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Promo Preview: Free when freezing

Clubs tie ballpark giveaways to frigid opening week temps
April 7, 2011
Minor League teams are known for the creativity of their gameday promotions. On Tuesdays for the remainder of the season, we'll preview 10 of the most intriguing for the week ahead. This is a special Promo Preview for the opening weekend of the season. 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."

Akron Aeros (Eastern League)
$10,000 Opening Day Giveaway — April 7

The Aeros are poised to give one lucky fan $10,000 on Opening Day, but such a windfall comes equipped with a most significant asterisk: It only will be awarded if the temperature at the time of the 7:05 p.m. first pitch is below 40 degrees. A glance at the current forecast reveals a low of 46 degrees, but meteorological prognosticators aren't exactly bastions of accuracy. Meanwhile, a less high-stakes weather guarantee can be found one state over — the Indianapolis Indians will give fans a free ticket to any April home game if the first pitch temperature is below 60 degrees. Start praying for a cold front, Midwesterners.

Fort Wayne TinCaps (Midwest League)
3D Videoboard — April 7

This year's most in-your-face Opening Night experience comes courtesy of the Fort Wayne TinCaps, who are incorporating 3D elements into the evening's entertainment. All fans receive team-branded 3D glasses upon entering the stadium and will be instructed to don them throughout the evening in order to see things from an entirely new perspective. Three-dimensional segments include pregame player and mascot introductions, the cap shuffle game and a postgame fireworks countdown, but perhaps the greatest visual will be the sight of thousands of people wearing multi-hued cardboard glasses in an outdoor environment. That's going to be hilarious.

Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (Midwest League)
Scooter vs. the Snowman Bobblehead — April 7

Like all bizarrely named bobbleheads, this one comes equipped with a hefty and ultimately rewarding back story. The Timber Rattlers' home opener was snowed out last season, leaving the team's players with a lot of pent-up energy to unleash. Shortstop Ryan "Scooter" Gennett solved that particular problem by taking a baseball bat to an on-field snowman, smashing this unfortunate inanimate object into oblivion. This moment was immortalized in a memorable photo, and now said photo has been translated into an even more memorable form of immortalization -- the almighty bobblehead. All fans in attendance receive this chilling depiction of snowman decapitation, the prelude to a home opener that will hopefully take place amidst far more amenable baseball weather.

Fresno Grizzlies (Pacific Coast League)
World Series Jersey Night — April 8
Self-Bobblehead T-Shirt — April 9

Hard as it may be to believe, Madison Bumgarner and Buster Posey both opened last season in Fresno before establishing themselves as key members of the world-champion San Francisco Giants. The Grizzlies will dramatically illustrate this intimate connection Friday, when the entire team takes the field wearing Giants' World Series jerseys (which will be auctioned off to charity after the game). The next night highlights outerwear of an entirely different sort, as the first 2,000 fans receive a "Self-Bobblehead T-Shirt." It's what the name implies — the shirt features an illustration of a headless bobblehead figurine, with the individual wearing the item providing the requisite undulating cranium.

Hickory Crawdads (South Atlantic League)
2,500th Game Celebration — April 8

Friday just happens to be game No. 2,500 in Hickory Crawdads history, and the team plans to celebrate in that most time-honored of Minor League fashions -- by staging a promotion defined by its Rain Man-like fixation on numbers. The 2,500th fan through the gates receives a luxury suite for the 25th game of the season on May 25, but nearly everyone can capitalize on the occasion should they so choose. The Crawdads have compiled a list of 25 challenges with the first fan to complete a given challenge receiving admission to an exclusive pregame picnic and batting practice session. The challenges range from the mundane (bring a ticket stub from the 1993 season to the box office) to the ridiculous (bring 13 pictures of black cats).

Montgomery Biscuits (Southern League)
David Price Bobblehead Giveaway and Jake Peavy Rehab Appearance — April 8

David Price wasn't a member of the Biscuits for very long, but he sure made the most of it. The former first-round Draft pick went 7-0 over nine starts for Montgomery, compiling a 1.89 ERA in 57 innings as part of a whirlwind debut season in 2008 that ended in Tampa Bay. Price will be honored with his own Biscuits bobblehead Friday, during an evening that features the return of another former Southern League great. Jake Peavy, who suited up for his hometown Mobile BayBears in 2001 and '02, is toeing the rubber for the visiting Birmingham Barons as he rehabs from injury.

Myrtle Beach Pelicans (Carolina League)
"Fire Stunt Man" Ted Batchelor — April 9

One of the most unique, attention-getting and seemingly insane promotions of last season was when Batchelor ran the bases while on fire following a Savannah Sand Gnats game. But this was no one-off spectacle. The 50-something Batchelor already holds the Guinness World Record for "Longest Full-Body Burn Without Supplied Oxygen," and now he's asking Minor League Baseball to assist him with his goal of being lit on fire in all 50 states. South Carolina will be added to the checklist Friday as Batchelor will sprint around the basepaths following that evening's Pelicans game. This man's incendiary endeavors are worthy of your support — here's hoping that he'll soon be engulfed in flames at a ballpark near you.

Lehigh Valley IronPigs (International League)
Pork Racer Fleece Blanket Giveaway — April 10

Racing meat mascots Diggity, Chris P. Bacon and Hambone have long been an integral part of the IronPigs experience, and the beloved triumvirate's popularity is reflected in their promotional prominence. On Sunday, the first 2,000 fans in attendance receive "Pork Racer" fleece blankets, but the IronPigs are astute enough to know that the trio's appeal extends beyond the human demographic. It's also "Bring Your Dog to the Park" day, and all canines will receive the item as well. What dog wouldn't want to be blanketed amidst mouth-watering images of fleet-footed anthropomorphic pork?

West Michigan Whitecaps (Midwest League)
57th Anniversary of Most Boring Day in History — April 11

This past November, NPR's "All Things Considered" aired a segment on computer scientist William Tunstall-Pedoe's assertion that April 11, 1954 was the most boring day of the 20th century. (Tunstall-Pedoe had reached this conclusion after conducting a query through the "True Knowledge" search engine he had invented.) And — voila! — a Minor League Baseball promo is born. On Monday, the Whitecaps will celebrate the 57th anniversary of the most boring day in history by staging a series of stupendously soporific sideshows. These include the "Walk to Second Base Race" (in place of the Dizzy Bat Race), monotone PA announcements, boring clips on the videoboard and opportunities to watch paint dry and grass grow. For a full list, check out this mind-numbing blog post.

Frederick Keys (Carolina League)
Save Your Keys Night — April 12

The Keys are in the midst of a dramatic moment in franchise history. The City of Frederick is currently accepting bids to lease Harry Grove Stadium, and the Keys aren't the only franchise who want to call the facility home (at least one independent league group is interested as well). Tuesday's home opener is "Save Your Keys Night," in which the club is encouraging fans to support the team's bid for a long-term lease. Those attending the game receive "Save Your Keys" t-shirts (a play on the usual rally slogan of "Shake Your Keys") and luminaries in attendance include Phil Key (a descendant of National Anthem composer Francis Scott Key). Show your support, Keys fans. It's the lease you can do.

Bonus Coverage: This section is usually reserved for promotions that were overlooked in the previous week's column, but this Opening Day edition of "Promotion Preview" is all present, no past. Therefore, here are seven more notable happenings taking place between now and Tuesday.

Bobby Cox First Pitch (Gwinnett Braves — April 7): This year marks the first time since 1991 that Bobby Cox hasn't opened up the season in Atlanta's dugout, but he's still spending time with the Braves. The legendary skipper will be the guest of honor at Gwinnett County's home opener.

Fan Pre-Appreciation Night (Brevard County Manatees — April 7): The Manatees don't want to wait until the end of the season to honor their fans. Therefore, everyone attending Thursday's home opener gets in free of charge.

James Farrior Appearance (Richmond Flying Squirrels — April 7): The Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker visits Richmond, throwing out a sure-to-be-powerful first pitch as well as raising money and awareness for his charitable self-named foundation.

On-Field Wedding (Portland Sea Dogs — April 7): Opening Day signifies rebirth, renewal and eternal hope, making it a metaphorically appropriate day in which to get hitched.

Jerious Norwood Appearance (Mississippi Braves — April 8): The wonderfully named Atlanta Falcons running back visits the M-Braves in order to raise the value of assorted memorabilia by writing his name on it.

Faith Night featuring J.R. House (West Virginia Power — April 8): The journeyman catcher and West Virginia native stops by Appalachian Power Park in order to proselytize.

Fright Night (Peoria Chiefs — April 8): Because it's never too early to start staging theme nights, especially when they involve costume contests and a haunted concourse.

Benjamin Hill is a reporter for