MLBPA promotion sets participation record

The Major League Baseball Players Association’s Baseball Card Clubhouse program established a record for participation in October, as nearly 2,400 kids took part in its baseball card collecting seminars around the country. That smashed the previous single-month record of 1,477 kids, set last March.

The Clubhouse program, in which scout troops and other youth groups visit hobby shops to receive free baseball cards and learn the basics of starting a collection, is in its fifth year. Evan Kaplan, the MLBPA’s category director for trading cards and memorabilia, said almost 1,500 kids are scheduled to attend events each month from November through April of next year. He said more than 35,000 kids have attended collecting seminars since the program’s inception.

“For the past three years, our surveys have shown a remarkable consistency in that each store event averages 19.6 kids,” Kaplan said. “To bring in 20 kids to a store is a great opportunity for these shops. And the feedback we’re getting is these kids, and their parents, come back again after that initial visit. So it’s effective and it’s driving sales.”

Every youngster who participates receives two free packs of cards, a mini-binder and an introductory guide to collecting. Hobby shop owners offer a basic discussion on card collecting, using a discussion guideline provided by the MLBPA.

By participating in the events and building a themed collection of cards, scouts can receive a merit badge for collecting. This year, a special uniform patch was created with the Baseball Card Clubhouse logo. “The scouts really get into collecting these patches, so it has been another way to drive kids to come into the shops,” Kaplan said. “We’re hearing that the patches have been a great addition to the program.”

Even though the program has been around for five years, Kaplan said some hobby retailers are just learning about it. “We had a retailer in Kansas contact us who had never heard of the promotion,” he said. “Next month, he’s going to have 150 kids coming into his shop over the next month for the program. He’s thrilled.”

The MLBPA continues to promote the Clubhouse program through ads in Boys Life and Scouting magazine. Kaplan said the only drawback to the promotion is finding enough stores to accommodate each scout troop that wants to participate.

“We have more than 480 stores signed up to offer the promotion, but the reality is we need more,” Kaplan said. “This year, if a troop doesn’t have a store in their area, we’re now offering to send the materials direct to the troop leader’s home, and then including coupons that can be used at whatever the closest hobby shop might be.”

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