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Fans to battle food in Crawdads' challenge

Toledo fans sample delicacies; Pigs, Squirrels celebrate Mother's Day
May 5, 2015

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 [email protected] with the subject line: "Promo Preview" or send a Tweet to @bensbiz, hashtag "#promopreview."

Food is essential to our existence as a human species. It fuels us, sustains us, nurtures us. But during Friday's Hickory Crawdads game, this relationship will turn adversarial.

Welcome to "Fan vs. Food."

Throughout the evening, fans will partake in between-innings eating challenges predicated upon consuming large amounts of food in a short amount of time. Think you could eat four hot dogs in the span of a minute? Three hamburgers? Three pulled pork sandwiches? Four pretzels? This represents your chance to show food who's boss.

Or maybe you're more of a dessert person? Then try your hand -- and mouth -- against 15 brownie bites or an extra-large bowl of SweetFrog Frozen Yogurt. But no cheating! Crawdads director of promotions Pete Subsara notes that "You have to eat even the melted, liquid-y succulent frozen yogurt left over on the bottom of the bowl."

Those looking for an eating challenge that emphasizes skill over stomach might gravitate toward the pistachio contest, in which two fans see who can crack and consume the most pistachios in a one-minute span. But, toward the end of the ballgame, gluttony will reign -- and in a big way.

Enter the "Clawlossal" -- a foot-long chili-cheese dog, pub chips, a half-pound burger, a pulled pork sandwich, a corn dog, five onion rings, two jalapeño poppers and two pickle spears. This monstrosity, first unveiled in 2010, must be eaten in the span of six outs. (Fortunately, the Crawdads are a Class A team and not subject to Minor League Baseball's new pace of play regulations.) The team plans on recruiting two fans to take the challenge.

"If they complete the challenge, they will receive a Clawlossal T-shirt and their picture on the Clawlossal Wall of Fame," said Subsara. "If they fail, [then] no shirt, no picture."

The consequences of such failure can be dire. I learned this firsthand last summer, after witnessing Clawlossal challenger Alex Ward make an emergency evacuatory visit to a concourse trash can.

It'll be a throwback night, regardless, as Friday is also "Turn Back the Clock Night" in Hickory. The Crawdads take the field in Hickory Rebels jerseys, in honor of the Minor League team that played in Kannapolis from 1939-60. All tickets for the game cost $6, in honor of the cost of box seats during the Crawdads' inaugural season of 1993. In the battle of fan vs. wallet, the fan emerges victorious. But don't be surprised if food shows more fight.

Bonus promo on Brevard County Manatees in space »

The Best of the Rest

Toledo Mud Hens (International League)
A Taste of Toledo, May 8 (Tickets)

Want to gorge yourself at the ballpark in a more dignified, less controversial way than that described above? Then the Mud Hens' "Taste of Toledo" event might be for you. This ballpark version of a food crawl costs $42, which includes a game ticket, "Taste of Toledo" T-shirt and sample portions of eight menu items from eight concourse concessions areas. Options include the Mac and Cheese Dog, Bloomin' Bacon Burger and Chocolate Chip Funnel Cake (from Farr Out Funnels, named in honor of Toledo acting icon Jamie Farr). Not included in the package, but well worth the extra cost, is an order of the Mud Hens' stupendous Triple Play Nachos -- pork skins topped with pulled pork, bacon, nacho cheese, tomatoes, jalapenos and sour cream.

Fort Myers Miracle (Florida State League)
Butch "Eddie Munster" Patrick appearance, May 8 (Tickets)

Celebrity appearances at Minor League ballparks are nostalgia-driven. As such, the individual making the appearance in question -- be it Alfonso Ribeiro, Corey Feldman or Dennis Haskins -- is marketed by the team via the dissemination of images that are decades old. Nowhere will this disconnect be more apparent than in Fort Myers on Thursday, when Butch Patrick appears at a Fort Myers Miracle game. Patrick was just 11 years old when he landed the role of Eddie Munster -- of the 1960s sitcom The Munsters -- and nearly half a century has passed since that show went off the air. But Eddie Munster, perhaps thanks to his mother's vampiric (lack of) bloodlines, is eternal. Come get his autograph at the ballpark.

Star Wars Night
Fresno Grizzlies (Pacific Coast League), May 8 (Tickets)
Lehigh Valley IronPigs (International League), May 8 (Tickets)
Toledo Mud Hens (International League), May 9 (Tickets)

Last week's column -- and corresponding Cut4 blog post -- featured the glut of Star Wars promotions taking place on or around "May the Fourth." The intergalactic flood gates have opened, in other words, and this week there are three such promos particularly worthy of your attention. The Fresno Grizzlies' have the Fresno Philharmonic at the ballpark Friday, playing John Williams' music from the films as part of a pregame concert. Meanwhile, in a time zone far, far away, the Lehigh Valley IronPigs take the field in jerseys featuring Han Solo frozen in carbonite. The next day, the Toledo Mud Hens offer fans the opportunity to have dinner with Star Wars characters. Finally, an opportunity to watch Chewbacca chew broccoli!

Lehigh Valley IronPigs (International League)
Mother's Day Stemless Wine Glass Giveaway, May 10 (Tickets)

Richmond Flying Squirrels (Eastern League)
Mother's Day Wine Stopper Giveaway, May 10 (Tickets)

Sunday is a day to celebrate Mom, at the ballpark and everywhere. The Lehigh Valley IronPigs are doing this via the distribution of team-logo stemless wine glasses, so that moms may better enjoy the fleeting escape from perennial parenting angst that wine so ably provides. But when mom has maybe had a drink or three too many, that's where the Richmond Flying Squirrels come in. Moms attending the ballgame receive team-logo wine stoppers, ensuring that that impulse buy jug of supermarket chardonnay will stay fresh until the next time she has an urge to indulge.

Quick Hits

Want more? There's always more. We cannot stop Minor League promos; we can only hope to contain them.

May 6: Goose Gossage throws out the first pitch for the Salt Lake Bees, after spending the day with 25 refugee children living in the city's Bud Bailey Apartment Community.

May 7: The Bowling Green Hot Rods celebrate "Indie Music Night" by playing the likes of Matt and Kim, Bombay Bicycle Club and Yo La Tengo. The evening also includes "Name that Indie Band" trivia contests and, hopefully, an earnest discussion regarding the legacy of Amphetamine Reptile. ... Indie performer Mad Chad, a chainsaw juggler, visits the Lexington Legends.

May 8: In Akron, the RubberDucks wear "Scrubs" jerseys on "Nurses Appreciation Night." This is not to infer that the players are themselves scrubs.

May 9: The Fort Myers Miracle stage their 10th Annual Special Needs Camp, run by polio survivor-turned-professional pitcher Dave Clark and one of the premier events of its kind.

May 10: Hi, Mom. Happy Mother's Day.

May 11: The Lehigh Valley IronPigs distribute "Kenny Giles 100 MPH Bobbleheads," depicting the former IronPig in the act of throwing at this impressive velocity.

May 12: Wrestler Diamond Dallas Page visits Richmond's The Diamond. Talk about synergy!

Benjamin Hill is a reporter for and writes Ben's Biz Blog. Follow Ben on Twitter @bensbiz.