04/29/2008 8:00 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."
Lakewood BlueClaws (South Atlantic League)
Claws, Jockeys, Cards, Sombreros and more
April 30, May 1 and 4-5
The BlueClaws are offering an extremely diverse array of promotions throughout their upcoming homestand. As is my wont, I will now list some highlights in bullet-point form.
It is a fortunate thing that the BlueClaws are staging these promotions one at a time, because playing a game of cards with an inflatable claw while wearing a sombrero and riding a horse is a sure-fire recipe for disaster.
- Inflatable Claw giveaway to the first 2,000 fans (April 30)
- Autograph appearance by famous jockey "Jersey" Joe Bravo (May 1)
- BlueClaws Playing Cards giveaway to the first 2,000 fans (May 4)
- BlueClaws Sombrero giveaway as part of Cinco de Mayo celebration (May 5)
Fresno Grizzlies (Pacific Coast League)
Hannah Montana "Ride Your Kids' Coattails Night"
The Grizzlies offer $1 admission to kids 12 and under every Wednesday, and now they're extending that offer to parents as well. As part of "Ride Your Kids' Coattails Night," any parent who brings in an award won by his or her child will be eligible to purchase a $1 ticket. This novel promotion was inspired by country music star Billy Ray Cyrus, who has revived his own career due to the massive success attained by his daughter, Miley (a.k.a. Hannah Montana). Accordingly, the entire evening at Chukchansi Park will be dedicated to celebrating the phenomenon that is Hannah Montana. Most intriguingly (and terrifyingly), employees from tween boutique Club Libby Lu will be offering free pop-star makeovers on the concourse during the game. What hath you wrought, Billy Ray?
Fort Myers Miracle (Florida State League)
"Mighty Gonzalez" Keg Lift Record, May 1
By day, David Gonzalez is an unassuming Taco Bell employee. But in the evening, he often morphs into his "Mighty Gonzalez" alter-ego. When channeling "Mighty," Gonzalez performs amazing feats of strength throughout the Fort Myers area, where he has gained notoriety for his ability to walk on glass and crush cinder blocks on his torso (don't try this at home, kids). At the Miracle's Hammond Stadium, Mighty Gonzalez will feed off the energy of an enthusiastic "Thirsty Thursday" crowd as he attempts to break the Guinness Book of World Record for full keg lifts. The current mark is 900 over a six-hour period, but Gonzalez is seeking to accomplish the feat over the course of just nine innings. I'll be rooting for you, Mighty. You can do it.
Albuquerque Isotopes (Pacific Coast League)
Bobble Plane Giveaway, May 2
If the world of Minor League Baseball promotions has taught us anything over the past decade or so, it's that just about anything can be "bobbled." On Friday, the Isotopes will be putting this time-tested truism to good use when they distribute "bobble planes" to the first 3,000 fans in attendance. These undulating replica flying machines are a joint initiative with Isotopes sponsor Eclipse Aviation and feature the logos of both of these respectable business entities. Here's hoping that the team continues to partner with their sponsors on similar ventures, so that their fans can look forward to items such as bobble banks, bobble golf courses and bobble cellular phones (not to mention bobble hot-air balloons). The possibilities are endless, really.
Binghamton Mets (Eastern League)
Tribute to Johnny Hart, May 2
The B-Mets will pay homage to a notable local on Friday evening, when the work of legendary cartoonist Johnny Hart will be celebrated throughout the ballgame. Hart, who passed away in 2007 at the age of 76, is best known as the creator of the long-running "Wizard of Id" and "B.C." comic strips. (In fact, it has often been noted that B.C. also stands for Broome County, where Binghamton is located.) In addition to his nationally known works, Hart often created logos and artwork for local organizations and businesses. More than 60 of these works will be displayed over the course of the evening, and the first 1,500 fans in attendance will receive a baseball-themed commemorative poster featuring many of Hart's best-known characters.
Columbus Clippers (International League)
Red Birds Giveaways, May 2-4
The Clippers are celebrating Columbus' baseball history all season long, and this weekend they will be paying tribute to the years 1931-54. During those 24 seasons, the Columbus Red Birds played in the American Association as an affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals. On Friday, the Clippers will give away 2,000 Red Birds hats, and on Saturday 2,000 Red Birds T-shirts will be distributed. Then, on Sunday, the first 600 fans who make a "mad dash" to the ticket window will receive an Enos Slaughter figurine. The legendary outfielder hit .382 for the Red Birds in 1937 before moving on to a Hall of Fame career with the St. Louis Cardinals.
South Bend Silver Hawks (Midwest League)
Tree Sapling Giveaway, May 2
In much the same way that a Midwest League ballplayer may eventually blossom into a Major League stud, a sapling has the potential to become a strong and majestic tree. The Silver Hawks probably didn't have such a heavy-handed metaphor in mind when they planned this promotion, but I couldn't resist the opportunity to make a belabored analogy. It's what I do best. What the Silver Hawks do best is stage innovative promotional giveaways, so support them in this endeavor by attending Friday's ballgame. They will be distributing 3,000 saplings, which will go a long way toward making South Bend a greener and more oxygen-rich community over the ensuing decades.
West Michigan Whitecaps (Midwest League)
Tribute to the 1968 Tigers, May 2
The Whitecaps are pulling out all the stops for Friday's 40th anniversary celebration of the 1968 World Champion Detroit Tigers. A heavy-duty triumvirate of notable players from that legendary squad will be on hand: pinch-hitter extraordinaire Gates Brown, legendary reliever John Hiller and team ace (and World Series MVP) Mickey Lolich. The first 1,000 fans in attendance will receive 1968 World Champion commemorative plaques, and both the Whitecaps and the visiting Quad Cities River Bandits will wear the uniforms of their parent clubs. Not surprisingly, the parent clubs are the Tigers and the St. Louis Cardinals -- the very teams that clashed so memorably in the '68 series.
Augusta GreenJackets (South Atlantic League)
Ross Grimsley Bobblehead/'70s Night, May 3
The GreenJackets are paying homage to the 1970s on Saturday, and the highlight of this "Me Decade" celebration will certainly be the distribution of Ross Grimsley bobblehead dolls. Grimsley is currently the GreenJackets' pitching coach, but during his playing days (1971-82) he was known for sporting an unruly mop of curly black hair. It is this incarnation of Grimsley that the GreenJackets' will immortalize Saturday as the first 1,000 fans will receive a bobblehead that features the mustachioed, long-haired hurler wearing the uniform of the Baltimore Orioles.
Huntsville Stars (Southern League)
Who Wants to Be a Mexican Millionaire, May 5
There's a very different atmosphere in Huntsville this season, thanks to the "anything goes, fun at all costs" promotional philosophy of new general manager Buck Rogers. On Monday, the Stars will illustrate this fresh approach when they celebrate Cinco de Mayo with a unique contest. Upon entering the stadium, fans will receive a "green card" with a lucky number stamped on it. One such card will be randomly selected, and the fan holding it will win one million pesos (approximately $92,000) -- if batter numero cinco in the Stars' lineup hits for the cycle. Many other Cinco de Mayo celebrations will be staged throughout the game (including a human piñata), and all "green cards" will feature a coupon for a nearby Mexican restaurant.
Here's a random smattering of promotions that could or should have appeared in last week's column, but didn't:
Farewell to the Double-A Yankees (Binghamton, April 23) -- In which the B-Mets paid tribute to the fact that the Trenton Thunder will not be visiting Binghamton Municipal Stadium any more this season.
Rosenblatt Stadium Replica Giveaway (Omaha, April 26) -- Fortunately for all involved, the replicas were quite a bit smaller than the real thing.
Pedometer Giveaway (Quad Cities, April 26) -- The River Bandits gave fans the ability to calculate the exact distance between their seats and the concession stand.
Lee Smith Appearance (Rancho Cucamonga, April 27) -- Smith posed for pictures, signed autographs and leveled intimidating glares at fans of the opposing team.
Brides and Baseball (Savannah, April 27) -- A wedding expo took place before the afternoon contest, which featured a last-bride-standing "Test for the Dress" contest.
Mouse Pad Giveaway (Round Rock, April 27) -- The Express made sure that their fans can now point and click in style.
Morning Baseball with Free Massages, Haircuts, Shoeshines and a Live Bird Exhibition (Tulsa, April 28) -- The Drillers did practically everything they could to make a start time built for early birds seem more palatable.
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.