When MLB launched the City Connect program in the spring of 2021, the plan was that seven teams would be part of the program that season (the Cubs, Diamondbacks, Dodgers, Giants, Marlins, Red Sox, and White Sox), another batch would participate in 2022 (those turned out to be the Angels, Astros, Brewers, Nationals, Padres, Rockies, and Royals), and the remaining teams in 2023 (the A’s, Atlanta, Blue Jays, Cardinals, Guardians, Mariners, Mets, Orioles, Pirates, Phillies, Rangers, Rays, Reds, Tigers, Twins, and Yankees). This ESPN story, for example, said, “Every MLB team is expected to have a City Connect series jersey by the end of the 2023 season.”
So you may be surprised by the news that emerged yesterday from St. Louis, where the Cardinals were holding their annual Winter Warm-Up event. During a Q&A session, team owner Bill DeWitt III was asked about the team possibly adding a red jersey and had this to say:
You bring up an interesting point about our uniforms. Even though we’re a red team and all our fans wear red, we don’t have a red jersey. And Nike is now doing all the jerseys — and one thing I’ll point out about Nike is that they have come to all the clubs and said, “We really want to sort of streamline uniforms.” So there’s a model out there that they want to stick to called “four plus one.” You have four jerseys that you can wear — home, road and two alternates — plus your City Connect when you unveil that. We’re going to unveil the City Connect in 2024.
And we have, of course, our white, our alternate home cream, our road gray and alternate road powder blue. Those are our four and then plus one will be our City Connect. I won’t spoil it here, but suffice it to say, there will be some red on the jersey.
There’s a lot to unpack there. One thing at a time:
- DeWitt’s comments about the team’s 2024 CC launch matches my own reporting, as multiple sources have told me that several teams — it’s not clear to me how many — will not participate in the CC program until at least 2024. Personally, I consider that to be a positive development, because (a) most of the City Connect designs are poor, so I’m happy to have the remaining ones delayed for as long as possible, and (b) the one good thing about the CC program is that the releases have been staggered over time, allowing each design some room to breathe. Spreading out the remaining 16 teams over at least two more seasons is much better than doing all of them this year.
- The longer CC rollout raises another question: The initial plan was for each team to wear its CC uniform for three seasons before getting a new CC design. But now that the rollout is being extended to at least a fourth year, does that mean the three-year wardrobe cycle is also being extended? In other words, will the seven teams that got CC designs in 2021 get new ones in 2024, as originally planned, or will they wait until all 30 MLB teams have joined the program? I have not yet been able to determine the answer to that question.
- This is the first time we’ve heard about Nike’s “four plus one” approach. It presumably explains some of the chatter we heard last year about the Mets eliminating their road alternate because of a four-jersey limit.
NEWS: The #Mets “Blue Alternate” Road Jerseys are no longer in the rotation. Teams are only allowed four uniforms in 2022.
So, they will have the Home Pinstripes, Blue Home Alternate, Grey Road, and of course the Black. #LGM
— GENY Mets Report (@genymets) April 12, 2022
Lots of people asked me about that supposed four-jersey limit last year. I told them all the same thing: “I’ve never heard of such a rule, and it doesn’t make sense because there are multiple teams, like the Twins and D-backs, that currently have more than four jerseys.” (The Twins have recently pared things back to four with their new uni set.) Judging from DeWitt’s comments, this sounds like more of a goal than a strict rule.
But Wait — There’s More
Even without DeWitt’s comments, I was already planning to write about City Connect today, because a credible industry source has provided me with screen shots that appear to show CC T-shirts for Atlanta and the Mariners:
Let’s take a closer look at that Atlanta T-shirt:
Hmmm. Referring to Atlanta as “The A” seems like something that will get annoying in about five seconds, but the more intriguing thing is the “715” graphic. Henry Aaron hit his record-breaking 715th home run on April 8, 1974, which means next year would be the 50th anniversary of that epic moment. So Atlanta will presumably be another team making its City Connect debut in 2024, not this year.
In addition, the “715” design appears to be based on the scoreboard graphic that went up at Fulton County Stadium as Aaron rounded the bases for his historic home run:
Obviously, the T-shirt design is pretty minimalist, so maybe the full uniform will have more visual details. But it appears that it will be 715-centric.
As for the Mariners, their T-shirt design should look familiar to students of baseball uni history:
That’s right, the M’s T-shirt appears to be based on the the Seattle Pilots’ old road uniform, but with a different “a” and what looks like a black drop-shadow. Hmmm.
The Pilots existed for only one season — 1969 — so neither 2023 nor ’24 would be a milestone anniversary for them. But since this design is being shown alongside the Atlanta design, which is almost certainly pegged to 2024, it seems reasonable to assume that this design is also planned for 2024.
One thing I like about both of these designs is that they’re related to baseball, not the usual tourism-bureau nonsense. So I hope these designs, or at least their basic thrust, turn out to be accurate.
If anyone else out there has solid intel on the CC program (or anything else), contact me here. I’ll protect your anonymity, of course. Thanks.