Fans honoring deceased loved ones with cutouts at MLB games

Major League Baseball fans have found a new way to memorialize family and friends.

ESPN has confirmed over a dozen instances of people who have died then being made into a cutout and displayed in the stands at major league parks throughout baseball during the COVID-19 pandemic.

To make for a better experience for the players and fans watching from home, teams are pumping in crowd noise and filling in seats with the cutouts.

There is an imagery vetting process by each team for the cutouts, but being alive isn't a requirement.

Preston G. Holland was the biggest Los Angeles Dodgers fan his granddaughter ever knew. And probably will ever know. Born in 1927, he became a season-ticket holder in 1958 -- the same year NASA was created. But most importantly, it was the year when the Dodgers started playing at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

The Dodgers originally played at the Coliseum while Dodger Stadium was being built. One thing remained the same: Holland's love for baseball. It didn't even let up after he died in 2013.

"He actually was buried proudly representing his Dodgers in a Dodger tie, a Dodger Hat and a radio tuned to 570 AM. And as we said our goodbyes, we sang the seventh-inning stretch," his granddaughter Megan Holland told ESPN.

As a baseball coach for one of his sons, the love and passion for the game of baseball was passed down to his 11 grandchildren.

So when the Dodgers offered the opportunity to fans to buy cardboard cutouts for home games this season in lieu of in-person fans, the Holland family knew they had to buy one for their grandfather. He's watching this season in spirit, Megan Holland told ESPN -- and to say that gives the family pleasure is an understatement.

According to the Dodgers, more than 9,500 cutouts have been sold to hang out with one another around Dodger Stadium -- capacity: 56,000 -- when the team plays at home. The coronavirus pandemic has caused MLB and sports around the world to play on without fans in the stands, and so teams like the Dodgers and the New York Mets have given their fans the opportunity to still be part of the game.

The exact number of former fans being memorialized isn't known, because that information isn't part of the application process.

Further, the Dodgers are donating all money to its charity. So far, that is $1.6 million given directly to the Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation.

Mauricio Alvarado owns a collectible merchandise company and years ago had been licensed by comedian Brody Stevens to make enamel pins for his comedic appearances. Stevens, a lifelong baseball fan, died in 2018 before Alvarado finished his final product, but Alvarado told ESPN that with the approval of Stevens' family, he kept "the pins in stock and raised funds to set up a memorial bench in his honor over at his hometown park in Reseda, California. With the approval of his family, I still sell the pin and use the funds to help keep his memory and legacy alive."

Then, fellow comedian Tommy Godlove put a call out on social media asking for donations to get Stevens a cutout, and he is now in the stands at Dodger Stadium with his "818" shirt on -- the area code of his hometown.

"It's been wonderful seeing all the beautiful responses from his friends and fans. Brody was a huge baseball fan so this was just the perfect opportunity to show Brody some love," Alvarado told ESPN.

Some other fans contacted for this story confirmed they had purchased cutouts of loved ones but weren't comfortable explaining further, letting the gesture stand on its own.

Celebrities are popping up, too. Tune into any Dodgers game and you might see Brad Paisley or Gabriel Iglesias or Magic Johnson or Daddy Yankee.

At Dodger Stadium, people are allowed only to wear team gear or plain attire -- no photos that contain obscene, lewd, explicit, discriminatory, derogatory, violent, offensive, infringing or otherwise inappropriate content.

And in Kansas City someone took it to another level. Someone with an odd sense of humor and a love for 1980s comedies orchestrated a cutout of "Bernie" for the dark comedy "Weekend at Bernie's."

The Dodgers also state -- and similar language is used by other clubs -- images can't also contain commercial advertisements, including sponsor names, logos, slogans, websites, and/or phone numbers; social media handles and hashtags; offensive or negative references to any MLB team; or names, images or likenesses of any MLB players.