The Boston Red Sox knew that if they were going to offer up an alternative uniform under the brand-new MLB City Connect Series from provider Nike, the design had to be different. It couldn’t be safe. A yellow and blue Patriots Day and Boston Marathon-themed design isn’t safe.
“If we are going to do it and be with Nike on this, they encouraged us and said, ‘let’s do it big,’” says Adam Grossman, Red Sox execute vice president and chief marketing offer. “As a club, we raised our hand early in the process and wanted to be up front on it and wanted to do something different right now.”
Nike took over the MLB uniform contract in 2020 and for the 2021 season MLB and Nike have partnered on a new MLB City Connect Series uniform concept. Starting with seven clubs for 2021, the series explores a team’s identity through a connection to its city and fanbase, pulling out distinct personalities. Boston was the first design revealed and it kicked off the program in a noticeable way. “I think we thought the impact might be greater because we are a historic, traditional franchise going in a different direction,” Grossman says. “The impact might be felt beyond the organization.”
Wil Green, Nike senior creative director, says that the uniforms, which include Boston, both Chicago teams, Arizona, San Francisco and Los Angeles, all call out festivals, celebrations and anniversaries that matter to each club and their city, so starting with a Patriots Day-based design from Boston was a connection worth exploring.
The Boston uniform uses the yellow and blue from the Boston Marathon as the new base colors for the design and features the Fenway Park 617 area code in the form of a race bib as a patch. The Boston wordmark across the front is in a stencil pattern akin to the font that is at the marathon finish line on Boylston Street, something “that is up all year round, it is part of the city.” The socks include a blue “B” logo and the only touch of red on the entire look with the hanging socks logo. And while most of the uniform is fresh, Grossman says there was never any discussion about changing the “B” on the cap. “That is something that is pretty sacred,” he says,” we didn’t want to screw around with changing that ‘B.’”
The Red Sox will debut the look on the field for the April 17 and 18 games before wearing their Boston Strong uniforms on Patriots Day, April 19.
Grossman says that Nike’s original pitch included 10 concepts, some rougher than others, but it was Patriots Day weekend that stood out as uniquely Boston, something the Red Sox also play a role in with a Monday morning game on the holiday. With the theme and story sorted, Grossman says there weren’t many changes to the original concept. “We said this resonates, it feels different, it doesn’t feel safe,” he says. “in a good way it makes us nervous.”
The response has been largely positive, Grossman says, even though the club didn’t know what to expect. The players have been excited to wear the design and fans have gravitated toward the look. Grossman says during the process with Nike the team learned the story was number one, the design had to be great and they had to understand the new option wouldn’t be for everyone and that was okay. “These are not meant to replace our home uniforms, but they are a complement, an accent,” he says.
“With Nike MLB City Connect, we—Nike, MLB and the clubs—want to take baseball uniform design to a new place that allows us to grow the game with young and diverse fans,” Green says. “The learnings from the inaugural City Connect season will help us deepen our connection with the clubs and their fans. In year two, we’re bringing on new clubs and we will continue to collaborate with them in a manner that honors their heritage while creating new traditions.”
“We are taking a variety of steps to make baseball more accessible to a younger and more diverse audience of fans,” says Noah Garden, MLB chief revenue officer. “Nike brings credibility and innovative designs that resonate with those audiences. We love their ideas for developing uniform creativity that is rooted in our club’s deep connection within their communities.”
With the Boston uniform already for sale and set for its on-field debut April 17, Nike says the Miami Marlins design will release May 21, the Chicago White Sox on June 5, the Chicago Cubs on June 12, the Arizona Diamondbacks on June 18, the San Francisco Giants on July 9 and the Los Angeles Dodgers in late August.
“I haven’t seen any of the other teams but I’m really excited to see how they roll out,” Grossman says. “I think it is a great thing for MLB and baseball fans and the players to have something different to experiment with.”
Tim Newcomb covers gear and business for Baseball America. Follow him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb.