Of all the “Halls of Fame” sports, baseball has arguably the most well-known and perhaps the most remote. The village of Cooperstown, New York doesn’t have the benefit of a cosmopolitan city like Toronto (as does hockey) or Charlotte (as does NASCAR) or a major artery running through it (as does Basketball) or a thriving resort city (as does tennis). Even football, in Canton, Ohio, has more than a few cities in the general vacinity. Yet baseball continues to grow and thrive and find new ways to expand its brand well beyond its walls and as a destination for all things baseball.
All summer the Hall of Fame has worked to create well orchastrated programs that will bring youth and senior events not just to the Hall, but to play on legendary Doubleday Field. The Hall takes a proactive approach in creating programs that touch every aspect of the baseball, not just as a sport but as a historic and thriving lifestyle activity. In recent years it has taken on a roadshow with museums around the country, and hosts Hall-related events in many key cities to bring the building and the history of the sport to life for people who may not make it to upstate New York. They have also started series’ of activities that connect popular culture and the Hall together, whether they are film festivals or book readings, all to make sure that the message of the Hall as a cultural phenomenon is conveyed to both the casual fan and the traveller.
The latest move toward looking at bigger picture exposure came this week, when it was announced that music legend John Fogerty would perform at this year’s enshrinment ceremony. The challenges of the economy and the shrinking list of print publications has given enshrinement weekend some issues in recent years, and this years small class (which includes only one elected player, Andre Dawson, being enshrined) could have presented even more angst for the shrine of baseball. However the continued look for more touch points produced Fogerty, whose legendary “Center Field” is one of the sports anthems, will give the weekend both added awareness and much more buzz. Will it lead to more interest and cache for the Hall of Fame? Yes. Will it help bring in more co-funded programs from corporate partners? Maybe. Does it keep the Baseball Hall of Fame as close to top of mind year round, or at a time when people are making their casual travel plans? Absolutely. Is the Hall a driving force to keep baseball relevant to a large fan base with many choices for discretionary spending? No question.
At a time when many historic spots are cutting back in access and programs, the Baseball Hall of Fame is pushing forward with new platforms, ideas and touch points that can grow its footprint and bring new fans to the sport not just today but well into the future. Exciting stuff and very smart business.