The first thing you'll notice is the players returning to the fields.
The second thing you'll notice is the new caps they are wearing.
Major League Baseball and New Era on Monday introduced a revolutionary line of Diamond Era 59FIFTY caps that will be worn by your favorite players throughout Spring Training and during all batting practice sessions in 2013. The caps are available for pre-order at the MLB.com Shop and will ship starting Feb. 22, in time for the first Spring Training games in Arizona and Florida.
Style and functionality take a big leap forward with the new generation of caps. You'll see some fresh designs, including many popular logos and color combinations worn for the first time on an official on-field cap. They range from Mr. Met to the A's elephant to a single maple leaf for Toronto. Players will experience improved technology, including better moisture management and sun protection with these more lightweight lids.
"New Era continues to raise the bar in performance headwear and we are excited to introduce the Diamond Era Collection as our most innovative product offering yet," said Todd Sokolowski Sr., director of on-field product for New Era, the official cap of MLB. "We've already received great feedback and we're all eager to share the collection with baseball fans everywhere."
"Many of these new caps feature popular designs that will be appearing on an on-field cap for the first time ever, so we expect them to be well-received by fans," said MLB director of licensing Ryan Samuelson. "The caps will also be more popular among players due to the advanced technology and increased moisture wicking."
The new cap, which is part of an overall spring rollout of new MLB Authentic gear, incorporates new NE TECH performance technology. Made with a new state-of-the art performance diamond print fabric, the Diamond Era 59FIFTY is lighter for increased breathability. It also features SOLAREA, 50+ UV protection that helps deflect the sun's rays, in keeping with MLB's "Play Sun Smart" effort to protect players exposed to the sun, and COOLERA technology that wicks away sweat to keep players comfortable and dry.
In addition to all Cactus and Grapefruit League games and season-long BP sessions, these caps will see a bit of official game time as well. Select teams, during designated games throughout the season, will wear the Diamond Era 59FIFTY in place of the traditional on-field cap.
The New York Knickerbockers adopted the first official uniform on April 24, 1849, and the first baseball caps were chip (or straw) hats. A few years later, the club switched to a cap made of merino (a soft, fine wool) that featured the two main characteristics of the modern-day baseball cap: a crown and a bill (or visor).
In 2007, MLB and New Era introduced the first major transformation in more than a half century, as wool gave way to caps that provided moisture management and were dark under the visors to help shield the sun. It was part of an initiative by Commissioner Bud Selig to provide greater "performance wear" for the athletes, and indeed such changes have abounded for other aspects of the modern uniform.
Click through the Shop's selection to see all of the new designs. Cincinnati fans, for example, will see a moustachioed Mr. Redleg, who has made an occasional appearance in uniforms throughout the history of the oldest existing MLB franchise. Braves pitchers and catchers will report Tuesday to their camp at ESPN's Wide World of Sports complex in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., and they will be wearing new caps that are solid navy with a red script "A" on the front.
"We had a variety of choices that we looked at, some more thoroughly than others. But at the end, we liked this one," Braves president John Schuerholz said. "When we made our decisions, we tried to contemplate. We tried to be creative. We tried to carry on the theme of our organization, and we think this script A does that. It is part of the continuum of the uniform look we have. We've never had one that looks like this during Spring Training."
Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. Read and join other baseball fans on his MLB.com community blog. MLB.com reporter Mark Bowman contributed to this story.