EL PASO, TEXAS -- Bobbleheads are desirable items, especially when they're golden.
The Minor League Baseball Innovators Summit will conclude Thursday evening with the annual Golden Bobblehead Awards, which recognize the best promotions of the season that was. Golden Bobblehead winners are peer-selected, chosen via a vote that takes place at the Innovators Summit on Thursday morning. The categories include Best Theme Night, Best In-Game Promotion, Best Non-Gameday Event, Best Community Promotion or Event, Best Digital Campaign or Activation and, new for 2019, a fan-voted Best Specialty Jersey. Presiding over them all, in both size and stature, is the Golden Bobblehead for Best Overall Promotion, chosen from all the nominees.
The Innovators Summit, an industry-wide idea-sharing event, was previously known as the Promotional Seminar. The Golden Bobblehead Awards, which debuted in 2011, have become highly coveted among those who work in Minor League Baseball. Thursday morning's vote will be preceded by presentations from team executives whose clubs have been nominated, designed to sway the vote in their favor.
Mark Labban, Minor League Baseball's assistant director of special events and affiliate programming, helps oversee the Promotion of the Month and Golden Bobblehead Award selection process. (Promotion of the Month winners automatically become Golden Bobblehead Award finalists.)
"On average, we get about 40 to 50 per month for the Promotion of the Month submissions," he explained. "We have an internal committee that reviews each submission and ranks their top 10, regardless of category. Then we compile the top five, based on a points system of the top 10 rankings. The top five are then voted on by the Innovators Summit Steering Committee, made up of Minor League Baseball club executives."
The remaining Golden Bobblehead Award Finalists are similarly selected, via a scoring system based on the internal committee's top 10 rankings within each category
Collectively, the Golden Bobblehead Award finalists represent the best that Minor League Baseball had to offer this season. To get a sense of just what being the best entails, this article provides an overview of the eight nominees in the high-profile Best Theme Night category. Stay golden.
Omaha Storm Chasers -- Potholes Night (April Promotion of the Month)
Offseason snow and ice resulted in a proliferation of potholes in the Omaha area. On April 1, the Storm Chasers announced via Twitter that "[O]n June 31st, we will be playing as the Omaha Potholes!" This joke, obvious as it was, got a robust online reaction and inspired the team to make Potholes Night a reality. It all went down April 24, featuring Potholes batting practice gear, "Pothole Philly" pot roast sandwiches and an evening-long commemoration of local road workers.
Why it should win: "Our Potholes Night ... hit on the three pillars of items we look to impact -- community, sales and fun. We were successful on those and it continues to breathe as we plan for 2020. Our Potholes are bigger than yours and we already won the Golden Bobble in 2019. We look forward to picking it up in El Paso." -- Martie Cordaro, Storm Chasers president
Previous Storm Chasers Golden Bobblehead Nominations: 1
Previous Storm Chasers Golden Bobblehead Wins: 0
Myrtle Beach Pelicans -- Derby Eve (May Promotion of the Month)
Not surprisingly, the Pelicans' Derby Eve promotion took place the night prior to the Kentucky Derby. What was surprising is that the team actually staged an in-game horse race as Ace (an actual horse) went head-to-head against Big Red (another actual horse) in a sprint from foul pole to foul pole. Players took the field in jerseys that resembled jockey silks, and these jerseys went on to get a massive amount of national exposure thanks to an in-game defensive highlight that went viral.
Why it should win: "Because we are the Susan Lucci of Golden Bobbleheads. It took her 19 Emmy nominations before she took home the hardware.... Year after year we leave enough room in our luggage to bring the little guy home but our luggage, like our hearts, inevitably are left a little empty. If not on merit, we are happy to take home a sympathy win. Maybe our families will finally be proud of us, but probably not. " -- Ryan Moore, Pelicans general manager
Previous Myrtle Beach Golden Bobblehead Nominations: 14
Previous Myrtle Beach Golden Bobblehead Wins: 0
Corpus Christi Hooks -- Coastal Bend Conservation and Phone-Free Game (June Promotion of the Month)
The Hooks' Coastal Bend Conservation Weekend was highlighted by June 20th's phone-free game, in which fans were encouraged to appreciate their surroundings instead of staring slack-jawed at their omnipresent devices. Those in attendance put their phones in a locking pouch provided by Yondr, a company devoted to creating phone-free spaces. For the entirety of the weekend, the Hooks wore theme jerseys that celebrated the natural beauty of the Corpus Christi region (which is, of course, better enjoyed without the distraction of a phone).
Why it should win: "We're just taking it a day at a time. It took some time to find our footing in April and May, but we really hit our stride in June. I think we've got all the pieces to finish the year strong if we focus and play our game. There are some tough outs in the other clubhouse, but I think we've got a good shot at bringing home the win." -- JD Davis, Hooks director of marketing
Previous Corpus Christi Golden Bobblehead Nominations: 0
Charleston RiverDogs -- Helen McGuckin Night (July Promotion of the Month)
In May of 2018, the RiverDogs received a two-star Google review from a woman named Helen McGuckin. "Just drove by," it read. This prompted the team to launch an all-out search for Helen, with the goal of providing an unforgettable ballpark experience. While the RiverDogs were able to track Helen down, she ultimately declined to attend the game. No matter. A Helen McGuckin stand-in was summarily recruited and provided with a five-star experience.
Why it should win: "We made no entries into the big issues like roadways nor coastline.We made no celebrations of ursine, equine or bovine. We did not attempt to win over a nation, neither bachelor nor the college cuisine connoisseurs. Instead, in the spirit of innovation, our humble theme night was directed merely at an audience of one." -- Nate Kurant, RiverDogs director of promotions
Previous Charleston Golden Bobblehead Nominations: 6
Previous Charleston Golden Bobblehead Wins: 2 (South Atlantic League Home Run Derby, Best Non-Gameday Event and Best Overall, 2011)
Nashville Sounds -- Bachville, an Evening of Drama and Baseball (August/September Promotion of the Month)
Did you know? Nashville is not only a popular bachelor and bachelorette party destination, it is also home to a disproportionate amount of former The Bachelor and The Bachelorette contestants. The Sounds took full advantage of this reality show reality by staging Aug. 3rd's "Bachville" promotion, which featured a Q&A with the contestants, the chance to secure a first impression rose and a Bachelor-style cocktail party.
Why it should win: "We never expected to fall in love on this journey but we decided to open our hearts to the experience. Most of the others are here to get more Instagram followers. Charleston has a girlfriend named Helen back home, Myrtle Beach is just putting on a show -- they aren't even from Kentucky -- and Omaha is just here because of a joke. This is real for us. We've never felt like this before and we can see this lasting forever." -- Adam Nuse, Sounds general manager
Previous Sounds Golden Bobblehead Nominations: 0
Brooklyn Cyclones -- Kids Opening Days, featuring Build-A-Bear Weekend and Share-A-Bear Program
The Cyclones' Kids Opening Days celebrate the end of the seemingly interminable New York City school year. On June 29, the team transformed their home of MCU Park into a Build-A-Bear Workshop, allowing kids to create their own. These young fans also had the opportunity to stuff additional bears, which were delivered to a local children's hospital by mascot Sandy the Seagull and a squadron of Cyclones players.
Why it should win: "A vote for anyone else is a vote in favor of sick kids and a vote against teddy bears. And frankly, anyone who doesn't vote for us is taking the mind-blowing stance of being in favor of sick children and opposed to lovable, huggable teddy bears. Those people are clearly monsters." -- Billy Harner, Cyclones director of communications
Previous Cyclones Golden Bobblehead Nominations: 17
Previous Cyclones Golden Bobblehead Wins: 5 (Seinfeld Night, Best Theme Night and Best Overall, 2014; Ambush Baseball, Best Non-Gameday Event and Best Overall, 2015; America's Backyard: 4th of July on Coney Island, Best Non-Gameday Event, 2018)
Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp -- Ramen Noodle Night
In 2017 the Jumbo Shrimp gave away a neck pillow that resembled, yes, a jumbo shrimp. Their whimsical headrest game got even stronger this year, as on June 19 the team distributed 2,000 "Jumbo Shrimp-flavor" ramen noodle packet pillows. This wildly popular giveaway item set the stage for an evening that included ramen-noodle-eating contests, shrimp ramen at the concession stands and a new ballpark character named Giant Cup O' Noodles who, not coincidentally, looked like a giant cup of noodles.
Why it should win: "Ramen Noodle Night: Turning hot, cheap and wet into a memorable night of affordable family fun." -- David Ratz, Jumbo Shrimp director of promotions and special events
Previous Jacksonville Golden Bobblehead Nominations: 2
Previous Jacksonville Golden Bobblehead Wins: 0
Wisconsin Timber Rattlers -- Salute to Cows, featuring Udder Tuggers
"Salute to Cows," an homage to Wisconsin's dairy industry, has long been a staple of the Timber Rattlers' promotional schedule. This season the team took it to a whole (milk) new level by suiting up as the Udder Tuggers. When the Udder Tuggers name was first announced, on June 3, it became a viral sensation and the team sold all of its merchandise in just five hours. This set the stage for June 20th's ballgame, which featured milk chugging contests, chocolate milk samples and the appearance of an honest to God real-life cow.
Why it should win: We tugged at the heart strings of America and moo-ved them to the point where a loss to the rest of this herd of candidates would be udderly unthinkable to us." -- Rob Zerjav, Timber Rattlers president
Previous Wisconsin Golden Bobblehead Nominations: 3
Previous Wisconsin Golden Bobblehead Wins: 0