New Stadium Operations Practices Take Effect for 2015

Baseball SecurityAs previously announced, Major League Baseball’s Stadium Operations Practices for the 2015 regular season require each Club to develop and implement mandatory metal detection screening of all fans prior to entry to each Major League ballpark. Many Major League Clubs already began such a program throughout the 2013 and 2014 seasons.

The screening program will be in effect at 29 ballparks on Opening Day and full fan screening will be phased in over the course of the first month of the 2015 season. The Commissioner’s Office has postponed the commencement of the program at Wrigley Field in light of the extensive renovations that are underway.

This procedure, which resulted from a recent study of best security practices and MLB’s continuing work with the Department of Homeland Security to elevate and standardize initiatives across the game, will be in addition to bag checks that have been uniform throughout MLB. Fan screening may be conducted by means of hand-held metal detection or walk-through magnetometers. Fans should monitor announcements from Clubs regarding their individual programs and the details of the anticipated practices in each market.

John McHale, Jr., MLB’s Executive Vice President, Administration, said: “Nothing is more important to us than the safety of our fans. In the last several seasons, our experiences in many markets and at our jewel events have indicated that fans have a high level of understanding of these efforts. We believe this step will pose minimal inconvenience and ultimately will serve the best interests of fans.”

City of Scottsdale & Scottsdale CVB Named Presenting Sponsors For ‘Baseball City’ 2015

Baseball-City-LogoThe Legacy Agency has announced that Baseball City – the largest and only interactive Spring Training event in the country- will have The City of Scottsdale and the Scottsdale Convention and Visitors Bureau as official presenting sponsors for the second annual event, which will be held in Scottsdale on March 7 and 8.

Over 20,000 fans are expected to join in on the free event, which will have a host of interactive programs, clinics, brand activation platforms and appearances by current and former MLB players as part of the two day celebration that will kick off Cactus League play. The inaugural event was held in Phoenix in 2014.

“Our vision with Baseball City was to give those fans even more added value to their spring training  experience; to allow  people young and old a little more engagement when they are not watching games,” said Mike Principe, CEO of The Legacy Agency. “Bringing the event now to Scottsdale, within minutes of several of the facilities, will enhance the overall baseball experience beyond the traditional game day. We will have something for everyone, and believe that this will quickly become a ‘must attend’ for everyone making the trek to Arizona both this spring and for years to come.”

In addition to the presenting sponsor, the Legacy Agency has added Baseball America as the event’s anchor sponsor and Univision as the events Media Partner. Brands that have come on board for the event include:  Steiner Sports, LIDS, KIND Snacks, Schutt Sports, Uber, Saguaro Scottsdale Hotel, Ferguson Jenkins Foundation, Scottsdale Food Truck Caravan, Rock N Roll High School, YELP, the Arizona Baseball Network and Triple Crown Sports.

Kids of all ages will also have the ability to take part in a special Arizona SciTech Baseball Festival, which brings unique partnerships with ASU, UA and Midwestern Scientists to engage the public in hands on opportunities with the science behind sport, while the The Arizona Spring Training Experience and Cactus League Hall of Fame tells the story of the players, the teams, and the communities that have made Arizona the home for spring training baseball for seventy years.

The lineup of participants in the event are expected to include: Hall of Famers Ferguson Jenkins and Orlando Cepeda, 2014 AL All-Star outfielder Michael Brantley (Cleveland Indians), Chicago White Sox star Melky Cabrera, San Francisco Giants catcher Andrew Susac, the Arizona Diamondbacks second baseman Aaron Hill, Oakland Athletics All Star pitcher Scott Kazmir and outfielder Billy Butler, Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Wily Peralta, and Chicago Cubs outfielder Arismendy Alcántara among many others.

Topps Officially Launches Baseball Season With Ambitious Series 1 MLB Set

15TBB1_1142_FRJust before pitchers and catchers report for spring training, the TOPPS Company revealed their 2015 Series 1 Set of Baseball Cards. The set includes the last card for Yankees legend Derek Jeter, as well as a series of “First Pitch” cards captured during the 2014 season, including rapper Macklemore throwing with the Seattle Mariners, actor Jeff Bridges with the Los Angeles Dodgers, rocker Eddie Vedder with the Chicago Cubs, Boston Marathon champ Meb Keflezighi with the Boston Red Sox, and several other surprises. Digital and hard copies are available for media by request.

“This year’s Series 1 set, coming out just ahead of when pitchers and catchers report, will have something for everyone, from the casual fan to the passionate collector with many surprises as well,” said Topps vice president of product development Clay Luraschi.  “It is a reflection of what we have seen in recent years, fans wanting a good mix of the present and the past with a little pop culture sprinkled in.”

“Baseball History” cards in the set bring the past alive with iconic moments combined with special baseball feats such as Sandra Day O’Connor being sworn in as the first female Supreme Court Justice on the same day that Steve Carlton broke the NL strikeout record (Sept. 21, 1981). “Highlight of the Year” autograph and relic subset includes cards of Ernie Banks, who passed away recently and with the San Francisco Giants winning the World Series, many members of the team were featured in an autograph or a relic card highlighting their win including Buster Posey, Madison Bumgarner and Joe Panik.

The Series 1 base set consists of 350 cards. The base set will feature Veterans, Rookies, Future Stars, League Leaders and highlights from the 2014 season and World Series. Along with Series 2 (which comes out in June), there will be 700 base cards, which is the largest base card set for Topps in a decade.

Topps To Offer Tribute Sets For Legendary Card Designer Sy Berger

SyBerger-CollectionThe Topps Company, Inc.  today announced that they will honor the late Sy Berger, one of the fathers of the modern day baseball card, with two special sets, available as the Hot Stove season fully kicks in this coming week.

Topps is now offering two post card size sets of Red and Blue back cards, each set numbered to 99 that will mimic the 1951 design that was the first baseball card that he designed for Topps. It will feature a combination of retired and current players along with a card of Sy in each release, along with 10×14 posters for each player in the set. The orders can be placed on Topps.com starting today and can be viewed here.

“As we continue to find ways to be more engaged with consumers in the digital space, it is great to honor Sy’s legacy with a set that connects our glorious past to our really promising future as a continued partner with MLB,” said Topps Jeff Heckman. “We think this is both a nice tribute and a great way to kick off the coming 2015 season for fans and collectors of all ages.”

Berger, known as the father of the modern-day baseball trading card, died in December at age 91. In the 1950s, he introduced Topps cards and a year later, he conceived the prototype for the modern baseball card, supplanting the unimaginative, smallish and often black-and-white offerings of the existing card companies. As vice president for sports and licensing at the Topps Chewing Gum Company, he also worked with thousands of players to sign contracts allowing Topps to use their images. He then added color, statistics and copies of stars’ signatures.

Baseball Fans Of All Types Celebrate SABR Day

20150120 2015 SABR Day map sliderToday is SABR Day, a chance to celebrate the beginning of a new baseball season. While the thermometer may not agree, baseball season is just a few weeks away, and baseball fans of all types are ready for SABR’s array of baseball events around the globe.

And while the analytics connotation of the term “Sabermetrics” has in some ways come to define the organization, President Vince Gennaro wants fans to know that SABR is as diverse as baseball fandom itself.

“I don’t know that there is a consensus with SABR members about, for example, Hall of Fame voting or which players are most valuable,” he told Gotham Baseball recently. “People think about the quantitative guys, the ‘Sabermetric’ guys, but I’d say that 60% or more of our members have little affinity for the analytical side of the game. Many are historians, and you can’t divorce the history from statistics.”

At the same time, Gennaro sees how the increase of data has been utilized by teams, a major point in the upcoming SABR Analytics Conference, March 12-14 in Phoenix.

“When making 100 million dollar investment decisions, or in the Marlins’ case, 300 million dollar decisions, you can’t deprive yourself of any information. The stakes are so high, and the proliferation of data is so great, even from what existed five years ago.”

As for the Analytics conference, Gennaro notes a few highlights.

“I’m looking forward to a very interesting General Managers panel, Larry Baer as one of the keynote speakers, 25 or more team sending analytics personnel, and our student program in which 20 schools are sending four to six students, with 10-15 executives judging. The students get a tremendous experience and the teams get a talent pool for future hires.”

Bernie Williams, Dellin Betances, Mookie Wilson, Steve Weatherford, Meryl Davis & Charlie White To Receive 35th Annual Thurman Munson Awards On February 3

Dellin Betances, by Keith Allison

Dellin Betances, by Keith Allison

The 35th Annual Thurman Munson Awards, which remember the late, great Yankees captain, will be presented at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York City on Tuesday night, February 3, and the honorees announced are as follows:

-New York Yankees four-time World Champion centerfielder Bernie Williams
-Yankees All-Star Rookie relief pitcher Dellin Betances
-New York Mets 1986 World Champion centerfielder Mookie Wilson
-Olympic Gold Medal-winning ice dancers Meryl Davis and Charlie White
-Giants Super Bowl champion punter Steve Weatherford

The AHRC New York City Foundation, which assists children and adults with disabilities, benefits from the gala.

Joel S. Isaacson, Founder and CEO of Joel Isaacson & Co., will receive the “Business & Philanthropic Leadership Award.”

Diana Munson, Thurman’s widow, will attend her 35th consecutive benefit, having been involved since its inception. The Thurman Munson Awards Dinner has raised more than $13 million for programs that serve New York City children and adults who have intellectual and developmental disabilities.

For tickets and information on the Munson Awards Dinner call 212-249-6188 or email jennifer@emgbenefits.com. Tickets may be purchased on line here.

The Thurman Munson Awards are presented for success on the field of play and philanthropic works off the field.

Williams, patrolling centerfield,  was an integral member of the Yankees World Series Championship teams in 1996, ’98, ’99 and 2000, and a five-time  All-Star during his 16 year career in pinstripes. Betances became a rookie All-Star last season, confounding hitters with his prolific fastball. Wilson, a member of the Mets Hall of Famer, was a key player on the Mets 1986 World Series championship team; Davis and White, America’s darlings, captured Olympic gold with a dazzling ice-dancing performance for the ages at the 2014 games in Sochi; Weatherford was a member of the Giants Super Bowl championship team in 2012, and also made a post season appearance with the Jets.

The AHRC New York City Foundation is a not-for-profit organization that supports programs enabling children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities to lead richer, more productive lives, including programs of AHRC New York City. AHRC New York City is one of the largest organizations of its kind, serving 15,000 children and adults who have intellectual and developmental disabilities, including autism, cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injuries and other disabilities.

Steiner Sports To Launch ‘In Their Own Words’ Hand-Written Collection

MARIANO_IN_MY_OWN_WORDSSteiner Sports Founder Brandon Steiner, who has been the innovator of a myriad of memorabilia projects including the original Yankee Stadium collection, team partnerships, game-used collectibles and the sale of stadium dirt, will announce yet another “game-changer,” according to the memorabilia industry leader. On Tuesday, December 9, at Michael Jordan’s The Steak House N.Y.C.  in Grand Central Terminal from 10:00 AM to 12 NOON, the “In Their Own Words” Collection will be unveiled, featuring personally, hand-written inscriptions of the most memorable moments in sports history as described by the athletes who made them famous.

Prominent athletes, whose special moments are indelibly etched in the minds’ eye of all sports fans, who will attend the product-launch press conference include:  Magic Johnson, Dennis Rodman, Dereck Whittenburg, Mookie Wilson, Bill Buckner, David Tyree, Mike Eruzione, Doug Williams, Brian Leetch, Larry Johnson, C.C. Sabathia, Joe Klecko, and Marty Lyons, with many more to be added.

“Collecting is all about having a piece to recall your fondest memories,” says Steiner. “’In Their Own Words ‘will change the business. It used to be about the moment, now it’s about the entire story. The players will describe in their own words how they felt at that magical moment.”

“In Their Own Words” collectibles will go on sale immediately following the press conference at 12:00 noon on December 9, in time for the holiday shopping season. Amazon.com and Steinersports.com will be the main distributors, visit Amazon.com/fanshop and SteinerSports.com.  ‎

Among sports greatest players and coaches who will share their moments “In Their Own Words” will include: Mariano Rivera, Victor Cruz, Frank Robinson, Jim Craig, Darryl Strawberry, Keith Hernandez, Dennis Rodman, Walt “Clyde” Frazier, Marty Lyons, Jim Boeheim, Bob Knight, Adam Graves, Mike Richter, David Cone, Bernie Williams, Nancy Lieberman, Ron Swoboda, Doc Gooden, Mookie Wilson, Mike Bossy, Rudy Rueitteger, Lou Holtz, Stéphane Matteau, “Goose” Gossage, Don Larsen, Eddie Giacomin, Cecil Fielder, Jim Leyritz, Brandi Chastain, Bill Parcells, Lou Piniella, John Wetteland, Mike Torrez, Steve Garvey, Joe Pepitone, Lenny Dykstra, Paul Pierce, Glen Anderson, Dale Murphy, Jesse Orosco, Larry Johnson, David Cone, Andy Pettitte, John Starks,  Joe Montana, Chris Chambliss, Harry Carson, Brian Leetch, Jonny Gomes, Rickey Henderson, Mark Bavaro, Paul O’Neill, C.C. Sabathia, Mel Stottlemyre, Mark Teixeira, Bobby Nystrom, Bucky Dent, Bobby Cox, Nolan Ryan, Dereck Whittenburg, Billie Jean King, Ricky Williams, Tommy Lasorda, Elvin Hayes, Ron Guidry, Doug Flutie, Ozzie Smith, Mike Tyson, Aaron Boone, Mark Messier, Roy Jones Jr., Patrick Ewing, Joe Torre, David Wells, Johnny Damon, Doug Williams, Sparky Lyle, Franco Harris, Ron Turcotte, Joe Morgan, Matt Snell, Martin Brodeur, Dwight Clark, Mia Hamm, Mike Eruzione, Joe Pisarcik, Bernard King, Mickey Ward, Spud Webb, Robert Horry, Eli Manning, and Magic Johnson.

 

Topps Updates Yanks, Mets Sets, Adds Teams to Archives Collection Series 2

Topps-YankeesThe Topps Company, Inc. today unveiled a new series of limited edition apparel, hats and wall art to their Topps Archives Collection, which was launched last spring. The new Series 2 launch adds in the legendary MLB teams from the Boston Red Sox, Philadelphia Phillies, St. Louis Cardinals and Minnesota Twins, as well as updating the original seven championship clubs that were put forward earlier this year. Topps mined its archives to create all new collectible products that are inspired by the greatest teams and most memorable moments from America’s national pastime earlier this year, and the response has given rise to this latest limited edition release.

The 1977 Yankees and 1986 Mets are part of the Series 2 updates; both were featured in Series 1.

In addition, Topps will be offering online one of a kind wall art every day during the postseason with the “MLB Playoff Player of the Day,” as selected by Topps and Bloomberg Sports, the world’s leaders in sports analytic technology and the newest member of the STATS global network.

Following the completion of every day of the postseason, fans can go to Topps.com to see who has been selected both by a combination of popularity as well as statistical analysis and download that player’s custom wall art to be shipped to them the next day. The player and wall art will also be featured every day on Bsports’ “Stats Insights,” show on Fantasy Sports Network. Hosted by Shannon Somerville, “Stats Insights” is BSports nightly look at all things in sports analytics at 6:30 pm EDT.

“We see big growth in the collectable area for us as a brand, and are proud to be able to bring this new series to fans as the MLB postseason gets going,” said Jeff Heckman, Manager of Marketing, Topps Digital.  “The access to such iconic images and items gives us a unique position in the marketplace, and the response from fans of a certain age wanting to both re-live and share their memories of their favorite teams with a new generation has been very encouraging. Between the collector’s series and the wall art of the day, fans can have the best of past and present right at their fingertips.”

The Topps Archives Collection, Series 2 honors the following Major League Baseball teams:

  • 1975 Boston Red Sox: “Stay Fair”
  • 1980 Philadelphia Phillies “Back On Top”
  • 1982 St. Louis Cardinals “We’re Red Hot”
  • 1987 Minnesota Twins   “No Place like Dome”

The Topps Archives Collection, Series 2 will be sold in box sets containing the following items:  1 Wax Pack Poster Set (5 posters),  6 Team Patches, 6 Team Buttons, 1 Team Pennant,1 Team T-shirt, 1 Team Hat. It will be boxed and limited to only 99 kits, with the series never to be sold again.

The Topps Archives Collection, Series 2 pays tribute to superstars and unsung heroes alike, capturing players in their heyday, just as fans remember them. The individual collections feature players as well known and diverse as Carlton Fisk, Ozzie Smith, Mike Schmidt, Bert Blyleven and many others.

The Topps Archives Collection, Series 2 is available now on Topps.com.  Fans can collect them all individually or buy each team’s complete box set, just like baseball cards.

To see The Topps Archive Collection video, visit: https://vimeo.com/91329596

Topps and Bloomberg Sports Create Partnership to Revolutionize Baseball Trading Card Statistics with Advanced Analytics

Topps-Bloomberg Screen Shot 2014-09-19 at 4.55.50 PM 2The Topps Company, Inc. and Bloomberg Sports, the world’s leaders in sports analytic technology and the newest member of the STATS global network, today formally unveiled a partnership to provide custom-designed advanced analytics on select trading card offerings for 2014. The new-look analytics have been featured on the backs of Topps Major League Soccer cards, which launched earlier this season, and content will be showcased now on the back of the 2014 Bowman Chrome Baseball, which releases at the end of September, and other select 2014 Bowman trading card products.

“This is a great way to marry the traditional collector with a new audience looking for something different in trading cards, be it baseball or other sports,” said Bill Squadron, STATS EVP and head of Bloomberg Sports. “Our analytic work in a wide range of sports can provide a whole set of unique and compelling data for fans to discuss and enhance their enjoyment of the game, and there is no more elite platform to deliver that data on than a hallmark brand like Topps.”

“Every year we strive to find new ways to engage both the casual fan and the ardent collector, and we feel that the partnership with Bloomberg Sports accomplishes that. These revolutionized card backs has given us another unique point of engagement that is both eye-catching and educational and fun for all,” said Zvee Geffen, Topps MLS and Bowman Brand Manager.  “Analytics are an essential part of today’s conversations in every sport and this new content will document that emerging trend, and the new data we are providing will help enhance the experience for all.”

The just-released Bowman Chrome baseball card sets will feature six different analytical templates created by Bloomberg Sports, including spray charts that document veteran power hitters’ home run locations and strikeout pitchers’ pitch selections. For MLB® prospects, statistics will include organizational rankings and comparisons to minor league averages.

Among the stars featured in 2014 Bowman Chrome are MLB® rookies Jose Abreu, George Springer and Masahiro Tanaka, veterans Mike Trout, Yu Darvish and Bryce Harper, and prospects Byron Buxton and Kris Bryant. The set also features autographed cards and an assortment of colorful parallel cards.

The 2014 Bowman Chrome Baseball set will be available in hobby stores this week. Topps® MLS Soccer, which also included unique analytics from Bloomberg Sports, are available at retail outlets now.

Baseball Integration Tied To Football In New Film

The_Forgotten_Four_posters_426973One of the landmark moments not for just sports, but for civil rights in America, occurred in 1947 when Brooklyn Dodgers General Manager Branch Rickey signed Jackie Robinson to a contract and made Robinson the first player in the modern era of baseball to break the color line. While there were players of color in the early days of professional baseball, Moses Fleetwood Walker in the 1880’s being one of the most prominent, “The National Pastime” had established hard lines against integration for decades before the Dodgers made their move, and Robinson entered the history books.

The story has been documented in film and print countless times, and is memorialized every year on Jackie Robinson Day by every team in Major League Baseball, one of the most all-encompassing and fitting tributes to a pioneer and a leader and those around him. But what about the other sports and those who took the heat so that others would be able to play?

In the NBA it was Nat “Sweetwater” Clifton, in the NHL it was Willie O’Rhee, and in pro football, a sport whose integration tied to baseball very closely, it was not one but four players, all of whom had an impact on both Rickey and Robinson directly.

Their stories are told this week in a new documentary from Ross Greenburg, “Forgotten Four,” which debuts Tuesday night on EPIX. Greenburg is no stranger to baseball fans, having done countless pieces on the game over the years, with one of the most notable being the heart-wrenching “Nine Innings From Ground Zero” while he was at HBO.

So how does football’s integration impact baseball? Here are a few ties that lay out in the documentary about Woody Strode and Kenny Washington and the LA Rams and Marion Motley and Bill Willis and the Cleveland Browns.

(1) Strode and Washington were teammates of Robinson at UCLA. Before Jackie and brother Mack starred on the baseball diamond they were elite athletes on the gridiron for the Bruins. Strode and Washington were key members of UCLA’s football success, as was Jackie, who helped build the football dynasty in Westwood way before John Wooden created the “Pyramid of Success” at Pauley Pavilion.

(2) Motley and Willis’ success with the Browns in 1946 had a direct impact on having Rickey move forward in ’47 with his Dodgers plan. In the film, Football Hall of Fame historian Joe Horrigan tells a story about Rickey, who also owned the Brooklyn Dodgers football club of the expansion All-America Football Conference. In ’46, The Browns, also in the AAFC before joining the NFL, played at Ebbetts Field against the Dodgers and Rickey was so impressed by the way Paul Brown’s team handled  their African-American teammates that he saw the time was right to integrate baseball. Horrigan recounts Rickey approaching Motley after the Dodgers brought Robinson in and thanking him for showing that integration in pro sports was possible.

(3)The Four actually broke the color barrier the year before the Dodgers grand experiment, although it gets less play until this landmark documentary. Why the four have been forgotten is up for some debate, but football was there the year before baseball.

“I think there were a number of reasons as to why this story isn’t widely known,” Greenburg said. “First in 1947 baseball was the national pastime, football was an afterthought, so Jackie’s move was much more of a headline and at that time had a bigger impact on society. Second, as it says in the film, Robinson did it alone; these four players did it together, so sometimes the impact of one person is seen as bigger than as a group, although that is probably not true as these men endured bigotry and isolation and challenges that were just as big as anything Jackie experienced in baseball. Their story is certainly none less compelling, and it is great that EPIX has given us the chance to tell it now.”

Some critics have said that the football color line is less impactful because the gap from no players until these four came along was really only about 14 years, as players of color, although small in number, did play in pro football in the 1920’s and early ‘30’s until Redskins owner George Preston Marshall pressured other owners to keep blacks out. Baseball’s color barrier was much longer. However it doesn’t change the fact that these four players turned the ride and set the stage in football, like Robinson and then Larry Doby in the AL, did in baseball.

Regardless of semantics, the film is a great view for all fans and will give baseball fans pause when integration is discussed going forward. The Forgotten Four and their ties to Jackie Robinson, now linked forever in video, just like they have been for decades in history.