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What’s in a Name?

  • By: Douglas G. Goldberg
  • Published: August 26, 2019
What's in a Name?

This past weekend was Players’ Weekend in Major League Baseball (MLB). First held in 2017, Players’ Weekend is an annual event in which players on all 30 MLB teams wear colorful baseball uniforms based on youth sports designs and sport nicknames on the back of their jerseys during regular season games. The league also relaxes the rules for cleats, batting gloves, wristbands, compression sleeves, catcher’s masks, and bats, allowing players to use custom-designed gear. The multi-day event is designed to give players the opportunity to express their personal style, appeal to the youth demographic, and acquaint hometown fans with newer team members.

The player’s surname, usually printed on the back of the jersey, is replaced with a nickname of the player’s choosing. Players are encouraged, but not required, to choose a nickname. All uniforms, whether or not the players chose to use nicknames, have names on the back—including those of the New York Yankees, a team that has never placed names on the back of any official jersey. Game-used jerseys are sold after the event, with proceeds benefiting the MLB-MLBPA Youth Development Foundation.

The choice of nicknames runs the gamut from shortened monikers and initials to rhymes, puns, and descriptive epithets. Some players use emojis or other symbols that cleverly communicate their name or nickname and some Korean players print their name using Korean characters. Not everything is allowed, however. For instance, Kevin Pillar was not able to use his nickname Superman, for obvious reasons. Same with Adrian Beltre (Kojak) and Zach Eflin (Led Zeflin).

Locally, the Rockies had a couple of interesting entries. Charlie Blackmon is Chuck Nazty, Chris Ianetta is Sponge and David Dahl is Baby Dahl. Trevor Story is True, Kyle Freeland is F. Stanley and Nolan Arenado is simply Nado. For a complete list of what those nicknames mean, click HERE.

Some of my favorites throughout the league include Jake Marisnick (Big Fudge), Brock Stewart (Beef Stew), Luke Jackson (Skywalker), Yasmani Grandal (Yazmanian Devil), Eric Thames (Phone Home), Ryan Helsley (Hellz Bellz), and Michael Wacha (Wachamole). Other interesting names include Archie Bradley (Crash Landing), Shane Bieber (Not Justin), Ryan Court (Courthouse), Adrian Sampson (Yo Adrian) and of course, Jeff Smardzija (Shark). For a complete list of every MLB player’s nickname click HERE.

As I watched the Cardinals sweep the Rox over the weekend, I gave some thought to what moniker I would have picked for myself. To most people professionally, I am Doug and occasionally Douglas. Rarely, Mr. Goldberg. My childhood nickname was Tank, given to me by my Dad. I don’t know why. From college on, my baseball nickname was Rock, coined after a particular collision play at home plate when I was catching at DU. I walked off the field and the runner from third base didn’t. When I opened my first email account I was OldBallGuy and for the last several years while coaching high school and youth baseball, my players have referred to me as Coach or Skipper, as in, the captain of the ship. To my wife I have been Douger, to my kids I am Pop, Dadand sometimes, Doug. To my mom, I was either Douglas Grant Goldberg (when I was in trouble) or Mr. Wonderful (when I wasn’t). To my grandkids I am Papaand that seems to fit just fine as well. All things considered, I think if I put a name on the back of a jersey today, it would simply say Beware of Doug.

Finally, today is August 26th. Thirty six years ago today my wife, Kitsen Elaine Smith, decided to change her name to Kitsen Smith Goldberg. Definitely one of the top five days in my life. She goes by Kitsen, Kitsy, Kitsy-Bob, Kits or one of my personal nicknames for her – either Doll or Bill – definitely the subject of a different conversation altogether! Just never, ever, under any circumstances, call her Kit. Happy Anniversary Doll! I love you more every year.