Ed Casswell doesn't know yet if he has the recipe for wealth. But he does get a nice warm feeling watching people buy packages of the new, officially sanctioned Orioles Sandwich Cookie.
Casswell, a Social Security Administration contracts specialist, is finally seeing the realization of a whimsical idea he talked about for years, and finally revealed in public as part of a 1990 Evening Sun story project that solicited ideas from amateur inventors.
"I'd really like to tell people that, if you have an idea, you ought to try to pursue it, Casswell says. "It's gone a lot further than I thought it would, and I honestly pinch myself to wake up sometimes."
After a sometimes frustrating 16 months of negotiations and paperwork, his vision of a cookie bearing the logos of his favorite team recently began appearing on the shelves of local food stores.
Like the familiar Hydrox and Oreo brand cookies, the baseball team cookie is dark chocolate with white icing. Embossed on one side is the Orioles script logo and on the other is the ornithologically correct likeness of the team's namesake bird, as it appears on team caps.
Originally, Casswell proposed the snack with orange icing to better emphasize the team colors connection. But the final product limits the orange-and-black tones to the packaging because store operators thought customers would be less likely to buy an orange-iced version. A 16-ounce package is designed to sell for $1.75 to $1.99.
"I guess it's true the packaging is what's important and that people really don't see what's inside," says Casswell wistfully.
The cookie is being made through and distributed by Mid-Atlantic Snacks of York, Pa. Some 500 to 600 stores in the region carry or will soon have the cookies on their shelves, says Casswell. They are on the shelves in the Baltimore area at some Safeway and Super Fresh stores, and due later in the week at some Farm Fresh stores. (Major chain Giant and Mars stores, however, do not carry them pending contract negotiations. For information on where to find them, call Mid-Atlantic Snacks at 1-800-222-8385.)
So how did the idea get from Casswell's brain to your neighborhood grocery?
"It's been a very long, drawn-out process," says Casswell, 45, who lives in Woodbine with his wife, Joann, and four kids, ages 1, 3, 4 and 18.
A Prince Georges County native and former Senators fan who adopted the Orioles when he moved to this area about seven years ago, Casswell says he had talked about his orange-and-black cookie idea for years. But it took the EUREKA! newspaper project to get it down on paper.
The Evening Sun staff project, published in early 1990 in the Saturday Sun, asked readers to submit ideas for useful inventions both wacky and practical. Casswell's hand-drawn proposal was declared in a follow-up story to be the "winningest" idea from among more than 200 submissions.
"I thought if [the newspaper] liked it, it might have a chance," recalls Casswell. So he made some trips to local groceries, "looking at the backs of cookie packages for the addresses of makers and distributors."
He sent out 18 to 20 letters proposing his idea. Most went unanswered, and some big companies merely responded by saying they don't accept outside proposals. But in York, bakery distributor and Orioles season ticket holder Pressley Pullen of Mid-Atlantic Snacks got excited and contacted Casswell im
"It was just a magic type thing," says Pullen.
Following negotiations and legal consultations, Casswell sold his idea to Pullen's Mid-Atlantic Snacks for manufacture and marketing.
"I didn't realize how much red tape there is to go through, especially for a small company like mine," says Pullen.
All such team promotions, for example, must be licensed by baseball's governing body as well as the team involved. Final approvals did not come through from Major League Baseball until this past January.
Marty Conway, marketing manager for the Orioles, says this is the first such cookie product licensed by the big leagues for any team. He said the team reviewed Casswell's concept and decided, "Yeah, we could support it if the licensing could be worked out."
A variety of delays meant the product did not make it into stores for the season opening in April, nor are the cookies available at Memorial Stadium. But Casswell and Conway say it is a goal to sell small packages at the new stadium at Camden Yards next season. And Conway says the product will be made available at a variety of Orioles autograph sessions and other promotional appearances during the last six weeks of the season.
In addition, at Monday's Orioles game, the cookie distributor will host food store officials in the Orioles team box.
Casswell says he has yet to realize any income from the product, and is not exactly expecting to be able to leave his telephone-purchasing job with the SSA to live on the cookie proceeds.
But he did get excited to hear some Orioles players were sampling the product in the dugout recently.
"Of course, they lost that night and then lost four or five in a row, so I don't know if you can say they're good for winning," jokes Casswell.