Harper to become `Utility' player

March 17, 2011|By BOB PARASILITI |
  • The Washington Nationals optioned Bryce Harper, the No. 1 overall pick of the 2010 draft, to the Hagerstown Suns on Saturday.
Associated Press

HAGERSTOWN — Whenever Bryce Harper comes to bat for the Hagerstown Suns, it is going to be a hit-and-Miss proposition.

Harper, the Washington Nationals’ and baseball’s top selection in the 2010 draft, will always be looking for a hit when he comes to the plate at Municipal Stadium. And he will always be sponsored by Miss Utility.

Miss Utility took quick advantage of last Saturday’s announcement that Harper had been optioned to Hagerstown to propose and sign a deal which would allow the excavation and demolition notification center to sponsor every one of the top prospect’s home at-bats.

The local promotion has gone viral nationally in the process.

“We saw something back in February on Facebook, the hint of Harper coming to play in Hagerstown,” said Chris McMurry of MGH Advertising in Baltimore. “Once we saw that, we approached Miss Utility with the idea.”

Under the deal, Municipal Stadium’s public address announcer will say “Now batting, Bryce Harper, brought to you by Miss Utility, reminding you to call 811 before you dig” each time Harper gets into the batter’s box.

The introduction will be used to call attention to Miss Utility’s service of identifying and marking underground power and water facilities before any digging, which is a state law.

“The idea is that Harper will be digging into the batter’s box,” said Matt Ruddo of Miss Utility. “The timing is perfect because it will be coming at a time when people will start heavy digging for spring projects. (MGH) came up with the concept and that is why we have hired them for the last 10 years. They got out in front of this opportunity.”

McMurry said that the promotion was perfect for minor league baseball, which has been known to try off-the-wall promotions. In the past, the Suns have been one of the franchises who have been willing to try anything once.

“I remember they gave away a funeral a few years ago,” McMurry said.

The announcement of the deal created some instant national attention for both the Suns and Miss Utility.

The sponsorship became a discussion point on ESPN’s “Around The Horn,” a show featuring a panel debate of national sports journalists, on Wednesday. It was also the subject of a Washington Post blog entry on Wednesday and a story in USA Today on Thursday.

“It has been interesting,” Ruddo said. “This was a significant investment for businesses of our size, but it was affordable. We have gotten a lot of publicity already.”

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