NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

May 6, 2014

A’s and Sox should hold a fashion show

On Pro Baseball
Christopher Smith

---- — BOSTON — The Red Sox made T-shirts last year with the slogan “Blood. Sweat. Beards.” Mike Napoli, still fashioning a humongous beard, had his shirt on in the clubhouse before Sunday’s series finale against the Oakland Athletics.

Here’s a recommendation to the Athletics: Make T-shirts with the phrase “Blood. Sweat. Beards. … And Mullets.”

Athletics catcher Derek Norris has a bigger beard than Napoli’s — and complementing it quite nicely is a better mullet than Froggy’s, the character from “The Little Rascals.”

Napoli is a fan of Norris’ self-described “sloppy, nasty look.”

“It’s awesome,” Napoli said. “I told him I loved it.”

Fear the Mullets! Norris’ Oakland teammate Josh Donaldson has a cleanly shaved face, but like Norris, he also styles a hip mullet that he sometimes complements with a Mohawk haircut.

“It’s kind of two different styles,” Norris said, discussing his and Donaldson’s styles. “His is more like a Ronaldinho-fade-into-it. Mine’s just a sloppy, nasty, looking mullet.”

What if the Red Sox and Athletics met in this year’s playoffs? It might mark the hairiest and questionably fashionable postseason series of this generation.

How about the two teams just fit in a fashion show between games when they play their next series against each other, which is in Oakland from June 19-22? Tell Jonny Gomes to bring his American flag suit.

One of the more enjoyable parts about professional sports is players can wear whatever wild attire before and after games and grow any type of hairstyle or facial hair but won’t be judged in the same way as someone who works a 9-5 job on State Street.

Norris grew up in a rather strict Kansas household. He knew his parents meant business when it came to their rules.

“No girlfriends until I was a senior (in high school),” Norris said. “Obviously no dates either. That kind of goes in the same concept. Drinking was out of the question even though underage people do it. But, I mean, no drinking, no chewing. Nothing. It was just — if you want to make money, you come work.”

So then what do his mother and father think about his ragged look?

“They were pretty strict and for them to see me — my dad’s always been clean-cut. My grandfather’s always clean-cut. My brother’s the same way. So they have fun with it, which is to be expected.”

Norris began growing his mullet last year when slumping offensively. He thought it would be a good way to break out of it. As he says, baseball players need to change things up to get better results.

“Just scuffling and one day said, ‘Get a mullet,’” Norris recalled. “And I’ve just kind of kept it since.”

Norris has had a beard for a few years but this year it is larger than ever before.

“I didn’t really develop until later on in my high school years,” Norris said. “I always had kind of a goatee look. And then when I got drafted by Washington we weren’t allowed to have facial hair. So when I got traded over (to Oakland) it was kind of, ‘OK, let’s explore this. Let’s see where it goes.’ And it’s just kind of actually gotten more and more.”

Donaldson gained inspiration to grow his mullet from a National League All-Star.

“I saw a picture a few years ago of (Rockies shortstop) Troy Tulowitzki like in 2009,” Donaldson said. “And he had something similar to it. I thought about doing it and eventually I did.”

The best compliment Donaldson has received?

“There’s some compliments but I don’t know if it’s printable,” he said.

A’s right fielder, Josh Reddick, a former Red Sox player, has fashioned a mullet but some of his teammates said it was just long hair and not an actual mullet.

Not to be outdone, Athletics reliever Sean Doolittle fashions a big, bushy beard that sort of looks like Red Sox backup Mike Carp’s beard.

“It started in the beginning of 2013,” Doolittle said. “We were going to grow bullpen beards. All the guys in the ’pen were going to have facial hair and stuff. So I started growing it out. It takes me a long time to grow it. It’s definitely a process that I had to commit to.

“I just liked the way it looked,” he added about keeping it. “It’s red. You see a lot of beards throughout the game now but you don’t see any narly ginger beards. Plus, it covers up my face, which is good because I’m not that good-looking.”

Has Doolittle or any of his teammates gained inspiration from Norris and Donaldson to start growing a mullet?

“I don’t know about that,” Doolittle said. “It’s part of the culture of the A’s. We’ve always kind of done things a little different. There has never been a policy where you have to have your hair cut a certain way or you have to maintain your facial hair or that kind of thing. In a way, it’s just kind of self-expression — showing people kind of to who you are.

“We’ve had some other guys with shaggy hair,” Doolittle added. ‘(A.J.) Griffin had his flowing, blonde locks. (John) Jaso had a good mane going for a while. But if you look back at the A’s over the years, there’s always some pretty awesome hairstyles or mustaches or something. So we’re just kind of carrying on the tradition.”

So which is a more fashionable team: the Sox or A’s? We’ll leave that one up to you to decide.