Yet another interesting find on eBay was this Tucson Sidewinders batting practice cap from the early 2000s. As a hat collector I cannot stress enough the utility of taking a stroll across eBay from time to time. You never know what kind of deals you can dig up, including unique caps such as this one.
The Tucson Sidewinders were born as a result of a buyout of the previous (and arguably more enduring) Tucson Toros franchise in 1997. The team was very briefly affiliated with the Milwaukee Brewers until the Arizona Diamondbacks were created in 1998. The AAA franchise was mired with constant front office turmoil, changing ownerships and general managers as game attendance was a constant issue throughout the team’s 11-year existence. The Sidewinders best season would come in 2006, finishing the season at 91-53 behind manager Chip Hale (former Diamondbacks manager and now Nationals bench coach) and seizing the AAA crown.
Several MLB players did suit up for the Sidewinders though this was most often for rehab stints. Fireballer Randy Johnson, Craig Counsell, and Craig Biggio all dot the alumni list. Former Padres Ken Caminiti, Phil Nevin, and Carlos Quentin also played for Tucson at various points in their respective careers.
Black crown and brim
White New Era logo
Copper, teal, tan, black, and white Sidewinders logo
The material of this cap (jersey mesh) makes this cap most likely a batting practice/training cap. While I can’t find any pictures to support that, this style of jersey mesh cap was used by MLB as a de-facto Spring Training/batting practice cap from 2000-2003. The jersey mesh would soon be replaced by 39Thirty flexfits hats for MLB players though I’m unsure of the MiLB equivalent.
Here’s a closer look at the front logo. This wordmark was used on the jersey fronts for the Sidewinders. The snake (shaped like an S) would serve as the primary cap logo for the standard game caps. The amount of detail to be found in the stitching here is really neat for a batting practice cap, particularly in the wood grain of the bat.
Featured on the rear of the cap is the MiLB Batterman logo in teal. Since the Sidewinders were affiliated with the Diamondbacks this color tie-in works well.
The underbrim and sweatband are standard black. Surprising is that the batting practice/training caps of the time were the first on-field (used by players, anyway) caps that featured black underbrims. Gray was still the color du jour for on-fields of this period.
A look at the interior tagging places this cap at circa 2002-2004, which is right around the era which jersey mesh caps were in use. Also note the different style of 59Fifty taping used for the buckram and the panel stitching that runs front-back of the cap. An older version of the MiLB logo can be found here as well.
When traveling I always like to take a cap or two that fits the area which I’m visiting. Being that I have family in Tucson this Sidewinders cap (and a few Tucson Padres selections) always finds its way into my cap carrier when I head east. If you follow the SD Hat Collectors Twitter (and you probably already do if you’re reading this) then you’ll see occasional pictures I dub SceneCaps: a cap with a neat scene behind it. This was taken at Boothill Graveyard, the infamous resting place of many of Tombstone, Arizona’s first residents. The three gentleman at rest in this picture were in the famed gunfight at the OK Corral against the Wyatt brothers and one Doc Holliday.
Cap Availability Status: Rare
While you can indeed find remakes of the Tucson Sidewinders on-fields (and some fashion takes) at Hat Club, I’ve only seen one of these caps…and it’s the one I own. Your best bet is to scan eBay regularly and see if one pops up.