04/15/2008 11:54 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 firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line: "Promo Preview."
Louisville Bats (International League)
Rubberboy Performance, April 16
I usually don't highlight touring Minor League performers in this column, because they are a familiar and recurring presence on team promotional calendars. But since it's early in the season, I'll spend some time this week highlighting a few of them. First up is Daniel Browning Smith (aka "Rubberboy"), a world-class contortionist who can wriggle his way into (and out of) almost anything. On Wednesday, Smith will take his act to Louisville, where he's sure to amaze the crowd with his ability to squeeze through a tennis racket (among many other jaw-dropping feats). Perhaps if his bullpen is fatigued that evening, Bats manager Rick Sweet will rely on Smith's rubber arm to get him out of some late-inning jams.
Vero Beach Devil Rays (Florida State League)
Squeeze Bobblehead Giveaway, April 16
The thought of a soft, amorphous bobblehead that can be squeezed, poked and prodded intrigues me greatly, and I hope this becomes a reality in the near future. In the meantime, the only "Squeeze Bobblehead" that actually exists is the one being given away in Vero Beach on Wednesday. In this case, "Squeeze" is the club's popular mascot, an anthropomorphic orange whose demeanor is always sweet and never acidic. Fans who want to get their hands on this sure-to-be-sought-after item should arrive at Holman Stadium as early as possible, as just 200 will be distributed.
Altoona Curve (Eastern League)
When it comes to promotions, the Curve offer an embarrassment of riches. There is so much going on, in fact, that you'll have to settle for a bullet-point rundown of what is sure to be an entertaining week in Altoona:
- Animal House Night (April 17): The Curve pays tribute to the film's 30th Anniversary by staging on-field re-creations of classic scenes.
- Salute to Tools Night (April 18): Double-meanings will abound as the Curve pay tribute to tools, both literal and figurative.
- Economic Stimulus Plan (April 20): The first 1,000 fans age 15 or over receive $5 Curve gift cards.
- Salute to Forgotten Presidents Night (April 21): The day before the Pennsylvania primaries, the Curve offer a history lesson on the likes of Millard Fillmore and Martin Van Buren.
Fort Myers Miracle (Florida State League)
Ladies of the Professional Pillow Fight League, April 17
Make plans for a late night at Hammond Stadium on Thursday, because at the conclusion of that evening's contest between the Miracle and the Threshers there will be a very special event: Pillow Fighting! That's right, the Ladies of the Professional Pillow Fight League will engage in post-game all-holds-barred combat for the enjoyment of a sure-to-be-enthusiastic "Thirsty Thursday" crowd. Laina Beaton -- the league's No. 1 contender -- is scheduled to appear, as are the likes of Eiffel Powers and Carma Monoxide. Be there!
Arkansas Travelers (Texas League)
Diamond Series Rivalry T-Shirt, April 18
The recent entry of the Northwest Arkansas Naturals into the Texas League provides the Travelers with their first-ever in-state opponent. The two clubs will play each other a staggering 32 times this season in a heated battle for Arkansas supremacy. These nearly three dozen contests have been designated the "Diamond Series," and on Friday the Travelers will commemorate this new rivalry by distributing "Diamond Series" T-shirts to the first 2,000 adults in attendance.
Also in Arkansas: On Saturday, the first 1,500 adults in attendance will receive a copy of "100 Years of Travs Baseball" by legendary local sports columnist Jim Bailey.
Augusta GreenJackets (South Atlantic League)
Mad Chad Performance, April 18
Here's another Minor League performer worth mentioning: Mad Chad the Chainsaw Juggler. Chad's act entails (wait for it) chainsaw juggling, which is one of the most compulsively entertaining art forms known to man. On Friday, Chad will visit Augusta to bring his act to the Minor League masses. Expect a death- (or at least limb-) defying performance from a man who knows how to bring the drama. As it says on Chad's web site: "If you really want people to put two hands together, you've got to risk one of your own!"
Also in Augusta: Belated St. Patty's Day celebration on Thursday, when the GreenJackets will take the field wearing Irish baseball jerseys.
Lake Elsinore Storm (California League)
Going Green Weekend
Friday, April 18 to Sunday, April 20
Last season, the Storm became the first Minor League team to stage a promotion dedicated to sustainable living when they hosted "Going Green Night." The night was a success, and dozens of teams followed suit by scheduling their own "Going Green" promos in 2008. But the original is still (presumably) the best, as the Storm have now expanded their original concept into a weekend-long extravaganza. In addition to staging a health and sustainability festival outside of Lake Elsinore's The Diamond, the Storm will shoot off environmentally friendly "green" fireworks on Friday and distribute "seeded postcards" on Saturday. Finally, on Sunday, the team will conserve electricity by playing under the natural light of the sun.
Salem Avalanche (Carolina League)
Salute to Ramen Noodles Night, April 18
In 1948, a businessman by the name of Momofuku Ando irrevocably changed the world's dining habits when he invented Ramen Noodles. Over the following six decades, the popularity of this instant foodstuff has reached epic proportions, especially among cash-strapped college students. On Friday, the Avalanche will pay tribute to this under-appreciated dietary staple by distributing noodle packets to the first 1,000 fans in attendance. If that doesn't sound appetizing, the option will be available to donate these noodles to a local food bank. Fans will get their noodle-fill regardless, as the Avalanche will stage Ramen-themed games and contests throughout the ballgame. These include a "Use Your Noodle" trivia game, a Ramen recipe competition and a noodle-eating contest.
Rome Braves (South Atlantic League)
Myron Noodleman Performance, April 19
Speaking of noodles... On Saturday, the Rome Braves will welcome the ever-popular Myron Noodleman to State Mutual Stadium. The nerdy alter-ego of former high school teacher Rick Hader, Noodleman is known for his spastic on-field song-and-dance routines as well as his ability to improvise while interacting with fans in the stands. Noodleman has perfected his act to such a degree that he is now recognized as the official Clown Prince of Baseball. He is the fifth individual to have been bestowed with this title, following Arlie Latham, Al Schacht, Jackie Price and, of course, Max Patkin.
Portland Sea Dogs (Eastern League)
Football Appreciation Day w/ Steve Grogan, April 21
On Monday, the Sea Dogs will highlight the two-sport versatility of their fan base when they stage "Football Appreciation Day" at Hadlock Stadium. The highlight of this pigskin celebration will undoubtedly be the presence of legendary New England Patriots quarterback Steve Grogan, who will be on hand to pose for pictures and sign autographs. "Grog," as he was known as, is quoted on Wikipedia as saying, "I hear people say that I was one of the toughest quarterbacks to ever play. But I wish they would say I was pretty good, too." Portland fans will soon get the chance to tell this man what he wants to hear.
More, always more. Here's seven promos that didn't make it into last week's column, but could or should have:
"Appetite For Destruction" Performance (Fort Myers Miracle, April 11) -- In which fans were transported back to gritty 1988 Los Angeles via the rockin' sounds of Southwest Florida's #1 Guns 'N Roses tribute band.
Dustin Johnson First Pitch (Myrtle Beach Pelicans, April 11) -- Because there's no better way for a club to kick off its home season than by having a professional golfer throw out the ceremonial first pitch.
Pope on a Rope (Charleston RiverDogs, April 12) -- In an effort to entice Pope Benedict XVI to visit Charleston, the RiverDogs distributed Soap-on-a-Rope embossed with the Pope's likeness.
Cirque du Soleil (Quad Cities River Bandits, April 13) -- The traveling performers of the Saltimbanco Bus pulled into Modern Woodmen Park to promote this week's series of Cirque du Soleil shows in the Quad Cities area.
Tremor's Birthday and Mascot Mania (Rancho Cucamonga Quakes, April 13) -- In which the birth of the Minors' #1 natural disaster-themed dinosaur mascot was celebrated.
Tax Night (Asheville Tourists, April 15) -- The Tourists are offering fans their own "Tax Refund" as ALL seats (including $40 dugout suites) cost a mere $5.
Negro League Tribute (Birmingham Barons, April 15) -- The club wore "Black Barons" throwback uniforms, and several Negro League stars were in attendance.
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.