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 Midwest League
The Midwest League is a Class A Minor League. Their teams include:
- Eastern Division
- Bowling Green Hot Rods – Bowling Green, Kentucky
- Dayton Dragons – Dayton, Ohio
- Fort Wayne TinCaps – Fort Wayne, Indiana
- Great Lakes Loons – Midland, Michigan
- Lake County Captains, East Lake, Ohio
- Lansing Lugnuts – Lansing, Michigan
- South Bend Cubs – South Bend, Indiana
- West Michigan Whitecaps – Comstock Park, Michigan
- Western Division
- Beloit Snappers – Beloit, Wisconsin
- Burlington Bees – Burlington, Iowa
- Cedar Rapids Kernals – Cedar Rapids, Iowa
- Clinton LumberKings – Clinton, Iowa
- Kane County Cougars – Geneva, Illinois
- Peoria Chiefs – Peoria, Illionois
- Quad City River Bandits – Davenport, Iowa
- Wisconsin Timber Rattlers – Appleton, Wisconsin
I found it tougher to weed down my favorites in this league. I like a lot of them. Some hats I own didn’t even make my top five. A lot of good branding in the Midwest. And some teams (Beloit/Clinton) need a rehab or rebrand. That being said, shout out to Dayton Dragons and the Great Lake Loons. They have some quality caps that just didn’t fit my top 5. Besides the bottom and top five, I have a special postscript I hope you agree with. Here we go.
So before we get started I’d like to point out a hat that’s not cool enough to be in the top 5, nor bad in any specific way to make the bottom. I would still, however, like to point it out.
This hat right here comes from the Quad City River Bandits. I thought, for at least 2 straight minutes, this was a snitch. Like a Harry Potter night promotion snitch. I was sold, I was in, I was also confused. Then I realized it’s a baseball wearing a bandana jumping into a river. The description says “River Bandits Alternative Logo featuring the original River Bandits logo splashing into the Mississippi River”. I liked it better as a snitch.
A lot of the hats chosen by Brandon and Ned in their Bottom 5 were in my Bottom tabs as well and just didn’t make the cut. There were a lot of hats to choose from this week, and they weren’t many middle of the road hats, with many either real good or real bad. The glaring exception to that is the Dayton Dragons. When a team is called the Dragons I want an awesome logo and some fire hats. Dayton provided a bunch of blah. Do better Dayton. Speaking of do better, if you are a professional baseball team and are selling merch, do not have a team store website built on Square. I’m looking at you Beloit Snappers. Not only were your hats all pretty bad, but your website was worse.
As always we start with the hats that just aren’t it. These caps need a lot of work. Why they exist? We’re not sure.
Brandon Andrus – Clinton Lumber Kings – Clinton LumberKings Seattle Mariners Monday Hat
I hate this logo. All their caps make my “Bad” folder. This logo is the worst in this League and almost the whole MiLB to me. A roided out José Conseco with a crown is not my idea of a Lumber King. SO much more could have been done with this name. A cartoon evergreen with a crown carrying a bat. Two by fours nailed into an L with a crown. Hell, just a damn crown on an L would be better. The Moniker is good, just redo the logo. I don’t mind the colors so much. But with this logo, I hated it more that their other caps with Roid Roy here. This cap makes me feel Clinton is the place wear all the guys who will never make it into the HoF for steroid use will go. Rebrand as soon as you can Clinton. (Ned Note: This was the last hat eliminated from my Bottom 5. I’m also annoyed that they feel like this hat celebrates their relationship with the Seattle Mariners. Literally f**k off.) (Andrew note: Agree with both Brandon and Ned here)
Ned Donovan – West Michigan WhiteCaps – Valor Kryptek Cap
When I saw this I was convinced it was part of a promotion. It looks like it’s part of a sci-fi theme night. Then I realized, no, this is a hat that they sell. It features a pattern called “Kryptek Performance Camo”. Kryptek is not a word. That shit is cryptic though because my eyes don’t know what to look at. The weird part is, nothing about this hat camouflages anything. This hat can be seen from a mile away. Except the logo. Somehow the logo is the only thing camouflaged on the hat. Gross.
Andrew Wilhelm – Quad Cities River Bandits – Official Gold Home Hat
Admittedly, this hat (cap?) may not be worthy of this spot, but it’s being put here for two huge reasons. The first is that I can’t make out what the hell it is. It’s a super dark photo of a super dark hat and it is just impossible to make out. Second, it’s called the Official Gold Home Hat and apart from the bandana, there is nothing gold about this hat. A small gold detail is not worthy of defining the entire hat. At least I don’t think so, BUT I CAN’T SEE IT.”
Brandon Andrus – Fort Wayne Tincaps – Grey Baserunner
Is that even a logo? It’s so small it looks like a mistake. You have a great name and great logo. One cap even cracked my top five. Why would anyone buy this? Go big or go home I say. (Andrew note: This hat is clearly trying to cash in on the dad hat trend, while still maintaining the dimensions of a ball cap. Pick one or the other Fort Wayne)
Ned Donovan – Wisconsin Timber Rattlers – Wisconsin Brats Bratman Hat
I love me a good Brat. I even love another one of the Brat hats (though not enough to make this list). But this hat makes me uncomfortable. Everything about this hat makes me not want to engage with the man in the logo. plus his outfit, which is carefully detailed, is faded. Why even bother? This guy definitely sings at Ellen’s Stardust Diner. The Bratman is someone I will go out of my way to avoid. Because unlike his homophonic cousin, he is not the hero we need. He might be the hero we deserve, though.
Andrew Wilhelm – Wisconsin Timber Rattlers – Wisconsin Brats Fitted Hat
The hat that Ned linked to above that he says he loves is this one. And I hate it. Sorry Ned. I am all for minor league teams having unique, out there designs, but the food themed items usually don’t do it for me. Add to that the putrid green that is the color of this hat, combined with the mustard New Era logo (not to mention the actually mustard on the brat), and this hat just leaves me feeling queasy.
Brandon Andrus – Lake County Captains – NEC State Flective
There are right and wrong ways to honor your home state on a cap. Boise got it right but Lake County missed big time. The logo is so large it makes the outline of the state barely visible. The Captain logo in one color, especially such a light color, is barely visible. Had the two colors been reversed it may have been slightly better. But here’s where a small logo (listening Tincaps?) would make sense. Place it where the Captains reside in the state, the Northeast corner. A worthy concept but a failed attempt. Put this one in the brig Captains.
Ned Donovan – Wisconsin Timber Rattlers – Sweet Pea
Hey Timber Rattlers, I don’t know what you’ve got going on, but when you have two hats in my Bottom 5, you may need to reevaluate. What the hell is happening here? This design is a mess. The lavender hat and polka dots are slightly different color than the R logo in a way that hurts my eyes, and makes it impossible to see the logo. Baseball caps are meant to celebrate their teams. This celebrates no one. And if you’re thinking, “Ned, it’s a hat for children, calm down.” No. Much like how I feel about gendered caps, let’s not stoop to think children can’t celebrate their teams in any functional way. Do better.
Andrew Wilhelm – Bowling Green Hot Rods – Men’s Snapback Cap with Steel Plate Design
I love the Hot Rods logo. I love the Hot Rods color scheme. I love everything about the top of this hat. And then you get to the brim and this hat immediately becomes a dumpster fire. Steel plate design only works on one thing. Actual steel plates. This hat deserved so much better than this.
Brandon Andrus – West Michigan Whitecaps – Ladies Straw Cowboy Hat
Did you know Coyote Ugly came out 18 years ago?! Wow… time flies when your hatin’ on hats. You know what else, no one owns that film… at least they shouldn’t. :-/ The same applies for this hat. Even in the bargain bin at Walmart, this isn’t worth the depths of trash you need to become to wear this. I would give it to the Kernels if they attempted this. Theirs is a country enough logo to work on this. But what does a straw cowboy hat even have to do with the Whitecaps or Michigan? Fail, fail fail. Worst HAT, by far, I’ve ever seen. But not the worst CAP.
Ned Donovan – Fort Wayne TinCaps – Navy Mackenzie
So most of my notes from above can be reapplied here. But actually what is happening. I have looked at this hat for probably 10 minutes, and I still can’t make out the logo in any kind of discernable way. Plus did you know that there’s a ’47 brand logo on the side? It’s that weird blob over there. I don’t actually hate the idea of a striped hat. This one could be pretty cool. But when you take the blue stripes, combine them with the pink, and then make every part of the hat that identifies it unintelligible, you’re looking at a bad rating. This hat is garbage. (Andrew note: This was the last hat eliminated from my Bottom list. I closed the tab simply because I could no longer stare at this hat trying to figure it out.)
Andrew Wilhelm – West Michigan Whitecaps – Official Road Player Cap
Remember in the first week of this series when I declared the Connecticut Tigers cap my favorite because of the way they tied into their MLB affiliate and used the classic Tiger’s Old English lettering and color scheme? Yeah… this is that same concept taken WAY too far. Everything in my soul tells me I should love this hat but its just doing too much. The W and M don’t work in this lettering, it’s shoehorning both the Tiger’s home and away colors onto one hat and what’s with the wave? Are you trying to make the logo look like a bridge? And if so why? All that wave does is clutter an already cluttered hat and force the New Era logo to match it’s coloring making an already bad element worse. I hate this hat.
Brandon Andrus – Quad City River Bandits – ’47 Brand Eyes Cement Hat
This is a CAP. Not a hat. Get you description right. Second, it’s about the worst idea for a cap as you can get. Quad Cities has a great number of logos to pull from. This is not one of them. But let’s make it worse by making it barely visible against the background. Lake Elsinore did the eye thing first. It’s the only team that should still have this look. It was cute for the 90’s, but much like the Black Alternates of the day, it’s time to move on from that look. It wasn’t that good to begin with. Nothing about this Cap says Quad Cities or River Bandits. Simply the worst in the Midwest. (Ned Note: the same applies to this hat.)
Ned Donovan – Quad City River Bandits – OC Freedom Hat
Bandrus is out here hating on the River Bandits for their weird eyes. I’m here to hate on whatever the f**k this is supposed to be. And yes, I know, we hate on the fourth of July hats a lot. Well they tend to be garbage. This one, however, is the worst I’ve ever seen. First the brim stitching. I don’t like brim stitching in general, but if you’re going to make it, I hope I can understand what you’re going for. The indoor running track look isn’t good. The trucker cap backing with inlaid stars is overwhelming to look at in any sense of the term. But the front. Man, the front. This sheet metal wall masquerading as the stripes of ol’ glory should be taken out to pasture. And THEN if it weren’t enough, we’ve taken a raccoon in a hat, given him the American flag to wear as a bandana. If the hat was their standard team colors and JUST the raccoon, I’d be in. This monstrosity, however, is one of the worst I’ve seen.
Andrew Wilhelm – Great Lakes Loons – Pink Camo Cap Ladies
Look, even the Loons know this cap is bad. The image they’re using to try and sell the thing is a sketch of it.Not only do pink and camouflage not belong together, WHY IS THE LOGO MONOCHROMATICALLY PINK??? I guess in one sense the camo works, because I cannot see the logo. Like at all. Congrats GL, you played yourself.
Here we are at the main event. The hats that everyone wants. The legendary offerings from the Midwest League. In short, the ones that are draining our bank accounts.
Brandon Andrus – Fort Wayne Tincaps – On Field: Road
I remember when this team adopted this moniker. I loved it then and still do. First Wayne was one of the first teams to start thinking outside the box. It epitomes what I feel makes a good MiLB moniker and logo. It references the history of the location, the playfulness and family friendly attitude of the league and gives a little hint of whimsy. Its a cartoon apple wearing Johnny Appleseeds tin pot cap! Brilliant is an understatement. This particular cap, the road, I prefer because I love the contrast of the grey brim. It’s a classic and will be in my collection.
Ned Donovan – Bowling Green Hot Rods – Player’s Road Cap
I can’t look away from this hat. I think an orange hat is one of the hardest things to pull off because it’s impossible to not look like a hunter. This one, however, does the trick for me. For me this hat is anchored on the patch-style logo. I love it. It makes me think of an Appalachian Mountain Club patch for the huts in the White Mountains (anyone?). I think the other logos for the hot rods didn’t do anything for me, but I like the baseball bat and wrench combo. I really dig that the background of the logo and the brim match. If I have one complaint, is that the white is a little hard to discern with the bright orange. But it’s a small complaint.
Andrew Wilhelm – Bowling Green Hot Rods – 59Fifty Fauxback Cap
I had an impossibly difficult time getting down from 10 hats to 5. One of the ways I did it was to force myself to only include 1 hat from teams I had multiples of. I had 3 Hot Rods hats, and decide on this one, as it is the most unique. The concept of a fauxback is very risky, as there is no nostalgic attachment to an old design that never actually existed. But the color blocking and detailing completely make this hat. The hat has pin striping a la a Hot Rod and the old timey gas station logo is great. The mascot even works as the “r” like intended. Quality work. (Ned Note: the mascot does not work as an “r”)
Brandon Andrus – Bowling Green Hot Rods – Men’s Circadian Cap BG Logo
I am honestly surprised how much I like this cap. I tend to prefer onfield. I know that about myself. I like the Home, Road, Alt. and even BP cap for Bowling Green. But this cap just looks good to me. Don’t think I would like it in 59Fifty, but maybe it could be tried in the future. I have never bought an off field cap before but I may have to make an exception for once. Too bad low profile never looks good on me. When I go to Bowling Green, this will be the one I’m looking for.
Ned Donovan – West Michigan Whitecaps – Throwback Fitted Cap
I want to give a huge shoutout to the Whitecaps. How I make my selections is I go through every team, and save any hat that might make it into the rankings into a word document. Then I go back, load up all of those hats in one browser, and go tab by tab, eliminating until I’m down to 5. The Whitecaps had 5 separate hats make my top 5 potentials. They have multiple logos, and I feel like all of them have substance and merit. This hat, though, I love. Something about this classic design that is simple and understated and yet eye-catching really inspires me to purchase. Plus sometimes an all black cap is exactly what you need to pop a logo. (Andrew note: the only reason I didn’t include this hat was because I knew Ned would and I needed to get down to 5.)
Andrew Wilhelm – Great Lakes Loons – Official Home Cap
This is just a classy looking hat. The Loon logo is not cartoony, which I don’t think would work for a loon. The brick red color is gorgeous, and the logo pops off it without being Christmas-y. This hat just does it for me.
Brandon Andrus – Burlington Bees – Official Alternate Gold Cap
I love colors outside the typical Navy, Black and Red on Caps. Gold/Yellow looks so great. (on me at least) If your name is the Bees, Yellow is a perfect fit. Here’s where they didn’t “F” this cap up. No Honeycomb or Black Brim or overly Bee themed. Just Gold. A honeycomb design under the brim could be cool, but this simple mono Yellow look (I’m sure many will disagree) is a perfect design. There are more than one team named the Bees, and both teams nailed their caps in different ways. This is my favorite of the two though. I would also put their (Burlington) Home cap in this slot. Both are great caps. (Ned Note: I eliminated the Burlington home cap at the number 6 slot and I’ve been regretting it this whole time.) (Andrew note: This hat was one of the last eliminated from my 5. My bottom 5 that is. I love the concept but I feel the logo gets lost on this hat)
Ned Donovan – West Michigan Whitecaps – Flow Team Snapback
I love a light blue hat. I mean I absolutely love them. They look good on everyone’s head, they stand out in a crowd, and you can do interesting things color scheme wise. This hat takes full advantage given that the logo is mostly blue, and every piece of the cap is blue except the white parts of the logo. The color blocking on this hat is so smart, that the logo, which should be swallowed by the overall aesthetic, seamlessly integrates into the overall experience while still popping off the panel. Plus as an added bonus, the fading dot design makes the new era flag less noticeable. I love that they left the grommets the same blue as the rest, but gave us a brim-matching crown button. Gorgeous hat.
Andrew Wilhelm – Peoria Chiefs – Official 5950 New Era On-Field Peoria Chiefs Hat
Rebrands are tough. That doesn’t mean they’re impossible. And sometimes what comes out is even better than what was originally there. It’s hard to get powder blue wrong, but with the red accents this works even better than I would imagine. The logo is fun while still being aggressive, the button, vents and brim all match (which is almost always a good thing), and the New Era logo disappears. Solid work.
Brandon Andrus – Peoria Chiefs – Official 5950 New Era On-Field Peoria Chiefs Hat
I applaud Peoria (as well as Syracuse) for not using Native American imagery when using the name Chiefs. That may be where both teams started, but when they rebranded, they both knocked it outta the park! I own a Peoria cap. Same logo but on a Cubs blue cap (Fomer affiliate till they picked up South Bend). I wish this had been an option then. I love a great powdered blue and I don’t remember seeing it paired with red. I love everything about this cap. It’s an improvement on the one I own and believe if you are looking for a great look on and off the field, this is it. The gold really seems to pop more on the powdered blue. Just a great cap that is very unique. Great buy for anyone.
Ned Donovan – South Bend Cubs – On Field BP Cap
The South Bend Cubs get my award for best major league matching. Their hats pay great homage to the northsiders. This hat, though, kept coming back to me as I went through the list. I think it is an extremely smart hat, in every aspect. I think the bright coloring for all aspects makes this hat jump off your head. (As a note, the 4th of July hats should really take a lesson from this cap.) I think the white outline around the bear is a subtle, yet important way to distinguish the logo. I think having no visible stitching makes each panel feel important, but I think having the blue grommet on all sides ties the color scheme together. Cap it off with a brim-matching crown button and you have yourself a hat everyone can enjoy. It’s a winner.
The only problem with this hat is that the Batting Practice fabric is always a rough feel on your head. I’d make an exception for this one, though.
Andrew Wilhelm – West Michigan Whitecaps – Official Alternate Fitted Cap
The Whitecaps were the other team where I had multiple options I had to narrow down from to get this list to 5. This was by far my favorite though. Again, this goes against my typical dislike of white front panels, but it so perfectly ties the two blues together. This logo is also my favorite of all the different option the Whitecaps have, though by slim margins. I would own this hat. I might own this hat in the near future. Damn this series. (Ned Note: I feel like this logo might look like a nutsack…)
Brandon Andrus – South Bend Cubs – New Era 59Fifty South Bend Cubs On Field BP Cap
I cannot believe this is my number one. No matter how hard I tried not to love it, it just kept creeping back to number one. I never like BP caps. Alternate sometimes, but never BP. There is a similar alternate design to this on their site. But this cap is the real winner. It makes sense to me for teams near their Major League Market to adopt the name of their affiliate. (If your city isn’t Rome, GA) Staten Island and Springfield are other MiLB teams that do it and do it well. If you can’t make your team unique from your affiliate, then follow the example of the South Bend Cubs. They have the perfect marriage of their own identity mixed with their affiliate. The branding is so good I would go so far as to say the Cubbies might consider using this particular logo as an alternate or Spring cap. This cap has so much going for it. A pinwheel design that pops with Cubs colors and the logo is clearly a Cub. A simple, well done design executed in a great fashion. Wish it was their away or alternate because I hate the BP fabric. But I would make an exception in this case. It just looks so damn good! (Ned Note: GREAT FREAKING MINDS ON THE FABRIC) (Andrew note: I actually like the BP fabric, especially out in the California heat with my longer hair. I find it breathes a bit better)
Ned Donovan – Peoria Chiefs – Official On-Field Hat
I agree with all of Bandrus’ thoughts above (even if I think he’s inconsistently selective in his acceptance of cartoon monikers). Moving beyond the political feelings I have regarding Native American imagery in sports naming, I love how wholly unique this hat is. Name me another hat that feels like this anywhere else? I’ve never seen a powdered blue with a red brim and accent grommet. The gold outline? A perfect way to pop the logo without being overwhelming. The New Era flag is unobtrusive, and the helmet matches the accent perfectly. This hat feels like the logo. The synergy here is matched by very few hats, and you better believe I have purchased this for my own.
Andrew Wilhelm – South Bend Cubs – New Era 59Fifty South Bend Cubs On Field Home Cap
Fun fact: the Chicago Cubs currently have 4 Minor League affiliates named the Cubs. They all share the Cubs color scheme as well. It’s really difficult to mess it up, and as such the bar is higher for them in my opinion. But this hat meets those lofty expectations, as does the BP cap already featured on this list. I just LOVE the circle around the logo here, and the way the red button completes this perfect, tidy package. The ONLY reason I don’t own this hat is because I already own an actual Cubs hat and they’re just a little too similar.
Brandon Andrus – “Postscript”
Ok. (Gets on Soapbox) I am a self proclaimed fan of many things. STAR WARS being the number one probably. I love the “idea” of the STAR WARS nights at the stadiums. STAR WARS is for kids after all. What better way to make a connection to another fan base? Here’s the thing though. I am going to use just three examples, all from the Midwest League, to demonstrate why the promotions need to do better.
Darth Vader with the word Loons below him? What is that Death Star cap? At least Quad city started to get it right. Could be cool cap if they didn’t add their logo. If you can rebrand as the Pizza Rats, Maple Kings or Bacon, why can’t you come up with better rebranding for STAR WARS nights? I would assume Disney and Lucasfilm would have more creative control over this. Imagine playing as the Brooklyn EMPIRE or Jacksonville JEDI or the Vermont TAUNTAUNS! All with branding befitting their new moniker. If you are gonna do it, DO IT RIGHT! Just sticking a cheaply made logo on a cheaply made hat is not what either fan base deserves.
The Loons for example kinda look like Jar Jar Binks. So they can be the Gungans. Have fun with it. Between innings have kids “pod race” along the base lines. Have Costume contests, Yoda impressions or STAR WARS trivia. perhaps the Quad City Bandits could become the Cloud City Bandits and ask Billie Dee Williams to throw honorary first pitch. The MiLB could do so much better with these promotions. Now we have Goonies, Seinfeld and Stranger Things nights. I don’t feel these gimmicks should be in the Majors, so if the Minors are going to keep doing it, they need a major rethink. Make the promotions worth the extra money for the cap. (Gets off soapbox) May the force be with you, always.
Ned Donovan – “Postscript”
I agree with everything Brandon said above, except I want to shout out an awesome star wars hat that I think should be celebrated. Behold:
This. Hat. is. Dope. I love the charcoal denim look. I love the way the logo pops off this hat. I actually love this logo. I love that the stitching is in the color of the panels. Plus replacing the grommets with the Rebel Alliance logo and the Imperial Crest is understated and wonderful. Now if only New Era could have f**ked off and let me have the LucasArts logo or something, I’d probably buy this hat.
So I think we can all agree the real winner here is the West Michigan Whitecaps.
Andrew Wilhelm -“Postscript”
What Ned said.
And while not as good, the Whitecaps other Star Wars offering is better than the vast majority of other teams offerings.
And if you’ve ever seen some of the Star Wars themed jerseys that the Toledo Mud Hens have used, it should come as no surprise that a Tiger’s affiliate is crushing the Star Wars licensing. (Ned Note: When I saw the samll version of this hat, I thought the logo was holding a lightsaber. I was sad to discover it’s not.)
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.