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JUNE 22, 2023 EDIT: The Pirates City Connect is in! In addition to adding this one to the rankings, the Cubs move up to #16. 2023’s overall lackluster City Connect performance (namely the Reds, Pirates, and Orioles) called for some newfound appreciation for one of the original entries in the series. Lastly, #10-14 (the Rangers, Red Sox, Diamondbacks, Mariners, and Brewers) all shuffled a little bit.
The thoughts and feelings from the baseball community about the MLB x Nike City Connect program have certainly been mixed over the past few years. While baseball purists are not in favor of the non-traditional, often bright and flashy alternate uniforms, many others (including myself) look forward to the release of the new uniforms adorned with innovative designs and palettes. Each release gives a franchise the opportunity to showcase its admiration for the surrounding community, while providing the players (who are becoming increasingly expressive themselves in this new age of the game) with a uniform that is, theoretically anyway, vastly different stylistically from their standard uniform set.
Now, in June 2023, two thirds of the league has unveiled its City Connect uniforms. As I read over rankings of City Connect uniforms from various outlets, I find that many don’t seem to be appreciating the purpose of the City Connect program. Taking a look at the initial press release, the mission of the program is as follows:
Launched in 2021, the Nike MLB City Connect program was created to celebrate the bond between each Club and its city. This uniform series explores the personality, values and customs that make each community and their residents unique.
Each team behind the uniform designs will obviously interpret this differently, but I still find it is imperative to make some effort to “Connect” with some aspect of its city/region, whether through its personality, values, customs, or another aspect that makes the community or the region itself unique. With this in mind, let’s jump into some rankings, each with a link to the Sportslogos.net entry on the uniform for more information.
Tier 5: Little to No Effort to Connect to the City/Area & Looks Meh
20. Los Angeles Dodgers (-1 from last update)
With a blue cap, jersey, and pants with “Los Dodgers” written on the cap and jersey. Jersey also includes black on the sleeves as a nod to street art culture in Los Angeles. Cap was revised in 2022, moving the “Los Dodgers” to the side, replacing it with the traditional “LA” logo, and adding black to the brim and button. In 2023, white pants with blue piping replaced the blue pants.
These uniforms are just the epitome of lazy and should serve as an example of what not to do when designing City Connects. They offer absolutely nothing original. I will give them that the changes they have made over the years are improvements, but still completely unoriginal. A city with as much culture and personality as Los Angeles deserved better.
Tier 4: Little to No Effort to Connect to the City/Area & Looks Good (Essentially a Good Alternate)
19. Cincinnati Reds (-2 from last update)
With a black base and red accents. The jersey features a diamond shape “C” on the cap and jersey. It also features the word “CINCY” (shorten for Cincinnati) across the chest. On the collar it features an Ohio Buckeye and under it is the motto of Cincinnati, “Juncta Juvant” (“Strength of Unity” in English).
2023’s introductions to the City Connect series have largely been disappointing to me. While the first two years each showed a lot of potential, I am not nearly as inspired by the 2023 bunch – and this can really be summed up nicely by the Reds’ entry. First, the all-black look is played out (see Baltimore below). It worked very well for the White Sox, but I just don’t see that same city personality belonging to Cincinnati (I should preface, however, that I am far from an expert on the culture of Cincinnati). To build off of that, I think the black “Cincy” logo on the black jersey is a bad luck and does not read well at all (something the Marlins’ black alternate uniform struggles with as well). Furthermore, nothing introduced in this uniform actually has anything to do with Cincinnati or the Reds’ storied franchise. The team officially stated that the “waves” in the “C” logo are an homage to the energy of the city, but this means nothing to me. Also, I personally would have preferred “Queen City” on the jersey instead of “Cincy”. Overall, while I dislike much of the uniform, I am a big fan of the cap.
18. Pittsburgh Pirates (NEW)
With a gold base and black accents. The Jersey and Pants colors are inspired for the city of Pittsburgh. The jersey features the abbreviation of Pittsburgh “PGH”. The uniform also features a custom print with three elements, the inverted “Y”, the astroid and the check. Inside of the “PGH” and the numbers on the back features a pattern located on the sides of the Three Sisters Bridges.
[NEW June 22, 2023]
I cannot wait for the minimalism trend in sports uniforms to finally perish. The Pirates follow the Orioles’ and Reds’ lead and turn in another boring City Connect concept. I have several faults with this uniform that ultimately make it a bland City Connect. First, the cap logo is the standard Pirates “P.” This is not inherently bad, the Giants, Padres, Red Sox, and Diamondbacks did the same and I rate them all as fair-to-great, however, the Pirates did so in a colorway they’ve used before. Really, with the exception of the subtle texture provided by the astroids and converged “Y” found throughout the uniform, this looks exactly like the Pirates hat I bought from Lids in 2013. Which leads me to my second issue, the colorway of the entire uniform is unoriginal for the Pirates. I know some like when the City Connects stay true to the clubs’ usual colors, but I do not agree with this. The City Connect program provides each team with an opportunity to create a new, unique uniform. I have the same issues with the Pirates’ choice to use a solid yellow jersey with solid black pants (something the team has done several times before) as I do with the Braves’ decision to essentially modernize a throwback. Lastly, teams using an abbreviation for the city as a focal point of the uniform was already played out (see the Nationals and the Brewers) coming into the Pirates’ reveal. Three of these to do so is too many.
17. Baltimore Orioles (-1 from last update)
With a black base and white accents. The jersey is inspired by Baltimore and its neighborhoods. The cap features an italic B (commonly used on the Orioles Away Jersey). For the jersey, it features the word “Baltimore” in capital letters and white lettering. On the collar and on the piping, it features the colors and shapes of the neighborhoods of Baltimore.
I have largely the same issues with the Orioles’ uniform that I had with the Reds’. It’s kind of amazing to me that MLB thought it best to release these two back-to-back considering their overwhelming similarities. I do give the edge to Baltimore, though, because of the colors on the sleeve cuffs and the white logo, which reads far better than Cincinnati’s black-on-black. It does blow my mind, though, that for a state that loves its flag as much as Maryland does that the flag isn’t featured at all, if not even the straight up base inspiration for the design. While not entirely original, I do like the script “B” (usually reserved for their away uniforms) as the cap logo.
16. Chicago Cubs (+2 from last update)
Dark blue with sky blue accents, with elements inspired by the flag of Chicago. The uniform has “Wrigleyville” on the front, in a lettering style similar to the Wrigley Field marquee.
Truly, the Cubs don’t offer a whole lot more than the Dodgers. At the very least, we have a different color palette than we usually see from the Cubbies, and it’s, of course, nice to see that the choice of colors was inspired by the city’s flag, but there still isn’t a whole lot to love about these mostly bland uniforms. I give them props for using “Wrigleyville” across the chest. There still haven’t been enough City Connects using nicknames for their city/region on the jersey.
15. Atlanta Braves
With a white base, blue sleeves and red accents, heavily inspired by the team’s 1974 season home uniform worn by Hank Aaron when he surpassed Babe Ruth with his 715th home run.
Admittedly, this is a great looking alternate and a wonderful update to a classic Braves uniform, but that’s all it is. It is not a City Connect. The Braves choosing to provide a modern-take on their Hank-Aaron-era uniform, and then double-down and more or less dedicate it to him, is an interesting choice to make when they should have been designing a uniform that connects with the city/region. At least they slapped “The A” on there as a logo to at least pretend to try.
Tier 3: Effective Attempt to Connect with the City/Area & Looks Meh
14. Milwaukee Brewers (-1 from last update)
With a powder blue base, navy accents, yellow and white striping, a grill and bratwurst patch, the team’s “Brew Crew” nickname, and the MKE airport code with “414” blended in on the hat in honor of being in Milwaukee during the summer.
Again, attempts were certainly made. Affectionately using “Brew Crew” on the jersey, a cap logo that features both the airport code (MKE) and the area code (414) of the city, and an overall industrial motif were valiant attempts to connect with the team’s history, along with the city at large. Unfortunately, it just misses the mark. The cap logo, to me, appears messy. “Brew Crew” seems to connect with the team and its players more than the city itself (I am not from Milwaukee nor a fan of the Brewers, though, so who am I to say if this bothers anyone actually involved). I do, however, really enjoy the grill logo on the sleeve. It couldn’t really have been used for anything other than a sleeve logo, but it’s tremendous.
13. Seattle Mariners (-1 from last update)
With a dark blue base with yellow lettering and black pants. It features a patch on the jersey sleeve featuring Mount Rainier, as well as the letters “PNW”, an acronym for Pacific Northwest. The uniform also features the colors of Amarillo, Rush Blue and Sundown, representing the inaugural colors of the team, as well as the word “Seattle” across the chest in the lettering style of the cities first Major League Baseball team, the Seattle Pilots.
I was, indeed, one of the many who were skeptical of the blue jersey/black pants combination, but they really come together nicely on the field. The decision to use a font reminiscent of the Seattle Pilots was a nice touch to provide a bit of a throwback to the city’s roots in Major League Baseball. The PNW patch on the sleeve is an excellent ancillary logo for the uniform, too. Personally, I would have went with an “Emerald City” route with some vibrant green uniforms, but I can’t be too picky.
12. Arizona Diamondbacks (+2 from last update)
Sand-colored with black letters and red numbers, and with “Serpientes” in front as an homage to Arizona’s Hispanic community.
Now we’ve reached the point of the show where I give some teams an “A” for effort. The Diamondbacks tried. They are the team that plays in the desert… here’s some sand-colored uniforms. They have a notable Hispanic population… they went with “Serpientes” on their jersey. The effort is there to connect with the region, it just wasn’t done well. It’s especially perplexing when you consider how well the neighboring Coyotes and Suns design their uniforms. Some inspirations from them would have gone a long way design-wise. Furthermore, I’m sure many Diamondbacks fans would have appreciated some purple in the color palette as an homage to the team’s best uniforms of all-time. I do enjoy the new secondary logo featured above the jock tag. I absolutely would have preferred to see that used as the cap logo instead of their usual “A” icon.
Tier 2: Effective Attempt to Connect with the City/Area & Looks Good
11. Boston Red Sox (-1 from last update)
With a yellow base and blue letters as homage to the Boston Marathon, which normally takes place on Patriots’ Day.
The City Connect project really couldn’t have launched better. The Red Sox understood the assignment and executed. The Boston Marathon, and Patriots’ Day as a whole, are iconic events in the city and for the Red Sox. Their annual late-morning matinee is must-watch TV in Boston, so creating a uniform set to specifically honor the day was a no-brainer. I also like that they went with colors that are completely different from their usual look (something most team’s haven’t done), which is especially notable since the Red Sox haven’t really changed their palette or uniforms considerably in their extensive history. Overall, excellent work here.
10. Texas Rangers (+1 from last update)
A natural, cream-colored top with the “TX” graphic on the right side of the player’s chest. The logo/color treatment is influenced by the gothic lettering of the Dallas Eagles and the “X” includes a spur, a nod to the Dallas-Fort Worth Spurs. The positioning of the graphic and number(s) are consistent with jerseys the Spurs and Cats wore. On the left chest is a number laid out in speed red. The typography is inspired by the 1920 championship medal won by the Fort Worth Panthers. On the right sleeve is a mythical creature – affectionately known as the Peagle – a blend of the mascots of the Rangers’ predecessors, the Fort Worth Panthers/Cats and the Dallas Eagles. The inside collar of the jersey shows a “4*21” reference of the date synonymous with connecting the state of Texas, baseball in Texas, and the Rangers origin story. The jock tag features Mayor Vandergriff’s iconic “Dream the Big Dream” phrase. The pitch blue-colored pants match the “TX” graphic on the jersey and feature rope braid piping in a nod to the logo texture of the Dallas-Fort Worth Spurs. On the front left hip is an icon that pays homage to the Dallas-Fort Worth Spurs, the team that played in Arlington and proved the region could support a Major League Baseball team.
At least within my circle of peers, I seem to be in the minority on these. I actually like them a fair amount. I can’t really describe how or why, but they seem to evoke some sort of old west cowboy sort of aesthetic. The gothic “TX” is a bit hard to read, but it gets the job done. I also really like the spur coming off of the “X”. Another really clever aspect of the uniform is the “Peagle” on the sleeve. Giving a shout-out to the teams that came before them is a great gesture and combining their mascots/team names into one logo to create a new mythical creature is extremely fun.
With an orange and white design, a silhouette of the Golden Gate Bridge and a unique fog gradient across the front, sleeves and numbering of the jerseys.
It’s possible that I am the biggest advocate for these uniforms. I think the Giants absolutely crushed it. San Francisco’s fog is iconic and certainly a unique aspect of the city. The Golden Gate Bridge featured on the sleeve and the cap are fantastic touches too. The only thing I would change would be to possibly darken the orange just a tad to align with the bridge a little more, but it’s super nitpicky. These are well-made uniforms.
Tier 1 Effective Attempt to Connect with the City/Area & Looks Great
In a dark grey shade with white pinstripes and featuring Gothic-styled lettering as homage to the South Side of Chicago.
A seemingly unanimous favorite among the baseball community, the White Sox nailed it. I rate the uniforms a bit lower than most for two reasons: First, they remind me of those “Big Dog” jerseys from back in the day (I definitely bought at least two of those from a tourist-y store in Lake George, NY as a kid). Second, I am not a fan of the “Chi” cap logo. Neither of those really stop these jerseys from looking absolutely fantastic on and off the field.
With an anthracite base, pink accents and printed cherry blossoms in honor of the annual National Cherry Blossom Festival.
When I first saw the logo for these and learned the Nationals would be going with a cherry blossom theme, I was ecstatic. These are, by all means, great uniforms, however, I do wish they used a pink base instead of gray. It almost seems like they weren’t willing to go full send into the bright, spring theme and sort of fell halfway. Because of this, the uniforms often look muted on TV, which is a shame because they are quite nice. The off-white, cream pants were an excellent decision.
With a green base, purple accents, Colorado written on the front and a special logo on the cap resembling the state’s license plates. In 2023, white pants were added as an alternative during day games, with the green pants being used for night games.
The Rockies spared no expense in trying to connect with the whole state. They are, after all, Colorado’s team. I think they did an incredible job. The forest green looks tremendous with their signature purple, while providing great variation from their usual black and gray. I always enjoyed the green pants, but I know many did not, and evidently the Rockies picked up on that too. Wearing white pants during the day and green pants at night provides further personality for the uniforms perhaps some needed variation. I’d be interested to see if other teams begin employing a similar practice.
With a white base, pink and mint sleeves, and San Diego on the front in honor of the culture of both the city of San Diego and Tijuana.
The Padres’ City Connects are probably the most “love them or hate them” yet. Obviously, since they’re my #5, I fall into the former category. San Diego is an extremely unique metro area in the US as it is insanely close to Mexico. Because of this, the blend of cultures and personality in San Diego are immaculate and should be featured in some way. The bright colors on this uniform do just that. In addition, the vibrant, fun energy of the jersey makes it perfect to wear throughout beautiful San Diego all year round, whether at the beach or in the city center.
With a red base, white pinstripes and white letters with light blue trim as a tribute to the Cuban Sugar Kings.
Ever since the Marlins changed their name from Florida to Miami, they’ve continued to embrace the Hispanic side of their city’s culture more and more. The out-of-the-box choice to use this program to further connect with Miami’s substantial Cuban population by going to great lengths to reference the Havana Sugar Kings created a wildly unique uniform. The cap for this one is one of the best so far.
With a navy base and powder blue accents, and a stylized “KC” insignia in homage to Kansas City’s “City of Fountains” nickname.
This one took a while to grow on me, but grow on me it did. The “KC” fountain logo is the best original logo among the entire line of City Connects. The varying shades of blue create a nice sense of water – fitting for the theme they chose. I personally might have wanted a little more variation from the logo on the cap and the jersey, but it is a small complaint for a uniform that looks incredible. Designing a uniform and a gorgeous logo set around the city’s nickname is exactly what the City Connect program should be.
With a sand base, red accents and “Angels” written on the front in honor of the beaches in Southern California.
Ever since they ditched the Disney-era uniform with powder blue accents and the logo with the wing on the “A,” the Angels have had little-to-no personality in their uniform. The current primary ones they wear are bland and very belonging in the mid-2000s era. In comes their wonderfully done City Connects. They went all out to connect with southern California’s surf culture, and did it wonderfully. I would love to see them adopt these as their primary home uniforms one day and begin to really infuse the club with some personality. I also give them credit for separating themselves from Los Angeles. This is a bit of a separate thought, but Anaheim is entirely separate from LA. I would also like to see them change their name to the “Anaheim Angels” once more, leaving behind the nonsensical “Los Angeles Angels” brand.
With a navy base, tequila sunset accents (suggestive of its 70s and 80s rainbow uniforms), “Space City” stenciled in the NASA ‘worm’ font on the front, and a hat with a planet revolving around a futuristic version of the “H-star” logo, in honor of Houston being home to the Johnson Space Center.
Lastly, the ones who did it best, the Houston Astros. This uniform perfectly connects with the city through the obvious NASA and space connections, but also to its franchise’s history and iconic uniforms with the tequila sunset accents. I especially enjoy the tequila sunset piping on the jersey. Furthermore, the cap used here is the best cap (by far) of all City Connects. I’m not sure if they should use it more often with their primary uniforms too, but it somehow needs to see more action.