The Major League Baseball Players Association on Friday will open its first retail outlet devoted to selling player-only merchandise.
The store, which will be inside Citi Field and be operated by Aramark, is an attempt to boost licensing revenue for the union and to promote star players, much as the N.B.A. and other leagues have done. The outlet will be called The Players Clubhouse: A Players Choice Store and is being billed by the union as a prototype for future retail stores . . .
. . . “The intention is not to block out New York Mets logos,” Heeter said. But “fans believe the players are their connection to the games and they want to keep jerseys of their favorite players” . . . Sports industry analysts say fans increasingly follow players more than their teams because they switch teams so frequently. The union is trying to make the most of that trend, it said.
“You don’t necessarily grow up a Mets fan, but a David Wright fan, and your affinity changes when he changes teams,” said Dan Migala, director of the Graduate School of Sports Business at Northwestern University. “People are there to support the Mets, but also David.”
I’m highly dubious of that last part. Outside of maybe Jackie Robinson, I can’t think of a single player with an independent fan base like NBA players often have (and I don’t know that people’s appreciation of Robinson is the kind of “fandom” we’re talking about here as much as it is an appreciation). David Wright has been adopted by Mets fans because he’s their young star third baseman. If he ever leaves for, say, the Cardinals or something, Mets fans will retain some affection for him, but nothing approaching anything you’d call fandom, especially not the brand of fandom that inspires one to continue to wear merchandise with his name on it. Indeed, the majority of Mets’ Wright fans would put their Wright stuff away and latch on to the next big Mets player.
So good luck with the David Wright shirts, MLBPA, but I have this feeling that the purveyors of team-branded merchandise are not too worried about it.