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Cyclones announce Baracklyn promotion
The Brooklyn Cyclones play in a densely populated area with a rich baseball history, and their oceanfront stadium is located in the heart of Coney Island's iconic amusement section. Therefore, they routinely are able to draw sellout crowds.
But never before had they packed the park with a crowd as enthusiastic -- and early-arriving -- as the 8,760 fans who attended Tuesday evening's ballgame. The occasion was the team's "Baracklyn Cyclones" promotion, an extensive and tongue-in-cheek tribute to our Commander-In-Chief.
The concept was simple: for one night only, the team would be known as the "Baracklyn Cyclones." The home team took the field in custom white jerseys, with "Baracklyn" written in a red font across the chest, and stars-and-stripes patterns on the sleeves. The jerseys of the team's starting nine and coaching staff were raffled off after the game, with one notable exception -- the Hall of Fame called to request the uniform worn by winning pitcher, Brandon Moore.
But perhaps most important, the first 2,500 fans in attendance received a bobblehead featuring President Obama in a "Baracklyn" jersey. The desire for this unique giveaway item caused fans to line up hours before game time.
The first individual in line, one Dave Woods of Boulder, Colo., drove to Brooklyn for the occasion. He secured his spot at 12:30 p.m., and by the time the gates opened at 5:30, the line behind him stretched down Surf Avenue all the way to the boardwalk.
"That's definitely a record, at least unofficially," said Cyclones Media Relations Director, Dave Campanaro, who played a large role in conceiving and executing the promotion. "I'd never seen a line like that."
And a few lucky fans were able to gain free admission by virtue of a fortuitous moniker. The team welcomed two individuals named "Barack," and a local plumber with the first name of Joe received two tickets as part of a "spread the wealth" ticket plan. However, no one named "McCain" or "Palin" took the team up on its offer of complimentary ducats.
Once inside the stadium, fans were treated to a pregame spectacle of Presidential proportions. Amber Lee Ettinger, aka Internet sensation, "The Obama Girl," took the field in a Baracklyn jersey and threw out the ceremonial first pitch. As this concluded, an announcement over the PA informed the fans that there would be, in fact, one more first pitch, by a very special guest.
And then, to the strains of "Hail to the Chief", the President himself walked out to the mound, accompanied by two secret service agents. It wasn't really Obama, of course, just an uncanny impersonator (real name: Randall West). But one of the two secret service agents was indeed legit, an individual from the Brooklyn branch whom the team had gotten to know through its community events. That's got to count for something, right?
"Faux-bama" delivered a first offering to Cyclones pitcher Mike Lynn, who walked halfway to the mound before flipping the ball back to the President. The ball never reached its destination, however, as an overzealous secret service agent dove in front of it. Lynn was then thoroughly patted down before being allowed the chance to shake the President's hand.
During the game, the Obama impersonator wandered the KeySpan Park concourses, granting photos to all who asked. It was remarkable to see him interact with the fans, many of whom called him "Mr. President," while treating him with the respect and awe that the actual Commander-in-Chief would receive.
Meanwhile, up in the press box, tongue-in-cheek conspiracy theories abounded. Major League Baseball had just announced that President Obama would throw out the first pitch at next month's All-Star Game, and some speculated that this was an attempt to steal the Cyclones' Barack-related thunder. Soon, conversation shifted to the fact that broccoli was part of the evening's complimentary media buffet. In this case, wouldn't that be "Barack"-oli?
"Maybe that's why we're serving it," remarked Campanaro. "If not, we'll just say that's why, anyway."
That facetious observation captured the essence of the evening, as it does Minor League promotions in general. This is a universe in which no pun is too groan-inducing, and in which every opportunity for a joke is taken advantage of.
"More than anything, [Baracklyn Cyclones Night] was a play on words," said Campanaro. "If [the President's] name didn't sound so much like Brooklyn, we wouldn't have done it. ... When we first announced the promotion [in January], we heard a lot of comments like 'Oh, you wouldn't have done this if McCain won.' And to that I'd say, 'No, we wouldn't, because McCain sounds nothing like Brooklyn.'"
Now, this one is in the books -- a 7-3 "Baracklyn" victory, no less -- and Campanaro is pleased that the event went over the way it was intended.
"We were a little nervous going in, because politics is always a hot-button issue," he said. "But everyone seemed to realize this is all tongue-in-cheek, and just had a lot of fun. ... Everyone on our staff agreed that this was the best promo we've ever done. We raised the bar, and now we're going to have to find a way to top it."
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.