BASEBALLSANTACLAUS.COM is proud to bring to you Bald Vinny, the man behind BALDVINNY.COM. Vinny is the voice of the famed Bleacher Creatures, residents of Section 203 in Yankee Stadium. Vinny sells Bleacher Creature-themed, Yankee-themed and anti-opponent-themed apparel on his website www.baldvinny.com. He can also be found outside Billy’s Sports Bar (on River Ave, off of 161st Street, across the street from the “Old Yankee Stadium”) selling his shirts before and after each home game.
Q. Where did you get the inspiration for baldvinny.com? Did you work a “normal” job before you started your own business?
A. I used to work in sales for a dot-com, and in advertising before that. When the bubble burst, I took my severance package and invested it into starting my own business. I taught myself how to design and print, and ran the business out of my basement. (I still do, though I don’t do the printing myself anymore.)
Q. You have some of the funniest, most creative apparel. Do you have a particular shirt that you’d call your favorite?
A. My favorite shirt is the Bahston Sawks Cack, because it always gets some sort of reaction (either positive or negative). I am also proud of the fact that I was the first vendor in the Bronx to put “1918” on a shirt as well as creating the “Got Melky?” phenomenon.
Q. How did you become the leader of the Bleacher Creatures? How did the roll call start?
A. Roll call started because as fans, we were always curious as to what the players on the field actually heard. It became a game to us, as in “Hey, you think we can get Tino [Martinez] to turn around and wave?” Once we got the outfield, we thought the infield would be a challenge. It took a while to catch on, but the players have been very responsive. I think my job, as well as the reality show (YES Network’s Ultimate Road Trip), allowed me to be in the public eye. I am certainly not the “leader” but I don’t mind being a recognizable face for fans to associate with the crew.
Q. What do you do in the off-season?
A. Most of the time, I am a stay at home dad to my amazing daughter, Layla. I run my website (www.baldvinny.com) and I design new Bleacher/Yankee gear for the upcoming season. I also do traditional embroidery and custom printed apparel, so that helps keep me busy.
Q. What are your predictions for this season? How do you think theYankees will fare with the new additions and some recent departures?
A. I think we are fortunate as Yankee fans that our team is going to put a quality product on the field each year. Baseball is a business, and some fan favorites always have to depart. But I have confidence that the “replacements” will get the job done. Camaraderie is important, and I think it’s been easy to see that the current squad gets along and is having as much fun as they did last year.
Q. Have you had any memorable encounters with Yankees, both past andpresent?
A. Too many to list, but my favorite experience was being asked by Bernie Williams to participate in his album release concert at the Nokia Theater. I sat on the stage during dress rehearsal, and got to lead the crowd in a Roll Call to get Bernie out on the stage.
Q. What do you think is the best part of being the guy behind the scenes of a brand with a quickly growing cult-like following?
A. It is amazing. I meet people who have my logo tattooed on their bodies and I am completely floored by their dedication. I built my whole business around being a “hardcore fan” and I take great pride in seeing my shirts being worn in/around the stadium. But nothing beats the feeling of seeing my shirts being worn in the mall or at a concert. It’s just really flattering and I am thankful for all of the support I have gotten over the years.
Q. What are some of the difficulties you face in running your own business? Do you feel pressure in terms of competing with the larger sports stores chains?
A. The two biggest hurdles are licensing and distribution. I can’t afford licensing from MLB [Major League Baseball], so you’ll notice none of my stuff says “Yankees” on it. It’s tough to work around that and find creative ways to make gear without infringing on copyrights. But I try my best. I’m one guy with one location, so I’d never be able to compete with a brick and mortar like Modells or Sports Authority. I rely on the word of mouth of dedicated Yankee fans to help me promote my business/brand.
Q. Do any of the Yankees wear your shirts? If so, who and which ones?
A. [Nick] Swisher has several of my “Swisher Salute” shirts hanging in his locker, and has been known to wear one under his jersey (he’s also given some out to other players on the team, and I’ve heard through the grapevine that they wear them around the clubhouse). [Jason] Giambi also approached me about designing a shirt for his famous “Moustache Campaign” in 2008, and he has worn a few of my shirts, as well. I’m pretty sure Joba [Chamberlain] wears my “F Youk” tee, but he’ll never admit it!
BASEBALLSANTACLAUS.COM WOULD LIKE TO THANK BALD VINNY FOR TAKING THE TIME TO SPEAK WITH US ABOUT HIS BUSINESS. THANK YOU, VINNY. WE WISH YOU CONTINUED SUCCESS.