Between calls to the majors, Aviators catcher Austin Allen enjoyed playing in Las Vegas so much, you think he’d give local baseball fans the shirt off his back.
If that happens this season, it could take a while. The Aviators have already worn nine different uniforms this season.
Allen said most minor league teams he played for only had two – one home, one away.
“If you were lucky you had an alternate jersey, but that didn’t start until you progressed through the pro ranks,” he said. “Over the years, I’ve collected a few. I definitely have one or two from the Aviators.
So more than seven to go. Nine, if you count the three iterations of the Reyes de Plata tops the Aviators have worn at Copa de la Diversion nights celebrating baseball in the Hispanic and Latino communities.
There’s still a long way to go to catch the Oregon football team (which is said to have 500 different uniform combinations, thanks to Nike). But the Aviators sported so many jerseys in 2022 that Jim Gemma, the team’s longtime public relations director, began posting their winning record in each of his daily game notes.
The stadium vendors of yore claimed you couldn’t tell players without a scorecard. With the Aviators, you also need a color scheme.
The tint company
The Aviators have almost as many team colors as Crayola has crayons. With hues of navy, orange, tangerine, gold, yellow and gray, it was going to take a myriad of jerseys just to highlight each one.
There are four official uniforms listed in the team media guide:
— Home: white jerseys with degraded lettering (navy blue number on the front), navy blue caps.
— Alternate Home: Navy jerseys with yellow, gold, tangerine, orange lettering (white number on the front).
— Road: Gray jerseys with degraded lettering (navy blue number on the front), navy blue caps.
— Alternate route: degraded jerseys (often called tangerine or sunset) with white lettering (white number on the front).
During the first half of the season, the Aviators also sported their Reyes de Plata program on Tuesday nights at home and occasional road games as well as specialty uniforms at Star Wars, Pride, Marvel and Top Gun nights in Las Vegas Ball park.
“In minor league baseball, it’s part of the drill,” Aviators president Don Logan said of the novelty uniforms that give fans another reason to come to the ballpark. “The players sign them, then we auction them off and (the money) goes back to our foundation.”
The Top Gun uniforms, modeled after the flight suit worn by Tom Cruise in the movies, have proven so popular that there’s a good chance Airmen will wear them again in the second half of the season.
“We’re only limited by our imagination and our desire to do it,” Airmen general manager Chuck Johnson said of the specialty uniforms. “It comes down to us wanting to (incur) the expense and create the pants. It’s hard to auction them off. Nobody wants to buy pants.
Short shelf life
Allen said none of the Aviators considered taking Scissors for an alternate jersey because they didn’t like the design, like All-Star pitcher Chris Sale did when he was with the Whites. Sox.
But the airmen’s uniform behavior creates an additional burden for those hiding behind the scenes.
As Retail Operations Manager, Ed Dorville is responsible for creating display space for all souvenir jerseys in the team store on the Las Vegas Ballpark lobby as well as keeping track of supply and demand. Going forward, he said the Aviators will likely offer authentic (about $180) and replica (about $90) models of each jersey.
“We only have a handful of sizes left,” Dorville said of the Top Gun and Reyes de Plata uniform tops, which have proven popular with fans. “With the supply issues we’ve had, we’re selling a lot of stuff.”
For the current road trip to Round Rock, Texas, clubhouse manager Steve Dwyer had to pack three jerseys – gray, blue, sunset orange (gradient, if you score at home) as well as the gray pants and tops and low Copa.
As you can imagine, Dwyer checks and rechecks each player’s bag much like Santa Claus checking a gift list. But because ballplayers are notorious for forgetting the number of outs, he also packs a handful of no-name jerseys on the back.
“They’re usually 61, 62, 63, 64, so nobody wants to wear them,” Dwyer said of the high numbers that tend to reduce the number of jerseys with lower numbers that get left behind.
Tank tops and shorts
Despite having more colors to choose from than a kaleidoscope maker, the Aviators players – or at least the starting rotation – seem to be proponents of navy blues.
The starting pitcher decides which jersey the team wears, and the Aviators have worn their dark blue top 32 times this season.
As a catcher, Allen prefers all-whites — especially when the heat in Las Vegas turns up like one of Aroldis Chapman’s fastballs.
The days before the All-Star break, when it was so hot, the Aviators skipped batting practice, “I wouldn’t mind if we went sleeveless with shorts,” he said.