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Nightengale: MLB Grants Players More Shoe Freedom

Cubs outfielder Ben Zobrist lodged a protest when he received a warning from MLB noting that his black cleats ran afoul. Photo: AP

By Bob Nightengale |

Baseball’s shoe police can go home.

Major League Baseball and its owners approved an amendment to the basic agreement that finally loosens restrictions on the design and colors of players’ footwear in games.

Players, such as Ben Zobrist of the Chicago Cubs and Mike Clevinger of the Cleveland Indians, were furious last season that they were being warned and fined by Major League Baseball if their footwear did not adhere to league-mandated rules.

Now, players will be permitted to wear footwear of their choice as long as it adheres to these specifications, per a joint release between MLB and the MLB Players’ Association:

“Among other things, MLB and the MLBPA have agreed to eliminate the previous rule that the majority of a Player’s on-field footwear must be in his Club’s designated primary shoe color. Instead, Players may wear shoes displaying any of the following colors, in any proportion: (i) black, white, and gray; (ii) any colors displayed on the Player’s uniform (and certain variations thereof); and (iii) any additional colors designated by the Player’s Club.”

Shoe designs will have to be pre-approved by teams.

“We view footwear as an important part to the marketing of the game,’’ Commissioner Rob Manfred said. “We also believe it’s a vehicle that allows players to express their individuality. The amendment will provide players with additional flexibility on shoe colors and design, while preserving the clubs’ uniform color schemes.’’

And one weekend a year, players can wear whatever they want, including flip-flops, if that’s their desire.

When Zobrist complained to MLB this season about the footwear restrictions, he explained his black cleats were a tribute to players he idolized – including Ernie Banks and Stan Musial. He also struck a chord in an area MLB is trying to harness – young fans’ interest in the game.

Zobrist wrote: “Maybe there is some kid out there that will be inspired to look more into the history of the game by the “flexibility” that I prefer in the color of my shoes.”

Manfred mentioned that in his comments Thursday.

“One weekend, players will be allowed to wear whatever they want on their feet,’’ Manfred said, “a source of great interest to younger fans. …

“We believe that this agreement strikes the appropriate balance between the shared goal of permitting players to express their individuality while maintaining reasonable restrictions on shoe colors and designs.”

Said MLBPA executive director Tony Clark:  “Players welcome the expanded opportunity to express themselves and engage with fans through innovative design.  We look forward to seeing their creativity and individuality on the field in 2019.”

Gentlemen, start those shoe designs now.

This article was republished with permission from the original publisher, USA Today. Follow Bob Nightengale on Twitter and Facebook.

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