Thursday, March 31, 2011

Why I Root For: University of Connecticut Huskies

Here in the home of sports futility, I intend on occasionally highlighting the reasons I root for the teams I do. Now, as the image at the top of this blog shows, I have amassed an unusual stable of favorite teams for someone who lives in Southern California. Between the four of them, they have exactly three championship appearances, and zero championships to show for them. But, there are a few teams I like that do have a history of winning. And since we are on the cusp of the NCAA basketball Final Four, I'd like to highlight my favorite team in that realm, the University of Connecticut Huskies, also known simply as UConn.

I really root for two teams in college basketball, the other being the University of Kentucky Wildcats. My father was a big fan of UK, and started watching college hoops in the early 1980s. We have family in Kentucky, so it came quite natural to associate the two. Being young and somewhat naive, I would watch the games with my father and listen studiously to the scoreboard report during halftime. They didn't have the cool, flashy graphics they have now, so usually it was just someone reading the scores. The score reader (usually Brent Musburger, gag) would refer to games featuring UConn. Being a child with a huge interest in geography, I heard this as Yukon. I was fascinated with the thought that the northern Canadian province competed against some of the more esteemed US colleges, and over the course of a number of years I began to develop a soft spot for the Huskies. (you have to admit that it makes sense that a team located above the Arctic Circle would have a Husky as its mascot. At least it did when I was 11) Of course I felt rather silly when I did realize that Yukon was actually Connecticut, but my loyalty was cemented.

The Huskies have made appearances in four Final Fours (1999, 2004, 2009 and the current 2011 tournament) having won the NCAA Championship twice (1999 and 2004) Their opponent on Saturday playing for a chance to go for a third title? Yeah. The University of Kentucky.

Somehow I think my father would understand. He passed away in 2005, and I'd love for the chance to sit and watch this game with him. No matter who wins, I have someone to root for in the finals, but I'm hoping for a UConn win.

Oh, and UConn's women's hoops team ain't so bad either! Maybe they'll sweep again like they did in 2004.

Of course, I have the cap.

My original UConn New Era fitted. I've had this one since 1996. A bit dusty from storage. Note the difference in the embroidery.

And here is my University of Kentucky Wildcats cap. For my dad.

Latest Acquisitions (caps)

Been a while since I update this, and I actually have some new caps to present. This is the calm before the storm, so to speak, because with baseball season beginning, minor league baseball isn't far behind. That means new cap designs! The best place to get current minor league caps is Lids. They have an amazing selection of minor league caps, though usually just one design for each team. If you want to see everything a team has to offer, I recommend going to each individual team's home page. Check this site out: I've probably spent more time on this website than any other over the past 10 years. He's pretty consistent about keeping the links updated. Excellent source for all things minor league baseball.

Now, on to the newbies:

Starting with the new caps from the Asheville (NC) Tourists. The Tourists play in the single-A South Atlantic League and are an affiliate of the Colorado Rockies. Since they are a Rockies affiliate I have to keep up on the latest gear from them. I acquired the home and the road cap. The home cap is unique because the moon glows in the dark. (The Casper Ghosts lay claim to the first caps to do that, but this is cool as well)  I'm not a huge fan of the home cap just because I tend to favor more simple designs, but from a marketing standpoint, I can tell you that these are genius. And from a consumer standpoint I can tell you that they go quickly. I purchased these directly from the team, and it took me a month to get them because the home cap was out of stock. The marketing manager was very nice and patient while dealing with my emails inquiring about this cap's availability. The road cap, I actually prefer. Simple single letter design, a shade of blue not typical of other caps. That's always a plus as well. I love going places wearing unique caps where people have to stop and ask me about them. Can't find these in your local Lids store, kids.

Just for comparison's sake I've included pics of the previous two Tourists caps, including the infamous "Ted E. Tourist" cap, which my wife hates. Me? Of course, I think it's a classic.

New Asheville Tourists home cap.

New Asheville Tourists road cap.

The previous late 2000s design.

The "Ted E. Tourist" design used before 2006.
Next up we have the latest from the Bakersfield Blaze, who play in the high-A California League and are currently an affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds. I first went to their games when they were the Bakersfield Dodgers, then they went independent and became the Blaze. Their initial cap did not appeal to me, but when they became affiliated with the Texas Rangers and rebranded in the middle of the last decade, they made headlines, and of course I had to get the cap. Originally purchased in 2005, I had to repurchase it in 2007 after an unfortunate incident involving a break in. Naturally they wanted this cap:

Flaming maple leaf? Or some other sort of burning leaf?
Not a very good design, in my opinion, but it got people talking and presumably buying. They kept this design for five years, I believe. In that time I also managed to acquire a Blaze jersey, which I actually like very much:

#19 on the back, naturally.
Anyway, now they have jerseys where the Blaze is scripted. Awesome. So the new cap design was revealed in February, and it is awesome as well. No more Mary Jane. I had to have one. Behold...

Simple. Black. Orange. Awesome.

This does not disappoint. Of course it probably won't sell as well with no cartoon character on it, but damn it sure looks good on my head. Purchased directly from the team. Bravo, Bakersfield!
Next up, a cap I acquired from eBay. It's an old Rancho Cucamonga Quakes cap. It's the first tweak they made to the original design, unnecessarily incorporating their mascot "Tremor" into the design:

The sequel is never as good as the original.
So why did I purchase it? Well, because it was fitted, the correct size and I just had to have it. The original design is indeed a minor league classic. Prior to the Lake Elsinore Storm "No Fear" design, the following Quakes cap was the best selling cap in the minor leagues:

Simply awesome.
To see the current Quakes caps (they've rebranded twice since) check out their official website.
And finally, a vintage New Orleans Zephyrs cap. I've coveted this cap for years and was ecstatic to track one down. I purchased it from the same eBay seller I acquired the Quakes and Whiskey Jacks caps from. He's got a couple more I have my eye on as well. Anyway, New Orleans got the Zephyrs from Denver, when they moved upon the arrival of the Colorado Rockies in 1993. A very simple design, like I prefer:

New Orleans Zephyrs
Their current cap has a different styled "Z", which I do own, but I like this one much better. They also have a road variation which has "NOZ" on it. You can check all of the current Zephyrs designs here.

Speaking of the Denver Zephyrs, I must take the opportunity to highlight the cap they wore. I acquired this cap in 2009. It's more than 20 years old, but still in wearable thanks to my New Era ReCap Kit. It's a bit tight, but I love the colors. The team didn't really do much with the design after relocating.

Denver Zephyrs. 1980s New Era fitted.
Until next time...

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Latest Acquisitions (Northern League baseball caps)

So I'm a little behind, but I wanted to show off the cap I received last week:
Thunder Bay Whiskey Jacks. Playing out of Thunder Bay, Ontario (Canada) the Jacks were one of the original six members of the independent baseball Northern League. They played as the Whiskey Jacks from 1993-1998 before relocating to Schaumburg, Illinois as the Schaumburg Flyers. This cap is a fitted New Era 5950, and is one of three such Northern League caps I now own. The other two are as follows:
Duluth-Superior Dukes. Playing out of Duluth, Minnesota. Played from 1993-2002 before relocating to Kansas City, MO and now are known as the Kansas City T-Bones. I acquired this cap last summer.

St. Paul Saints, from St. Paul, Minnesota. This team still exists, although they now play in the independent baseball league known as the American Association. This cap, which I actually purchased in 1996 is one of my very favorites. A very simple, classy and classic logo. No fancy cartoon characters or funky fonts. Just a stylish meshing of the letters making up the initials of the city it represents. I love this cap and I would kill to find a duplicate. It's a good thing I take care of my caps.

So all I need now to complete my quest to have all six original Northern League teams in a fitted New Era are the caps of the Rochester Aces, Sioux Falls Canaries and the Sioux City Explorers.

The journey continues...