With Major League Baseball’s 2003 attendance making no gains on 2002′s drastic drop of 6.1%, America’s favorite pastime is in serious need of a new generation of fans. With the help of Vancouver animation prodco Studio B, MLB ballparks in Baltimore and Houston are hoping a little cartoon magic will bring more kids out to the old ballgame when the 2004 season starts in April.
For the second year in a row, fans visiting the Baltimore Orioles’ Camden Yards ballpark and the Houston Astros’ Minute Maid Park will get to see entire half-hour episodes of Studio B’s baseball-themed 2-D animated series D’Myna Leagues as part of a pre-game Jumbotron entertainment show starting in June. Both parks tested the concept late in last year’s season, running a D’Myna Leagues episode during the batting practice of two weekend games. Studio B partner Blair Peters, who was on the scene for one of the showings, says that the 15,000 fans in attendance loved having something else to watch while the players warmed up.
To make an even more direct connection with kids, the Orioles aired one of its pre-packaged broadcasts during a 2003 Junior O’s Dugout Club Day, when the team offers steep discounts on kids tickets. Studio B is currently talking to other clubs in the league about centering their kids day pre-game events around D’Myna Leagues.
Studio B hopes to further build the program this year by recruiting inner-city kids teams to hand out D’Myna Leagues baseball cards outside of the Camden Yard and Minute Maid Park stadiums. The printed promo material will advertise the Jumbotron broadcast and also tell viewers when they can catch more episodes of D’Myna Leagues on their local WB channel. Studio B signed a non-exclusive broadcast agreement with WB 100+ last year, and the company is hoping that the cards and on-screen Jumbotron messages will help build the show’s TV audience.
Peters anticipates that more teams will get on-board the D’Myna Leagues program in 2004, thanks to former baseball Hall of Famer and ESPN Baseball Tonight commentator Harold Reynolds, who has helped Studio B secure the support of the Major League Players Association.
Peters plans to use this connection to lobby individual players to appear in a series of PSAs promoting fair play on behalf of the MLPA’s charity, the Players Trust for Children. The plan is to air these shorts on either end of D’Myna Leagues episodes on the Jumbotrons and on local WB affiliates. Peters hypothesizes that players will be more likely to push their home parks to pick up the D’Myna Leagues package if a charity message they support is involved.