05/27/2008 9:12 AM ET
Top 10 upcoming promotions
Previewing can't-miss events at ballparks across the Minor Leagues
By Benjamin Hill
Minor League teams are known for their game-day promotions. Every Tuesday during the season, we'll preview 10 of the best for the week ahead. If you'd like a particular promotion to be considered for this feature in the future, please send it to email@example.com with the subject line: "Promo Preview."
Birmingham Barons (Southern League)
13th Annual Rickwood Classic w/Jimmy Piersall Appearance and Photo Giveaway
Birmingham's Rickwood Field, which served as the Barons' home from 1910-87, is the oldest surviving professional baseball stadium in the United States. Since 1996, the Barons have returned to their venerable old haunt for the "Rickwood Classic," an event that allows the franchise to pay tribute to its long and illustrious past. For this year's Classic, the club will honor the Boston Red Sox-affiliated 1951-52 Barons. The Barons will take the field sporting uniforms from that era, and Jimmy Piersall will be the guest of honor. The first 1,500 fans through the turnstiles will receive a vintage photo of Piersall, who played for the Barons in both 1951 and 1952 in addition to logging 17 seasons in the Major Leagues.
Toledo Mud Hens (International League)
Mike Hessman Bobblehead, May 29
While he has yet to find a foothold in the Majors, Toledo Mud Hens slugger Mike Hessman has long been considered one of the Minor Leagues' most fearsome sluggers. The 30-year-old third baseman has hit a franchise-record 101 home runs for the Mud Hens, and his 272 career dingers are the most of any active Minor Leaguer. On Thursday, the Mud Hens will honor Hammerin' Hessman with his very own bobblehead doll. According to my calculations, this doll will skyrocket in value in 2011. It is then that Hessman will lead the American League in home runs after returning from a successful stint in Japan.
Reading Phillies (Eastern League)
Yo! Pimp My Ride Clunker Car Giveaway, May 30
Quite a few teams host Used Car Giveaways during the season, but none can top the Reading Phillies when it comes to the comedic value of this promotion. On Friday, the club will parody the MTV show "Yo! Pimp My Ride!" by giving away vehicles that director of communications Rob Hackash describes as having "passed inspection, but just barely. Four tires and duct tape come standard on most cars." If you've always dreamed of owning such an automobile, then visit Reading's FirstEnergy Stadium for the chance to drive home a barely functioning vehicle of your very own.
Stockton Ports (California League)
Krazy George Appearance, May 30
Each season, I have to give ballpark icon Krazy George at least one write-up in this column. To not do so would be a great disservice to one of the most entertaining touring performers in all of sports. For those who were born yesterday, Krazy George is a professional cheerleader who is widely credited with inventing the wave. According to his website, he is "the ultimate non-stop cheerleader" who "starts with individual sections until he has the whole stadium under his command." On Friday, the stadium in question will be Banner Island Ballpark, as Krazy will be making a highly anticipated appearance on behalf of the Stockton Ports.
Fresno Grizzlies (Pacific Coast League)
Drag Kings Bobbledoll Giveaway, May 31
The Drag Kings are Minor League Baseball's premier dancing grounds crew, and their choreographed infield-dragging routines have become a popular part of the Chukchansi Park experience. So popular, in fact, that the Grizzlies are now honoring the Drag Kings' with their very own bobblehead. This highly anticipated item features a svelte, sunglasses-wearing, midriff-exposing member of the crew gyrating seductively (parental discretion is advised). And 2,500 of these beauties will be given away, so either arrive early to get one or else resign yourself to living out the remainder of your days burdened by an unceasing sense of regret.
Potomac Nationals (Carolina League)
Outdoor Expo with George Washington Mascot Appearance, May 31
Prior to Saturday evening's contest against Kinston, the P-Nats will be staging an Outdoor Expo in the Pfitzner Stadium parking lot. This vast expanse of asphalt will be transformed into a veritable "who's who" of outdoor sports businesses, showcasing boat dealers, camping equipment suppliers, ski resorts and much, much more. After moseying into the stadium upon the conclusion of the Outdoor Expo, fans will be treated to a performance by mascot George Washington, who usually spends his time racing against Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt and Thomas Jefferson at nearby Nationals Park.
Rochester Red Wings (International League)
Stan and Stu Cliburn Double-sided Bobblehead, June 1
For each of the past three seasons, the Red Wings' roost has been ruled by the Cliburn brothers. Stan serves as the club's skipper, while his identical twin, Stu, handles the pitching coach duties. On Sunday, the Red Wings will be paying tribute to this unique arrangement by distributing 2,000 double-sided Stan and Stu Cliburn bobblehead dolls. The lucky fans who receive these items will then have to think long and hard about which twin will receive the more prominent placement on their memorabilia shelf.
Myrtle Beach Pelicans (Carolina League)
Decade Week, June 2-5
Virtually every Minor League team has staged a "decade" promotion at some point, in which an era of recent American history is celebrated throughout the evening. The Pelicans are taking that concept to the next level this week, giving fans the opportunity to take a prolonged backwards trip through time. It all begins Monday with '80s Night, and over the next three days the club will also celebrate '70s, '60s and '50s Night. That's as far as they're going, however, which is a shame. If the team continued to move back one decade in time during each remaining home game, they'd finish the season with a tribute to the 1530s.
Vero Beach Devil Rays (Florida State League)
Emergency Preparedness Night, June 2
Minor League Promotions are not always fun and games. Take Vero Beach's "Emergency Preparedness Night," for example, in which club has partnered with the never-jovial Department of Homeland Security to provide fans an important public service. Attendees at Monday's contest will receive information about the types of emergencies that could occur in the Vero Beach area, and how to put together an emergency supply kit. The first 500 fans will receive a mini-flashlight, and representatives from a local home-improvement business will be on-hand to provide information on how to storm-proof one's residence. Since cheap food and drink make it much easier to contemplate the reality of facing an emergency, hot dogs, beer and soda will cost just $1 all game long.
Altoona Curve (Eastern League)
Salute to Quitters Night, June 3
On Tuesday, the normally indomitable Altoona Curve will temporarily adopt the motto "If you can't beat them, quit." On this very special occasion, the club will pay tribute to notorious quitters such as boxer Roberto "No Mas!" Duran and coaches Bobby Knight and Bobby Petrino. In one of the greatest giveaways of the season so far, one lucky (?) fan will receive a "back door," then be encouraged to leave Blair County Ballpark before the game becomes official.
Bonus Coverage! In which we take a look back at promotions that, for reasons of varying validity, didn't make it into last week's column:
Amish Night (Wilmington Blue Rocks, May 23) -- The Blue Rocks staged a game-long salute to the anachronistic ways of everyone's favorite technology-adverse farming community.
EMS Night (Cedar Rapids Kernels, May 24) -- Both fans and Kernels players gathered on the field before the game to become a certified CPR practitioner.
Economic Stimulus Night (Richmond Braves, May 24) -- The R-Braves did their part to rejuvenate our flagging economy by giving fans four "Diamond Dollars" in exchange for purchasing a ticket in advance.
Roger Powell Jr. Motivational Speech (Peoria Chiefs, May 24) -- The former University of Illinois basketball standout fired up the pregame crowd with his life-affirming message of hope and determination.
Family Fight Club Day (Altoona Curve, May 26) -- Area families went head-to-head in contests such as tricycle jousting, hamster ball racing and kangaroo boxing.
Salute Your Local Heroes Night (Tennessee Smokies, May 26) -- The Smokies pulled out all the stops for Memorial Day, including a helicopter flyover and flag lowering as part of a pregame tribute to America's armed forces personnel.
Two Millionth Fan Celebration (Lake County Captains, May 27) -- One lucky fan was honored with a spectacular prize pack, the highlight of which was a jersey with No. 2 and the name "Million" on the back.
Benjamin Hill is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.