The Blue Jays last night became the final MLB team to play their 2023 home opener, which means every team has now hosted at least one game (and, for every team except the Jays, at least one series). So I thought it would be interesting to see how each of them is handling graphics on the back of the mound this season.
A quick recap of how we got here: For most of baseball history, the mound had no graphics. Then, I think in the early 2010s, some teams began putting their logos on the back of the mound (does anyone recall who started this trend, and when?), and soon it seemed like almost every team was doing it. As graphics on the mound became more accepted, some teams varied the logo depending on which uniform they were wearing — throwback logos to match throwback uniforms, for example — and some teams also put numbers on the back of the mound as memorials for fallen teammates.
In 2020, two more things happened: First, when the season finally began in July after being delayed for several months by the pandemic, most (maybe all?) teams responded to George Floyd’s murder by putting a Black Lives Matter logo on the mound for the first few games. In addition, teams began projecting rather clumsy-looking digital ads onto the back of the mound during TV broadcasts. These ads were supposed to be a temporary measure to make up for revenue lost due to the pandemic, but of course it didn’t work out that way. Three years later, mound ads — some digital, some physical — are now commonplace, although some ballparks continue to use team logos.
So what’s the current state of mound graphics? In order to find out, I used my MLB.tv account to look at how each team has adorned (or not adorned) its mound at the start of this season. The interesting thing is that MLB.tv streams don’t show digital ads — those only show up on the native cable broadcasts. So if you see an ad or other graphic on the mound in the team-by-team rundown that follows, it was physically present in real life, not digitally projected. Similarly, if you see a blank mound, it usually means that at least the home team was projecting digital ads onto the mound during its TV production. But those blank mounds are nonetheless an accurate depiction of what the fans in the ballpark saw.
When compiling the screen shots used for this post, I observed the following guidelines:
- Except for the Blue Jays, I generally avoided using shots from a team’s home opener, because different protocols are sometimes in effect for those games. (The Giants, for example, put a Gaylord Perry memorial on the mound for their first home game, but that was a one-time anomaly, not the norm.)
- I also avoided using shots from nationally broadcast games on Fox, ESPN, or Apple TV+, because different ad rules in are effect for those games. (They all have blank mounds in real life with digital ads during the broadcast, regardless of the team’s usual approach.)
- If a team changed its mound graphics from game to game, I chose a shot that seemed representative of the team’s basic approach. As you’ll see, I also added explanatory notes in a few instances.
- I took all of the screen shots during the top of the first inning, when the real-life graphics were at their sharpest. Many of them degraded a bit during the course of the game.
Okay, here we go, one team at a time.
National League East
Note: The Marlins seem to change mound advertisers with just about every home game. This shot is from their second game of the season.
New York Mets
Note: Mound advertiser is same as sleeve advertiser.
National League Central
Note: This one looked so weird to me that I thought it might actually be digital. But nope — it’s real.
St. Louis Cardinals
National League West
Los Angeles Dodgers
Note: The Dodgers are the only team so far to have combined an advertisement and a team logo.
San Diego Padres
San Francisco Giants
American League East
Boston Red Sox
Note: Two separate cleat cleaners!
New York Yankees
Note: Orange cleat cleaner!
Tampa Bay Rays
Note: When wearing their Friday throwbacks, the Rays replace the sunburst logo with their throwback logo.
Toronto Blue Jays
Note: This was from the Jays’ home opener and is therefore not necessarily representative of the approach they’ll take for the rest of the season. Also, their stadium has an odd center field camera angle that doesn’t fully show the back of the mound. Also-also: Single-digit pitcher!
American League Central
Chicago White Sox
Note: The only mound advertisement to use a color other than white or black.
Kansas City Royals
American League West
Los Angeles Angels
Note: Same advertiser that bought the team’s jersey sleeve.
Note: The A’s have the weirdest mound situation of any team so far this year. They had a fairly conventional ad on Opening Day, then had two games with the illegible ad shown above, then gave up and went blank. The one constant is the very visible rake markings on the back of the mound, clearly a signature element of the team’s grounds crew.
Note: The Rangers have had a different mound advertiser for every home game. The one shown above is definitely the most interesting one; the others have been more conventional.
And there you have it. One closing thought on all of this: Just as three of the Big Four pro leagues have embraced uniform ads, those same three leagues also put advertising on the field/court/ice. In both cases, the lone holdout is the NFL. Goodell and Co. are often derided for being too corporate, for milking every last penny out of the sport, and so on, but the reality is that they’ve resisted the lure of ad creep much better than the other leagues.
Looking at those mounds, it struck me how the dirt color is so different ( I don’t think its just lighting) , and how some teams purposely has a mix of colors
I tend to be slightly less conservative about uniforms/athletic aesthetics than is the consensus here–but those back of mound ads look really, really rough. I imagine it’s probably because most of those graphics are designed for print or digital reproduction and not, y’know, for being stenciled onto dirt.
I think of all the ads the ones that match the stadium’s name are the least offensive.
I find sponsor names on stadiums offensive enough as it is.
So the Atlanta Braves and the San Diego Padres have casinos as their mound advertisers; and Pete Rose is still banned from MLB (and being inducted into the Hall of Fame) for gambling. The fact that MLB allows this shows the league’s absolute hypocrisy.
I agree with you to a point, but Rose was gambling on MLB games–including his own team’s games–while an active manager. That’s much different than playing the penny slots.
Bingo. It’s not the gambling, it was what he was gambling on that got him the ban. Same with the Black Sox.
Reinstate Shoeless Joe!
Diamondbacks as well.
And, remember, Rose agreed to the lifetime ban.
That Cleveland ad is ginormous. Wouldn’t mind if it were just a tad smaller.
I’d love to see a pitcher at Target Field tossing the rosin bag underhanded onto the bullseye from a few feet away.
Yes! I do not frankly see how anyone could resist that!
You are so right!
They are all hideous!
Are there any consequences for a player/ team if the pitcher intentionally swipes his cleat across the ad to erase it or make it otherwise illegible? I’d like to think I’d be more than tempted if I were a big league pitcher.
The NFL may not have uni/field ads, but their product is much more geared for TV, and over 2/3 of an NFL broadcast is advertising.
I would love to see stats about how the new rules affect the ad time / broadcast time ratio for baseball. Because the game times are remarkably shorter but the ad time has not changed one bit. Is televised baseball approaching football in this regard?
I never claimed the NFL was ad-free; I just said they’d kept ads off the uniforms and the field. That’s all.
My partner was until recently the archivist at Bemidji State. Very cool to see BSU get a mention on Uni-Watch!
The Target ad on the Twins mound is somewhat acceptable as it is a logo without a name. If you did not know Target you would think it is a logo where the pitcher can toss his resin bag into. The rest of the ad added mounds are all hideous.
The Bemidji State team looks more like a dodgeball team than a basketball team, I love this picture!
The Guardians have had at least one other ad on the mound, for Cliffs. I haven’t paid enough attention to notice a pattern.
Anyway, mound ads are stupid and look terrible. Not as bad as uni ads, but still.
When I opened this post I thought to myself that my favorite team (Atlanta) must not have a mound ad because I’ve watched every inning so far this season and haven’t noticed it. I was shocked to see that not only do they have a mound ad, but it’s a huge one. I went back and looked at more game videos on their website and saw that the same HUGE ad has been present all season. The fact that I couldn’t think of it without it being pointed out is sad. It goes to show that “ad creep” has really done just that. It’s creeped into my watching and I don’t even notice it anymore.
“It’s creeped into my watching and I don’t even notice it anymore.”
But that’s a good thing…maybe not for the advertiser, but for society.
Respectfully disagree. When people become numb to a certain kind of ad, the ad industry just makes the ads bigger, louder, etc.
“When people become numb to a certain kind of ad, the ad industry just makes the ads bigger, louder, etc.”
Probably, yeah. But becoming numb to a certain kind of ad isn’t a bad thing. Now if we could all just become numb to all ads…
Love this deep-dive!
One correction: you stated in the Guardians note they are the only team to not use black or white. The Rays use a yellow starburst.
Keep up the great content :)
Actually, the Dodgers also use blue in their team logo. But I said — and what is still true — is that Cleveland had the only *ad* with additional colors.
Touche… My bad :)
I hope these companies aren’t paying too much because almost all of these are illegible.
I don’t know when the mound graphics started, but a quick search found a Uni-Watch post from 2013 which featured some much more primitive mound graphics: link
Reviewing the comments on that post gives me the feeling that reoccurring mound graphics were not common at the time, including one that starts “While i agree the mound isn’t a billboard…”. Boy, those were more innocent times. But until something more definitive comes along, could be used as a marker for when mound graphics started.
Meanwhile, a round of applause for the Phillies and Tigers for decorating the mound with the team logo and resisting the obvious urge to slap down another ad.
Awesome Bemidji State unis, though I’m surprised neither of our “captains of kern” (Phil and Paul) pointed out that it looks like “Bemid Ji” on some of the players, their only flaw in my opinion. Thanks to you guys, I notice these things now!
The “He Gets Us” ad on the Rangers mound is a Christian advertising campaign. You obviously see players with religious paraphernalia, but I can’t think of another instance where overtly religious branding is so visible on the field/court/ice? It’s Texas, of course, but still seems surprising to me.
I recall that the Reds put their wishbone-C on the back of the mound during the Pete Schourek Era of the mid-1990s. The earliest video I could quickly find was from June 1, 1996, when the logo was both huge and messy. link It looked a little better the next night.
Wow — I would not have guessed that any team was doing that in the 1990s. Thank you for sharing that!
Reds were not consistent with it. It came and went, even during that season.
Sigh. So much visual pollution. If there’s an empty speck of space, you can bet they’ll find a way to stick an ad there.
Last season I recall the Yankees projecting an unreadable black rectangle with tiny white lettering on the back of the mound. It was a computer graphic that rotated with two more-readable ads. It piqued my curiosity but the advertiser could not have been happy.
The logo on the mound in Oakland is not illegible at all – it is for west coast (and Oakland based) medical insurance company Kaiser Permanente. Very recognizable if you are familiar with the company, as most Californians would be.