By: Cory Vest
The face of baseball is up for grabs. The NFL has linked itself to the names and mugs of Tom Brady, Odell Beckham Jr., and Rob Gronkowski. The NBA naturally laid claim to Lebron James as their poster child. The face sells the sport. The face creates headlines and draws the eyes. When the spotlight burns hot, the face throws on some sun-glasses and gets his tan on. So, who does that for the MLB?
Two names make their way to the front of the tongue, eager to leave the mouth. Mike Trout and Bryce Harper satisfy the requirements, as Trout is likeable, extremely talented, and a man of the people. Harper can be fiery, shows more emotion, and knows how to stir things up. Neither has failed to perform as baseball’s recognizable stars, but neither has necessarily excelled at it either. Though the names bear recognition from those familiar with the sport of baseball and maybe a few beyond that realm, they do not readily ring a bell at the rate of names in other major sports.
ESPN recently released a list of the 100 most famous athletes from around the world. The list was composed using internet searches, endorsements, and social media following. Names such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Lebron James, Lionel Messi, and Roger Federer topped the list. Soccer, NBA, and NFL stars littered the list; names from golf, track, and tennis made plenty of appearances as well. Missing from the list were stars who apparently carry a big bat but speak too softly. Although able to hit the long ball, bring the fans to their feet, and create headlines, Trout and Harper’s brand is not flying off the shelves. The fault cannot land squarely on the broad shoulders of the athletes, the MLB is to be blamed as well. A lack of knowledge and/or ability to promote and endorse its stars is a contributor to the MLB’s lack of popularity.
Options are on the rise for the MLB, as young faces are distinguishing themselves amongst the crowd. 25-year old Aaron Judge and 21-year old Cody Bellinger, are Trout and Harper’s cavalry. A beast of a man, Judge stands at 6’7” and 280 lbs. His huge frame produces unmatched power as his home runs set records for speed and distance. Taking the Bronx by storm, a section of the bleachers has been designated as the Judge’s chambers. His last name lends itself to witty headlines. The pinstripes that adorn his tree like stature are iconic, and have earned a spot among the MLB’s top echelon of teams. A franchise rich with history and success, Judge’s ability to excel in its lineup creates a silver plate that is ready to serve up popularity.
Cody Bellinger bleeds blue in the National League. The LA on his cap derives its origins from Brooklyn. The Dodgers’ franchise has become popular thanks to its history in the league and its high percentage of success as well. Bellinger has stormed onto the scene for the boys in blue; the Dodgers’ record has rapidly improved since Bellinger joined the lineup. Although Bellinger’s average could use some help, his ability to hit them beyond the fences does not.
As the NLF and NBA continue to milk their respective stars for viewership and money, the MLB is still learning how to properly pull the strings of the puppet. It is not for a lack of selection, for the pool of possibility is getting deeper. A failure to execute seems to be at the forefront of reasons why the MLB was not represented on ESPN’s ‘World Fame 100’ list.
Baseball may not be as appealing to the masses as the hard-hitting NFL, or fast pace of the NBA, but home runs can be sexy and diving catches can drop jaws. Money is out there for the MLB and increased viewership is a real possibility. Utilizing the talent at hand, the face of baseball needs to take shape for the MLB.