Cleveland Guardians unveil City Connect uniforms

The Cleveland Guardians' City Connect uniform leans into the resiliency of Cleveland, while connecting the past with the present. Cleveland Guardians

In July 2021, the Cleveland Guardians announced their name change, which was inspired by the "Guardians of Traffic" statues on the Hope Memorial Bridge in the city.

Team owner Paul Dolan clarified the team wasn't named after the bridge, but "there's no question that it's a strong nod to those [statues] and what they mean to the community."

It was a transitional time period for the organization, which had the same name since 1915. When Nike and the Guardians began the process of designing the City Connect uniforms in December 2021, building and pushing the narrative of their new name was the priority. Over three years later, Cleveland's vision has finally come to life.

The Guardians unveiled their threads Sunday night -- a look that leans into the resiliency of Cleveland -- while connecting the past with present.

Cleveland will debut the blue uniforms with sandstone-colored pants against the Minnesota Twins on Friday and they will be worn during every Friday home game. However, they will "rely on player discretion for any additional home games."

The blue texture of the uniform is influenced by the berea sandstone material of the Guardians of Traffic statues and buildings throughout the city. There are also touches of red throughout.

Cleveland wanted to make sure their final design resonated with longtime fans of the franchise, even if it wasn't their favorite of the Guardians catalog, Jason Wiedemann, Guardians' vice president of Brand, told ESPN.

They also wanted a design that would be a bolder version of their current uniform closet, but still felt part of the brand.

"We wanted to take this as an opportunity to really [show] what makes Cleveland special, sort of not just from a visual standpoint, but also thematically or what are those sort of characteristics that we think are special about Cleveland and Clevelanders," Wiedemann said.

One of those characteristics is the Hope Memorial Bridge, which is just outside Progressive Field. Completed in 1932 during the Great Depression, it includes four sandstone pairs of art deco statues that sit on the bridge's pylons, colloquially known as the "Guardians of Traffic."

According to Cleveland Magazine, the bridge's engineer, Wilbur Watson, wrote that the statues are meant to "typify the spirit of progress in transportation." Each guardian carries a different vehicle in its hands, such as a hay wagon, stagecoach and motorized truck. In 1976, the bridge became a part of the National Register of Historic Places.

"They're resilient. They've stood strong over time," Wiedemann said. They've been there for nearly a century. They've sort of weathered the storms, so to speak, just like the city and our people have."

"CLE" runs across the chest of the uniform. The font and the numbers are an art-deco style "layered to look like they've been etched in stone," similar to the pillars that support the Guardians of Traffic. The bottom of the letters also tie back stylistically into the shape of the statues.

A badge of a new baseball guardian logo appears on the socks. The Guardians looked at ways of potentially weaving it on the uniform, but decided they liked the cleanliness and simplicity of the thread's overall design.

A red, white and blue braiding and piping runs down the shoulders of the uniform. Its design is reminiscent of Cleveland's uniforms in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Cleveland reached the postseason each year from 1995 to 1999, including two World Series appearances -- the longest playoff appearance streak in franchise history.

"We really wanted to use this as an opportunity to pay homage to those teams," Wiedemann said. "Those are uniforms that our fan base loves, especially a lot of our fans that have been with us for a long time and really reminiscent of that sort of resurgence or reemergence of the glory of Cleveland baseball that happened around that same time."

Inside neck graphic reads "1901," which was the year the team was founded. There is also a jock tag graphic that reads "The Land," a common nickname for the Greater Cleveland area. The Cleveland Cavaliers have used The Land in multiple iterations of their Marquee City Edition uniforms.

The tricolor cap is red, white and blue and includes a diamond "C" on the front. The diamond part at the top and bottom of the "C" plays off the pylons of the Guardians of Traffic statue. On the inside rim of the cap is the same braiding on the jersey and pants, while the blue patterned texture of the uniform is utilized underneath the brim.

Players were involved during some parts of the designing process, but did not see the final product until spring training. Their reactions were positive.

In its design, Cleveland didn't shy away from the franchise's history before the name change.

"While we feel like people locally sort of understand what the Guardians are, what they represent for the city ... that's a narrative that not a lot of people, I think, nationally really know about," Wiedemann said. "And that's fine. We don't expect them to. We know it's going to take time."