Promo Preview: Upping the ante04/20/2010 10:00 AM ET
By Benjamin Hill / MLB.com
Minor League teams are known for their game-day promotions. On Tuesdays for the remainder of the season, we'll preview 10 of the best for the week ahead. If you'd like a particular promotion to be considered for this feature in the future, please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line: "Promo Preview."
Daytona Cubs (Florida State League)
Front Row Joe's 1,000th Game, April 21
Fans don't come any more committed than Jackie Robinson Ballpark fixture "Front Row Joe," who hasn't missed a Daytona Cubs game since Bill Clinton's first term as president. Wednesday's contest against Tampa will mark this super-fan's 1,000th consecutive game, and the D-Cubs are making sure to commemorate the milestone. Joe will be honored in a pregame ceremony, and the team will then take the field wearing retro 1995 jerseys (a nod to the year in which the streak began). The prices on many concession items will be rolled back to 1995 as well, allowing fans to get nostalgic for those heady days of the late 20th century when the soda was cheap and the hot dogs plentiful.
South Bend Silver Hawks (Midwest League)
Halfway to Halloween, April 21
We are in the midst of a magical juncture through the calendar, in which the amount of time that has passed since last Halloween is roughly equal to the amount of time left until the next one. One of the best ways for northern Indianans to celebrate this all-important milestone is to head to Stanley Coveleski Stadium for the Silver Hawks' "Half Way to Halloween" extravaganza. The team is staving off potential acts of juvenile trickery by distributing goodie bags to all kids in attendance, and fans who arrive in costume receive a ticket discount. The evening's highlight, however, will be a between-innings "Best Costume Contest." The winner receives a complimentary pair of round-trip airplane tickets, hopefully to somewhere that will be safe from the impending zombie apocalypse.
Lake Elsinore Storm (California League)
Sleeved Blanket Giveaway, April 22
When historians look back on 2010 Minor League promotions, they will invariably describe it as "the year of the sleeved blanket giveaway." From Oklahoma City to Charleston, S.C. to Reading, Pa. and beyond, these sleek and stylish accoutrements are being distributed to fans across the country. The latest team to get in the act is the Lake Elsinore Storm, who will be giving away 1,000 examples of this sweater/bedding hybrid Thursday. The dark-hued creations feature the Storm's world famous "eye" logo, making the wearer look like some sort of all-seeing malevolent druid. And that, according to my sources, is a look that's very "in" right now.
Charlotte Knights (International League)
Homer Bobblehead Giveaway, April 23
Bobbleheads honoring famous players are all well and good, but they get a little bit boring after a while. This is because players, at the end of the day, are human. Far greater biological diversity exists in the world of Minor League mascots, who are everything from ape to bear to frog and sometimes completely unquantifiable. Mascot bobbleheads are much more fun and unpredictable as a result, and should not be overlooked by discerning collectors of undulating ceramic cranium. The Knights' giveaway Friday features Homer the dragon, a friendly mythological reptile who has been entertaining the Charlotte faithful since the halcyon days of 1989.
Quad Cities River Bandits (Midwest League)
Salute to Grilled Cheese, April 23
The grilled cheese sandwich is easily overlooked due to its unassuming nature and sheer ubiquity. The eagle-eyed River Bandits overlook nothing, however, and on Friday they'll give the grilled cheese sandwich the respect it deserves. (That the item is being sold at the concession stands this season is surely a coincidence.) Fascinating facts about this foodstuff will be divulged throughout the evening, which will be punctuated by grilled cheese-eating contests and (possibly) an Iron Chef grilled cheese cook-off. Hooters waitresses will be in attendance as well, as the restaurant chain is known for its top quality grilled cheese sandwiches. That's definitely the first image that comes to mind when one thinks of Hooters, right? Grilled cheese sandwiches.
Reading Phillies (Eastern League)
Salute to Pro Wrestling with Jerry Lawler Appearance and Commemorative Cup, April 23
Jerry "The King" Lawler is true royalty, having reigned so often in the world of wrestling that he makes Seattle look like the Sahara desert. The legendary grappler (and former Andy Kaufman nemesis) will assert his monarchal status at Reading's FirstEnergy Stadium on Friday, signing autographs and posing for pictures with his assembled minions. The first 500 minions in attendance receive a special Jerry Lawler commemorative cup, which is fortunately designed for drinking as opposed to groin area protection.
Oklahoma City RedHawks (Pacific Coast League)
Lou Brock Appearance, April 24
He may have relinquished the all-time stolen base title to Rickey Henderson, but Lou Brock remains one of baseball's all-time greats. The 1985 inductee to the Hall of Fame will make a special appearance at Bricktown Ballpark on Saturday, signing autographs for an orderly queue of memorabilia-minded baseball fans. Mr. Brock was anything but flat-footed during his playing days, but let it be known that Saturday he will only be signing flat items (so leave your bats and balls at home, in other words). And please, don't one day trade Brock's autograph for that of Ernie Broglio.
Round Rock Express (Pacific Coast League)
Reckless Kelly Softball Jam, April 25
I'm going to deviate from standard operating procedure for this writeup, as the event at Round Rock's Dell Diamond on Sunday will occur while the Express are out of town. But honestly, there's just no room for professional baseball when it comes to the Reckless Kelly Softball Jam. The all-day extravaganza begins with a celebrity softball game featuring stars from the world of music and sports (including NASCAR's Kyle Petty). This is followed by a concert featuring eight country and western acts (headlined by Reckless Kelly), culminating in an epic jam session featuring all participants. And then -- why not? -- there are fireworks. Last year's event drew over 7,000 people, and proceeds benefit a variety of youth baseball organizations (including the eminently worthy Miracle League).
Tennessee Smokies (Southern League)
Back to the Future Night, April 26
One of the highlights of the Smokies' promotional schedule this season is "Movie Mondays," in which the team celebrates a bona fide big screen classic. The series kicks off with "Back to the Future Night," featuring a pregame trivia contest on the time-traveling trilogy as well as a multitude of videoboard clips highlighting the adventures of Marty, Doc and Biff. Anyone born on Nov. 5 or in 1955 gets in free, and if you drive to the game in a Delorean your commitment to the evening's theme will be most impressive. Just try to avoid making out with your own mother, OK?
Lancaster JetHawks (California League)
History of the Taco Night, April 27
Tuesday marks the first of what will be many "Taco Tuesday" promotions in Lancaster, featuring $2 tacos, Tecates and (ruining the alliterative effect) margaritas. To kick off this exciting weekly feature, the club is dedicating an evening to the history of the titular food item. The night's ingredients include taco eating contests, taco hat giveaways, and, of course, a plethora of informational tidbits related to the taco's astonishing rise from regional curiosity to ubiquitous fixture of the American culinary scene.
Bonus Coverage: Because neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night will keep me from mentioning seven promotions that could have been included in last week's column, but weren't:
Census Night (Altoona Curve, April 14): Never before had the age, race, marital status and income levels of a ballpark crowd been so accurately determined.
Golfers' Appreciation Night (Charlotte Stone Crabs, April 16): Check out the team's YouTube page in order to see manager Jim Morrison defeat three local pros in a "Closest to the Pin" contest.
Whitey Herzog Appearance (Springfield Cardinals, April 16): I'd rather see Werner Herzog at a Minor League ballpark, but I'm probably in the minority when it comes to this sentiment.
Famous Bills Night (Hickory Crawdads, April 17): In honor of new skipper Bill Richardson, the Crawdads paid tribute to famous Bills throughout the evening. Jim Kelly was nowhere to be found.
Ted Williams Bobblehead (New Hampshire Fisher Cats, April 17): Sometimes even a ceramic bobblehead results in a Splendid Splinter.
Romey Bobblehead (Rome Braves, April 17): This bobblehead took more than 24 hours to assemble. Romey wasn't built in a day, you know.
Dog Bowl Giveaway (Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs, April 18): Finally, Lehigh Valley-area canines were able to properly display their International League rooting interests.