Nick Hall was standing outside Dick’s Sporting Goods near the Galleria with several dozen other baseball fans early Sunday morning, hoping to get his hands on Astros’ American League championship gear.
The store doesn’t usually open until 10 a.m. But the Black Friday-like surge of demand for the ball club’s championship apparel prompted Dick’s to open a small area at 6 a.m. Tables were piled full of championship tee-shirts, polo shirts, hats and pennants. A security guard was letting in 10 customers at a time.
“I want everything,” including a sweatshirt, a tee-shirt and a hat, said Hall, 38, a lawyer in Houston who stood in line for 30 minutes. Like many others, he was already decked out in team gear including an orange Astros hat.
With the Astros heading to the World Series – the first game is Tuesday at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles – thousands of baseball fans across Houston were intent on getting their hands on $28 tee-shirts, $32 hats and $60 hooded sweatshirts as fast as they could. Ordering on-line wasn’t quick enough. To meet the demand, local sporting good stores opened their doors late Saturday night after the Astros clinched the American League championship and began to sell the new line of shirts, hats and pennants.
One store was the Westheimer location of Academy Sports and Outdoors, where Sandra Collette, store director, was keeping a close eye on the score during the tense last few innings as she closed up like usual at 10 p.m. The Astros were ahead, 4-0, and when they finally beat the New York Yankees, the store reopened at 11 p.m.
Collette and her employees had just 30 minutes to rip open several boxes of merchandise and arrange the tee-shirts and caps on tables set up near the entrance. About 50 customers were waiting, she said. Some Academy locations had 400 fans lined up outside and those spots stayed open until 1:30 a.m.
“It was really fun,” Collette said, likening the festive atmosphere to the thrill of shoppers lining up for Christmas bargains.
Dick’s Sporting Goods near the Galleria also opened at 11 p.m. Saturday and it didn’t take long to sell out of some fan favorites, including gray ball caps with World Series and the Astros’ “H” on the front identical to the caps players received moments after they won. A new shipment arrived overnight with more expected during the day Sunday. The merchandise is made locally which makes it easier to quickly restock.
C’Nea Hatches, community marketing manager for Dick’s, said the gray caps and tee-shirts with “Fly the Pennant” emblazoned on the front are emerging as the biggest sellers.
The fan frenzy didn’t leave a lot of time for pondering selections. Or even trying things on. Astros fans were pulling tee shirts over their heads, checking the fit. Others were using mirrors on their cell phones to see how the hats looked.
Stephanie Kerps was holding several tee-shirts at Dick’s. She had texted her mother, brother and sister-in-law to see if they wanted Astros’ American League championship tee-shirts before the store sold out.
Kerps, 32, a medical researcher in Houston, said she planned to wear her new cap and tee-shirt when she watched the first game of the World Series.
“We’re going all out,” she said.
Valentina Dassey, 31 and a lawyer, came into Dick’s searching for an Astros onesie for her 7-month-old daughter, Cecilia. The one-piece onesies were already sold out on-line, said Dassey, and unfortunately, Dick’s didn’t have any in stock. Dassey was headed next to Target. In the meantime, Cecilia was decked out in an Astros-like orange shirt, an ensemble that will have to do until her mother can find Cecilia some official gear.
Spencer Rosas, 34, returned to Academy Sunday morning looking for an Astros championship hat. He had already bought an orange Astros championship shirt the night before.
Rosas, who works in oil and gas sales, said he hopes the American League championship – and hopefully, a World Series win – will help Houston heal after the flooding from Hurricane Harvey. He lives in the Memorial area and got nearly six feet of water in his home.
“There is hope for us,” he said. “It really means a lot.”