Glow-in-the-dark baseball? Collegiate summer league team to host ‘cosmic’ games under blacklights

Opening day for collegiate summer baseball leagues across the country is still a couple of weeks away, but the Tri-City Chili Peppers are ready to glow.

The Chili Peppers, a summer league team in the Coastal Plain League based in Colonial Heights, Va., announced plans Thursday to play a “cosmic baseball game” on June 1, featuring UV-reactive uniforms, bats and baseballs that will pop in neon colors underneath custom blacklights installed in their stadium.

The idea was born out of a previous “80s neon and glow” themed game that while popular with fans, had an issue to solve: The regular stadium lights made the scene too bright for fans’ glow sticks to pop. Chili Peppers owner Chris Martin toyed with ideas to heighten the show by increasing the glow and found a lighting company that created blacklights with enough power to light up a baseball stadium.

Then the Tri-City team turned its attention to the uniforms, working with vendor 3n2 to design jerseys that would react under the blacklights but also work for wearing in normal light. A little trial and error with different color palettes resulted in a highlighter pink jersey with neon yellow pinstripes and a solid fluorescent green jersey with pink script.

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The Chili Peppers’ cosmic uniform in natural light. (Photo: Courtesy of the Tri-City Chili Peppers)

Finding reactive hats required a trip to the office of Bretmor Headwear in Petersburg, Va., where Martin shined a blacklight around to figure out which materials lit up. The acquisition of glow-in-the-dark equipment came easily thanks to Wilson Sporting Goods and Tucci, which created reactive wooden bats that resembled light sabers when swung through the darkness of the ballpark.

But the Tri-City crew realized that dressing the Chili Peppers wasn’t enough. While discussing the budget, Martin said his team stumbled upon a problem it hadn’t previously considered: “What’s the other team going to wear?”

The solution was to also outfit the opponent. Martin called up the Greenbrier Knights, a team in the Tidewater League, with the strange proposal.

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“Immediately, they were all in. They were like, ‘We want to play you every time you do cosmic baseball,’” he said.

The Chili Peppers will play their first cosmic game against the Knights on June 1 with more neon nights slated for June 15, June 28 and July 20.

The teams plan to practice under the blacklights to ensure safe play and reduce the possibility of a surplus of on-field errors due to the unique playing conditions. Several Chili Peppers have tried the “cosmic” equipment. Martin said that learning how to read the ball on line drives and ground balls took around 10 minutes to adjust.

“From our testing with all of our players, a lot of them have said that it seems easier to see and easier to do baseball stuff in this because the ball is glowing and everything else behind it is black,” Martin said. “Some of the guys even said this is easier to see than in regular white light, so that was kind of relieving.”
A compliance company will also inspect the park to check that it’s safe for fans, who will find neon tape and paint on handrails and steps so everything is easily visible. To bring an extra spark to the park, the Chili Peppers will also give fans glow sticks, bracelets, neon face paint and light-up noisemakers to pump up the party atmosphere.

“We’re going to play music pretty much nonstop,” Martin said. “Think of an 80s rave party, in a sense.”

(Photo: Courtesy of the Tri-City Chili Peppers)

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