MIAMI -- A unicorn, legend has it, is a mythical animal most commonly represented as a horse with a single, straight horn protruding from its forehead.So, what does a unicorn have to do with Marlins reliever Brad Ziegler? Basically, nothing but then again, everything because the 37-year-old right-hander with a
MIAMI -- A unicorn, legend has it, is a mythical animal most commonly represented as a horse with a single, straight horn protruding from its forehead.
So, what does a unicorn have to do with Marlins reliever Brad Ziegler? Basically, nothing but then again, everything because the 37-year-old right-hander with a submarine-style delivery will sport "Unicorn" on the back of his jersey during MLB's Players Weekend from Friday-Sunday.
• Players Weekend gear available at MLBShop.com
The story behind the nickname was born in Spring Training.
Ziegler, an offseason free-agent signing, came into Spring Training with a specialized throwing program. Mostly he was pitching on back fields, while his teammates were playing in Grapefruit League games.
The infrequency of being seen by the regulars didn't go unnoticed, and first baseman Justin Bour eventually dubbed Ziegler the "Unicorn."
"Justin Bour was the one who coined the name," Ziegler said. "March 12 was my first Spring Training game. Even then, about half of my games in Spring were on back fields. I was more like this mythological creature. They didn't know if I existed or not."
You have to do some digging, but there is indeed statistical evidence that Ziegler pitched in Grapefruit League games. It wasn't often, five games and five innings.
• Players Weekend: Nicknames of the game
Although he had an abbreviated number of outings, Ziegler now has a nickname that he will proudly wear on the back of his jersey.
"To this day, there are still guys calling me that every day," Ziegler said.
MLB and the MLB Players Association are introducing the inaugural Players Weekend on Aug. 25-27, when players will have the opportunity to have a nickname placed on the back of the jerseys made by Majestic Athletic, as well as to wear and use uniquely colored and designed spikes, batting gloves, wristbands, compression sleeves, catcher's masks and bats.
Players also will wear specially designed caps by New Era, and unique socks from Stance. During pregame workouts and postgame interviews, they will wear T-shirts highlighting a charity or cause of their choice.
"I like stuff that shows some personality, as long as it's not offensive to other guys or derogatory in any way," said Ziegler, who also will have "Unicorn" written on his cleats.
The Marlins will be well represented during Players Weekend. Giancarlo Stanton will sport "Cruz;" Christian Yelich, "Yeli;" Marcell Ozuna, "The Big Bear;" Dee Gordon, "Varis Strange;" Ichiro Suzuki, "Ichi;" Miguel Rojas, "Miggy Ro;" Dan Straily, "Rojo;" J.T. Realmuto "JT," and Jose Urena, "El Nueve."
Also, each player will wear a special patch on his sleeve showing the progression of a child evolving into a Major Leaguer. Under that logo is white space, and every player will mark a name of a person whom they are grateful to for helping them advance their careers, such as family or a coach.
Game-worn, Players Weekend jerseys will be auctioned at MLB.com/auctions with 100 percent of net proceeds donated to the MLB-MLBPA Youth Development Foundation, a joint effort established in July 2015 by MLB and the MLBPA with an initial commitment of $30 million focused on improving the caliber, effectiveness and availability of amateur baseball and softball programs across the United States and Canada.
"You see everybody's personality," Ziegler said. "There are guys who have basic nicknames from their last name. I don't have any other one, except for Zieg and Ziegy. That's what I would have been if not for those moments in Spring Training."
Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast.