This text was first published on pastimepinstripes.tumblr.com on May 1, 2016 as part of an English project at McDaniel College. It has been edited for its purposes on this blog and can be read in its entirety and original form by clicking here. To learn more about Pastime Pinstripes, please read our post “The Grain of the Game Announces New Blog Features.”
Tacoma is a mid-sized city about 30 miles south of Seattle in the state of Washington. Together, the cities have a metro area population of 3.5 million people. About 30 miles north of Seattle lies Everett, also included in the same metro area.
The 3.5 million people in the area are able to support three professional baseball teams. Located in the heart of Seattle are the Mariners, contenders in Major League Baseball’s American League. To the south are the Tacoma Rainiers who play at the Triple-A level of Minor League Baseball. And to the north are the Everett AquaSox, contestants at the Single-A Short Season level of the Minors.
Besides sharing a fan base, these three teams all have another commonality: the Seattle Mariniers. When the Mariners draft new players, the young hopefuls are sent up through their Minor League farm system. One of the first stops for many is in Everett, one of the Mariners’ affiliates. The last stop for many is in Tacoma, the Mariners’ Triple-A affiliate. All within a 54 mile span of each other and along one interstate (I-5), these three teams are all connected to one another in many ways.
Tacoma first fielded a baseball team in 1904 when the Pacific Coast League (PCL) (the current league the Rainiers play in) brought the Tigers to town, moving from Sacramento after the 1903 season. After playing a season and a half, the Tigers skipped town and moved back to Sacramento, now playing as the Solons. This ended the PCL’s presence in Tacoma for 55 years, but an unaffiliated team (also named the Tigers) operated from 1930 to 1951 to fill the absence.
When 1960 hit the PCL was back up and running in Tacoma under the namesake of the Giants. The city has kept a team ever since, but not until 1995 when the Mariners took over their affiliation did the Rainiers namesake take over.
Besides two affiliations (Mariners not included), Tacoma’s baseball team always borrowed their major league affiliate’s name (Giants, Cubs, Twins, Yankees). The first time Tacoma gained their own name was in 1979 when the Cleveland Indians took over their affiliation and Tacoma held a name-the-team contest. Local fan Gary W. Grip won with his submission of “Tugs,” a tribute to the boats on the nearby Tacoma waterways.
After a year as the Tacoma Tugs, the team changed their name back to the Tigers for the 1980 season.
In 1981, Tacoma realigned their affiliation with Oakland, a partnership that remained for 14 season. The team kept the Tigers name the entire time, only dropping it when the (local-ish) Mariners picked them up.
With the new Seattle partnership, Tacoma quickly adopted the name “Rainiers” as a way to pay tribute to the Seattle Rainiers who had played in the PCL from 1938 to 1964 and from 1972 to 1976.
An instant success from 1995 through this very present day, the Tacoma Rainiers have garnered all types of interest throughout the country. Most notably, the Rainiers focus on their fans more than anything.
Having a storied past of uniforms and logos, the Rainiers came out with a new campaign to start the 2015 season. Highlighted by the team’s “R” logo, the new logos and uniforms focus on what the fans want.
“This isn’t a typical team logo/uniform change,” said Team President Aaron Artman, as reported by milb.com, “This came from our fans.” In his address, Artman explained that fans have purchased and worn gear with the “R” logo more than anything else, so it only made sense to base their new look off of what the fans want.
The “R” logo appeared in early 2015 as the team’s new secondary logo, with the plain “Rainiers” script logo as the primary. The script logo replaces my personal favorite “T/R” logo, used by the team from 2009 through 2014. The release also brought in a “mountain and ice pick” logo, officially listed as the tertiary logo, to be worn on batting practice caps. The ice pick pays tribute the Mt. Rainier which towers over the Washington skyline, an inspiration for the name.
As pointed out by Rainiers’ broadcaster Mike Curto, the main difference in the new logo and uniform reveal is that an “R” will be worn on all game caps.
The new home uniform is very navy blue heavy, featured the blue “Rainiers” script, blue numbers (front and back) and nameplate, blue piping, and a blue belt and blue socks. The hat to be worn with the home set is navy blue with the red “R” logo, as promised by Curto.
The road jersey is similar, featuring the same piping, belt, socks, nameplate, and cap. The difference is the navy blue and outlined in red “TACOMA” script on the front and the same design for the number on the back, with no number on the front.
My favorite uniform of them all (and the only jersey I’ve seen the Rainiers wear in person), is the alternate, worn at home, and, in my experience, on Sundays. The alternate jersey is a red base with white piping, nameplate, and front and back number. The belt, sock, and hat are all red as well, with a white “R” logo on the cap (yes, I do own the red cap).
Lastly, the Rainiers debuted a full-time batting practice uniform. To be worn with white pants, a blue belt, and blue socks, the jersey features typical batting practice piping (along the sides and underarms rather than the front) in red, on top of the navy blue jersey. A red “Rainiers” script runs straight across the chest, outlined in white, the same as the number on back. There is no nameplate. The cap is navy blue, like the jersey, and features the “mountain and ice pick” logo.
A full graphic of the new logos and uniforms can be found here, courtesy of rainiers.com.
Quite the successful look in 2015, the Rainiers have taken to the field once again to start their 2016 campaign, donning “R’s” all around, celebrating their loyal fans.