Taking a page out of the NBA’s playbook, Rob Manfred is using aesthetics and fashion to attract casual fans. Last year, Nike collaborated with each MLB franchise to perfectly construct uniforms that utilize specific parts of the region of play or tap into the charismatic personality of the cities participating. The City Connect uniforms have traditionalist fans rolling their eyes, but those that love them are big, vocal supporters. Not every team has debuted them but it has been a slow leak since Nike and MLB announced the series in 2021.
In 2021, we had the release of seven City Connect uniforms which were just as polarizing as you’d imagine, The Boston Red Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers, Chicago Cubs, Arizona Diamondbacks, Chicago White Sox, Miami Marlins, and San Francisco Giants all introduced these flashy-styled jerseys to the league.
The release schedule was scattered, but some of these jerseys could not stay in the retail store. They were flying off of the shelves which surely means these uniforms would stick around. The teams that had City Connect uniforms released last year will continue their use this year.
We had news last year about the release schedule for the 2022 season. We will get the Houston Astros on April 20th, the Kansas City Royals on April 30th, the Colorado Rockies on June 4th, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim on June 11th, the Milwaukee Brewers on June 24th, and the releases will be capped off by the San Diego Padres on July 8th.
— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) March 29, 2022
D.C.’s Rich History of Cherry Blossoms
The Nationals’ uniforms are well thought out and offer insight into the character of the city. Nike stepped outside of the normal color palette of the franchise, which allowed them to be more creative, and designers were able to tie two vital parts of Washington, D.C. in these uniforms.
Anyone familiar with the city during the Spring would immediately recognize the importance of cherry blossoms. However, left as a small nuanced touch to the uniforms is the font on the front of the jerseys that is a tie to the classical buildings and infrastructure. On the shoulder of the jersey is D.C.’s flag, and the uniform is completed with cream-colored pants.
In a world full of negativity, the Nats were flooded with almost all positive feedback from individuals on social media, even calling for it to be their best uniforms yet. Fans appreciated how the designers were able to tie in the cherry blossoms without looking over the top or cheesy. The uniform even includes the cherry blossoms on the hat, and these uniforms should continue to fly off the shelves throughout the season.
The only negative feedback to the jerseys from the fans was a noncommittal approach to the pink color scheme. The Nationals dipped their toes into the pink, but fans almost wanted them to go full tilt, similar to the city brethren, the Wizards. Either way, it’s awesome to have teams in the same city collaborating and creating a cohesive touch.
Cherry Blossoms’ Significance to Washington, D.C.
Cherry Blossom, Washington DC pic.twitter.com/h59x3sVQKj
— Dr. Fadji Maina (@Yafadj) March 23, 2022
Baseball is a sport immersed in history and that’s what a lot of people love about it.
These jerseys were not just made because the flowers in the area were pretty. They certainly are, but it goes deeper than that. Since 1912, the gifting of cherry blossoms as a gesture of good faith has become a tradition. This process also became cemented as a huge staple of the D.C. community and city.
Who knew that when Mayor Yukio Ozaki of Tokyo gifted 3,000 cherry blossom trees, it would be such a huge deal over 100 years later?
The gift idea was not random. According to how the story goes, Eliza Ruhamah Scidmore was the inaugural female member of the board sitting for ideas and conversation concerning the National Geographic Society. Back in 1985, she wanted to get cherry blossoms over to the United States. She came up with the idea after becoming so enamored by the existence and beauty of cherry blossoms throughout her visit to Japan. She was floored by their beauty.
The idea existed to get the cherry blossoms over to Washington D.C., but it took around 17 years for someone to listen. She wanted them planted alongside the Potomac River and she was insistent that it would look beautiful despite being ignored for years.
Not to be deterred, Scidmore never gave up and started to raise the money necessary to purchase the cherry trees. She planned to give them to the D.C. area herself.
Writing for the Necessary Help
Paired with her plan, she also penned a tactful, well-written letter to the then-first lady, Helen Herron Taft. This was the final piece that finally got everyone on board. With the first lady of the United States backing her, she was in business.
Funny how that works, right? It all depends on who you know. Some things never change. Within a few days, there were Japanese scientists ready and willing to donate 2,000 trees to D.C. immediately.
Not to go smoothly, there was a snag when the Department of Agriculture found that the cherry blossoms were diseased and had to be destroyed. They were worried that they would affect the natural wildlife in the area. Those first 2,000 trees were burned and gotten rid of. But Schidmore’s dream would not die in the embers of those original cherry blossoms.
On March 26, 1912, 3,020 cherry trees arrived as a gift from Tokyo in Washington. They were promptly planted in the same spot where the last ones were. Some of the origins of the original tree can be traced here.
Years later, the inaugural Cherry Blossom Festival was scheduled and planned in 1927.
As D.C. residents know, this has expanded well beyond what it was intended to be all those years ago. Instead of just one day, the celebration is extended throughout four weekends in March and April and brings in tourists to see the beautiful sight. It’s beautiful, but the 1.5 million that comes in for tourism helps the local economy. (Source: Arlington Tours)
With how well thought out the jerseys are, it helps even the most ardent traditionalist accept change.
A Deeper Dive into the History
This day in baseball1910
At American League Park in Washington, D.C., William Taft becomes the first president to throw out the ceremonial first pitch. The Chief Executive stays to see a great game when Senator legend Walter Johnson one-hits the A's in the season opener, 3-0. pic.twitter.com/lUWudL6flB
— Bubba on Baseball (@bubbaonbaseball) April 14, 2020
You can tie these uniforms even further into the history of Opening Day and baseball’s rich and textured timeline. Helen Taft was the first lady and is credited with getting the cherry blossom movement underway in Washington D.C. Her husband, William Howard Taft was 27th United States President from 1909 to 1913. He was the first president to hurl out the first pitch on a Major League Baseball Opening Day. On April 14, 1910, he took the mound before the game and tossed the ball before the Washington Senators beat the Philadelphia Athletics.
The Taft family is important to baseball and the Washington D.C. area. Whether people know it or not, this uniform is truly a tribute to the rich collaborating efforts between baseball and the United States.
It’s as beautiful as the cherry blossoms that bloom along the waters in Washington, D.C.
Featured Image by Ethan Kaplan (@DJFreddie10 on Twitter)