Pride Night 2019 will be a night to remember on Staten Island when the MiLB Class A Short Season Affiliate of the New York Yankees host the Hudson County Renegades. The home team taking the field of the Richmond County Bank Ballpark will be wearing a far more colorful version of their traditional pinstripes.
At the suggestion of Sarah Kogod, an inclusion strategist who works with You Can Play, the Staten Island Yankees will wear jerseys adorned with rainbow pinstripes, matching the colors of the LGBTQ Pride Flag designed by the late Gilbert Baker.
“I work with You Can Play on several initiatives, one of which is a partnership with Minor League Baseball for MiLB Pride,” Kogod told Outsports. “I was having a conversation with the team early in the season, knocking around ideas for Pride Night activations and I took a shot and asked if they would do rainbow pinstripes. They agreed immediately.”
They is Will Smith, Staten Island Yankees President, CEO and operating partner for Nostalgic Partners, the team’s holding company. He came to the “Baby Bombers” four years ago this month after seven years as GM of the Trenton Thunder.
His team is one of more than 70 minor league baseball teams hosting Pride nights this season in partnership with You Can Play and MiLB. “It’s a record number,” Kogod said, “and it has been incredible.”
While the jerseys are still being stitched together, UniWatch.com got a sneak peek at the designs, which Kogod shared with us. Above, you can see the reverse side, and here’s the front of the jersey:
As UniWatch noted, the Yankees’ historic pinstripes are never seen in any color other than navy blue, going back as far as 1915. “As far as I know, this is only the second time in history the Yankees pinstripes will be seen outside of the navy,” Kogod said.
And the S.I. Yankees are not alone in making a fashion statement for Pride this year.
“This season has actually been a groundbreaking season for Pride jerseys in Minor League Baseball,” said Kogod. “Earlier this season, the Eugene Emeralds became the first team in professional baseball history to wear Pride-specific jerseys in a game. The San Jose Giants followed last week with theirs and Staten Island Yankees will wear theirs next week.”
Plus the Fresno Grizzlies wore Pride jerseys this year, noted MiLB’s Benjamin Pereira.
“Four historic Pride jerseys in one season and You Can Play’s logo is on three of them,” Kogod said. “It’s really exciting, and it’s incredible visibility for the community.”
Up in the Bronx, 27 miles away, the Bronx Bombers made a strong commitment to LGBTQ Pride earlier this summer with the first annual Yankees Stonewall Scholarships. $10,000 was awarded to a high school student from each of New York City’s five boroughs, and a new permanent monument at The Stadium to the heroes of the Stonewall uprising in 1969.
Following the game on Friday, August 30th, the jerseys will be auctioned off to benefit You Can Play, which is dedicated to ensuring equality, respect and safety for all athletes, without regard to sexual orientation and/or gender identity. As described in its mission statement, the non-profit organization works to guarantee that athletes are given a fair opportunity to compete, judged by other athletes and fans alike, and only by what they contribute to the sport or their team’s success.
The team is also offering a special package combining a ticket and a baseball cap to raise awareness and funds for the Pride Center of Staten Island. Tickets purchased in advance using the promotional code “2019Pride” will receive a voucher to pick up a Staten Island Yankees hat branded with a rainbow “Y” logo. The package is $20 per person and $10 of every package sold will be donated to the Pride Center of Staten Island.
Staten Island is not only home to the minor league Yankees, but also is known as “New York’s Red Borough.” As Seth Barron wrote for the City Journal in 2018, it has “long represented conservative values traditionally associated with suburban rather than urban polities, and it has served as a political and cultural counterweight to the far-left excesses of New York’s other boroughs, especially Manhattan and the Bronx.”
Outsports asked Kogod about that dynamic in planning the team’s Pride Night.
“We do a significant number of Pride nights with teams in almost every league and this is constantly a topic of conversation,” she said. “We have learned over time that the opponents of Pride nights are generally small in number, and whether or not people will approve has never been an obstacle on our end.
“What I always say is this: we advocate for a community in sports that 364 days of the year is marginalized. To be in the LGBTQ sports community — whether as an athlete, coach, staff or fan — can often feel lonely and scary. But on this night, on Pride Night, it is those who oppose this community who feel marginalized, lonely and scared. Our first instinct is to brush them off. But if we can find the empathy that allows us to understand how they are feeling on this night, we can approach it with love and celebration.
“I know it seems idealistic but it really does go a long way in allowing all fans to enjoy Pride nights, whether it’s in head-to-toe rainbows, or just sitting next to someone in head-to-toe rainbows who is also cheering (or commiserating) with you.”
And these jerseys with their rainbow pinstripes make more than just a fashion statement, and represent more than a marketing tool. Kogod said the impact they have on LGBTQ youth is deep.
“We know that 82% of LGBTQ youth athletes are not out to their coaches, that two-thirds of LGBTQ youth drop out of sports before the end of high school due to homophobia and a lack of safe locker room experiences, and that LGBTQ youth — and in particular trans kids —are taking their own lives at exponential rates,” she said. “So when these young athletes can see professional baseball players wearing rainbows while competing, it provides a level of visibility you don’t get with any other Pride activation. It’s one thing for a team to say they embrace the community by hosting Pride. But when athletes are literally wearing that support on their sleeves, it means something to the humans who need to see it the most.”
“To some fans, rainbow jerseys are cool,” said Kogod. “To others, they are life changing. In some cases, they may be life-saving.”
Editor’s note: an earlier version of this report said You Can Play’s logo appeared on four MiLB jerseys this season. The actual number is three. We’ve corrected the quotation.