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January 9, 2014

2014 Hall of Fame class excites Cooperstown merchants, fans

By Denise Richardson Staff Writer
The Daily Star

---- — The 2014 class of inductees into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown is good news for the local economy, especially considering last year’s light season, several merchants and others in the village said Wednesday.

Former Atlanta Braves pitchers Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine, along with retired Chicago White Sox home run hitter Frank Thomas, were elected to the Hall of Fame by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. Last month, baseball’s Expansion Era Committee chose former Braves manager Bobby Cox, along with ex-managers Joe Torre of the Yankees and Tony La Russa of the A’s and Cardinals for enshrinement July 27.

“We’re very pleased with the results,” said Connie Haney, owner of Cooperstown Bat Company in the village.

The business, which produces and sells autographed collectible bats, will begin reviewing its product line to include elected inductees and also to reflect the Hall of Fame’s 75th anniversary celebration this year.

“We feel it’s going to be a great year for Cooperstown and the Hall of Fame,” Haney said. “It’s going to have a very positive impact on tourism through the course of the year.”

Streets will be crowded the last weekend in July, but attendance isn’t expected to top the 80,000 people at the 2007 induction of Cal Ripken Jr. and Tony Gwynn, said Cooperstown mayor Jeff Katz.

Cooperstown public works and police will meet with Hall officials to consider plans to accommodate ceremonies and crowds, Katz said. The village has about 1,800 residents, he said.

Sarah Mower, manager at Mickey’s Place at 74 Main St., echoed optimism about a “good boost” in revenues this summer with this year’s Hall class. The retailer offers a range of baseball memorabilia, and Mower said induction events and attendance can be memorable.

“Induction weekend is an exciting weekend for tourists,” Mower said. “You can just sense the excitement among tourists.”

Patricia Szarpa, executive director of the Cooperstown Chamber of Commerce, said there haven’t been six inductees in one year since 1971, which is a “definitely exciting” development.

Local seasonal businesses, particularly those focused on baseball, will be happy about the economic influence of this year’s Hall class, she said.

“The impact is huge,” Szarpa said.

Telephone inquiries about accommodations started in January last year and increased with announcements Wednesday and in December about inductees, Szarpa said.

Szarpa said the chamber has 175 members who offer accommodations, including motels, bed-and-breakfast lodges and campgrounds. The chamber is looking into the availability of accommodations beyond the area, she said, and urging callers to make reservations now.

A recording at the Cooperstown Lakeview Lodge said Wednesday that its accommodations for Induction Weekend already were sold out.

Last year, no living honorees were recognized at induction ceremonies, which negatively impacted attendance and local tourism.

“Last year was a quiet year, to say the least,” Tony Zieno, president and owner of the Cooperstown Cookie Co., said. “This is a bounce-back year for the Hall — if it’s good for the Hall, it’s good for Cooperstown.”

The Cooperstown Cookie Co., which produces and sells baseball-themed cookies, has a kiosk at the Seventh Inning Stretch at 137 Main St. in the village, he said.

The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year. Events include a celebration featuring history and music Aug. 2, with a concert by the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra.

Zieno said having events in addition to the induction fosters tourism and helps business.

“The more you keep the momentum going, the better,” Zieno said. “I’m looking for great things for the Cooperstown Cookie Company.”

Also, Zieno said, the class is remarkable because it includes baseball icons from the past 30 years.

The mayor also applauded the elected inductees.

“It’s a great class,” said Katz, a former 16-year Chicago resident who has held season tickets at different times for the White Sox and Cubs.

If any Braves fans have considered visiting Cooperstown, this year will be a good time to make the trip from Georgia, Katz said. Induction weekend offers an opportunity for fans to be within 20 feet of players, said Katz.

“They won’t get that opportunity anywhere else,” Katz said.