Promo Preview: Stress-free situations07/13/2010 10:00 AM ET
By Benjamin Hill / MLB.com
Minor League teams are known for their gameday 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."
Auburn Doubledays (New York-Penn League)
#399 Series, July 14-16
The Sporting News released a list of America's best sports cities in March, and the good news is that Auburn made the cut. The bad news is that the city was ranked No. 399 -- out of 399. Rather than ignoring this ignominious distinction, the Doubledays are embracing it. The "399 Classic" takes place this weekend, pitting the Doubledays against the Tri-City ValleyCats (who are based in Troy, N.Y., which was ranked No. 398). The festivities include on-field recognition of the "#399 Essay Contest" winner, and the number 399 will be celebrated throughout the night. For example, the 399th fan in attendance gets into the ballpark for free, and giveaway items include the Mad About You: Season 4 DVD (due to its No. 399 sales ranking on Amazon).
Brooklyn Cyclones (New York-Penn League)
Wally Backman Then and Now Bobblehead, July 14
Wally Backman first made his mark in the '80s as a member of the New York Mets, where he endeared himself to the Flushing Faithful with his fiery attitude and hard-nosed play. It's been more than two decades since his last game at Shea, but Wally is now back in the Big Apple as the manager of the Mets-affiliated Brooklyn Cyclones. On Wednesday, the club is celebrating Wally's return with a unique "Then and Now" bobblehead. Two 4-inch Wallys are situated side by side, one representing Backman the player and the other Backman the manager. The uniforms are different, and the mustache has turned from brown to gray, but both bobbles possess the same smoldering intensity.
Birmingham Barons (Southern League)
Stress-Free Night, July 14
Sometimes the unrelenting day-to-day grind of the baseball season gets to be a bit much, and all involved need to relax and take a deep breath. That's the concept behind the Barons' "Stress-free Night," a night at the ballpark that will center the mind and soothe the soul. The first 1,000 fans in attendance receive complimentary stress balls, and masseuses will be offering their services on the concourse (yes, even to the mascot). Winners of between-inning games and contests will be rewarded with Epsom salts, while the sounds of Kenny G, Enya, and Yanni drift through the ballpark. And finally, the seventh-inning stretch will be taken literally, as yoga practitioners lead fans through a most-relaxing rendition of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame."
Eugene Emeralds (Northwest League)
Tri-Butte Night, July 14
Mi-Koo Jackson Night, July 16
For those not up on their geographical terminology, a butte is a hill or mountain located within an otherwise flat landscape. The Eugene area is home to several prominent buttes, including Spencer's Butte, which is depicted in the Emeralds' new primary logo. The team will be celebrating beautiful buttes throughout Wednesday's game, the highlight being the world premiere of mascot Sluggo's "I Like Big Buttes" music video. Two days later is Mi-Koo Jackson Night, as Ems director of ticket operations Koo Kim will lead the Fireworks Friday crowd in a "largest group moonwalk" world record attempt. This will be preceded by a most memorable dance-off, featuring the aforementioned Sluggo and Emeralds reliever Dexter Carter.
Huntsville Stars (Southern League)
Car Survivor, Begins July 14
The Stars are giving one fan a new car this week, but whoever wins the automobile is really going to have to work for it. On Wednesday, five individuals will enter the car. The last to leave, wins. Contestants are only granted one 15-minute break every six hours, and upon the conclusion of the break those remaining rotate to a new seat. Contestants must drink a minimum of one gallon of water every 24 hours, but don't overdo it. As the contest rules helpfully point out: "Secretion, projection or loss of body fluids while seated within the vehicle will result in immediate disqualification from the contest." Also, "contestants must be clothed at all times." Nudist practitioners of car-sitting stamina need not apply.
Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (Midwest League)
Salute to Underwear, July 15
Like Oprah, underwear provides comfort and support to billions of people on a daily basis. Yet undergarments are often overlooked, taken for granted instead of celebrated as an integral part of modern existence. The Timber Rattlers, always one to stick up for the underdog, will be celebrating, saluting and commemorating underwear throughout Thursday's game. Fans should get to the ballpark early and then "Jockey" for position, as the giveaway item this evening is an imitable mini-brief keychain. Supplies are scanty, but demand shall be supple.
Charleston RiverDogs (South Atlantic League)
Alvin Greene Statue Giveaway, July 17
Alvin Greene, the quotable and controversial candidate for the South Carolina Senate, recently made headlines with his remark that "Another thing we can do for jobs is make toys of me, especially for the holidays ... me in an Army uniform, Air Force uniform and me in my suit. That's something that would create jobs." This somewhat baffling employment plan has inspired the RiverDogs to go ahead and do just this, and on Saturday, the first 1,000 fans receive Alvin Greene figurines. It is unknown how many jobs were created as a result of this proactive promotion, but it's the thought that counts.
Lowell Spinners (New York-Penn League)
Celebrating 50 Years of Bubble Wrap, July 17
The invention of Bubble Wrap in 1960 immeasurably improved the quality of life for those who enjoy satisfying popping sounds. The Spinners are celebrating the half-century anniversary of this peerless packing product on Saturday, an event that will be highlighted by a massive simultaneous display of Bubble Wrap popping. The team was hoping to secure a verified Bubble Wrap world record as a result of this stadium-wide exhibition, but the killjoys at Guinness denied their application. No matter -- the team will carry on undaunted, allowing all fans in attendance to experience the joys of communal plastic bubble popping.
Syracuse Chiefs (International League)
Wilmington Blue Rocks (Carolina League)
Soap Opera Saturday featuring Trevor St. John (Syracuse) and Jacob Young (Wilmington), July 17
Like Tag Team's "Whoomp There It Is!" and 95 South's "Whoot There It Is!", the above two promotions are unrelated to one another despite distinct similarities. Trevor St. John from One Life to Life brings his smoldering stare to Syracuse, while All My Children star Jacob Young totes his impeccably groomed self to Wilmington. Both teams are offering special VIP ticket packages so that devoted fans can avoid the indignity of waiting in line with the rest of the ballpark rabble. Instead, they can partake in "intimate" pregame question-and-answer sessions replete with photo opportunities, autograph sessions and food and beverage offerings that encourage slow nibbling and seductive sipping.
Vermont Lake Monsters (New York-Penn League)
Bill Lee and "Oil Can Boyd" Appearances, July 17
The eccentricity levels at Centennial Field are going to be off the charts Saturday, as "Spaceman" Bill Lee and Dennis "Oil Can" Boyd will be in attendance for an autograph session. The left-handed Lee was one of the iconoclastic pitchers of the 70s, freely espousing his countercultural philosophies and oddball theories. Boyd, meanwhile, was one of the most colorful characters of the '80s, as befits an individual nicknamed after slang for a beer container. Both made their biggest impression as members of the Red Sox, and the team's far-flung New England fan base is sure to come out in droves for this unbeatable 1-2 punch guest appearance.
Bonus Coverage: Because less is more except for when it's less, here are seven promotions that could have been included in last week's column -- could have been, but weren't:
Bad Idea Night (Altoona Curve, July 7): Commemorating everything from Disco Demolition Night to Derek Bell's legendary "Operation Shutdown."
Willie Horton Appearance (Great Lakes Loons, July 8): Did you know that Willie Horton led the American League in games played in 1979 as a 36-year-old member of the Seattle Mariners? I sure didn't.
Egg Kitchen Timer Night (Lakewood BlueClaws, July 8): Because, when it comes to cooking, time is not an illusion.
Hootz Tweet Tweet Twitter Night (Orem Owlz, July 9): If a costumed owl can't get you excited about micro-blogging, then nothing can.
Helicopter Ball Drop (Charlotte Stone Crabs, July 10): A new twist on the nightly "Tennis Ball Toss" postgame promotion: dropping the balls from a helicopter toward a designated landing area.
Los Lonely Boys Postgame Concert (July 10, Corpus Christi Hooks): Plenty of Hooks on this night, both on the field and in the songs.
Tour de France Night (Hickory Crawdads, July 12): Bike racing on the field and free admission to anyone in a yellow shirt.