Fernando Tatis Jr. is Baseball's New Cleat God

The San Diego Padres have a star on the field and a hypebeast off of it.
Fernando Tatis Jr. is Baseball's New Cleat God
Photographs: Getty Images; Collage: Gabe Conte

Things are not going great for the San Diego Padres right now. Entering the season as one of the most-hyped teams in the league, the Pads have stumbled to a 29-33 record to begin the season, putting them much closer to last place in their division than first place. One bright spot, though, has been the return of Fernando Tatis Jr. After missing the first 20 games of the season while serving a suspension for a positive performance-enhancing drug test, Tatis made his season debut on April 20. San Diego won that game, and while Tatis did not record a hit in any of his five at-bats, he did, however, have some hits on both of his feet, rocking a pair of pink Jordans that announced his presence with stylish authority.

PHOENIX, ARIZONA - APRIL 20: Outfielder Fernando Tatis Jr. #23 of the San Diego Padres makes a running catch during the eighth inning of the MLB game against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on April 20, 2023 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Padres defeated the Diamondbacks 7-5. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The hits have kept coming since then. In May, Tatis played a game in Dior Jordans—or at least a cleatified version of a shoe that, when it dropped three years ago, retailed for more than $2,000. (Not to pocket watch, but Tatis is more than good for that, as he will rake in a cool $7 million salary this season.)

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He didn’t just stop there, though. In recent weeks, Tatis has shown off a deep collection of Jordan cleats, as well as some custom Travis Scott Nikes. 

PHOENIX, ARIZONA - APRIL 21: Fernando Tatis Jr. #23 of the San Diego Padres wears custom Travis Scott inspired Nike cleats before the game against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on April 21, 2023 in Phoenix, Arizona.(Photo by Matt Thomas/San Diego Padres/Getty Images)Matt Thomas/San Diego Padres/Getty Images

The irony here is that Tatis is wearing sick Nikes because he was dropped by Adidas last summer after getting popped for steroids. In a statement to ESPN, the brand (which gave Tatis his own signature shoe, the Ultra Boost DNA, in 2020) stated, "We believe that sport should be fair. We have a clear policy on doping and can confirm that our partnership with Fernando Tatis Jr. will not continue." He did have some fun while living the three stripes lifestyle, though. I myself am partial to the hot pink Adidas he laced up in 2021. (The man clearly loves pink.) But becoming a shoe free agent has opened up a whole new world for the Padres’ 24-year-old. He looks great every night, possessing oodles and oodles of baseball swag that his peers cannot compete with. Tatis is hitting pretty well, too, already with 11 home runs through his first 42 games. 

Credit is also grudgingly due here to Major League Baseball loosening its restrictions on shoe color ahead of the 2019 season. Prior to 2019, the rules stated that 51 percent of a player's cleat had to be his team's primary color, and alterations or illustrations of any kind were also not allowed. If that rule still applied today, Tatis would be forced to wear cleats that were at least 51 percent brown. That’d be…rough. While the idea of a shoe inspector monitoring every player and doing calculations on color percentages is quite entertaining, letting players essentially wear whatever they want is much more entertaining, and far more aesthetically pleasing. MLB adopting the approach that’s long been a part of world soccer—where it’s typically more likely for a player’s boots to be a completely different color scheme than their jersey—was a smart move for a sport that often skews more stuffy and traditionalist. 

As such, we’ve gotten some great looks from around the league, but Tatis specifically has knocked it out of the park. You can draw a straight line from the wardrobe rules becoming more lax to the fresh kicks that he seems to unveil with each new series. The bar is admittedly low in MLB—a league filled with players that seem to believe adding flair to their uniform is some sort of affront to baseball—but amid his team’s early-season slump, at least Tatis has established himself as the best on-field dresser in the game.