Dodgers coaches wear Deion Sanders costumes after Colorado game

ByBuster Olney ESPN logo
Friday, September 29, 2023

The Los Angeles Dodgers' preparation for their annual dress-up day, where the team as a whole wears costumes, has been intensely detailed. Gold whistles and chains. White hoodies with the necessary logo. Lots and lots and lots of sunglasses. And one big ol' white cowboy hat, worn by the guy in charge of the L.A. clubhouse: manager Dave Roberts.

This was the Dodgers' Prime-inspired theme, with Roberts playing the role of Colorado Buffaloes football coach Deion Sanders. Within the traveling party, the anticipation for the dress-up day grew as the Dodgers have played their series in Colorado this week. After the team played the Rockies on Thursday night, Roberts and coaches donned their Prime outfits, while Dodgers players dressed up in a variety of outfits ranging from Jon Snow to Austin Powers.

"Everybody is doing it," Roberts said over the phone earlier this week. "My guys are ready."

Nearly every team will have at least one theme-style trip this season, and the Dodgers were early in the planning for their own when Sanders and his Buffaloes began to overwhelm the college football conversation with their confidence, their early-season success and, of course, their style. Jose Vizcaino, a special instructor for the Dodgers, began talking up Sanders within the L.A. staff, and then Dodgers coach Bob Geren -- who played with Sanders in the New York Yankees organization -- started brainstorming.

Brandon McDaniel, the Dodgers' director of player performance, brought the idea of Prime costumes to Roberts. McDaniel grew up a fan of the 49ers, in the time when Sanders played for San Francisco. He believes his mom still has Sanders' No. 21 jersey from those days.

Roberts responded immediately: "S--- yeah, let's do it."

McDaniel said, "I think [Sanders is] a really good coach, a really good leader, really good for the game."

Decades ago, when Sanders was a two-sport star, he once famously said, "I'm married to football, baseball is my girlfriend." But many people in baseball view Sanders as a well-established member of their fraternity because of the work he put in to reach the big leagues.

As he developed into a Hall of Fame-caliber cornerback and kick returner in the NFL, Sanders also played for the Yankees, Atlanta Braves and Cincinnati Reds. Mets manager Buck Showalter was Sanders' manager in Double-A in 1989, when both were in the Yankees organization. He watched Sanders prepare diligently, tinkering with his swing -- hitting was not something that came easy for Sanders -- and quickly befriending others on that Albany team, including future big leaguers Jim Leyritz and Andy Stankiewicz.

"A great guy," recalled Showalter, who deeply appreciated Sanders's push for excellence. Years later, he invited Sanders to speak to his players when Showalter managed the Baltimore Orioles.

Sanders has sometimes spoken of dedication, of accountability, elements in his coaching that have stuck with McDaniel -- and McDaniel sees similar traits in Roberts, someone who can command a room. As the Dodgers' coaches first started talking about the Prime idea, one mentioned the idea that they would all dress as Sanders. But McDaniel made the case that there is only one Prime, and could be only one Prime, and in the Dodgers' universe, that is Roberts. "He's the perfect Deion for this," said McDaniel.

Others in the Dodgers' entourage, then, dressed as assistant coaches. Some dressed as Sanders' security detail. McDaniel spent his time finding the best pieces to round out the costumes. Clayton McCullough, the Dodgers first base coach, wore a black cowboy hat, giving Roberts the space to wear the only white cowboy hat.

Roberts does not know Sanders personally, nor does McDaniel. But McDaniel's niece, Norah Shuey, attends the University of Colorado, and the possibility of meeting Sanders is another reason he might visit the campus after the baseball season.

Sanders is also apparently aware of the Dodgers' plan, as Roberts said that he received a pair of sunglasses from the Colorado coach's personal collection Thursday afternoon.

"So pumped!!" Roberts told ESPN in a text. "PRIME TIME."

One member of the Dodgers' coaching staff was not part of the Prime theme. Pitching coach Mark Prior had initially planned to join in, but somewhere along the way, Prior realized the team Colorado is set to play this Saturday is the USC Trojans -- Prior's alma mater.

"I don't know if I can support this," Prior told the others, to laughter.

So Prior dressed as Trojans coach Lincoln Riley, among a plane full of Prime.