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Houston Astros gear available here, but will shoppers bite?

Houston Astros gear available here, but will shoppers bite?

'Once the Yankees lost, the winds went out of the sales in this area'
Houston Astros gear available here, but will shoppers bite?
Tri-City ValleyCats General Manager Matt Callahan with memorabilia at Joseph L. Bruno Stadium in Troy.
Photographer: MARC SCHULTZ

The Houston Astros have won baseball's World Series.

But will they score at store cash registers? 

When the American League champion Astros beat the National League's Los Angeles Dodgers in the Series' seventh and deciding game Wednesday, orange and navy blue became the sport's top fashion colors.

Other colors also were popular, at least in Houston.

Many fans in the team's Minute Maid Park watched playoff games in the team's retro jersey — the sunrise-inspired striped shirt that put red, yellow and orange and a giant star on guys playing the field.

Astros gear is in stock at The Stadium, a sports merchandise store in Wilton Mall. 

"Nobody's inquired yet," said Wayne Frankey, the store's general manager.

While the Astros have a following in the Capital Region — the Troy-based Tri-City ValleyCats play in the New York-Penn League and are one of nine Astros affiliates in the minors — Frankey said other teams that made the autumn playoffs would have racked up better sales as Series champs.

"Once the [New York] Yankees lost, the winds went out of the sales in this area," Frankey said early Thursday. "Even though we carry all teams, I've got to be honest with you, there wasn't much of a buzz."

Even with the local Astros connection, Frankey said, a victorious Dodgers team would have attracted more customers.

"The Dodgers have a bigger market, a longer following, more history," he said. "They just do. It's like comparing the Green Bay Packers to the Jacksonville Jaguars. Generally, over the years, we have sold much more Dodgers stuff and have more Dodgers fans coming into the store than Astros fans."

The Dodgers' fan base in New York might be driven by nostalgia. The team was based in Brooklyn until 1957, when the operation moved to the West Coast. Family members may have passed on their love for the Dodgers to younger members, who continue to wear the royal blue and white.

Matt Callahan is sold on Astro orange. As general manager of the ValleyCats, Callahan is happy to reap positive off-season publicity.

"For us, it's exciting, it's awesome to see so many of our former players star on the biggest of stages and having so much success in the World Series," he said.

ASTROSvalleycats96.jpg

George Springer, whom Callahan said made his professional debut at Joseph L. Bruno Stadium in 2011, hit five home runs in the Series and was named MVP. In 2016, former ValleyCat Ben Zobrist won series MVP with the Chicago Cubs.

Other former ValleyCats who made Astro impact this season were:

  • Pitcher Dallas Keuchel, who pitched in 11 games in 2009 and compiled a 2-3 record.
  • Pitcher Joe Musgrove, who went 7-1 for the ValleyCats in 2014.
  • Jose Altuve, now Houston's star second baseman, who hit .250 in 76 games for the 'Cats in 2009.
  • Derek Fisher, who hit .303 in 41 games in 2014, and scored the game-winning run in the Series' Game 5 — the 5-hour, 17-minute marathon the Astros won 13-12 in 10 innings.

The big team's championship, Callahan believes, will help the 2018 ValleyCats.

"I think it helps build excitement and I think it just goes to show you the quality of players who come through the Capital Region and play right here," he said. "On any given team, there could be one, two, three guys who go on to play a key role on the major league level and in a championship run."

Tri-City has been affiliated with the Astros for 17 years. Callahan said the association is the parent team's longest with any minor league club.

There are no plans for an autumn celebration for the Astros at now winterized Bruno stadium. Callahan — whose team has already changed its answering machine message to mention the world champion outfit — said there will be observances next season.

People can buy Astros and ValleyCats apparel at the stadium gift store and the team's online store, valleycats.milbstore.com. Fans of rainbow jerseys can check out the ValleyCats' version of the Astros' most famous garment.

"As long as there's somebody here in the office," Callahan said, "we can assist them in the store as well." 

Frankey said people might shop for Astros gear over the weekend. And the store will soon get Houston World Series caps and shirts.

People might be looking for the 1975 rainbow shirt, which Frankey has stocked before. The garish shirt stayed in the Houston fashion lineup until 1986; it can be considered baseball's most colorful uniform of all time.

"A lot of times, it's more of a fashion statement," Frankey said.

"Who knows," he added. "If we get some callers, maybe we'll bring some stuff like that out around Thanksgiving or the holidays. As of now, it's been a little quiet but you know, the game just happened. Friday, Saturday and Sunday, I'm sure people will ask if we're getting something, but I have to think it will only be a handful of people."

A manager at Dick's Sporting Goods in Guilderland's Crossgates Mall said Astros gear is not stocked at the store. The Yankees own the place.

"It's all regional," she said. "The stores can't hold all the different types of apparel."

Some pieces — authentic World Series artifacts — are on their way to Cooperstown and the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

"They are coming through Albany," Hall spokesman Craig Muder said in an email note, "but we've had travel delays today so we are not sure when."

Hall officials said articles donated by the Astros include:

  • The glove used by Astros third baseman Alex Bregman, who made multiple defensive plays throughout the Series.
  • The Jersey worn by Astros pitcher Justin Verlander in Game 6.
  • The cap worn by Astros pitcher Charlie Morton in Game 7, when he picked up the victory with four innings of relief work to end the game.

Some ValleyCats fans are already looking forward to next summer. Peter Allen, 76, who lives in Burnt Hills, said he loves watching players pass through Troy on their ways to the majors.

"I still like the Red Sox," Allen said, "but I'm a fan of the players who have made it to the top.

"I wish I kept track of who I saw," he added. "It's kind of hard to remember when you don't keep the line sheet."

Reach Gazette reporter Jeff Wilkin at 518-395-3124, [email protected] or @jeffwilkin1 on Twitter.

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