Minor League teams are known for the creativity of their gameday promotions. On Tuesdays this season, we preview 10 of 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 him a Tweet -- hashtag "#promopreview."
From the Bells to the Boones, the Griffeys to the Fielders, baseball is no stranger to generation-spanning surnames. But as memorable as the on-field exploits of these players may have been, the sport has never boasted a father and son pair who both won the Triple Crown.
It's happened in the world of horse racing, however, as 1930 Triple Crown winner Gallant Fox sired 1935 winner Omaha in Bowie, Md. This remarkable instance of successful breeding is just one of many illustrious horse-racing accomplishments that the hometown Baysox are celebrating Saturday, when the team stages "A Night at the Races" just one week after the Preakness Stakes was held at Pimlico in nearby Baltimore.
Most notably, the players will take the field wearing jerseys identifying them as, yes, "The Studs." These scarlet duds, complete with polka dots on the sleeves, are directly modeled after the racing silks worn by jockeys at Bowie's Belair Stud Farm and will be auctioned off after the game with proceeds benefiting the Friends of Belair Estate.
Usually, at this juncture of the column, I offer quotes from a team front office member that were obtained via phone or email. But when it comes to "Night at the Races" I must defer to the team's press release as the team is breaking new ground in the form. Baysox promotions manager Chris Rogers claims that he's "keyed up like a young colt" and "bucking at the gate in anticipation" for Saturday's game, and his vocal exhortations become even more equine-like (equine-esque?) from there.
"After being established in the 1770s, the sale of Belair Stud Farm in 1957 enabled the City of Bowie to develop new neighborhoods and grow into what it is today," Rogers nickered. (Yes, "nickered." The team's word, not mine). "We want to make sure this ultra-local piece of history receives the recognition it deserves."
To this end, the between-innings promotions will be racing-themed, and representatives from local horse groups will provide information about their respective organizations on the concourse. And, perhaps best of all, of-age fans will be able to do a little galloping themselves via a pre-game 1K Beer Run that combines the sports of racing and alcohol consumption.
"The Beer Run will give up to 100 human fillies, colts, mares, stallions and perhaps even geldings the chance to race their way to glory while covering a distance of roughly five furlongs, or half of the 10 furlongs in the Kentucky Derby," Rogers whinnied. "I know that having nattily-attired humans watch finely-tuned animals sprint for glory around a dirt track is great, but this will be even better."
Fresno Grizzlies (Pacific Coast League) InstaGrizz Night, May 23
In 2009 the Fresno Grizzlies hosted "The Great Fresno Tweet-Up," the first Twitter-based promotion in all of Minor League Baseball. On Thursday the team continues its innovative social media practices with "InstaGrizz Night," which is, as far as my knowledge goes, the first Instagram-based theme night in the Minors. Those who follow the Grizzlies on Instagram can get tickets for just $5, and throughout the ballgame, fans will be encouraged to share their ballpark photos using the hashtag #instagrizz. My money's on the Grizzlies to stage the Minors' first Vine-based promotion as well, and quite frankly I'll be disappointed if one isn't on the 2014 schedule.
Fort Myers Miracle (Florida State League) Field of Screams, May 24
The Miracle have become adept at celebrating both American history as well as their own, as evidenced by Saturday's promotion. "Field of Screams" -- in which vintage horror films are shown on the videoboard after the ballgame -- was first staged by the club in 1992, and this most recent iteration commemorates the 80th anniversary of the drive-in theater. The team has not yet finalized the evening's slate of entertainment, but its certain to include bona fide golden-era classics such as Frankenstein and The Mummy. "The main thing is that we want people to bring lawn chairs, sleeping bags and enjoy a night of scary movies under the stars," said Miracle general manager Andrew Seymour. Who but the most fright-adverse could argue with that?
Frederick Keys (Carolina League) Man on Fire appearance, May 25
Stuntman Ted "Man on Fire" Batchelor first blazed onto the Minor League Baseball landscape in 2010, when, true to his name, he was lit on fire after a Savannah Sand Gnats game and then proceeded to run around the base paths before diving into home. He brings this inimitably incendiary act to Frederick on Saturday, as part of his long-standing quest to be lit on fire in all 50 states. Teams that can stand the heat should do what they can to fulfill this burning desire. Book Ted at your ballpark today!
Tulsa Drillers (Texas League) World Record First Pitch Attempt, May 25
On Aug. 23, 2008, the Huntsville Stars established a new world record when 11,689 "first" pitches were tossed prior to the start of the evening's scheduled ballgame. But records, like hearts, were made to be broken and that's just what the Tulsa Drillers are attempting to do on Saturday. As part of a "Walk to End Alzheimer's" promotion, the team is opening its gates when the clock strikes midnight and will then allow fans to throw first pitches for the next 17 hours. There is no limit on how many pitches each fan can throw, but the Drillers are encouraging a $1 per pitch donation to an organization with the fitting name of "Strike Out Alzheimer's."
Daytona Cubs (Florida State League) Broadcast from the Stands, May 26
The D-Cubs "Broadcast from the Stands" is what its name would imply. For more on this unique concept, we go to team broadcaster Robbie Aaron: "Each Sunday game we'll broadcast from a different spot around the ballpark (dugout top, scoreboard, Budweiser bullpen, behind homeplate) and have a signup sheet with each half-inning listed for people to reserve. We still try to do play-by-play, but the broadcast is much more relaxed and conversational. We also have five regulars who have joined the broadcast on Sundays for many years including Front Row Joe. Each of them takes one bottom half of an inning ... and however many runs the Cubs score during their individual innings counts towards their total for the season."
Into the ellipse…
Because too much is never enough, a brief rundown of other notable promotions taking place this week…
- May 22: Though horse-racing fans are going to want to be in Bowie for the aforementioned "Night at the Races," actual horses will probably prefer the Akron Aeros' "Salute to Oats."… The Quad Cities River Bandits don't just do giveaways, they do "mega-giveaways." The latest such offering is a "Mega-jewelry giveaway, and it will surely be a mega-good time.
- May 23: While some teams go "mega," others go small. The Corpus Christi Hooks give away Nolan Ryan Garden Gnomes, and in Omaha the Storm Chasers salute the non-existent with "Catfish Night." … Usual Thirsty Thursday hangovers occur on Friday, but not in Myrtle Beach as the Pelicans salute the latest installment of the Hangover franchise.
- May 25: "May the Fourth" has passed, but Star Wars promos continue unabated. This time it's the Cedar Rapids Kernels that are paying tribute. … In Memphis, the Redbirds give away t-shirts honoring the 70th anniversary of the Memphis Belle's 25th combat mission.
- May 26: Continuing with this column's lead theme, the Harrisburg Senators are awarding one fan an ownership stake in a race horse. Appropriately enough, the evening's opponent is an affiliate of the Philadelphia "Fillies."