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EXCLUSIVE: Why the Royals Are Using Full-Size NOB Lettering

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The screen shot shown above is from Sunday’s Royals/Angels spring training game. As you can see, one guy’s name is rendered in nice, robust lettering, as befits a big leaguer, while the other two guys’ names look all rinky-dink.

But was Royals first baseman Josh Lester’s full-size lettering an aberration? Nope — it was a team-wide thing. And just to be clear, the Royals were definitely wearing the new-template jerseys, complete with lower MLB logo — they just used the full-sized lettering anyway:

So that was on Sunday. But what about Monday? Yup — same thing, only this time the full-sized lettering appeared on the team’s powder blue jerseys:

It turns out that the larger lettering also appeared in the Royals’ first two spring training games, last Friday and Saturday, but those games weren’t televised, which may explain why nobody noticed. However, I did find some low-quality video that shows the larger NOBs were indeed worn on Friday and Saturday.

Now, you may be thinking (as I was), “Well, that’s fine for the two softball tops. But what about the home whites and road greys?” Glad you asked! The team’s Photo Day session included several rear-view shots of players wearing the home whites, and sure enough:

As you can see in many of these photos, the larger lettering sometimes gets pretty close to the lower-positioned MLB logo. Still, I definitely think the full-sized lettering looks better, even in the slightly lower slot. Does it look as good as the old way? No. But does it look better than what the other teams are doing? For sure.

I wanted to know more, so I got in touch with the Royals’ VP of communications, Sam Mellinger. “I was wondering when somebody would notice,” he told me. “I was expecting it to be our beat writer, but you make sense as well.”

Here’s what I learned from Mellinger:

  • The Royals like the new uniforms but felt strongly about maintaining the full-sized lettering as a way for fans to connect with the team’s players, so they worked with Nike and MLB to make that possible.
  • This was not a case of teams being presented with a choice of lettering sizes. There was no choice at all — everyone was supposed to get the smaller letters. The Royals essentially got a waiver because they lobbied hard for it. (This is similar to what Cardinals prexy Bill DeWitt III told me about how he lobbied hard to keep the team’s chain-stitched chest script.)
  • Although we haven’t yet seen the Royals’ road greys, they too will have the full-sized lettering. (I now realize that I forgot to ask about the team’s City Connect uniform, but I’m sure it will also be included.)
  • I felt like an idiot asking Mellinger this question, but it seemed necessary: “Nike and MLB are saying that the smaller lettering makes the jersey lighter. So are the Royals concerned about being at a competitive disadvantage because of the larger, heavier lettering?” I’m sure you will be stunned to learn that Mellinger said, “No.”

Interesting, right? What we’re learning here is that nothing is set in stone. Teams can get exemptions from this or that if it’s important enough to them and they go to bat for it (pun fully intended). Too bad none of the other teams felt strongly enough about this particular issue.

Or at least I don’t think they did. Has anyone spotted any other teams with full-sized NOB lettering?

The glaring thing here, again, is the lack of communication. It’s silly that we all have to pore over wire photos or fast-forward through spring training highlights just to see what’s going on. Teams, MLB, Nike: Talk to us! Explain why we’re seeing what we’re seeing. (Speaking of: I asked Mellinger why the MLB logo was lowered, but he said he doesn’t know.)

For now, though, let’s have a standing O for the Royals, peerless advocates of NOB integrity in the face of corporate standardization. Well done, people! Here’s hoping other teams one day follow your fine example.



25th-Anniversary Tour Update/Reminder

In case you missed it yesterday, I announced the proposed itinerary for my Uni Watch 25th-anniversary tour. I asked you folks to crowd-fund my travel expenses for the middle three stops on the tour, and yesterday we raised $1,150, which puts us more than a third of the way to our $3,200 goal. Thank you to everyone who contributed!

I’ll keep accepting contributions for the rest of this week. If we can’t hit the goal by then, I’ll accept that there’s not enough demand for the full tour and I’ll refund all the contributions. We’ll still do the first and last tour stops — Baltimore on May 17 and NYC on May 26 — no matter what.

If you have no idea what I’m talking about here, or if you need instrux on how to make a contribution, look here. Thanks!



Coasters Reminder

In case you missed it last week, Uni Watch 25th-anniversary coasters are now available. Full details here.

While we’re at it, I have one (1) remaining set of the standard coasters. To order those, look here.



LAST THREE DAYS for Most of Our Teespring Merch

In case you missed it earlier this month: Teespring recently announced an upgrade to its software, the main result of which is that product listings that originally launched with an earlier version of their software will expire at the end of February (that’s this Thursday) unless they’re taken down and then relaunched. This affects about 95% of the T-shirt listings I’ve amassed over the past nine years.

The 17-step (!) relaunch process is cumbersome and time-consuming even for just one product. The prospect of doing it hundreds of times is out of the question. So I’ve decided to let most of our Teespring product listings go dark at the end of this month, which is this Thursday.

Here’s what this means for you:

  • If you want anything in the Uni Watch Teespring shop, I strongly suggest you order it now. A few newer items, like the 25th-anniversary products, will still be available after this month, but most of the listings will sunset at the end of February.
  • Everything in the Naming Wrongs shop will go dark at the end of the month. So if you want any of those shirts, the time is now.
  • Likewise, everything in the Uni Rock shop will also vanish at the end of the month. So it’s now or never.

My thanks, as always, for considering our products.



Mascot Watch

Even backlit, they have so much character!


Can of the Day

Three different lettering styles — all-caps, all-lowercase, and initial-cap — but somehow it all coheres.

Comments (57)

    Many players have been quoted saying they don’t like the smaller names. Since that’s just an aesthetic issue, not a fit/performance/functionality issue, I don’t know if it’s high on the union’s list.

    But doesn’t the players union get a cut of the money from sales of specific player’s jerseys? Those jerseys are less desirable, I would think, with teeny-tiny names.

    I suppose that might be a minor concern, but sales usually aren’t top of mind for the union, at least in my experience. It’s more like gravy, a bonus — not the main thing.

    From watching a few spring training games the smaller NOB and lower number placement are the easiest changes to spot and thus the biggest eyesores for me. It was especially apparent on non roster invites with NNOB and doubly so if that player was bigger/heavier. The numbers on them looked soooo small and low. Bush league, man!

    I initially wasn’t concerned about the smaller NOBs, but I’m watching spring training games on a 55″ HD TV that’s about 5 feet from my face, and I’m having trouble reading some of these names (especially if the player has a short name). This can’t be the intended effect.

    Dang, those Royal NOBs look heavy!

    They also look so much better. The small NOBs make the official jerseys look like knock offs.

    So, I think we have a new leader in the clubhouse for best unis in baseball (ad-clad division).

    If they’d fix the back of the jersey and reposition some teams placket breaks none of this would’ve been an issue.

    I work in design and it’s like they didn’t follow anything that actually worked and just said do it because we can.

    It is Nike after all, it’s not surprising they would say to “Just Do It.”

    Sorry, couldn’t resist!

    One thing I’m still confused about is that the language used for the smaller letters/numbers and changes to the patches is about performance and weight but yet they still have the embroidered makers mark and ad patches.

    If it was all about performance wouldn’t they have eliminated those features?

    Are the other teams ads printed now also? If not and they are still embroidered that is the height of corporate douchebaggery.

    I did take a look at a bunch of photo day pics. Unless they really are close in on the ad, it is hard to tell. They really are not trying to do that. I zoomed in as much as I can and for Atlanta, Detroit, Toronto, SF, Mets, Brewers and Dodgers I thought all ads looked printed, not embroidered.

    That’s a slightly misleading statement. It’s not so much that most chose not to; it’s that most didn’t think to bring it up because they were told “This is how it’s gonna be from now on,” so they accepted that.

    More of a failure of omission than a failure of commission. Or maybe a failure of imagination.

    Thanks for the details here, was also wondering how the Royals kept their NOB lettering the same size as last season.

    From looking at the photo day pics, did the numbers on the back of the jersey change in any way? Hard to tell if the numbers became ever slightly thinner. The front numbers definitely look smaller but that seems to be the case for everyone

    As a Royals fan, I’ll take a “win” where I can, and this is some good news in light of the recent addition of the QT ad patch. I’m curious if the patch came up in conversation with Mellinger off the record?

    The Royals have always been on my list of best unis in baseball. I don’t even really mind their BFBS era.

    The people running Nike are shameless. If I had this much egg on my face, I’d move to the middle of the woods and hope everyone forgets about me.

    IMHO that’s pretty much what Nike is doing, (at least publicly.)

    I’m not sure if they’re backtracking on any of the changes internally or in their communications with MLB. Assuming that might give them and MLB far too much credit. But publicly it seems to me that Nike is “retreating into the woods” by not commenting and just hoping fans and media collectively forget about the issue and move on, if not by Opening Day, at least by mid to late May when we’ve had a few weeks of regular season games to talk about.

    My last jersey purchase was a Nats Stephen Strasburg jersey his first or second year in the big leagues, so I’m not in a position to judge. Are Nike and/or MLB advertising sales of the new Vipor jerseys as heavily as they’ve previously advertised jerseys during Spring Training? If they aren’t, perhaps that’s an indication Nike and MLB knows these uniforms are a disaster, are “writing them off,” and will release revamped uniforms in 2025.

    MHO ignoring them and simply releasing a revamped uniform before next season would seem to fit within Nike/MLB’s overall communications strategy for this mess.

    Really disappointing that my Phillies were just ok to let Bobby “Hunk of Metal” Manfred and Nike waltz in and destroy our uniforms. I have already emailed them to let them know they should be embarrassed that the Royals and Cardinals were willing to fight but they were not. The names on the back and Chain stitching are the biggest issues IMO and the ones I refuse to move past.

    I don’t think it’s that simple — I imagine MLB teams were told “this is how it will be,” not knowing that exceptions would be made if they pushed back hard enough.

    But this proves that the smaller names have nothing to do with the “weight” and “performance” of a jersey, and isn’t necessitated by the new template.

    The player names would be easier to read on the Phillies’ uniforms if they were done in one color.

    When the Phils went nuevo-retro after (finally!) ditching the mod uniforms, they should have gone all in and return to being a NNOB team. They should revisit my idea given the circumstances nowadays.

    Cardinals chain stitching was certainly downgraded with an ugly outline around the patch. I’m not happy about it.

    I have always thought MLB NOBs have gotten too large over the years. Every team just about had similar NOBs to what used to be mainly worn by the Reds and Tigers. The new ones are clearly too small. How about a happy medium?

    I think the happy medium is to have large letters for short names: Gray, Trout, Witt, Lee, etc. and slightly smaller, condensed letters for longer names: Williamson, Stevenson, Hernandez, etc.

    Each name should take up roughly the same amount of space on the jersey, which is what most football teams do. Granted the width of a football jersey over shoulder pads is more conducive to NOBs, but the same concept can still apply. It’s just as silly to see a name like “Woods-Richardson” wrapped around the number in a circle as it is to see “Wood” in tiny letters with severe arching.

    Three cheers for the Royals (or actually two: we Dutch learn to cheer our Royal Faimily with only two cheers, three was once seen as too vulgar. But times have changed and everybody cheers them now with three). I am a NOB adversary in general but I cheer for every team that stands up to league wide…suggestions made by the MLB office.

    Great move! Coming from a Royals fan. Now get rid of the ad patch for the same reasons the Comms VP listed.

    I had my annual checkup February 1st.
    Still have 20/20 vision.
    I honestly cannot read the names of the Angels in that picture.

    The reason you cannot read the Angels’ NOBs is because they are rendered in red-on-red.

    It has nothing to do with the size of the lettering.

    Let’s not get blinded by nostalgia. The old NOBs were simply too big and bulky. The 70s Reds and 80s Tigers were great teams, but they had goofy-a$$ NOBs.

    I’m not saying the new NOBs are perfect, but they’re an improvement. The only reason everyone thinks smaller NOBs are “bush league” is because that is the way they’ve looked on phony replicas and shirseys forever, and people associate it with that.

    (And the new ones, though small, are not hard to read, unless you’re the Angels and you do color-on-same-color…)

    Give it a few years, and the Royals will come around to the new NOB style. So will you, Paul.

    If Nike/MLB truly only cared about weight and performance, then they’d also remove the Swoosh, the MLB logo (cap, jersey and/or pants) and ad patches.

    Excellent point. Though the ugly ad patches are a team decision. Not a Nike decision.

    I just think it is ridiculous that the teams are basically being told what their uniforms are going to be and that they need to lobby for an exception.

    I agree. What’s interesting is that for years the Packers refused to adopt Nike’s current design of NFL uniforms. Yet, for some reason, MLB teams seemingly don’t have the same pull to wear what they want.

    The Mets announcers mentioned the Royals’ exemption this afternoon and lamented that every team couldn’t get an exemption. I didn’t hear any acknowledgment of Uni Watch but I have to think they got the story here.

    If they gave one team an exemption then why wouldn’t they give other teams an exemption if they requested?

    If Nike REALLY cared about weight, they’d have skipped this intermediate step and just gone straight to sublimation. That’s where they’re ultimately headed. Not sure why they didn’t just rip the damned band-aid completely off.

    Do we have any clue what the weight difference is between a fully lettered, numbered and patched players jersey between 2024 and 2023 is?

    Good question. I hope someone eventual has a comparison. My guess is the players wouldn’t be able to tell a difference between both. And if all these unnecessary changes are truly so beneficial for the players, then why did Nike wait so long into their contract before finally modified them. Nike didn’t just take over last year. They’ve been the supplier since 2020.

    I hope so too.

    I’m not an expert on uniforms like Paul, the UW staff and and so many people who comment here, nor am I an athlete, but the biggest question about the new NOB letters, patches, etc., that I’ve had running through my head the last day or so has been, “Is Nike’s claim the changes make the uniform lighter (in a meaningful way) as utterly rediculous as I think it is?”

    Additionally, I wonder if the changes to the uniforms make them cheaper to produce and therefore Nike’s making more money?

    It looks slightly better. But I’m not going to applaud anyone that tainted their uniform with ugly Quik Trip on the sleeve.

    Paul, this article is being referred to with your name being mentioned by the site of Sports Illustrated. They end their story with the question: why did not more teams lobby for alterations?

    Without piping on their jerseys, the Royals uniforms look almost normal. Don’t know if it would work as well on a team with larger letters and piping

    Purchased this year’s home authentic royals jersey and noticed the same thing, that they were spared on the nameplate. It looks pretty good in general compared to the other new ones.

Comments are closed.