05/13/2008 9:00 PM 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."
Charleston RiverDogs (South Atlantic League)
Salute to Yankees Facial Hair Policy, May 14
Carpet Bag Giveaway, May 17
The New York Yankees are as image-conscious as a professional sports franchise could ever be, to the point where the team's players are not allowed to grow beards or mustaches. On Wednesday, the RiverDogs will lampoon their parent club by staging "Salute to Yankees Facial Hair Policy." Individuals with facial hair longer than one inch will receive a ticket discount, and members of the Holy City Beard and Mustache Club will be on hand to show off their prodigious whicker accumulation. Three days later, the RiverDogs will continue their good-natured north-bashing with "Carpet Bag Giveaway Night." This literally minded item is a tribute to the opportunistic "Carpetbaggers" who moved to the South in the wake of the Civil War.
Lake Elsinore Storm (California League)
Pirate Night, May 14
Business Man Special, May 15
Earlier this month, the Storm were forced to cancel their "Dr. Seuss Night" promotion due to a cease-and-desist order from Dr. Seuss Enterprises. Ever resourceful, they then decided to make their large supply of unused red-and-white socks a part of Wednesday's "Pirate Night" (a game-long celebration of nautical marauders). The next afternoon, the Storm get even more resourceful with their "Business Man Special" promotion. Among many innovations, the club is providing "Storm Doctor's Notes," a shoe shiner will be stationed on the concourse and beers will be just one dollar. Best of all, there will be one mandatory "quiet inning," so that attendees can safely call the boss to let him know that the meeting is running long (wink, wink).
Fort Myers Miracle (Florida State League)
Appearance by "World's Sexiest Plumber" James Denton, May 15
The Miracle really pull out the stops for their "Thirsty Thursday" promotions. Recent editions have included a Pillow Fight League match and a world-record keg-lifting attempt, and this week the club welcomes actor James Denton. Best known as hunky plumber Mike Delfino on ABC's "Desperate Housewives," Denton is a huge Minor League Baseball fan (he's even part owner of an independent league club) who has ties to the Fort Myers area. On Thursday, he will take batting practice with the club, sign autographs and then retreat to a sky suite. An online charity auction is currently being held to determine which lucky individual will have the chance to watch the game with him.
Fresno Grizzlies (Pacific Coast League)
Totally Rad '80s Night featuring Billy Zabka, May 15
Leave it to the Grizzlies to turn a rather cliché celebration of decades-old cultural detritus into pure promotional gold. Thursday is "Totally Rad '80s Night," featuring, among other things, a costume contest and "Garbage Pail Kids"-themed player headshots. The undisputed highlight of the night, however, will be the presence of quintessential '80s teen movie bad guy Billy Zabka. This legendary thespian had memorable roles in both "Back to School" and "Just One of the Guys," but he will always be best known as the leader of the Cobra Kai in "Karate Kid." Zabka will sign autographs, pose for pictures and participate in on-field entertainment all evening long. For more information on this stellar promotion, including an interview with Billy Zabka himself, please visit this helpful and informative blog post.
Arkansas Travelers (Texas League)
Pregame Midget Wrestling and Belvis the Black Elvis Performance, May 16
Every once in a while, a promotion leaves me speechless, and this is one such promo. Let me gather my wits and press on: This Friday, fans are urged to arrive early at Dickey-Stephens Park to enjoy a pregame Midget Wrestling Match. And then, as if that wasn't enough (and it definitely is), the evening will also feature a performance by accomplished impersonator "Belvis the Black Elvis." Belvis, a noted political aficionado, made national headlines earlier this year after serenading Hilary Clinton during a campaign stop in Little Rock (which, come to think of it, is also a stage name of one of the midget wrestlers).
Binghamton Mets (Eastern League)
Dinosaur Night, May 16
Rod Serling Tribute, May 17
Chris Snee Day, May 18
The B-Mets have tons of great stuff going on this week, and I just don't have the space to give it all the attention it deserves. I now have no choice but to resort to bullet points:
Inland Empire 66ers (California League)
- Dinosaur Night: Featuring a Barney appearance, dinosaur player headshots and movie clips, and museum ticket giveaways.
- Rod Serling Tribute: Serling was a Binghamton native, and members of his family will be in attendance. Player headshots will be "Twilight Zone"-themed, as will in-game contests and promos. Following the post-game fireworks display, a baseball-themed episode of the show will be screened on the videoboard.
- Chris Snee Day: The B-Mets will pay tribute to another notable local -- New York Giants guard Chris Snee. A total of 1,500 Snee commemorative posters will be given away, and the man himself will be on hand to sign autographs and throw out the first pitch.
Armed Forces Day, May 17
"Pulling out all the stops" really seems to be a theme of this week's column, as virtually every promotion goes above and beyond the usual expectations. This is definitely the case with the 66ers' "Armed Forces Day" promotion, a game-long celebration of those who serve in the United States military. The first 2,000 fans will receive a camouflage cap featuring the logo of the Los Angeles Dodgers (the 66ers' parent club). Plenty of local troops are scheduled to be in attendance, and they (as well as their civilian counterparts) will be treated to a Black Hawk helicopter landing as well as performances by the Marine color guard and the Air Force band.
Rancho Cucamonga Quakes (California League)
American Gladiators Night featuring appearance by Zap, May 17
NBC's recent revival of the "American Gladiators" television show has sparked a wave of interest in the original version, which ran from 1989-96. On Saturday, the Quakes will tap into our country's Gladiator-mania by paying tribute to the show all evening long. The club will take the field in special "American Gladiator"-themed jerseys, and all of the between-inning contests will be modeled after events from the show (including a post-game "Eliminator" round). Best of all, Zap will be in attendance. One of the show's original Gladiators, Zap will be on hand to pose for pictures, sign autographs and terrorize her adversaries with a tennis-ball gun.
Hagerstown Suns (South Atlantic League)
National Egg Toss Championships, May 18
As we venture further and further into the 21st century, the definition of what constitutes a "sport" has grown increasingly lax (witness the rise of poker and competitive eating, for example). Therefore, the time is ripe for Egg Tossing to take its spot in the national spotlight. And when it does, the Hagerstown Suns will receive recognition as one of the sport's true pioneers. On Sunday, the club will hold its fourth-annual "National Egg Toss Championship," in which over 100 two-person teams will attempt to assert their dominance in this emerging field. While previous events have drawn competitors from as far away as Japan, anyone in attendance at that afternoon's game is welcome to enter the fray.
Syracuse Chiefs and Rochester Red Wings (International League)
Cooperstown Classic at Doubleday Field featuring Carlton Fisk, May 18
The venerable International League is celebrating its 125th anniversary season in 2008, and has planned a wide variety of events to commemorate this milestone. Chief among them is the Cooperstown Classic, a regular-season contest between Syracuse and Rochester that highlights one of the oldest rivalries in all of professional baseball. The game will be played at Doubleday Field, which is located on the grounds of the Baseball Hall of Fame. The afternoon's guest of honor will be Hall of Fame catcher Carlton Fisk, who played in the International League in 1971. The legendary backstop will throw out the first pitch, then mingle with fans at a post-game reception at the Hall of Fame.
Bonus Coverage! A brief look at promotions that could or should have made it into last week's column, but didn't:
Howard Dean "I Have a Scream" Night (Brevard County Manatees, May 8) -- In which the Manatees paid tribute to one of the more notorious moments of the 2004 campaign season.
Almond Appreciation Night (Modesto Nuts, May 9) -- The Nuts celebrated one of their most famous local crops by giving away almonds as prizes all evening long. They even played music by the "Allman Brothers" throughout the game. Because, you know, "Allman" sounds like "almond."
Six Million Saturday (Birmingham Barons, May 10) -- The Barons welcomed their six-millionth fan through the turnstiles, and that individual was treated like royalty all evening long. Additionally, the club paid homage to "The Six Million Dollar Man" throughout the game, and all fans named "Lee" or "Majors" received free admission.
Mike Sweeney Figurine Giveaway (Omaha Royals, May 10) -- After being voted the O-Royals' "Player of the '90s" in an offseason fan poll, Sweeney was honored with his very own figurine.
Pink Umbrellas Mother's Day Giveaway (Reading Phillies, May 11) -- Because everything in a mother's life should be gender-specific.
Lee Lacy Appearance (Inland Empire 66ers, May 12) -- The 66ers continued their series of "Dodger Mondays" promotions by welcoming former Los Angeles second baseman/outfielder Lee Lacy to the ballpark.
Salute to Chuck Norris (Tulsa Drillers, May 13) -- Norris' journey from washed-up action star to ironic Generation Y hero is now complete.
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.