Cardboard cutouts are nothing new – just a photo of someone or something printed on cardboard or corrugated plastic material that stands up on its own.
So, why have they suddenly become more popular then ever?
Well, sales for these printed products skyrocketed in 2020 with the coronavirus pandemic.
Cardboard cutouts have often been used to represent someone at a party or function that they couldn’t attend, and, with the pandemic, more people have not been able to attend events because of the risk.
Most events with high turnouts were cancelled, but what about major league sports?
The players could still hold games without an audience if they properly quarantined and got tested, but for the first time the bleachers wouldn’t be filled with fans to cheer their favorite teams on.
The MLB came up with a solution so that fans could still feel like they were a part of the game without attending in person.
While the games were broadcasted on TV for people to watch at home, the stadium was filled with fake baseball fans propped up in the stands.
This way, long-time fans could feel like they were still a part of the game, and the players could perform in front of a crowd, like they were used to.
It makes one wonder, though, how the league got the idea for baseball cardboard cutouts started and how the teams embraced it?
MLB Cardboard Cutouts History
When the rise of the COVID-19 pandemic delayed baseball season, the league wondered how they were going to begin without fans present.
The idea for including major league cardboard cutouts of fans in the stadium began with the Mariners when they noticed that cutouts were used during soccer games in Europe.
Because the Mariners knew a local printing company, they were able to work with them to get cardboard versions of their fans printed for the games.
Not only would fans get to see versions of themselves in the stand on TV, but they could charge fans for having their cutouts in the stands like they did with tickets.
The money made from the baseball cardboard cutouts, however, would often go to charities.
When the Mariners came up with the plan, other teams did the same to help their local charities, with the Los Angeles Dodgers raising almost $1.5 million for their foundation.
Celebrity Interest & Unique Fan Cutouts
Various teams chose to get creative with how they used fake baseball fans.
Celebrities who were long-time fans of the game got cardboard cutouts of themselves included in the stands, including Arsenio Hall and Bryan Cranston in Dodger Stadium.
The Twins, instead, set up versions of their former famous players in the stands as big head cutouts rather than life-sized carboard cutouts.
This generated interest among fans on social media as they commented on who was and wasn’t included in the exclusive list of 80 players to celebrate their 60th anniversary of being in Minnesota.
Most teams noticed that they also weren’t just getting sports cardboard cutouts of people, but also their pets.
This was allowed when many fans requested getting cutouts of their pets instead of themselves for the stands.
Want to know something crazy?!
The head of marketing for the Mariners, Mandy Lincoln, who helped come up with the cutout idea, even said she received a cutout of a horse!
Per Person Limits, Rules & Regulations
With the popularity of the baseball cutouts, teams had to set their own limits.
For example, most teams only allowed one cardboard cutout per person so that more people got a chance to fill the seats.
Not all teams had this rule, however, because a White Sox fan bought 100 seats for his cardboard cutouts, which took up an entire section.
Depending on the team, photos of fans also couldn’t include advertisements, anything offensive, or social media references.
Also, not every team participated in getting cardboard cutouts of fans in the stadium.
Some that didn’t get cutouts include the Baltimore Orioles, the Chicago Cubs, and the Detroit Tigers.
Most teams, however, got in on the fun and the teams decided to get even more creative with how they represented fans and made up for the lack of attendees.
There were even prizes given to fans whose MLB cardboard cutouts were hit with a baseball ball, such as receiving home run and foul balls in the mail if their cutout “caught” it.
This made up for people not being there trying to catch the ball themselves.
The Red Sox offered other incentives for ball catchers, such as a jersey with the fan’s name on it.
Funny Uses of Baseball Cutouts
Offering prizes to baseball cardboard cutouts that got hit by foul or home run balls was one-way teams got creative without having a live audience, but not the only way.
The Oakland Athletics, for example, added teddy bears to the stands to represent absent fans, which created some entertaining moments of the bears getting the balls rather than cutouts.
This included one of the bears getting “injured” in the head by a foul ball and the team announcing a medical update on the stuffed animal, complete with bandages.
The incident got a lot of attention on social media.
The Athletics also included a large cardboard version of their mascot, Charlie the Mule, in the stands for all to see.
Oakland also had the bonus of including a famous face among their cutouts.
Who, you ask?
The one and only Tom Hanks.
Tom Hanks’s first real job was selling hot dogs at the stadium as a teenager in the 1970s.
The team decided to take advantage of this and included a cardboard cutout of a young Hanks in the stadium with an old uniform pretending to sell hot dogs.
Hanks got involved with the gimmick and even provided a voice-over.
The lack of real-life people in the stands didn’t stop baseball from continuing like usual. For instance, the Philly Phanatic continued his style of clowning in the stands, whether people were there to cheer him on or not:
The Phanatic and other mascots also frequently donned masks to promote the recommended safety measures during COVID-19.
Using MLB cardboard cutouts of fans in the stand still created plenty of memorable moments during the 2020 baseball season with fans coming up with funny ideas for cutouts and the teams thinking of clever ways to include them in the season.
This way, many people still felt like they were a part of the great American pastime in an unprecedented year.
Here are some highlights from the era of fake baseball fans:
What MLB Teams Charge for Baseball Cardboard Cutouts
MLB Cardboard Cutout Prices
Different MLB teams charged different amounts of money to fans to have their cardboard cutout included in the stands.
By selling tickets for the stands, teams helped raise funds for local charities and their own foundations.
Here is how much it cost for some fans to have their MLB fan cardboard cutouts included in the stadium:
Arizona Diamondbacks: Decided to feature cardboard cutouts of medical professionals who were helping during the pandemic. See the link here.
San Francisco Giants: $99 Fun fact: The Giants allowed their fans to sit close to their favorite celebrity cutout from a provided list with notable celebs such as: Spiderman, Guy Fieri, Barry Bonds, and San Francisco 49ers players George Kittle and Jimmy Garoppolo.
Seattle Mariners: $30, Fun fact: The Mariners mailed any foul ball the cutout “catches” to the owner of the cardboard cutout.
Get your own version of the MLB cardboard cutouts the next time there’s an event you can’t attend, including a major league baseball game. Our cardboard cutouts are made from corrugated plastic, which is a material ideal for outdoor use due to its weather-resistance and UV-resistance. If it rains, is very hot, or quite windy during a game, the material will not get ruined. We will print the photo you send us on the corrugated plastic using our state-of-the-art UV-printing technique, which creates striking, stand-out colors that will not fade when exposed to sunlight or water. Our custom cardboard cutouts will sit in a seat or stand up by themselves with the included easel that connects to the board. Not only are these cutouts perfect for setting up at games you can’t attend, but they are also ideal for parties, store entrances, and business conferences. All you need to do is upload the photo on our site and we will print your cutout. Make sure to review our photo requirements before sending us a photo so that you get the best-looking cutout.
Alice Payne has been working at Vispronet since 2019 as a marketer, specializing in product launches and SEO. She has a BA in Creative Writing from Susequehanna University and blogs about classic movies in her spare time.
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