What do an astronaut, a celebrity boxing match, a 100-year-old ballpark and a supernatural teen movie have in common?
They're all among the finalists for MiLB.com's 2010 Promotion of the Year. This quartet of contenders were narrowed down from robust field of 32, and determined by fan voting in each of four categories: Best Giveaway, Best Theme Night, Best Celebrity Appearance, and the always-popular "Miscellaneous."
Now, all that's left to do is vote for the best of the best. But first let's take a look at our four semi-final winners. Voting concludes on Wednesday, Oct. 13, at 10 a.m. ET.
Lancaster JetHawks -- Robert "Hoot" Gibson Aerospace Bobblehead
The aerospace industry has played a key role in Lancaster's rise from a dusty small town to a bustling metropolis, largely thanks to the many jobs provided by nearby Edwards Air Force Base. The JetHawks pay tribute to this thriving sector each season with "Aerospace Appreciation Night," and the 2010 version of this annual celebration was highlighted by bobbleheads featuring astronaut Robert "Hoot" Gibson.
The bobbleheads, which feature Gibson's head undulating atop a jet plane, were one of 15(!) that the JetHawks distributed as part of their season-long "Hangar Heroes" series. The club got off to an early lead in the voting, and then was able to hold off a late charge from the Brooklyn Cyclones and their one-of-a-kind "Ike Davis Bobble Legs." In third place was the St. Lucie Mets' "Banana Phone," an item inspired by the maddeningly catchy Raffi song of the same name.
BEST THEME NIGHT
Fresno Grizzlies -- "Twilight Night"
Theme nights are all about the details, and the Grizzlies' tribute to the popular teen book and movie phenomenon was packed thoughtful touches. Prior to the promotion (which took place on the night of a lunar eclipse), fans voted on whether the team should wear "Team Edward" vampire jerseys or "Team Jacob" werewolf duds (Jacob prevailed). Fans were divided into vampire and werewolf seating areas, with members of "Team Neither" receiving complimentary Buster Posey jerseys. Money was raised on behalf of the local blood bank, and a screening of "Twilight: New Moon" followed the ballgame.
"Twilight Night" got off to a slow start, but ended up with a higher percentage of the vote than any promotion in any category. The Akron Aeros placed second with "Ship Out Lebron Night" (their altruistic response to a Cleveland sports tragedy), while the Lowell Spinners' "Salute to Bubblewrap" finished third.
BEST CELEBRITY APPEARANCE
Arkansas Travelers -- Jose Canseco pregame boxing match
On July 9, 46-year-old memoirist Jose Canseco took on 60-year-old ex-baseball coach Gary Hogan in a pregame boxing match in Little Rock before the Arkansas Travelers hosted the Midland RockHounds. The fight went the four-round distance, but in the end Canseco went down in defeat to the sexagenarian, surely one of the most surprising events to have occurred on a ballfield this season.
This category was the closest by far, with the Travelers just barely edging the Round Rock Express' appearance by a jewelry-wearing, Bud-drinking pitcher by the name of Billy Ray "Rojo" Johnson, who took the mound for Round Rock in the top of the sixth inning of a game in May. Of course, "Rojo Johnson" was nothing more than the latest sporting alter ego of Will Ferrell, in town to promote the Cancer For College charity.
Birmingham Barons -- Rickwood Classic
By definition, the "Miscellaneous" category results in a motley hodgepodge of memorable promotions. But nothing seemed on par with perhaps the ultimate promotion -- the chance to watch a ballgame in America's oldest professional ballpark. That ballpark is Rickwood Field, the former home of the Birmingham Barons. For the past 15 years, the Barons have returned to their old haunt for an afternoon of nostalgia-drenched baseball in the searing Alabama sun. This year's classic held special significance, as it marked Rickwood's 100th anniversary. The Barons and visiting Tennessee Smokies wore turn-of-the-century uniforms, and the guest of honor was Hall of Fame slugger Harmon Killebrew.
Results for Top Promo of the Year:
|Rickwood's 100th anniversary
|Jose Canseco vs. Gary Hogan
|Twilight Night in Fresno