Blue Jays: The "Home Run Jacket" is back... in Pittsburgh
Symbols can be incredibly meaningful for a big-league club, even if they seem like nothing more than fun distractions. For the Blue Jays, that symbol was a size 48 blue jacket, and it became almost as big as the super-sized personalities on the field.
In July 2021, the Blue Jays were nearing an end to their two-year odyssey away from home. The team, a mixture of young players, veterans, and varying nationalities, was seeking a way to mix all those components together into a cohesive whole and become contenders in the playoff race. Then Hector Lebron, the club’s Spanish interpreter, had an idea.
Lebron, inspired by the Green Jacket awarded to the champion of the Masters golf tournament, approached George Springer about making a jacket for the Blue Jays. Springer and the rest of the players agreed, and on July 29 in Boston, the “Home Run Jacket” was born.
Featuring the name of all 15 countries represented on the club, as well as the phrase “La Gente del Barrio” (“the people from the ‘hood”), the jacket inspired the club and took on a life of its own. A Blue Jays player who hit a home run would have it draped over his shoulders by his teammates when he got back to the dugout and pose in front of the camera. And they had plenty of chances to try it on. From the time the jacket was introduced to the end of the 2022 season, the Blue Jays hit 310 home runs, third-most in the Majors. A total of 22 different players got to put on the jacket, from Jackie Bradley Jr. (once) and Bradley Zimmer (twice) to Teoscar Hernandez (42 times) and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (a team-leading 48 times).
The Blue Jays won nine of their next 10 games after first bringing in the jacket and 40 of their last 63 games, taking the AL playoff race down to the final day of the season. in 2022, they made the playoffs as the first AL Wild Card team.
But all good things must come to an end, and those young, exuberant Blue Jays grew up. Adopting a more focused, mature attitude in 2023, the jacket was thrown on top of the proverbial trash heap.
Now another team, one which closely resembles the Blue Jays from two years ago, is trying to bring it back. The Pirates have been the surprise of the 2023 season, a team that had been in a seemingly endless rebuild coming off back-to-back 100-loss seasons and who hadn’t made the playoffs in seven years. The Pirates, like the Blue Jays, have their own mix of young players like Ke’Bryan Hayes and Rodolfo Castro, plus veterans like Carlos Santana. It was the addition of franchise icon Andrew McCutchen, though, who returned to Pittsburgh in the offseason, that has seemed to inspire the club to reach new lofty heights.
The Pirates have won 15 of their first 22 games for the first time in 31 years. They’re currently just a half-game out of the NL Central lead. They did it, much like the Blue Jays, with the help of symbols: a sword; a Pikachu doll given to the player of the game; and, according to photos posted by MLB.com’s Justice delos Santos on Sunday, a jacket.
The Pirates jacket, black instead of blue with yellow and white stripes down the sleeves, features the retired numbers of Pirates greats who came before them: names like Honus Wagner, Ralph Kiner, Roberto Clemente, and Willie Stargell. It even has the phrase “La Gente del Barrio.” They’re doing it to show the rest of the league that, not only are they now a team to be reckoned with, but they can also have some fun while doing it.
The Blue Jays jacket may be a thing of the past, but its memory lives on in the Pirates clubhouse. The Blue Jays will even get a chance to see it for themselves: they travel to play Pittsburgh in two weeks.