By Barry Janoff
March 14, 2014: Baseball is a sport that is determined to embrace its past as much as it relishes its present and envisions its future.
A good case in point: the first Baseball City, a multi-platform fan-fest being held this weekend, Marcch 15-16, in the Phoenix Convention Center.
Under the auspices of marketing and talent representation firm The Legacy Agency, Baseball City will bring together current MLB players and baseball legends; and a bevy of baseball-related marketers, equipment manufacturers and retailers that will have their merchandise, wares and services on display.
In addition, coaches and instructors will assist visitors in such activities as the Home Run Derby Field, a Steal Home competition, Speed Pitch competition and a Make-A-Wish Arizona kid's clinic.
Events will be covered by MLB Network and is scheduled to include a live broadcast of MLB Tonight as well as broadcasts from Univision TV and radio.
"Baseball City is a simple concept, based on the premise of the PGA Merchandise Show, but for baseball," said Michael Principe, CEO for The Legacy Agency, New York. "One of the goals we are trying to accomplish at TLA is to utilize all of our assets, all of our relationships, all of our industry experience. We have expanded our core competencies to include representing corporate clients and how they spend their sports and talent marketing dollars. It's also about looking to produce some events for which we think there is a need and a place for in the market."
The challenge for Principle and his crew was to find a location where a large number of baseball enthusiasts would be together in a location that could house a substantial amount of baseball-related properties "in a trade show, fan-fest, interactive B-to-B, B-to-C environment."
Using the annual PGA Merchandise Show as a standard, TLA took over some 60,000 square feet of the Phoenix Convention Center, located within a 60-mile radius of 15 MLB teams that make up the Spring Training Cactus League.
"Each spring, about 1.8 million tickets are sold to Cactus League games," said Principe. "You have your built-in demographic, built-in enthusiasts who are looking to consume the product of baseball. That's how Baseball City came about."
Although MLB is not formally involved, Principle feels that the league will see that "what's good for baseball, and trying to tap into the spirit of baseball, is good for everybody."
Participating sponsors Pepsi/Gatorade, Geico, 5 Hour Energy, Lids, Schutt Sports, Under Armour, Eat The Ball, Triple Crown Sports, Zinger Bat, The Hitting Jack-It, Giants Sunflower Seeds, Pocket Radar, Max Bat, GameSigns, Franks Sports Shop, AG Sports Collectibles, Kind Snacks, Shock Doctor, 9 Zones Baseball, Eagle Eye Electronics and Pro Glider Bats.
Marucci Sports will unveil their Club Marucci experience; and Snapcall will demonstrate their live gaming and interactive fan platform.
Local sponsors include Visit Phoenix (Phoenix Visitors Bureau), the Phoenix Suns, Phoenix Coyotes and Sheraton Phoenix Downtown.
Current MLB players scheduled to meet, greet and sign autographs include Aaron Hill, Adam Dunn, Billy Butler, Brett Anderson, Martin Prado, Pablo Sandoval, Ryan Vogelsong, Salvador Perez and Scott Kazmir.
"We want MLB to see that what's good for baseball, and trying to tap into the spirit of baseball, is good for everybody."
Legends scheduled to be in attendance include Andre Dawson, Orlando Cepeda, Ferguson Jenkins, Gaylord Perry, Don Baylor, Steve Garvey and Jose Canseco.
Principe admitted that younger attendees might remember Canseco more for his involvement in MLB's PED scandals than for his playing days. "But that adds another dimension to the event," said Principe.
"We're expecting a good turnout," said Principe. "We've done a lot of press, a lot of marketing. Big on Twitter and social media. We want to build this for years to come and expand into Florida where the Grapefruit League is based, We want to create a real lasting property."
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