PR at the bat: Heartwarming or stunt?

by Sean Ryan

(Editor’s Note:  Sean is a long-time Hodger who played collegiate baseball and runs a college baseball website.  He also is a high school head coach (Benedictine) and manages our growing number of sports-related clients.)

The sporting world has taken a hit the past couple months in terms of public relations.

Lance Armstrong, cycling’s hero, was given a ban for life. The NHL – which I must confess grabs my attention for about an hour a year – is in the midst of its second lockout in eight years. The NFL’s “shield” has been beaten and battered for 1) its confounding assumption that replacement referees with entry-level experience could manage America’s most popular sport and 2) even more perplexing handling of the situation as it deteriorated right before our eyes. And the NBA, well, it’s the NBA, where Jim Rome’s dustup with commissioner David Stern was as entertaining as Miami claiming a crown.

Today, sports fans received a welcome break.

Greenberg after being hit by a pitch in 2005.
Courtesy Miami Herald

During the first hour of Today, Matt Lauer interviewed former Chicago Cubs major leaguer Adam Greenberg. What made it unique was that Greenberg was a major leaguer for all of one pitch – a pitch that caromed off his head, seemingly ending his dreams of a career in the big leagues in 2005. After feeling the effect of the injury for years, Greenberg made his way back into baseball and played for the Israeli national team in the recent World Baseball Classic.

Meanwhile, a filmmaker named Matt Liston had been conducting an online campaign – One At Bat – pushed for someone to give Greenberg the at-bat and chance of a lifetime that was taken away from him seven years ago.

The Miami Marlins, who themselves have endured a rocky season both in the standings and in the public eye, rose to the occasion. They contacted Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig, who has to be chuckling at some of the PR nightmares his fellow commissioners have created. Selig gave the Marlins approval to sign Greenberg to a one-day contract.

Greenberg, appearing on Today, got the news this morning: On Oct. 2, he will be a member of the Marlins and will get his one at-bat.

There are times when pulling a PR stunt is just that, a stunt. This isn’t one of those times.

The Today segment was emotional and brilliant, a nice boost for morning’s longtime news leader that has hit tougher times. The Marlins and Major League Baseball teamed up for a heart-felt gesture that creates excitement on the eve of its playoffs. And a player, whose dream ended seven years ago, will get a second chance.

On Tuesday, I’ll be a Marlins fan.

 

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