Image - Los Angeles Angels Stadium

A paint company has a big bucket way out behind left field and they put a sign in front that says, “Angels Home Run in the Can $1,000,000” – to immediately reiterate, that company will donate one million dollars to charity if one of the Angel baseball players hits a home run into the bucket. That paint company is called Sherwin-Williams. And that challenge comes with fine print.

It seemed straightforward enough to Angels baseball fans and the Los Angeles community. Until Sherwin-Williams set up the stipulations for it. If you’re the lawyer for a billion-dollar business, your job is to keep the money in the hands of your client. I’m guessing it’s so they can afford those ridiculous hourly billing rates.

The Hit Heard Round the Bucket

On Tuesday night, Justin Upton, an outfielder for the Los Angeles Angels hit a home run into the bucket. Kind of. It bounced on the ground right in front of the big blue bucket and then landed in it.

And that is where the technicality comes in. Sherwin-Williams’ contract dictates the ball must go in the bucket on the fly. The Angels said that because it bounced first, it wouldn’t count. Even Halos Heaven contributor Josh Mayhood wrote a piece on it, gratuitously repeating that Upton did not hit a home run into the paint can.

VIDEO LINK: https://streamable.com/61e1i (from http://ftw.usatoday.com/2017/09/justin-upton-home-run-1-million-paint-can-sherwin-williams-angels-mlb)

Here’s where Sherwin-Williams could make the epic mistake of deciding its revenues and reputation are independent of the general public and definitely independent of a charity that goes to kids.

What exactly does this charity even do for kids, you ask?

“The Angels Baseball Foundation is dedicated to improving the lives of children in need within our community, and provides funding for youth in crisis, youth health initiatives, you baseball programs, and youth education.” –MLB.com

Oh. All of that.

Sherwin-Williams has a choice to make. Give the donation or stand by the technicality. If they decide to pay, fantastic! If not, here are the two major problems they face.

Problem #1

I looked at Sherwin-Williams financial filings. They made $11,856.000.000 in sales last year, with a net income of $1,133,000,000. I’ll save you from opening the calculator on your phone: that means they could make that donation 1,133 times. In 150 games this season, it has happened once. It’s safe to say Sherwin-Williams can pay out.

With such an unlikely occurrence as hitting this home run, combined with the fact that the company is doing well (well enough to gamble away a cool million), Sherwin-Williams would have completely forgotten why they signed that contract to begin with. I get it – your blue paint bucket is a marketing tool for baseball fans to look at and remember the next time they paint their living room.

But more importantly, it’s a chance the change the lives of countless children in the Los Angeles community. Forget the blue bucket or home run challenge. They could make that donation just out of pure love for your community.

The original company that set up the bucket was actually Frazee Paint. This means that when Sherwin-Williams bought Frazee Paint, they had to decide whether to renew the home run challenge. Considering the bucket now shows the Sherwin-Williams logo, I’d say they did.

The challenge has nothing to do with how many people bought their paint through some affiliation program. There isn’t even a baseball-related sales goal, like the number of people in the stands or hot dogs sold. It is pure spirit of the game.  As Frazee Paint’s marketing director put it:

“We have strong ties in the community and selected the Angels as our partner to show support for one of our largest markets, just as this community has supported us for more than 115 years. With more than 30 stores in Greater Los Angeles and a baseball team that draws fans from all areas of Southern California, this is a great way to say thank you while helping a worthy cause.”

Supporting charities is about giving back. It’s about saying, “I’m in a good enough position to take what I have and pass it along to those without.” That’s what Frazee Paint said they were all about. Giving back for 115 years of support. Sherwin-Williams bought that support when they bought the company and with it, they bought accountability.

Problem #2

When I read that the technicality called for the ball to land in the bucket “on the fly”, I had two thoughts. First, I acknowledged that rules are rules and that’s what the rules said.

Then I immediately thought, “What a bunch of a-holes.”

Let me clarify where my anger was directed. It’s not so much at the fact that “on the fly” is in the contract. It’s more that some group of people felt the contract needed to include it. It has to do with this Latin phrase:

inclusio unius est exclusio alterius | “including one excludes another”

I imagine Frazee Paint and Sherwin-Williams don’t hire idiots for lawyers. Their legal teams spell out legal jargon on the daily, so they knew that including language like “on the fly” would specifically rule out any other type of circumstance where the ball ended up in the bucket. Think about why you would include this type of language. What are the odds that the baseball would bounce on the ground in front of the can (still a home run) and then land in the can? My educated guess is that it’s actually harder.

I’m going to mix sports a little bit, but it’s for the sake of analogy. Picture yourself at the free throw line on a basketball court. Try throwing a basketball into the hoop from the free throw line. Maybe hard for you, maybe not. Now try to bounce the basketball on the ground and have it go in the basket. Even if you can make the free throw no problem, the bounce shot is harder. Obviously if we replaced the basketball hoop with that big blue bucket, it would be much easier. But the batter is 450 feet way, hitting a ball that was thrown about 90 mph at him.

Rules of the Game

But wait. The rules of baseball clearly stipulate that the ball must be caught on the fly in order for it to count as an out. So, what’s the big deal here?

The difference is that Sherwin-Williams is promising the prize to charity. It’s not for the Angels baseball team to go home with a World Series ring. It’s for kids to go to school, camps, and youth shelters.

When it comes to charities, close enough is enough. The day after the home run bucket hit, Sherwin-Williams released a statement about their upcoming webcast event, but not a word about whether they would pay out or not. In fact, their only Twitter post was about guessing some off-brown paint color.

The only way I see Sherwin-Williams coming out of this on top is to show they fully support their commitment, regardless of the technicality, to the Angels Baseball Foundation and the community by donating the $1 million because they believe in it so much.

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