MILWAUKEE -- Eric Thames mania has swept Milwaukee, but where's the merch? Fear not, American consumer, for it has arrived.Before a limited supply of shirseys -- T-shirts with a printed player name and number -- hit the virtual shelves of MLBShop.com and the actual shelves at Miller Park, you could
MILWAUKEE -- Eric Thames mania has swept Milwaukee, but where's the merch? Fear not, American consumer, for it has arrived.
Before a limited supply of shirseys -- T-shirts with a printed player name and number -- hit the virtual shelves of MLBShop.com and the actual shelves at Miller Park, you could buy a Kirk Nieuwenhuis tee or a Hank the Dog coffee mug, but the name "Thames" was conspicuously absent from the cornucopia of collectibles. That, despite the fact the first baseman had the hottest name in Major League Baseball, leading the way in home runs, slugging percentage, total bases and OPS, among other categories.
Was this a marketing failure? No, it was more a problem of paperwork.
"When we left on the road trip, I get a letter from the players' union about, like, signing over the rights so they could sell [merchandise with his name and likeness]," Thames said. "We left on the road trip, so I didn't sign it."
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In Chicago, the final leg of that three-city trip, a representative of the Players' Association got Thames' autograph on that important piece of paper, allowing the wheels of capitalism to begin turning.
"I didn't know!" said Thames, who had not played in the Majors since 2012. "He was like, 'The fans are blowing up, they want some stuff.' I was like, 'Really?'"
Brewers spokesperson Tyler Barnes said more unique Thames items could be available later this season, but the team opted to open sales with the shirsey.
"We started with, 'What can we get in the shortest period of time?'" Barnes said. "The T-shirts were the easiest item to acquire and are by far the most popular. And that is equally true whether you are talking about a player or a homeless dog."
The dog, of course, is Hank, a stray pup adopted by the Brewers a few years ago after he wandered onto their Spring Training site. Now, a portion of the proceeds from Hank the Dog merchandise goes to the Wisconsin Humane Society.
Move over, Hank. Here comes the Thames swag.
"We had a flood of requests for his merchandise." Barnes said. "That's an understatement."
Chalk up the delay to another learning experience for Thames, who is adjusting back to the big leagues following three huge seasons in South Korea.
His early-season hot streak has made him a media darling, with the national media hits continuing Tuesday afternoon. It's a near-certainty that since Thames' hitting spree began with home runs in five straight games on that road trip, he has made an appearance on your favorite sports program.
Does he feel like he's being pulled in too many different directions?
"No," Thames said. "I'll enjoy this while I can."
Brewers manager Craig Counsell was not worried about Thames' current popularity interfering with his work. In Korea, Counsell noted, Thames was a superstar.
"It's probably harder in a different country," Counsell said. "So he's been through this already. He's been doing this for three years, really. He was the MVP of that league."
Thames had a hard time walking down the street in Changwon without being mobbed by fans. He is hoping for a bit more anonymity around his new home in Milwaukee's Third Ward neighborhood, but Thames mania might make that difficult. One anonymous fan this week sent him a nice message via Potato Parcel, which is exactly what it sounds like: A message written with a marker on a potato.
Thames had it in his locker.
"Maybe it's good luck," he said. "I'm going to keep it."
Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy, like him on Facebook and listen to his podcast.