3 Stock Picks Inspired by the Start of the 2014 MLB Season

With the 2014 Major League Baseball season in full swing, let's look at three companies that are essential in making the game as great as it is and the results from their most recent quarterly reports.

Satisfying fans' hunger
One of the most popular food products to eat while watching the greatest game in the world is the hot dog, and Major League teams have made dogs a staple in stadiums by giving them unique names; for example, the Fenway Frank is one of Boston's best-selling items and Dodger Dogs in Los Angeles are the best-selling hot dogs out of all 30 Major League ballparks. According to the National Hot Dog & Sausage Council, over 21 million hot dogs will be consumed in Major League parks this year, and this is great news for the official hot dog provider of the New York Yankees and New York Mets, Nathan's Famous (NASDAQ: NATH  ) . Nathan's hot dogs are also available to the at-home fans at over 40,000 grocery and retail locations in all 50 states and by visiting one of the company's 313 restaurants.

Source: Nathan's Famous.

In its third-quarter report for fiscal 2014 released on Feb. 6, Nathan's Famous showed earnings per share of $0.24 and revenue of $18.53 million, representing year-over-year increases of 4.3% and 23.3%, respectively. Revenue is expected to rise 14% in the fourth quarter and 15.7% for the full year of fiscal 2014, showing that the company has momentum on its side going into the start of the MLB season. But Nathan's Famous has a market cap of just $220.5 million, making it more of a speculative pick today, and Foolish investors should treat it as such.

Keeping fans hydrated and snacks in the stands
As Nathan's Famous supplies one of the most popular main courses of Major League-style grilling, PepsiCo (NYSE: PEP  ) keeps fans hydrated and supplies some of the most popular snack foods. PepsiCo is one of Major League Baseball's official sponsors, and according to the American Beverage Association, it is the primary beverage supplier of half (15) of its stadiums. The company's beverages flow by the millions of gallons at stadiums each year, and its Frito-Lay lineup of snacks keep fans satisfied, while Gatorade fuels athletes on the field. 

Source: PepsiCo.

On Feb. 13, PepsiCo released its fourth-quarter report for fiscal 2013; earnings per share increased 5.7% to $1.12 and revenue increased 1% to $20.11 billion compared with the same period a year ago, driven by organic growth of 4.1%. The company went on to announce a 15.4% increase in its dividend to $2.62 annually, giving it a yield of about 3.2% at current levels; this also represented the 42nd consecutive year with a dividend increase.

For fiscal 2014, PepsiCo expects earnings per share to increase 7% and organic revenue growth in the mid-single digits, while generating free cash flow of over $7 billion; the company noted that this increased cash flow will be used to increase its returns to shareholders by more than 35% in 2014 via dividends and share repurchases.

Supporting MLB fandom worldwide
Fans know there's no better way to show the support of your favorite Major League Baseball team than donning the jersey of your favorite player, and those jerseys are manufactured by Majestic Athletic, which is proudly owned by VF (NYSE: VFC  ) -- which also manufactures jackets, T-shirts, sweatshirts, and other items for Major League Baseball. Fans can find those items in the team stores at stadiums and online in the MLB.com shop and other e-commerce sites. Suffice it to say VF enables Major League fandom.

Source: Majestic Athletic.

In its fourth-quarter report for fiscal 2013 released, on Valentine's Day, VF's earnings per share increased 6.5% to $0.82 and revenues increased 8.5% to $3.26 billion, compared with the fourth quarter of 2012. In fiscal 2014, VF expects earnings per share to increase 11% to 13% and revenues to increase 7% to 8%, while generating $1.65 billion in cash flow from operations; the company said it plans to use this increased cash flow to return approximately $1 billion to shareholders in the form of dividends and share repurchases. It's also worth noting that VF, like PepsiCo, has raised its dividend for more than 40 consecutive years and has a yield of about 1.7% at current levels.

The Foolish bottom line
The start of the 2014 Major League Baseball season bring tears of joy to the eyes of baseball fans everywhere and adds a stream of revenue for companies such as Nathan's Famous, PepsiCo, and VF. PepsiCo is my favorite investment idea of the three, because of its growth expectations over the next few years, its healthy 3.2% dividend following the recent increase, and its multibillion-dollar share repurchase program. VF came in a close second and Nathan's Famous is in the hole, rounding out the order. Take a closer look and see if one of these Major League studs could fill a spot in your Foolish portfolio's lineup. 

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