If you sell it . . . Text: Mom. apple pie. baseball. Of all the big-time sports in the sports marketing universe, baseball is still the sentimental favorite. But sentiment and nostalgia only go so far. Even baseball must be sold, and Major League Baseball's other "pitchers" -- in its marketing departments and at MLB and club advertising agencies -- know they have their work cut out. There's not much joy in Mudville over regular season network TV ratings, which have been soft. If anything, with its long, long season and teams in virtually every major market, baseball is overexposed on the tube. But fan interest has been on an upswing (thank you Mark and Sammy and Derek) and the new baseball stadium/entertainment complexes cropping up offer great opportunities for showmanship. But marketers who spoke out in our season opener review of baseball's prospects last week were united on priority No. 1: the need to turn more young kids into recreational players -- and fans. MLB's grassroots programs to bring the game directly to kids (and parents) is the sport's smartest long-term investment. If you sell it (face-to-face and with fun and imagination), more will come to ballparks and telecasts.

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