Nike's MLB uniform release reaches a new level of frustration — a lack of pants

Stephen J. Nesbitt, Patrick Mooney and C. Trent Rosecrans

GOODYEAR, Ariz. – When players walked into the Cincinnati Reds clubhouse Thursday morning, they found white and gray baseball pants on chairs in their lockers. More pants were piled on a table in the middle of the room, and a message on a monitor above asked players to try them on. Doing so brought the familiar feeling of pulling on an old sock.

Because they are right.

Among the many issues surrounding the release of Nike's new MLB uniforms this spring is the lack of pants. Nike or Major League Baseball's previous uniform supplier Majestic — some teams are reusing pants from previous seasons — because there aren't enough new Nike pants for all players and uniformed personnel. The Reds have told players to plan on wearing their old pants during spring training.

“The universal concern,” said MLBPA executive director Tony Clark, “is the pants.”

Nike didn't directly respond to questions, but did provide one Athletic Its first report since player complaints first surfaced last week.

“We always put the athlete at the center of everything we do,” says a Nike statement. “We worked closely with MLB players, teams and the league to create the lightest and most flexible uniforms in MLB history.

“The quality and performance of our product is very important to us. We will continue to work with MLB, the players and our manufacturing partner to address player uniforms.

Major League Baseball also released a statement through a spokesperson. “Like every spring training, Fanatics team services, Nike and MLB representatives visit camps to meet with all players, conduct uniform fitting sessions with them, and get feedback on how their uniforms fit,” MLB's statement said. “Based on players' requests, changes are made to jersey size, waist, inseam, length, thigh fit and bottom of their trousers.

“The goal of these meets is to provide the players with the most comfortable uniforms available for opening day. We are in close contact with our clubs and match partners to ensure they have what they need for opening day.

As Clark and players union officials make the rounds in spring training, they continue to hear widespread complaints. After meeting with Chicago Cubs players Thursday morning in Mesa, Ariz., Clarke admitted, “It's disappointing that we've landed in a place where the uniforms are debatable.” Even the negative comments about uniforms aren't centered around an issue.

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“Each conversation with colleagues provides additional information,” Clark said. “A lot of the rhetoric (Wednesday) confirmed that the pants are clearly visible.”

But a broader issue — beyond the obvious nature, where players have complained about design changes, inconsistent quality and fit issues — is the lack of pants to offer teams.

“There are teams with pants and jerseys,” Clark said. “There are some teams that don't have pants. There are other teams that need to get some things done before the start of the year. There are others – if they have a problem with the trousers and a player needs a new pair – there are none in stock.

Nike began a 10-year deal as MLB's official uniform supplier ahead of the 2020 season. The Fanatics have made Nike's jerseys since 2020 from the same Easton, Pa., factory where the Majestic uniforms were made. A spokesman for Fanatics, which manufactures the uniforms, declined to comment.

In his Grapefruit League speech last week, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred defended Nike and its new uniforms, praising the company's track record and the concerns of waving players.

“After people wear them for a while, I think they'll be more popular,” he said.

Yet when spring training games begin, players and coaches are still pulling on old pants — some by choice, some by necessity.

The National League star has so far refused to wear the new pants. An American League star had a Goldilocks experience with his fit: too tight in one spot, too loose in another, just right in a third. The coach tried on the new Nike uniform on the first day of practice, then went home and found the old pair he was wearing. A player who wears stirrups lamented that his pants can be cut high or low but there is no in-between. A club only received one set of new Nike shorts on Wednesday – coincidentally, they had to wear them for the official photo day.

In years past, players were fitted early in spring training and could request all kinds of customization, and they'd receive the final, tailored products weeks before Opening Day. Now, according to many players who have recently been fitted, requests to take an inch off the thigh or bicep are rejected. Instead, players are sorted by four body types based on a body scan of more than 300 players Nike and Fanatics conducted last spring, along with five different pant openings — three options: slim, regular and baggier fit. Nike adjusts sleeve and pant lengths, but does not shape specific areas.

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Padres starter Joe Musgrove wore last year's pants when he started the first game of a Cactus League game Thursday. Asked when he would get the new ones, Musgrove replied, “Hopefully on launch day.” Musgrove remembers first trying on a new Nike jersey last spring, called the Nike Vapor Premier. The models provided weren't exactly the right length for every player, so it was difficult to gauge fit at the time.

“Bands are bands,” Musgrove said. “We're going to wear them. If they don't fit, you've got to deal with it. It's not the most important thing. … Honestly, our job is to go out there and play baseball. So you can do all you want about not liking the b—— pants, but you've got to deal with it. .

If Nike cannot supply enough pants to meet the current needs of certain players' clubs, players will not be able to wear them in the weeks leading up to the regular season.

“Guys will be pissed off,” said the player. “You don't want to worry about those bulls on opening day.”

“Looks like it,” echoed another player.

Reds catcher Luke Maile doesn't mind the new uniform. It fits well. It's good. He was frustrated that consistent snafus continued, and clubhouse attendants were responsible for sorting out the mess. They refit players, root through storage rooms and find enough old pants to adorn the roster.

“The biggest misconception right now is that players are complaining about the pants they're wearing and not being prima donnas,” Maile said. “We work with our clubhouse assistants every day. They take care of almost everything in our lives, and with the amount of work they have to do, it's very disappointing to see this kind of decline — not just on our end, but on theirs as well.”

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Nike A release said Last week's new jersey was made over the years. The jerseys were shown to teams during 2022 spring practice. According to MLB.com, and the Players Association also reviewed the uniforms. Clarke confirmed conversations about new uniforms went back “two years”, however, he did not feel the union's suggestions had been addressed.

“We provided input — suggested what the challenges would be — and they needed to be fixed on the front end. They weren't,” Clark said. “There was a Nike and league announcement (last week) and then all of a sudden you start asking guys what they see on the floor. (There are) very few answers.

“That's why I say it's a series of conversations where every day has brought something new that doesn't seem as meaningful as you'd like.”

It's unclear if Nike intends to make changes to the uniforms ahead of Opening Day. Clark said some of the design changes are understandable; The thin, lightweight performance fabric of the Nike Vapor Premier, for example, necessitated the introduction of smaller numbers and letters on the jersey.

“And yet in the feedback we've gotten, some guys are disappointed with the tops,” Clark said. “Others will work through them.”

Pants are the biggest concern for most players, Clark said. “But I don't know what the fix might be or how quickly we can get there.”

In case there was a hiccup with the uniform, Redshirt had a stock of old pants on hand. They wear red tops during spring training, so wearing the old pants doesn't clash with the new tops (which are slightly whiter). No one knows for sure what will happen on opening day, but the Reds have at least one solution for the month.

Maile made it clear that he wasn't expecting perfection, just pants.

“Are we going to make it work? Sure,” he said. “Was the old way better? Probably. But again, man, our work can compete. That's what we have to do. Let's do it no matter what.”

AthleticDennis Lynn contributed to this report.

(Reds pitchers and catchers in spring training: Kareem Elkazar/The Enquirer/USA TODAY)

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