DETROIT -- The Tigers head to Spring Training next week coming off one of the most active offseasons in baseball. As they show off a new-look outfield, batting order and pitching staff for the first time, their spring look will also be a little more blue.After years as the last
DETROIT -- The Tigers head to Spring Training next week coming off one of the most active offseasons in baseball. As they show off a new-look outfield, batting order and pitching staff for the first time, their spring look will also be a little more blue.
After years as the last team to stick with its traditional white and gray uniforms for Spring Training, the Tigers will include navy uniforms for Grapefruit League play next month as part of Major League Baseball's movement toward different looks for Spring Training.
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MLB unveiled the designs last month as part of new lighter-weight Flex Base jerseys from Majestic. A Tigers spokesperson later confirmed they'll be worn for games, not just batting practice.
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Longtime clubhouse manager Jim Schmakel explained the origins during Truck Day activities Tuesday.
"MLB started a concept this year where every team will have a Spring Training jersey [at] home and a Spring Training jersey [on the] road," Schmakel said. "So we'll be wearing a dark jersey for all the games except for a few. There [will be] a few games where we'll still wear our [traditional] home and our road."
Much like Tigers caps during the regular season, the navy jerseys will feature white trim for lettering and numbers for home games, and orange for the road games.
"It's conservative," Schmakel said. "It's not out of control. It'll have a Spring Training patch."
For as long as anyone can remember, including Schmakel through his 37 years on the job, the Tigers have worn their traditional designs throughout the year, including white home jerseys with the Old English "D" that rank among the most familiar looks in sports. Former Tigers beat writer Danny Knobler explained in his recent book, "Numbers Don't Lie: The Biggest Numbers in Tigers History" that former team president John McHale Jr. vetoed blue jerseys and pinstriped pants as an alternate regular-season home uniform in 1995.
While many teams have adopted Spring Training jerseys that resemble alternate uniforms, the Tigers have extended their regular-season look to camp, even during early spring workouts. It hasn't been any sort of public directive so much as a tradition that has carried through the years. The familiar look fit into their history, including their upcoming 80th Spring Training in Lakeland, Fla.
"We just never did it," Schmakel said. "We just felt we were the Detroit Tigers and we were going to wear our whites and grays. I think some people just didn't like wearing the navy, which it would've been."
That said, the team has made incremental changes, wearing blue batting practice tops during workouts in recent years and adopting alternate MLB designs on Spring Training caps the past few seasons. Detroit will wear special Spring Training caps again this year -- all blue with a white-outlined Old English "D" for home games, and bright orange with a blue-outlined "D" on the road. Also like recent years, the Spring Training cap designs will carry over to batting practice hats for the regular season.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast.