'Fitzy' connects with fans through clothing line
The first thing many people see when they look at Ryan Fitzgerald is his hair. His flowing, curly brown locks. Or “hockey hair,” as the Red Sox prospect put it. So when it came time to decide a design that would kick off the first-of-its-kind clothing line collab between Triple-A
The first thing many people see when they look at
Or “hockey hair,” as the Red Sox prospect put it.
So when it came time to decide a design that would kick off the first-of-its-kind clothing line collab between Triple-A Worcester and Fitzgerald, the signature locks had to be front and center. Literally.
“His look is so iconic,” said Courtney Cowsill, WooSox director of graphic and web design. “Like it’s whole own vibe with the glasses and the mullet.”
The man underneath the lettuce agreed.
“It's kind of a big piece of who I am,” Fitzgerald said. “So [the hair’s] definitely my favorite part of the design.”
Katarina Burns had long wanted to do a clothing line with players, from her time with Double-A Amarillo and Triple-A Pawtucket. After the club moved to Central Massachusetts, the club’s senior director of merchandise was able to make it happen.
Following the suggestions of clubhouse manager Mario Oliveira, Burns began plans for clothing lines with both Fitzgerald and
“He has been great to work with,” Burns said. “I don't think we could have picked a better player to have this first time with just because he's so fun loving and the fans love him. He's got the hair that matches the personality, so it's been really great.”
For the concept, Burns gathered as much information as she could from Fitzgerald about his fashion sense and what he likes. With Cowsill, the trio came up with several elements that represented the shortstop, like putting his spin on the WooSox heart W and choosing the perfect font for “Fitzy.”
“It was very important for us to make sure this line was truly a reflection of him, not necessarily of what we wanted,” Cowsill said. “So I wanted to keep that as my main focus as I was designing, just sort of like, ‘Would Fitzy wear this? Is this something that represents him?’ So the fans would get a true piece of him.”
But for what Cowsill calls “the statement piece” of the line, she wanted a twist on a classic portrait. And right after finishing a tarp pull -- as one often does in the Minors – Cowsill got an impromptu meeting with Fitzgerald. Covered in dirt, she asked the 28-year-old if she could put his face on a shirt. He of course said yes, and now sees his reflection across the ballpark.
Some fans waited an hour at the team store to meet Fitzgerald and snag a piece of the collection. The Illinois native and Creighton product thinks perhaps it’s his hockey roots that the northern fan base can connect to. For Burns, it’s about how much Fitzgerald is out in the community, meeting the locals.
“Seeing fans around the stadium wear it and little kids are wearing it too, it’s really cool,” he said. “Here's this little girl in the stands that was wearing my hat and in my shirt. I saw I might not be playing that day, so I went back inside the locker room and grabbed one of my bats and brought it back out for her, but that was probably the coolest moment.”
Fitzgerald makes sure Red Sox coordinators get something when they come through Worcester. He gave all his teammates shirts, which they proudly rock at batting practice. And perhaps one day, his teammates can return the favor as Cowsill's dream is for every player to have their own version of the W heart logo.
Burns is carrying this experience of a fun, player-driven line to her new job in the big leagues, working in merchandise at Kansas City, Missouri’s Arrowhead Stadium, where she works with the Royals and the NFL’s Chiefs.
Like every Triple-A player, Fitzgerald hopes to one day get his own Major League callup, potentially heading east to Fenway Park.
But at Polar Park, there will always be Fitzy.
“That’s definitely the coolest part -- leaving somewhat of a legacy when I'm no longer playing here,” he said. “The city of Worcester has been incredible. We moved from Pawtucket to Worcester -- last year was our first year here -- and the city has come out and supported us all year and obviously supporting me with this merch line.”
Kelsie Heneghan is a writer for MiLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @Kelsie_Heneghan.