For all photos, click to enlarge
Back in early April, I showed you this photo of the amazing sweaters worn by the baseball team at Delcastle Technical High School in Delaware. At the time, I promised that I’d be telling you more about the team and its uniforms later in the spring, and today is the day I make good on that promise.
Delcastle is coached by a guy named Dave Battafarano, and it would be fair to say that he’s way more into uniforms than the average high school coach. In addition to being a longtime Uni Watch reader, he’s also a onetime Uni Watch author — back in 2010, he guest-wrote a piece about the uniforms he had designed at the time for his team.
As you can tell from the sweaters, Dave has taken his uniform obsession to new heights in the decade-plus since then. His team even has two distinct striped stirrup designs — the Bosox style shown in the sweater photo above, which they wear on the road, and an Atlanta style that they wear with their home whites:
I was so impressed by Dave’s attention to detail that I asked if I could interview him. He readily agreed, and we spoke earlier this month. Here’s an edited transcript of our conversation.
Uni Watch: Let’s start with some basic info on you. Where do you live, and what can you tell me about the school where you teach?
David Battafarano [shown at right, wearing the team’s home whites]: I live in Wilmington, Delaware. This is my 25th year teaching and my 17th at Delcastle Technical High School, which is also on the outskirts of Wilmington. We are a a vo-tech school — vocational and technical. The students have 25 to 30 career options that they can get into.
I’m a social studies teacher, so I’m on the other side of the building, so to speak, where students go to take their core courses. I’m mostly a 12th grade sociology teacher but also teach some 10th grade civics and economics.
UW: How long have you been coaching baseball?
DB: Twenty years.
UW: Several of the Delcastle uniform elements have a Red Sox feel to them. Are you a Red Sox fan?
DB: I’ve been a Yankees fan my whole life But I personally think that the Red Sox uniform before they went to the full red soccer socks — when they had the navy, white, and red stirrups — I thought that was the best look. And that’s exactly why I did it. And even with the McAuliffe numbers, that’s absolutely 100% a tip of the cap to the Sox. So when I designed the uniforms, everybody who knows me as a Yankees fan, they busted my chops about that, you know.
UW: Have your team’s uniforms always been customized with stirrups and sweaters and so on? Or is that a more recent thing?
DB: When I took over the program, they were wearing pinstriped pants and a solid-navy softball top and a blue cap with an old English “D.” And I immediately changed a couple of aspects. I hate the softball look, so that was the first change that I made early on — I wanted the full pinstriped look. And I brought in stirrups and sanitaries.
Being a history teacher, you know, I’m also kind of the school historian, which I really enjoy. So a colleague of mine and I, we found that the original school colors included red. And somehow along the way in the early ’90s, an athletic director just stopped using red in the color scheme. So I had an alum come up to me and he said, “You know, coach, I love the uniforms, I went to Delcastle, but where’s the red?” And I said, “I have no idea what you’re talking about.” So that started a chain of events. And in 2015 I started introducing red accents back into the uniform.
So I’d say really in the last six or seven seasons, we’ve really come up with what we are today in terms of having an identity with the uniforms. And honestly, Paul, having a community like Uni Watch, where I’m a daily reader, that makes a big difference. So you know, now I teach them how to blouse their pants, things like that.
UW: Let’s talk about the sweaters. Those are unusual, especially for a high school team. How did you get the idea for those? Was that a new thing for this year, or did that start prior to this year?
DB: One thing that’s really exited high school down here in Delaware is the varsity letter jacket, which was big when I was in high school. It’s just not popular anymore. So I was trying to bring some tradition back to the team. What actually got me started with the sweater idea — and I don’t know if it ran on Uni Watch or if it was just something on Twitter — was a photograph of Opening Day, 1923, at Yankee Stadium. It shows all the players walking in from centerfield, and they’re all in their sweaters. And I said, holy shit, that looks incredible.
So I used that template and I applied our school colors. I designed it in the winter of 2019, to be worn in the spring of 2020. And then the season was canceled because of the pandemic. So I had to put two big boxes full of these sweaters in my basement. I had to wait an entire calendar year before I could break them out. So this was our first year wearing them, spring of ’21.
UW: How did you get them made? Was it hard to get them sourced and all of that?
DB: I knew that there was a company that makes, like, just a varsity letter — Neff. So I googled them and arranged to speak with a rep. It was really that simple.
I wanted it to be a total surprise, so I did it all kind of behind the scenes, including paying for them myself. I got so many of this size, so many of that size, and so on. The intention was that I would issue them to the players and then give them the option at the end of every season — they could either turn them back in and then I would issue them again the next spring, or they could buy them for $100 and keep them.
UW: So this is the first season you’re wearing them. How has the response been?
DB: Very positive. Players, parents — everyone loves them. I asked the other day, because obviously the weather’s warm and we’re getting close to the end of our season, so I said, “Okay, guys, I’m gonna collect the sweaters now, but you have the option to buy them and keep them.” Out of 15 guys, seven have purchased them.
UW: Had the kids been wearing them? Like, on the bench, instead of dugout jackets? Do they wear them to the game?
DB: On days when we have games, the players wear a shirt and tie to school. But they also they want to wear some team gear, so I designed the sweater to be worn in school. And I know that the tradition in old-school baseball was that they wore the sweaters in the dugout, but we don’t do that — they usually have hoodies or pullovers for that. But I wanted something that would look really sharp in school with a shirt and tie underneath, so that’s the way that we feature them.
UW: Very cool. Now let’s talk a little bit about stirrups. Has it been hard over the years to get the kids to wear them, especially now, when almost no big league players wear stirrups? Do they complain about it or anything like that?
DB: No, not really. Usually what happens is that I’ll get a couple of freshmen who, you know, ever since Little League they’ve worn the pajama style. And I just have a conversation with them. I say, you know, that I’m a big believer in team, that we’re all gonna look the same and, you know, kind of pulling in the same direction, so one of the things we do is we wear our uniforms the same way, we all go high-cuffed. And sometimes, Paul, honestly, they have no idea what stirrups are. So it’s really like a tutorial that I have to give — you know, you wear the bigger side in the back, all of that. But by the time they’re in the program, honestly, it becomes a source of pride, because we’re the only school in the state that always has everyone going high-cuffed. If some players on another team do it, our guys will say, “Look, coach, they’re copying us!” So it’s kind of a running joke.
So yeah, by the time they’re up to the varsity in sophomore, junior, senior year, they love it. No complaints, no issues. As a matter of fact, they actually kind of police each other — you know, if a guy’s got a droopy pant leg, they’ll tell him to pull it up, things like that. So I think I’ve been able to kind of make that part of the experience.
UW: I see you also have separate home and road stirrup designs. Do the kids ever get mixed up and accidentally wear the wrong one to the game?
DB: I was joking around with my assistant coach — I said, “You know, I might have to set up a mannequin in my house, take a photograph, and send it to the kids the night before the game.” So yeah, it does happen a couple of times, but I always have some extra on hand, just in case. So we’re never gonna walk out there with one guy who’s low-cuffed because he messed up on the stirrups.
UW: You mentioned earlier that you actually teach them the proper way to blouse their pants?
DB: Yeah, I’ll go in wearing a pair of gym shorts, and I’ll say, “Okay, this is how we do it.” And I’ll sit down and I’ll put my pants on and, you know, the whole thing, pull them up, pull them down, roll them over. And it makes a huge difference. I mean, besides it looking really good, it’s also they don’t slide down!
UW: On the jerseys, you have vertically arched lettering on the home jerseys and radially arched lettering on the road. Are you a fan of both styles, so you decided to have both of them represented on your uniforms?
DB: When I designed the home whites, those are actually based on a 1948 uniform of the school that preceded ours, which was was another vocational school. I met some of the old-timers from that school and invited them to some games. So in honor of them, I designed the uniform after their 1948 uniform. So yeah, the the arching was a little bit different because I tried to stay true to what they wore in 1948.
UW: Who makes the uniforms for you? Because I noticed they don’t have a maker’s mark, which is surprising.
DB: The road uniforms are by Rawlings and the home whites are by DeMarini. One of the challenges these past couple of years has been finding uniform manufacturers. Everybody’s going sublimated, and I insist on tackle twill. We have to go stitched on. And there are very few companies that do that anymore. So I’ve actually run into a problem with finding companies that will go the extra mile.
But the funny thing about maker’s marks is that they are on the uniforms, but I cover them up. If you notice, we wear an American flag patch on our left chest for the home whites, and on the sleeve of our road greys.
UW: I was going to ask you about the two different placements!
DB: When they showed me the the mock-up, there was a big, stinkin’ maker’s mark on the left chest. And my sales rep, he said, “Coach Batt, I know you’re not gonna like that!” I said, “I can’t have that,” so we put our American flag patch over the maker’s marks.
UW: That is too funny. If not for the maker’s mark, would you have the flag patch anyway?
DB: Yes. Maybe that’s the the history teacher, civics teacher in me. I always liked how the White Sox wore the flag on their sleeve in the World Series for World War I. So, yeah, I was always gonna have an American flag on the uniform.
UW: Tell me about your “Blue collar by definition” phrase and how it relates to your team.
DB: I’ve enjoyed your exposure of the overuse of the term “blue collar.” It’s coachspeak, “I want a blue collar kid.” And I’m sure I’ve used various forms of coachspeak in my career, but the blue collar thing is so overused. So I thought, you know, we’re vo-tech high school, I have kids who are legitimately in blue collar professions already. One of my seniors, he’s a welder — he goes out and he welds every day, shows up at practice, he’s got his welding helmet literally in his bag when he shows up. And I said, “You know what? We are blue collar. So for everybody who misuses it, I’m gonna put it on the back of our T-shirts.” Kind of a tip of the cap to our school. And you know, it’s not easy when you have guys who are working these types of jobs, and then they still carve out time for baseball practice and games. So I think we fit the definition.
UW: Is that something you started this year?
DB: We always do a slogan on the back of the of the T-shirts, and the “Blue collar by definition” was for this year.
UW: I see that you do a lot of other old-school stuff. Like when you have the kids pose for photos, if they’re standing, they have their hands behind their back; if they’re kneeling, their hands are on their knee and they all have the same knee raised. Is that another “team thing” that you teach them, and do you get any pushback from them on that kind of stuff?
DB: Not really. Well, first of all, the photograph in the home whites, a school photographer took that one, so he had them hold their hands like that because that’s the one going in the yearbook. The one in the sweaters and the one in the road greys — you know, Paul, I don’t even think I even said anything to them. I think that the captains just said, “Hey, do it this way.”
UW: Interesting. I assumed that was you! It seems to go with the whole ethos you’ve got there. Sounds like they’ve internalized it on some level.
DB: Honestly, I’ve adapted a lot over my coaching career, and I don’t want to come off as as the taskmaster guy. But I think that once it’s established, and it’s the way we do things, it just kind of becomes part of the culture.
UW: You sent me a photo of yourself in your uniform. Is it common for high school coaches to wear the full uniform like you do?
DB: No, it’s not. Very few high school coaches do it. And that is something that I absolutely do on purpose. My assistant coach is in full uniform as well. I coached an all-star game three years ago, the Delaware State All-Star team, and I had a bunch of assistant coaches that I chose, and I asked them, “Can you guys please wear your full uniforms?” And they, “Coach, we don’t have full uniforms — we don’t even have jerseys!”
UW: That’s pretty funny. That leads me to my next question: Do coaches from other teams — or players, for that matter — ever say anything about your school’s uniforms?
DB: All the time. I see the looks, you know, when we get to a field and we run a lap and everybody is high-cuffed with the striped stirrups. Everybody looks. I’ve been at this so long that the other coaches just know it’s part of what we do. In the last couple of years, I’ve gotten more comments from fans of opposing teams. They’ll literally grab me after a game and say, “Coach, your uniforms are incredible. You know, this is the best-looking uniform I’ve ever seen in high school baseball.” I really appreciate those comments.
UW: This all seems like it would be pretty expensive — not just the sweaters, but two sets of stirrups, two different colored base layers, custom graphics. Do you have a big budget? I’m assuming that kids at a vo-tech school don’t come from wealthy families?
DB: The school will pay for a new uniform upgrade every four years. I usually get a $2,500 limit, so I try to stick to that. I usually go a couple of hundred or so over, and then I’ll just pay it back out of our fundraising. But the athlete buys their cap, their T-shirts, the two sets of stirrups, two sets of sanitary hose, and the Covid mask. And I literally charge them at cost. This year it was $70. For some of these families, that’s a lot to spend, so we do run a fundraiser. So players can always fundraise and defray part of that cost. It’s important for me that I don’t saddle each family with $70, so we finish up our fundraising and we’ll pay for some of that if a family needs it.
UW: So these uniforms you’re wearing this year, was this their first season?
DB: This is the third year for the home whites, and the eighth or ninth year for the road greys.
UW: Oh, wow — I wouldn’t have guessed that from the photos. They look pretty good!
DB: I do go through the cleaning process with the guys as well. I tell them not to put them in the dryer, because dryers destroy uniforms. You know, hang dry.
UW: Dave, I think those are all the questions I have. Is there anything else you want me to know?
DB: I’m part of the executive committee of the state baseball coaches. And one of the things that I was put in charge of was our annual all-star game at the end of every season. It’s for the seniors — kind of their final game. And I’ve been a part of it for 20 years, because I’ve sent players there, but this is the first year I was asked to to run it. So in years past, they would have the players wear their regular team uniform pants, and then the most godawful T-shirt. It was terrible. So when they asked me if I wanted to take it over, I said I absolutely will. And the first thing I’d like to bring up, I said, why don’t we just have have the all-stars wear their full uniforms, just like in Major League Baseball? So we can designate a home team to wear their white versions, and the road team wears the greys. The coaches loved it. So this will be the first year we’re doing that. I’m excited about it because we don’t have to give them these these cheesy T-shirts.
And there you have it. As I was editing this piece, I contacted Dave to confirm a few details. He mentioned that he liked our recent discussion of baseball’s unwritten rules, and he had some interesting thoughts to share on that topic:
Sportsmanship is a key component of high school athletics, but it is a constant battle balancing the way today’s young athletes express their emotions and what goes too far in terms of showing up the other team. (We have been on the losing end of the celebrations and it’s not fun.) Today’s MLB players’ performances don’t make it easy!
As a sociology teacher, I also recognize the ethnic/racial influence. My team is predominantly Puerto Rican and African-American, with some white athletes. From my experience, the celebrations are more generational than they are ethnic or racial —but that being said, players usually identify with pros who resemble them or hail from the same island (Puerto Rico or the Dominican Republic). It’s tough to deny this influence.
Dave is obviously a thoughtful guy, and kids entrusted to him are clearly in very good hands. Please join me in thanking him for sharing his story, and for helping to train a new generation of kids who Get It™.
Imitation … flattery … etc.: Perhaps you have asked yourself, “What does Uni Watch have in common with a biz-to-biz tech company headquartered in Illinois?” Or perhaps you haven’t. Either way, you now have the answer. Lots of additional examples here.
(Big thanks to Tim Bullis for this one.)
ITEM! Teespring holiday-weekend sale: Teespring is running one of their site-wide sales. That means you get save 10% off of anything in the Uni Watch, Uni Rock, and Naming Wrongs shops by using the checkout code SUMMER21. You’ll save 10% and Uni Watch will still get its full cut of the profits — a win-win!
This sale is in effect now and is good through midnight Eastern on Monday. You know what to do.
By Anthony Emerson
Baseball News: Dodgers 3B Justin Turner didn’t have the Tommy Lasorda and Don Sutton memorial patches on his jersey last night. Turns out he’s been missing them on his home jersey — but not road jersey — for a while (from Mike Wice). … The Rays wore navy and the Royals went blue vs. blue yesterday (from Chris DeHaven). … Single-digit pitcher alert: Rookie Alek Manoah will wear No. 6 for the Blue Jays (from Benjamin Grix). … Speaking of the Jays, one writer has noticed that P Hyun-jin Ryu is more successful in — and seems to prefer — the Jays’ powder blue unis (from Wade Heidt). … The Miami New Times has ranked the Marlins’ uniforms. Oddly, the article ranks individual uniforms and uniform “eras” in the same list (from @t_fin and Kary Klismet). … Also from Kary: Here’s an infographic breaking down how Sooners softball has fared in each of its uniform combinations so far this season. … Duke player Chad Knight’s batting helmet logo was missing during yesterday’s game against Miami (from Matthew Travis). … How many ads can you see at Yankee Stadium? Too many (from Kevin Galek). … The TriCity Valley Cats still have MiLB logos on their jerseys and helmets, even though hey moved to the independent Frontier League following the dissolution of the New York-Penn League (from Jason Bornstein).
Football News: Oh man, check out this amazing sign celebrating the Vikings arrival in Minneapolis from 1960! Too bad the photo is in black and white (from Steven Lobejko). … Here are all the logos for this year’s college bowl games (from Joseph Tanner).
NBA News: The @SunsUniTracker Twitter account, which is generally reliable, is reporting that the Suns and Jazz will have no new unis next season and that the leaked prototypes for both teams have been nixed.
Soccer News: Nouvelle identité visuelle for Ligue 1 side FC Metz (from Michael Zerbib). … La Liga club Athletic Bilbao’s new kits have leaked (from Kary Klismet). … Also from Kary: Chelsea, who wore their new kits for the FA Cup Final and lost, will wear their “current” kits for the Champions League Final (also from @TexasTrev).
Grab Bag: Carthage College has a new mascot, the Firebirds, after finally retiring their Indigenous appropriation mascot in 2020 (from Sammy Asta). … More Indigenous Aussie netball kits for New South Wales Swifts, Melbourne Vixens, Queensland Firebirds, Sunshine Coast Lightning and Giants Netball (thanks, Jamie). … What are the 25 most “recognizable and iconic” logos in college sports? This blog attempts to answer that question (from Kary Klismet). … French rugby team Biarritz Olympique is celebrating Pride Month by signing a kit ad deal with gay dating app Grindr (from Chelsea Poe). … The Under the Influence podcast explored the sometimes crazy world of trading cards (from Andreas Papadopoulos).
That’s a wrap for this week. Enjoy Phil’s weekend content, have a good holiday weekend, and stay well. — Paul