Special to NYSportsJournalism
October 28, 2012: The Houston Astros will be moving from the National League Central Division to the American League West Division for the 2013 Major League Baseball season, and are bringing along a new logo, new field jerseys and batting practice jersey, caps and even a new mascot.
The new items were being kept under wraps by the team and MLB, awaiting an official unveiling at a gala Launch Party at Minute Maid Park, the team's home stadium, on Nov. 2.
However, sports retailer Academy Sports + Outdoors was so excited about receiving the new-look Astros merchandise that "small quantities" were put on the floor for sale last week, well prior to the embargoed release date. The company did not say how much of the merchandise was sold.
The merchandise was pulled by the retailer and an apology was issued to the team, its fans and to MLB. Still, the pre-launch mishap did not go unnoticed.
A photo posted on Twitter by an Astros fan who was at Academy Sports + Outdoors showed "a dark-blue T-shirt and a large five-point star in two shades of orange, topped off by a large white capital 'H,'" according to news outlets in Houston. Baseball analysts said that the Astros’ new logo is similar to the the one used by Houston from 1965-1993.
The latest Astros logo is a shooting star carved into a larger star above the team's name (pictured).
"We express our apologies to Houston Astros fans, our partners at the Houston Astros ball club, along with Major League Baseball for inadvertently releasing the new Astros T-shirts in limited quantity," Rodney Faldyn, Academy Sports + Outdoors CEO and president, said in a statement. "We take pride in our ongoing partnership with the Astros, and this oversight is not our standard business practice. We are looking forward to celebrating the official jersey launch with the Houston Astros on November 2, 2012."
According to Academy Sports + Outdoors, some items were released early to the sales floor of select Academy Sports + Outdoors store locations in Houston. The product has since been removed and will not be available for sale until after the team officially unveils them later this week.
"The merchandise that was displayed represented a small portion of the Astros new identity," said Academy Sports + Outdoors in its statement.
More than 5,000 fans will be in attendance to see the new uniforms modeled by current Astros players Justin Maxwell, Lucas Harrell, Jordan Lyles, and Jose Altuve along with rising stars Carlos Correa, George Springer, Jarred Cosart and Jonathan Singleton, according to the team.
The Astros' lead mascot has been a rabbit named Junction Jack.
The move from NL Central to the AL West is the direct result of the franchise being sold to Houston businessman Jim Crane. The franchise has been in the National League since its first season in 1962. The Astros will be the first MLB team to change leagues since 1998, when the Milwaukee Brewers moved from the AL Central to the NL Central.
"We take pride in our ongoing partnership with the Astros, and this oversight is not our standard business practice."
With the NL having been home to 16 franchises and the AL home to 14, the realignment will give each league 15 teams and will create three five-team divisions in each league. The new AL West includes the Astros, Texas Rangers, Los Angeles Angels, Oakland Athletics and Seattle Mariners.
The Astros have has limited success on the field over the past two seasons with a combined 111-213 mark.
Katy, Texas-based Academy Sports + Outdoors has 150 stores in 12 states located throughout the south and midwest.