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The MLB's new uniforms aren't a hit

SCOTT DETROW, HOST:

Over the years, baseball players' pants have gone through a lot of different style changes. Stirrups had their moments. So did knee-high socks. There was an era of baggier pants, too. This year at Major League Baseball's spring training, there is a new trend, and it is the talk of the league - see-through pants. That is right, see-through pants. The trend was absolutely not intentional, and it is one of many issues with the brand-new uniforms MLB's teams were issued this season. This needs more context, and we will get it from Connor McKnight, who hosts the pre- and post-game shows for the White Sox Radio Network on Chicago's ESPN 1000. Connor, it is a delight to have you on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

CONNOR MCKNIGHT: Scott, thanks so much for having me. I hope I can bring some transparency to the issue.

DETROW: Let's talk about these pants. You have seen them in person at spring training. Are they as bad as people are saying?

MCKNIGHT: I didn't think that they were when I saw them in person. And having watched a couple of games on television here, some spring training games, I didn't see quite the issue that we all saw during the bright lights of photo and media day last week. So everyone knows teams and players go through an entire day where photos are taken that will be used for the rest of the season - the mug shots you'll see up on the scoreboard, for instance, or promotional things or something like that. now. Now those lights are brighter. They're professional photo lights, and you can absolutely make out far too much of the jersey that's tucked into the pant, or perhaps even the label of underwear that your former player has been wearing on that day. So yeah, it's a thing.

DETROW: And those pictures rocketed around the internet. But the broader thing is here - it's not just the see-through pants, right? Like, these uniforms - they just look cheap. What is going on? How would you describe how different they look this year?

MCKNIGHT: They look like the uniforms that fell off the back of the truck and were sold just around the corner from where your favorite ball team plays. They look like knockoffs, Scott.

DETROW: Yeah.

MCKNIGHT: That's the weird part of this whole thing. But the end-of-the-day story, like, what it looks like to fans is like the uniform your uncle got you a couple Christmases ago, and you don't wear anymore because the kids make fun of you at school.

DETROW: And yet, these uniforms are still being sold for hundreds and hundreds of dollars, so a lot of fans are mad. But I think one of the more interesting stories here is that the players are mad too. How would you describe the players' reaction to all of this.

MCKNIGHT: Anywhere from incensed to really embarrassed - when you're on display for the nation and your fans to watch, you don't want to be quite as on display as a lot of players have been over the last week or so. We've got stories of teams going through old boxes to find last year's pants to wear during spring training games. We've got outright refusals by players to wear these uniforms. Guys with a, you know, more ample backside or what have you need a different set of pant than a taller, thinner pitcher might, for instance. And that's not going on right now. That is what has players as upset as anything else.

DETROW: The baseball community has a long tradition of being cranky about any sort of change, like last year's rules changes. People ended up pretty happy with it. Is this that situation or is this, no, they are just cheap uniforms, and it's a problem?

MCKNIGHT: Well, you're right about the birthright crankiness that most MLB fans have. It is part and parcel of being a baseball fan. But no, I think this actually is an issue because, you know, when you go out to play in your 12-inch Sunday afternoon men's league in a softball game or something, you wear a certain kind of uniform, and it looks a certain kind of way. And you feel just a little bit weird wearing that uniform because it's not, as you know as a baseball fan, a major league uniform. And we have years of tradition of watching players look a certain way. I think what fans will notice right away is that the lettering, whether it's the logo, whether it's the team name or city or name across a player's back, it's not stitched on anymore. It's a different application method. And that makes it look like a basketball warmup more than it does a baseball jersey.

DETROW: That's Connor McKnight, who covers the Chicago White Sox for Chicago's ESPN 1000. Thanks, Connor.

MCKNIGHT: Scott, anytime.

DETROW: You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. And I'll just say the NPR softball teams uniforms - they look good.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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