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Promo Seminar wraps up in Austin
10/03/2008 6:23 PM ET
AUSTIN, Texas -- After three days, 30 presentations and more than a few open bar receptions, the 2008 Minor League Baseball Promotional Seminar came to a conclusion on Friday morning.

The seminar was held in Austin's Renaissance Hotel, a fitting spot considering that Minor League Baseball is itself in the midst of a renaissance. The 2008 season marked another year of record-breaking attendance, and in order for this trend to continue, those who work within the industry need to keep abreast of the latest ideas and innovations.

In an attempt to shine some light on the wide variety of topics that were discussed and events that were held, here are some news and notes from the recently-concluded conference:

Bobblewhat?

West Michigan Whitecaps GM Jim Jarecki gave a presentation on Wednesday entitled "Promotions: Going Deeper Than Just Naming the Event". Given that his club is the most recent winner of the Larry MacPhail Promotional Trophy, it is clear that Jarecki knows of what he speaks.

The Whitecaps were the originators of the "Stars Wars Night" promotion, which has since been adapted by several teams. West Michigan has also enjoyed success by having its players wear a wide variety of theme-night jerseys (this year's "Dark Side of the Moon"-era Pink Floyd get-up was especially memorable).

But one of the most entertaining aspects of Jarecki's presentation was when he stressed the fact that heads are not the only section of the body that can be "bobbled" as part of a promotional giveaway. The Whitecaps gave away a well-received Ty Cobb bobblefoot in 2007 (which, fittingly, was sponsored by a local podiatrist), and found even greater success with this year's "Dave Rozema Karate Kick Bobble-leg." This memorable item, which was nominated as one of MiLB.com's Top 10 promotions of the year, commemorated Rozema's famous flying kick during a bench-clearing brawl in 1982.

The Art and Science of a Successful Belly Buster

Also on Wednesday, Williamsport Crosscutters GM Gabe Sinicropi revealed his "10 Good Ideas You Can Make Better (and hopefully SELL!)". Judging by the amount of questions he received after his presentation, the most intriguing idea Sinicropi presented was the "Belly Buster." The basic premise behind this promotion is simple: 10 contestants are given a full inning to eat a food item, and those that are able to do so advance to the next inning and a new food item.

The Crosscutters have found success with the Belly Buster, and it is clearly something that Sinicropi takes pride in.

"It's an art to position all the types of food in the right way, so that it's difficult enough that a few drop out, but not difficult enough for others to proceed," he said.

Sinicropi then named some of the foods he has used in the past as part of the Belly Buster, including Spam, a can of kidney beans, a quart of milk and four-foot long "Rope-A-Roni" meat sticks.

Clearly, this is not a promotion for the faint of stomach. And that includes the spectators.

A Night At the Old Ballyard

One of the highlights -- if not THE highlight -- of the entire seminar was Thursday evening's field trip to Dell Diamond. This eight-year-old facility is the home of the Round Rock Express, who served as the official hosts of this year's event. Members from the club's front office provided tours of the stadium, and a Texas BBQ dinner was served in the ballpark's United Heritage conference center.

But the highlight for many of the attendees was an on-field softball game, which was played while that evening's Cubs-Dodgers Division Series playoff contest was displayed on the videoboard. For the record, the Blue team defeated the Red team by a score of 16-8. Jackson Ryan, the young son of Express CEO Reid Ryan (and grandson of Hall of Fame hurler Nolan) was named the MVP as a result of his hitting skill and relentless hustle.

Leading the Revolution

The Lake Elsinore Storm staged the Minor League's first "Going Green" promotion in 2007, and dozens of teams followed suit this past season. The club remains at the forefront of the environmental movement, however, a fact that was dramatically illustrated by Storm President Dave Oster on Thursday afternoon.

Oster delivered a presentation entitled "Greening Your Team Makes Cents" in which he outlined the steps the Storm had taken in order to make themselves an ecologically sustainable franchise. This included waterless urinals, irrigating the field with reclaimed (as opposed to potable) water and partnering with local utility companies in order to determine how to implement policies that are both cost-effective and environmentally friendly.

Additionally, the club stages an annual "Going Green" festival at the ballpark, featuring local "green" businesses, information booths, green fireworks and performances from the "Green Man Group."

It's Funny Because It's True

There is, of course, much humor to be found in the world of Minor League promotions and game operations. This point was hammered home by West Virginia Power GM Andy Milovich. As part of his "Powerful Pack of Ideas" presentation, Milovich brought down the house when he showed a tongue-in-cheek video that his club had displayed at the ballpark this season. Riffing off of a well-known Budweiser ad campaign, the Power produced a "Real (Wo)Men of Genius" video that paid tribute to "Cleatchasers". This notorious group of fans are known for wearing high heels and short skirts to the ballpark, and are acutely aware of which players have received the biggest signing bonuses.

Dugout Wisdom Applied to the Minor Leagues

Seminar emcee Dan Migala closed out the seminar on Friday morning with a presentation inspired by his recent book "Dugout Wisdom". The book features first-hand accounts from retired players on how they overcame adversity, and as such is full of life lessons that extend far outside the baseball diamond. Migala utilized anecdotes from Hall of Fame players such as George Brett, Duke Snider and Orlando Cepeda to illustrate the importance of humility, positivity, mentors, setting goals and having an open mind. In closing, he stressed that those in Minor League front offices should strive to make emotional connections with their employees and fans.

"Instead of asking people what they think, ask them what they feel," Migala stressed to his audience. "You'll be surprised by the different sort of answers you'll get."

2009 TBA

The site of next year's Minor League Promotional Seminar is still to be determined, but an announcement is expected in the near future. Taking a cue from the annual Winter Meetings, Minor League officials plan to start lining up locations years in advance as opposed to operating on a year-to-year basis.

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