There is no striking out when we’re talking about the newest addition at Kauffman Stadium: the Royals Boutique.
Finally, just in time for opening day Friday: an entire store for the female baseball fan, decked out in blue, as it should be. Royals girls, this is your world. It’s about time female fan gear grew beyond the one rack of tiny tees or jerseys done in pink.
Women have always taken a part in sports culture, as they have with sneaker culture, but only recently have business minds acknowledged our interest. Reebok and Puma partnered with the likes of Melody Ehsani and Solange Knowles to design kicks with a woman in mind. No more chasing shoes on the boys shelves.
Over the last few years, sports have made a real push to recognize female fans. In 2010, ESPN launched a women’s digital hub,espnW
. During the NFL’s last season, commercials, magazine advertorials and a better selection of apparel popped up. Even Victoria’s Secret has an impressive line of fan gear. It makes sense.
We make up almost half of sports fans — 44 percent of football fans, 45 percent of baseball fans and 36 percent of professional men’s basketball fans, according to research by the leagues.
Brett Salzenstein, merchandise director for Aramark, the Royals concessionaire, says the decision was all about fan feedback.
“You see it every season. Women are here for the game and they want gear, too,” he says. “We have always had product, but we didn’t have a featured location. We have gotten input from the fans and we listened. Now, there’s something for everyone. It’s so far beyond jerseys and shirts.”
He isn’t kidding. I walked in the store, in the Outfield Experience behind the scoreboard, and saw everything from foam fingers and baseballs to OPI nail polish in colors like “Umpires Come Out at Night” and “Girls Love Diamonds.” There are boots, jewelry, vintage tees, a variety of baseball caps and even Hello Kitty MLB-themed trinkets for the fangirls like me. And the prices vary — you can get a Majestic Royals jersey for $80 or a New Era cap for about $26.
The store also carries Alyssa Milano’s female-centric fan gear, Touch.
“I am so happy to see professional sports leagues really focusing on the female fan,” the actress told me this week. “We are as passionate about our teams as the guys are. That passion is the inspiration for my brand.”
Courtney Lewis, a baseball fanatic, is curious and excited about the new store. She’s been wearing the same oversized Royals tee and cap to games since she moved here eight years ago. The New England native is a lifelong Red Sox fan and adopted Royals fan. The boutique was on her must-see list at Friday’s home opener.
‘Shrink it and pink it’ has been the approach to female sports gear, and it tends to make me cringe,” she says. “I’m a purist when it comes to sports. I can be obnoxious. At the same time, I love the fact that there are shirts that fit women, that aren’t boxy. And it’s cool that teams are recognizing female fans. If there is a great mix, they are doing it right.”
I’d say any pitch toward treating us like legit fans instead of sideline decorations is a home run.