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March 30, 2023

Report: Phillies remove sleeve numbers to make way for jersey ad

There will be no player numbers on the left sleeve of the Phillies' uniforms this season. It's reportedly being left blank to make way for an incoming jersey sponsor.

If you've seen any of the Phillies' promotional materials over the past month, no doubt have they helped hype you up for the impending 2023 season and a journey all the way back to October. 

But when it came to any image that featured a player in full uniform that wasn't in action – either from last season or this spring – eagle-eyed fans may have noticed something off: the numbers on the left sleeve of the home jerseys were missing. 

There's a reason for that, and it isn't one a lot of fans and jersey purists are going to be too happy with.

Per Matt Breen of the Philadelphia Inquirer, the sleeves on the Phillies' home and road uniforms are being left blank to make way for an eventual sponsor patch, a deal of which is still being ironed out but expected to be done at some point this season. 

Sponsor patches, or jersey ads, were one of the concessions made between Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association during last year's lockout and negotiations for a new Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Effective this season, clubs were permitted to seek out a single sponsor to apply across all of their uniforms as a patch on either sleeve, within the limitations that the patch can only be a maximum of 4" x 4" in size and not an advertisement for any alcohol, gambling, or media brand. 

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Per Erin McCarthy, also of The Inquirer, the Phillies have been in talks with potential uniform sponsors on a local, national, and international scale since at least January, and while no frontrunners are known just yet, club execs at the time said whoever lands the potential deal would have the largest sponsorship outside of Citizens Bank for the naming rights to the stadium. 

Six MLB teams so far have jersey ads for the 2023 season – the Arizona Diamondbacks, Boston Red Sox, Cincinnati Reds, Houston Astros, Los Angeles Angels, and San Diego Padres – and depending on the timing, the Phillies could end up as the seventh. 

Jersey ads have been a point of contention across North American sports for a long time but seem to be growing into an ever-increasing inevitability. 

For team owners and execs, they're another stream of revenue, and at face value, rather easy ones to collect at that. But for fans, they're at-best minor to at-worst obnoxious blights that take away from iconic and held dear looks all for the sake of a few extra bucks. 

Unfortunately, the money talks.

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The NBA was the first of the core four to break, which resulted in StubHub and then patches on the Sixers' uniforms. The NHL, largely because of a process sped up by the COVID-19 pandemic, then allowed teams to seek out both jersey and helmet sponsors, but for now, the Flyers haven't added any outside of a short stint with TCS on their helmets back when there were no crowds. 

Now it's MLB's turn, which also has plans to bring in helmet ads at some point and already experimented with them in the World Baseball Classic.

Since switching to the current look in 1992, which has gone largely unchanged over three decades now, the Phillies' home and road uniforms have always featured player numbers on the left sleeve and were the only sets in Major League Baseball to do so. 

But it seems with a jersey ad on the way and the Phillies' ambitions of having a World Series patch on their right arm again eight months from now, something had to give.

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