Thursday, November 27, 2014
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Gameday publishers take on the Twins
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The Gameday program is produced independently of the Minnesota Twins. (MPR Photo/Jim Bickal)
Baseball fans who attend games at the Metrodome in Minneapolis have a choice of programs. In addition to the official program, published by the Twins, there is another independently-produced option with a very different editorial perspective. Despite a distinct marketing disadvantage, the publishers of Gameday have cultivated a loyal customer base.

Minneapolis, Minn. — The pedestrian island in the middle of Sixth St. between Hubert's Bar and the Metrodome is a haven for independent entrepreneurs. Among the street musicians, ticket scalpers and Christian evangelists, fans heading into the Dome for a ball game will encounter a vendor selling "Gameday."

For $1.50, you get a 20-page program that -- like the offical Twins program -- includes information about the teams, feature stories, statistics and a scorecard to fill out. But Gameday is very different than the Twins Magazine.

"Everything inside the Dome, and to a great extent all of the radio and TV broadcasts, really reflect a certain message that's coming from the Twins marketing department. And we really strive to be something different than that," says Gameday editor Tom Swift. "We can criticize player performance in a way that other programs can't."

For example, the next issue of Gameday features a cover story about Twins centerfielder Torii Hunter.

"We're really analyzing, in a way that I haven't seen anywhere else, his performance and whether that big contract he signed a few years ago, whether he's living up to the billing, what he was expected to do when he inked that deal," says Swift.

Gameday was created in 2002 by three local baseball fans who happen to be brothers -- Tom, Dan and Dave Genrich. It was inspired by similar independent programs in Boston and Baltimore.

David Genrich, who is now the publisher, says one feature that has been particularly popular is an extensive array of statistics that even include player's salaries.

"The salaries is something we knew would be of interest to every fan, because when you're evaluating the performance of a player, part of what you want to know is how much is this guy getting paid to really play what is a game that many of us would gladly play for free," says Genrich.

Speaking of money, Genrich says Gameday is strictly a break-even proposition at this point. Editor Tom Swift estimates that about 2 to 3 percent of the people attending each game will purchase Gameday, and their reasons are varied.

"He's got a stat sheet in here that will give you like Matthew LeCroy, what he does with one man on or two men on," says one fan. "They also even have the player's salaries, which I think is kind of interesting. So, it's just a way to break down the game."

Another fan buys the publication for the opinions.

"It's a couple of opinionated sports fans who know what they're talking about. And there's so much more information in the thing. And the scorecard asks for more information on it, which is what us scorekeepers really like. And the price is right."

The publishers of Gameday say they sell far more programs than the Twins do. The Twins say their sales have not been affected by the competition.

"This project has been a real win-win for the fans, because originally the Twins only had a $4 program," says Genrich. "The second or third year we started doing this the Twins reduced the price of their program to $3, and came out with a $1 scorecard, which was meant to compete directly with our program."

Brad Ruiter, the Twins' director of corporate communications, denies the $1 scorecard was produced to compete with Gameday. He says the team is not trying to drive the rival publication out of business.

"We're welcome to the fact that they're out there. They do a nice job with their publication. They run a lot of statistical information. They probably run more statistical information in their publication than we do," says Ruiter.

"But we like to try to get behind the scenes a little bit and find out what the players are all about, because we think that's what the fans are looking for," Ruiter says. "The only thing that we've asked from Gameday is that they respect the jurisdictions of right outside the Metrodome where we sell the official Twins magazine."

Dave Genrich says being unable to sell Gameday inside the Dome or in the pedestrian area surrounding it makes competing with the official Twins magazine a challenge.

"The other difficulties really relate to any small business that is starting up -- getting the word out that we exist," says Genrich. "We have no advertising budget, no publicity to speak of, and we've really had to rely on face-to-face contact with one fan after another. It's really word of mouth, and the readership and loyalty of the fans, that has made this possible."

Genrich says those loyal fans will purchase tens of thousands of Gameday programs by the end of the season.

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