Tip of the Cap is an utterly subjective view of Baseball’s most important piece of apparel, the baseball cap. Is it a cap? Is it a hat? Debate the term all you want, I will probably use them interchangeably. I’ll be going through the headwear of every single team on the MiLB and MLB website, league by league, picking my favorite and least favorite for each team, and then ranking them. Why am I qualified to do this? That is a very good question.
The Pioneer League is a Rookie-Advanced Minors League operating in the Rocky Mountains. There are 8 teams, and right now I’m going to rank them, purely by hat aesthetic. Enjoy.
EDIT UPDATE: THERE HAVE BEEN DEVELOPMENTS! I’ll leave the original post here because it’s important to see the evolution of knowledge. Also because it’s fun to see me look like an idiot. One intrepid Reddit user (thanks goots95) answered the mystery of why the hell the Missoula Osprey called themselves “The Griz”. The answer, of course, is they don’t, they share a stadium with the University of Montana who do indeed call themselves “The Griz”. And the Minor League Baseball Store has stuff mistagged. I found my way to the proper store, and you can see the new results! DID MY BEST OF THE BEST OR WORST OF THE WORST CHANGE?! See below.
Billings Mustangs – Billings, Montana
Y’all, the Mustangs are off to a strong start. That Mustang is awesome. He’s the perfect combination of badass and snarky. He’s aware that he looks kind of ridiculous, he’s just not caring about your opinions. The color scheme is a stark black and red, and he pops right off it. They even nailed the reds so that the bandana is wholly apparent with the white outline, while still feeling inline with the hat’s color aesthetic. I would like to say, as an advance apology, that I really enjoy this team’s logo, but they didn’t have it on the best hat. They did, however, have it on the worst…
I should admit a sort of bias, because bucket hats are never cool, and unless your team is rocking something truly tragic, your bucket hat will win. And that’s sad, because the color scheme is as awesome as the last hat, and you have that cool ‘m’ made out of horseshoes, which is freaking brilliant! (Here’s proof that it looks good on a cap) But nobody’s looking good with an inverted cone of shame over their head with a combination skull cap/fez rounding out the top. Nobody.
Great Falls Voyagers – Great Falls, Montana
Do we think they named their team the Voyagers because of Star Trek? I can only hope so because I LOVE Star Trek. Anyways, that’s the only reason I can think of for a “Voyager” being an alien. Though I suppose that’s just as likely as anything else I could think of. But back to the hat, how great is this hat? You’ve got the black back which creates a stark contrast for the white front, red brim, and even red button on top! The New Era logo, as always, is a bit of an eyesore, but there’s nothing to be done about that. Major League Baseball sold its soul to the New Era team and we are all just pawns in their game. Now let’s get to the cute little alien dude, who has got to be 85% eyes. Just judging from the dimensions of the space ship. Does he have arms? I have questions about the mascot, but the hat? I’m in. Quick design note, a grey outline on a white background does not help the mascot standout, and quite possible detracts from the piece. But it’s a minor complaint.
Before you all Boo Hiss at me, let me just say, I love Cowboy Hats. I can’t pull one off, but when someone can? Man, I think it’s one of the coolest things out there. This Cowboy Hat? No. A, a solid logo on a straw hat just looks weird, am I right? It feels like adding a patch to a straw hat just doesn’t work. If you’re gonna do that, then make it a solid hat, like leather or some such material. “But Ned,” you ask, “if you don’t mind cowboy hats, then what’s your problem with this one? It’s practically just a hat with a patch!” Yes, intrepid reader, you are correct. I am judging this hat based on the specific hat in the photo. Because who is in charge of taking care of it?! The brim is off kilter, the sides are all screwed, and there are patchy holes in the straw. And if they want to argue it’s one of those “pre-aged” things like the ripped jeans, then why are the edges intact? If you’re going to commit, commit! I’ll also say that I actually really liked the hats for the Voyagers across the board, and so I had to just pick one. The crumpled cowboy hat takes the cake.
Helena Brewers – Helena, Montana
I think they heard I was doing this, because the Helena Brewers have on their Facebook page an announcement. It reads: “New Brewers Gear!!!!! The New Era Hat shipment came in this morning. All the new looks are posted in the Brewery online store.” So I went to that store, and guess what? The link doesn’t work. So I went to their official store on www.milb.com and guess what? Two hats. That’s right, only two, and they’re both perfectly acceptable hats. I have trouble calling one “Best” or “Worst” because for all intents and purposes, they’re exactly the same. BUT YOU KNOW WHAT, I WILL BECAUSE THAT’S MY JOB, SO BUCKLE UP MOTHA TRUCKAS. Okay, whoa. That got aggressive. So this hat is best because I like the logo a little better. The wheat being used as the line across the H is nice, and the color scheme is super appealing with the gold trim. But guess what? THAT’S BASICALLY MY REVIEW FOR THE NEXT HAT
Look, it’s ostensibly the same Hat. Differences? The wheat is now below the H, there’s the addition of the state in the background. There’s one major flaw with this hat which would make me pick it second if I had to choose between the two, the gold outline on the H is the same color of the state, negating its use as an outline. It’s a super odd way to assemble this logo, and for that, dear readers, this is worst. SIDE NOTE: Why is there a little nub on the loop of the h, right before it starts to curl. Does anyone else feel like that’s a really weird serif choice?
Missoula Osprey – Missoula, Montana
(For realsies. To see the University of Montana Griz baseball team, continue below)
Alright so first off, THESE HATS MAKE WAY MORE SENSE THAN WHAT CAME UP ON THE MINOR LEAGUE BASEBALL STORE. This is a cool hat, and a cool logo. I will say that I wish the logo was a little more defined in the face. I get that they’re going for a Ilya Bolotowsky sort of deal (LOOK HIM UP HIS ART IS BOMB!) with geometric shapes and sharp contrast, but in doing so I think they’ve lost some of the potential effectiveness in the face. Nevertheless, the blue backing is a really great way to inject color into the hat, but the white front piece gives a perfect contrast to the logo. The black brim works in tandem with the colored in parts of the osprey. My only other aesthetic regret is that I wish the button on top was white. All in all this is a cool hat, but could’ve been better.
I feel bad picking a hat for an intentional choice but it had to be done. They were trying something cool and different, and for that I applaud them. However….what? How did this design meeting go down?
“Hey gentlemen and gentlewomen, I want to thank you all for joining me today for my pitch of the new hat for your organization. I wanted to keep it clean and classic to the original, thinking just black and white. Here let me show you my mockups–”
*opens folder to realize his three year old scribbled all over the logo in a blue marker. It’s his first day. He starts to sweat profusely. Internally he says to himself I can make this work*
“Hahahahaha psych! I wanted something cool and new–nouveau riche, you know?–”
“Jim, I don’t think you know what nouveau riche means–”
“No I’m reclaiming the word. We’re taking it back, appropriating it if you will.”
“I really don’t want to be in the game of appropriation, Jim…”
“Shhhhhh, check THIS OUT!”
*slams down the drawings, there is a deathly silence while the room tries to contemplate what they’re looking at*
(gently) “Jim…did your three year old scribble on your mockups?” “What?! No! How could you think that? If–If–If my three year old had scribbled on my drawings,”
*scribbles inconspicuously in his folder with a blue pen*
“would she have also colored the New Era Logo to match?!”
*slams down the newly doctored side view, the silence is even more silence-y than before*
“Jim…you’re a genius.”
That is in my mind, the sequence of events leading to this hat. It’s not a great hat.
SUPER COOL OTHER HAT
Usually hats like this I find too busy, and yeah the osprey and the logo don’t really match up at all which is a little odd. Like we have this epic dive-bombing osprey in the logo, and then this fun loving dude off to the side. But you know what? I like this hat! Aesthetically it’s pleasing to me all around. It should not be a Toddler-only hat. Release this in Adult sizes, please!
Missoula Osprey – Missoula, Montana
University of Montana Club Baseball “The Griz”
So due to some mistagging on the milbstore.com listings, all hats for “Missoula Osprey” were actually redirecting to the University of Montana “Griz” Baseball Club. I’m leaving my thoughts here because I don’t believe in deleting things to cover up your idiocies.
Ignore the awful picture quality for a second, this hat is AWESOME. My favorite part? The alternating accent stitch colors. What a great attribute. The tan stitching on the maroon, the maroon stitching on the tan, leading up to that maroon button? It’s awesome. Plus if you look close there’s TAN stitching along the brim of the hat, meaning that there was a clear and conscious design choice to make sure that hwne they wanted stitches to be visible, they were. Now let’s talk about the logo. Guys, “Griz” is awesome. For a wide variety of reasons, but for me, it’s a sense memory thing to Griz from 30 Rock.
I do Griz, I do. And don’t call me a girl.
If I were getting nitpicky, I would say that the fact that the extra loop on the z turns into TWO extra loops and underlines the word sort of hurts my brain. I’ve looked at it a bunch and my brain just really doesn’t like the loopiness of that ribbon. This is not a real complaint, this hat is awesome. Can I ask a potentially stupid question, though? Why are the Missoula Osprey known as “Griz”? Tweet at me the answer. @neddonovan.
I would like to acknowledge my second bias on this list. I hate Camo baseball hats. I actually don’t mind Camo hats if you’re hunting, good for you, maybe your head looks like a tree to that bird. But when you add logos and stuff, I just get confused. Do you want me to know who you’re repping? Do you want to camouflage who you’re repping? This hat falls solidly in the latter camp. It took me like 3 glances to even see the maroon paw, and then the “Griz” in the middle? It’s tiny! It just looks like a white blob, because the accent maroon is far too small to be useful. I like to imagine whoever gets this hat is one of the hat collectors who feels strongly that stickers should be kept on them, and therefore the whole hat is aesthetically thrown off as they wear it by the teal 9Forty sticker on the brim. Also? Why are the Missoula Osprey known as “Griz”. Still confused.
(I want you all to know that the fact that the above only fits on one line in certain sizings is causing me a real crisis of faith. Damn you Squarespace, damn you. Surprise Twist, when the screen is smaller, it downsizes the font and fits, but when the screen is larger, the text blows up and goes to two lines.)
Grand Junction Rockies – Grand Junction, Colorado
(oof, that one too. These guys might get worst hat by association to squarespace font sizing problems. So sorry in advance, I write as I judge and try not to edit my initial reactions.)
Grand Junction Rockies, you are disqualified from this competition. I am declaring you right now the WORST OF THE WORST, and then I’m going to crown someone else who actually gives a shit about the most important part of baseball. The hats. Come on, this lazy piece of crap is the best? The purples don’t match, the white highlight in the middle of the letters is at best confusing, and the whole thing is remarkably boring. Yet this wins best because it’s the only hat that features an actual picture of an actual product. What follows is officially going to be known as the Rock of Shame,
ARE YOU F**KING KIDDING ME WITH THIS SHIT?! THEY PHOTOSHOPPED THE LOGO ONTO SOME MO’F**KING STOCK HATS?! Like look at that. Someone took the time to rotate the logo thinking that people wouldn’t notice, but whoever that was, F**K YOU. I’m so mad about this I can’t stand it. We have a Camo hat (but not a RealTree, so lazy) we have a “distressed” military hat (The pre-ripped stuff, man, can’t do it), and then we just have some lazy ass standard hats. An all black, an all white, and a black and white trucker. Grand Junction Rockies you should be ashamed of yourselves. Because the rest of the world is ashamed of you. I gave the Cone of Shame gif too early, and now I’m greatly regretting it. You all deserve the cone of shame. SO F**K IT, I’M USING THE GIF AGAIN.
Also my prediction about hating your hats came true, and I didn’t even need bias to do it. Ugh.
Idaho Falls Chukars – Idaho Falls, Idaho
Whew, we’re back from the travesty that was the Grand Junction Rockies. No wait, I have one more thought for them. YOUR PARENT TEAM, THE COLORADO ROCKIES, SHOULD BE F**KING ASHAMED. Anyways I’m sorry Chukars, wait, what the hell is a Chukar? Sorry hat, give me a second.
The chukar partridge or chukar (Alectoris chukar) is a Eurasian upland gamebird in the pheasant family Phasianidae….The chukar is a rotund 32–35 cm (13–14 in) long partridge, with a light brown back, grey breast, and buff belly. Source: Wikipedia
THIS MOTHER F**KER LIFTS, BRO! YOU BETTER GET IT WITH YOUR BUFF BELLY! Okay, now to the hat. This hat is sweet, and I specifically like the Logo a lot. That bird is rearing back to clock you in the jaw and….wait….DUDE’S THROWING A BASEBALL?! Okay I dig it. I liked him punching more, but this is okay. I’m confused what type of pitch he’s about to throw, though. The color scheme is great, the blood red eye and beak really pop, and every part of the bird’s feathers are highlighted. It’s all nicely wrapped up with a top button and brim in the red of the beak. Nice hat. Good work. SIDE NOTE: They have another awesome hat that I really want people to check out. You can find it here.
Okay, what in the name of all that is holy is going on, Pioneer League? We have another team PHOTOSHOPPING LOGOS ONTO HATS! I hate visors anyways, so it’s easy for me to hate these guys less than Grand Junction Rockies. Plus they have real hats with real pictures on the site. It just so happens that their four visors are photoshopped. Also your photoshop skills need work. They tried to size the logo to match the zoom of the photo, but the head isn’t always in the same place from visor to visor. If visors are your thing, and they are not mine, then I could see these being cool visors. But the pictures are photoshopped, so these visors are trash, and you should feel bad, Chukars. Waste of an awesome bird.
Ogden Raptors – Ogden, Utah
The Retro cap is usually not my thing, but this one? So cool. Let’s start with the color scheme. Dark blue and subtle gold are great colors, they are a classic combination and they allow the button to shine, and the O to stand out. Plus the very front of the brim is colored subtly, that’s a nice touch. Then we’ve got the raptor casually appearing through the O, like he’s about to wreck your day, and f**k up your kitchen.
Damn it, Steve, I liked that Steel Cupboard
The green isn’t off-putting, which it could easily have been. The logo could be a smidge bigger to allow the red eye and mouth to be a little creepier, but all in all? Solid hat.
WORST (but also kind of the Best)
Okay so this hat is losing because it’s the kind of thing my nightmares were made of as a child. But overall, it’s actually a great hat, and full disclosure, I liked all of the hat options in this team store, so good work guys. However the giant raptor claw that is emerging out of what kind of looks like a mirror or portal into another dimension? Terrifying. This is like Monster’s Inc but we are definitely the children that don’t know that monsters are cute and cuddly. What is the scale here? Because in my head that mirror is floor length which makes this the largest raptor claw on earth. I’m scared. I want this hat. Cool. From a design standpoint the grey could be a tiny bit cooler. The blue button on top (squint, it’s there) is a nice touch, but the stitching could do to match it. Also the raptor claw is in a different blue than the brim/button which depending on when I look at it, makes me annoyed, or makes me happy. Whatever that means.
Orem Owls – Orem, Utah
Oh hell yeah, this hat is so cool. This is not the kind of hat that Ned can pull off, but you know what? I’d try anyways. It’s bold, it’s brassy, it’s got this shock yellow brim into a yellow button and trim for the black front piece. That is a stark contrast for these awesome Owl eyes to scream out at you daring you to say something wrong about their mother. The white back gives it all a cool frame. I really like this hat a lot. Top marks.
So…okay. I’m gonna say something that’s not fair. But when I saw this logo for the very first time on one of the other hats, I literally did a double take because my IMMEDIATE reaction was…confederate flag? Is that fair? No, because it’s actually kind of a cool logo with the hawk gripping two baseball bats like it’s gonna end your day with both. Nevermind that the logistics of the logo don’t make much sense, like why is its face a baseball? That seems odd for an Owl. Or how is its head in that position, with its wings also in that position? And what angle are the baseball bats at that they can be there. The lower half is obviously moving away from the viewer, but the top half look like it’s coming out of the hat towards you. But then when you add in the symbolism I immediately attributed to it, plus all the stars on there, it just really made me uncomfortable as a whole.
Side note. Stop trying to make all black hats a thing. No one likes them.
Harsh, Gollum. But true.
Real talk. Pioneer League, I am underwhelmed by you. There were a couple cool hats but for the most part you guys had duds. Plus some of you photoshop logos onto your hats. WHO DOES THAT?! JUST TAKE A PICTURE OF THE DAMN PRODUCT. I am not allowing either of those teams consideration for Best/Worst marks, because principles.
BEST IN SHOW
Orem Owls – Orem, Utah
Any hat that can take colors that would normally make people wary, and make them all cool at once, I am a fan of. The yellow is garish, yet is so awesome in this hat, the purple is a risky choice but pays off. Plus it’s got cool eyebrows and side brows?
This hat is kickin’ and I’m glad it was here because I think it stands up to the other hats form previous iterations of Tip of the Cap, and I’m glad that the final showdown at the end of this series will be stiff competition.
SIDE NOTE: I really really really wanted to pick the Griz hat, because it’s the one that I, Ned Donovan, would wear more than the Owlz. But the Owlz are a better hat, and I must concede.
WORST IN SHOW
Billings Mustangs – Billings, Montana
So I had to change my worst, because it wasn’t fair to list a University of Montana hat for a Minor League baseball listing. So we had to head back to the Mustangs. Mustangs, your best hat was SO good, so why’d you have to sully your good name with this debacle? Cool logo, bad hat. It’s an update of a Fez, which contrary to Matt Smith’s insistence, are not cool.
With only his hairline, nose, eyebrows, and mouth visible, Rory looks like David Tenant. That’s fascinating.
Plus there’s something that makes this hat so much worse in having a New Era logo on it. You know? Like I hate the New Era logo anyways, even though it’s a necessary evil on hats these days, but on a bucket hat? Man it stands out like a sore thumb reminding you how awful that little logo is.
University of Montana Club Baseball Team
The real loser of this list. Maintained for posterity.
This hat is just a lot. We discussed that I don’t like camo (though the printing of Real Trees is a super awesome touch as far as Camo goes) but the logo that you can’t see, the awkward white splotch that turns out to be “Griz”, the way the panels don’t actually come together to create one whole picture, and the fact that it’s just solidly ugly, makes this one a no go. Plus the bear paw nails are weird, does anyone else find them weird? I feel uncomfortable looking at them.
Thanks for sticking with me on this journey. Stay tuned for breakdowns of more of your favorite leagues. Disagree with my choices? Share your favorites in the comments below, or connect with me on Twitter at @neddonovan or @3up3downblog. Be sure to check out the other great authors on this site, and read their much more knowledgable and researched work. You won’t be disappointed.