Baseball giveaways that pack a wallop

Baseball giveaways that pack a wallopAs I stuffed my free "Let's Go Mets!" beach towel into my backpack after Sunday's game at Citi Field, I pondered the price of a silk-screened strip of terrycloth and figured it probably paled next to the $60 I just dropped on food and beer. Then I turned to the bigger picture. Which Major League Baseball giveaways are really worth something? This WalletPopper combed the websites of every MLB team and came up with some of the top values.

Just so I wouldn't operate in a vacuum, I called Maury Brown, the founder and president of the Biz of Baseball, to second my choices. He researches this kind of stuff all the time. "Promotions for the most part are designed by the club to get people to come out to the ballpark to spend money," he told WalletPop. "If they can minimize the money spent on promotion and get people to come out, all the better."

Still, we found a few solid contenders far beyond the usual key rings, bobbleheads and fridge magnets.

1. IBEW Local 98 Charlie Manuel Louisville Slugger Bat Day, July 6, at Citizens Bank Park, Philadelphia. Bat giveaways have mostly gone the way of flannel uniforms, but the Phillies are welcomed holdouts. The 30-inch genuine wood bat features the name and signature of Philadelphia's beloved manager, Charlie Manuel. A Louisville Slugger youth bat online can run $29.99.

2. Coca-Cola Value Night, Aug. 13, Minute Maid Park, Houston. This is the kind of value that shows someone in MLB is paying attention to the recession: Four tickets, four hot dogs, four bottles of Coke, four Astros hats, all for $65. All fans have to do is bring in a marked 2-liter bottle of Diet Coke or Coke Zero. The Astros tout it as a $140 value. The math adds up. Bargain packs are gaining steam, Brown said, especially for struggling teams. "The Astros have been highly aggressive in marketing," he said.

3. Tampa Bay Rays Concert Series, selected dates, Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg, Fla. These postgame performances will save you hundreds of dollars in tickets: Dierks Bentley on June 12, Barenaked Ladies on June 26, the Go-Go's on July 10, Adam Lambert on Sept. 18, and Bret Michaels (on schedule despite a recent stroke) on Sept. 25. John Fogerty, Nelly and Hall and Oates already played dates. Think fans haven't noticed? Last year the Rays averaged 23,147 fans per game. For the concert dates they averaged more than 30,000, the team's website said.

4. Universal Studios Hollywood Kids Free Days, May 22, June 6, Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles.
Every kid who attends gets free admission to Universal Studios Hollywood with each paid adult admission. The days have passed for this season, but Angelenos should keep them in mind for next year. A standard Universal Studios one-day pass for children 3 and up now costs $69.

The glut of promotions at both the Major and minor league level is no accident. The strategy works. An academic study showed that the Cincinnati Reds increased their attendance by an average of 17.5% every time they offered an incentive.

Brown said he has tried for years to make MLB teams reveal how much the various promotions cost but to no avail. WalletPop did some quick research for a possible ballpark figure on T-shirts.Quality Logo Products, a company randomly selected by WalletPop, sells T-shirts for $2.06 each in bulk requests over 1,000. Let's say you target the first 10,000 kids 14 and under for Corny Cornflakes Steroid-Free T-Shirt Day. That's a $20,600 T-shirt tab plus silkscreening costs. A drop in the big-league bucket.

Give us the bat any day.
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