Monday, March 31, 2014

5 Best "KIDS CLUBS" in Major League Baseball for 2014

It is Opening Day and Major League Baseball is swinging into action for its 2014 season.  So it seemed a fitting day to post my annual list of the Top 5 "Kids Clubs" in Major League Baseball (MLB).  These programs can be a fun way for a parent to share his or her love of America's Pastime as they provide newsletters, team swag, and special events geared toward attracting the interest of children.  Of the 31 MLB teams, 27 have kids programs to encourage children to become fans of the team and develop an interest in the sport of baseball.  The programs vary from team to team in both the price charged to participate (ranging from FREE to $50) and the benefits provided, so it is important for the adult who may be purchasing a kids club membership for their child, grandchild, niece, nephew and so on to do some research before signing up to participate to make sure there is a value in your situation to participate.

I've taken a look at each of the current programs offered by MLB teams and have ranked my Top 5 below based upon these factors -  price/value for the money, coolness/wow factor, quality of materials/swag, special events, and branding:

1) ST. LOUIS CARDINALS  The Cardinals set the standard for hosting Kids Clubs in the Major Leagues by hosting not just one but two quality programs for young fans.  For children 4 to 13 they have the Cardinals Kids Club and for teens and young adults they host the Varsity Club for fans aged 14 to 19.

The Cardinals Kids Club provides its members with a fun exclusive perk in hosting a MEMBERS ONLY PARTY at Busch Stadium that includes games, snacks, Cardinals players signing autographs, and a chance to meet the team mascot.  Members are also provided 2 tickets to a Monday - Thursday home game during the regular season.  Another perk of membership is some nice Cardinals gear that includes an exclusive kids club bubble head figure, an official kids club backpack, binoculars, a color themed rope bracelet, 2014 membership lapel pin, a Cardinals lanyard, and a coupon book with discounts and perks.

The Varsity Club provides 2 tickets to a Monday - Thursday home game at Busch Stadium during the regular season plus admission to a specially designated "Varsity Club Day @ The Ballpark" game.  Members are provided early access to the "Varsity Club Day" game which features a pre-game program featuring Cardinals Front Office executives and players and a parade around the warning track.  Varsity Club gear includes a branded duffel bag and ear buds with a carrying case.  Members also receive a coupon book that provides discounts and free perks at Cardinals games and a membership magazine that is mailed to their homes.

One drawback though is that these programs are on the pricier side when it comes to Membership fees for MLB kids clubs.  The Cardinals Kids Club costs $30 plus $2 processing charge & $5 shipping and handling for a total cost of $37.  The Membership fee for the Varsity Club is $35 plus 2 processing fee & $5 shipping and handling for a total cost of $42.  The team scored well in all of the 5 judging categories though to earn it the top ranking for 2014.

2) MIAMI MARLINS  The Miami Marlins took second place this year based upon its extraordinary scoring in the judging category of PRICE/VALUE FOR THE MONEY.  The Billy's Bunch Kids Club is FREE for children 12 and under who live in the 5 Miami area counties that pay a property tax supporting the team's stadium.  If you live in Florida outside those counties it still only costs $2.95 to join and if you are a fan living outside of the state there is a  $9.95 membership fee.  When you taking into consideration the items members receive from the team when they join, even at $9.95 participating in Billy's Bunch Kids Club is an exceptional value.  The Marlin's Kid Club provides its members a Welcome Letter from their mascot, Billy the Marlin, 2 complimentary tickets to a Marlin's home game, a membership card, Billy the Marlin ear buds, a sports backpack, an activity book, a Billy the Marlin LED watch, coupon for a free Duffy's Kids Meal, a free month access to the Digital Academy Players Clubhouse, and front of the line access for Kids Run the Bases after Sunday home games.

One item that was disappointing when it comes to the Billy's Bunch Kids Club though was that they offer a really nice special event perk that allows members that are between 7 and 12 years old to participate in a baseball skills clinic with Marlins players and coaches, but it is limited to the first 100 members to RSVP when it is announced.  It is nice that the team limits participation to maximize the value for those who attend but it would be nice if they held several similar events throughout the season to provide more kids the opportunity to participate.  A random draw versus a first to RSVP might be more fair for everyone to have a chance too.

If you family cheers for the Marlins, especially if you live in the Miami area, you shouldn't miss out in letting your children enjoy this Kids Club.

3) CINCINNATI REDS  The REDS HEADS scored high marks high marks in EVERY judging category this year to lock up the 3rd place ranking in 2014.  For $25 members receive perks that include numerous special events and the best swag items of any MLB kids club.  RED HEADS receive an exclusive replica of a Reds home jersey, a replica batting practice hat, glove shaped backpack, hologram Reds logo baseball, membership card with lanyard, free Bob Evans kids meal, and free admission opportunities to the Reds Hall of Fame & Museum, Cincinnati Zoo, and Cincinnati Museum Centers OMNIMAX Theater.  A Reds Heads email newsletter is also thrown into this membership package for young fans.

4) KANSAS CITY ROYALS Sluggerrr's Blue Crew scored high marks with its branding and giveaway items to secure the fourth spot in this year's Top 5 list.  For $25 (plus $5 if you order online bringing the price up to $30 since that is the primary way the program is marketed), Sluggerrr's Blue Crew members receive an exclusive t-shirt, special edition KC cap, official club magnet, 2 game ticket vouchers, passes for Outfield Experience activities, and a VIP membership badge with lanyard.  Members also are provided front of the line access to the Sprint Fun Run around the bases after Sunday home games and can get a free stadium tour.

Kansas City does an incredible job with branding their program but is a little lacking with providing special events and non-merchandise item perks.  If they up their game next season Sluggerrr's Blue Crew could be a contender with the Reds Heads for the number one spot in 2015's rankings.

5) OAKLAND A's  The A's cracked the Top 5 this year based on their great score in the Wow Factor category based upon their offering members the most unique and useful giveaway item of any MLB kids club program, the STOMPER bobblehead toothbrush holder.

Unfortunately, without this great giveaway item this Kids Club probably be in the middle of the pack when compared to other teams' programs.  Its Kids Club Passport program is a costly burdensome incentive package involving families having to purchase tickets for 10 to 25 games to have the chance to win prizes. This is a nice feature for season ticket holders but not for families that just attend a few games during the season.  I'm also flabergasted that the A's cheaped out and didn't include their toothbrushes with their toothbrush holder.

The special in-game promotions by the A's involving its Kids Club members are what push them over the top to grab the final spot on the Top 5 list.  Each member can spin a wheel during Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday home games and is guaranteed to win a prize, including a chance to "Steal the Base" on Saturdays, announce the A's lineup on Sundays, bring the umpire water on Fridays.

At $25 (plus $5 for shipping and handling for a price tag of $30) to join, the A's are going to need to pick up their game to chase off teams like the Angels, Nationals, Orioles, Redsox, Rockies, or Tigers from passing them up on the 2015 best of list.

Cheering on your favorite sporting team can be a great bonding experience and fun way to spend time together as a family.  MLB Kids Clubs are a nice way to introduce your children to the team you cheer for and encourage them to join you as a fan.  If you haven't checked them out for your local team, I encourage you to do so.  CLICK HERE for a listing of all the MLB team's website kids' sections.

Some of these teams have kids clubs and others just have information of interest to children and teens posted online.

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