Orioles RF Nick Markakis decided "not to use his specially made MaxBat black bat with a pink label Sunday" because it did not comply with an MLB policy, according to Dan Connolly of the Baltimore SUN. Markakis, whose mother is a breast cancer survivor, instead "donned pink cleats, pink wristbands and pink batting gloves" as part of the league's effort to raise breast cancer awareness. Yahoo Sports last week reported as part of an agreement between MLB and Louisville Slugger, the bat company has the exclusive use of pink bats with MLB logos. Connolly noted Twins 3B Trevor Plouffe, whose mother "also is a cancer survivor, used his pink-labeled MaxBat" (BALTIMORESUN.com, 5/12). Plouffe on Friday said, "From my understanding, there are certain companies that own the rights to MLB's logo on their stuff. Within that contract, they're the only ones that can distribute pink items for us to use. I just think that that's kind of ridiculous, not just with Louisville Slugger but with all the companies that do that. It's not really about raising brand awareness. It's more about raising awareness for the cause" (FOXSPORTSNORTH.com, 5/10). In DC, James Wagner noted MLB on Friday clarified its policy, saying that pink bats "made by other companies can be used on Sunday as long as the manufacturer makes a 'modest donation'" to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. A league official said that this was the "second year in which pink bats made by companies other than Louisville Slugger could be used on Mother's Day if a charitable donation was made to the Komen foundation." If a player "used a banned bat in a game, the player wouldn't be subject to fines or discipline." However, the bat manufacturer "would be in violation of rules" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 5/12).
Marketing and Sponsorship
WNBA Mercury C Brittney Griner has “generated large-scale excitement that will require the Mercury to strike a delicate balance: using the rookie to promote the league’s fan base without putting too heavy a demand on her broad shoulders,” according to Paola Boivin of the ARIZONA REPUBLIC. The Mercury are “proudly promoting their young star,” as a 77-foot banner of Griner “dunking hangs on the east side of Hotel Palomar in downtown Phoenix until June 10.” The team also has “put together a customized ‘Griner Ticket Pack’ that will allow fans to attend three of the team’s first four games at a discounted price and receive an autographed Griner photo.” Mercury President & COO Amber Cox said, “It speaks to Brittney’s star power and not unlike what Bird and Magic did for the NBA when they joined the league.” Boivin notes the Mercury are in “six of the 14 regular-season games carried by ESPN and ABC.” But the team “must tread carefully.” Putting Griner “out there is one thing,” but “exhausting her is another.” Mercury coach Corey Gaines said, “It’s our responsibility (to keep an eye out for her), but it’s also our responsibility to help the league. And it’s not just Phoenix, it’s not just the WNBA; it’s the world now. The world wants to know about her.” WNBA President Laurel Richie said, “She has an amazing personality. She is funny. She has causes she is passionate about. She has an incredible breadth of interests: skating, kayaking, fishing. Every time I turn around I feel like I’m missing one of her hobbies” (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 5/13).