Julia Alarcon is a serious fashion designer. Based in New York but calling Tampa home, she has a line, called Lialia (Lee-AHH-lia), of "sophisticated, feminine investment pieces that are relevant, substantial and of-the-moment without being trendy." Now she can add the BRayser to her list. Enlisted by Rays TV man Todd Kalas, Alarcon — in the midst of preparing for a September New York Fashion Week show — agreed to lend her expertise to what seemed like a simple task: designing and manufacturing 50-some blazers for her hometown team. It wasn't easy, though.
Having organized dress-themed road trips of all white, Urban Cowboy, Ed Hardy clothes and Johnny Cash black, to name a few, manager Joe Maddon wanted something special — unifying and unique. And he didn't want just any blazer: He wanted it plaid, in team colors, and with the Rays' sunburst logo, "something more to what we wanted it to look like than something somebody already had in their warehouse."
For her design, Alarcon went with a " '70s-type" large plaid, a little like the jackets worn by the Herb Tarlek character on the '70s TV show WKRP in Cincinnati, she said, but more Rodney Dangerfield in the movie Easy Money. (Maddon offered up as an example Ted Baxter from '70s TV's Mary Tyler Moore Show.)
"A regular-guy look," she said.
Then she had to pick a fabric, complicated by not being able to find the needed 400 yards (they used about half so the plaid could be matched). After a couple of false leads, they settled on a cotton-poly blend and found what they needed at a school uniform manufacturing shop in upstate New York. "Very frustrating," Alarcon said. Plus, she had sizing concerns, figuring athletes' bodies were a little different. And finding a manufacturer who could work fast and cheap enough led them to China. All told, it took several months of planning, three weeks for manufacturing and shipping, and a cost of more than $16,000 (about $300 a man). "It's high-end stuff," Maddon said. "You could see that at (high-end menswear store) Hugo Boss, absolutely."
Men in plaid
The BRaysers have been seen on the field, courtesy of the bullpen brigade before Tuesday's game. They're going to be on ESPN; John Kruk made an on-air request, and the Rays shipped up the one extra of the 54 that were made. And they may be coming to a team store near you. "Don't be surprised," Rays VP Rick Vaughn said, "to see official MLB BRayser-inspired merchandise if the popularity of the BRayser plaid continues to grow." The relievers' grand entrance Tuesday was an impromptu decision. The jackets had just arrived, and Joaquin Benoit was modeling his in the clubhouse just before game time. Andy Sonnanstine threw out the idea that the relievers go on the field wearing them. Rafael Soriano made it happen by agreeing to join in, and Dan Wheeler suggested they go through the dugout, getting high-fives from their stunned teammates. "I figured it would guarantee us a spot on the opening of SportsCenter," Sonnanstine said, "which it did."
Pat Burrell has taken the high road in discussing his struggles with the Rays before starring again for the Giants, but he told the Philadelphia Daily News he really would have preferred to remain an outfielder: "(The Rays) were confident I could develop into a productive DH. Shoot, I tried everything. That's the frustrating thing." … Free-agent-to-be Johnny Damon says the Tigers "might make a run at Carl Crawford." … ESPN's Buster Olney has David Price third in the AL Cy Young race, behind Cliff Lee and Felix Hernandez. … Evan Longoria and Damon were on to something with that "senior prom for senior citizens" line in their Pepsi TV commercial; more than 2,500 participated in the Rays' "prom" Thursday, and sales exec Dan Newhart says it's "sure to be an annual event." … Top draft pick Josh Sale prefers No. 5 and supplemental rounder Drew Vettleson No. 24 (for Ken Griffey Jr.) … Boston's Bill Hall told ESPN.com's Gordon Edes that when the Red Sox "come back and win this thing, (the Yankees and Rays) probably are going to feel like they let a season they should have done better slip away."
Got a minute? Dan Johnson
Late-night TV? Those reality shows about pawn shops, Pawn Stars, Hard Core Pawn, and Repo Man. I get a kick out of those.
Karaoke song if you had to? It would have to be heavy metal so I could yell and scream it and cover up my lack of a voice, sort of the Metallica/Disturbed area.
Late-night snack? Usually whatever my wife (Holly) had for lunch, because she has all the leftovers.
Mall time killer? I'm going to be at the Starbucks, guaranteed.
Dream date? If I had to choose and it couldn't be my wife, probably Jennifer Love Hewitt.