Business Beat: Sept. 6

There likely aren’t too many forums beyond the realm of minor league baseball where a presentation on topics such as beer vending secrets from Japan would draw a crowd of distinguished executives.

However when the folks from Plan B. Branding take the podium to discuss “promotional ideas we smuggled from Japanese baseball” at Minor League Baseball’s Promotional Seminar later this month, more than just a few team representatives are certain to be in the audience taking notes.

What began in 1974 as an idea by longtime minor league executive Jim Paul to bring together baseball executives for a casual meeting to share ideas has grown into a must-attend event for anyone in the business.

“You’re going to walk away with at least one idea that is going to make you 10 times the cost of admission to the event,” said Jill Rusinsko, the event’s organizer and Minor League Baseball’s manager of special operations and charity events.

The event moves to Birmingham, Ala., on Sept. 26-28. This list of speakers include some of the best in the business on a variety of subjects. Longtime major league executive Roland Hemond will share “timeless ideas from a baseball legend,” while Chattanooga general manager Frank Burke will discuss “more dumb stuff that works and sells tickets.”

And then there is Plan B’s Jason Klein and Casey White, who recently traveled to Japan to help a team market its star player. Along the way they picked up several tidbits from the unique aspects of Japanese baseball that they believe will transfer nicely onto the minor league baseball scene.

“There are some gems in there that I think on the surface that most Americans would discredit as being silly, but with retooling we think there are some hot ideas that could sweep the nation, or at least minor league baseball,” Klein said.

Klein was willing to share one idea they picked up: “the keg vendor.” Rather than have beer vendors carry cases of beer, Japanese teams have adopted a keg that vendors strap to their back. When they come across a patron, they simply pull out a tap from a side holster and pour a fresh draft beer.

“Think ‘Ghost Busters,’ but with beer kegs strapped to your back,” he said.

The Fight Of His Life

Ed Randall has managed to put into put into perspective his quest to help raise money and awareness to fight prostate cancer.

“There is nothing I am going to do in my life that is more important than this,” said the longtime sports radio personality who hosts shows on New York’s WFAN and MLB Radio.

Randall is a prostate cancer survivor’"and feels lucky to be able to say that. He was diagnosed soon after a regular check-up, news he received while covering the Yankees victory parade after beating the Braves in the World Series in 1999. “Maybe this is why I survived. Maybe this is it,” he said.

Ed Randall’s Bat For The Cure is the work he speaks of, a charity that has raised roughly $300,000 and preached early-detection as the biggest preventative measure for the disease that is the second-largest killer of men in America.

Randall has teamed up with 75 minor league baseball teams to host prostate cancer awareness nights’"passing out vouchers for free testing. He hopes to become an official charity of Minor League Baseball and will be at the Winter Meetings to line up more events with leagues and teams not yet on board.

“I have become the car alarm you can’t turn off when it comes to this,” Randall said.

Waving Goodbye

The Orioles of the 1970s and ’80s had a built-in promotion in section 34 of Memorial Stadium’s upper deck.

His name was Wild Bill Hagy, a cowboy-hat- wearing attraction who used to rally Orioles fans by spelling out the team name with his body.

Hagy recently passed away at the age of 68. Renowned for sitting with his buddies and a cooler of beer, Hagy helped personify the “Orioles Magic” era as a fan who doubled as an in-house entertainer.

The Orioles displayed a video tribute and held a moment of silence at a recent game for the man who kept Memorial Stadium anything but quiet by entertaining fans and players alike.

Former Orioles catcher Rick Dempsey, who often joined Hagy on top of the team’s dugout to lead cheers, told the Baltimore Sun that if he felt the crowd needed a lift, he would signal Hagy down from the upper deck by waving a towel in the dugout.

“I just remember how much control he had over the crowd,” Dempsey said. “In an era when the Orioles were on fire, he turned the crowd on fire. He was a huge part of the Orioles Magic era.”

Added Hagy’s longtime friend, Wayne Kaider: “He’d say he was just going to get a beer or go to the bathroom but then, all of a sudden, you’d see him up on the dugout leading cheers.”