NEW YORK — When Cedric Mullins first saw the leaked image of a wrinkled, black jersey strewn across a table, his reaction mirrored what many others thought. In the clubhouse at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday afternoon, Mullins imitated his initial reaction with a grimace.
But when he saw the true City Connect jerseys from Nike — the black tops and bottoms with the hidden color popping from inside — the Orioles center fielder quickly got on board.
“Especially being able to change the way you wear it, showing a little color, let the collar hang, show a little color there,” Mullins said. “The socks lined up with all of it. It’s pretty cool.”
Around Baltimore’s clubhouse, the reactions were similar. Most players bought into the idea put forth by the Orioles that these City Connect jerseys — a line of alternate uniforms launched by Major League Baseball two years ago to promote a bond between the cities and teams — were the first to be designed on the inside with a muted outer color scheme. It was a galaxy-brain idea to symbolize “there’s more to our story.”
Some critics wish there was more to the jersey.
But to Mullins and others, the all-black look is clean. Plus, the multicolored interior of the jersey — which can be visible if players roll the hem of their sleeves or leave their top few buttons undone — rectify the critique of a lack of color. Fans will see it for the first time Friday at Camden Yards, and at other Friday home games throughout the year.
To right-hander Mychal Givens, however, the jerseys leave him wanting a bit more — more color, perhaps, or a throwback to an all-time classic Baltimore uniform. Soon after Givens was selected in the second round of the 2009 draft, he remembers the Orioles wearing a throwback 1970s-style uniform that practically looked like a creamsicle.
Givens is fond of that look, particularly when he thinks of Hall of Famer Jim Palmer wearing the all-orange uniforms.
“It was cool in a sense, but I wish we had a little more flair like other teams have. But if that’s what whoever designed it or whoever approved likes it, we’ll go with it. We’ll put our own little swag to it,” Givens said. “Kind of wanted the Jim Palmer days: all orange. That’s what I was kind of hoping, honestly. If we could’ve got a little Jim Palmer throwback — all orange, orange pants, orange top — that would’ve been pretty cool.”
When outfielder Anthony Santander first walked into a room to see the City Connect jersey, a team video captured the first word out of his mouth: “Oof.”
So, Santander, what does “oof” mean? (Be honest.)
“‘Oof’ means a lot,” he said. “They come with the idea to have a uniform for Baltimore, for the city. That’s something special we’ve been waiting for. But when I saw the color, all black, I like this. It has to be Baltimore. It’s something that shows us some love for the fans, who come out every day to support us, and so happy to wear Baltimore on our chest. Especially for the City Connect. We wear Baltimore.”
Santander said the white belt helped the black pants and jersey pop, and he’s already thinking about how to match his cleats to the uniform. First baseman Ryan O’Hearn was stuck mostly on how to match his cleats with black pants, since he’s only ever worn white or gray bottoms throughout his baseball career.
“Maybe white, maybe black,” O’Hearn said of his cleats, before his eyes lit up with an idea: “Maybe orange.”
That won’t be a problem for right-hander Bryan Baker, who wore black pants throughout his childhood baseball career despite the sweltering Florida summer heat. He figured his mom “didn’t want to clean out all the clay from the white pants” even though it meant baking on a baseball field.
“We always had all-black jerseys, so I didn’t really want to wear an all-black jersey,” Baker said. “But the white belts make the biggest difference for me. The white breaks up the monotony, kind of, of just the all-black blob. The white belt with the white trim, the white B, the colorful other trim, it’s pretty good.”
While some City Connect jerseys have been garish, such as the bright pink and lime green of the San Diego Padres, others are more toned down, such as the Washington Nationals’ gray uniforms with cherry blossom elements.
For Baltimore, almost all the color is out of the public eye. And to most of the players who will actually wear the jersey, that’s OK.
“To me, it’s worse to be too over-the-top,” Baker said. “We’re not a circus. It’s still baseball. Simple, but with a little bit of flair is good.”
“We show what we got in Baltimore inside,” Santander added. “That’s going to be really cool. We have to show what Baltimore has inside.”