Trade show baseball's other high-dollar business


Trade show baseball's other high-dollar business

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) The fluffy green-and-white Phillie Phanatic hat is eye-catching enough. Then, with a simple push of a pump wrapped in red cloth, the furry mascot's red tongue unfurls.

Yes, the Phanatic is sticking its tongue right at you.

``They sell themselves, they really do,'' Rick Maldonado of Forever Collectibles-Team Beans said. ``I mean, there is no pitch behind it. I'm usually wearing it, and I'll talk to my buyers: `Hey, you want something cool?' Then I squeeze it, and then they get that chuckle and it's like, `Wow. What else you guys doing this year?'''

Welcome to the baseball trade show at the winter meetings, where business is everything but the high-profile signing and trading of players.

Companies pitch their wares to both major and minor league teams - from the expected to the outrageous. There are jerseys, T-shirts, trash cans and stadium seating right along with the mascot pump hat that suddenly looks like a must-have item and will be on sale by the time baseball season starts in April.

Collapsible chairs not enough? Now there's a packable coffee table complete with four cup holders for tailgating. New Era's display features a batch of ski caps for the usual cold weather markets like the Minnesota Twins, Boston Red Sox and New York Mets - right alongside one for the Miami Marlins. That white, orange and black knit cap is sure to keep fans snug even on the chilliest of south Florida days.

Hall of Fame pitcher Ferguson Jenkins was among those on the floor Tuesday. He was working the booth for Outbid, an online auction site for autographs and memorabilia in sports, entertainment and other areas. Jenkins was greeting fans, handing out signed balls and pictures.

``This is my first trade show. They have everything here - bats, balls, mascots, everything. It is unbelievable,'' he said.

There's ``The Cleaning Machine'' made by Sonny Cereneka of Hacienda Heights, Calif., that has been helping scrub dirt off practice baseballs for about 35 years. Marilynn Cereneka said the New York Mets told her husband that machine helped save them $22,000 on baseballs back in 2008.

Hungry? Take a walk around the food exhibits with hot dogs, pretzels and candy. For more haute cuisine, try the garlic fries or chipotle chili aioli offered up by Tulkoff Food Products. This is the second year at the winter meetings for the company, Danielle Hauserman said. Tulkoff picked up the Toledo Mud Hens, Daytona Cubs and Greensboro Grasshoppers after their first trade show a year ago.

``We're a way to kind of kick up your burger or hot dog,'' she said.

Game Wear helps baseball fans show their love of the sport using the ball itself for bracelets, key chains, necklaces and even pet leashes and collars. Frank Cerullo Jr. first carved up a baseball while playing in college at George Washington, and the white leather necklace with the red seam stitching proved so popular he went from working in computer technology for a hospital to starting his company in his parents' basement to office space in Hoboken, N.J.

``What makes our product special is the fusion of taking your team, taking the sport and fusing it together, and I feel that's the magic in our product,'' Cerullo said.

Former big league first baseman Pete LaCock also was on hand, representing Zinger bats before he starts managing next year in the independent America West Baseball League.

``These are fun to come to. You see a lot of old friends,'' he said, moments after greeting Cubs bench coach Jamie Quirk, a former Kansas City Royals teammate.

There's so much to see, it can be exhausting.

Luckily, Rawlings Sporting Goods has a big leather chair shaped like a catcher's mitt sitting at the edge of the company's display, which draws people in. Rawlings sells approximately 10 of the chairs each year for $3,200 apiece using the same leather in their gloves as part of a product line that now features luggage and wallets. Names can be monogrammed into the thumb or palm of the chair, too.

Charlette Eastman of American Fork, Utah, whose family recently sold the Zinger Bat Company, sat in the catcher's mitt chair for a much-needed rest after helping promote the company.

``It's wonderful,'' Eastman said. ``I'm just going to see how much I can buy it for.''


AP Baseball Writer Ben Walker contributed to this report.

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Justin Timberlake shows he has game at Wizards practice court

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Justin Timberlake shows he has game at Wizards practice court

Apparently Justin Timberlake is also good at sports. The pop star showed he has a pretty decent jumpshot while playing on the Wizards' practice court on Sunday ahead of his concert at Capital One Arena.


Timberlake knocked down a halfcourt shot and then two three-pointers in a row. It was all shared on video through his Instagram account and then tweeted by the Wizards.


Wizards owner Ted Leonsis was among the many to attend Timberlake's concert and he put out a series of pictures and videos on social media:


Timberlake is also, of course, an NBA owner himself. He holds a minority stake in the Memphis Grizzlies. No wonder he's good at basketball. He can use their practice court any time he wants.

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Three Monday visitors to Redskins Park could determine team's free agency strategy going forward

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Three Monday visitors to Redskins Park could determine team's free agency strategy going forward

The Redskins are having three visitors today in Ashburn. Depending on how they go, they could mostly be done with free agency or still pushing to fill some needs.

They have been making an effort to hire one of the top defensive linemen on the market since before free agency actually started. They had former Jet Muhammad Wilkerson in for a visit last Tuesday, something they could do because Wilkerson had been released. The team put on a good sales push that lasted most of the day, but Wilkerson left without a deal. Shortly after he left he decided to sign with the Packers.

They made runs at Dontari Poe and Sheldon Richardson, but they signed with the Panthers and Vikings, respectively. The prospects were looking slim until the Colts decided to cut Jonathan Hankins on Saturday. He weighs 320 pounds and turned 25 on January 1. Hankins probably isn’t going to make any All-Pro teams or post double-digit sacks, but he will help you stop the run for the next half-decade, at least. In case you haven’t noticed, that’s the Redskins’ biggest defensive problem for the last several seasons.


Hankins is visiting today and he is someone the Redskins would very much like to sign. The other two visitors may be fallback plans.

Cornerback Orlando Scandrick is a veteran who can play in the slot. That is what the Redskins are looking for but Scandrick does not appear to be their first choice. Last week they had former Giants cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie in for an extended visit that included a physical. However, they could not come together on money. Scandrick, who has missed time with injuries in each of the last two years, could be an alternative to Rodgers-Cromartie or it could be that he is being used to put some pressure on the Redskins’ preferred choice.

Edge rusher Pernell McPhee is also clearly a second choice. The Redskins have an offer on the table for Junior Galette to return. He tweeted yesterday that the Redskins were the best fit for him but that the money “has to be fair.”

McPhee has played well but injuries have limited his impact the last two years. He started the 2016 season on injured reserve with a knee injury and he missed a total of seven games. Last year he missed three games with shoulder and knee injuries.


The Redskins likely are interested in McPhee for the right price. That price is considerably less than the $7 million he was going to make from the Bears this year before they let him go on February 26. There does not seem to be a hot market for his services; he has been a free agent for three and a half weeks and this is his first reported visit.

The Redskins would rather bring back Galette, who was much more effective as a pass rusher last year than his three sacks would indicate. But the price has to be right for both sides and apparently there is some work to be done towards working that out.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.