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Celebrity stars shine on Minor Leagues
Beloved thespians Erik Estrada, Tony Burton visiting ballparks
05/24/2011 11:00 AM ET
The Flying Squirrels host former CHiPs star Erik Estrada on Wednesday.
The Flying Squirrels host former CHiPs star Erik Estrada on Wednesday. (John Froschauer/AP)
Minor League teams are known for the creativity of their gameday promotions. On Tuesdays throughout the season, we'll preview 10 of the most intriguing for the week ahead. If you'd like a particular promotion to be considered for this feature in the future, please send it to with the subject line: "Promo Preview."

Akron Aeros (Eastern League)
Crock Pot Junkie Cookoff, May 25
BairFind Team Photo Giveaway, May 27

There are two noteworthy promotions emanating from Akron this week, wildly dissimilar but both worthy of your time. Wednesday's Crock Pot Junkie Cookoff is exactly what its name implies (unless you think it implies the cooking of an actual junkie): area cooks will bring their favorite crock pot dishes to the ballpark, to be feasted upon by fans and front-office staff alike. Prizes? They will be awarded. Two days later is the first BairFind Team Photo giveaway of the year, with said photo featuring missing child Gina DeJesus in addition to the team. These giveaways are organized by former Minor League pitcher Dennis Bair, who will be in attendance along with DeJesus' mother.

Richmond Flying Squirrels (Eastern League)
Erik Estrada appearance on Viente Cinco de Mayo, May 25

The Flying Squirrels were on the road on Cinco de Mayo, but since when has being on the road stopped a Minor League team from celebrating a holiday? The answer to that question is, of course, never! The team is simply throwing "viente" in front of cinco, and further cashing in their CHiPs by inviting none other than Erik "Ponch" Estrada to the ballpark (as part of Police Appreciation night, naturally). The legendary fictitious California highway patrolman will pose for pictures and sign autographs, because that's just the sort of thing you do when you're a celebrity who finds himself at a Minor League ballpark.

Sacramento River Cats (Pacific Coast League)
Postgame Hangover screening, May 26

Minor League Baseball movie screenings are usually family friendly, the sort of G-rated fare that can safely be shown on the video board during a Girl Scout sleepover. But the River Cats are going against the grain with their post-game Hangover screening, appropriately coinciding with cheap Thirsty Thursday beers. Age-appropriate fans viewing the film are then encouraged to keep the night going by heading out to a midnight showing of Hangover 2. This all might result in a hangover the next day, just another case of life imitating art.

Fresno Grizzlies (Pacific Coast League)
Salute to Sign Twirlers Night, May 26

Sign twirlers, also known by the more scientific-sounding term "human directionals" are a common sight in central California. These marketing mavens, who day after day stand on street corners and push their product to passers-by, are now finally getting their day in the Minor League promo spotlight. The Grizzlies' salute Thursday includes on-field sign twirling demonstrations from the area's most prominent practitioners, player headshots tagged with spinning signs and between-inning twirling competitions. Perhaps the song "Signs" will be heard over the PA; I used to be a big fan of the Tesla version but now recognize the superiority of Five Man Electric Band.

Visalia Rawhide (California League)
Girls Night Out, May 26
Baseball Wedding, May 28

The Rawhide's Girls Night Out celebration includes a cornucopia of concourse vendors peddling female-oriented goods and services, as well as gender-neutral Thirsty Thursday drink specials. But the evening will have a poignant philanthropic aspect as well, with players wearing pink breast cancer awareness jerseys (to be auctioned after the game). Love will continue to reign supreme on Saturday, thanks to the club's annual ballpark wedding. One lucky couple will get hitched on the field prior to the game, with Rawhide players and mascot Tipper T. Bull participating in the ceremonies. Hopefully Tipper's presence won't lead fans to the conclusion that marriage is a lot of bull; if so, then he'd be unwillingly undermining the stability of one of our most sacred societal mores.

Lake County Captains (Midwest League)
Rocky Balboa Night w/Tony Burton appearance, May 27

The Lake County Captains will do their best to approximate the fightin' spirit of Philadelphia with Friday's tribute to the legendary Rocky movies. These efforts will be helped immeasurably by the presence of Tony Burton, one of only three thespians to appear in all six films in the franchise. Burton portrayed trainer Duke Evans, a reliable presence in Rocky's corner in films II through VI (in the first, he worked with Apollo Creed). He'll be available for pictures and autographs; philosophical pontifications on the underpinnings of sweet science success is not guaranteed.

Hickory Crawdads (South Atlantic League)
White Elephant Night/Bieber Fever Night, May 28

White elephant gift exchanges usually take place during the holidays, but the Crawdads are offering fans the opportunity to participate in a tit-for-tat tradeoff of unwanted items prior to Saturday's game. Simply bring in a new or slightly used item and exchange it for another item in the souvenir-stocked gift pool. But the greatest gift of all will be the evening's Bieber Fever promotion, featuring singing, dancing, look-a-like contests, and (hopefully) barbers in the concourse giving Bieber-style haircuts. Fans singing Bieber songs at the box office window receive ticket discounts; these individuals should be especially adept at the team's Guess the Swoop contest (in which fans try to determine whether the hair depicted is Bieber's or that of a Crawdads player).

Memphis Redbirds (Pacific Coast League)
Flood Relief Benefit Fundraiser, May 28

One of the most valuable roles that a Minor League team can play in the wake of a disaster is that of community gathering place and collection depot. This is what the Redbirds will be doing during Saturday's game, with $5 of every $11 ticket going to benefit victims of the recent floods that have decimated the Memphis area. The team has made AutoZone Park a drop-off zone for donated goods, and team sponsor Pert Plus has chipped in with shampoo donations for local shelters. All money raised by the team will be donated to Hope Presbyterian Church, to be presented to the organization during a pregame ceremony.

Reno Aces (Pacific Coast League)
Archie Bobblehead, May 28

Mascot bobbleheads aren't the most exciting thing in the world to write about, but the Aces' Archie giveaway is definitely more exciting than most. This is simply because Archie is one of the most distinctive mascots in the Minors, known as the "round mound of red" and possessing a tremendous 130-inch waist. Even more unique is the fact that he talks, making him the only verbally conversant costumed character in all of Minor League Baseball. Archie's bobbling likeness will be distributed to the first 2,500 fans in attendance at Saturday's game, and though this miniature mascot facsimile can't talk, that's not necessarily a bad thing. Silence is golden.

Round Rock Express (Pacific Coast League)
Asleep at the Wheel Post-Game Concert, May 28

It'll be hard to top the entertainment on offer in Round Rock on Saturday, as a concert by legendary country survivors Asleep at the Wheel will follow the evening's ballgame between Round Rock and the Iowa Cubs. Asleep at the Wheel have released 20 albums over the last four decades, touring the country many times over whilst collaborating with country luminaries aplenty. Their set at the Dell Diamond begins approximately 30 minutes after the ballgame's conclusion, making this a particularly apt night for a fast-paced pitcher's duel. Managers making mid-inning pitching changes should be booed lustily, as should batters stepping out of the box in order to engage in endless adjustment rituals. Don't they know they're delaying Ray Benson and company?

Bonus Coverage: Because, no, really, I'm too kind, here are seven promotions that could have been featured in last week's column -- could have been but weren't:

Swashbuckling Saturday (Bowie Baysox, May 20): In which a night at the ballpark turned into a Depp comedy jam.

Save Second Base Night (Wilmington Blue Rocks, May 20): Proving that humor and breast cancer awareness organizations need not be mutually exclusive.

Stan Musial Bobblehead Night (Quad Cities River Bandits, May 21): Stan the miniature man, in other words.

GLBT Night (Omaha Storm Chasers, May 23): A demographic not courted enough by Minor League teams.

1977 World Series Pin (Tampa Yankee, May 23): Commemorating the year the Yankees won the World Series amidst a deeply unsettling backdrop of pervasive societal decay.

Record Temperature Guarantee (Buffalo Bisons, May 21-24): Perhaps a little delirious after a near endless cold spell, the Bisons guaranteed that the weekend would feature record-breaking temperatures.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Drive (Lake Elsinore Storm, May 20-22): Fans received a $5 ticket in exchange for a jar of peanut butter or jelly.

Benjamin Hill is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs. Comments
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