March 28, 2017

“Minor League: The Road to the Show” and Our 10-year Journey to Nowhere

August 10, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

It’s been brewing for a long time but I think it was this last email I received a couple of weeks ago from a very nice man who works in the office of Minor League Baseball that was the last straw. We met for about an hour and he really was perfectly cordial and attentive. I don’t have any idea what he’s up against or what his true agenda is so I don’t hold him personally responsible for anything other than he was the one who sent me the email that pushed me over the edge I’ve been teetering on for years. Sorry to call you out, man.

When we started putting “Minor League: The Road to the Show” together a decade ago several well-known, former players and MLB executives said it would never work. When we asked why, they quickly said, “Because Major League Baseball is resistant to change and won’t want you to see what goes on behind the scenes in their game.” When we then said we would gladly work with any team and organization to produce a show they would be proud of and would help them attract new fans, they also quickly said, “Doesn’t matter. MLB hates change.”

They were right.

I’m done staying silent and even if it’s likely just for us, I take no joy in saying it’s time to call out MLB for ignoring our concept. Sour grapes? Perhaps. Whining? No way. Not to us, anyway. It’s just time to finally call it like we see it and after 10 solid years of trying everything we can think of and getting nowhere, I think we’ve earned the right. Major League Baseball, specifically the office of the Commissioner of Baseball, talks a good game about wanting to make baseball more accessible to fans, especially kids. But the reality is that MLB, both the intuition, the team owners and who knows how many others who are associated with the sport, are first and foremost seemingly scared of doing anything different than what they’ve been doing for 20 years.

When it comes to promoting the game toward fans, especially youth, MLB has been asleep at the wheel for years and has been unwilling to alter its stodgy, old mindset with regard to how it views entertainment-related marketing and promotions. Instead of doing something new, they do little more than fall back on the ol’ reliable combo of video replays and poorly made on-the-field interviews that ask the same questions over and over and illicit the same responses. Yes, there have been stabs at original content, the apex being “The Franchise.” While this short-lived and drama-laden show had technical merit (something that is easily acquired with money and access), unlike a show like “Hard Knocks” or better yet, “Baseball, Minnesota,” it lacked heart or stakes.

There was nothing compelling about it. Instead, it was intrusive and really not all that interesting so ultimately no one cared. As such, it disappeared—an opportunity squandered. Was “This Week in Baseball” as good as it was ever going to get? Perhaps because at every level we’ve reached out to, every network, every team, “Minor League: The Road to the Show,” an original show intended to combine education and entertainment that could plug in to multiple platforms simultaneously to help harness and push marketing and promotions into the 21st century, has been summarily dismissed.

So, why now? Why dare to call out MLB publically? Simple … we have nothing to lose. Nothing. And even if this letter ticks off someone what are they going to say? Something like; “We’re never going to work with you and we’re never going to do your show.” Yes, that would suck but it really wouldn’t be any different than what we’ve been hearing all along. Look, for 10 years we’ve been on our own, essentially begging and pleading to be heard that what we want to do is legitimate and is in the teams’ and MLB’s best interests. We’ve clearly illustrated how we’re not interested in sensationalism, that “RTTS” can be tailored to be the show the team and /or the league wants and finally, that we’re even willing to hand over editorial control.

We’ve always played it right—professional and respectful—which was the correct thing to do. In that time hundreds of people have been introduced to our concept, have heard our pitch, have read our collateral and watched our videos. I would hope if we have a reputation it would be that we’re good guys who have put together a solid, professional portfolio. There’s a lot to be said for that, but unfortunately it’s just not enough. We simply cannot disappear into the dark without taking a last stand, even if that stand is seen by some as shooting ourselves in the foot. I see it as our finally standing up and saying, “What’s the matter with you? Why don’t you care as much as we do?” Perhaps that’s the tactic that is needed to finally get us and “Road to the Show” noticed.

What you will read below is the email I mentioned. I begin with copying it in its entirety and then after that, key portions with a follow-up comment. Please note that we’ve received many similar emails through the years. There’s nothing particularly new about this one other than it’s the most recent and is the most glaringly negligent and visionless because it comes from an entity, the office of Minor League Baseball (MiLB), who is actively looking to develop original content. I think the fact that they are is what really confuses and confounds me.

Larry: Thanks for reaching out. Our outlook on developing content for MiLB is to have a long term vision that works both for MiLB and our fans as we grow. Your content production idea is interesting and probably one that needs to be told. I appreciate the passion and commitment behind the desire to develop this concept however, we’re interested in producing material (when we begin) developed with our corporate partners in mind that both fulfills their overall goals and objectives while building the value of MiLB for our fans and teams. I feel it would be hasty to simply go out and produce the content series not knowing if there’s an appetite for such story in the marketplace. If we weren’t restricted by budgets, I suggest we produce lots of original content around multiple storylines but of course we don’t have that luxury. I hope this makes sense.

Ok, so let me dissect and disseminate this email for a moment:

  1. “Your content production idea is interesting and probably one that needs to be told…

They admit that “RTTS” is not only a good idea for original content, but one that is also meaningful enough to pursue.

  1. “… We’re interested in producing material (when we begin) developed with our corporate partners in mind that both fulfills their overall goals and objectives while building the value of MiLB for our fans and teams.”

They’re looking to produce content that will allow them to show off their sponsors as well as their goals and objectives which, I would think, is to raise the visibility of the sponsors, the league and the sport while at the same time getting more people to watch and to participate in baseball. Here’s the thing: “Road to the Show” addresses all of these and we’ve made that very clear.

  1. I feel it would be hasty to simply go out and produce the content series not knowing if there’s an appetite for such story in the marketplace. If we weren’t restricted by budgets, I suggest we produce lots of original content around multiple story-lines but of course we don’t have that luxury.”

I was clear when I told them numerous times we’d produce something for free so they can a) have content to use this year; b) use to pitch the corporate sponsors, MLB, etc., before, during and after the Winter Meetings. The only reason it would be hastily done is because the minor league season is over soon—unless, of course, they wanted to wait and do it right next year. I mentioned that, too. Their silence tells me that this is not an option.

  1. “… Our outlook on developing content for MiLB is to have a long term vision that works both for MiLB and our fans as we grow.

“RTTS” is a long-term vision. If the show was done correctly and it was shown to be a success for one team, it’s likely all 29 other teams would want to do it as well, or at least a substantial number of teams. In addition, this platform would allow for many other offshoot possibilities.

  1. I hope this makes sense.

No! Actually it doesn’t make any sense whatsoever! “RTTS” is everything you mention and more! So what’s the problem?!

Deep breath.

There’s always a pattern to this. Everyone likes it and sees the need, yet no one will take the next big step to either hire us to produce the show or even a mini pilot—even when, in this case with MiLB, they would get production and content for free. We couldn’t possibly make it any easier for them. (And Major League Baseball wonders why they can’t attract new fans or catch up to football, basketball or soccer.) We were encouraged when Rob Manfred declared two years ago that Major League Baseball must do a better job of reaching out to fans, especially kids. We have done everything within our limited power to get our proposal to Commissioner Manfred as well as to Joe Torre and others within the MLB offices but to no avail.

Joel Poiley and I still firmly believe this show can create new fans by telling compelling stories that would attract fans of all ages. All we need is the opportunity. And MLB, if you’re reading this, please: if you don’t want to listen to us, a couple of creative working stiffs with no money, then please listen to what kids say when you ask them why they don’t like baseball. You need to get on their level rather than sticking with the status-quo and the out-of- touch executives who have lost touch with their sport—if they even had it in the first place.

So, now what? Rather than end on a low note, I’d like instead to share with you the last letter I wrote several weeks ago and have shared with both our MLB and Milb contacts. In many ways this is the best letter I’ve written in years, perhaps because I personalized it which helps to clearly define not only what it is we’re trying to do, but why and how.

________________________________________________________________

July 2016

Dee Gordon is, or maybe was, my 9-year-old’s favorite baseball player. Jack plays second base and is very fast—just like Dee. At 9 that’s all he needs to know to make that kindred connection. Because Jack watches baseball videos on his iPad on a regular basis, he found out about Dee’s 80 game suspension the day the information was released. I was concerned that his reaction would be one of sadness and disappointment. I was correct.

It’s old news that illegal substance use is hurting the game on many levels, but the one I want to focus on is how it affects kids. I’ve always known this, but now I’m even more motivated to call it out because one of those kids is mine. Commissioner Manfred has made a point of saying how important it is that MLB do a better job of reaching out to youth. While there is a good amount of effort placed on reaching out to inner-city kids, there’s still more that can be done and in a manner that would cast a much wider net; a net built on the concept of how to best reach out to kids. Jack’s age group, roughly 8-14, consumes media differently than any prior generation. Jack is constantly watching baseball videos on his iPad that are mostly comprised of highlight clips. While these are fine, they get old. The digital platform is one that could and should be better utilized.

For 10 years my partner, Joel Poiley, and I have been working to promote our original show, “Minor League: The Road to the Show,” a program intended to focus on the heart, effort and dedication it takes for anyone to become a major league baseball player. We always thought this concept would be something baseball would warmly embrace, especially as the need for content continually increases. However, despite the many years, the thousands of dollars spent and dozens of attempts at contacting MLB teams, the MLB office, the MLB Network and numerous other networks, all we’ve received for our efforts has been silence or “we’re not interested.” This makes no sense to us. With few if any exceptions, there are no television or digital shows to counter all the negative information MLB has become accustomed to having to deal with.

Road to the Show, however, represents an important and needed element to the present and the future of the game. The next generation of fans need to know the positives about the game in a manner that’s just as big if not bigger in scope as the negatives; that far more players work their butts off to make it to the pros than there are players who try to take a short-cut. At its core, that is what Road to the Show is about. We’ve never understood why Major League Baseball wouldn’t see the value in our show or why they won’t support it.

Isn’t it time MLB produce something of significance that Jack and his generation can watch and learn from, to get them inspired to play and to keep playing? Who better to watch, hear and learn from than past and present players and coaches? Road to the Show would be a program all fans could identify with and would turn to—especially Jack and his generation. By working with us to make Road to the Show a reality MLB has nothing to lose and a generation to gain.

We have just about every business and television production-related document needed to help you clearly see what we’re trying to do. We are happy to share these with you but in the meantime, I invite you to check our videos, especially the two sizzle reels: https://vimeo.com/album/2877527 and our FB page: https://www.facebook.com/Minor-League-The-Road-to-the-Show-190027168350/

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely yours,

Larry Richards and Joel Poiley

 

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