8/1/04 – Daily News Record
By AARON GRAY Daily News-Record It’s not how you look – it’s how you play the game, right? Maybe, but some players from the first-place Harrisonburg Turks wouldn’t have minded winning the Valley League pennant in style. The problem, it seems, is sartorial. "I don’t really like our uniforms," pitcher Pat Caldwell of Arizona’s Yavapai Junior College said. "The design is all right, but overall they could be better." Usually, baseball players are the most kempt in sports. Their uniforms might be dull, but they remain tightly tucked in no matter what the player does – unwind for a pitch, dive for the plate, stretch for a catch. The Turks, though, often look like their popping out of their shirts. Harrisonburg owner/coach Bob Wease bought the uniforms for $80 a piece in 1991, three years after he bought the team. Some purists still appreciate the "old school" value of the uniforms, which are white with red and blue trim. "They’ve got that retro 70’s look," catcher Matt Sluder of James Madison said. Others even figured the uniforms were deliberately old-fashioned. "I thought they were throw-back jerseys," first baseman Joe Kemp of Indiana said. In 1989, Wease inherited pinstriped uniforms. Three years later, still remembering how the 1988 U.S. Olympic baseball team looked when it won the gold medal in Seoul, he decided to give his new squad a makeover . "Back then, it was the hottest thing going," said Wease, who has skippered the Turks to three consecutive winning seasons. "After following the USA team on television, I went out and ordered the same exact jerseys." Times, of course, change. And what once was cutting edge, now is … well, hard to wear. The most common knock on the elastic-banded white pants is the absence of belt loops. "I’m used to wearing a belt," said Caldwell, who couldn’t keep his shirt tucked in when he pitched eight no-hit innings on July 7 against Waynesboro. "It kind of reminds me of Little League." Of course, a low-budget team does have some benefits. In college baseball, Sluder has to maintain a combination of different jerseys at Madison. "Believe it or not, it’s really superstitious at JMU. If we do well in one game, we’ll wear the same combination again for the next game," Sluder said. "But with the Turks – we don’t need that option." Regardless of what they wear, the Turks dominated on the field during the regular season, amassing a 30-14 record, tops in the NCAA-sanctioned Valley League. But, apparently not crediting his team’s threads for the victories, Wease said a uniform makeover is on the horizon – possibly a return to the pinstripes. "Luray beat us there," Wease said. "Maybe some red pinstripes for home games would be nice." The change could come as early as next season. Bill Turner, the president of the Luray Wranglers, also inherited blue pinstripes when he purchased the team in 2001. A self-proclaimed "die-hard" Yankee fan, Turner said he doesn’t mind the competition in style. "Harrisonburg’s got a great tradition going on over there," Turner said. "The way I look at it is if its not broken, don’t fix it." Among other VBL teams, Front Royal sports pinstriped pants with a mesh jersey, which the team bought last year. It upgraded again four years before that. Staunton is in the fourth year of its pinstripe era, but new uniforms are planned for next season. "We want our guys to look good on the field, so we switch it up every five years," said Steve Cox, the Braves’ general manager for the last three years. Unlike most players in the Valley League, the Turks themselves are in charge of washing their uniforms after games. "I’m no longer a stranger to washing detergent," Sluder said. "My electric bill has also gone through the roof." Matching players with uniform sizes appears to be an inexact science for the Turks. Pretty much, the players pick a number and they get the size that comes with that number. "Some guys are forced to wear the pants closer to their knees because they’re short," Kemp said. "But I’m comfortable like that." The possibility of new uniforms for the Turks in 2005 might ultimately rely on their postseason finish this year. "Knowing how superstitious Bob is, if we go all the way, like we hope to," Sluder said before Covington swept the Turks out of the playoffs Sunday, "there’s no way we get new uniforms next season." Superstitious? Yes. In style? Not yet.