Flashback to 1998.
Titanic is sitting atop the box office charts. Google is in its first year of existence. “Harry Potter” is making its US debut.
And the doors are about to open to the first ever USA Baseball retail store.
A small little shop at Hi Corbett Field in Tucson, Arizona, the store was making its grand opening during a Junior Olympics tournament. Thirty minutes before the doors were set to open for the first time, the staff noticed a growing crowd waiting to get in. With the anticipation growing, the doors to the store opened early, and eager baseball fans made their way in.
And thus, the USA Baseball retail business was born.
The first retail location dedicated to USA Baseball-branded gear and merchandise, the Tucson store was the first of its kind. It operated in the summer months during the organization’s event season, giving players, parents, and fans a place to stop by and gear up. At about the same time, USA Baseball offered its first product catalogue – “Swing Gear” – that helped kick off and bolster the retail program.
Fast forward to 2007. Nine years after the little shop in Tucson began the USA Baseball retail business, the company was ready to take the next step. That meant it was time to open the USA Baseball Flagship Store at the National Training Complex in Cary, North Carolina, the home to the majority of USA Baseball’s events. With the summer calendar full of tournaments and games, the store filled up with players looking to get their hands on the latest USA Baseball-branded merch.
As the business grew, partnership deals with high-profile vendors began to follow. In August 2012, USA Baseball brought the entirety of its e-commerce in-house, which represented a huge step toward building and shaping the retail business. Now, USA Baseball had complete control over the marketing of its brand.
The retail program continued to grow in 2013, when USA Baseball’s Senior Director of Retail, Carrington Austin, joined the organization. Austin quickly got to work and continued to elevate the USA Baseball brand by doing things like cleaning up embroidery on game caps to feature a more prominent logo on one of the organization’s most featured hats.
USA Baseball then began offering the exact same gear that fans saw worn by their favorite players on TV. The same BP cap that Mike Trout was wearing during batting practice could be found at the USA Baseball Shop. If you liked Mookie Betts’ short sleeve hoodie, you could buy it. Offering on-field gear in the store continued to help the USA Baseball brand climb even higher.
That climb continued in 2021, when doors opened to a fully renovated USA Baseball Team Store in Cary. Following the summer of 2019, the organization decided to revamp the store, changing the layout to make for a more practical shopping experience. Not only did the location of the registers change, though; a wall was knocked down to expand the store and make it even larger, creating more space for new and exclusive gear and more room for shoppers to find their favorite items.
To this day, the USA Baseball retail program continues to grow. It’s a crucial part of the success of the entire organization; retail sales are imperative in the funding and fielding of USA Baseball’s national team programs. The money made from USA Baseball Shop purchases contribute in a major way, helping provide an unmatched experience for players who try out for and eventually play for Team USA.
The USA Baseball Shop has come a long way since opening the doors to its first store in Tucson over 25 years ago. Through it all, the staff has taken its responsibility to customers very seriously and will continue to do so to provide the best shopping experience for those looking to represent Team USA.