To lead off Major League Baseball’s official foray into the world of non-fungible tokens, the league will go way, way back into its history.
“When you think about NFTs, there is this concept of it being a fad,” Kenny Gersh, Major League Baseball’s executive vice president of business development, said in a telephone interview. “What we’re looking to do, with the Candy [Digital] people, is to build a long-term sustainable business. What better person to symbolize durability and long-term success than Lou Gehrig?”
The auction for the one-of-one NFT of the iconic Yankee Gehrig making his legendary “Luckiest Man” speech will occur around July 4, the anniversary of his 1939 farewell to the baseball world upon learning of his ALS diagnosis. The announcement of MLB’s entrance into this world — in conjunction with the announcement of the creation of Candy Digital, a digital collectible company formed by three business titans — comes on the eve of MLB’s first Lou Gehrig Day on Wednesday, when the entire baseball industry will remember those lost to ALS (including Gehrig, of course) and raise awareness and funds to combat it.
Candy Digital came together as a union of Michael Rubin, the executive chairman of Fanatics; Mike Novogratz, the founder and CEO of Galaxy Digital; and Gary Vaynerchuk, a serial entrepreneur and investor.
“For me, I’m thinking long term: How do we take a league like Major League Baseball, with its tremendous legacy and history, so much content and [take it into the world of digital assets]?” Rubin said in a telephone interview. “We could do NFTs for jerseys, for so much more. We haven’t scratched the surface yet.”
Fanatics’ base of 80 million-plus reachable fans, in turn, combined with Novogratz’s comfort in the digital space and Vaynerchuk’s business savvy, made Candy an appealing partner to MLB.
The Gehrig package will feature some digital art in addition to the video of Gehrig speaking, and MLB is banking on many, many more NFTs. It could be something to commemorate one of the many no-hitters, or the crazy, run-stealing play the Cubs’ Javy Baez executed against the Pirates last week. The options are vast. The hope is that, as NFTs become more popular among the masses, baseball, the first of the North American sports leagues to try something this wide-reaching in the NFT space, can capitalize.
“If you were to ask me six months ago about this, “I would’ve said, ‘That’s nuts,’ ” Rubin said. “But 10 years ago, I would’ve said no one will buy things on a mobile phone.”
And in trying to thrive in the future, MLB and its new partners begin by digging into their cherished past, seeing if their Iron Man can start things the way “Iron Man” did for the Marvel movie series. MLB and Candy Digital will donate all of the proceeds from the sale of the Gehrig NFT to three different charities: 1) The Sean M. Healey and AMG Center for ALS at Massachusetts General Hospital (Healey Center for ALS), the Expanded Access Protocol Program; 2) The ALS Association; and 3) the Lou Gehrig Society.