Prospect Pad a Gear Haven for All-Star Future Game Players
Ahead of MLB’s star-studded Futures Game during All-Star Game weekend in Washington, D.C., Baseball America’s Prospect Pad introduced the two rosters of players to a bounty of free gear, courtesy of Louisville Slugger, Wilson gloves and EvoShield.
“Yeah, it is amazing,” says Taylor Trammell, outfield prospect for Cincinnati. “I love free bats, free book bags. I’m loving it.”
Players walked into the Prospect Pad space in the same downtown hotel they stayed in ahead of the July 15 Futures Game at Nationals Park, some wowed by the event and others just taking it all in.
Louisville Slugger was giving each player a commemorative Futures Game bat with their name on it, while Wilson was giving their “staff” players a commemorative glove and EvoShield had special All-Star weekend elbow and leg shields for every player who walked into the pad.
“Anytime you get free stuff (it is exciting),” says Ke’Bryan Hayes, third base prospect for the Pirates, “and it is great to get stuff you can’t get unless you are here.”
For Futures Game players, the idea of brands handing out free gear isn’t new. But it isn’t always commonplace, either. Fernando Tatis, Jr., Padres infield prospect, says he doesn’t know if he is quite used to the feeling. “It is fun, I like it,” he says.
Tatis Jr., who still doesn’t have a bat deal, but has signed for gloves and cleats, says signing deals isn’t a stressful process. “It is just fun to get free stuff that you wear while playing the game you love,” he says.
“You get used to it, but it is still fun,” Trammell says. “You have to take it as a blessing. It is really fun to see that guys see I am loving playing the game.”
Every athlete who walked into the Prospect Pad received a custom commemorative Louisville Slugger bat, painted blue and white and with their name on it. The four Future Game athletes signed to Louisville Slugger—along with two professional players in the All-Star Game—also received a special hand-painted bat, a collaboration with Jeremy Mitchell. Along with the six special bats for professionals, Louisville Slugger created 50 of the MLB Prime Louisville Slugger-turned bats painted by Mitchell. The $300 bat will become available to the public July 16.
For the Futures players, Louisville Slugger says not only do they want to show appreciation to their contract players, but use the event as an opportunity to meet with young players and tell them about the product. Along with the commemorative bat given to each athlete, Slugger staff was on hand to show off the 18 pro models and take orders from athletes interested in trying a new bat.
“It is an opportunity for us to meet with a lot of the best young players in the game and educate them on wood bats,” says Joey Nowak, Wilson associate marketing manager. “We don’t get to see these guys and even at spring training we might not catch them. It is a good opportunity to meet with these guys that you might not see and talk to them about our product.”
With many of the guys not yet signed to a bat deal, quite a few Futures Game players were ordering custom bats.
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When players receive that commemorative bat, it can prove a special moment, whether Futures players or MLB All-Stars. “It is a really special thing to see when you have a 10-time All-Star just get geeked out by the look of a really, really cool All-Star Game bat with his name on it,” Nowak says.
Wilson gloves also used the opportunity to hand out commemorative A2000 1786 models to their contract players while giving away hats and shirts and talking gloves with the other players.
Wilson glove guru Shigeaki Aso, who designed his first glove for Wilson, the 1786, in 1986, was on hand to meet with players and chat design. “I like to find out what they like in gloves,” Aso says. “I’ll show them whatever they like.”
“Aso is a guy I’ve seen a lot on social media,” Hayes says. “He is very famous and I finally got to meet him. Oh yeah, definitely a great experience.”
Riley Wancket, EvoShield associate marketing manager, brought with him a limited-edition red, white and blue version of both the elbow and leg guards. With special “USA” and “World” straps, they EvoShield team was on hand to hand out the D.C.-only gear and fit the players. Using a gel-to-shell technology that hardens as air mixes with the guards, forming the guard to each player on site helped create the custom fit. “No matter what, the guard will fit around anybody’s arm or leg,” says Wancket.
For EvoShield, the Prospect Pad offers a chance to introduce batting protection, along with the brand, to players. As the official protective gear supplier of MLB, EvoShield wants players to see them as a big-time player in the industry. “From a protection standpoint, some guys are still not too big on using protection when batting,” Wancket says. “We want them to try our stuff to realize it is not that cumbersome or uncomfortable. It doesn’t get in the way.”
Bo Bichette, Blue Jays shortstop prospect, a Wilson and EvoShield contract player, says he enjoyed receiving the new EvoShield gear for the Futures Game. “They are the best at what they do and make it so easy to fit,” he says. “They make some cool stuff too.”
For Andrew Kninzer, Cardinals prospect and late add to the game, the entire process was pretty special. “This is a great experience,” Kninzer says, “I’m just taking it all in.”
Tim Newcomb covers gear and business for Baseball America. Follow him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb.