Minor League teams are known for the creativity of their gameday promotions. On Tuesdays this season, we'll 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."
On Thursday, the Altoona Curve won't just be celebrating the start of a new season. They'll also be celebrating the life of Bo Forney, one of the most popular individuals to ever don the team's uniform.
Forney, who served as the Curve's batboy from 2008-12, passed away suddenly on Feb. 4 at just 21 years old. He was known for his positive personality and relentlessly upbeat manner, and the Curve will commemorate his all-too-short-life with April 11's "Bo-pening Night" celebration.
"This is going to be a special night, as we're looking forward to honoring the memory of someone who brought a smile to the face of everyone who he came into contact with," said Curve general manager Rob Egan. "We're sure that this is the type of thing that he'd approve of, in that it's based around helping other people."
Indeed, the centerpiece of the evening's festivities is a silent auction featuring many game-used items from March 30's exhibition game between the Curve and their parent Pittsburgh Pirates (including the signed jerseys of 11 Curve players who went on to play for the Pirates). Additional funds will be raised through the sale of patches featuring a cartoon drawing of Bo, and these patches will be affixed to all bat boy uniforms worn through the entirety of the 2013 campaign. Proceeds from all of the Curve's fundraising efforts benefit the American Heart Association, as it was a rare heart defect that ended Bo's life at such a young age.
"Bo-Pening Night" would not be possible without the support of Bo's family, who will be well-represented at the ballpark that evening. His father, Ron, is slated to throw out the ceremonial first pitch, while his sister Shannon has been named "honorary team captain" and will perform duties such as delivering the Curve's lineup card to the umpires. Through it all, there will be much reminiscing on the kind of person that Bo was and just how much he'll be missed.
"I think the biggest reason that Bo was so beloved by our team and staff was because he had such a positive personality. He was that rare sort of person who could see the bright side in everything," said Egan. "Whether you were a top prospect or a fellow batboy, he treated everyone the same. A smile and a 'Hello' from Bo could brighten anyone's mood."
Though Bo-pening Night is the best on offer this week, here are five more promos that are worthy of your attention:
Omaha Storm Chasers (Pacific Coast League) Bob Gibson Statue Unveiling, April 11
The ever-intimidating Bob Gibson towered over opposing batsmen throughout the entirety of his Hall of Fame pitching career, so now it's fitting that his bronzed likeness will tower over Omaha Storm Chasers fans as they make their way to the Werner Park entrance. An eight-foot-tall sculpture of Gibson, an Omaha native and longtime resident of nearby Sarpy County, will be unveiled during a Friday morning ceremony that will be attended by baseball luminaries such as Joe Torre, Bud Selig, Bill White, Tim McCarver and, most importantly, Gibson himself. The statue, financed through private donations, will be the centerpiece of a planned "Walk of Fame" that honors all of the Nebraska natives who went on to achieve Cooperstown immortality.
San Jose Giants (California League) Lennay Kekua Night, April 12
Considering its inspiration, there was some concern that this promotion would turn out to be nothing more than an elaborate hoax with absolutely no basis in reality. But, no, the San Jose Giants really do plan to celebrate Notre Dame football star Manti Te'o and his imaginary girlfriend Lennay Kekua on Saturday night. Kekua turned out to be a "catfish" (a term referring to a false online identity), so the team will serve catfish at the concession stands. This rare ballpark treat can be enjoyed by significant others both real and imaginary, both of whom will be admitted to the ballpark free with the purchase of a regularly-priced ticket.
Reading Fightin Phils (Eastern League) A Ruf Weekend in Baseballtown, April 13 and 14
Darin Ruf hit 38 home runs last season, the most in all of Minor League Baseball and, perhaps more importantly, a new Reading Phillies record. This is impressive in any context, but especially when one considers that this is a franchise that has also fielded the likes of Greg Luzinski, Mike Schmidt and Ryan Howard (who held the previous record of 37). The since-rebranded Fightin Phils aren't about to let this prodigious power feat go unnoticed; in fact, they're "Darin" to stage not one but two Ruf and tumble promos this weekend. On Saturday, the first 2,500 fans age 21 and over receive a "Home Run King" bobblehead, and on Sunday, the kids get in on the action with a 28-inch wooden bat giveaway.
Trenton Thunder (Eastern League) The Sandlot Celebration and Screening, April 13
If you didn't know that the beloved baseball comedy The Sandlot turns 20 this season, well, you're about to! This anniversary milestone is being celebrated with a new Blu-Ray/DVD re-issue of the film, and what better way to promote this elaborate repackaging than with a promotional tour of professional ballparks? It all kicks off in Trenton on Saturday, as The Sandlot will be screened on the Thunder's brand-new videoboard following the conclusion of that evening's 5:05 p.m. ballgame. Writer/director David Mickey Evans will be on hand to introduce his enduring masterwork, and he'll be joined by none other than Tom "Smalls" McGuiry. You're killing me!
Lake Elsinore Storm (California League) Post-game Kansas performance, April 14
Storm owner Gary Jacobs is celebrating his birthday this weekend, and when you're the owner of a Minor League Baseball team, then you may as well invite four or five thousand of your closest friends to the party. That's what the Storm are doing on Sunday, as after that afternoon's ballgame, the esteemed and improbably long-running rock band Kansas will perform a free post-game birthday concert. The 90-minute set will almost certainly include hits such as "Carry On My Wayward Son" and "Dust in the Wind," but discerning fans should yell out for the title track of 1995's underrated "Freaks of Nature" LP.
Into the ellipse…
Because too much is never enough, here's a brief rundown of other notable promotions taking place this week.
- April 10: It's "Music Industry Night" in Nashville, meaning that those who make a living within the city's most storied business receive a special Sounds ticket offer by presenting a "lam, business card, CD, press kit or pay stub."
- April 12: The Bowie Baysox celebrate both dessert and mathematical constants during their annual "Pi(e) Night," while the Charlotte Knights welcome professional wrestler (and pop singer) Mickie James. If either of those endeavors sound too tame, then head to Huntsville for the Stars' "Flirtin' With Disaster" night. "Be prepared for bad weather!" the team ominously notes on their web site.
- April 13: Because April in Wisconsin is no walk in the park, the Timber Rattlers are giving away team-logo ice scrapers.