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Tip of the Cap

Tip of the Cap: California League

Our crack team of cap reviewers is back and looking at the California League! Which hats do they recommend you buy, and hard pass?

Tip of the Cap: California League

Estimated Reading Time: 18 Minutes

Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to Tip of the Cap! Tip of the Cap is a weekly series discussing Baseball’s most important accessory, the Baseball Cap. Is it a cap? Is it a hat? Does it really matter? We’ll probably be using both interchangeably. Every week we look at each league from the Single A Minors all the way to the Major Leagues and ranking their top 5 and bottom 5 hats. What makes us qualified to do this? That’s an extremely good question. 


The California League is a Class A Minor League. Their teams are:

In terms of personal fandom, there are no minor league affiliates for the authors’ Major league teams in this league.

Opening Remarks

Brandon Andrus

If anything, alternates saved this league. I needed to weed down for caps I liked, but reached for ones I hated. All in all, nothing spectacular to speak of coming out of California this time. But didn’t hate too many. Here we go.

Ned Donovan

I would like to give this league a lot of props. There are only 8 teams here, and yet both my top and bottom lists were full of options. Why? It’s not because they were all bad, it’s because this league went for it. Most teams had a bunch of outlandish options that sometimes were crazy enough to work….and often times were not. While there were plenty of hats in my bottom decision pile from each team, even those hats were interesting risks, and for that I applaud them. There were many harder choices to make in this league than in the last 3, despite having less teams.

I need to wag a finger at one team though. Visalia Rawhide. You guys have some really cool caps. I dug the thumbnail, and so I clicked through to find these disasters:

None of these are acceptable pictures. I can’t understand any professional organization thinking these photos are okay in 2018. What camera was used to photograph this? Get a damn iPhone, and take new photos. I will judge these hats with all the others because this league has so few teams but in other leagues this would be automatic disqualification in my book.

Andrew Mark Wilhelm

I didn’t find much that I liked this week. I had to pair my Bottom 5 down from a lot more choices than my top 5. But what I liked, I LOVED. It should be said that I live almost exactly halfway between the LA area and the Bay Area where the bulk of these teams reside. I have no connection to any of these teams however, save for knowing people from more than a couple of these cities.

Bottom 5

Here comes the worst of the league. Here are the 15 choices we have for the hard passes:


Brandon Andrus – Lake Elsinore Storm – Heather Fix 9Fifty

Lake Elsinore made two of my bottom 5s but did crack the top 5. This is the fail. It’s ashamed someone let this be made. You have a unique logo which, although beginning to age, has lasted for over two decades as a staple of the MiLB. You completely lose it in this cap. It’s just poor design. The colors are great, but this one is just a miss. Could have been a real cool cap if only the logo was clearer.

Ned Donovan – Inland Empire 66ers – LIGHT ME UP Cap

Under concepts I really never needed, the hat that “lights up” under flash photography was definitely one of them. Now that I’ve seen it though, I can’t believe more teams haven’t thought this might be a great idea. The concept is simple: add dulled reflective tape to highlight points on the hat, flash photography will bounce off it and VOILA “Light Up Hat”. Look the idea is not a good one. The jagged lightning bolts on the brim detract from anything this hat might do well.

Also, I’m distracted by the outline on the mascot. The orange highlight fits directly to the form of the player (with two awkward orange lines on his body that don’t seem to accentuate anything) except it doesn’t connect to the wrench. Are those supposed to be “whoosh” lines? I honestly can’t tell, to me it looks like when someone is coloring within the lines and then their elbow slips off the table and they make a big jagged line in the wrong place. 

Andrew Mark Wilhelm – San Jose Giants – Mickey™ Ears Cap

Why does this hat exist? What foes San Jose have to do with Disney? Why would anyone wear this outside of Disneyland? Why would anyone wear this inside Disneyland? Why did they ruin a perfectly fine cap?


Brandon Andrus – San Jose Giants – Mickey™ Ears Cap

Like Lake Elsinore, who made this? San Jose is 400 miles from the nearest Disney Park. I could see this working for Rancho Cucamonga or Anaheim, but San Jose? Also, I love the “™”. Disney aways has to remind you they own everything. Anyway, that cap alone is boring, then add the ears and it’s stupid. I’m a huge fan of the house of mouse, but this one doesn’t work for me. If every team offered it, I’d hate it like Stars and Stripes and Camo, so don’t get any ideas other teams. (Ned Note: The only reason this wasn’t in my bottom 5 is that I had 7 hats I was torn between, and I KNEW someone would pick this one. So, thanks to the both of you)

Ned Donovan – San Jose Giants – 2018 Christmas in July Cap

I find drop seat pajamas unsettling. I say this because looking at this hat, it gives me the same exact feeling as if someone were wearing candy cane drop seat pajamas with a green butt flap. Beyond my personal unsettled feeling, the white logo on top of an alternating red and white stripe means that the logo is hard to focus on. Not even a subtle green outline can pull it out of this optical illusion. Also I want to meet the person who looked at this and said “introduce a tiny ounce of subtlety in coloring” because that was dumb.

Andrew Mark Wilhelm – San Jose Giants – New Era San Jose Churros Cap

We’ve already established in week’s past that food items with eyes kinda give me the willies. But that’s not my biggest problem with this hat. The color blocking doesn’t really do it any favors, but still not my biggest problem. So what is? That image is a Churro with eyes (and wearing a cowboy hat for some reason) holding a giant stick of cinnamon as a bat. Cinnamon is like the second main ingredient of a churro. Just, think about the implications of that for more than a second and see if you don’t hate this hat as well. Lastly, this hat sold out and is backordered. Do better San Jose. 

Brandon Andrus – Lake Elsinore Storm – Toddler Sweet Pea

Here’s an example where an angry logo is limiting, and why it should have alternates or be avoided. Is the child supposed to be expressing love angrily? The Angry Eyes logo was unique for it’s time, and is showing it’s age, but it is very limiting. When it came out, branding usually consisted of two caps. Now there are dozens of alternates. Maybe the Storm should think of an update and keep this as a retro look for Thursdays or something. Toddler caps should be cute, not this.

Ned Donovan – Lake Elsinore Storm – California Bear Snapback

This is what happens when you have an idea in photoshop, and so you throw something together really quickly as a proof of concept, but then never make the thing. This is the cap equivalent of a badly photoshopped face on top of a meme. If you remove the eyes from this hat, you have a cool California bear offering. The red brim, star, and button make for a nice synchronicity. But then someone thought “IT’S BRANDING TIME” and haphazardly slapped the eyes on there right on. top of the bear, with no concept of spacial awareness.

The hat’s caption says “California bear with the eye logo underneath”. Their definition of “underneath” must mean “awkwardly encroach on the main event”.

Andrew Mark Wilhelm – Lake Elsinore Storm – 2018 Copa de la Diversión Onfield Fitted Hat 

The Angry Eyes logo does absolutely nothing for me. I think it’s lazy, and in no way does it tell you anything about the team it represents. I would never get “Storm” out of this logo if I didn’t know that’s what it is for. I wouldn’t get anywhere close actually. And unlike so many of the great, unique Copa hats we’ve been seeing, all Lake Elsinore did is take their existing logo and give it a Mexican Flag color scheme. Do they even have a designer on staff?


Brandon Andrus – Visalia Rawhide – Sparkle Script Cap

First of all, I miss the Oaks. What a great name. I don’t hate Rawhide, it’s just a meh name. That being said, the branding has been just as predictable and meh. Many sparkle hats have made my bottom lists, and I have realized I just hate the whole look. Maybe I need to put it away like the Stars and Stripes and Camo. We will see. I will end by saying I feel sorry for the lady with 12 cats who bedazzled her jean jacket and bought this cap to attend the games.

Ned Donovan – Modesto Nuts – 9Forty Youth Cap

Does this read like a meme to anyone else? Like you have a picture and then you. put the same picture just behind it in an opacity? I feel like they do it a lot with crying Jordan. The image on the brim just makes me so nervous, LOOK AT ITS EYES. Don’t buy this for your kid, or you will have this peanut looking through your shades in the middle of the night.

Andrew Mark Wilhelm – Stockton Ports – S Rope Alternate Cap

There’s too much going on in this logo for it to look as boring as it does. It also has too many variations on the word Port. And then to put it on a nondescript grey hat? Sorry Stock Town, I can’t get behind this one.


Brandon Andrus – Stockton Ports – Dad Hat

What is with the small logo thing?  And mom/dad caps? I feel sorry for the guy wearing white tube socks with sandals, cargo shorts and a white polo with mustard pits who bought this cap to go to the games. Maybe, Stockton, you were so excited that you could make this cap you didn’t stop to think if you should. (Andrew note: I have a couple good friends from Stockton. Trust me, this hat is very on brand for the area as a whole. It’s for the culture, fam. I actually dig this hat) (Ned Note: You dig this hat? I hate that we usually agree so much because it taints my other opinions)

Ned Donovan – Inland Empire 66ers – SHREDDER

I’ve looked at this image for like two days trying to figure out what is happening here. Is it an engine? It kind of looks like a long train with a fan on the front? There’s oil spilling out, that can’t be good. What are the metal waves? Is it a boat going through molten metal? This is one of the least clear hats I’ve ever seen. That’s before we get to the orange and black mesh racing stripes. There is exactly nothing appealing to me about this hat, and it is without question horrifically constructed. 

Andrew Mark Wilhelm – San Jose Giants – 2018 Christmas in July Cap

Sweet Christmas this is a bad hat. See everything Ned said above, multiple the sentiment by about 20 and you have my opinions on this hat. This was not a good idea. It’s also worth noting that 3 of my bottom 5 are San Jose Giants hats. I tried desperately to not have that happen, but I had at least 6 of their hats in my bottom 10. Again, Do Better San Jose. 


Top 5

And so we move on to the hats of greatness. These are the ones you want to purchase immediately. Seriously, get your credit cards out.


Brandon Andrus – Lake Elsinore Storm – Onfield Home Cap

I own one and I love it! Great place to catch a game btw. I have already shown why this logo doesn’t always work. But this is where it is perfect. As I said, may be time for some alternates, but this cap is great! (Ned Note: They need to do a tie-in marketing with Super Mario Galaxy and make Storm-branded “Cappy” hats. I’d buy one in a heartbeat)

Ned Donovan – Visalia Rawhide – Pinstripe Cap

This hat is classic and awesome. It’s simple, it’s elegant, it’s classy. I love that the primary color is an off white which mutes the pinstripes enough to push the kickass R-as-a-baseball logo to the forefront. You add the red outline on the logo to the brim, grommets, and crown button matching. It even allows the ’47 branding to feel a part of the hat which NEVER happens. Truly an awesome kickoff to the top 5.

Andrew Mark Wilhelm – Lancaster JetHawks – Diamond BP Cap

I love the JetHawks logo. Absolutely love it. And the color blocking of this hat is A+. This hat would honestly be much higher on this list if not for the quality of this, and all, of their product photos. It’s not that difficult guys. You have a marketing department. have them buy a halfway decent camera and upload a quality jpeg. It might help you sell more hats to guys like us who are stuck on the details. (Ned Note: The JetHawks hats essentially make up my favorites from 6-10. I loved the logo but never did I love what they did with it.)


Brandon Andrus – San Jose Giants – Alternate #1 Fitted Cap

I own one and I love it! And another great place to catch a game. Great old stadium. As I have shown in previous weeks, you can really fail when you adopt your parent teams moniker. But this teams location and feel completely compliments using the name Giants. Walking around San Francisco with this cap, many people asked where this was from. And many people said they would head down the freeway and catch a game. It’s a logo that works and I love it.

Ned Donovan – Rancho Cucamonga Quakes – Fitted Black Q Hat

I honestly thought I would hate Brim art forever, then I saw this hat. Meet the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes. Their branding is SO smart. A shaking “Q” with great color blocking on a simple black hat. However the Quake is the main event here. A split that grows from left to right across the brim to make the branding come alive. I love the tan outline around the Q, specifically in that the color isn’t used elsewhere. It pops the white, and gives a great off color to make the whole hat come alive. The dark blue is understated and doesn’t detract from the main event, but gives you the fantastic extra if you look for it. Well done.

Andrew Mark Wilhelm – Inland Empire 66ers – Diamond Era Wrench Cap

Color blocking, color blocking, color blocking. It’s clearly the most important aspect of a cap for me. And this one nails it. And I’m clearly a sucker for this shade of blue on headwear. And the matching brim, button and NE logo is always a good choice. The orange around the wrench logo was a risk for sure, but I think it works beautifully.


Brandon Andrus – Rancho Cucamonga Quakes – Fitted Black RC Cap

I have now realized many teams use lettering on caps from their moniker. Therefor, my apologies to the Charlotte Stone Crabs for my criticism a few weeks ago. That being said, I see SC and I still think South Carolina not Stone Crab. Sorry not sorry. Now, Rancho Cucamonga uses Q for Quakes, RC for Rancho Cucamonga, and T for Temblores. All are great. But I do prefer to represent the city. So I picked this cap. All of their caps are great. Look at that fault crack on the brim! The Temblores are a beautiful Blue, Quakes a great two tone cap, but I would rep the RC. So it gets my number three over their others, but all cold be in this slot. (Andrew Note: This JUST barely missed my top 5.)

Ned Donovan – Inland Empire 66ers – Cucuys de San Bernardino

In keeping with this column’s tradition of loving the Copa de la Diversión caps, here is one of my absolute favorites. Two different shades of grey make this hat one of the better understatements out there. The slate grey is accented nicely by the deep, almost black, grey that allows the brim, grommets, and crown button to have their own life without being ostentacious. However the slate grey is a MUCH better companion to the logo, which is one of the more unique, specific offerings I’ve seen. 

The internet tells me that the Cucuy is a mythical creature not unlike the Bugbear. Specifically it’s used to frighten disobedient children. Well the logo on this cap is terrifying. However the color scheme they chose makes it feel like a personality choice for whoever wears it. The lime green accentuation on a pale blue cloak makes the menacing face somehow less menacing. This feels like a mascot, a logo, not a horror movie. That is a perfect example of how color can change the way your logo is interpreted. Also the detail on the face is fantastic. This hat is in my cart.

Andrew Mark Wilhelm – Inland Empire 66ers – Cucuys de San Bernardino

I didn’t do the same level of research as Ned. I didn’t need to know anything about this hat other than they absolutely crushed the color blocking. It would’ve been very easy to give this a matching grey brim and it would’ve ruined the hat. But the Copa designers are clearly miles ahead of the rest of the Minors and knew not to do that. Just a great, great hat.


Brandon Andrus – Modesto Nuts – Away Fitted Cap

It’s everything MiLB cap should be. Fun, creative, and good looking. Originally I really wanted to include their “What Could Have Been” Dusters cap, but there is only size 8s left, so I decided to drop it all together. Their Home Almond cap is fine (too one tone) but I love this Walnut. Would definitely be my purchase choice.

Ned Donovan – San Jose Giants – Rugged Canvas Snapbacks

I am a sucker for a simple hat. This hat right here hits all of my buttons. A canvas pattern crown in a dark grey, with a slightly darker grey grommet is a great build. I love that they double seamed in order to make texture. All in all the construction of the crown is fantastic. The orange highlight is the icing. I love the SJ logo, it’s simple, but elegant, yet fully unique to the team. Using one color to highlight the brim and the logo makes the whole thing come together in a really satisfying way. Lastly the crown button gives the whole design height. All in all this hat is one of my favorite simple designs we’ve looked at yet.

Andrew Mark Wilhelm – San Jose Giants – Rugged Canvas Snapbacks

Remember how much I hated all the San Jose hats? Well, not this one. I LOVE this one. More teams need to adopt this muted, worn canvas look. It looks like a hat you’ve loved for years, while still waiting the things that are better about a new cap over the old broken one. It’s beautifully simple and different. Major props for this one San Jose but still, as a whole…


Brandon Andrus – Infield Empire 66ers – Hood Ornament

All of their caps far exceeded the rest of the league so they get the top slot many times over. But this one is by far my favorite. The old 66ers logo was fine, but this new branding is brilliant. Look at that gorgeous use of color and design. The 66ers is there, but not obvious… and powdered blue caps are always the best. So many great looks for the 66ers. Any cap of the 66ers I would be proud to wear.

Ned Donovan – Stockton Ports – Stockton Caballos Cap

In keeping with the theme of awesome Copa de la Diversion caps, here is one of the coolest caps I’ve ever seen period. The Denver Broncos need to adopt this right now. A metal horse on a faded orange crown with a sublte green off color. Holy crap, this is a revelation of a cap. We’ve said this before, but why is it that the branding crew for these teams are better at coming up with fake team merchandise than their actual branding? This right here is a revelation of color blocking, construction, and logo size to hat ratio. Everything about this hat is a win.

Andrew Mark Wilhelm – Stockton Ports – Stockton Caballos Cap

This may just be a perfect hat. Look at it. It’s beautiful. Of course its a Copa hat. Bring this theme to the Majors if it’s going to produce this kind of quality. I want this hat. I need this hat. I’m going to buy this hat. You should too.


Closing Remarks

Brandon Andrus

All in all the league is a bit hit and miss. Hope some time is invested in making these teams look really good. Time will tell.

Ned Donovan

I need to give one last shoutout, to the hat that I didn’t love, or hate, but really had to talk about. This offering is from the Stockton Ports, and it is so, so, so, so specifically weird that I can’t stop thinking about it:

It features a badass sailor, who for whatever reason has his hat falling off his head, covering one eye like an eyepatch and destroying his depth perception, while he…..plays the guitar? Cuddles politely? an oversized and extremely detailed stalk of asparagus, and grimaces at you menacingly. All of it wrapped up on a completely purple cap. I had to do some research on this one, and I discovered that Stockton hosts a world-famous Asparagus festival. Which helps to explain another hat of theirs that I really hated:

This one is called the “Running Gus” and man does it make me uncomfortable. Anyways, never change, Stockton. I love asparagus. Though definitely not as much as you guys do.

Andrew Mark Wilhelm

I almost featured both of the same hats that Ned did in this section. I’m afraid we are slowly assimilating into one, hat reviewing Borg-like entity.

Do better San Jose. 

In Summation

Do you agree with us? Hate us? Do you have a hat that you think should be winning this battle? Drop it in the comments, tweet it at us, throw a picture of yourself wearing it on instagram and tag us @the_turf_sports. We’re on Facebook, Reddit, and even Linkedin if you care to follow us there. Right below where you’re reading this (well, past the ad), there are some share buttons. So it’s really easy to send this to your friends who will hate our selections. DOOOOO IT.

Andrew Mark Wilhelm is a professional Sound Engineer/Designer, and amateur photographer, writer, musician who recently relocated from California to Rochester, NY. Born and raised in the suburbs of Detroit has made Andrew an avid fan of all things Detroit but nothing more so than his beloved Detroit Tigers. Every year he tells himself he won't drink the Lions Kool-Aid, and every year winds up heartbroken come January. A Spartan by heart, and a Golden Grizzly by degree, you can catch his (almost) weekly Hot Takes every Hump Day here at The Turf.

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