Baseball is finally here and this year is full of intriguing storylines. Can Chicago repeat? What crazy stats will mega stars like Clayton Kershaw and Mike Trout put up this season? Which young prospects will emerge as the faces of their franchises? It is sure to be a year of intrigue and the baseball players who have graced our cover promise to be at the center of all the action. So let’s take a look at some of baseball’s biggest names, break down what to watch for from them this year, and check out what they’ll be wearing on game day.
Mike Trout, Los Angeles Center Fielder
Let’s start with a 5-time All-Star and 2-time MVP. Trout is coming off another monstrous individual year, but is focused on leading LA back to the postseason for the first time since 2014.
The world champs got the breakout season they needed from Bryant last season. His .292 BA, 39 HRs, and 102 RBIs earned him a well-deserved MVP award. Want to hear the crazy part? At only 25 years old, he’s still got plenty of room to grow.
Miami had their best record in six years last year and will count on their mighty cleanup hitter, Stanton, to power their offense. The three-time All-Star has over 200 career homers and is sure to launch plenty more long bombs in 2017.
Few players make as big of an impact on the diamond as Kiermaier does. The two-time Gold Glover is one of the best defensive players the game has seen in a long time. He also took major strides on the offensive side last year, setting career highs in HRs and OBP.
Speaking of outstanding defensive players, Posey finally captured his first Gold Glove in 2016. It was a long time coming for the veteran star who has been a lynchpin on both sides of the plate for the perennial contenders.
The surefire first ballot Hall of Famer will look to add to his ridiculous trophy case which already includes 3 Cy Young Awards, 1 MVP, and 6 All-Stars. But at this point, the one he really cares about and has a nice spot cleared out for is that world title ring.
Boston’s trusty starting shortstop would love to win his third consecutive Silver Slugger award this season, but he’s much more concerned about getting his team back to the Fall Classic for the first time since his rookie year in 2013.
For baseball players looking for elite performance and comfort on the diamond, New Balance has been a top option for years. And for trend-setters on and off the diamond, New Era has been a go-to brand with the hottest hats around. So a partnership between the two was sure to combine the best of both worlds and deliver a jaw-dropping product. These special, limited-edition New Balance 3000v3 cleats and New Era 39thirty hats don’t disappoint. We sat down with New Balance Baseball Product Manager Matt Nuzzo to discuss what makes this collab so special.
Eastbay: This seems like a perfect collaboration. New Balance and New Era are both so popular in the baseball world. How did this all come together?
Matt Nuzzo (MN): This is just the start of a year-long collaboration that New Balance is doing with New Era across many different sports. But we wanted to kick it off with baseball because of how genuine and authentic we both are in the sport.
Eastbay: The look of this cleat is really interesting and unique. What are some of its special features?
MN: The main story is on the reflective upper. Since both brands are big in baseball, people recognize both our logos. The reflective hits throughout the upper really help the cleat stand out on the field.
Eastbay: How did you settle on the reflective design?
MN: New Balance and New Era agreed that a crazy cleat in crazy colors wouldn’t be true to our brands. That’s not really our styles. We both love making really clean looking stuff with subtle style touches. We embody that here and focused on making something really wearable. Usually, when kids get these special products from brands, they can’t wear them in season because they are too over the top and their coach won’t let them. We want kids to be able to wear it and use this while also still getting something progressive and cool.
Eastbay: What about the outsole?
MN: The first thing that stands out is the iridescent studs. We really wanted to highlight the construction of the cleat and by making the outsole translucent, you are even able to see the top of the studs. That’s not typical in baseball, so we wanted to showcase that part and make the cleats compliment the upper.
Eastbay: The New Era hat is just as cool as the cleat. Can you break down some of its features for us as well?
MN: Just like the cleat, there are three parts of the hat that are reflective. The New Balance logo in the middle of the hat is a TPU piece and has a color-shift effect similar to the cleat studs. Underneath the lid, in the spot you would write your name, that material is the same material that’s on the saddle of the shoe. So if you take a photo underneath the hat, it’ll shine. The taping down the back of the hat features the New Balance and New Era logos and is reflective as well. So there’s a lot of cool tie-ins between the hat and cleat. The mesh on the cleat is even the mesh that New Era uses for their hats.
Tampa Bay’s Kevin Kiermaier is here to help you become a star outfielder.
There’s no luck involved in winning two straight Gold Gloves and a Platinum Glove Award. The only road to becoming as great an outfielder as Tampa Bay’s Kevin Kiermaier is consistent hard work and dedication. Luckily, Kevin is here to give you some great pointers on how you can start on your own path towards defensive greatness.
How To Cover More Ground
“As far as speed on defense goes, you have to put a lot of time and effort into that each day. If you want to be the best of the best, you need to do a lot of things behind closed doors. Spend a lot of time on speed workouts and footwork drills, because it’ll keep you crisp out there and you’ll be able to make the big plays. Like I said, you need to do everything you can to help your team win.”
How To Boost Your Reaction Time
“My time playing basketball and football has helped me react quicker—so play other sports. Another big part of it is instincts. The routes you take on balls, how fast you get there, all of those things are instinctive and factor in to making the big play. You only get that by spending a ton of time during practice on defense.
I’d also say, find little things to motivate you each and every day. Part of why I train as hard as I do is that I never want to come up just short of a ball. I remember moments, like last season in Detroit. I came up a little short, and unfortunately my hand got caught in the grass and I broke two bones. But if I would have been a step quicker, it probably wouldn’t have happened. I let those moments eat at me and push me during every workout.”
How To Throw Out More Baserunners
“I would recommend long tossing. Head to the outfield with a teammate or coach and throw the baseball as long and far as possible. That definitely helps you maintain and increase arm strength. I’ve been doing that for years. Long toss can help every baseball player, not just outfielders.
And I can’t stray away from the fact that my brothers and I played catch with a football our whole lives. We have to be top-10-all-time in passes completed! No joke. I credit my brothers Dan and Steve, because I’m telling you, it’s unreal how much that has an effect. You do that throwing motion so many times and, obviously, throwing a football is heavier than a baseball. I just feel like it really increases arm strength.”
Tuesday, June 10. 2010. It was supposed to be one of the best days of Kevin Kiermaier’s life.
It was the second day of the MLB Draft, when rounds 2-30 were being held. “I had two outstanding years in college and everyone was telling me I would probably go between the 8th and 15th round,” Kevin explained. “So I had everyone come over, my friends and family, and we were all waiting for my name to be called.”
But the night didn’t go as planned. “So the 8th round passes… the 10th… the 15th… nothing. I thought ‘Okay, not where I want to be but it’s alright,’ Kevin said. “But then we get to the 20th round… 25th… 30th… and my name never got called.”