Unlike its Major League counterpart, Minor League Baseball is about more than wins and losses. This is why the Hot Rods, like other teams in the minors, create promotions, giveaways, and other contests to keep you entertained when you come to the ballpark.
In 2009, the Hot Rods took home MiLB.com's Promotion of the Year for our look at what-if scenarios on 'What Could've Been' Night presented by Southern States. It's probably no coincidence that the promotion gathered national interest throughout the 2009 season leading up to its debut on August 15.
One of the biggest outside supporters of our Cave Shrimp creation was MiLB.com writer Ben Hill, who covered the promotion from its creation last offseason all the way through its recognition as the top promotion. Today, we'll take a few laps with Ben to find out how he got into writing about the wacky side of Minor League Baseball.
Tom Gauthier: How did you get into covering the business and promotions of Minor League Baseball?
Ben Hill: I started writing for MiLB.com in July of 2005, during the first season of the site's existence. I worked nights writing game recaps, simply by piecing together the box score and play-by-play logs.
The business and promotions angle came about accidentally. In 2006, one of my editors was responsible for writing the weekly "Promotion Preview" column (which picks the 10 best promos going on in Minor League Baseball). He had a lot of other stuff on his plate, however, and asked me to do it instead. I quickly discovered that I enjoyed researching and writing about that angle of the Minor League Baseball experience, especially since it allowed me to indulge my passion for horrible puns. So here we are in 2010 and Minor League promotions, game operations, and business constitutes the vast majority of what I write about.
To sum it all up: I'm very happy to have found a niche! It's an increasingly tough thing to do in this day and age of total media saturation.
TG: What have been your favorite promotions since you started the job?
BH: That's a tough one to answer. Probably the best I've seen in person was last season's "Baracklyn Cyclones" night in Brooklyn. The team got a tremendous amount of press, and people were lined up hours before the game in order to get an Obama bobblehead. There was also a top-notch presidential impersonator, and fans were flocking to him all night for pictures and autographs.
TG: How many games/stadiums do you visit in a season? If you're based in Tampa, do you have the mandate that you only visit the northeast and the Midwest after June 1?
BH: I'm based in New York City, out of Major League Baseball Advanced Media headquarters in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan. The amount I travel continues to increase each year, but I'm not on the road nearly as much as people seem to think. Last season I visited approximately 15 teams, with the majority being in the northeast. The ultimate goal is to spend an entire season on the road, writing about it the whole way.
TG: How many giveaways have you collected from these visits?
BH: Not nearly as many as people might assume. Living in New York City means space is at a premium, so I just don't have the room for a sprawling collection of Minor League memorabilia. I have about a half-dozen bobbleheads, a couple of t-shirts, and a few other odds and ends. I wear my Bowling Green Cave Shrimp shirt all the time, though. It's become a staple of my upscale cosmopolitan wardrobe.
TG: What constitutes a 'good' promotion, one that you'll cover with full vim and vigor like you did with the Cave Shrimp idea?
BH: In a word: originality.
Fireworks and drink specials are great, but not very exciting to write about. I'm looking for bizarre theme nights, one-of-a-kind giveaways, crazy contests, and attention-grabbing concession items. My favorite teams to write about are those that aren't afraid to fail, who throw everything against the wall just to see what sticks.
As always, Weird Al Yankovic said it best: Dare to be Stupid!
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.