Everyone has an opinion on how to make baseball more appealing to young people and people of color, usually ranging from, “Let the players be themselves and have fun out there!” to, “Stay off my lawn!”
Well Red Sox pitcher David Price has his own, fairly novel solution: cool shoes.
“Let us express ourselves with our shoes,” said Price, who wears the Jordan Brand cleats. “They say the shoes make the man. We need to be able to express ourselves. If we can’t express ourselves guys want to, or we can’t express ourselves to the media like guys really want to, we’re puppets. We don’t need all the control, but we want to be able to control ourselves, and not be a puppet with a puppet-master hanging over us with the strings.”
Right now, the MLB rule states that a player’s cleats has to possess at least 51 percent of his team’s colors. And, as Price has found out, somebody is paying attention.
“I got a warning that said my cleats weren’t 51 percent black,” the pitcher said of an incident he had when pitching in Detroit. “I sent something back saying, ‘Yes they are, you’re just assuming they’re not because you can’t see the back half of them.’ I sent them a picture of my cleats and they were like, ‘OK.’”
Price’s shoe theory (which presumably makes his sponsors at Jordan quite happy) fits with the Bryce Harper-led movement to make baseball more fun and rewarding of personal expression.
There’s no question other players would be on board with loosened restrictions on footwear. Every year at the All-Star Game, when shoe color isn’t regulated, players go crazy, wearing neon shoes, rainbow shoes and pretty much anything else that isn’t allowed during the regular season.
Price is optimistic more creative cleats would excite younger fans. Via WEEI:
As the 30-year-old pitcher explained, for young people, things like shoes can make a big difference when choosing what sport to follow.
“They’ll say, ‘those are sick shoes. Those are awesome batting gloves.’ That’s what they see. That’s what they look at,” he said. “Guys take a lot of pride in the way they look out there on the field. If you look good, you’re going to play together, that’s something [Price’s former manager in Tampa Bay] Joe Maddon would always say. You should be uncomfortable in your own skin, so do your best to look good.”
Whether or not fans will specifically be drawn to colorful shoes, players expressing themselves generally gets fans talking, helps brand stars and builds a certain “cool factor” that baseball is perceived to lack.
Might as well start at the feet.