Special to Page 2
Ah, spring training is there anything better? After that long winter dry spell, all our favorite baseball rites return like old friends: the crack of the bat, the smack of horsehide on leather, the parade of spoiled, selfish egos. (How spoiled, you ask? This spoiled.)
Uni Watch has been keeping an eye on spring training, looking for new uniform developments and personal stylistic quirks. Jim Thome, for example, has been wearing his pants uncharacteristically low this spring. And Sammy Sosa's elasticized sleeve cuffs, which he began wearing in 2003 with the Cubs, have traveled with him to the Orioles.
Spring training is known for its high uni numbers, but David Wells is going in the other direction. Wells, now with the Red Sox, is fulfilling a long-held dream by wearing No. 3, in honor of Babe Ruth. Assuming he avoids the police blotter long enough to make Boston's regular-season roster, Wells will become only the 13th pitcher since 1960 to wear a single-digit number, and will join Toronto's Josh Towers as MLB's only single-digitized pitchers.
Although the party line is that spring training is all about bunting practice, cutoff drills and hazing the rookies, the real point is much simpler: getting the players to pose for yearbook and media guide photos, often under less-than-glamorous conditions. Since these photos usually show the players only from the waist up, it doesn't matter if the jersey and pants don't match or if there are no pants at all.
Back in the day, teams wore their regular uniforms for Grapefruit and Cactus League games. A few teams still do this, but most now wear their batting practice jerseys and caps. By now everyone knows this is just a merchandising scam, one that Uni Watch usually prefers not to dignify with further discussion. But since they're essentially functioning as game attire this month, here's a quick rundown of this season's new designs: