Arts & Entertainment, Small Business & Startups, and Sports Business

Living Baseball Card comes alive

Fledgling business enterprise is going into pitching stage.

October 27, 2012
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Living Baseball Card comes alive
Dan McCrath, above, and partners at Living Baseball Card used Byron Center native Phil Regan, below, as one of their first subjects.

(As seen on WZZM TV 13) With the major league baseball season in the books, a local baseball business venture is cranking up in a major way.

Eight individuals who make up two local firms, Blue Cap Promotions and Story Telling Pictures, are in the process of loading the business base paths with their creation: the Living Baseball Card. What brings the card alive is a DVD that contains an in-depth narrative with a former major league player — some Hall-of-Famers and some who only had a “cup of coffee” in the bigs — packaged inside an oversized baseball card.

“What it is, is a card with stats on the back, and in the back is a die-cut baseball glove that the DVD slips down into,” said Dan McCrath, vice president and partner in Blue Cap Promotions and founder of the Living Baseball Card.

John Mooy, the concept’s creator who is widely considered an iconic storyteller, conducted the interviews. He touches on more than the usual career highlights a player has accumulated, which gives the cards a historical documentary feel.

Phil Regan, Willie Horton, Goose Gossage, Jim Rice, Phil Niekro, Bill Lee and Andre Dawson are just a handful of the former players featured in the card lineup, and more are on the way.

In addition to filming the interviews, the partners also are busy pitching the cards to major and minor league ballparks around the country as a promotional item to draw fans to the games, in the same manner that bobbleheads have been used, and to sell as souvenirs in the teams’ merchandise shops.

McCrath said his crew has closed a deal with the Port St. Lucie Mets, a minor league club in Florida where Regan serves as pitching coach.

“We have several teams communicating with us and asking, ‘Can you get us this guy and that guy,’ and in some cases, we already have them,” said McCrath.

He pointed out that local fans at West Michigan Whitecaps games were treated this past season to cards featuring a pair of former Detroit Tigers — Willie Horton and Jon Warden — as two of the club’s many promotional events.

“We got some really good feedback from people. They e-mailed us and asked when they could get these — ‘When are these going public?’” said McCrath, who formerly directed sales, promotions and business development for the Whitecaps. “We were quite happy about that.”

The Living Baseball Card goes on sale to the general public at Nov. 23, the day after Thanksgiving. But the partners recently launched their sales campaign at Consumers can make online pledges across 11 levels ranging from $5 to $10,000 and receive exclusive premiums like meeting a former player and being part of a filming.

“They’ll get the products before the public,” said McCrath of those who make pledges. The partners hope to raise $60,000 at Pledges can be made through Thanksgiving week.

Another key date for the partners is Dec. 5, the day baseball’s winter meetings begin in the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center in Nashville. McCrath said the card has been accepted as a memorabilia item and will be in the tradeshow portion of the highly attended and media-saturated event that normally produces some key free-agent signings.

“We plan to be there in full force with an exhibit showing these to teams,” he added. “But we’re already communicating with many of the team purchasers for shelf specials. If they order these going into Nashville, they’re going to get some really nice incentives.”

One ongoing effort the partners are undertaking is talking with television networks and cable channels about airing the cards. This could be an attractive buy for media outlets that broadcast games such as Fox, ESPN and TBS to run on weekends and for the Major League Baseball Network in the offseason.

“We are talking with a couple of different networks about these as biographies. And for me, it’s kind of a tough decision at this point whether we want to release them to the TV networks for purchase on their part for biographies, or whether they allow us to share inventory to sell commercials (in a program),” said McCrath.

Another option the partners are considering is buying time, hiring a host and just going the infomercial route.

“If you can picture somebody like Johnny Bench saying ‘Today’s feature is on former Cubs player Andre Dawson,’ and he, or someone like him, hosts it. At first I was kind of cold about that idea because, to me, an infomercial is an infomercial. But then I realized there is big money being made in infomercials — really big money. Then you own the time,” said McCrath.

McCrath pointed out that just about everything is sold via infomercials, so why not baseball, one of the most successful industries on the planet. He thinks viewers might see the cards as a sports biography in kind of the same fashion as Ken Burns’ retrospective on baseball, which still gets airplay.

“That was the recommendation from several different people, including the retired players association of major league baseball,” he said of doing an infomercial, adding that the association holds one of its biggest fundraisers on the Home Shopping Network. “Who would have thought?”

So the partners certainly have their business bases loaded, so to speak, and many decisions will have to be made and events covered in the coming weeks.

McCrath, Denny Baxter, Jim Short, Joel Koch, John Evans, Corey Niemchick and Ian Barrie are excited about their venture, which they’ve been developing for several years.

“There is a lot of work on our part to determine what is going to be our best direction for this as it relates to the TV,” said McCrath. “But there’s no disputing that these are all exciting opportunities.”

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