Houston still loves LJ Hoes.
Or at least Houston loves the Astro outfielder's last name. Even after Hoes got optioned down to the Astros' Triple-A affiliate in Oklahoma City in late May, baseball themed shirts reading, "Houston Loves Hoes" are still selling.
"I haven't been promoting it a lot," said Jeff Lange, the shirt's designer. "It was definitely surprising for sure."
Lange is the owner of Fanbuild.com, a website that sells crowdfunded t-shirts. The idea behind crowdfunding is that Lange avoids unnecessary overhead costs by not producing any shirts until a certain number of orders has been met, preventing extra inventory. The "Houston Loves Hoes" shirt is nearing the end of its third ordering campaign.
Lange said he got the idea for the shirt while scrolling through his Facebook newsfeed in April, when he saw a TMZ article about LJ Hoes' jersey being one of the highest-selling in Major League Baseball.
"I think the article title was 'Hoes are selling out everywhere,'" Lange said.
Lange then reached out to Houston rapper Paul Wall, who Lange manages social media accounts for, about a "fun, funny, edgy" shirt playing on Hoes' name.
"When I texted [Paul Wall] the content [for the shirt] he was like, 'Hell Yeah," Lange said. "He was all about it."
Hoes, who was optioned down to the minors May 25, hit .209 with six RBIs with Astros during the first two months of the season, when he was in and out of the lineup.
Still, the shirt remained popular. Fanbuild completed two crowdfunding campaigns - one each in April and May - and is nearing the end of a third. The latest campaign started May 30, after Hoes was already sent to the minors.
Only six shirts have been ordered since then, and the crowdfunding campaign ends June 19. Still, when people order shirts inspired by you, even when you're not in the majors - that's when your name makes it, even if you don't.
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"People must not watch the Astros everyday," Lange said. This story continues on the next page. According to Lange, Hoes loves the shirt. He asked for some to give his teammates, and didn't ask for any percentage of the profits.
Lange, who has also designed a "Johnny Cleveland" shirt inspired by Johnny Manziel, said he has to be careful that his creative, quirky designs don't infringe on trademarks. He's currently in trademark battles with Duke University and the Detroit Tigers over a football-themed shirt that reads "This Girl Loves The D."
"If I put, Astros Loves Hoes, they'd probably go after that," Lange said. "Houston is a city name. As far as I know, you can't trademark a city name."
If you want to buy a shirt and show Houston's love for Hoes, go here.