m more of an old-school guy,” outfielder Brett Gardner said before the Yankees hosted the Mariners. “It’ll be weird not wearing pinstripes. But I understand the reasoning behind it, the initiative. And I know a lot of young kids and a lot of young fans are excited about it.”

Looking for ways to appeal to new fans, Major League Baseball and the players’ association decided to let big leaguers display their personalities and individuality this weekend by wearing unique and colorful gear on the field.

The jerseys were inspired by youth league uniforms and included a patch on the right sleeve with a blank space for players to write the names of people or organizations essential to their growth and development.

Game-worn jerseys will be auctioned for charity, with proceeds going to help amateur baseball and softball programs. And of course, some of the special jerseys with nicknames on the back were already available to buy online for $199.99.

Yankees third baseman Todd Frazier, a proud New Jersey native, had special cleats made with Frank Sinatra’s face on them, along with a nod to his Little League World Series championship and an image of Frazier holding the Home Run Derby trophy he won in 2015.

Didi Gregorius, knighted in Curaçao, designed three pairs of Looney Tunes spikes. Aaron Judge? All rise. Fitting, at least. But a few decades late for The Bambino, The Iron Horse, Joltin’ Joe and The Chairman of the Board. That’s why the significance of eschewing their stately old digs — even for just a weekend series that began with “Star Wars” night — was not lost on the Yankees, a team that’s never put players’ names on the backs of jerseys even though it was the first franchise to assign individual numbers.

Even now, the Yankees prohibit beards and long hair. They don’t wear alternate tops on Sundays or black ones every so often to be fashionable, as many other teams do. Gardner said he didn’t want anything written on the back of his jersey, but was told that wasn’t an option. So he opted for his full last name. Simple.

“My thought is, it’s a three-day thing so it doesn’t really change the tradition of the Yankees. It doesn’t really change what the pinstripes stand for and not having your name on the back of your jersey. It’s something that they’re trying to do for the good of baseball and the good of charities. And I think that’s a good thing,” manager Joe Girardi said. “I’m OK with it. It is different. I’m sure we’re going to see some wild things out there. Probably something I never imagined that I would see on a field. But after these three days, I won’t have to look at it again for a year.”

Girardi was asked if he has a nickname. “I don’t really have one. I’m sure the players probably have one for me, but they didn’t share it so I didn’t put it on my jersey,” he said with a chuckle.

Marlins manager Don Mattingly planned to wear a tribute patch for Pete Studer, his Little League coach from ages 9-12. Mattingly said Players Weekend is cool and fun, but also sounded like a traditionalist regarding such events. “There are so many. It used to be Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and the Fourth of July. Now it’s weekends and three or four days of it. Some of that seems a little over the top,”

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