Market Focus: Keeping the Audience in Stitches

Baseball teams scout the online field

Wait 'til next year. The off-season in baseball is the time to rest and heal. Unless you are called on to be in the team's promo campaign for the next season. So goes it for Baltimore Orioles pitcher Brad Bergesen, who ended up missing the beginning of Spring Training due to an injury he received while filming the 2010 promo spot. The campaign made an early debut in February on YouTube after word of the starter's pre-season injury, and delayed start, got out.

Bergesen hurt his shoulder while filming a promotional spot in December, and the team has instituted a new policy regarding commercial shoots as a result. Bergesen had his rookie season cut short last year after being hit in the shin by a line drive on July 30. Until the commercial shoot, the right-hander had not thrown off a mound since August, and he hurt himself by throwing at game-speed.

"I'm not sure who ultimately decided a pitcher's first throws from a mound after an injury needed to happen in a commercial, but I'll guess that person is not going to be in charge of ultimately deciding such things for the Orioles in the future," writes The Sporting Blog's Andy Hutchins. "The spot does look realistic, whatever that's worth."

The commercial was shot in an indoor batting cage at Camden Yards. It featured Bergesen throwing pitch after pitch, off a mound, to an unidentified catcher.

"He just did too much, too soon," said Andy MacPhail, the club president of baseball operations, told The Associated Press. MacPhail said the club will monitor the filming of commercials in the future. "We will make sure we have one of our medical personnel or baseball operations personnel present from now, moving forward," he said.

Buy Me Some Peanuts and Chocolate-Covered Bacon?
Minor league baseball doesn't mean minor league food. The West Michigan Whitecaps solicited ideas on their Web site for new food items to be served at the Fifth Third Ballpark in Comstock Park, Mich. After whittling the list of treats down to the top 10 ideas, fans were invited to go online and vote for their favorite.

For ballpark fare, the items submitted are downright bizarre. But the West Michigan Whitecaps have always been known for serving some unique food items at their concessions stands (deep fried Twinkies, anyone?).

Leave it to a Canadian to suggest poutine: Bob "Flyhawk" Denham, from Canada, suggested the Quebec delicacy. "For the past five years I have led a band of fans from Canada to Grand Rapids in May for a game," Denham says. "While we love the games, food and ambiance, having poutine would be the frosting ... err ... gravy and curds on the fries. Heck, I may just bring the fixings this year and show you what you are missing. I can see it now 'Poutine Night at the Ballpark.' Alert the paramedics. This is not for sissies."

Susan Wagener suggested that popular combination of the two great tastes that taste great together: chocolate-covered bacon. Sure, it's all over the Web in these Bacon Explosion and This Is Why You're Fat days, but if it makes the menu, it is believed to be the first time it will appear as ballpark fare.

The top 10 finalists were: chicken and waffles, chili mac tacos, chocolate-covered bacon, corn dog 'o plenty (a full half-pound, foot-long frank that is battered and deep fried), Cudighi sausage Yooper sandwich, the Idaho Christmas tree (a batter-dipped hot dog rolled in french fries and deep fried), poutine (fries, fried cheese curds and gravy) and a Twinkie cheese dog (a hot dog laid in a Twinkie, covered in cheese). The Pink Panther was the lone dessert finalist (a hot dog bun, slathered in icing, filled with pink cotton candy and drizzled with root beer syrup).

And, finally, an item called the Declaration of Indigestion - a half-pound, foot-long hot dog covered in a Philly cheese steak (steak, cheese, peppers and onions) and served on a gigantic sub roll. Burp.

Voting was ongoing at press time at the Whitecaps Web site. Ballpark patrons will find the winning food item, and possibly others from this list, on the Fifth Third Ballpark menu this season. The Whitecaps open the 2010 season at home April 11 against the defending Midwest League Champion Fort Wayne Tincaps.

Market Focus: Keeping the Audience in Stitches

Field of Greens
The lawn-care company Scotts Miracle Gro has signed a deal with Major League Baseball to create grass-seed blends to match those used at some favorite ballparks. The arrangement is part of a deal in which Scotts is the "official lawn care company" of MLB.

Available at retailers, the blends are concocted by Scotts in consultation with the head groundskeepers at the stadiums. Packaging carries team logos along with a stadium photo, and reprinted signature from the groundskeeper. Five teams and their parks launch the deal - the Boston Red Sox (Fenway Park), Chicago Cubs (Wrigley Field), Cincinnati Reds (Great American Ballpark), Philadelphia Phillies (Citizens Bank Park) and St. Louis Cardinals (Busch Stadium).  Other future club-specific products are in development.

Scotts is promoting the item on their Web site and via in-store merchandising. As part of its national sponsorship commitment, Scotts made significant media commitments to national Major League Baseball television rights holders, as well as to other MLB-produced programming.  Scotts will air MLB-themed commercials, and the MLB and Club logos will be prominently featured on a wide range of in-store marketing materials throughout the year. Scotts will also sponsor a premiere attraction at All-Star FanFest. and Bloomberg Sports teamed to produce a suite of online statistical analytics, including consumer versions that will be valuable to fantasy baseball players, or hardcore fans and a professional product for Major League clubs.

This state-of-the-art statistical tool allows fans the ability to analyze and follow real-time stats and trends of their favorite teams and players. is promoting the $19.95 Draft Kit and $24.95 In-Season Tools on its Web site. Development will continue based on fan needs.

"We have combined the Bloomberg analytics technology and engine with the deep statistical data of," said Bill Squadron, who headed up the project for Bloomberg Sports. "We think anyone who likes baseball and wants to win their fantasy league will make this a 'must have,' and will really bring more fans to follow their teams and be involved with the sport on a regular basis."

The Draft Kit will feature updated information throughout Spring Training, right up to fantasy baseball gamer's draft days. It has customizable, interactive draft tools to help gamers make the right pick in every round. It features dynamic charts and graphs that make player outlook comparison a snap.

The In-Season Tools product features detailed performance analysis and multi-stat rankings, spotlighting the best player moves and trades. Side-by-side player comparisons with innovative charts and graphs provide the data you need to make the right decisions. Click on "baseball cards" and then filter for peer comparison. Sort by anything: For example, if a gamer is in an American League-only league, they can compare with only AL positions.

Even for non-players of fantasy baseball, it promises some new fun as a fan. And the Professional version is useful to clubs, enabling them to blend their own proprietary scouting information and set their own analytic preferences, applying it as they wish before drawing their own conclusions. 

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