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Will Giants hand out bobbleheads as fans return to Oracle? originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea
There are many ways in which this season's promotions and giveaways plan at Oracle Park will be the most complicated one yet, but in one respect, the business side of the Giants organization caught a break.
While the offseason and spring brought another flood of changes to the roster, the stars who were featured in the original 2020 promotional schedule -- Mike Yastrzemski, Buster Posey, Johnny Cueto and, of course, Lou Seal -- remain with the organization. That'll make it easier to start giving items out to fans again at some point, but right now the Giants aren't close to doing so.
The Giants traditionally hold a media open house during the final week of spring training to show off their upcoming bobbleheads, hats, T-shirts, gnomes and more, but even if that were possible right now from a health and safety standpoint, they wouldn't have anything to announce. Executive vice president of business operations Mario Alioto said promotions and giveaways are on hold for now until the Giants have a better idea of what Oracle Park is like with new guidelines. There are no plans to hand anything out to fans in April or May.
"This is so foreign to us. Normally by this time of year everything is ready to go and we're ready to execute," Alioto said Thursday. "But the priority right now is having a safe environment for our fans and operating the ballpark in a different manner."
The Giants expect to have at least 8,000 fans in the park for the home opener on April 9 and possibly more, as San Francisco is poised to hit the orange tier next week, allowing for even larger crowds. But getting the approval to have fans doesn't mean you're anywhere close to handing them each a Yastrzemski bobblehead, particularly in an environment where many people still reach for the hand sanitizer after handling anything touched by someone else.
Because of the uncertainty, the Giants haven't come up with a promotional schedule for 2021, relying instead on the items from last season that never got used -- which is where the familiarity of the roster comes in handy. They were able to cancel many of their 2020 orders once the sport shut down and it became clear there would be no fans, but some early-season items were already on the way. That's how the Giants ended up with 15,000 Yastrzemski bobbleheads and nobody to hand them to.
"Those have been in our warehouse the entire time," Alioto said.
Alioto said the organization is hopeful that some of last year's items might be given out by June and then they can plan out the rest of the season and potentially add new promotions. They're also talking about handing them out in a different way. Traditionally, fans have lined up for blocks for popular items and gotten them right as they walked through the gate, but that won't be possible for a while.
"Do you take your ticket and go to an area where it's available to pick up? Is there another idea where we place it on a seat, since seats are all socially distanced? There are some things that weren't practical in the past," Alioto said. "Frankly, we don't really have the answers yet."
The Giants have been working around the clock on health and safety protocols, but there's a lot that they can't know until they open up and see how things go with thousands of fans back in the park and operating under new rules. What they do know is that the best bet with some promotions is to push them back to 2022.
Alioto already has talked to Will Clark about pushing his jersey retirement ceremony back another year. The Giants were also supposed to honor the 2010 title team last summer, and they're not sure if they will carry that one over to 2021 or wait another year, when the first two title teams could be honored in the same season.
"When you do something like that, you want the full house," Alioto said of the 2010 reunion. "It's the same thing as with Will Clark, so we'll see."
Those items are on the back burner right now as the Giants prepare to welcome their first wave of fans. At some point team executives can turn their attention back to Buster Hugs neck pillows, Cueto gnomes and Lou Seal flipper hats, but right now the focus is elsewhere.
The Giants surveyed large groups of fans over the last year and found that by far the main concern for them was that Oracle Park was a safe environment, so all energy is being directed at the FanSafe program and educating fans about protocols before they arrive at Third and King. It's a big task, but one that's welcomed.
"It's just so nice to be getting ready for a season," Alioto said. "Just the idea that we're preparing for it is a sign that we're going in the right direction."