The bizarre story of how Phils players prepped for City Connect unis

April 6th, 2024

This story was excerpted from Todd Zolecki’s Phillies Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

For months, Zack Wheeler and his Phillies teammates tried to learn the colors of their City Connect uniforms. They wanted the scoop, not only because they were curious about the look, but because they wanted to order spikes, shoes and accessories for the season.

Very few people had seen the jersey or cap in the weeks before Spring Training. Some had seen mockups, five-second looks from somebody’s phone. But nobody was allowed to say anything. Nobody was supposed to confirm the colors. (They are midnight navy and Neptune blue, by the way.) Nike and the Phillies wanted to keep everything a secret until Friday morning’s unveiling at Citizens Bank Park.

Despite everybody’s best efforts, the jersey leaked anyway in late January.

A jersey with Wheeler’s name and number on the back appeared on eBay. This jersey was completely different than anything anybody had ever seen. It had “PHILLY” on the front in white letters. It was dark and light blue with yellow letters and numbers on the back.

It didn’t take long for Phillies fans and uniform junkies to speculate that this was the Phillies’ City Connect jersey. They were correct, although the club never commented on it.

Bryson Stott texted Wheeler that morning to tell him the news.

“Good job,” Stott said. “Way to post it on eBay. You could have posted it on Facebook and nobody would have seen it.”

How did it happen?

It is a tale that started at sea.

Container ships from around the world arrive every day up and down the East Coast, including PortMiami. Once the ships dock, the shipping containers are placed on land. Later, the goods inside those containers are removed.

Sometimes, somebody opens a box inside one of the containers and grabs a bottle of cologne, a watch, a sweater.

Sometimes they snag a jersey.

They only take one, because almost nobody will notice or care if one bottle of cologne, one watch, one sweater, one jersey, etc., goes missing.

The Phillies heard that somebody at PortMiami had grabbed a Phillies City Connect jersey from a box, not knowing the significance of it. The person took the item home, plopped it on their kitchen counter, snapped a photo and posted it on eBay.

If this person had opened a different box and grabbed a Wheeler powder-blue jersey instead, nobody would have been the wiser.

But everybody noticed, including the authorities, presumably.


But at least it gave Wheeler and his teammates more time to order their gear for the first City Connect game on Friday.

“It’s good we saw it,” Wheeler said. “It gave us a head start.”