Trevor Williams thought there was no way the Pittsburgh Pirates would cancel his day. In the chaos that followed the outbreak of COWID-19 and the announcement of the postponement of the 2020 baseball season, the starting pitcher initially thought he would have to wait a week or so before giving it away.
“My Rocking Day didn’t take place until late August,” Williams said. “I was like, oh, this is going to be good. It’s not a problem. There’s no way they’re going to stop Star Wars.
Almost 11 months later, when several large pirate chests filled with 200 rolls of what looked like his Stormtrooper gear arrived at his home in Phoenix. The pirates planned to give away 10,000 of them. Most of them, packed in 917 boxes, were in a warehouse in PNC Park. They are now part of a treasure trove of unused promotional items that could cause problems for teams but are unprecedented gifts for fans returning from games.
Because Williams signed a one-year contract with the Chicago Cubs in the offseason instead of the Pirates, it’s hard to reschedule his day in 2021.
The Pirates’ promotional puzzle goes beyond Williams. The team also announced a gift last July for first baseman Josh Bell, who was traded to the Washington Nationals this season. When asked what they had in mind for the remaining merchandise, the Pirates did not come up with a plan – but their situation is far from unique.
When the sports world took a break last spring, Jay Deutsch, CEO of Bensussen Deutsch & Associates (better known as BDA), said his company, which makes most of the promotional rolls for MLB teams, had to switch from distribution to storage. He estimates that about four million bobbleheads that were to be distributed last year are now in stock.
The teams plan to move forward a few months due to the production schedule. Deutsch said that before the pandemic, the BDA was producing items scheduled until May 2020 (plus some for future production, including the Williams attack head).
Fault. Movie no specified.If you’re scoring at home, it’s three big boxes of Trevor Williams dolls wobbling around, piled up in the pitcher’s house in Arizona. That means there are 914 more. Courtesy of Trevor Williams.
“Everything was stuck. There was a lot of “what ifs.” We had to work together to come up with a Plan B, a Plan C and a Plan D. It was about planning scenarios for what was going to happen,” Deutsch said. “In the end, there were no fans. Then it became Plan F, which saved and preserved everything for the next year. Some teams did creative things. Teams always want to bring in fans, but if you don’t have a stadium, it becomes difficult. But for the most part, gift days are saved until 2021.
Deutsch said it was working with MLB to make contingency plans for the distribution of promotional materials scheduled for 2020 that could likely be reused in 2021 and not become obsolete.
“Most teams will try to use the bell in different ways, whether it becomes a collectible or not, and some of it will be donated to charity,” Deutsch said. “A big part of the plan is that they will give it to kids who don’t care about what happened last year. If we have to recycle it, we will at some point.”
The Texas Rangers have a similar problem. Most of the players who were supposed to play in the bobbleheads in 2020, including Mike Minor, Lance Lynn, Corey Kluber, Shin-Soo Choo and Elvis Andrus, are no longer on the roster. Chuck Morgan, executive vice president of presentation, production and promotion for the Rangers, said the backlog has caused storage problems – the Rangers still have more than 10,000 boxes – and has forced the team to get creative. The current plan is to hold raffles every Saturday and Sunday in August and distribute a number of items across several games.
Stable owner Adam Ottavino photographed one of the most surreal seasons in MLB history. He shared some of his favorite photos – and the stories they tell. Jun Lee
“I had to juggle moving Elvis [Andrus] again today, but we’re going to give him away anyway because he’s been so good to the franchise,” Morgan said after Texas gave a popular shortstop to Oakland. “Minor, Lynn and Kluber – they’re being donated on tour, and we’re going to sell them at our table at the Foundation. I’ll stick with Choo, because if he retires, the club will have a day off for him, or if he goes back to another team, we’ll give him away.
Given the oversupply of gifts in all major destinations, Deutsch expects teams to schedule more gift days than usual in 2021, provided that seats do not sell out again.
“If the fans can sit in the stands on opening day, I think it will be a fan year,” Deutsch said. “There will be a lot more giveaways, and a lot of teams plan to use last year’s material as soon as possible in the first half of the season. In the second half, they can do something close to 2021.
With the bobbleheads now in his garage, Williams recently took matters into his own hands by announcing on Twitter that he would be giving away 75 of them to his fans and supporters.
“It was a little disappointing because if you’re really lucky, you get a few days and if you’re lucky, you get one day,” Williams said. “I was excited. My wife doesn’t like that we now have five boxes in the garage just taking up space. My son has already broken four bricks”.
Williams said he had no idea how the Pirates would handle the remaining 9,800 bobbleheads, but doubted they would all eventually find a home.
“I don’t know how they’re going to give almost 10,000,” he said. “But they’ll find a way.”