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Whitecaps go Down Under in West Michigan
Tigers affiliate honors Aussies; throwback uniforms abound in Minors
08/25/2015 10:00 AM ET

Minor League teams are known for the creativity of their gameday promotions. On Tuesdays this season, we preview 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 benjamin.hill@mlb.com with the subject line: "Promo Preview" or send a Tweet  to @bensbiz, hashtag "#promopreview."

Over the weekend, Australia posted a historic victory over the Dominican Republic in the 2015 Little League World Series to avoid the consolation bracket. Two members of the Minor League community with a cheering interest in Saturday's matchup were West Michigan Whitecaps manager Andrew Graham and third baseman Zach Shepherd.

On Thursday, the Whitecaps will honor (or "honour") their resident Sydneysiders with Australia Night at Fifth Third Ballpark. The idea came to the club's front office at the Midwest League All-Star break, right around the time Shepherd was making his first Minor League All-Star appearance in the showcase game for the league's Eastern Division.

"We've done Irish Night in the past," Whitecaps promotions manager Matt Hoffman said. "Last year we did Canada night. We had two [Australian] guys on the team this year, so we thought, why not try to do an Australia Night? We just started putting things on paper, and it became what it is."

This isn't an Australia Night that will revolve around clichés about the Land Down Under, however. Hoffman and his staff consulted with Graham and Shepherd to get it right.

"The nice thing about having Andrew Graham and Zach Shepherd around is they can give us insight about what it's like to be in Australia," he said. "We didn't want to make it American-based Australia Night. We wanted it to actually be somewhat authentic."

The Whitecaps will have a didgeridoo player in attendance to assist in mascot introductions and play his instrument on the concourse. Kangaroo and alligator will be on the Fifth Third Ballpark grills. Fans will get to sample Vegemite -- though from personal experience, I recommend you avoid that. The Whitecaps will have one possibly unavoidable cliché in play.


Promo Preview on Cut4: Portlandia comes to Eugene »


"We'll have Foster's on tap," Hoffman said. "Now they told us that they don't really drink Foster's over there, but when you're in America, the Australian beer you think of is Foster's."

In addition to the off-the-field areas of the promotion, the Whitecaps will look the part as well. West Michigan will don Australian flag-themed jerseys to be auctioned off with proceeds benefitting the Whitecaps Community fund.

"We try to do quite a few theme jerseys every year, around 10 or something like that," Hoffman said. "With Andrew Graham and Zach Shepherd, we thought fans would love that and love to get on board, not only with their jerseys but other players as well. We had a tight timeline, but the company that we work with does a great job of giving us a nice turnaround."

The Whitecaps' skipper, himself a former Tigers farmhand as well as catcher and coach for the Sydney Blue Sox of the Australian Baseball League, will record player introductions for his team including one for Shepherd, Sydney's current third baseman.

"They're excited for it," Hoffman said. "We do some pretty interesting promotions, so they wouldn't be shocked to walk in one day and see anything really. This probably had a different feel for them. When we actually talked to them and told them we wanted to make this a great night and make it authentic, they were on board.

"They've been extremely helpful for getting this planned and organized."

Best of the Rest

Brooklyn Cyclones (New York-Penn League)
Sidd Finch bobblehead giveaway, Aug. 26

It was 30 years ago when Sports Illustrated shocked the sports world with the revelation of young Mets phenom prospect Sidd Finch, the right-hander who could throw a 168 mph fastball while only wearing one hiking boot (but was trying to decide on a career path between baseball and playing the French horn). Though Finch never actually existed -- his story was conjured up for an April Fools' Day SI - he will exist in bobblehead form Wednesday night when the Cyclones celebrate the 30th anniversary of the story.

Altoona Curve (Eastern League)
Steamer Dashboard Bobble giveaway and theme jersey, Aug. 27

One of the most lovable mascots in the Minor Leagues is hanging up his … whatever it is railroad boilers wear for shoes. Steamer, the Altoona Curve's big green connection to their railroad heritage, will pass on into a retired role and office job in Curve, Pa., but not before his team honors him at Peoples Natural Gas Field. The Curve will not only give away 1,500 Steamer bobbles to affix to fans dashboards but will pay tribute to the mascot (who once feuded with Al Roker and Conan O'Brien, believe it or not) with special jerseys and hats.

Connecticut Tigers (New York-Penn League)
Norwich Navigators Night, Aug. 28

Baseball history is long and detailed in Connecticut -- did you know Mark Twain was a Hartford Dark Blues fan? -- and the Connecticut Tigers will harken back to the days of early-2000s yore in remembrance of that history. From 1995 to 2005, the Double-A club that called Norwich home was known as the Navigators and served as a Yankees and Giants affiliate before later changing its name to the Connecticut Defenders and subsequently moving to Richmond. On Friday night, the Navigators will ride again, though this time doing so in the New York-Penn League with the Tigers donning their annual Norwich throwback uniforms.

El Paso Chihuahuas (Pacific Coast League)
Hockey Night, Aug. 28

When you think of the fastest game on ice, sweltering El Paso may not be the first city to come to mind, but the Chihuahuas will get you set for fall and winter with their Hockey Night on Friday. The city is home to one of the success stories of junior league hockey with their Rhinos having led the Western States Hockey League in attendance last season. As the Chihuahuas take the field for one of the final games of the summer, they'll hand out hockey pucks to the first 2,000 fans through the gates at Southwest University Park.

Quick Hits

Aug. 27: The Carolina Mudcats make an amalgamation of competitive words into something that -- if you think about it -- sounds like a very intriguing contest; they host Stupid Human Tricks with a World's Fastest Fat Man Competition. … The Durham Bulls celebrate the best of another season on social media when they honor Instagram photos hashtagged with #DurhamBulls.

Aug. 28: There's another Bond movie coming out sometime soon. (I have yet to see a Daniel Craig Bond film because I am extraordinarily lame.) The world's most famous and least secret secret agent is in the spotlight when the Fort Wayne TinCaps pay tribute to 007. … Not many people or characters are as different from each other as James Bond and Willie Nelson, but the Mississippi Braves will host a tribute band dedicated to the latter.

Aug. 29: As often noted, if you're doing throwback uniforms, I'll find a way to point it out. The Jackson Generals will throw back to their "double-X" era when they turn the clock back to the late-90s to honor the West Tenn Diamond Jaxx. … One of the pipelines to produce the vast rush of talent to Houston, the Quad Cities River Bandits will honor Astros outfielder George Springer with a bobblehead in his likeness.

Aug. 30: Again, throwback jerseys rule, and the Great Lakes Loons are doing something very cool when they don't honor a specific team but simply take the field in jerseys -- gorgeous ones if they look like the graphic -- that show what they could have looked like generations ago.

Aug. 31: Some career paths won't get you quite the plaudits of others, but the Bowling Green Hot Rods aren't leaving some of the world's most maligned professionals out when they host Love Litigating Lawyers Night.
 
Sept. 1: The final week of the Minor League regular season opens when the San Jose Giants pay tribute to "Old Blue Eyes" on Frank Sinatra Night.

Tyler Maun is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @TylerMaun. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.
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