03/14/07 12:00 PM EST
MLB celebrates new official cap
Fans able to buy 59FIFTY, 39THIRTY models in Shop
By Mark Newman / MLB.com
1. Everyone can wear it -- New Era's 59FIFTY model is the official on-field cap of MLB for the regular season and postseason, and on Wednesday, it became available to everyone in the MLB.com Shop. The 39THIRTY is the batting practice cap players have been wearing these days at Spring Training in Florida and Arizona -- with that distinctive half-moon gusset over the ears -- and that is also available for each club's fan.
2. Less wool is cool -- The 59FIFTY game cap is 100 percent polyester. This is a massive change in baseball tradition, during which wool has been the rule practically forever. The last universal change to the MLB cap was in 1954, when the six-panel model was introduced. The BP cap is 62 percent polyester and 38 percent wool.
3. Moisture and vapor management -- For the 59FIFTY game cap, moisture management takes moisture and wicks it away from the skin and moves it into the fabric. The fabric accepts the moisture and accelerates drying, keeping the player cooler and dryer. For the 39THIRTY BP cap, vapor management helps to eliminate moisture from even forming -- a very visible difference between the BP and game cap fabric. The BP cap also has a half-moon gusset and piping along the sides for added vapor management.
4. Fewer balls lost in the sun -- The new undervisor for these caps is made of New Era performance fabric that also carries moisture-wicking properties -- and now it is black across the board, a change to assist in reducing glare.
"The biggest difference initially will be adjusting to the darker feel beneath the undercarriage of the bill," said Padres closer Trevor Hoffman, who wears his cap low as he stares down batters at the plate. "Otherwise, it's basically the same. In time, adjusting should be no problem."
5. Players will smell better -- "They look exactly the same, they breathe more and they won't shrink," said Tigers pitcher and 2006 American League Rookie of the Year Justin Verlander, who shot a commercial for New Era in the offseason. "The best thing is, when it rains, the hats won't stink like the wool ones did."
6. Players also will perform better, theoretically -- "By revolutionizing the cap, we're ensuring the players' headwear provides the best performance while they play," New Era CEO Christopher Koch said.
It is all part of Commissioner Bud Selig's initiative to focus on greater "performance wear" for the athletes. Steve Armus, MLB's vice president of consumer products, said, "It's all about the performance initiative, and this is the first major step in a lot of things that are going to be seen throughout the season which are really going to revolutionize our field."
7. The caps are all the buzz -- The Red Sox scarlet model has been scarlet-hot, leading the way as all of the BP caps immediately became the hottest Shop items so far in 2007. Now the availability of the revolutionary official season caps is going to make it feel a lot like the post-Thanksgiving frenzy around the Shop.
8. That Arizona hat will really look different -- One of the biggest changes between the 2006 and 2007 seasons might be the Diamondbacks' cap. It's not just these revolutionary advances in the cap's technology. The new look features a Sedona red rattlesnake coiled around in the shape of a "D" against a black cap. As for more subtle changes, look for a more raised MLB "batterman" embroidered logo on the back and a black sweatband that hides the dirt.
"As long as I catch the ball behind my pitchers, make plays and get the important outs, that's the big thing. I don't think the hat is going to help the ball stay in the glove," Diamondbacks second baseman Orlando Hudson said recently. Then he jokingly added: "If I boot it and it's the hat's fault, I'll tell you after the game, 'It had to be the hat.'"
9. The cap has already proven itself this spring -- A's equipment manager Steve Vucinich had doubts a year ago when he began testing these new versions in camp. After watching A's pitchers go through their routines in Arizona, Vucinich said, "This one is just so much better. The heat is from the inside of the cap, where your head is. Before, it would just sweat to the band and it would drip kind of toward the bill but drip off there. Now, the sweat goes out of the cap, even on top, and then it dries naturally."
10. This is not your 1849 baseball cap -- The New York Knickerbockers adopted the first official uniform on April 24, 1849. The first caps were chip (or straw) hats. A few years later, the club switched to a cap made of merino (a soft, fine wool) that featured the two main characteristics of the modern-day baseball cap: a crown and a bill (or visor). Now the wool is fading away, the visor is black underneath and the players will smell and ideally perform better. But the baseball cap is eternal, and best of all, every fan now can find one exactly like the players will wear in 2007.
Mark Newman is enterprise editor for MLB.com. MLB.com reporters Steve Gilbert and Lyle Spencer and the Associated Press contributed to this story. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.