2015 Holiday Gift Guide (with Free Giveaways to Win!)
UPDATED (12/17/15): CLICK HERE for the Second Round of Raffles
I am excited to reveal my Holiday Gift Guide for 2015-2016!
Every year, so many people ask me what presents they should get for their baseball-loving kids, grandkids, nieces, and nephews for Christmas, Hanukkah or birthdays. So I started making a list a couple of years ago. The Gift Guide post is now an annual Thanksgiving and Black Friday tradition and one of my favorite and most popular posts of the year. I like to feature new things on my gift guide every year, but everything on my 2014 Gift Guide and 2013 Gift Guide would still be really good choices to buy for the people in your life this year! So start on this post, but be sure to click through previous years posts too for other great gift ideas.
The books, games, baseball equipment, and other fun things on my Holiday Gift Guide have been updated for 2015-16. These are all things that I have, use, or really want myself, so I know whoever you buy these presents for, he or she will love them. I made sure to include something for everyone’s budget, from about $10 – $300, and there are links in here where you can buy them right through Amazon.com or other websites. There are things on my list for kids and adults! Some of the companies who made these products have given me some to give away for free to Matt’s Bats readers. Look for links in this post to raffles and I’ll also tweet out information on how you can win (Follow me on Twitter @MattsBats)!
So here we go…!
TOYS AND GAMES
What kid doesn’t want to build his or her own ballpark, and play imaginary games with toy figures who look just like their favorite major league baseball players? That’s the whole idea behind OYO Sports. The OYO minifigure is the first building-block toy based off real baseball players and are officially licensed by Major League Baseball. Each OYO has bendable knees, rotating forearms, and the ability to hold a ball, bat, or glove. You can get minifigures that look like all of your favorite players from every team. If the person you are getting the gift for is a serious builder, you can try their ballpark sets. I was able to build a replica of the Giants’ AT&T Park and Blue Jays’ Rogers Centre! One of the coolest OYO sets I’ve seen is this set of Derek Jeter giving his final curtain call at Fenway Park. In addition to MLB, you can get figures and sets for NFL, NHL, MLS, and college sports. OYO minifigures make great stocking stuffers, and I even have some to give away, including NL ROY Kris Bryant and both the AL and NL MVPs, Bryce Harper and Josh Donaldson. Enter here to win a raffle for your choice of one of these figurines (other raffles by Twitter). I think that OYO figurines are really cool, and I know the gift-getter will love this one. Trust me. Start your OYO Sports shopping here!
Here’s a one-of-a-kind gift: a small start up company called BobbleHouse Industries in Ashburn, VA, run by a Washington Nationals super-fan, has created a memorabilia display stand designed to hold and display your bobbleheads, baseballs, tickets, or other sports giveaways. All products are hand made, painted, numbered, and signed. Custom colors and personalized options are available, so you can get a custom made bullpen or dugout in the colors of your favorite team, even if it’s the Mets. There are 16″ and 24″ wide models to fit most bookshelves or desktops and they’re offering free shipping for Matt’s Bats readers through the end of the year! (Just tell them you heard about it from me!) BobbleDugouts and BobblePens are available now with other products being offered in the near future. It’s always neat seeing local companies (and Nationals fans) make cool things. Check out BobbleHouse.com and help control the homeless bobblehead population.
Other toys and games you should check out:
- One of my best friends got me an Easton Pro Stix bat for my birthday and we play with it all the time outside in my front yard. It’s a plastic bat that you can use for training or whiffle ball games. It’s one of the most classic kids baseball toys, but the thick plastic bat allows you to hit the ball pretty far and is much better than those thin plastic bats you may see at the toy store. It even looks like the real thing with a wood grain texture.
- I’ve gotten into hockey this year too. Now my brother, sister and neighborhood kids all come over to play hockey in the driveway using my Mylec Jr. Hockey Goal set. It comes with a net, 2 sticks and a street hockey ball. Lots of fun!
- Like Strat-o-Matic, but geared more for kids, I enjoyed playing MLB Full Count. You’re the manager playing against your division rivals, selecting pitches, organizing batting lineups, and planning strategy. Each at bat begins with a 3-2 count, and what you decide to do next can affect the outcome of the game.
SPORTING EQUIPMENT AND APPAREL
Ask a professional baseball player what’s the best thing about being a major leaguer and you may hear him say a “crispy New Era cap right out of the box,” like what Ian Desmond tweeted just last week. New Era makes the official on-field cap for every major league baseball team. They also make hats for teams from the Akron RubberDucks to the Zephyrs of New Orleans (both minor league baseball teams). There is a New Era cap for absolutely any team you are a fan of! Start your shopping for New Era caps right here. They come in both fitted and adjustable and in almost every color combination you can imagine. And great news for Matt’s Bats readers–I have a whole bunch of New Era Nationals caps to pass out as giveaways: the official Nationals red and blue Away cap, and the Nationals Black and Gray Heather Action 59FIFTY Cap. Here’s a raffle to win one of the 2-tone fitted caps using the giveaway code CAPS.
For baseball players, the best way they can show their creativity and individuality is with the equipment they use. In the majors, there are all sorts of rules about the kinds and colors of bats and gloves players can use. So many players show their colors using their batting gloves. Superstars Robinson Cano, David Ortiz, and Miguel Cabrera are a few of the many hitters who choose Franklin batting gloves. Franklin batting gloves have Shok-Sorb technology. When I don’t wear batting gloves, my hands sting after getting a hit. That’s why Shok-Sorb is so cool- it reduces the shock you feel in your hands from hitting the ball. They’re also so soft and thin. The gloves comes in all varieties of colors, sizes and prices, but obviously the coolest ones are the authentic ones the players wear on the field. Franklin recently sent me a pair just like the ones Robinson Cano wears for the Mariners. They also gave me a pair in Nationals red to give away to a Matt’s Bats reader. Click here to enter the raffle and use giveaway code GLOVE. For anyone who plays baseball, a nice pair of colorful Franklin batting gloves will make a great gift.
More baseball equipment:
- Another piece of baseball equipment for the young baseball player in your life is the Louisville Slugger Youth 2016 Prime 916 Baseball Bat. This is a kids bat, but isn’t for the average rec league player, because it’s pretty expensive. Designed for the best amateur players, the Prime 916 has Fused Carbon Structure composite handle and barrel, patented TRU3 Explosive Power Transfer technology and three-piece construction, which give it a lighter swing weight to ensure maximum control, and Lizard Skins Grips.
FOR THE HOUSE
Know someone on a mission to visit all 30 MLB ballparks? Or maybe you just like to travel and watch baseball on the road. If so, then this is for you! The Map Your Travels MLB Ballparks poster is one of my favorite discoveries of this year, and it is a highlight of my room. I love this poster. Officially licensed by Major League Baseball, the poster shows the logos of all the major league teams on a map of the USA. It comes with stickers that you put on acknowledging that you have visited that team’s stadium. It’s a good way to show off how many different ballparks you have been to. I love mine and the people at Map Your Travels have given me a few to give away to Matt’s Bats readers. I think this is a great gift for the avid baseball traveler and costs less than $30. Click here to enter the raffle, and use giveaway code MAP.
Play with your food with this baseball themed mug invented by a young entrepreneur and sports fan named Max. The baseball shaped mug with a glove attached to its handle is perfect for tossing marshmallows into hot chocolate, cereal into milk, crackers into soup or even toppings onto ice cream. Max came up with this idea during art class at his school. He pitched his idea at a product innovation contest held at Fenway Park and won the community vote! His sports mug collection now includes patent pending mugs for baseball, basketball, football, hockey and soccer and his play with your food sensation is sweeping the globe! Max’s story highlights the upside of dyslexia and he is donating five percent of his profits to charities that support dyslexia and other learning disabilities. Max’s mugs retail for $24 and are available on Amazon. Check out Max’s story at www.maxiscreations.com.
Major league baseball players play over 160 games over the course of the six month season– the world’s longest sports season. That takes a toll on everyone from the players, to their families, to the people who make the team run off the field. If you have ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes of a MLB team, then the Barry Svrluga book “The Grind” is perfect. Svrluga, a Washington Post reporter, writes about how the baseball season affects everyone involved in the Washington Nationals organization. But this book isn’t just for Nats fans; everyone who has ever wanted a look at what goes on off the playing field would like it. You learn about how the game affects the players and their families, equipment managers, scouts, and others. Have you ever wanted to know how the players travel from city to city every few days? Svrluga tells you. I recommend this book to all baseball fans- kids and adults- who would like to know how a baseball team is run.
- If you like The Grind, you’ll probably also like this other nonfiction baseball book that I read this year about the history of the Montreal Expos (now the Washington Nationals) called Up, Up, and Away: The Kid, the Hawk, Rock, Vladi, Pedro, le Grand Orange, Youppi!, the Crazy Business of Baseball, and the Ill-fated but Unforgettable Montreal Expos. Written by Grantland’s Jonah Keri, it’s about the history of the Expos, marking the 20th anniversary since the last strike thrown in Montreal.
For the past few years, I have been looking for a book to recommend for kids who want to develop their understanding of baseball. Finally I found the perfect one! Amy Gutierrez (“Amy G”), the San Francisco Giants sideline reporter for Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, has written a children’s book to teach kids how to watch and understand baseball and how to score a game. “Smarty Marty’s Got Game” is a story about a kid, Mikey, who doesn’t like baseball. Mikey’s older sister Marty, who is known as “Smarty Marty” to her friends at school because she knows more about baseball than most grown-up baseball fans (kind of reminds me of myself “Matt’s Bats”) teaches Mikey the ins and outs of baseball, the lingo, and strategy using real-life examples. This book has great illustrations, but the best part is that it also teaches kids how to score the game! Gutierrez also has an interactive scorebook, Smarty Marty’s Official Gameday Scorebook, that goes along with the hardcover book and teaches kids how to score, while giving kids the opportunity to have fun with the game by doing things like drawing in the team’s logo. You really should buy them together. If you have aspiring baseball fans in the family, these two books are definitely the perfect gifts for them. Really! This might be my favorite item on the Gift Guide this year! Plus, I have a couple of autographed copies to give away! To win one of the books and scorebooks, enter the raffle and use giveaway code MARTY.
Some other books for kids I would recommend include:
- Screaming at the Ump by Audrey Vernick: A “coming-of-age novel about baseball, divorce, friendship, love, and compassion challenges its readers to consider all the angles before calling that strike.”
- Food, Football, and Fun!: Sports Illustrated Kids’ Football Recipes: More than 60 recipes that kids will like to keep your hunger in check this football season. Enter a raffle to win a copy using giveaway code FOOD.
- The Only Game by Mike Lupica: Bestselling author and sportswriting legend Mike Lupica wrote this baseball book about a young baseball star who has to figure out how to maintain his love of the game after the loss of his brother.
The previous items are great for kids you’re shopping for, but the next item is great for adult baseball fans. One of the best baseball biographies to come out the past year was Charles Leerhsen’s Ty Cobb: A Terrible Beauty. Cobb’s lifetime batting average is still the highest of all time and he was the first member elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. But after he died, Ty Cobb became one of the most controversial figures in the history of baseball. He became known as a racist who also hated children and women, and was in turn hated by his peers. This book looks back at Cobb’s life to see if the reputation is true. This is a good, serious book for fans of baseball or biographies, and was a New York Times Best Seller. It’s almost 500 pages long, which means it would be great to download as an ebook. Which brings me to…
This one is not specifically baseball-related, but it is a great gift for kids or adults. This year, Amazon released a Fire tablet for under $50, so there is no reason that each person in your family can’t have his or her own tablet. The Black Friday price of only $35 makes this probably the best deal on my Gift Guide! I have a different model Fire tablet, but this one may be even better. It has a 7 inch screen and 8 GB of storage. You can get so many free apps in the app store, like Netflix, Twitter, Pandora, Skype and Facebook. Plus, if you have Amazon Prime you can stream Amazon Prime movies, TV shows and get books for free. It’s so inexpensive that you can even buy multiple for home or work (in fact, if you buy 5, they give you a 6th for free!- Use code FIREPACK6). For $99 ($85 for Black Friday), there is a Kids Edition for little kids that has a free year of FreeTime Unlimited, a Kid-Proof Case, and a 2-year guarantee that if your kids break it, they’ll send you a new one. I think that it is very important for kids to have electronics in their lives, and the Amazon Fire is a great way to expose kids to technology. But the truth is, anyone you know would want a Fire tablet.
- The other cool Amazon product this year is the Echo. You just talk to it and it gives you news or weather information or plays music. My grandmother bought one for my great-grandmother to read audio books to her. If a 90 year old can do it, so can you. It’s $30 off on Black Friday.
One of the best gifts you can give anyone– children or adults– is the gift of a museum membership. For those of you who live in or visit my hometown of Washington, DC, this year I’m recommending a membership to the Newseum. Located right on Pennsylvania Avenue, the Newseum is an interactive museum that allows visitors to experience the stories of yesterday and today through the eyes of the media while celebrating the freedoms guaranteed to all Americans by the First Amendment. I like it because I’m interested in journalism, and this summer they hosted an exhibit on the 10 year anniversary of the Washington Nationals. It closes on November 29, so you still have time to see it if you go this weekend! I have 2 free passes to give away. Check out the video I made with them in July previewing the Nats At 10 Exhibit.
Buying a Newseum press pass gives you free admission for a year and invitations to special events. If you don’t live in DC, find a museum close to where your gift recipient lives and buy them a membership.
So these are my top recommendations for baseball and sports-related presents for 2015-2016.