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Promotions: When disaster strikes
10/02/2006 8:49 AM ET
CHARLOTTE -- Not all Minor League promotions are created equal.

For every Fireworks Night that draws a packed house, there's a promotion that goes wrong for one reason or another.

When disaster strikes, "we try and make lemonade out of lemons," said C.J. Knudsen, general manager of the Vermont Lake Monsters, who spoke during a panel discussion at the Minor League Baseball Promotion Seminar in Charlotte.

Knudsen should know. In 2003, his Vermont club won only 19 games and was in the midst of a five-game slide when he decided to host a "Slumber Party" promotion, during which he'd sleep in the club's first-base dugout until the team finally won. After each loss, he was joined by a member of his front office.

"Pretty soon we had seven people sleeping in the dugout, interns sleeping on the roof," Knudsen said. "But the national media got interested." Knudsen and his crew spent seven nights at Centennial Field before Vermont ended the skid at 12 games.

"The players ran onto the field like we had won the pennant, and our fans went crazy," Knudsen said. "By being creative about this losing streak, we had really taken a negative and turned it into a positive."

Here are a few other "lemons" from the world of Minor League promotions:

Jay Miller, president/COO, Round Rock Express

"We did a Diamond Dig a few years ago back in New Orleans. A local jeweler had donated a three-karat diamond for us to give away. The idea was to have the ladies dig for it in the infield. So the diamond was buried about three or four inches deep near second base and the ladies came out after the game with spoons to dig all over the infield.

"This was New Orleans, so it was hot and humid, and the women were on their hands and knees digging. The groundskeeper wanted to kill me. Thirty minutes goes by, and there were giant holes in the infield but still no diamond. Finally we told them where it was buried, so we had 100 women all around second base, digging but still no diamond.

"Turns out our players follow the promotions, they know what's going on, and one of our players had taken the diamond.

"So we gave each of the women four tickets, and we had a drawing to see which of them would win the diamond [once we got it back]. And wouldn't you know it, but the prettiest girl won. Everyone thought it was fixed!"

North Johnson, GM, Myrtle Beach Pelicans

"We had a situation in Rancho this season where we had scheduled a truck giveaway on the last game of the year. Fans had to throw a tennis ball from home plate to second base and have it land in a bucket to win the drive -- so it was just about impossible.

"We had 50 fans try out, probably the worst 50 throws in the history of mankind. Nobody won and frankly we wanted to give the truck away, it was already paid for by insurance. So as a consolation prize we gave each of the fans four tickets to next year's Opening Day, which we thought was nice.

"But the fans were upset; they couldn't believe nobody was walking away with the truck. They felt we had cheated them, so it was a tough way to end the season. Just make sure if you do something like this, that you've clearly stated the rules to the fans."

Brad Taylor, GM/COO, Trenton Thunder

"Being located in New Jersey, we figured hockey jerseys with our logo would be a great idea. We did this in 2002 and just sold our last jersey.

"Also, I think there are a few entertainment acts that are past their prime. Some of them aren't even topical anymore. When we get into a situation like that, we basically just throw our own crew out there to help out and move night along."

Danny Tetzlaff, GM, Casper Rockies

"In Casper, we've tried a lot of different things to put people into the park. We've also stuck to the tried and true, like giving away gift certificates all season long, anytime someone hits a home run during the sixth inning.

"Well, we came up one gift certificate short this year, so one night we decided not to run the promotion. And sure enough, someone hit a homer in the sixth inning on that night. And, of course, the fans wanted to know why they didn't win their gift certiciates.

"So, when you run a promotion like that, just make sure you've got all your bases covered."

C.J. Knudsen, GM, Vermont Expos

"We do a Tribute to Montreal Night. Burlington is only 98 miles from Montreal, and there were a lot of Expos fans in our area.

"Last year Andre Dawson appeared, but it poured all night long, so we lost a lot of money. But we felt strongly about it so we did it again this season, and El Presidente joined us at the park. He was a great guy. Like Dawson, we paid him an appearance fee and were hoping for 4,000 fans.

"We only drew 3,000, so we lost some money. But we're going to do it again next year because part of this is giving back to our community. And the people in our community and nearby Montreal appreciate this event."

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.