Rays have a fresh, creative marketing plan

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zztop-100316.jpgYou have to admire the Tampa Bay Rays. They are the little engine that could, the young kid who stood up to the neighborhood bullies of the AL East and delivered a few bloody noses on the way to the 2008 World Series.

But despite the team’s recent run of success, the Rays have had a hard time drawing fans to the Trop, averaging just more than 23,000 fans per game in 2009, which ranked 23rd out of the 30 teams.

In order to inspire the masses and convince them that watching baseball in a tomb is a good idea, the club has come up with an aggressive marketing plan that includes advertisements with snappy drum music, an official team drink (Raytini, anyone?) and much, much more.

Take it away, Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times:

Come to Tropicana Field, the pitch goes, and the Rays promise an afternoon or evening of fresh giveaways, creative T-shirts, teenager specific hangouts, local entertainment, post-game fireworks and some well known Saturday night concerts with bands that range from ZZ Top to The Go-Go’s.

I’m all for fresh giveaways, and nothing sounds more thrilling than a creative T-shirt, particularly if it comes launched from a fresh and creative T-shirt cannon. I’m even willing to brave the side effects of smoke inhalation — Raytini in hand — to take in an indoor fireworks show.

But I have a problem with the Rays’ choice of post-game musical entertainment. ZZ Top? The Go-Gos? Is that really the best they can do? Given that St. Petersburg is often referred to as “God’s waiting room,” I question the wisdom of booking such contemporary acts.

Pat Boone, who is apparently among the new wave of BALCO clients, would seem a better choice for the fan base. And he’s available

Are you on Twitter? You can follow Bob here, and get all your HBT updates here.

Mike Piazza presided over the destruction of a 100-year-old soccer team

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Mike Piazza was elected to the Hall of Fame in January of 2016 and inducted in July of 2016. In between those dates he purchased an Italian soccer team, A.C. Reggiana 1919, a member of Italy’s third division. In June of that year he was greeted as a savior in Reggio Emilia, the small Italian town in which the team played. He was the big American sports star who was going to restore the venerable club to its past and rightful place of glory.

There were suggestions by last March that things weren’t going well, but know we know that in less than two years it all fell apart. Piazza and his wife Alicia presided over a hot mess of a business, losing millions of dollars and, this past June, they abruptly liquidated the club. It is now defunct — one year short of its centennial — and a semipro team is playing in its place, trying to acquire the naming rights from Piazza as it wends its way though bankruptcy.

Today at The Athletic, Robert Andrew Powell has a fascinating — no, make that outrageously entertaining — story of how that all went down from the perspective of the Piazzas. Mostly Alicia Piazza who ran the team in its second year when Mike realized he was in over his head. She is . . . something. Her quotes alone are worth the price of admission. For example:

Alicia, who refers to Mike’s ownership dream as “his midlife crisis,” offered up a counter argument.

“Who the f**k ever heard of Reggio Emilia?” she asked. “It’s not Venice. It’s not Rome. My girlfriend said, and you can quote this—and this really depressed me. She said, ‘Honey, you bought into Pittsburgh.’ Like, it wasn’t the New York Yankees. It wasn’t the Mets. It wasn’t the Dodgers. You bought Pittsburgh!”

In their Miami living room, Mike tried to interject but she stopped him.

“And imagine what that feels like, after spending 10 million euros. You bought Pittsburgh!”

At this point it may be worth remembering that Piazza is from Pennsylvania. Eastern Pennsylvania to be sure, but still.

Shockingly, it didn’t end all that well for the Piazzas in Reggio Emilia:

One week later, the Piazzas returned to Reggio Emilia, and were spotted at the team offices. More than a hundred ultras marched into the office parking lot, chanting and demanding answers. Carabinieri—national police aligned with the military—showed up for the Piazzas’ safety. The police advised the Americans to avoid the front door of the complex and exit through the back. Mike assured them it wouldn’t be necessary—he had always enjoyed a good relationship with the fans.

The carabinieri informed him that the relationship had changed. The Piazzas slipped out the back door, under police escort.

The must-read of the week. Maybe the month. Hell, maybe the year. The only thing I can imagine topping it is if someone can tell this story from the perspective of the people in Reggio Emilia. I’m guessing their take is a bit different than the Piazzas.