On Valentine's Day, there are many different ways to say "I love you."
Many smitten individuals choose to buy their sweetheart flowers and chocolate, while others make reservations at candlelit restaurants. But perhaps the best way to get one's feelings across is to hire a 6-foot-7 costumed dog, anthropomorphic steam engine or a smiling blue moose to make a special delivery to your beloved.
Welcome to Valentine's Day in the Minor Leagues.
For a reasonable fee, several teams across the country (and one in Canada) are offering their fans gift packages that are guaranteed to make this Valentine's Day a memorable one. While the specifics vary, these packages all involve an array of romantic items being delivered directly to your loved one's home, school or office.
The Fort Myers Miracle, for example, are offering a $50 package that includes a red rose, six box-seat tickets, a $25 gift certificate to Outback Steakhouse, and, of course, a personal visit from team mascot Miss-A-Miracle.
"It's a fun day, but it's a busy day," said Miracle Promotions Director Gary Sharp. "We start at nine and go until about five, and we'll be making different stops. Needless to say, MapQuest is a very popular tool in our office right now."
The Miracle offered a similar package last year, which resulted in a very memorable moment.
"We showed up at the office of a big financial firm, and we just couldn't find anybody," recalled Sharp. "It's just me and this 6-foot7 dog. We finally came to a conference room, so we knocked on the door and poked our head in. There were 35 people there in a high-level meeting, and when we announced who we were there for the boss went into a tirade against her. He thought the whole thing was a practical joke. But we're going back there again this year, and fortunately we've been assured that particular boss is currently in Las Vegas."
Meanwhile, thousands of miles from Fort Myers, former Miracle assistant GM Andrew Seymour has instituted a Valentine's Day Promotion for his new club, the Vancouver Canadians.
"This is a novel thing for us here in Vancouver," said Seymour, who was hired as the Canadians GM just last month. "But it makes sense for us. We've got a brand new logo, and the base color is red. We'll be presenting roses and "Cupid" ticket packs, basically a 10-pack of game tickets."
The Canadians' promotion varies slightly from other teams, as the club does not currently have a mascot.
"We'll have our staff members making the deliveries, dressed in red," he said. "We're located in a hockey mecca here, and around this time of year the focus in on the Canucks. But doing something like this gets that baseball feeling in the air again, and gives everyone that sense of eternal hope that comes with the spring. After all, we're undefeated in 2008!"
Another club that is doing its inaugural Valentine's Day promotion this season is the Reading Phillies. Response has been such that the team will be sending out two separate squads of V-Day emissaries.
"We're going to be doing this like Disney World," said Director of Communications Rob Hackash. "The same way that they have different Mickey Mouses in different parts of the park, we're going to be sending out two different Screwballs [the team's mascot]. But we're going to make sure that our Screwballs are never anywhere near each other during the day."
Reading's multiple Screwballs will be making a combined three dozen stops in the Reading area on Valentine's Day. One, in particular, stands out from the rest.
"I'd say our most interesting destination is Berks County Prison," said Hackash. "We're going to be delivering a valentine to one of the receptionists there."
"Overall, we're looking at this as a great Hot Stove event. Once the NFL ends, it's the worst time of the year for sports. People need baseball back, and something like this can get people thinking about how it's not so far away."
Minor League Baseball is full of friendly rivalries, especially between teams that are in close proximity to one another. For example, the staff of the Altoona Curve freely admit that their decision to stage a Valentine's Day promotion was directly influenced by their counterparts in Reading.
"We tried doing this a few years ago, and it didn't really take off," said Director of Communications Elsie Zengel. "But this time we jacked down the price, and made a charitable donation to the American Heart Association as part of the cost. The response has been very positive."
Indeed, the Curve's package is an imminently good bargain. For a penny shy of $40, one receives a half-dozen roses, two tickets to any 2008 Curve game, two mascot candy bars and a personalized note written on a Curve baseball. Fans are then able to choose which of the club's two mascots will deliver the goods: Steamer (a steam engine) or his pet, Diesel Dawg. For the record, Steamer has been the runaway favorite.
"It might be because Steamer has his own tuxedo," remarked Zengel.
Finally, we end this Valentine's Day tour of the Minor Leagues in Wilmington, Del., where Rocky Bluewinkle the Moose will be having a most busy day.
"This is the second year we've done this, and we've found people get a real kick out of it," said Director of Sales Jared Forma. "Well, kids get a kick out of it, while adults are embarrassed. It's always great to go into an office and see the reactions of the co-workers. Everyone starts scrambling for a camera."
"But walking into a school or a hospital is the most fun of all. It's great to see the reaction of a whole group of kids, and it gets everyone thinking about baseball again."
Last season, the Valentine's Day plans of several teams hit a serious snag due to a severe snowstorm that hit the east coast. The weather this year looks like it will be a bit more manageable, but there are still some predictions of precipitation.
But, similar to the post office's pledge to deliver the mail in rain, sleet or snow, the teams that are running Valentine's Day promotions this season are determined to complete the task.
"We're really hoping the weather doesn't affect anything," said Zengel. "Love is in the air, and we've got to get these Valentines delivered no matter what!"
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.