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Marlins’ center fielder hits one out of the park for youth

By Jeffery D. Zbar
Sun-Sentinel, Your Business

March 12, 2001

Preston Wilson wants to drive a few runs home for the kids. So the Florida Marlins center fielder is launching a marketing campaign, backed by his charity, to raise funds for South Florida organizations that benefit regional youth.

‘‘Preston’s Pals’’ centers on Wilson’s spot as the Marlin’s top performer in the runs batted in category with 121 driven home last year. For every RBI Wilson chalks up this year, sponsors of his charity will donate money to the campaign. The goal is to raise $100,000 for three local philanthropies.

Preston’s Pals was started by Wilson and Coral Gables sports marketing firm, Sports & Sponsorships.

The next step is to sign a presenting sponsor and many supporting sponsors to the effort, said Scott Becher, president of Sports & Sponsorships, which is Wilson’s exclusive representative handling all off-the-field initiatives, appearances and endorsements.

The presenting sponsor will be asked to commit $50,000 and will benefit from newspaper ad placements, in-stadium signage and other promotional mentions, Becher said.

They also will have access to Wilson for product endorsements, appearances, autographed merchandise and Preston Wilson-themed promotions, he said.

For a team lobbying to find a home and build its fan base, Wilson can be an anchor. Aside from his 121 RBI, Wilson became the 23rd player in MLB history to hit 30 home runs and steal 30 bases in one season, Becher said.

He was the Sporting News National League Rookie of the Year in 1999.

‘‘He has star written all over him from personality to performance,’’ Becher said.

‘‘This season, I’m swinging for the fences, and for our kids, too,’’ reads one of the print ads scheduled to have its debut this month in support of the effort. Another reads, ‘‘Yo New York. Have dinner ready because I may bring a few friends home.’’ In-stadium signs will carry the same theme.

The ads were created pro bono by Miami ad shop Beber Silverstein & Partners. The program’s finances and logistics are being coordinated by the Florida Marlins Community Foundation. Wilson also is personally sponsoring the ‘‘Preston’s Pals’’ section in right center field near where he plays. Wilson will bus in upward of 50 underprivileged kids to all 13 Saturday games and provide seats, food and T-shirts.

‘‘The goal...was to allow Preston’s personality to come through very dramatically,’’ Becher said.

Jeffery D. Zbar is a freelance writer. He can be reached at jeff@goinsoho.com.