The Alonso High Ravens have a slightly different look on the baseball diamond this year.
Gone are the drab jerseys of old, including those with a faux-camouflage pattern. The team is sporting new sets of blue and gold threads these days, the details of which could be compared to those worn by some college teams.
How much did they cost?
The Ravens actually won the home and away uniforms last year in a contest called Dress the Champions for schools throughout Central Florida. The current baseball season is the team's first wearing their winning uniforms.
"They're cool," said senior pitcher Nick Alonso. "I really like them."
"They're a whole lot more flexible than last season," pitcher Alex Smith said during an interview with the contest's sponsor, Allen Sportswear.
The jerseys are valued at about $120 each or about $5,520 in total, said McCartney Dougherty, marketing manager for Allen Sportswear.
The numbers on each jersey are two-toned and accented with the silhouettes of tiny birds, symbolic of ravens — not typical for your everyday high school batters.
"We were going for a look that resembled the Nike NCAA football jerseys from last year," said Dougherty, adding that the company used a special technique that adds durability to the design.
Now other local high school teams hope to follow in the Ravens' footsteps. Among Dress the Champion's 2012 finalists are Gaither High's baseball team, Robinson's girls basketball team, Sickles' football team, and Alonso's football and softball teams.
Now in its third year, the contest invites high school athletes to write essays on a given theme. Finalists then submit a team YouTube video and supporters cast votes. The team with the most votes in each category — boys basketball, girls basketball, baseball, softball and football — wins new uniforms.
Public voting is scheduled to begin Wednesday and lasts two weeks.
The contest, Dougherty said, is all about "giving back to the community."
• • •
The Ravens fashion victory began a year ago. The contest theme was "What makes YOU a Champion?" and Michael Fahrman, who has since graduated, submitted an essay that focused on coach Orlando "Landy" Faedo's winning spirit.
"Coach Faedo has high expectations of all of his baseball players, both on and off the field, and holds us accountable for our actions," the essay read.
Faedo has built a nationally recognized program at Alonso. Last year, he led the Ravens to their second state championship in Class 6A and the team ended last season ranked No. 1 in the state. Several graduates were either drafted or went on to play college baseball, including Fahrman, who now plays for the University of Florida Gators.
"We're very lucky to have him as a coach," said Brian Grantham, the school's athletic director. "With Landy, you always know what you're going to get. You know they are always going to be prepared."
Nick Alonso said Faedo inspires the team. "He's dedicated to what he is doing; he makes us dedicated," said Alonso, who was not related to the late Braulio Alonso, for whom the school is named. "He helps us as a team and individually, as athletes and as people, too."
• • •
After the essay made the finalist cut, the Ravens shot their video, which lasted a little over a minute and a half. It showed scenes of team members at play and shots of them looking directly into the camera to solicit votes. "Go Ravens!" they chant. After the video was posted online, the team accumulated 56,623 votes — way ahead of second-place Spruce Creek, which tallied just 29,036, according to the Allen Sportswear website.
"We emailed our families, our friends, then they emailed their families and their friends about it," said Cathy Fahrman, Michael's mother. "We set up voting stations in the school's library so students could vote in."
At Alonso, Michael Fahrman played varsity baseball for four years, helping to win two state championships.
"The essay," his mother said, "was his way of leaving something behind at Alonso."
Andy Warrener can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.