Major League Baseball and Nike introduced the City Connect series during the 2021 season to shake up uniform design across the sport in the most dramatic fashion since the league introduced the Turn Ahead the Clock alternates in the late 1990s.
Nike has worked with each MLB team to craft a uniform that expresses the personality and communities of the team's home city. Last year saw the launch of seven City Connect uniforms: for the Arizona Diamondbacks, Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers, Miami Marlins and San Francisco Giants. The unveilings have continued this season with the Washington Nationals, Houston Astros, Kansas City Royals, Colorado Rockies, Los Angeles Angels and Milwaukee Brewers so far, and those will be followed by the San Diego Padres on July 8.
After taking over as the uniform supplier for the NFL and the NBA, Nike pushed for radical uniform-design changes in those leagues, a move that is now making its way into the baseball world. While some MLB traditionalists have scoffed, many of the designs have sold out quickly after their unveiling.
With some of the designs more polarizing than others, here's our breakdown of the uniforms that have dropped to date -- and how we rank them.
1. Colorado Rockies
Debut: June 4, 2022, vs. Atlanta Braves
Design inspiration: Colorado's uniform pays homage to the mountains that give the team its name, with a predominantly green look reflecting the state's signature pine trees. It features several flourishes, such as a new circle logo on the hat in red (for soil) and gold (for sunshine), along with the state's "CO" abbreviation. The logo and number font also pay tribute to the state's distinctive license plate.
Fan reception: The Rockies' uniforms received a polarizing reaction from fans. Many praised the look's local ties to their state's license plate, and some fans across baseball called them the best uniform since City Connect started (as we are doing here!). Others rated them among the worst, however, with some even likening their design to a beer ad.
Verdict: The Rockies have unveiled a design that is distinctive from the rest of their existing uniform set without feeling completely out of left field. The Rockies paid an exceptional amount of attention to detail, creating a look that feels both fresh and classic.
2. Chicago White Sox
Debut: June 5, 2021, vs. Detroit Tigers
Design inspiration: Chicago's uniform displays "Southside" in gray Gothic font, a nod to the Greystone architectural style of Chicago. The team's dark gray pinstriped pants also provide a unique design touch not often seen in baseball today. The look resembles the Turn Back the Clock uniforms the team wore in tribute to the Chicago American Giants. Nike and the White Sox also say the design was inspired by the team's influence in hip-hop culture.
Fan reception: Of the various City Connect uniforms, the White Sox received the strongest positive reaction from fans, with the jerseys selling out quickly on the day they were made available in the White Sox team store.
Verdict: The White Sox became the first team in the series to experiment with pants that weren't white, and made a statement with the pinstriped look. While the Gothic-style font could be divisive and stands out as the most distinctive element of this uniform set, this set's ability to both differentiate itself while staying true to the White Sox makes it stand out from the pack.
3. Miami Marlins
Debut: May 21, 2021, vs. New York Mets
Design inspiration: The Marlins went with a bright-red pinstriped uniform and a predominantly blue hat with a red bill. The jerseys pay tribute to the Sugar Kings, a Triple-A affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds that played in Cuba from 1946 through 1960. Both the uniform patch and the logo on the hat call back to the original Sugar Kings logo. The uniform is not an exact copy of the Sugar Kings' jersey, which was white and featured red pinstripes.
Fan reception: A largely positive response on social media greeted the Marlins uniforms, which deviated from the "Miami Vice" theme that Nike could have easily defaulted to after the positive reception for the Miami Heat alternates. Given the history of bold uniforms in Marlins franchise history, the faux throwback to the Sugar Kings falls right in line with the team's closet of jerseys.
Verdict: While the connection to the Sugar Kings isn't explicitly Miami, the city does have a massive Cuban population, and the uniform's colors fit in with the pastel aesthetic that colors the city.
4. Washington Nationals
Debut: April 9, 2022, vs. Mets
Design inspiration: The Nationals' uniforms weave together two recognizable elements of our nation's capital: its signature cherry blossoms and a typeface that resembles D.C.'s neoclassical architecture. The uniform also features the city's flag on the sleeve of a dark-gray jersey with cream pants.
Fan reception: The Nationals received near universal praise from fans on social media for the uniform reveal, with some calling it the team's best. The integration of the cherry blossoms on the hat garnered acclaim, while some wished the team went further in leaning all the way into the pink theme, similar to the Washington Wizards, who unveiled a cherry blossom uniform at the same time. Even fans of rival teams acknowledged that the Nationals designed one of the best City Connect alternates, while others praised the color and coordination between a baseball and basketball team in the same town.
Verdict: The uniforms strike a great balance -- being both fashion-forward and evoking the city's character. The cherry blossom design doesn't fall flat like the fog elements incorporated in the Giants' uniforms (see below). The surprising colors in a grounded design make this one of the best in the City Connect series.
5. Boston Red Sox
Debut: April 17, 2021, vs. White Sox
Design inspiration: The Red Sox went with the most radical design among the uniforms released thus far, unveiling the first uniform in team history to feature yellow and blue as the primary colors. On the front of the yellow jersey, there is a blue stenciled font, and the hat is blue. While the team featured blue as a primary color through 1907, the team has primarily sported red since 1908. The Boston Marathon and Patriots' Day hold a special place in the culture of Boston, and the team decided to pay homage to the city's unique holiday through its uniforms, highlighted by the 617 marathon bib patch on the left sleeve.
Fan reception: While many traditionalist fans disliked the departure from the team's classic white and red uniforms, others embraced the design. Although the uniforms received a mixed reception, the Red Sox sold out of the new jerseys and the City Connect merchandise that was released along with them at the Fenway Park team store.
Verdict: We give high marks for boldness and the team's desire to do something outside of the norm. The City Connect series is not meant to appeal to everyone, and by going with something surprising and outside the box while receiving a relatively positive reception, the Red Sox are pushing forward the idea of what a baseball uniform can look like.
6. Arizona Diamondbacks
Debut: June 18, 2021, vs. Dodgers
Design inspiration: The Diamondbacks unveiled a gold uniform referencing the Sonoran Desert and the state's Hispanic culture, with "Serpientes" across the front. Not straying too far from the team's existing colors, Arizona decided to flip its primary and secondary colors, making the team's distinctive Sedona Red color an accent through the numbers. The uniform patch on the left sleeve features the Arizona state flag and a reference to Phoenix's nickname as the Valley of the Sun.
Fan reception: The Diamondbacks received a largely positive, but less passionate, reaction, with many on social media feeling that the team's uniform set didn't do much to differentiate itself from the rest of the series. Some fans enjoyed the more reserved approach to the alternates, while others felt bored by the relatively safe design choices.
Verdict: The decision to use gold as a primary uniform color is what makes Arizona's foray stick out. While the Diamondbacks certainly did not go as bold as the Red Sox or the Marlins in changing up their look, the decision to use a color normally not seen on a baseball field as a primary makes it more adventurous than the safe design put forth by the Cubs.
7. Houston Astros
Debut: April 20, 2022, vs. Angels
Design inspiration: The jerseys take inspiration from the iconic tequila sunrise Astros uniforms from the 1970s while paying tribute to the city's intertwined history with space travel. The uniform font resembles the iconic typography of NASA, while the sleeves feature a grid pattern inspired by star charts.
Fan reception: The uniforms received a mixed reception on social media. Some fans liked the cap in particular, while others cited the missed potential to go all-in on the tequila sunrise.
Verdict: The Astros played it down the middle. They use some fun design elements, but overall the uniforms feel a little safe with an all-navy-blue-design and not enough additional colors.
8. Los Angeles Angels
Debut: June 11, 2022, vs. Mets
Design inspiration: The Angels took a cue from Southern California's beach and surf culture, with a cream base that pays homage to the same, with "Angels" written in letters inspired by surf brands. The cap features a two-tone design reminiscent of the style often seen on skaters in SoCal. A jersey patch pays tribute to the state's early railroads. Two asymmetrical stripes on the sleeves draw inspiration from retro surfboards.
Fan reception: The Angels' uniforms leaked early and received a relatively positive response from fans, though some called the alternates boring and too similar to the team's current uniform set in comparison with the rest of the City Connect series. A portion of the Angels' fan base also noted that the team, mired in an 11-game losing streak on the official release day, had not won a game since the uniforms leaked on Twitter.
Verdict: The Angels incorporated some strong design elements, but they would be more fitting if the team had done a redesign of their home uniforms rather than a City Connect look. In other words, while the uniforms are strong aesthetically, the Angels did not take any risks here.
9. Milwaukee Brewers
Debut: Friday, June 24, 2022, vs. Toronto Blue Jays
Design inspiration: The Brewers took design inspiration from the People's Flag of Milwaukee, their city's summer skies, its grilling culture and Lake Michigan. They used Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport's abbreviation, MKE, on their cap while using the team's nickname with fans -- Brew Crew -- across the front of the jersey.
Verdict: The Brewers created a visually appealing look that is a fun twist on the team's existing uniforms, but overall, the team played things safe compared with some of the other City Connect uniforms, using colors with roots in the team's uniform history rather than taking a leap.
10. San Francisco Giants
Debut: July 9, 2021, vs. Nationals
Design inspiration: The most unique design elements from the Giants' uniforms are a nod to the Golden Gate Bridge, silhouetted on the sleeves, and to the San Francisco fog, which dots the team's logo on the jersey's chest, the player uniform numbers and the bridge. A small patch above the jersey tag features the Giants lettering surrounded by fog.
Fan reception: Giants fans reacted overwhelmingly negatively, criticizing everything from the elongated "G" to the fog gradient to the shade of orange, which many thought did not match with the team's existing aesthetic. Even players like pitcher Kevin Gausman expressed a mixed reaction to the jersey, telling reporters, "I think there's so much more that goes into the city than fog."
Verdict: The Giants created a uniform that looks different from most today, experimenting with the fog-and-mist gradient. While the simple orange-and-white look feels slightly underwhelming considering some of the bolder color palettes in the City Connect series, the Giants' uniform seems a bit more timeless compared to the other alternates.
11. Kansas City Royals
Debut: April 30, 2022, vs. New York Yankees
Design inspiration: Nike presented the Royals with multiple themes, including barbecue and jazz, and the team went with a theme inspired by the city's fountains and art deco architecture. The navy blue pays homage to the city's baseball past with the Monarchs, Blue Sox, Athletics, Packers and Blues, while the design detailing is a nod to the team's past uniform history.
Fan reception: The uniforms received a mixed reception on social media. Some fans criticized the safe approach to the City Connect design while others praised the team's approach with its fountain-inspired logo.
Verdict: While the Royals created a strong, modern logo, the team fell short in creating a look that differentiated itself from the rest of the team's uniform set by going with safe colors. These uniforms fell short, similar to the Cubs' uniforms, which played things slightly too safe when presented with an opportunity to go bold.
12. Chicago Cubs
Debut: June 12, 2021, vs. St. Louis Cardinals
Design inspiration: The Cubs uniforms feature a largely navy blue design with light blue accents meant to evoke the Chicago flag, with "Wrigleyville" across the front in a font similar to the ballpark's marquee and each of the city's 77 neighborhoods acknowledged with names on the sleeves of the dugout and bullpen jackets. The jersey's left sleeve features a patch of the Chicago municipal device logo and a circle with a Y, symbolizing the north, south and main branches of the Chicago River.
Fan reception: The uniforms leaked ahead of their formal reveal and received a largely negative reception from fans, many of whom felt they were boring compared to the rest of the City Connect series, although some appreciated the more toned-down approach.
Verdict: The Cubs took far and away the safest approach to the series so far, which made the new alternates look relatively tame and a tad boring. Overall, the Cubs got outshined by their rivals on the South Side.
13. Los Angeles Dodgers
Debut: Aug. 20, 2021, vs. Mets
Design inspiration: The "Los Dodgers" are honoring the 40th anniversary of Fernandomania -- the historic 1981 season by pitcher Fernando Valenzuela -- in addition to the team's connection to the Latin community. The team also took inspiration from the murals around Los Angeles, with spray-painted accents on the uniform sleeves.
Fan reception: The Dodgers' City Connect offering leaked early, and they received a largely negative reaction on social media due to the lack of differentiation from the team's current uniforms.
Verdict: Given how many consider the Dodgers' uniforms the most beautiful and timeless in sports, the City Connect alternates fall flat because they did not deviate much from the tried-and-true formula. While every other team took some sort of design leap from their current home and away sets, the Dodgers failed to do so. Even the Cubs, whose uniforms many considered to be too safe, took a bigger risk.