Another season has come and gone, and all we're left with are the memories. That, and an obsessive compulsive writer's wrapup on the year that was in Minor League promotions. That writer would be me, Benjamin Hill, author of MiLB.com's weekly "Promotion Preview" and "Ben's Biz Blog."
Using highly scientific selection techniques, I was able to determine the 10 best Minor League promotions of the year. They are listed below. But THE best promotion can only be determined through a fan vote, and this is where you come in. After perusing this year's nominees, please select the promotion that you think towered above the rest. Voting ends on Monday, Oct. 12, at which point the ultimate champion will be crowned.
But no matter who emerges victorious, one thing that we should all be able to agree on is that 2009 was a highly entertaining season when it came to promotions. For proof of this assertion, read on.
The Top 10
What Could've Been Night
Bellies and Baseball
As Seen On TV Night
Idaho Falls Chukars, July 20
Idaho is the potato production center of the world, so it should be no surprise that the Chukars' salute to spuds was overstuffed, good in the sack and had tremendous "a-peel." Highlights included mashed potato eating contests, sack races and "spud fudge" at the concession stand.
Jake Tyler Chia-Bobble Giveaway
Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes World Record Attempt
Salute to Cows
And speaking of "much, much more," the promotions listed above are but a microscopic sampling of what went on throughout the Minor Leagues in 2009. What follows is an attempt to create some order from the chaos.
Salutes, Theme Nights and Tributes
For many, the ballpark represents a refuge from the stress of everyday life, especially if one is married to an overbearing spouse. The Huntsville Stars held Desperate Househusbands Night on April 11, offering half-price tickets to those who brought their "honey-do" lists to the game. These lists were read over the PA, and the club selected one such missive and took care of all the chores (hopefully none of these husbands brought their wives to "Pay What You Weigh" Night, which the Stars held later in the season). ... Many of our country's biggest holidays occur during the offseason, but that didn't stop teams from celebrating them anyway. Among many examples: the South Bend Silver Hawks staged Halfway to Halloween, the Jacksonville Suns celebrated Valentine's Day in May, and the Omaha Royals enjoyed Christmas in May. And let's not forget an excellent celebration of an in-season holiday: the Corpus Christi Hooks' Cinco de Mayo Spectacular, which featured an excellent mariachi version of the National Anthem. ... Such randomness is a hallmark of Minor League promotions, but it's hardly limited to holidays. The Charleston RiverDogs are perhaps the kings of head-scratching theme nights, as their promotional slate this season included Talk Like Ah-Nold Night, Salute to Lunch Ladies, Salute to the G-String (as in a guitar string -- sorry to get your hopes up), Here's to You, Mr. Competitive Adult Softball Player, Nancy Night (in honor of those with that particular name), and of course, Illegal Use of Your Ed Hochuli. ... Fellow South Carolinians the Myrtle Beach Pelicans also adhere to a strict "anything goes" policy, as evidenced by the likes of Salute to No. 2, Salute to Punctuation, Half-Empty Night, Half-Full Night and Salute to Our Northern Neighbors (i.e., Canada). ... The Pelicans and the State College Spikes are run by the same ownership group, so it's no surprise that the Spikes also excel at when it comes to absurd theme nights. This season, State Collegians were treated to Groundhog Day Night, CSI Night, Baseball Mythbusters Night, Size Matters Night, Salute to Pennsylvania Construction and the return of Night of 101 Promotions. ... And let's not forget fellow Pennsylvanians the Altoona Curve, who are always good for some theme-night shenanigans. This year included salutes to extremes (The Long and the Short of It), cultural criticism (Everybody's a Critic) and sportswriters (They've Got the Beat). ... The Fresno Grizzlies' As Seen On TV Night earned a best of nomination (see above), but there was far more where that came from this season. The club was also responsible for Nerd Night, Mad Tight '90s Night (featuring Saved by the Bell's Mr. Belding), Magically Superstitious Night (featuring Magic 8-Ball giveaways) and the social networking extravaganza that was the Great Fresno Tweetup. ... The West Michigan Whitecaps are known for their creative theme jerseys, and the duds they wore on Pink Floyd Night were nothing if not creative. In a similar vein, the Lakewood BlueClaws once again wore special "BruceClaw" jerseys (in honor of Springsteen). But no temporary renaming got more attention than when the Brooklyn Cyclones became the Baracklyn Cyclones in honor of our new(ish) Commander in Chief. ... By now I've completely lost my ability to write clever segues, but soldier on I must. ... The San Antonio Missions' Mormon Night featured a Green Jello eating contest as well as a special appearance by noted Mormon Jeff Kent. ... During the Birmingham Barons' Stress-Free Night, even the mascot was treated to a massage. ... The Lowell Spinners commemorated the first anniversary of the Manny Ramirez trade with their Salute to Quitters. ... The Omaha Royals paid homage to an early '90s rom-com classic by literally staging four weddings and giving away a funeral. ... The Lake County Captains paid tribute to the good, the bad and the ugly during their Cleveland Sports Night celebration. They even sold beer for five cents in an homage to the Indians' infamous Nickel Beer Night. ... Most promotions don't result in a cease and desist letter, but that's exactly what happened when the Fort Myers Miracle asked "What Would Tim Tebow Do?" The name of the promo was hastily changed to, simply, "WWTTD."
Give It Away, Now
It goes without saying that the economy was on everyone's mind this year, and a wide range of teams staged fan bailouts, stimulus plans and unemployment nights (featuring free admission for those without jobs). The Clinton LumberKings' response to our current fiscal crisis was brilliant in its simplicity: the first 500 fans to attend April 15's contest received a crisp $1 bill. ... The Wisconsin Timber Rattlers celebrated their new affiliation with the Milwaukee Brewers by distributing dual bobbleheads featuring the mascots of both teams shaking hands. ... Political bobbleheads were all the rage this year. Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, Senator Robert Byrd, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman and New York Governor David Paterson were just some of the individuals honored in such a fashion. ... The most absurd giveaway this season was the Charleston RiverDogs' literal Salary Cap, which was simply a hat with the word "salary" written on it. ... Also given away at various ballparks this year: glow-in-the-dark beer mugs (Kinston Indians), flyswatters (Harrisburg Senators), pedometers (Frederick Keys), rubber ducks (Frederick Keys), spatulas (Reading Phillies), toiletry bags (Princeton Rays), catcher's gear bags (Buffalo Bisons), ice scrapers (Myrtle Beach Pelicans and Rochester Red Wings) and calculators (Gwinnett County). ... And how can Reading's inimitable Crazy Hot Dog Vendor not get a mention? Over the course of the season, the R-Phils gave away Crazy Hot Dog Vendor shirts, lunchboxes, pillowcases and laundry hampers. ... Finally, it was the Lowell Spinners who were responsible for what was surely the most outrageous giveaway of the season -- something so shocking that it can only be referred to by an acronym: B.O.S.
The Wilmington Blue Rocks welcomed the Cowboy Monkeys to Frawley Stadium. For the record, this act consists of monkeys dressed as cowboys racing atop dogs. ... Julio Osegueda rose to prominence for his enthusiastic questioning of President Obama during a Town Hall meeting, and as a result, the Fort Myers Miracle had him do color commentary on Opening Day. ... A 102-year-old woman threw out the first pitch at a Round Rock Express game. ... Spam Carving returned to Reading. With a vengeance, of course. ... Spam surprisingly wasn't on the menu at the Williamsport Crosscutters' annual Belly Buster Competition. Just about everything else was, though. ... And while certainly not promotions, per se, let us not forget that in 2009, not one but TWO canine mascot dogs relieved themselves on the playing field. The first time this occurred was in Greensboro. A little more than two months later, it happened in Myrtle Beach.
In closing, I would like to thank all those who made it a point to read "Promotion Preview" throughout the season. As always, feel free to email me at any time regarding the world of promotions. Most importantly, don't forget to vote for your favorite promotion! Nothing less than a non-existent award is at stake! Voting ends on Monday, Oct. 12.
Benjamin Hill is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.