T-shirt printer: Final strike was the signal to start the presses

T-shirt printer: Final strike was the signal to start the presses

Cool Air Creations, of Smithfield, was one of many screenprinters who swung into action the moment the Boston Red Sox clinched the World Series title last week. At its Smithfield plant, Cool Air printed more than 8,000 T-shirts in about 10 hours to help fill the local demand. Here, Ian Day, of Woonsocket, shows off one of the shirts. (Valley Breeze & Observer Photo by Tom Ward)

SMITHFIELD - While the Red Sox were moving toward their World Series victory Oct. 30, a cadre of a dozen Rhode Islanders with a stake in decisive Game Six were moving toward Smithfield.

They got to Cool Air Creations, an authorized T-shirt printer for Major League Baseball, in the seventh inning with Boston leading 6-1 and a company mandate worthy of Yogi Berra: It's not over 'til it's over, but if the Sox prevail, start cranking out championship T's.

The company does not have cable television, so the workers tuned in the old-fashioned way, listening on the radio and erupting into a cheer when closer Koji Uehara struck out the Cardinals' Matt Carpenter to put the Sox on top of the baseball world.

"There were a lot of high fives going around," said Chris Otten, 29, who according to plan had made the 35-minute drive from his home in Coventry knowing that if the Sox won, he'd be working all night.

That's because throughout the region, fans would be lining up in the early morning hours at outlets like Dick's Sporting Goods, Target, and Walmart to get early editions of the shirts, almost literally hot off the presses.

With everyone in the Cool Air shop a Red Sox fan, the atmosphere was "electric," said Jeff Thompson, of North Attleboro, Mass., who coordinated the effort and recalls that just a moment after Uehara threw his final strike the reaction was, "Let's get printing."

The order for some 8,000 shirts was completed about 9 a.m. Thursday and was the culmination of a dizzying period where the company - which coincidentally last week observed its fifth anniversary in Smithfield - had completed orders for the division and league crowns the Red Sox earned along the way.

Ian Day, a worker from Woonsocket, said the company plan was "to be here by the seventh inning, no matter what."

Day, 27 and a lifelong Sox fan, said he was optimistic throughout: "I was getting ready to print shirts - there was no doubt about it."

Company President David Campbell Jr. missed the excitement because he was on a long-planned vacation in Fort Myers Beach, Fla., not far from where the inspiring 2013 Red Sox were forged during spring training.

He said the T-shirt contracts are written through a licensing agent for Major League Baseball long before the championship rounds are decided, "so you put them in a drawer and hope for the best."

A company financial aide, John Selona, said the firm prints shirts suppled by distributors and doesn't sell them directly, but is paid according to how many are turned out on its screen presses.

Cool Air Creations is no stranger to high-profile jobs: In 2003 the firm put the Red Sox rallying cry "Cowboy Up" on 300,000 T-shirts, and has also worked on projects for the New England Patriots.

Also among its clients is the perennial rock group "Kiss."

According to Selona, the company also deals with local customers ranging in size from corporate giant CVS to youth sports teams.

The company, which officials say employs about 35 people, deals with some 6,500 clients worldwide, putting their designs and corporate images on clothing and outsourcing custom work on items such as novelty products, drink cups, and pens.

The 42-year-old Campbell, who lives in North Smithfield, started the company in 1994 in the cellar of his parents' home on Cora Street in the Greystone district of North Providence.

An artist who as well holds an associate's degree in electrical engineering, Campbell named Cool Air after a basic graphics industry tool, the airbrush.

He eventually moved the company to Woonsocket, and later negotiated a tax treaty with Smithfield officials and built a $4-million, 30,000-square-foot building in the Smithfield Business Park off George Washington Highway, near the Lincoln town line.

On Oct. 30 - now a banner day in New England sports history - the place was an integral part of Red Sox Nation, with, in the words of Ian Day, "Red Sox fans printing T-shirts for Red Sox fans."