When he first took up baseball, Ronny Rodriguez could not have known his first Major League home run would come with the nickname "El Felino" scrawled across his back, but now the Tigers rookie will forever have a purr-fect moment and memory to savor.Rodriguez went deep Thursday afternoon in what
When he first took up baseball, Ronny Rodriguez could not have known his first Major League home run would come with the nickname "El Felino" scrawled across his back, but now the Tigers rookie will forever have a purr-fect moment and memory to savor.
Rodriguez went deep Thursday afternoon in what technically served as the first game of Players' Weekend presented by Valspar while wearing the Detroit jersey featuring bright orange sleeves and his alternate appellation, then returned to the home dugout at Comerica Park to find teammate Niko Goodrum (whose own alternate jersey name, "J.J. Mumford," serves as a touching tribute) waiting for him like a butler, towel draped over his right arm and cool refreshment sitting in his left hand.
"You like to see that," manager Ron Gardenhire said after the 7-2 victory over the White Sox. "He had a good smile on his face."
We expect to see a lot of smiles and style during Players' Weekend, which is underway in earnest in all games through Sunday. This is the game's embrace of individuality, charisma and creativity, a time when the colors are splashier, the uniform rules are looser and the appreciation for the path from youth leagues to the big leagues is made more apparent.
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In the first game of a four-game weekend set, the Tigers and White Sox decided to get a jumpstart on the fun, as did the Mets and Phillies when they played the Little League Classic presented by GEICO in Williamsport last Sunday. Already, we've seen the likes of "El Nino" (Mets shortstop Amed Rosario, who had three RBIs in the Little League Classic) and "Matty B" (Tigers starter Matthew Boyd, who threw six scoreless against the Sox) take a liking to the unique unis. Players' Weekend has plenty more in store these next few days.
:: Players' Weekend presented by Valspar Stain ::
Here's everything you need to know about the festivities in a handy FAQ format.
What is Players' Weekend?
It's an opportunity for fans to get a little wider window into the personalities of the players. Established in conjunction between MLB and the MLB Players Association, all 30 clubs will be participating through all games Friday through Sunday, and every team will be in action each of those three days.
All clubs will be wearing non-traditional alternate uniforms, and each player is allowed to wear his nickname of choice on the back of his jersey, with a patch on his sleeve to pay tribute to a person or persons who aided their career.
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Why are players wearing colorful uniforms?
The vibrant, non-traditional alternate uniforms, designed by Majestic, were inspired by uniforms you would typically see in Little League, tying into the theme of the youth involvement that Commissioner Rob Manfred has invested in since taking office ahead of the 2015 season. Players are also allowed to wear and use uniquely colored and designed spikes, batting gloves, wristbands, compression sleeves, catcher's masks, and bats.
New Era is also providing specially designed hats, and Stance is providing the colorful socks.
What else is different about the uniforms?
Players are also allowed to wear and use uniquely colored and designed spikes, batting gloves, wristbands, compression sleeves, catcher's masks and bats.
The cleats have proven to be an especially cool way for players to express themselves. Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor, for instance, worked with New Balance to design cleats featuring social messages, such as "#PUERTORICOSTRONG" (a reference to his native Puerto Rico's recovery from last fall's vicious hurricanes) and "#REMEMBERPARKLAND" (a reference to the awful shooting that claimed 17 lives at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida).
"I personally always want to impact people by messages," Lindor said. "It's an impactful cleat, and I'm looking forward to letting the world know that I'm with them."
What do the patches on the players' sleeves symbolize?
On the right sleeve of each uniform will be a patch on which players can write the name of a person who either aided in their development or inspired them. The patches and caps will also feature the "Evolution" logo, showing a progression of five players increasing in size to demonstrate the process of a player's path from Little League, through youth leagues and to the Majors -- a show of solidarity with youth baseball and softball programs. Beneath the players are the words "Thank You," and then the area where the players salute someone special.
What are some notable nicknames to be donned on the back of jerseys?
All players have been encouraged, but are not required, to wear nicknames. You can check out the full list of nicknames for every team here.
But, yes, there are some particularly awesome appellations. Indians rookie pitcher Shane Bieber, ensuring no confusion with a certain pop star, went with "Not Justin." Though Red Sox ace Chris Sale is back on the DL, he deserves credit for the old-school and appropriate vibe of "The Conductor" (because, as teammate Dustin Pedroia said, he "punches tickets"). Angels two-way sensation Shohei Ohtani's "Showtime" is obvious but no less awesome. Same goes for Dodgers rookie Walker Buehler's "Ferris." A's starter Sean Manaea is the "Manaealator," Marlins lefty Jarlin Garcia is "Jarlin the Marlin," and Cubs reliever C.J. Edwards is the "Stringbean Slinger."
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And the most creative -- and, yes, history-making -- choice goes to D-backs reliever Brad Boxberger, who will become baseball's first player with emojis on his back -- a box and a burger, naturally.
Will this be an annual event?
MLB and the MLBPA haven't formally announced any plans for Players' Weekend beyond 2018, though it did align with last Sunday's MLB Little League Classic presented by GEICO, which MLB has already announced will take place on Aug. 18, 2019. The Mets and Phillies each gave audiences a preview of their Players' Weekend garb in the nationally telecasted game at historic Bowman Field in Williamsport, Pa.
What are the best avenues for fans to follow the action?
Fans can follow and take part in the conversation by using the hashtag #PlayersWeekend on all social media platforms.
Ozzie Albies, Jose Berrios, Alex Bregman, Edwin Diaz, Didi Gregorius, Enrique Hernandez, Rhys Hoskins, Brandon Nimmo and Jose Pujols will be serving as Youth Ambassadors, promoting the event and connecting with young fans in advance of the weekend.
Will there be any charitable proceeds from Players' Weekend?
Game-worn jerseys from Players' Weekend will be auctioned at MLB.com/auctions, with 100 percent of proceeds to be donated to the MLB-MLBPA Youth Development Foundation, a joint effort focused on improving the caliber, effectiveness and ability of amateur baseball and softball across the U.S. and Canada.
Players will also have the opportunity to wear T-shirts highlighting a charity or cause of their choice during pregame workouts and postgame interviews.
Anthony Castrovince has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2004. Read his columns, listen to his podcast and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince.