When baseball is life, the concept of changing into practice gear simply doesn't exist. You're always ready to take cuts.
Nike designers learned as much on a trip to the Dominican Republic, visiting baseball academies and seeing these players that inundate their lives with baseball. But that translates to the United States too, says Kris Leeper, Nike product manager, and one of the men behind the brand-new Nike Baseball Flux line, a lifestyle product that blurs the edges of lifestyle and performance.
"We are trying to come up with something that these baseball players can wear to transition from regular life to baseball practice," he says. "It is a hybrid type of line that crosses both sides. It represents the flow of life from school to practice and is meant to be worn as a performance product, but meant to work off the field. You can go straight from school and hit BP in the same gear."
Set to debut for the 2017 holiday season, the initial introduction of Flux includes a ¾ sleeve shirt, ¾ sleeve performance fleece sweatshirt, shorts and pants. As Leeper explored the Dominican off the advice of colleague Mike Lowe, he spoke to players there about what they desired in baseball gear. Then he had the same conversations in the United States. No matter the language or demographic, the same word kept coming up: comfy. Not comfortable, but comfy. So, Nike keyed in on that universal trend—whether a player from Georgia, California or the Dominican Republic—and introduced to Nike Baseball for the first time a new French terry performance fleece, workable for multiple weather conditions.
The Dri-Fit fabric doesn't have the synthetic look of many Nike products, instead opting for a bit more of an old-school fabric design with new-school technologies. The shirt comes in a tri-blend fabric meant for performance.
Aesthetically, Leeper says Nike wanted to represent the future while respecting the past of such a traditional sport. To tie to Nike's Vapor Elite uniform, they used the ¾ sleeves and added a seam on the back in the form of a V. "Three-quarters means baseball to us and a baseball player see it in a store and it says baseball to them without having to say baseball," Leeper says. He added an unfinished hem to give it a cutoff look, a tradition in baseball. The seams all have raw edges for a further worn-in look. "We have been pleasantly surprised that players have unanimously accepted the look," he says.
The line also features the "Nike BSBL" logo throughout.
Moving beyond the initial launch, Nike already plans additions to the line for later this year and into 2018. Expect new colors for this holiday season and a team line in the future, available for coaches and athletic directors to outfit entire clubs. Nike will also have a MLB consumer version of Flux product licensed for retail in spring 2018.
"With the great positive response we've had for the initial collection, we will be evolving it," Leeper says. "We will keep with the same look same fabrication."
For those who see baseball as life, Nike hopes Flux becomes their uniform.
Tim Newcomb covers gear and business for Baseball America. Follow him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb.