The awards are broken up into four categories -- Best Theme Night, Best Charity Promotion, Best In-Game Promotion, and Best Non-Game Day Promotion -- and the winners are chosen by a vote of Minor League Promotional Seminar attendees. The 2011 winners were announced on Sunday evening at Myrtle Beach's BB&T Coastal Field, site of the seminar's annual Ballpark Outing.
Taking in the honors for Best Theme Night as well as Best Overall was the Fort Wayne TinCaps' "Opening Night in 3D." This unprecedented endeavor, previously covered here on MiLB.com, is just what the name implies: on Opening Night at Fort Wayne's Parkview Field, the TinCaps presented portions of the videoboard entertainment in 3D. As mentioned in yesterday's Promo Seminar column, TinCaps director of marketing Michael Limmer gave a presentation on how to stage such an initiative, and it wouldn't be at all surprising to see "3D Nights" at Minor League Baseball ballparks in 2012 and beyond.
The Lehigh Valley IronPigs took home the honor for "Best Non-Game Day Event", as their "Nite Lites" cocktail reception/silent auction/dinner/dancing extravaganza raised a staggering $1.2 million for a local hospital. Meanwhile, the Eugene Emeralds' "Cut-Off For A Cause" received the nod for "Best Charity Promotion." The Northwest League entity set up denim donation stations around the ballpark, with the resulting haul being used to create housing insulation for low-income families.
And last but not least, the winner of "Best In-Game Promotion" was the Lake Elsinore Storm's "Grounds Crew Gorilla." This is truly the most chaotic 80 seconds in all of Minor League Baseball (if not all of professional sports), consisting of an ostensibly dirt-raking costumed primate losing his mind on the baseball field. I happened to catch the Grounds Crew Gorilla during a May visit to a Lake Elsinore Storm game, and the performance concluded with the gorilla charging into the right field berm area and ripping out a portion of the fence separating the berm from the concourse. A truly anarchic performance.
And this anarchy carried over into the Promo Seminar itself. The Grounds Crew Gorilla made an appearance in the convention hall on Sunday morning, attacking attendees with swimming pool accessories and tackling Eugene Emeralds GM (and former Storm employee) Allan Benavides into the speaker's table. But would you expect anything less from the Storm front-office staff? This is the same group that, in 2009, provided a live demonstration of the "Subtle Butt" flatulence neutralizer.
Though the "Golden Bobbleheads" are chosen by those within the industry, it is worth noting that fans are not left out of the "Promo of the Year" selection process. Voting is underway now on MiLB.com, in the categories of "Best Giveaway," "Best Theme Night," "Best Celebrity Appearance" and the always hard-to-define "Miscellaneous."
Villainous behavior: The New Hampshire Fisher Cats' "Ram of War" lost out to the Grounds Crew Gorilla in the "best in-game promotion" category, but nonetheless this is a character that deserves more recognition. Whereas most ballpark performers willingly lost to children between-inning games and contests, the Ram of War taunts and terrorizes his young adversaries in the manner of a classic wrestling villain. In a promotional video made by the team, the Ram of War states, "My goal in life has been crushing kids' dreams and feeding off the screams."
Dreaming big: In his colorfully titled presentation "Sweaty Success, Stinky Failure and Fur-Flying Fun: Building Your Mascot Brand," current Kansas City Royals (and former Fresno Grizzlies) mascot Brad Collins enumerated one of his pet peeves within the industry.
"Why would you pay a touring performer $3,000, $4,000 or $5,000 dollars when your own mascot doesn't have a prop budget," he asked.
Also of interest was the following admission: "Yes, sometimes I do dream as if I was a mascot, and it is a very odd sensation."
The biggest little seminar in the world: The 2012 Minor League Baseball Promotional Seminar will be held in Reno, Nev., and hosted by the Pacific Coast League's Reno Aces. The event takes place from Oct. 2-5 at the Atlantic Casino Resort and Spa, about three miles from Aces Ballpark.