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The holidays approach — Hanukkah begins Dec. 21 — which means Big League Stew is on the lookout for the neatest baseball-themed gifts for enthusiasts of what's still our national pastime. Welcome to the next installment of Big League Stew's Holiday Gift Guide '08!

The technology that produced Otto, the Automatic Pilot in "Airplane!" and Inflatable Ben Wallace finally has crossed over into baseball — just in time to help general manager Omar Minaya improve the New York Mets ghastly relief situation.

It's time to warm up with Big League Bullpen Buddy ($59.89 from, which comes available in the uniforms of six major league teams, including the St. Louis Cardinals and Mets, who were 1-2 in the NL in blown saves in 2008. Of course, the faltering Mets pen kept them out of the playoffs, so their need seems more urgent. Maybe Bullpen Buddy could help — he's cheaper than the next Brad Lidge, of course.

Produced by JumpUsa, the Bullpen Buddy stands 5 feet tall (about 6" shorter than Phil Rizzuto, so Minaya would also have to sign a step stool) and can be used from either the right-handed or left-handed batter's box to "simulate" the presence of a live batter. Can't get the "feel" of a game in the pen because there's no batter standing there? Bullpen Buddy renders such excuses moot.

And since he's inflatable vinyl and not a minimum-wage batboy who could sue after suffering a brain injury, or a high-salaried slugger who never would stand there in the first place, Bullpen Buddy is a much more practical choice to become your next "coach." Look what happens when pitchers warm up with inferior products:

The Web site also claims that Bullpen Buddy is useful for those pitchers working on his or her release point and "pitchers with control problems."

I bet I know what Aaron Heilman's getting for Christmas!

Bullpen Buddy also comes in uniforms for the Cubs, Yankees, Red Sox and Dodgers. Hmm. How much would Frank and Jamie McCourt pay for a dummy?

Also, check out Big League Stew's previous gift ideas, which include a chair and ottoman shaped like baseballs, a portable bathroom and a peppermill that looks like a bat. Happy holidays, shoppers.

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