Top billing: These 10 hats captured fans in 2021
In 2021, Minor League stadiums reopened for players and fans to return to the game we love. And with that came hat purchases. “It was an incredible feeling to be back to baseball in 2021,” said Sierra Hanley, senior manager of retail and marketing for the San Jose Giants. “And
In 2021, Minor League stadiums reopened for players and fans to return to the game we love. And with that came hat purchases.
“It was an incredible feeling to be back to baseball in 2021,” said Sierra Hanley, senior manager of retail and marketing for the San Jose Giants. “And to have [hat sale] success and to know that the fans -- even nationwide -- that we were sending [caps] out to were supportive of us means a lot.”
Whether you’re a diehard fan who loves representing the home team or have just had one too many flip flops thrown in your direction, a baseball cap is the perfect way to express yourself. And of course, sometimes they just look cool.
MiLB.com has celebrated National Hat Day by looking at the top-selling chapeaus from MiLBStore.com for a handful of years now (2018 | 2019 | 2020), and this latest edition once again shows off the wide variety of options for Minor League followers. And as always, whether it’s traditional or unique, meaningful or silly, these hat designs help create a sense of community between those who make them, the players who sport them and the fans who buy them.
For the fourth straight year, the Trash Pandas’ primary look graces this list. Created by Brandiose, this logo design makes garbage look fly. Celebrating Huntsville, Alabama, as the home of NASA, Space Force and a substantial number of engineers, this rocket is commanded by the cleverest of animals -- the raccoon. “The primary logo seems to transcend all ages. He is fierce, fun and shows ingenuity with his makeshift trash-can rocket,” said Elizabeth Cornett, manager of merchandise and the team's online store. While fans have loved this look since its unveiling in the fall of 2018, last summer was the first time Double-A Angels prospects got to sport the look on field, giving sales yet another boost.
Flying Chanclas de San Antonio
Copa de la Diversión celebrates many facets of Hispanic and Latinx cultures. And San Antonio’s focus could be considered the most painfully relatable. Honoring the abuela (or grandmother), this design showcases her preferred method of maintaining structure: a hurtling flip flop. While going through drafts with the Missions, Ryan Foose of Fooser Sports Design said they thought a lot about how to incorporate San Antonio and what the footwear should look like, “and then it became fairly obvious that this kind of cultural thing goes beyond San Antonio, and really, it's not about the sandal itself. It's about the grandmother.” With the perfect combination of blue, pink and yellow to make the design really pop, this hat grabbed attention across the world, especially from those all too familiar with the soaring sandal.
Corpus Christi Honey Butter Chicken Biscuits
This Hooks look taps into two things Texans love. “Something about people doing anything in the shape of Texas is popular. And so we combined that with Whataburger,” said Amy Johnson, director of marketing and entertainment. Locals and Texas transplants from across the country were drawn to the logo for the popular fast-food chain (which is also the title sponsor of Corpus Christi’s field) being put into the shape of the Lone Star State as part of team’s celebration of the Honey Butter Chicken Biscuit. While many teams utilize food items in their imagery, the Hooks and Brandiose decided to go a broader route that speaks to the sense of pride many locals feel. And with bright orange -- perhaps the least-used primary color in Minor League hats -- taking center stage, this hat certainly turned some heads.
Prior to the 2018 season, Gwinnett created a new brand to set the team apart from the nearby parent club in Atlanta and affiliates in Mississippi and Rome that all sport the same Braves name and design. With the Stripers' name and vibrant green look, the Brandiose design made a splash that still resonates today, returning to this list with another version of their signature branding. “A lot of people try to figure out where we got it from or what's the meaning behind it. But it also allows us to be different and be our own thing from the Braves,” said merchandise coordinator Malik Perkins, who added that Atlanta’s World Series success and the subsequent coverage of all the Major Leaguers who came through Gwinnett brought extra eyes to the brand.
In 2015, the Rainiers set out to create a fresh, polished look that used elements of past designs while bringing the club forward. Tony Canepa updated and streamlined the original Rainiers font from 1995 -- which was an homage to the defunct Rainier Brewing Company -- while incorporating the pop of red, which had been introduced to the club in 2009. Together, the design was a symbol that resonated with Tacoma and Seattle residents. Canepa loves the timelessness that makes the hat a classic choice for any year, and which he thinks was especially important in 2021. “In times when all these things are happening in the world and things are uncertain, gravitating back to something that's super classic might just make people feel good,” Canepa said.
An alternate identity of the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, this homage to the Dairy State returns to the list after first appearing in 2019, but this time with an inverse look. The cow-print pattern moves to the crown for an utterly perfect contrast to the rich purple bill, compared to a navy dome in years past. And no one could ask for more cowbell with the bovine sporting a spot-on neck piece. “I think people just want to have something unique and be able to show that off,” said Wisconsin media relations director Chris Mehring, adding that fans across the country and even the world couldn’t get enough of the dairy wear. In 2021, Timber Rattlers became the Udder Tuggers for four games, giving fans a healthy taste of this Brandiose design.
An alternate identity of the Albuquerque Isotopes, the Mariachis de Nuevo México are no strangers to accolades, winning the first two iterations of Copa de la Diversión as well as the Greatest Gorra fan vote with this very hat. While the club’s initial branding focused on traditional red and black colors, Foose and the Isotopes opted for a bright teal in year two. “The feel was a real, real big push of ‘We're the Southwest,'’’ he said, adding it incorporates Native American Latinx fans as well. “It just felt like a color that was truly Albuquerque and truly New Mexico.” The teal on the bill and contrasting black panels in the back come together in the actual mariachi logo (which is intentionally not cartoonish) with a clean white background to make the combo pop.
Introduced in the fall of 2019, the WooSox took the field for the first time in 2021. While the primary hat logo features a heart at the center of the "W" (symbolizing Worcester as the heart of the Commonwealth), this design pays homage to their parent club with a very specific font choice. “It symbolized the close relationship that we have with Boston and the passion that runs deep within those fans,” said Katarina Burns, manager of merchandise for the WooSox. Fans can support the Major League club while keeping the focus local, something she has noticed is important to people who moved away from the area as well as current residents. With the traditional font and navy and red combo, the cap gives a classic look to a new club.
While it was tough for some fans to say goodbye to the Intimidators moniker, this home cap made it a little easier and has become a fan favorite over the past two seasons. The Studio Simon creation gives a nod to The Intimidator himself, Dale Earnhardt, while paying homage to the cannon mills the town was built on. Also keeping in mind the residents who wanted a fresh start, designer Dan Simon put pencil to paper and just started drawing. The result was a mustachioed figure who's moving forward. “It captured both the past and the present and future of Kannapolis, and I think that's something also that really appeals to the community there,” Simon said. He added that this design “was unique, it had not yet been done in sports branding. And I think that that uniqueness was something that also appealed to many people, both in the community and beyond.”
This simple black-and-white design created in 2000 made a comeback last summer. With a change in material to a more jersey-like feel for batting practice, the 21-year-old look entered the “new” section on digital and physical shelves, giving it a fresh audience. As the BP cap, fans can see players wear it every single game, regardless of whether they're home or away. Senior manager of retail and marketing Sierra Hanley enjoys the fact that fans love their quirkier Churros brand for Copa while also appreciating the classic symbol of the team. “It's a nice reminder that even with growth and the extra exciting new things that you produce that you can also have a foot in your roots and know that your fans are there showing support on both sides.” And it doesn’t hurt that black and white goes with pretty much everything.
Kelsie Heneghan is a writer for MiLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @Kelsie_Heneghan.