Minor League teams are known for the creativity of their gameday promotions. Every Tuesday we'll preview the week ahead, highlighting the best and brightest (not to mention strangest) that the industry has to offer. If you'd like a particular promotion to be considered for this feature, please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line "Promo Preview."
Presidential elections in the United States are drawn-out, acrimonious and absurd spectacles that often fail to illuminate the real issues at hand, and the Altoona Curve want in on that action.
This Saturday kicks off a months-long "Mascot Button Campaign," with each of the team's four costumed characters vying for the coveted title of "Commander in Mischief." This crowded field consists of Tenacious C, Al Tuna, Diesel Dawg and Steamer, and each of these individuals will be the focus of his own giveaway day at Altoona's Peoples Natural Gas Field.
It starts with Saturday's distribution of 1,000 Tenacious C campaign buttons, which feature the prominently-jawed train engineer posing in front of an American flag along with the slogan "Vote Ten in '12." Diesel Dawg gets his own button day on June 25, Steamer follows on July 21, and the promotional series wraps up with an Al Tuna giveaway on Aug. 29.
Curve broadcaster Tyler Maun said that the team plans to "go out and make this as entertaining of a campaign as possible," one rife with largely unattainable promises and, of course, plenty of mudslinging.
"I'm excited for the attack ads, because I want to be the guy doing sinister voiceovers in the background," he said.
The campaign culminates on Aug. 29 with what is sure to be a riveting concourse election. Fans who have collected the previous three buttons must bring them to the ballpark, at which point they will collect the final button and then be allowed to vote. All fans who vote will be entered into a drawing for what Maun calls a "loaded" prize pack, but here's the catch: only fans who voted for the winning candidate will be eligible to win.
And the prize pack is indeed loaded. In addition to an array of memorabilia related to the winning mascot, that mascot will watch the results of the 2012 presidential election at the prize-winner's house. The prize pack also includes a trip for two to Pittsburgh to watch the parent Pirates, a VIP parking pass for 2013 and, most fittingly, the opportunity to see a game next season in the team's "Presidential Suite." Dick Cheney watched a game from this suite during the 2004 season and Jimmy Carter stopped by four years later when he was in the Altoona area on a fly-fishing vacation.
What happens from here on in is anybody's guess, but Maun knows it will be entertaining.
"People [in Altoona] are obsessed with mascots," he said. "I'm looking forward to seeing how fired up they get about their candidate."
It's a pretty good week for giveaways, but what the Arkansas Travelers have on offer hovers above the rest. Literally. On May 19, the team is distributing growth charts featuring 7-foot-1 pitcher Loek Van Mil (the towering native of the Netherlands suited up for the Travelers in 2011, compiling a 2.04 ERA over 30 relief appearances). Despite having a lot of room to work with, the team was nonetheless unable to fit Van Mil's full name on to the growth chart: Ludovicus Jacobus Maria Van Mil.
While nothing can top Van Mil, there are still many other interesting giveaways on Minor League promo schedules throughout the land. Some highlights from the upcoming week:
- Vance Worley Glasses (Lehigh Valley IronPigs, May 18): The IronPigs are seemingly unable to go a week without being mentioned in this column. This week's giveaway highlight is a pair of red-framed glasses in honor of the uniquely-bespectacled Vance Worley, who hurled for the IronPigs before solidifying himself as a member of the Phillies' rotation.
- Team-logo Retro Tube Sox (Charleston RiverDogs, May 18): Pull 'em up high and wear 'em with pride!
- Mike Stanton Bobblehead (Jacksonville Suns, May 19): He goes by the name of "Giancarlo" these days, but he was known as "Mike" when he suited up for the Suns in 2010. That'll be the name emblazoned on the base of this bobblehead.
- Desktop Cornhole Game (Reno Aces, May 19): Cornhole, once relegated to backyards and parking lots, can now be enjoyed in the privacy of one's office. This is a giant leap for mankind.
- Catcher's Collectors mini-bobblehead series (Trenton Thunder, May 21-23): From Monday to Wednesday, the Thunder are honoring three of their most distinguished backstop alumni in alluring mini-bobblehead form. First up, on Monday, is Francisco Cervelli. He'll be followed the next day by Jesus Montero, and then Wednesday's honoree is Austin Romine.
- Hop Cassady Bobblehead (Columbus Clippers, May 21): The Clippers' "Columbus Icons" bobblehead series rolls right along with this, a doll honoring Ohio State star turned pro running back Howard "Hopalong" Cassady.
Last week's column highlighted the twin absurdities taking place in Hickory, as the Crawdads staged theme nights dedicated to both redundancy and agoraphobia. The crazy train keeps right on rolling this week, as on May 21 the team is paying homage to our imminent demise with "May Mayan Mayhem." Promotions director Jared Weymier, one of the more loquacious emailers with whom I regularly correspond, offered the following description of what his team has planned:
"Everyone knows the Mayan legend about the world ending on Dec. 21, 2012, and we couldn't think of a better way to freak out about it than by having an event at the stadium. Any person of Mayan decent is allowed into the game for free. Also, we are offering fans that attend that game free season tickets for the 2013 season, if the world ends Dec. 12, 2012. The Mayans' calendar cycle is every 5,125 years so if we have 5,125 Facebook fans by May 21, then all of our Facebook fans get in free to the game and if we have 5,125 fans in attendance for the game then each fan in attendance will receive a free ticket to a future game."
But that's not all! Weymier goes on to note that "When players come up to bat, instead of playing walk-up songs, we will play sirens, sounds of hurricanes, tsunamis, explosions, etc."
It'll be a most relaxing day at the ballpark, in other words.
Into the Ellipse
An exceedingly brief run-down of other notable promotions taking place this week...
- May 17: Plenty of ivory will be tickled atop the dugouts, as the Iowa Cubs stage "Midwest Dueling Pianos."
- May 18: The aforementioned Altoona Curve distribute "Al Tuna Headbands" in honor of their stylish fish mascot.
- May 19: The Colorado Springs Sky Sox won the PCL Championship in 1992, and to celebrate the 20th anniversary, the team is giving away replica championship rings. ... Legendary manager Bill Evers will be inducted into the International League Hall of Fame prior to ballgame featuring his former charges the Durham Bulls.
- May 20: In Visalia, the Rawhide are staging what they are calling an "All American Saturday" featuring that most American combination of "bikers and tats." Fans who get a team-logo tattoo on premises receive a 2013 season ticket. ... The Burlington Bees are once again the site of their town's annual "Community Basket" prize drawing. The winners gets a stuffed-to-the-gills prize pack, with items donated by local businesses.