The Astros, with a new league on the horizon and a new manager in place, unveiled their new look on the floor of Minute Maid Park to rave reviews in a raucous party that had almost everyone wishing Spring Training was just around the corner.
More than 5,000 fans and several current, former and future Astros packed the playing surface to watch the Astros trot out their new uniforms, which feature a blue and orange color scheme that resembles the threads worn by the franchise from its inception in 1962 through 1993.
"I like the look of the new uniforms," Astros owner Jim Crane said. "I think they're clean and it has a little bit of history in them. I think the fans will enjoy them."
Shortly after the uniforms were revealed, fans lined at kiosks set up along the dugouts and on the infield of the ballpark to scoop up new hats, shirts and jerseys. Fans can purchase all of the new Astros gear at Astros.com and MLB.com. The Astros team store inside Minute Maid Park will be open this weekend to sell more gear, and the club has an exclusive weeklong agreement to sell merchandise at all Houston-area Academy Sports + Outdoors stores.
If fan reaction was any indication, orange-and-blue Astros gear is going to be popular on the streets of Houston.
"I'm glad they brought back the orange and blue," said Catherine Pearce, who drove from Austin with a pair of her University of Texas classmates for the party. "I'm excited. I love the colors. I love all the jerseys. They're awesome."
Crane, general manager Jeff Luhnow and new manager Bo Porter addressed the crowd for a few minutes before a video presentation gave a sneak peek at the new uniforms. With the lights dimmed and the crowd buzzing, Astros players emerged from the dugout and into the spotlight sporting the new look.
Pitchers Jordan Lyles and Lucas Harrell, All-Star second baseman Jose Altuve, outfielder Justin Maxwell and top Minor League prospects Jarred Cosart, George Springer, Jonathan Singleton and Carlos Correa each strolled onto the field to show off the new uniforms.
"Just having the new uniforms and going over to the American League is one of the things where it's a fresh start and a clean slate for everybody," Harrell said.
In their first major uniform change since moving into the downtown ballpark in 2000, the Astros introduced two logos, four uniforms and three hats that will be worn in the 2013 season -- Houston's first in the AL. The team used months of research and feedback from fan focus groups to come up with a new color scheme that reached into the past.
The Astros' four uniforms include home whites with orange piping and road grays with blue piping. The club will also wear an alternate orange jersey with blue piping in home or road games.
As a tribute to the rainbow jerseys the team wore from 1975-79 and for only home games from 1980-86, the Astros will also wear a blue batting-practice top with rainbow print down the side of the jersey.
"Everybody's saying the blue with the colors down the side is the one everybody likes," Harrell said.
The caps feature the full star logo with the block letter "H" in the middle, which was also worn on the Astros hats in the 1965-1993 seasons. The orange cap will be worn at home, the blue cap with the orange bill will be worn on the road and with the alternate/batting-practice jerseys, and the blue cap will be donned with the home orange top.
"We did a lot of research and we certainly wanted to make sure we got something that was appealing to everybody," Crane said. "We did a lot of work and spent a lot of time, and we feel comfortable when we rolled it out it was going to be a hit. Not everybody is going to like it, but I think a large percentage will really enjoy the new look."
Luhnow was as excited about the talent in the uniforms as the players wearing them.
"It's been a few weeks since I've seen any of those guys, and they look great in those uniforms and I think the fans are going to be really excited," he said. "The colors harken back to what we're all about -- the star and the 'H' and the mascot. It's a great time to be unveiling a terrific concept."
The launch party ended with the Astros revealing the return of the popular mascot Orbit, the lovable green creature that entertained fans from 1990-99 at the Astrodome. Some fans were as thrilled about the mascot as they were the uniforms.
"I was excited to bring him back," Matthew Ziennicki of Austin said. "I think it's great he's back."
Despite coming off back-to-back disappointing seasons, the enthusiasm that bubbled inside Minute Maid Park on Friday was a reminder just how important baseball remains in Houston. And new uniforms, connecting the city to its baseball past, added to the hullaballoo.
"You have some diehard fans, and when we get the team turned around, the things we're doing with the team, the players, the back office and bringing Bo in here, we're going to pick that up next year and keep building on that," Crane said.