Baseballnumbers have come a long way in twenty years. They’ve made Jeremy Brown into a D-list celebrity, driven Steve Garvey to gibbering insanity, and transformed Bert Blyleven into a bearded god-child. But lest you fear that the market inefficiencies have all been made efficient, and that the world is horribly, horribly flat, I present one bastion against common sense: the promotional speaking industry.
Yes, for a trifling sum, you can enlist one of many eager retired or current baseball players to speak at your family barbecue and/or corporate retreat. Do you have strategic branding initiatives that lack a celebrity endorsement to complement it? Fetch your checkbook! But be sure you’re not overpaying for RBIs.
The upper circle – those athletes that cost more than $50,000 an appearance – yields few surprises. Aaron, Mays, Berra, Koufax, Brett, Griffey, Ripken: these are the cream of the crop, true heroes of baseball, men whose table scraps are collectible.
But drop down to the $30,000 level and some surprises appear: Ernie Banks and Nolan Ryan are bargains at this level, especially next to Joe Buck and Terry Francona. And the $20,000 level is even more eclectic, ranging from Yaz, Schmidt and Bench to David Wells and Tino Martinez. (Here, too the pinstripes add a surcharge.)
But even if you’re short on dough, there are some real bargains even as low as $2,500-$5,000. Want to trap Bill Buckner in a room and ask him endless questions about 1986? Get yelled at by Dave Kingman? Ask Dwight Gooden some awkward questions about his personal life? Hire Al Hrabosky and Kent Tekulve to perform “Waiting For Godot”? The world is a playground for the wealthy.
An important detail to remember is that the website doesn’t detail exactly what is required of your athlete once the check is signed. It’s easy to imagine that there’s a certain amount of negotiating room in what gets considered a “speaking event”. For instance, I wouldn’t be surprised that Gorman Thomas, at the right price, would be more than happy to come over and beat the shit out of your neighbor.
So when you’re thinking about paying a middle-aged ex-athlete to come to the local Marriott and discuss synergy with your senior management team, don’t just go for the easy choice. Because for a tenth of what you’d pay to listen to Dave Winfield talk, you could be listening to the sublime beat poetry of this guy: