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Players Weekend Highlights Marlins’ Unique Nicknames

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NEW YORK (CBSMiami/AP) — Now leading off and playing second base: Varis Strange.

gettyimages 839216044 Players Weekend Highlights Marlins Unique Nicknames

Marcell Ozuna #13 of the Miami Marlins, also known as “The Big Bear,” hits during a game against the San Diego Padres at Marlins Park on August 25, 2017 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Hitting second, the right fielder: Cruz.

Over in left field: The Big Bear. On the mound, the closer: Unicorn.

As part of Players Weekend, the Miami Marlins joined the rest of baseball by ditching tradition and having fun with player nicknames on the back of their jerseys.

Some were easy to identify. Christian Yelich wore “Yeli.” J.T. Realmuto went by “JT.”

But others, like slugger Giancarlo Stanton, may have had fans scratching their heads. “Cruz” is a part of his full name, Giancarlo Cruz-Michael Stanton.

Dee Gordon’s full name is Devaris Strange-Gordon. Teammates referred Brad Zeigler as the “unicorn” in spring training because he hardly pitched.

It may take a little getting used to for baseball purists, though.

The buttoned-up Yankees ditched the famous uniforms they had worn exclusively for more than a century. That interlocking NY logo? Stitched onto a gray cap.

The only pinstripes were on the pants.

“I’m not that crazy about it, man. I’m more of an old-school guy,” veteran outfielder Brett Gardner said before the Yankees hosted Seattle. “It’ll be weird not wearing pinstripes. But I understand the reasoning behind it, the initiative. And I know a lot of young kids and a lot of young fans are excited about it.”

Looking for ways to appeal to new fans, Major League Baseball and the players’ association decided to let big leaguers display their individuality this weekend by wearing unique and colorful gear on the field.

“I think it’s going to be awesome,” Atlanta Braves infielder Brandon Phillips said. “I try to play with a lot of flair and personality every day, so I feel like this day is for me.”

Bats took on a different hue, too, as Tampa Bay’s Steven Souza Jr. swung a blue piece of timber. Colorado star Carlos Gonzalez had a specially painted bat with some purple and his face on the sweet spot.

“I hope he hits you in the face,” Rockies manager Bud Black kidded.

The jerseys were inspired by youth league uniforms and included a patch on the right sleeve with a blank space for players to write the names of people or organizations essential to their growth and development. Kansas City outfielder Alex Gordon used the spot to thank his mom and dad.

Game-worn jerseys will be auctioned for charity, with proceeds going to help amateur baseball and softball programs.

And of course, some of the special jerseys with nicknames on the back — like “Mr. Smile” for Cleveland Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor — were already available to buy online for $199.99.

“I want a Mr. Smile jersey,” Jimmy Adams, 11, of Solon, Ohio, said before Cleveland’s game against Kansas City. “I love watching him play because he always has fun out there.”

The nicknames were as colorful as the crazy socks and shoes worn by several players.

Cleveland right-hander Carlos Carrasco, who pitches Sunday against the Royals, opted for “Cookie,” his usual clubhouse moniker for his affinity for the chewy treats. Cubs infielder Javier Baez was “El Mago” — Spanish for the magician — and Phillies infielder Freddy Galvis went with “Toco,” a nickname that his brother gave him in Venezuela.

“It’s a made-up word, but everybody calls me that at home,” Galvis said.

Atlanta rookie pitcher Sean Newcomb had a friend paint shoes with images of Braves greats Hank Aaron, Phil Niekro, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz and manager Bobby Cox.

Yankees third baseman Todd Frazier, a proud New Jersey native, had special cleats made with Frank Sinatra’s face on them, along with a nod to his Little League World Series championship and an image of Frazier holding the Home Run Derby trophy he won in 2015.

Didi Gregorius, knighted in Curaçao, designed three pairs of Looney Tunes spikes.

Aaron Judge? All rise.

Fitting, at least. But a few decades late for The Bambino, The Iron Horse, Joltin’ Joe and The Chairman of the Board.

That’s why the significance of eschewing their stately old digs — even for just a weekend series that began with “Star Wars” night — was not lost on the Yankees, a team that’s never put players’ names on the backs of jerseys even though it was the first franchise to assign individual numbers.

Even now, the Yankees prohibit beards and long hair. They don’t wear alternate tops on Sundays or black ones every so often to be fashionable, as many other teams do.

Gardner said he didn’t want anything written on the back of his jersey, but was told that wasn’t an option. So he went with his full last name.

Simple.

“My thought is, it’s a three-day thing so it doesn’t really change the tradition of the Yankees. It doesn’t really change what the pinstripes stand for,” manager Joe Girardi said. “I’m sure we’re going to see some wild things out there. Probably something I never imagined that I would see on a field. But after these three days, I won’t have to look at it again for a year.”

Marlins manager Don Mattingly, a former Yankees star, planned to wear a tribute patch for Pete Studer, his Little League coach from ages 9-12.

Mattingly said Players Weekend is cool and fun, but also sounded like a traditionalist regarding such events.

“There are so many. It used to be Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and the Fourth of July. Now it’s weekends and three or four days of it. Some of that seems a little over the top,” he said.

(TM and © Copyright 2017 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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