As soon as Cole Irvin walked into the clubhouse after his promotion to the Orioles this week, the left-handed pitcher noticed the array of jerseys hanging in lockers. He saw the Arizona Coyotes, the San Jose Sharks, the Seattle Kraken — and Irvin immediately knew.
The Orioles were preparing for a theme day on their road trip to Toronto, and Irvin promptly texted his wife, in need of a favor.
“Hey, can you overnight a jersey?” he wrote.
The Detroit Red Wings sweater arrived just in time for Irvin to wear it on the flight to Toronto on Thursday, and he wasn’t alone in the outfit choice.
Around Baltimore’s clubhouse, each player selected a jersey that fit his personality for the first road trip theme of the season. Some paid homage to where they grew up. Others repped players or teams they used in video games as kids. And some, knowing little beyond that hockey is played on ice, chose based on the color alone.
That’s how closer Félix Bautista wound up with a San Jose Sharks jersey in his locker, along with the throwback Vancouver Grizzles uniform he’ll wear on the Orioles’ NBA theme day in San Francisco early next month. Both are of the same teal, drawing Bautista’s attention.
“To tell you the truth,” Bautista said through team interpreter Brandon Quinones, “I don’t really know anything about hockey. I simply chose that jersey because it’s one of my favorite colors.”
Whatever the reason, from the purely cosmetic to the childhood stories of fandom, the Orioles gathered their favorite NHL and NBA jerseys for the next two road trips. When they convene for a team picture it will give, in part, a glimpse of the geographical makeup of the team.
Or, in other cases, purely which colors look best.
“Us going to Toronto, it’s like, Canada is the home of hockey,” right-hander Tyler Wells said. “It’s a perfect opportunity for us to wear our hockey jerseys out there, and I think it’s a lot of fun. And obviously the road trip to San Francisco is our basketball jersey one, and some of the greatest basketball players to have ever played the game are in San Francisco. So it created a good opportunity for us all to express ourselves in different ways.”
For Wells, that comes in the form of an Anaheim Ducks jersey. During college in San Bernadino, California, Wells’ roommate roped him into watching the Ducks on TV or playing as them on his NHL video game.
It’s a throwback to the one hockey team Wells has any connection to, having moved around among Oklahoma, West Virginia and California growing up. And, when he wore the Anaheim jersey on the plane ahead of Baltimore’s three-game series with the Blue Jays, there was an added benefit to tie his connection to the Ducks with the Orioles.
“I just think that the orange and black is a nice touch,” Wells said. “It kind of works out perfectly.”
Infielder Gunnar Henderson also went with an Anaheim Ducks jersey, but the reasoning is unique.
“Me, being from the south and doing some duck hunting, I thought, may as well do something I actually know,” Henderson said. He bought a throwback jersey of the Mighty Duck logo used in the 1990s. “Of course, the one that I chose is one of the hardest ones to find.”
But he found it, although he had to squeeze into a large instead of an extra-large to make the trip work.
Outfielder Anthony Santander still has a Washington Capitals jersey he got in 2021, so he planned to wear that for the first leg of the theme day. Since then, he’s gotten more into hockey, admiring the speed and skill and calling it “soccer on ice.”
For the second road trip, Santander entered into the heart of a classic basketball debate. He bought a Michael Jordan jersey and reflected on the difference between basketball then and now.
“I like basketball. For me, basketball is a physical game,” Santander said. “I like Jordan, because back in the day that was physical. Being able to score in big moments, 48 points a game, with that type of physical game? That’s tough, man. Right now? It’s not that tough. I mean, it’s still the NBA, but you know what I say, man? The physicality is not the same.”
Left-hander Danny Coulombe and right-hander Kyle Bradish represented the Coyotes, a nod to Arizona, the state in which they grew up. Ryan McKenna, born in Oregon yet raised in Maine, chose a Vegas Golden Knights jersey instead of a Boston Bruins one because the “jerseys are sweet.”
But there’s also some correlation between the recent expansion franchise and the Orioles, in McKenna’s eyes: “They’re kind of young, the new kid on the block, making some noise.”
For the NBA-themed road trip, McKenna plans to represent with a Toronto Raptors Tracy McGrady jersey, a selection based on the outfielder’s memories of playing with the Hall of Famer on NBA video games growing up.
Wells went with Luka Dončić of the Dallas Mavericks, but he might return that in favor of a Dirk Nowitzki jersey, donning the uniform of one of the few people taller than the 6-foot-8 Wells.
“A tall guy with blonde hair might work out,” Wells said. “Play the part. Maybe get a longer blonde wig or let the hair grow out.”
For catcher Adley Rutschman and right-hander Austin Voth, their decisions were no-brainers. Both raised in the Pacific Northwest (Rutschman in Oregon, Voth in Washington), they chose Seattle Kraken hockey jerseys. They differed on NBA fits, with Rutschman choosing a Damian Lillard Portland Trail Blazers jersey while Voth opted for the now-defunct Seattle SuperSonics.
Voth went to only one Sonics game before the franchise moved to Oklahoma City; if Seattle gets an NBA expansion team, he would be first in line to support it.
“To my core, I’m going to be repping Seattle sports,” Voth said. “I love the Seahawks. The Kraken, they have their expansion team two years ago, got added and everything. And even the Sounders [of Major League Soccer], I’ve been to a couple Sounders games.”
In a sense, Irvin was the exact opposite growing up in Southern California. When he went to an Anaheim Ducks game when he was 8 or 9, the contrarian in him looked beyond the hometown team and he became fond of the Red Wings. To this day, the Wings are the only team he follows avidly, and his wife came through by sending his jersey in time to wear on the plane.
But now that Irvin lives near Charlotte, North Carolina, he figured it was the perfect time to buy a Hornets Muggsy Bogues jersey — wearing Baltimore’s very own basketball star for the next road trip to San Francisco.
No two reasons are the same. And that’s the point of the Orioles’ road trip theme day.
“Get to see guys’ personality come out a little bit,” Voth said, “what their interests are.”