Trade show baseball’s other high-dollar business
The fluffy green-and-white Phillie Phanatic hat is eye-catching
enough. Then, with a simple push of a pump wrapped in red cloth,
the furry mascot’s red tongue unfurls.
Yes, the Phanatic is sticking its tongue right at you.
”They sell themselves, they really do,” Rick Maldonado of
Forever Collectibles-Team Beans said. ”I mean, there is no pitch
behind it. I’m usually wearing it, and I’ll talk to my buyers:
`Hey, you want something cool?’ Then I squeeze it, and then they
get that chuckle and it’s like, `Wow. What else you guys doing this
Welcome to the baseball trade show at the winter meetings, where
business is everything but the high-profile signing and trading of
Companies pitch their wares to both major and minor league teams
– from the expected to the outrageous. There are jerseys, T-shirts,
trash cans and stadium seating right along with the mascot pump hat
that suddenly looks like a must-have item and will be on sale by
the time baseball season starts in April.
Collapsible chairs not enough? Now there’s a packable coffee
table complete with four cup holders for tailgating. New Era’s
display features a batch of ski caps for the usual cold weather
markets like the Minnesota Twins, Boston Red Sox and New York Mets
– right alongside one for the Miami Marlins. That white, orange and
black knit cap is sure to keep fans snug even on the chilliest of
south Florida days.
Hall of Fame pitcher Ferguson Jenkins was among those on the
floor Tuesday. He was working the booth for Outbid, an online
auction site for autographs and memorabilia in sports,
entertainment and other areas. Jenkins was greeting fans, handing
out signed balls and pictures.
”This is my first trade show. They have everything here – bats,
balls, mascots, everything. It is unbelievable,” he said.
There’s ”The Cleaning Machine” made by Sonny Cereneka of
Hacienda Heights, Calif., that has been helping scrub dirt off
practice baseballs for about 35 years. Marilynn Cereneka said the
New York Mets told her husband that machine helped save them
$22,000 on baseballs back in 2008.
Hungry? Take a walk around the food exhibits with hot dogs,
pretzels and candy. For more haute cuisine, try the garlic fries or
chipotle chili aioli offered up by Tulkoff Food Products. This is
the second year at the winter meetings for the company, Danielle
Hauserman said. Tulkoff picked up the Toledo Mud Hens, Daytona Cubs
and Greensboro Grasshoppers after their first trade show a year
”We’re a way to kind of kick up your burger or hot dog,” she
Game Wear helps baseball fans show their love of the sport using
the ball itself for bracelets, key chains, necklaces and even pet
leashes and collars. Frank Cerullo Jr. first carved up a baseball
while playing in college at George Washington, and the white
leather necklace with the red seam stitching proved so popular he
went from working in computer technology for a hospital to starting
his company in his parents’ basement to office space in Hoboken,
”What makes our product special is the fusion of taking your
team, taking the sport and fusing it together, and I feel that’s
the magic in our product,” Cerullo said.
Former big league first baseman Pete LaCock also was on hand,
representing Zinger bats before he starts managing next year in the
independent America West Baseball League.
”These are fun to come to. You see a lot of old friends,” he
said, moments after greeting Cubs bench coach Jamie Quirk, a former
Kansas City Royals teammate.
There’s so much to see, it can be exhausting.
Luckily, Rawlings Sporting Goods has a big leather chair shaped
like a catcher’s mitt sitting at the edge of the company’s display,
which draws people in. Rawlings sells approximately 10 of the
chairs each year for $3,200 apiece using the same leather in their
gloves as part of a product line that now features luggage and
wallets. Names can be monogrammed into the thumb or palm of the
Charlette Eastman of American Fork, Utah, whose family recently
sold the Zinger Bat Company, sat in the catcher’s mitt chair for a
much-needed rest after helping promote the company.
”It’s wonderful,” Eastman said. ”I’m just going to see how
much I can buy it for.”
AP Baseball Writer Ben Walker contributed to this report.