FRESNO, Calif. - As the annual Minor League Baseball Promotional Seminar begins in Birmingham, Alabama this week, it's been announced that the Fresno Grizzlies are the Pacific Coast League's nominee for the Larry MacPhail award, given annually to the MiLB organization which "demonstrates outstanding and creative marketing and promotional efforts within its community, its ballpark, in media and other promotional materials."
One nominee is selected from each MiLB-affiliated league each October, with the winning organization announced at the industry's annual winter meetings, taking place this year in Washington, D.C. 2016 is the second consecutive year the Grizzlies have earned the PCL's nomination; last year's award was won by the Double-A Akron RubberDucks of the Eastern League.
Just a sampling of the Grizzlies' most successful promotions from the 2016 season that earned them one just one of the two Triple-A nominations for the MacPhail award included:
- Halfway to Halloween May 12-13: Featuring an in-ballpark haunted house created by Hobb's Grove for two nights, and in-ballpark trick or treating; the team wore outlandish "Jason Mask" Fresno jerseys for Friday the 13th.
- My Big Fat Fresno Wedding Show, featuring mascot-officiated weddings, May 26: What began as a typical in-ballpark wedding show promotion, not uncommon in the industry, with vendors promoting everything from flowers, to cake, to formal wear, quickly morphed into the Grizzlies' first big national media splash of the 2016 season. Mascot Parker T. Bear was officially ordained as a minister online (this is legitimate), to officially preside over marriage ceremonies. Even a mascot or "character" can legally officiate a marriage as long as another Justice of the Peace is present; and three couples were officially married by Parker during the game. For already-married folks who didn't want to miss out, he also did vow renewal under the wedding arch/alter constructed along the left field line.
- Star Wars Weekend/FORCE FOR THE CURE, June 10-12: The combination of two promotional schedule staples, "Star Wars Night" and fighting for breast cancer awareness/research dollars proved to be a hit over a three-day event. Between a pink lightsaber giveaway, game-worn storm trooper Grizzlies jerseys in a silent auction for fans with all proceeds benefiting the Susan G. Komen Foundation, movie quality characters throughout the ballpark, lightsaber battles on the field and "GrizzCon," a collectors trade show at the ballpark, the event drew 28,243 fans over three games, an average of 9,414 a game.
- Nickelodeon 90s Night featuring Kel Mitchell, July 7: The Grizzlies went after the millennial crowd by appealing to fond memories of watching Nick shows, when actor/comedian Kel Mitchell appeared at the game, star of the cult-classic Nickelodeon movie Good Burger. To pay homage, the team wore special "Grizz Burger" jerseys, outfitting the visiting Reno Aces in "Mondo Burger" jerseys, the villain and competing business from the movie. Mitchell, who also starred in 90s Nick shows such as All That and Keenan & Kel signed a lot of autographs for late 20s and 30-somethings…many on bottles of orange soda which people of a certain age will remember he loves from his shows. One concession stand was even converted into "Grizz Burger" for the night, complete with custom packaging for burgers and fries reminiscent of Good Burger.
- Taco Truck Throwdown 6, August 18: Attendees consumed 34,820 tacos at Taco Truck Throwdown 6 at Chukchansi Park, which was slightly less than last year's record of 37,954. The paid crowd of 14,651 registers as the second highest in Chukchansi Park history, trailing only Taco Truck Throwdown 5. It was the fourth consecutive sell-out crowd for Taco Truck Throwdown. The event was expanded outside the ballpark this year for the first time; onto H street adjacent to the first base side of Chukchansi Park, to accommodate the record 35 taco trucks from throughout Central California which participated in the event.
"It was another championship-caliber season on the promotional front for the Fresno Grizzlies, there's no question about that," said Grizzlies General Manager Derek Franks. "The news about our mascot Parker actually marrying people was on SportsCenter a bunch of times, how great is that? Photos of all the outlandish uniforms our marketing staff came up with were constantly going viral on twitter, with pictures on other ESPN shows. We definitely want fans to be asking of us, 'what will they think of next?' Many of these promotions routinely drew over 10,000 fans to games at Chukchansi Park this season, and we really appreciate the fan support and how much fun our fans like to have at the ballpark to make these ideas successful," said Franks.
Indeed, the there were 10 crowds of 10,000 fans or more during the 2016 season at Chukchansi Park, and the club's mariachi-style uniforms, worn on July 22 as a tribute to the 30th anniversary of the release of the slapstick comedy movie "3 Amigos" were featured on several ESPN shows, including His & Hers, SportsNation and Highly Questionable. Fresno has quickly earned a niche in the industry as the team on the cutting edge of specialty jerseys, as the fire each new "Fresno Tacos" design caught on social media in addition to the other one-night promotional designs have set the bar for eye-catching jerseys for the rest of the industry.
The Fresno Grizzlies would like to thank their colleagues in the PCL and throughout Minor League Baseball for their nomination for this prestigious honor.
ABOUT THE FRESNO GRIZZLIES
The Fresno Grizzlies, Triple-A affiliate of the Houston Astros, are a member of the 16-team Pacific Coast League and are one of 30 teams in the world playing the highest level of Minor League Baseball. The team plays at 12,500-seat Chukchansi Park in Downtown Fresno, which is also a year-round community gathering place, hosting myriad other special events beyond Grizzlies' games, such as concerts, professional soccer and high school sporting events. The Grizzlies will enter the 2017 season - their 20th in Fresno - on the momentum of back-to-back winning seasons, including a PCL and National Championship in 2015. For information on 2017 Fresno Grizzlies season ticket and mini-plans, fans should call the Grizzlies' ticket office at 559.320.TIXS between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.