Daily Record Business Writer
May 28, 2009 8:21 PM
It’s Matt Wieters time, Hon.
Friday night’s anticipated debut of baseball’s top prospect in a Baltimore Orioles jersey has elicited a frenzy of chatter and excitement among fans and media — and it’s a buzz the team and quick-thinking entrepreneurs are hoping to cash in on.
“Clearly for someone who’s yet to have an at-bat in the major leagues, the hype is enormous,” said Orioles spokesman Greg Bader.
One Web site, MattWietersFacts.com, run by Daniel Moroz and Ian Oland, has been averaging 3,500 hits a day and 1,400 unique visitors since the Orioles President of Baseball Operations Andy MacPhail announced Wieters’ call-up during the Tuesday night game’s broadcast.
“It’s been really, really nuts,” said Oland, 24, a graphic designer in Columbia and author of the I Never Stop Designing blog. “I think the better he plays the better our traffic is going to be.”
Moroz, who also authors the Frost King Baseball blog, created the Web site during spring training this year. Oland began designing Wieters T-shirts several weeks ago in anticipation of the rookie’s expected call-up.
Six T-shirt designs are sold through SpreadShirt.com for $15 or $20 apiece. Sales have gone from almost no interest to about 40 orders placed in the last few days.
Moroz and Oland make a commission of $4 or $5, depending on the shirt, and more designs are on their way said Oland.
On the team’s side, ticket sales for this weekend’s home stand against the Detroit Tigers have spiked, according to Bader. While he didn’t predict a sellout, he said the team expects long lines at the ticket windows this weekend and crowded stands.
It’s a much-needed bump for Camden Yards, which is averaging an attendance of 21,162 per game. That’s down 16 percent from last year’s average of 25,283 through 25 games. Attendance for Major League Baseball overall is down about 4.5 percent this year.
Mark Westerman, founder of West33 Consulting, said that bump could carry over into the next few weeks.
“It’s warmer now, the weather’s better so attendance should pick up in general anyway and certainly having Wieters coming on Friday for the weekend series certainly lends itself to putting people in seats,” he said. “I think you’ll start to see people coming to the game and checking things out for a while, win or lose.”
But those expecting a lot of fanfare and Wieters paraphernalia to accompany the crowds this weekend will have to wait.
Oland and Moroz said they were too surprised by this week’s announcement to plan something for Friday (most media reports predicted the 23-year-old catcher would be called up in mid-June). But, they are organizing a “Matt Wieters Facts Day” for the June 27 game, and plan to have a section filled with Wieters tees.
On the team’s side, Bader said they are going to let the rookie adjust to Baltimore before the promoting begins. While the team will likely have a ticket package and Wieters promotion in the near future, his debut is selling itself.
“There’s a lot of buzz around it that doesn’t even need additional promotion on our part,” he said. “We don’t want to put added pressure on him — obviously a lot is expected from the fans and the organization but we think Matt will handle that.”
That’s the smart call, said Susan Goodell, senior director at Baltimore marketing firm Warschawski.
“I think letting the natural excitement bubble is good,” she said. “I wouldn’t recommend they do Matt Wieters T-shirt day in the next week or so because that can then be a joke that’s embarrassing if he’s a bust. But if opening day next year is Matt Wieters bobble-head day, I wouldn’t be surprised.”
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