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Aviators have taken alternate uniforms to the ninth degree

Between call-ups to the majors, Aviators catcher Austin Allen has enjoyed playing in Las Vegas so much that you get the impression he would give local baseball fans the shirt off his back.

If it happens this season, that could take a while. The Aviators already have worn nine different uniforms this season.

Allen said most minor league teams he has played for had only two — one home, one away.

“If you were lucky, you had an alternate jersey, but that didn’t start until you got higher in the professional ranks,” he said. “Through the years, I’ve collected a few. I’ve definitely got one or two from the Aviators.”

So only seven more to go. Nine, if you count all three iterations of the Reyes de Plata tops the Aviators have worn on Copa de la Diversion nights celebrating baseball in the Hispanic and Latino communities.

There still is a long way go to catch Oregon’s football team (said to have 500 different uniform combinations, thanks to Nike). But the Aviators have sported so many jerseys in 2022 that Jim Gemma, the team’s longtime public relations director, has taken to posting their won-loss record in each in his daily game notes.

The ballpark vendors of yesteryear claimed you couldn’t tell the players without a scorecard. With the Aviators, one also requires a color palette.

The hues corporation

The Aviators have nearly as many team colors as Crayola has crayons. With hues of navy, orange, tangerine, gold, yellow and gray, it was going to require myriad jerseys just to highlight each.

There are four official uniforms listed in the team media guide:

— Home: white jerseys with gradient lettering (navy number on front), navy caps.

— Alternate home: Navy jerseys with yellow, gold, tangerine, orange lettering (white number on front).

— Road: Gray jerseys with gradient lettering (navy number on front), navy caps.

— Alternate road: Gradient jerseys (often referred to as tangerine or sunset) with white lettering (white number on front).

The Las Vegas Aviators have worn nine different jersey designs this year, the four standard jer ...
The Las Vegas Aviators have worn nine different jersey designs this year, the four standard jerseys are seen here, from left, the home, home alternate, road, and road alternate, at Las Vegas Ballpark on Wednesday, July 13, 2022, in Las Vegas. (Steel Brooks/Las Vegas Review-Journal)

During the season’s first half, the Aviators also have sported their Reyes de Plata scheme on home Tuesday nights and occasional road games as well as specialty uniforms on Star Wars, Pride, Marvel and Top Gun nights at Las Vegas Ballpark.

“In minor league baseball, that’s just part of the drill,” Aviators president Don Logan said about the novelty uniforms that provide fans with another reason to come out to the ballpark. “The players sign them, and then we auction them off and (the money) comes back to our foundation.”

The Top Gun uniforms, patterned on the flight suit worn by Tom Cruise in the movies, proved to be so popular that there’s a good chance the Aviators will wear them again during the second half of the season.

“We are only limited by our imagination and our desire to do it,” Aviators general manager Chuck Johnson said of the specialty uniforms. “It just comes down to our willingness to (incur) the expense and to create the pants. It’s hard to auction those off. Nobody wants to buy pants.”

Short shelf life

Allen said none of the Aviators has considered taking a scissors to an alternate jersey because he didn’t like the design, as All-Star pitcher Chris Sale did when he was with the White Sox.

But the Aviators’ uniform behavior does create an additional burden for those behind the scenes.

As head of retail operations, Ed Dorville must create display space for all the souvenir jerseys in the team store on the Las Vegas Ballpark concourse as well as keep up with supply and demand. Moving forward, he said the Aviators probably will offer authentic (around $180) and replica (around $90) models of each jersey.

“We only have a handful of sizes left,” Dorville said of the Top Gun and Reyes de Plata uniform tops, which have proven popular with fans. “With the supply issues we’ve had, we sell out of a lot of things.”

For last week’s road trip to Round Rock, Texas, clubhouse manager Steve Dwyer had to pack three jerseys — gray, blue, orange sunset (gradient, if you’re scoring at home) as well as the gray away trousers and Copa tops and bottoms.

As you might imagine, Dwyer checks and rechecks each player’s bag in the manner of Santa Claus checking a gift list. But because ballplayers have been known to forget how many outs there are, he also packs a handful of jerseys without names on back.

“They’re usually 61, 62, 63, 64, so nobody wants to wear them,” Dwyer said of the high numbers that tend to reduce the number of jerseys with lower numbers that get left behind.

Tank tops and shorts

Despite having more colors to choose from than a kaleidoscope manufacturer, the Aviators players — or at least the starting rotation — seem partial to the navy blues.

The starting pitcher gets to decide what jersey the team wears, and the Aviators have worn their dark blue tops 32 times this season.

Being a catcher, Allen prefers the all-whites — especially when the heat in Las Vegas rises like one of Aroldis Chapman’s fastballs.

On days before the All-Star break, when it was so hot the Aviators skipped batting practice, “It wouldn’t upset me if we went sleeveless with shorts,” he said.

Contact Ron Kantowski at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow @ronkantowski on Twitter.

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