The Sunday ahead of MLB’s All-Star Game offers baseball lovers a chance to focus on the game’s rising stars with the annual Futures Game. And the Saturday before they take the field, some of the game’s biggest brands focus squarely on those players with the Baseball America Prospect Pad.
In what has turned into a much-anticipated event, Baseball America and the Wilson brand of baseball products, which includes Wilson Gloves, Louisville Slugger and EvoShield, team up to turn the Prospect Pad into an environment of celebration for the game’s younger players.
“It is by far the best touch point for seeing, talking to and working with the best young players in baseball,” says Joey Nowak, Wilson associate marketing manager, about Prospect Pad. “There are so many minor league teams and players it is so difficult to see them all after Spring Training. The Prospect Pad is the singular beset opportunity for us to see those top minor league ballplayers we don’t get see very often.
“Those guys are every bit as worth of our attention and our product and it is such a great even to be able to get everybody in a room together to celebrate their success. The weekend is very much about them and the Prospect Pad is very fitting of that. We really appreciate the opportunity get to see those guys every year and looking back it is incredible to see the names that have gone through the pad. We look forward to it every summer.”
The players love it too, with the love brought by the three brands. The Prospect Pad on July 6 offers a place for players to visit with the brands, grab refreshments and settle in ahead of the game. Every year the brands take a slightly different tact with the gear they bring for the players, tweaking it based on the current trends in the sport and the city hosting All-Star Game festivities.
This year, with Cleveland as the host city, Louisville Slugger has especially embraced the intersection of baseball and rock ‘n’ roll by collaborating with Fender guitars to build a Fender bat that mimics the iconic three-tone sunburst of their Stratocaster guitar. The bat takes on a mirror look of that sunburst design, complete with both the Louisville Slugger and Fender logos.
Every Futures player will receive this collector’s item personalized for them — “we hope,” Nowak says, “they hold on to these to commemorate playing in the game.”
Then, for the players already on contract with Louisville Slugger, the brand has created a customized Louisville Slugger guitar the players receive as an additional gift.
Wilson, as they have done for years, has created a commemorative A2000 glove that highlights the themes and looks of the All-Star Game and city colors. Wilson will give the glove out as a gift to its contract players. EvoShield will outfit the players with custom protection gear available to be worn in the game the following day. Each of the brands also has additional gifts, whether shirts or hats.
Last year in Washington, D.C., Cincinnati prospect Taylor Trammell called the Prospect Pad an “amazing” experience and said he loved receiving the free gear.
“Anytime you get free stuff (it is exciting),” Ke’Bryan Hayes, third base prospect for the Pirates, said last year in D.C. “And it is great to get stuff you can’t get unless you are here.”
“It is terrific swag,” Nowak says. “These are tremendous, one-of-a-kind unique gift items, but also a lot of really high-end gear. It is really appropriate coming from these brands that are outfitting players with high-end gear all the time.”
In D.C. last year, then a prospect and now a big-leaguer for the Padres, Fernando Tatis Jr. said the atmosphere was enjoyable. “It is just fun,” he said, “to get free stuff that you wear while playing the game you love.”
Tim Newcomb covers gear and business for Baseball America. Follow him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb.