Big League Chew's Softball Pouch Hits Home Run
Nearly 40 years has passed since Portland Maverick’s former left-handed pitcher Rob “Nellie” Nelson dreamed up the idea of Big League Chew.
The original character featured on the shredded gum’s pouch was a baseball player, and while the faces have changed throughout the years, the genders haven’t.
In the past several years, the iconic gum brand has gone through many changes; the manufacturer switched from Wrigley to Ford, they moved its factory to the small town of Akron, N.Y., and most recently, it released pouches picturing its very first female character.
The newest character is a softball player, created and drawn by artist Amanda MacFarlane. After agreeing to work with Big League Chew in January 2018, MacFarlane created what is now the first woman to take her rightful place on the aluminum pouch.
Big League Chew creator, Nelson, says they decided it was time for a girl to join the bubble gum roster about two years ago.
“We said, you know what, it’s about time. Some of my friends said, ‘Yeah, duh!’” he laughed.
He says when he did a lot of coaches clinics, parents, coaches and even young girls would come up to him and tell him to put a girl on the pouch. Thankfully, after being inspired by her niece, MacFarlane came through with her design to a chorus of cheers from softball players everywhere.
It wasn’t hard to pick MacFarlane as the artist, Nelson says, elaborating on the fact that she was anything but demanding; she came up with these amazing concepts and willingly listened to ideas of his own vision.
His vision? A left-handed player.
Nelson himself is a lefty and it was important for him to be part of a creation that inspired both female athletes and left-handed players. Thus, the left-handed softball character was created.
“Amanda [was] perfect,” he said. “She nailed it, absolutely hit a home run. She gets the vibe that Big League Chew represents.”
Big League Chew represents showing a passion and a commitment to the game while also having fun, Nelson says.
“I didn’t get in the gum business to make money,” he said. “It was to have fun.”
However, with over 800 million pouches sold to date, Big League Chew managed to bring fun to baseball and softball players while also giving Nellie his own success. He’s now in the Baseball Hall of Fame, but not for pitching for the Mavericks; the shredded gum is what did it and Nellie couldn’t be happier.
“We have an authentic story,” he says. He found a way to stay in the game even though he wasn’t all that good at it, and the commitment is what makes Big League Chew, well, Big League Chew.
After Big League Chew announced it was featuring its first softball player, Nellie says they’ve more aggressively embraced the softball community and loves that people think things like the pouch matter.
Big League Chew has so enthusiastically embraced the softball community that they’ve just recently partnered with National Pro Fastpitch. In a Feb. 14 press release, it was announced that the professional softball league and the iconic gum brand will begin a partnership beginning with the 2019 season.
In the press release, League Commissioner Cheri Kempf said, “We are enthusiastic about helping to grow the Big League Chew brand, and to expose their respect and attention to the female athlete, to our global consumer base.”
Nellie says something similar in that he thinks “it’s fantastic, to have the best and brightest of the softball community helping us.” He says that when people saw the girl on the pouch, a lot of people expressed interest in working with Big League Chew on promoting their brand and what they do.
“It’s been a great opportunity to spread our gospel of gum,” he says with pride.
As for the future of Big League Chew, our favorite new softball character won’t be the lone female on the pouch; Nellie says there’s plans for more girl characters, specifically a pitcher.
“The times are changing,” Nellie says. There’s a community out there that want more, he says.
Between introducing their new character and partnering with the NPF, Big League Chew has a lot in store for softball. in 2019.