Baseball Equipment Managers Are Heroes

Credits: Photo - Anonymous, Styling - Sarah G. Schmidt, Location - Rogers Centre, Toronto

People are often surprised that my curiosity in fashion extends past the runway. Specifically, when I chat to people about sports team’s mascots, names, and jerseys, they often say that they didn’t consider team uniform’s a part of fashion. "Why not?" I ask. While I personally don’t find wearing althetica when not being athletic chic, I will not deny or discount it's role or how mega the sector is for the economy.

It is estimated that the $14 billion sportswear sector will continue to grow year over year well past 2020. To me it makes sense that when you’re working out or playing a game one would gear up. Our society encourages healthy, active lifestyle that includes gearing up in sportswear. I encourage all people to wear the appropriate clothing for the task at hand. 

Where people drop the ball – I couldn’t help myself – is when they think one outfit can do it all. It can’t. Please remember to make sure to take off your yoga pants or sweaty shorts after you’re done. Wearing sporting gear while playing or watching sports makes sense. Of course it does. My favourite sport is baseball, even from a very young age, and there’s no team better than the Blue Jays. Oh, baseball.

Baseball can be a slow sport to watch. There is plenty of time to ponder all sorts of things between the pitches and innings. Ever notice how pristine baseball jerseys look in the first inning compared to the latter part of the game? No matter what slide, tag, or diving catch happened the day before, each game the athletes come out in oh-so-fresh gear that will likely get mucked up all over again.

I appreciate and respect that the purpose of the gear is to support the player in the game. It shouldn’t matter how messed up it gets. While I understand that, I too, can’t stop thinking about how much work it must be to get those uniforms clean. Even the cleats are as nice as new after being in that red shale and grassy turf for nine or more innings. Somebody has to do it. In the case of the Blue Jays it’s a whole team.

The equipment manager and his (her) staff’s job is to ensure the players have what they need uniform-wise so that they can focus all the effort on their game. That means multiple pairs of pants, jerseys, socks, cleats, hats, gloves, bats, helmets, protective hitting gear, warm up jackets, sneakers, base layer, and yes, jock straps. At home there’s 40 players; when they travel it’s 25 players. Can you imagine the amount of stuff that 25-40 players would need? The same article above details what spring training was like for the Jays.

Every morning, when the players start arriving at the stadium – some by 6 o’clock or earlier – they enter the sprawling clubhouse to find their personal locker space has been magically transformed. Instead of the mess many players leave behind at the end of each day, their space has been neatly organized, with several pairs of shiny cleats and running shoes resting side-by-side on the floor, ready to wear.
Anywhere from three to four pairs of freshly laundered baseball pants will be hanging inside the closet space alongside roughly a half-dozen Blue Jays jerseys and T-shirts of different colours. Belts and jock straps dangle on hooks. All the clothing, once worn, is thrown into one of three industrial-sized washing machines that seemingly run around the clock. Most of the clothing is marked with the player’s spring-training number so it can be returned to the proper owner after it has been dried and neatly folded.

It's not just baseball that has a lot to take care of. I found a similar perspective from another Canadian team. A recent Toronto Raptors article outlines what that takes in basketball where they have to balance their sponsored and unsponsored players.

Regardless of the professional team sport, it must be a humongous operation to ensure your active roster has no uniform related delays in getting on that field. I say we give a shout out to equipment managers everywhere keeping their team looking sharp.

Still don't care? Need something to get you through? The next time you’re caught watching a game that’s not piquing your fashion interest, take a minute and look around you. If you’re at a live game, play merchandise math. Make guesses on how many people are wearing merchandise and times that by, say, $25. Let's say the stadium is half full with an estimated, 20,000 viewers and at least 50% are wearing some team gear, that’s $250,000 spent easily. Whoa. If you’re not at the game but still watching, anyone can place quarter bets on whose jerseys will stay clean or get dirty and by what inning. Make a grid and make your predictions. Does the pitcher get any spot - knees, hips, tush - of his pants before the 6th? How about the short stop? Centre field?

Just like many other things, there’s more to baseball than just the game. The gear is, to me, just as fascinating.