CLEVELAND, Ohio — Baseball is a game of traditions. One of the typically more fun traditions requires rookie players to dress up in embarrassing costumes on their way to the final road trip of the regular season. Chickens, cheerleaders, superheroes, that sort of thing.
But the theme of this year’s Cleveland Guardians’ rookie dress-up day raised a few eyebrows with some people on social media criticizing the team for posting a photo they considered to be in poor taste.
The tweet, posted following the team’s three-game sweep of the Chicago White Sox on Sept. 22, shows 12 players wearing orange prison jumpsuits, each carrying a ball and chain. Standing next to rookies Gabriel Arias, Will Benson, Oscar Gonzalez, Steven Kwan, Tyler Freeman, Kirk McCarty and Will Brennan, and more experienced players such as Amed Rosario, Nick Sandlin, Eli Morgan, Sam Hentges and Owen Miller are catchers Austin Hedges and Luke Maile, who are dressed as law enforcement officers.
“Following tonight’s contest, Officers Hedges and Maile apprehended (12) of the most wanted rookies in baseball,” the team captioned the photo. “More information to come, but ladies and gentleman, we got ‘em.”
The post caught the attention of NBC Sports Chicago, which described it as “questionable” while noting that “two white players are dressed up as police officers while the rookies, including several people of color, wore prison jumpsuits and shackles.” The article also asks the reader to “consider the circumstances that helped push Cleveland to change its name” and suggests the team didn’t live up to the promises it made when the switch to Guardians was announced.
“Just when you thought Cleveland couldn’t possibly embarrass the fan base anymore. They step up their game. Well done!! #SMH,” wrote a Twitter user.
“Love ya but you guys absolutely stink for doing this,” added another, named Jack.
“Yep, tasteless,” wrote Michael.
“This ain’t the adorable hijinks you think it is,” commented Ralph.
Perhaps the most impactful response came from Rebecca Kavanagh, a criminal defense lawyer, legal analyst and writer with more than 81,000 followers.
“Conditions in Cleveland’s Cuyahoga County Jail are so horrific that at one point a judge refused to send people there, releasing everyone charged with crimes without bail,” she wrote. “Wardens and guards have been criminally prosecuted for beating and killing people. Hard to see the humor.”
Reached by email, a Guardians spokesperson had no comment when asked about the reaction to the photo or if the team considered taking it down.
On Sunday, the team clinched its first playoff appearance as the Guardians and were given a hero’s welcome upon their return.