DRESS FOR SUCCESS: How Baseball Players & Coaches Need to Dress

“Clothes make a statement. Costumes tell a story.”

Mason Cooley, City Aphorisms


Like it or not, we live in a very appearance oriented society.  We are always being judged on our appearance. The world of sports is no different.  Therefore, it is extremely important for players and coaches to present themselves appropriately at all times.  Expectations for game and practice attire should be established and maintained throughout the season.  Now I’m not exactly a fashion plate, just ask my wife, but I do think that appropriate dress around the diamond does send a business-like atmosphere to the ball field.

 I’m a very big advocate of uniformity of uniforms.  As redundant as that may sound, if you pay attention to some teams, they may have the same jerseys and pants on, but they are dressed as differently as they could possibly be.  They may have 6 different colors of undershirts and 3 different colors of cleats.  That is so bush, I can’t stand it.   When I took over at my school, the first thing I attacked was the shoe color.  Timing was everything.  I did not feel comfortable with telling the team about this on the first day of practice, because many of them would’ve already paid a good chunk of change for shoes at that point.  I wanted to give every prospective player and their parents plenty of warning about this situation.  The perfect time to announce this change was during our fall off-season meeting.  Now each player had almost 5 months warning.  As well, about 6 weeks prior to our first game, I invited a representative from an area sporting goods store to come to our school and sell the shoes to our players.  This concept worked out very well, because typically the store will give schools a discount if they know they will sell a good amount of shoes. To make sure it was going to be a good-sized order, I invited our girls’ softball team in on the sale. As well, I could tell the store to only sell red shoes (our school color).  This created an absolute, win-win-win situation.  I’m happy with the color, the players are happy with the fancy styles, and the store is happy with a big sale. 

The next order of business was the undershirts.  I understand that only a small portion of the shirt shows outside of the jersey.  And very often they are unnoticeable.  I notice, so I know other coaches notice.  That bothers me.  Unfortunately, with my miniscule budget, I could not afford to purchase the undershirts for our players.  So, I was forced to find a way for the players to cooperate.  The first thing I did was to tell them that they will not be on our field or even get on the bus without a red undershirt.  That went along way, as you could imagine. Although, I wanted our players to be able to get an affordable undershirt since it would have to come from their pocket.  So we started ordering, “spirit packs”.  A spirit pack is something that many teams do for their players.  It is simply and order form for school logo apparel like sweatshirts, t-shirts, stocking caps, and etc. Many schools use these as fundraisers.  I used ours for functional clothing items. So, I sold the items to our players at cost.  Our players could get a t-shirt, long sleeve shirt, sweatshirt, and sweatpants for under $50.  They were not required to buy any of it. But it gave them easy, affordable access to proper game underclothes and functional practice gear.  The really cool thing was the feeling that I’d get when I’d see a player walking down the street wearing a piece of this clothing that had our program’s name on it.  Even better than that is seeing the players’ little 9 and 10 year old brothers wearing these items.  You know that they can’t wait to be part of the program.

The last piece of bush I need to trim from the players’ apparel was our caps.  Yes, we all had identical caps, at the beginning of the season.  The end of the season was a different story.  I guess it was cool to write on them and fray the edges of the caps.  It may have been cool to them, but I couldn’t stand it.  Again, I was in a financial pickle. Our players had to purchase their own caps.  They shelled out the money for the caps, and I couldn’t afford to purchase too many extra caps.  I despise my weak budget with a passion.  During some off-season contemplation on this dilemma, I thought of a compromise.  While cutting the grass in my yard, I took of my cap.  I looked at the area under my bill where every season I wrote my jersey number with permanent marker.  Of course, the reason for doing that is so I didn’t lose my hat.  I decided to allow my players to write what ever they wanted on their hat, as long as it was under the bill.  This idea is similar to how some restaurants and bars have graffiti boards in their restrooms, thus discouraging someone from defacing the entire area.  This was perfect for our team.  They could write their girlfriends’ names or their favorite band logo on this portion of their hat and it didn’t really show.  Some of them actually wrote their number there too.

Practice apparel just as important as game apparel.  In the ideal situation, each player would be issued a practice jersey and pants.  I know of one school in our conference that does that, and it is so non-bush.  Budgets ultimately prevail though.  There are the 3 requirements for our players’ practice clothes:

1)   Long, athletic pants.  The old saying, “Practice how you play,” comes to mind. This means no shorts.  Occasionally, as a reward, I will allow shorts during a hot portion of the season. Sweatpants, jogging pants, or a spare pair of baseball pants are all acceptable.  Although, this is the only way to really get in a quality base running practice.  Players simply will not slide in shorts and if they do they will do so half-heartedly.  Players usually get hurt when they don’t go full speed.

2)   No music oriented or inappropriate t-shirts.  By inappropriate, I mean foul language or alcohol related.  That is very easy to enforce, because it is usually against most school dress codes anyway. If it is against school rules, it has to be against team rules.  The shirts that they wear to practice must be athletic in nature.  It may have their favorite football or basketball team on it. A plain white t-shirt from K-mart would be great.  As far as the music shirts go, they can where those at a party on Saturday night. When they’re at my practice, they need to look like athletes.  By the way, I am huge music nut.  I’ve seen Metallica 9 times, Van Halen three times, and even Willie Nelson at the Illinois State Fair when I was 5 years old, but I don’t wear their t-shirts to practice.

3)   Caps. I don’t care if we are inside during rain or cold weather, or if it’s 90 degrees in the shade.  BASEBALL PLAYERS WEAR CAPS!!!  In fact, I keep one or two extremely ugly caps in our equipment shed in case someone forgot their own cap.  They rarely forget after noticing my choice of extra caps.  I especially like the pink furry one.  Seriously though, I do allow the players to wear stocking caps over the top of their ball caps on particularly cold, early spring practices. 

 As a coach, I feel responsible for setting an appropriate example during games and at practices.  The clothes that coaches wear should be athletic and baseball specific.  High school and junior high age players need to be shown how to dress for practice.  At practice, I try to dress the way that I expect the players to, following the same rules listed above.  If a coach dresses inappropriately, he shouldn’t expect much more from his players.  I also realize that many coaches come straight from a blue-collar job site in order to coach.  To the greatest extent possible, they should try to change clothes.  Wearing blue jeans to a practice, or even worse, a game, is bush league squared.   At games, a coach should wear the team uniform.  There are some instances, like summer league games, where it is totally acceptable for the coach to wear shorts.  It is fine if they are presentable, like nice khakis.  Basketball shorts or cutoffs would definitely fall into the realm of bush.  Finally, being overweight is not an excuse to not wear the uniform. If Tommy Lasorda could do it, so can you.

One last pet peeve of mine is coaches that wear a wristwatch during games.  A coach that is constantly looking at his watch during a game sends a poor body language message to everyone around him.  It is as though he has something better to do.  I take my watch off before the first pitch of every game.  During pre-game the watch is useful.  Most of the time teams receive a time limit on their pre-game routine.  You want to stay on time, because umpires despise coaches that don’t allow the game to get started on time.  But once the game is on the watch is unnecessary. At practices though, a watch is an absolute necessity.  Good coaches follow a practice plan that is time oriented and get their players out at a respectable time.

Help Clay Zavada Win the Robert Goulet Mustached American of the Year Award

Marlins Diamondbacks BaseballPlease click on the link below and vote for Clay Zavada of the Arizona Diamondbacks for the American Mustache Institute’s “Robert Goulet Memorial Mustached American of the Year Award” or as it is more affectionately called in moustache circles as “The Goulet”.  Hurry! The voting ends on October 20th.  He’s a cool kid with a cool story. Help the cause! Thanks 🙂

See results here: https://coach5150.wordpress.com/2009/10/31/congrats-to-clay-zavada/

If you’re interested in more information about Clay Zavada, click on the following links:




Baseball Caps: Lead with the Logo

The fashion wears out more apparel than the man.” 

William Shakespeare, Much Ado About NothingSports_Feature_Martin[1] - Copy


           A cap has a visor or bill. A visor is a device placed on the front of a cap that is intended to improve vision.  It has a function.  I hate to be so dreadfully obvious, but it really looks ridiculous when it is worn backwards.  This is not true for everyone. There are some in this world who do wear it well. Of course they all either under the age of 10 or have names like Puff Doggy or Master G Funky Fresh.  Respectively, their moms either purchased the caps they wear or, it goes with their urban fashion ensemble.

          For my players it is a discipline issue.  They should be excited that they representing  their school or town by being on the baseball team.  Therefore, they should display the logo on the front proudly, in front.  Next, if my players care enough to wear their caps properly, they will be more likely to care about improving their game at practice that day.  Besides, if they don’t wear that bill in front I prescribe a cure that consists of an undetermined amount of push-ups.  During the season, I’ve been known to carry this rule to the real world as well. 

         One of my favorite players was driving by my house while I was cutting my grass. Of course, he had his school cap reversed.  He honked and waved, which was really, a very nice gesture.  What coach wouldn’t like that? So, I thought I would return the gesture by waving back.  I really liked this player so I raised both hands to wave.  At this point this player realized that my showing of ten fingers meant he had ten push-ups at practice the next day. Needless to say he turned his cap around.  By the way, I know ten push-ups may seem light, but it quickly turns into 30 or 40 if I get any guff.   It multiplies for repeat offenders.

         This rule carries over to my former players as well.  I welcome them back to workout in the weightroom, Throw in the gym, or even hit in our cage.  It is very encouraging for younger players to see a former player, that may be playing college ball somewhere, come back to workout.  That returning player better abide by your rules while he’s back, otherwise a poor example will be set.  Once, we had an off-season strength training session with about 25 players in attendance.  Into the weightroom walked one of a former pitcher who was back for winter break.  He came in with his grubby college cap as backwards as backwards could be.  I was on it quick. I said, “Hey Bill, whose house are you in?”

He respectfully replied, “Yours, coach.”

“Then turn that cap around and get in here and show these guys how to workout.” The rest of the players got a good chuckle and got to workout with one the hardest working players I’ve ever been around.  But the real victory was that he respected our team rules because he knew it was important to the team. In turn, the players saw that even the simplest rules apply to the best players, past or present.

          Another reason for this practice is the impression it gives others outside your program.  Your players send messages to opposing players and coaches with their appearance. What impression do you want them to send?  I have mixed emotions when my team shows up to a road game and the other team has players running around during warm ups with their caps backward.  My first reaction is jubilation.  I see an undisciplined team. I know that when the game is on, we’ll have the edge. Inevitably, that team will do calisthenics poorly, or not at all.  They will get their arms loose in an unorganized manner.   Then, I feel disappointed for those players.  I’m sorry that their coach isn’t setting a better example by allowing them to run around like clowns.   Simply wearing your hat incorrectly does not cause these problems, but it’s a big red flag for a poor club.

          Also, let’s not forget that these athletes are students first.  They shouldn’t be wearing their caps in a juvenile fashion around teachers.  The cooperation of the other teachers in your building is essential to your program’s success or failure.  The least your players can do is present themselves and their caps in a respectful manner.  You don’t want your players being labeled as immature or disrespectful.  The simple, proper presentation of a cap is enough for some teachers is enough. Lastly, good programs have players that play beyond high school.  A college coach wants players with a positive “field presence”.  A 180-degree flip of the visor could tear that first impression made on a college coach to shreds.  I’m not saying that by wearing your hat correctly your players will automatically get college scholarships, but why spoil the possibility over something so simple to correct.

If you enjoyed this post you will probably like the following:



Baseball & Softball Uniforms: To Tuck or Not to Tuck

“First impressions are often the truest, as we find (not infrequently) to our cost,”

-William Hazlitt, On the Knowledge of Character


            As a freshman in high school I vividly remember playing on a team that was pretty bush league on occasion.  On one such occasion, we were on a big yellow school bus headed to play St. Bede Academy, a catholic school 30 miles from Streator, IL.  I distinctly remember half of my teammates drawing tattoos of skulls, daggers, and heavy metal logos on their arms. I’m sure it was an attempt to bring an intimidating sight to the ball field that day.  Because everybody knows that there is nothing scarier than a skull tattoo drawn with Crayola markers on a puny 15-year-old arm. The other half of the team, which I fell into, would be ready to get of the bus in an array of heavy metal t-shirts. If you can name the band we had the shirt.  The reason we didn’t indulge in the pre-game body artwork was probably due to a lack of markers.  Our coach was a pretty relaxed character, in case you couldn’t tell.  He was a bit of a local legend and a really nice guy, sometimes to a fault. What a sight we must have been when we came of that bus.  We thought we were tough looking.  In reality, we looked like idiots.  We got hammered that day.  As well, I think a few of our players were ejected.  That’s alright though, the umpired sent the ejected players to the school bus, where they had time to finish putting the latest Iron Maiden album cover on their chest.

            Now as a coach, it’s very important to me to look at the other team and see how they present themselves visually.  You only get one opportunity to make a first impression.  When another team comes to our diamond half dressed with their shirts untucked, caps or visors cocked sideways and backwards, or wearing Metallica t-shirts for undershirts, I’m pretty darn excited.  I typically feel that we will have the edge that day.  A team that presents itself in that manner will usually be undisciplined on the field.  I know I’m not the only one that feels this way.  The players also know when a bunch of jokers just rolled into town.  In turn, a team that presents itself with a business-like vibe sends an intimidating message across the field.  When an opposing player gets off the bus and walks to the dugout looking like a ballplayer, and not a circus act, he non-verbally tells my players “You better be ready, because I am.”  That player may be the last player on the bench, but if the last player on the bench carries himself this way, this must be a stud team we’re facing.  In reality, they may be no better or worse physically, but mentally they keep things sharp.

         The mental edge will win more high school and junior high games than not. It all carries over into other aspects of the game.  If your players are disciplined enough to dress and present themselves well, then they will want to present their bunting technique or pitching mechanics well.  The concept is no different than basketball and football teams wearing nice slacks, collared shirts, and ties on road trips.  The only difference is that they have time to change prior to their contests.  Your players’ uniform should be presented like a church suit on Easter Sunday.

Which team would you, as a coach, rather see get off the bus?



The pictures above were taken on team picture day.  I actually stole the goofy team picture idea from a biography of  Vince Lombardi called “When Pride Still Mattered”. He was such a stickler on discipline that this was one way to allow his players to loosen up.  While, I don’t dare to place myself or anyone in Lombardi’s class.  I really enjoy doing the goofy picture, because I am strict when it comes to uniforms. It gave them one opportunity to wear their uniform in an inappropriate way and to get it out of their systems.  Also, I think the goofy picture allows each of the players’ personalities to shine through the camera. You can tell who the introverts and extroverts are. It gives you insight as to the different characters that make up your team. If you decide to try this on picture day, I have some advice. Set rules! Yes, unfortunately I was forced to set rules for the goofy picture after the class of 2002 pushed the limits of goofy.