MLB Loosens Regulations on Players’ Cleats

Major League Baseball is giving players more freedom when it comes to shoe style.

The MLB announced yesterday that it would amend an agreement regulating the design and color of players’ footwear on the field. The decision follows the NBA’s rule change from early this year allowing players to wear any color sneakers they want.

Based on a new agreement between the MLB Players Association and the MLB, players will be able to wear cleats as long as they adhere to the following guidelines: “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.”

Teams will be required to preapprove players’ shoe choices prior to games.

Previously, players were required to wear shoes with an exterior that was at least 51 percent the color chosen by their teams — a decision that irked some athletes.

One such athlete was Ben Zobrist of the Chicago Cubs, who received a letter from the MLB this summer warning him not to wear black cleats (the Cubs’ chosen color was blue). The MLBer explained on Instagram that his black cleats were worn in homage to the baseball players he admired while growing up, such as Ernie Banks and Stan Musial.

View this post on Instagram

Dear @mlb, I still like you but this is rediculous. For the last two years, I have worn black spikes exclusively at Wrigley Field for Day games to pay homage to the history of our great game, and now I am being told I will be fined and disciplined if I continue to wear them. When I was a kid, I was inspired by highlights of the greats such as Ernie Banks and Stan Musial in the 1950s-60s and was captured by the old uniforms and all black cleats with flaps. @newbalancebaseball made a kid’s dream come true by making some all black spikes with the special tongue as well as the “Benny the Jet” @pf_flyers cleats. I am curious as to why @mlb is spending time and money enforcing this now when they haven’t done it previously in the last year and beyond. I have heard nothing but compliments from fans that enjoy the “old school” look. 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. Sincerely, Ben Zobrist

A post shared by Ben Zobrist (@benzobrist18) on

Cleveland Indians star Mike Clevinger also called out the MLB after being fined for his footwear — a pair of customized cleats that he’d revamped to meet the 51 percent guideline after receiving criticism from the league.

Zobrist’s cleats are good to go under the new policy, while cleats like Clevinger’s would be subject to approval on a case-by-case basis.

Regardless, this change could increase interest in the baseball footwear market, as consumers may hope to get the custom looks of their favorite athletes.

“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,” MLB commissioner Rob Manfred explained in announcing the new rules.

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