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You Can Just See All The Baseball Players’ Dicks Now

Take me out to the ballgame indeed.

Right now, 130 million Japanese people and I are wondering the same thing: why is Shohei Ohtani, one of the best baseball players in the world, wearing see-through pants?

How we got here requires a truncated explanation of a scandal so labyrinthine it crosses continents, multiple sports organizations, and even passes through my personal fascination with garment manufacturing. Right now, Major League Baseball has a deal with Nike for their uniforms, and for the 2024 season the company announced a new style they dubbed “Vapor Premier Jerseys.” These jerseys are supposedly lighter and breathe easier, thus being better for the players.

“Developed over multiple years, the Nike Vapor Premier jersey was engineered to improve mobility, moisture management and fit, while keeping sustainability in mind — bringing inspiration and innovation to athletes,” Nike said in a press release, where they also claim that players have responded positively to these new designs.

But fans have had the opposite reaction. My husband David, a lifelong Dodgers fan, was ecstatic when he learned that one of the greatest baseball players in the world, Shohei Ohtani, would be joining his favorite team. He was less excited at the initial picture of Ohtani in his uniform, which should have been a cause for celebration:

Image source: Mark Rebilas

It’s probably obvious what the problem is but in case you don’t see it right away: you can just see through his pants. Baseball fans have a whole host of issues with the jerseys as well. The names are smaller; the numbers are smaller; the logo has been moved from the collar to the back of the jersey, which just looks weird; a lot of the fancy little details that baseball jerseys are famous for, like embroidery and complicated stitching, have just been removed. 

But the pants thing has proven to be a way, way more immediate issue. I want to be 100% clear. If you continue reading beyond this point, you will see a penis.

This has become an issue for Ohtani’s fans in his native Japan as well, who are all wondering why they let him out of the house like that.

While it’s easiest to blame Nike for these problems, there’s actually one more layer. In 2019, Nike joined a partnership with Fanatics, which already has merchandising deals with other major sports organizations in the US and abroad. If you’ve tried to buy sports merchandise and realized it just kinda… vaguely sucked, fans usually lay the blame with Fanatics. Whenever David and I see a baseball game, I always think about buying a jersey and then walk out of the merch store disgusted by how cheap everything looks and feels. Fans have also reported major manufacturing errors with Fanatics produced merch, including players’ names being misspelled on jerseys.

“My daughter is 13 and she wears one of my old 49ers jerseys,” noted sports fan and Aftermath co-founder Luke Plunkett told me. “My folks were in Atlanta last month visiting my sister, who lives there. My kid was like, ‘oh hey can you get me an NFL jersey.’ My parents had to message me and were like, ‘they all looked like crap, except for the one that was $300, and we're not buying that,’ and I had to say ‘this is sports now.’”

Luke collects sports uniforms because he is not content with just one expensive hobby, so Fanatics has already ruined his life in various ways.

“Fanatics has been at this for almost ten years now. They started it in European football, first buying up major retailers like Kitbag, then striking deals with clubs/teams where Fanatics would take over their online stores, so that clubs/teams wouldn't have to do it anymore,” he said.

“As time has gone on, though, they've moved beyond just running retail operations and moved into actual manufacturing, not just of club merch but of actual replica fan gear (like jerseys) as well. It all sucks!” Luke continued. “As someone who buys Aston Villa merch from the UK, ever since Fanatics took over their store it's been a nightmare; I've been sent the wrong items, I've been sent items without tracking, I once got sent an item that never turned up, so they sent a replacement, then the original turned up later so I had two shirts.”

The 2019 deal with Nike and Fanatics for the MLB would mean that the company would go from just making merch to making the actual uniforms the players wear, which is why fans suspect the problems lie with them. The details that have been removed from the professional uniforms like stitching feel like an obvious cost cutting measure, one that players have seen before in the merchandise that Fanatics makes. But as sports uniform reporter Paul Lukas writes on Uni Watch, figuring out who and what is to blame is complicated.

“If you take a minute to think about it, it seems like the most cost-effective thing for Nike would have been to keep slapping their logo on the existing Majestic template — steady as she goes. Instead, they invested a lot of time, money, and resources into developing something new,” Lukas writes. “Moreover, just because a fabric is lighter or thinner doesn’t necessarily mean it’s less expensive to produce. In fact, a thinner fabric that can withstand the rigors of running, sliding, daily laundering, and so on is probably more expensive to produce.”

The MLB have released a statement saying that they have not made any changes to the pants for this season, which I find hard to believe. For what it’s worth, the issues with the uniforms are also apparent to the players. Tony Clark, executive director of the MLB Players Association told reporters that players are “frustrated," but also said that players don’t get to make the decisions about what they wear on the field. 

My one hope is that this all gets worked out before my husband and I go see a baseball game. I would prefer it if there were only one ball in play while I’m watching.

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