There's Big Money In Ditching the Dugout Phones

It was just three days ago that the New York Times penned a story on the old dugout phones, telling the tale about how earlier in the year, the phones malfunctioned with the St. Louis Cardinals. Last night, Cardinals bullpen coach Derek Lilliquist didn't tell Jason Motte to warm up on two occasions because he said he didn't hear LaRussa because of crowd noise.

Tony La Russa
Tim Umphrey | Getty Images
Tony La Russa

If they could get rid of the bullpen car, which might have been the coolest thing ever to roll on any field, the dugout phone must be done away with. If you believe LaRussa and Lilliquist's story, these types of things can't happen. But maybe more importantly is the fact that ditching tradition could mean pulling in some massive money. Major League Baseball has 16 official sponsors, and surprise, surprise, not one of them has anything to do with phones.

The NFL has a deal with Verizon worth $720 million and a $250 million deal with Motorola , whose only visibility is on headsets that aren't even sold to the public. Imagine LaRussa picking up a smart phone with a huge logo on it or going into a booth built in each dugout with the company's logo on it to text on it. As part of the deal, that company would get a media buy included that would assure that the TV networks would show the managers making the call.

"There's a really nice opportunity here for baseball to offer seamless integration to a phone brand," said Ben Sturner, CEO of Leverage Agency, a sports sponsorship firm based in New York City. "And the best part about it is, it wouldn't be forced."

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