Next month, Major League Baseball plans a big promotion
for the upcoming blockbuster "Spider-Man 2."
Marvel Studios and Columbia Pictures, the makers of the
movie, are paying a reported $3.6 million to put Spidey's logo
on the pitching mounds and on-deck circles before games, hand out Spider-Man masks, run TV ads and show highlights from the film on video
boards in big league stadiums for three days.
The moviemakers and baseball folks
also wanted to put four-inch-square Spidey logos
on the bases during games, but fans got
so mad about this that the
idea was tossed out.
Baseball executives think movie tie-ins are a great way to get kids interested in baseball. Bob DuPuy, MLB's president and chief operating officer, said, "We think this is a terrific promotion for Major League Baseball and Columbia Pictures, and a great way to reach out to children and families."
I'm not so sure.
I know that fewer kids are playing baseball and that lots of kids say they like soccer, basketball and even swimming more than the national pastime. But using ballparks to promote silly summer movies is not the way to get kids revved up about the game. It is, however, a good way to get folks excited about "Spider-Man 2" and put more money in the pockets of baseball's already wealthy owners. If MLB is serious about getting kids interested in baseball, I have some ideas:
* Schedule more playoff and World Series games in the afternoon so that kids can actually watch them. Every year, the biggest games of the season start so late on school nights that the game's future fans are fast asleep. How many kids were allowed to stay up for all 10 innings of last year's classic Red Sox-Yankees seventh game?
* Put baseball's Game of the Week on television every Saturday and keep it there. Just when the division and wild-card races are heating up in September, baseball goes off network TV and lets college and pro football take over. If baseball officials want kids to get excited about their game, they have to show kids the most exciting games.
* Speed it up. Lots of kids think baseball is boring because it's slow. The game will never have the nonstop action of soccer, basketball or lacrosse, but it could be faster with one simple change: The batter should not be allowed to leave the batter's box during his at-bat. Period. No more fiddling with batting gloves or endless practice swings. Let's play ball.
* Support youth baseball leagues and groups that fix up fields. If kids don't get a chance to play baseball, chances are they won't become fans. Here in the Washington area, the folks at Fields of Dreams raise money to fix up and maintain baseball fields, including the new Jackie Robinson Field at Kimball Elementary School in the District.
I know that MLB has given money to groups such as Fields of Dreams, but it should do more. Heck, if MLB promised to give most of the bucks it's getting from "Spider-Man 2" to people working to help kids love baseball, I'd let them put the Spidey logo anywhere they want.
Even on the bases.
Fred Bowen writes KidsPost's Friday sports column and is the author of sports novels for kids.