In the fan voting for MiLB.com's Minor League Promotion of the Year, what started out as a taut back-and-forth battle slowly morphed into a blowout.
Ten teams were nominated for the honor, and from this golden slate emerged two clubs from the Golden State -- the Fresno Grizzlies and the Lancaster JetHawks. After spending several days in a virtual tie, the Grizzlies' Mascot Showdown garnered a substantial lead en route to establishing its promo supremacy over all contenders.
By the time the polls closed at noon Wednesday, 9,149 votes had been cast in this hotly contested battle. The JetHawks' Skateboard Giveaway logged an impressive 23 percent of this total, but that paled in comparison to the Grizzlies. The "Mascot Showdown" accumulated 4,739 votes -- more than all of the other nine nominated teams combined.
Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls and costumed characters of all shapes, sizes, and dispositions -- the Mascot Showdown is officially the best promotion of 2008!
For those who may still be unaware, the Mascot Showdown pitted the Grizzlies' mascot, Parker, against the legendary Phillie Phanatic in a battle for costumed character supremacy. Over the course of nine innings, the two combatants turned Chukchansi Park's laugh-o-meter up to 11 as they spilled popcorn, shined bald heads, seduced umpires and engaged in death-defying (or at least mild bruise-defying) ATV stunts. In the evening's final event, each mascot had to cross the Balance Beam of Greatness in order to be awarded the title of "Best Mascot in Baseball." The Phanatic did so successfully, and then all eyes were on Parker. The cuddly Grizzly made it half way across before being distracted by the Phanatic, who flashed him.
Therefore, the Phanatic retained his title as "The Best Mascot in Baseball." But Parker served notice that he was ready to compete with the big boys, a fact that is even more apparent now that the Showdown has been named the "Promotion of the Year." According to Scott Carter, the Grizzlies' vice president of marketing, this was all part of the plan.
"Reason No. 1 for doing this promotion was to entertain people, but reason 1A was to elevate Parker. Not just on a local level but also around the country," Carter said. "We want everyone to realize that Fresno's mascot is really good. He was put in the same breath as the Phanatic and really gave him a run for his money.
"One of the best aspects of the Showdown was that the fans got really into it. When we announced at the end of the night that the Phanatic was still the best mascot, everybody started booing. And when the Phanatic handed the award to Parker in order stop the booing, the place went nuts. There were six or seven games left in the season when we did this, and instantly Parker's status was elevated at the ballpark. It took the presence of the Phanatic to make everyone aware of how good Parker is."
This increased notoriety will lead to a busy offseason for Parker, as he'll travel throughout the Fresno area in order to spread the gospel of Grizzlies baseball.
"We want to make him the most ubiquitous face in the central valley of California," Carter said. "That's a lot of ground to cover, but he'll do whatever it takes to get people excited about the Grizzlies."
If the vast hordes of Fresno fans who voted in the "Promotion of the Year" poll are any indication, then people are already excited about the Grizzlies. It also helped that the club got a significant assist from the local media.
"The day that we were nominated, we were scheduled to appear on one of Fresno's most popular morning shows in order to show the first episode of 'I Hate the Offseason' [the Grizzlies new weekly web series]," explained Carter. "We mentioned being nominated for Promotion of the Year, and that became one of the central talking points of our segment. We also had our radio and TV affiliates pumping it up, and sent out several email blasts. When it comes to Minor League promotions there is just an insane amount of creativity from all parts of the country, so it is awesome to get this kind of recognition."
But of course, that recognition wouldn't have came about had it not been for the formidable comedy chops of the iconic Phanatic and the up-and-coming Parker. While Parker is not blessed with the gift of speech, he did take the time to compose an eloquent email statement regarding his most impressive accomplishment.
"Winning Promotion of the Year has capped off an incredible 2008 season for me," he wrote. "I'd truly like to thank the fans of the Fresno Grizzlies who voted in massive numbers, showing their support for this big yellow bear who has risen to infamy as the Best Mascot in Minor League Baseball."
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.