As always, the column's singular goal is to highlight 10 notable promotions taking place in the world of Minor League Baseball. And, as always, I implore you (be you fan or front-office employee) to get in touch with us with any and all info related to the wondrous world of promos.
In the interest of the always commendable goal of brevity, let's cut right to the chase. What follows is the first of what will be 22 in-season editions of this column. Enjoy.
Altoona Curve (Eastern League)
Ziggy Hood Appearance, April 8
Famous Chicken Appearance, April 9
The Curve's opening weekend was packed with visiting superstars even before it was announced that Sunday's game would feature the debut of radiant uber-prospect Stephen Strasburg. Ebullient Steelers defensive end Ziggy Hood steamrolls into town on Thursday, ready to show off his impressive stamina by signing autographs for two full hours. One night after "getting Ziggy with it" (the team's words, not mine), the Curve will welcome the Famous Chicken. The feathered fowl, performing on the 36th anniversary of his earth-shattering debut in San Diego, will lay down the high-energy routines that earned him his reputation as the premier mascot of not just the sporting world, but the entire known universe.
Tulsa Drillers (Texas League)
Opening Night at ONEOK Field with Lanyard Giveaway, April 8
Thursday will be an epochal day in Tulsa baseball history, as the Drillers play the first game in their brand-new stadium. ONEOK Field (pronounced "one oak") is located in the city's historic Greenwood District, where it will serve as the centerpiece of a downtown revitalization project. The classically designed ballpark, featuring three shades of brick and art deco-style medallions, seats 6,200 and features a view of downtown Tulsa. Those in attendance at Thursday's home opener will receive inaugural season lanyards, so that ticket stubs and other paraphernalia may be kept in appropriately pristine condition.
Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (Midwest League)
Bernie and Fang Beach Bobblehead, April 8
Last season, the Timber Rattlers celebrated their new affiliation with the Brewers by issuing bobbleheads featuring Wisconsin mascot Fang shaking hands with Milwaukee mascot Bernie Brewer. If this year's Fang-Bernie bobblehead is any indication, then these superficially disparate individuals have formed what appears to be a deep and enduring friendship. Thursday's giveaway features the two mascots sitting next to one another in ballpark seats, sporting open-toed sandals and crossing their legs (yes, Fang is a snake, and, yes, he somehow has legs). Here's hoping that the two costumed characters continue their friendship well into the future, as this is a partnership that results in uniquely entertaining ballpark giveaways.
Bowie Baysox (Eastern League)
Outdoorsman Night, April 9
Prince George's Stadium in Bowie is situated in a secluded wooded location, to the extent that the team drapes the ballpark with an orange tarp during deer hunting season (note: not true). On Saturday, the club will be honoring the area's preponderance of open-air activity with their inaugural "Outdoorsman Night." Any fan with a hunting, fishing or crabbing license receives discounted admission to the game, and these individuals are encouraged to bring photos of their prized catches so that the crowd may vote on the most impressive. Tom Crutchfield, who holds the Maryland record for "largest non-typical white-tailed deer" will throw out the first pitch, and the outdoors-themed between-inning games will be highlighted by a sure-to-be-wild "Intern Regatta."
Reading Phillies (Eastern League)
Gluttony Night, April 9
Music Night with "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" World Record Attempt, April 10
It will be a weekend of excess both gastronomic and symphonic at FirstEnergy Stadium, as the R-Phils are staging events of unprecedented proportion. Gluttony Night returns Saturday, a seemingly foolhardy stunt that earns the purchaser of a $10 wristband the right to eat unlimited cheeseburgers, hot dogs, pizza, french fries, ice cream and funnel cakes all the way through the (much-needed) seventh-inning stretch. The aforementioned stretch is the focus of the following night's ballgame, as any and all musicians will be welcomed onto the field in order to take part in a (hopefully) record-breaking rendition of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame." The esteemed Phillie Phanatic will be in attendance as well, no doubt keeping time through a series of rhythmic stomach thrusts.
Lancaster JetHawks (California League)
1K Day Celebration, April 10
Over the offseason, a studious number-cruncher within the JetHawks' front office reached the startlingly unavoidable conclusion that Saturday's game would be the 1,000th in franchise history (a number that includes 968 regular season contests, 21 playoff tilts and eight exhibitions). To not commemorate such an occasion would be folly, but don't worry -- the JetHawks aren't the kind of team that allow occasions to go un-commemorated. All tickets to Saturday's game will be free (available on a first-come, first-served basis), with the most desirable ducats being given away on local radio throughout the week. This promo sets the stage for an even more momentous milestone as the California League is on pace to play its 40,000th game this July.
Tacoma Rainiers (Pacific Coast League)
S.H.I.E.L.D. Night, April 10
The Tacoma suburb of Lakewood suffered a horrific tragedy this past November, as four police officers were gunned down in a local coffee shop. The Rainiers are staging S.H.I.E.L.D. (Safety, Honor, Integrity, Enforce, Leadership, Defend) Night on Saturday as a way to honor the victims of this unprovoked attack. All single-game ticket sales benefit the families of fallen officers, and the team will wear special theme jerseys that will be auctioned off after the game. The Rainiers commitment to the cause extends beyond Saturday, however. Throughout the remainder of the season, the team will wear patches emblazoned with the initials of the four slain officers.
Iowa Cubs (Pacific Coast League)
Ryne Sandberg Jersey Shirt Giveaway, April 11
Jersey shirt giveaways, in and of themselves, usually don't merit a mention in this column. But Iowa's Ryne Sandberg jersey shirt giveaway Sunday is symbolic of something much larger. For Ryne Sandberg himself will be managing the team this season, with Des Moines being his latest stop as he systematically advances through the Cubs' farm system en route to what will presumably be a big league job. Therefore, Sunday's giveaway will serve as a permanent reminder to I-Cubs fans that the Hall of Fame second baseman did, in fact, grace them with his presence. It wasn't a cruel dream, but blissful, beautiful reality.
Bowling Green Hot Rods (Midwest League)
Art Appreciation Night with Art Calendar Giveaway, April 12
With "Music Night" in Reading and "Art Appreciation Night" in Bowling Green, Minor League Baseball is certainly doing its part to provide supplemental education programs to America's youth. The coolest aspect of the Hot Rods' "Art Calendar Giveaway" is that the "art" in question far transcends dime-a-dozen landscape paintings cynically scratched off by third-rate disciples of Bob Ross. Each month is accompanied by idiosyncratic and engaging Hot Rods-inspired baseball drawings done by the youth of Bowling Green. These artworks were created as part of the team's "Fueled By Art" school program, and all students who participated have received a free ticket to Monday's game.
Las Vegas 51s (Pacific Coast League)
Holly Madison Bobblehead Giveaway, April 13
In 2010, the 51s will be giving away bobbleheads that feature the likenesses of entertainment professionals who have made their mark in the Sin City. Ventriloquist Terry Fator and suspiciously muscular comedian Carrot Top are among these notable figures, but the most notable figure of them all belongs to model Holly Madison. First rising to prominence as Hugh Hefner's "No. 1 girlfriend" on the "Girls Next Door" reality series, Madison currently stars in a burlesque show at the Las Vegas outpost of Planet Hollywood. Tuesday's giveaway features Madison in a "baseball outfit," but a second bobblehead in August will feature her in a "Bo Peep" outfit. Collect all two.