Asheville Tourists pitch more than balls

MEMORABILIA

April 17, 1994|By Ruth Sadler | Ruth Sadler,Sun Staff Writer

Asheville Tourists merchandising director Eileen Gunzelman Sauders' schools were incorrectly listed last week. She is an alumna of Towson Catholic and Western Maryland.

Marketing minor-league baseball teams is big business.

Teams change nicknames, logos and colors in hopes of stimulating the spending habits of collectors and fans.

The Asheville Tourists -- so named because the southwest North Carolina area is a popular vacation spot -- have made a fine art of marketing.

Helping them celebrate their 70th anniversary this year is mascot Ted E. Tourist, back for his fourth season. He wears an old-style baseball cap bedecked with an "A". (The players' caps have Ted on them this year.) Ted -- whose likeness appears on most of the club's products -- this year sports a Hawaiian shirt and a camera and carries a sticker-covered suitcase.

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

Collectors can eat Ted's apple honey, drink his wine (Championship White; etched glasses are also available) and don "Bear Wear," the Tourists' private-label clothing. All Bear Wear comes with hang tags featuring Ted.

"You've got to be different," says merchandising director Eileen Gunzelman Saunders, a Towson State and Western Maryland alumna. "The more different things you have, the more it will appeal to people. . . ."

Saunders, whose husband is assistant general manager Gary Saunders, spent a lot of time at McCormick Field last year. After the season, she approached the team with her marketing ideas and was hired.

Saunders says a mall shop won't fit in her budget, so the Tourists are offering mail order for the first time. They have advertised in Baseball America and Baseball Weekly, and the response has been strong, she said. Saunders says callers comment on the bear on the letterhead and ask if the team is new. Between mail orders and local residents visiting the stadium shop, T-shirts and caps have sold out twice and coffee mugs sold out before they arrived.

Hawaiian shirts are expected by the end of the month, and in keeping with the team's nickname, Saunders plans a mailing in the form of a postcard picturing some souvenir items.

To get a "Bear Wear" list, call (800) 632-9051 or send a stamped, self-addressed envelope to: Asheville Tourists, P.O. Box 1556, Asheville, N.C. 28802.

New Generation

Pinnacle spotlights young stars in its 25-card New Generation boxed set. Cards have no borders and are glossy with gold-foil stamping. The Orioles' Jeffrey Hammonds is in the set.

Upscale Classic

Classic Images, a 150-card set of young baseball, basketball, football and hockey stars, puts Classic Games in super-premium territory. Possible NFL No. 1 pick Marshall Faulk appears on his first trading card -- in six versions, representing teams likely to draft him. Collectors can trade in the "correct" card for an uncut sheet of chromium cards. Also as part of Classic's NFL Draft Day Sweepstakes there are randomly inserted cards of top prospects Dan Wilkinson, Trent Dilfer, Heath Shuler, David Palmer and Johnnie Morton.

Metal cards

Highland Mint is adding 24-karat gold-plated cards to its lineup. Sold-out editions will be produced in gold and come with gold-foil certificates and gold-foil album covers. The cards will cost $500, and production will be half that of the card's silver version. The first card will be that of Emmitt Smith. . . . Silver and bronze replicas of the Topps rookie cards of Patrick Roy, Lawrence Taylor and Carl Yastrzemski are available. All cards are numbered and come with a certificate of authenticity. Call (800) 544-6135 for dealers.

Coming events

Through Oct. 31, "Sheriff and His 'Boys,' " exhibit on Sheriff Fowble, who helped develop major-leaguers Al Kaline, Ron Swoboda and Tim Nordbrook, Babe Ruth Museum, 216 Emory St., (410) 727-1539.

Friday-Saturday, Professional Sports Equipment and Memorabilia Show, Econo-Lodge (I-695 and Route 40, Exit 15A), Friday, 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

May 7-8, Towsontowne Spring Festival Card Show, National Guard Armory, Towson, May 7, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., May 8, 1 p.m. to 6 p.m., (410) 296-6556.

CARD OF THE WEEK

Action Packed is moving into the squared circle with a 42-card World Wrestling Federation set that will be shipped to hTC dealers this month. The checklist includes the late Andre the Giant and longtime favorite Bob Backlund. Shown is the Undertaker.

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