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 firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line: "Promo Preview" or send a Tweet to @bensbiz, hashtag "#promopreview."
With all due respect to the indomitable force of nature that is Mike Hessman, 38-year-old Louisville Bats catcher Corky Miller currently holds the title of "most intimidating man in the International League."
Miller has appeared in the IL in each and every season since 2001, beginning in Louisville and going on to Rochester (2005), Pawtucket (2006), Richmond (2007-08) and Charlotte (2009) before returning to Louisville (2009-present). During that 15-season odyssey, he has cultivated some seriously impressive facial hair, a deeply-hued salt and pepper Fu Manchu that conveys more about his wizened baseball expertise than words ever could. (This, after all, is a man who has been hit by a pitch more than 200 times in his professional career).
On Friday, the Bats are paying well-deserved tribute to Miller via a unique T-shirt giveaway, featuring a silhouette of the iconic catcher above the "stache-tag" #FeartheStache.
It goes without saying that Miller -- and, by extension, his 'stache -- should be feared, but for more clarity on the matter I consulted the Bats. They, in turn, commissioned a Facebook poll, asking the team's fans to weigh in on the matter. The top five responses, as determined by an esteemed Louisville Bats front office panel, regarding the important question of "Just why should Corky Miller's stache be feared?"
5) The Stache can strike you out.
4) The Stache can catch its own pitches.
3) The Stache will eat you.
2) Behind the Stache is another, even tougher, Stache.
1) The Stache ate Corky's beard.
The first 1,500 fans in attendance at Friday's game receive this collectible tee, which is sure to sell for tens if not dozens of dollars on eBay. Here's hoping that Miller is in the starting lineup, or, even better, on the mound. For those who don't know, the Stache can throw a mean knuckleball!
The Best of the Rest
Delmarva Shorebirds (Carolina League)
Social Media Night with "Hat Madness" Giveaway, April 24
"Social Media Night" promotions are all about digital democracy, as fans take to Facebook and Twitter in order to directly influence that evening's ballpark experience. The Shorebirds took the concept further this offseason, launching a bracket-style tournament in order to determine which hat the team would give away Thursday. The winner turned out to be a never-before-seen model, featuring the Shorebirds' logo emblazoned on the "stage left" side of an orange cap with a black brim. Did that description make sense? Maybe a picture would help:
Rancho Cucamonga Quakes (California League)
Brian Wilson Bobblebeard, April 25
Bobbleheads are commonplace, but Minor League teams with avant-garde inclinations have long taken it upon themselves to "bobble" unorthodox parts of the body. Bellies, butts and feet have been made to undulate in giveaway figurine form, and to this list we can now add beards. The Rancho Cucamonga Quakes are distributing Brian Wilson Bobblebeards to the first 1,500 fans at Friday's game; the 1,501st individual through the gates will have missed getting one by a whisker.
Fresno Grizzlies (Pacific Coast League)
1915 Throwback Jersey; April 26 Ideaworks Night, April 27
This weekend, the Fresno Grizzlies are throwing it back and then looking forward. Saturday is "1915 Throwback Jersey Night," with the team taking the field in vintage New York Giants jerseys (an homage to their parent club, the San Francisco Giants). These minimalistic pieces of black pinstriped apparel will be auctioned off after the game, with proceeds benefiting the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Sunday, meanwhile, sees the Grizzlies staging their second annual Ideaworks Day. A showcase of local creativity, last year's event featured blacksmiths, 3D printers, woodworkers, a "How To Make Beer" station, knitters, painters, metal workers and two "Rube Goldberg machines."
Daytona Cubs (Florida State League)
Broadcast from the Stands with Front Row Joe, April 27
The Daytona Cubs have what is arguably the best fan base in the Florida State League, a loyal crew of hardy supporters personified by iron-fan "Front Row Joe." For the second straight season, D-Cubs broadcaster Robbie Aaron is tapping into the enthusiasm of Joe and his crew by doing his Sunday home game broadcasts from the stands. Expect special guests (planned and otherwise), enthusiastic off-the-cuff commentary and the insistent soothing sounds of Joe's omnipresent cowbell.
Richmond Flying Squirrels (Eastern League)
Ineptitude Summit (Dumb and Dumber Tribute), April 28
The Flying Squirrels currently sit atop the Eastern League's paradoxically-named Western Division, but that's not stopping the team from hosting a so-called "Ineptitude Summit" on Monday. This celebration of stupidity is a 20th anniversary celebration of the comedy classic Dumb and Dumber and will include never-before-seen ballpark endeavors such as the briefcase race, a "Where in the World is Aspen Located?" contest, sea bass throwdown and the "most annoying sound in the world." I'm holding out hope that the Flying Squirrels can work in a romantic snowball fight as well.
Because I am in tune with your sublimated desires, here is a brief rundown of even more notable promotions taking place this week.
- April 23: The Bowie Baysox's annual series of "beer dinners" kicks off with an "around the world" theme, showcasing a global mix of cuisines and beers.
- April 24: It's "TV Land Thursday" in Binghamton, in which the Mets pay homage to classic sitcoms of the past. Here's hoping for a strong Norman Lear influence.
- April 25: Ryan Klesko descends upon Rome (Georgia), home of the Braves, ready and willing to sign autographs and pose for pictures. … The Round Rock Express showcase the skills of an aspiring local shutterbug via their "Photographer for a Day" contest. … Fans of indistinct holiday parties will thrill to the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders' "Almost Halfway to Halloween" celebration.
- April 26: It's not yet May the 4th, but that's not stopping the Frederick Keys from staging "Star Wars Night." … It's a giveaway 35 years in the making, as the West Virginia Power are bestowing 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates World Series replica rings upon their fans. Bring the family.
- April 27: The Portland Sea Dogs are commemorating "National Wild Turkey Federation Day." I don't think this has anything to do with whisky.
- April 28: In Akron, the RubberDucks are staging a "Bubblewrap Bonanza." Plan accordingly or, better yet, don't plan at all. Everything will turn out fine regardless.
- April 29: Desirous of a Brett Lawrie bobblehead? Then head on out to Appleton, home of the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers.