Laughing-Crying With Brad Boxberger, the Major Leaguer Who Wore the First-Ever Emoji Baseball Jersey

Brad Boxberger midpitch, wearing a jersey with his last name expressed as a box emoji and a hamburger emoji.
Brad Boxberger of the Arizona Diamondbacks delivers a pitch in the ninth inning of the MLB game against the Seattle Mariners on Aug. 26 in Phoenix. Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images.

It’s too soon to tell how the season will pan out for the Arizona Diamondbacks—they’re currently in contention for a playoff spot—but the team can already claim bragging rights on at least one never-been-done-before achievement: On Aug. 25, relief pitcher Brad Boxberger became the first player to spell his name in emoji on his jersey in a Major League Baseball game. All it took was the box and burger emoji—and an MLB initiative called Players’ Weekend. Slate caught up with Boxberger to talk about his place in emoji, baseball, and hamburger history.

Slate: For the baseball novices among us, what is Players’ Weekend?

Brad Boxberger: Players’ Weekend is just a weekend to get away from the rules and restrictions on our uniforms. We can customize our spikes, customize our jersey name to say what our nickname is, and kind of be able to express ourselves a little bit in a little bit different way that a lot of fans don’t get to see. [Otherwise] there’s fairly strict guidelines. Our uniforms are all set in stone and we can’t really do anything to those. Our spikes and gloves have to be a certain color tone based on what team you’re on.

What did you wear for Players’ Weekend last year?

Last year, my nickname was just Box, B-O-X.

How did you think of the emoji idea for this year?

My wife and I were discussing what would be more unique than just having “Box” on the back of my jersey. We decided to come up with the emojis to play it off my last name a little bit.

When did you realize that you could spell your name in emojis, that your whole name was in there?

I’ve been using it a little bit for just texting back and forth and stuff like that, I guess it’s been a little while now. A lot of names you obviously can’t spell ’em [that way]. It is kind of two objects put together, my last name. It’s definitely a little bit different.

Once you got the idea, what was the process like to make your jersey? Did you have to get it approved?

We had to submit our nicknames through the team, through MLB. You go through an approval process with MLB to make sure it’s all legal, no copyright and all that stuff. There are a handful that get rejected.

Who made the jersey?

The team does everything with our uniforms and all that. They showed me two different designs. They had the color design, like I chose, and then they also approved a black-and-white design of it. I was able to pick the color one out because I thought it was a little bit easier to understand.

When someone uses a different phone or browser than you do, you might have noticed that the emojis look slightly different. Did you specify that the emojis on your jersey should be modeled after a certain version?

Not particularly. I was just hoping that they would look like a box and look like a hamburger.

Last year, it came out that Google had made a mistake in designing its burger emoji, and the cheese was actually below the meat. Did you see that?

I did not know that. You can’t have the cheese under the patty, that doesn’t make any sense.

Do you ever look at the burger emoji and think, “Hmm, this is more of a cheeseburger”? Were you afraid anyone would misinterpret your name as “Boxcheeseburger”?

There’s always that possibility. But you can’t be too choosey when you’re going with emojis to try to spell your last name.

So when you actually wore the jersey, how did you feel?

Good! A lot of fans were very enthusiastic about it. They’d never seen it on a Major League Baseball field before.

Do you think any older people who maybe aren’t familiar with emojis were confused by it?

Not really. If you’re not familiar with emojis, it’s probably more just, “Oh, there’s a picture of a box and a picture of a hamburger on the back of his jersey.” They don’t necessarily have to be emojis—you could go “clip art” if we’re bringing it back a little bit.

Do you use emojis when you’re texting? Are you into them?

Yeah, I use emojis a fair amount, definitely. My go-tos are definitely the crying-laughing face and the thumbs-up.

How into technology are you in general?

I’d say I’m probably more into it than the average person. I always want the newest gadget, the newest technology out there, the newest improvement for whatever necessity I have, definitely want to have the newest upgrade of everything.

What kind of phone do you have?

The iPhone X. I love it. I like the whole screen [thing], I like not having the actual, physical button on it, the home button. Even though it took a second to get used to, it’s definitely handy not having that. And then the camera on it is definitely an upgrade over the past models.

Have you tried Animojis?

I’ve tried ’em a little bit. They’re a little weird to me. I haven’t used them too much, but I’ve played around with them.

How do your teammates interact with each other using technology?

Texting each other. A lot of guys are big into Snapchat, Instagram. Just going back and forth on the different social media platforms. Everyone’s using their phone for something.

Which of your teammates are most into social media?

I’d say Archie Bradley is definitely up there in the social media world. I know Taijuan Walker uses it a good bit.

Which is your favorite of the social networks?

I like Instagram. I like that you just post pictures and a little caption if you want to, but it’s not as opinionated as Twitter.

I was showing some of my co-workers your jersey design, and a few said it reminded them of something White Castle sells called a Crave Case. It’s essentially a box full of burgers. Have you ever had one of those?

I have not. I’m from California, so we don’t have too many White Castles around. I’m gonna have to get that whenever I find a White Castle, that sounds good.