The ritual of rookie dress-up is something I have complicated feelings about. At its most benign, it is gentle hazing, meant to promote team unity and recognize a bridge that has been crossed in an MLB player’s journey; at worst, it trades on the very stereotypes and caricatures that linger, cobweb-like, around major league clubhouses. Probably the worst form is also the most common and banal: put a dress on it. The juxtaposition of a musclebound player straining the seams of a prim pinafore dress is a visual joke, sure, but it’s one-note. And while I don’t think the intent is to insult trans people or women, dressing players up as women in order to humiliate them as part of the hazing ritual instills a sense of otherness towards both the group being imitated (mostly women and girls) and the very action of putting on the clothes considered to belong to “another” gender (and don’t get me started on the gender binary). So for me, the key is “in order to humiliate.” Recently it seems rookie dress-up day has taken a turn away from the tequila-fueled humiliation described here by Dirk Hayhurst and into the joyfully bizarre mosaic that more closely reflects our lives here in this, the year two-thousand-sixteen. And as you know, no one does “joyfully bizarre” better than your Seattle Mariners.
First, a review of the other entrants in the field, as of this time, ranked in descending order of terribadness:
Not winning baseball games has given the Twins a lot of time to focus on their dress-up plan, which really gives the Mariners’ a run for sheer weirdness:
This is some good, gentle fun here. Lots of animal entrants, crash test dummies, a rasta banana I don’t want to think too much about, and...wait what
What in the name of sweet fanciful pudding cups is that. I’m so torn about what the most horrifying part is: the skintight lycra leggings that look like they were sheared directly from an American Apparel shoot, or the ridiculously tiny heads of Ernie and Bert, insulting all sense of spatial relations and childhood integrity. They look like escapees from a Sia music video. WHY COULDN’T IT JUST BE NORMAL PANTS. This is some uncanny valley shit and I can’t with it anymore.
The Rangers made a whole video of their dress-up day, because of course they did. Like everything else about the Rangers, it’s not as good as it probably could be, but I have to offer it a grudging amount of respect for featuring Nomar Mazara dressed up like a giant baby (and loving every minute of it). There are a few other strong entrants here—Dario Alvarez as Princess Elsa, lovingly tending to her trademark mane is a highlight—but mostly this features the usual suspects: cheerleader outfits, female superheroes, and one masked butterfly/bumblebee hybrid with huge glittery wings I lowkey want for myself. Stupid sexy Rangers.
Befitting their season, the Athletics did some thoroughly uninspiring, weaksauce bride/bridesmaids group thing. I don’t know why they didn’t get more creative, since I think they have a billion rookies, but they probably needed simple costumes they could pull on quick before their garbage pit of a stadium opened up and tried to suck them into the wastewater treatment plant of the Upside-Down. Stay sucking, Oakland.
Am I in Sleep Country USA because this is some Snoozeville.
A Teletubby? Half these players weren’t even born when Teletubbies was on. And of all the Teletubbies, Dipsy is the weakest of the weak. He’s named after a dipstick, literally. He’s basically the Teletubby Shemp. And the Pikachu costume is just footie pajamas. That’s so lazy. Speaking of which, hey the white guys are both redneck/ Duck Dynasty types and the black guy is Medea! Real revolutionary, there. Then of course you have your requisite guy in a tutu getting his Sparkle Motion on, and then there’s another guy in a tutu...and old-man socks? I for real don’t know what’s going on with half of these costumes, except they are as bland and tasteless as a Natty Boh. The fact that the mime is the most terrifying of all the costumes there tells you all you need to know. It turns out you can’t spell “Baltimore Orioles” without “boring as shit.”
New York Yankees
The Yankees rookies will be wearing onesie Yankee pajamas for their hazing on the flight to Toronto. https://t.co/C8pgxoAu2u— Andrew Marchand (@AndrewMarchand) September 23, 2016
Yo NYY, I think we need to have a discussion about what the word “hazing” means because last I checked, it was not “put on some comfy-ass pajamas that delight the child within and take a nap on your private jet.” That sound you hear is the entire SEC laughing at you before they lock you up in a utility shed for the night with only your own hair to eat, which they made your mother shave off while highlights of you in middle school played on the jumbotron. Seriously, swap the jet for a couch and add a glass of wine and that’s my Friday night. To be fair, though, I wouldn’t want to be the guy who handed Gary Sanchez a pair of booty shorts, either.
Kit and Dottie were my earliest sports heroes, so I am going to choose to believe that this pays homage to how kickass they were, an interpretation aided by the fact that MOST of these dudes are playing the costume straight. [Fixes beady eye on Tyrell Jenkins] Also, do the Braves have anyone on their roster who isn’t a rookie? There are more people in this picture than in the entire cast of LOTO.
Something else to point out is that the Braves have done a dress-up day before, when a crew of rookies and younger players dressed up as 90s/early 2000s boy bands (and Dansby Swanson, who has clearly been looking for an opportunity such as this/does not have anyone in his life to discount-double-check his decisions, dressed as T Pain). I’m not sure if that helps or hurts this argument. I need a drink.
Despite having approximately eighty billion rookies, the Astros did not do a dress-up day this year. I suppose they should be applauded for this show of good taste, but they’re the Astros, so may they be pummeled by every last one of those dumb plastic oranges on that useless, anachronistic train in their Disney-reject nightmarescape of a ballpark. Get bent, you pulsatingly orange carbuncles.
Other dishonorable mentions: The Dodgers’ cheerleading outfits which, why bother doing it at all (although Puig willingly putting one on and cheering is such an expression of what a big bright soul he is and SIGN HIM NOW JERRY DO IT GIVE US THE ALL-CUBAN OUTFIELD OF OUR DREAMS); the Rays’ sack-tastic wrestling onesies (the Olympics are soooo two months ago).
So now, in contrast to these displays of ineptitude and banality and sheer suck, we come to our own, beloved Seattle Mariners:
Okay, first things first: clearly I don’t love Mike Freeman as Supergirl, although he is carrying off those boots with aplomb, and Dae-Ho’s translator is apparently wearing the tails of the furries he’s murdered. I would comment on Dan Altavilla’s outfit but we’re still trying to figure out what it is and so far a search for “Mardi Gras fever dream John Waters nipple pillow” has turned up nothing. Ariel Miranda in the “cha cha girl” costume could have been so bad, but Miranda seems genuinely delighted as he struts across the field. My guess is the poly-satin layers of that dress saw some shimmying on the plane (also how skinny are Miranda’s legs? You could bundle like six of them together and not come up with the circumference of Dan Altavilla’s neck.) So now on to the deliciously weird. Edwin as Gumby makes a strange kind of sense, and the sight of Gumby frantically bonesawing will warm my heart through the cold winter. VogelFarley is genius, and Dan seems to be beaming with pride there, and Dae-Ho—despite some reported early resistance—is owning his Kool-Aid man. I’m not sure who is in the TRex costume, but blown up to its full glory, it’s amazing. Also, what the heck is that inflatable country boy thing? There’s definitely a person in it, because it was ambulatory in the video Martín posted, but the hands/head are so plastic and weird-looking. (Update: I googled it. Someone spent a lot of money at buycostumes dot com.)
Overall, the Mariners costumes are great because they’re mostly tailored to the individual wearing them. At its best—if it can be argued that there’s a good side—hazing welcomes someone to the group by gently poking fun at something that makes you different, be it a big belly or skinny legs or your big long ET fingers, and in doing so, welcomes you into the group despite that, and maybe even because of it. Hazing can be a way to say, we have noticed you, and the way you are apart from us, and now by emphasizing that separation for a brief time, we will make you a part of us. In this way, it can be read as a parallel to the dress-up day the Mariners held towards the beginning of the season, when everyone wore clothes to represent where they came from. Now, the newest members of the team have been given clothes that represent where they are now, full partners in the joyfully bizarre experience of being a 2016 Seattle Mariner.