Minor League teams are known for the creativity of their gameday promotions. On Tuesdays throughout the 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 [email protected] with the subject line: "Promo Preview."
Toledo Mud Hens (International League)
Naturalization Ceremony, June 13
Cultural historian Jacques Barzun famously remarked that "Whoever wants to know the heart and mind of America had better learn baseball," an oft-repeated observation that speaks to the appropriateness of what will be taking place in Toledo on Monday. The team will host a naturalization ceremony prior to the game, the final step in the process by which immigrants become American citizens. And what better way to celebrate this momentous occasion than by enjoying one of the most quintessentially American diversions ever created? The fact that it's also NASCAR Night is just icing on this already thoroughly red, white and blue cake.
Buffalo Bisons (International League)
World's Largest Baby Shower, June 10
The idea of the world's largest baby shower might seem like hell on Earth to some, a parade of infant gift one-upmanship accompanied by endless waves of delirious shrieking. But the Bisons' version of this event is a different thing altogether, community-minded and eminently worthwhile. Fans are asked to donate diapers and infant formula upon arriving at the ballpark, with all proceeds going to the Food Bank of Western New York. All fans who do so receive two-for-one ticket vouchers and will be entered into a raffle to win tickets to the team's upcoming Pre-Independence Day gala.
Lexington Legends (South Atlantic League)
Brian Pellegrini "Crush" Bobblehead, June 10
Brian Pellegrini routinely crushed the ball en route to becoming the Legends' all-time home run king, and Friday's giveaway is a literal interpretation of this fact. The team distributing a bobblehead of the slugging outfielder, in which he is wearing a crown and drinking Crush soda (the item's sponsor, naturally). Pellegrini earned such idiosyncratic immortalization on the strength of his two seasons with the club, slugging a single-season record of 27 home runs in 2009 and 48 overall. Rumors that such a prodigious power output was fueled by fruit-flavored carbonated beverages remain unsubstantiated.
Frederick Keys (Carolina League)
Rubber Ducky Giveaway, June 11
The Keys have staged Rubber Ducky giveaways for a number of years now, an item anomalous enough to have merited previous mentions in this distinguished and not-at-all repetitive column. But it wasn't until this season that my journalistic instincts kicked in enough to ask just why the team does such a thing. The answer to this exceedingly important query is that the giveaway is sponsored by Precision Heating and Cooling, a local company that specializes in duct work. "Duct" sounds like "duck," and there you go -- another one of life's mysteries solved.
Inland Empire 66ers (California League)
Adrian Beltre Big Head Bobblehead/Star Wars Night, June 11
It goes without saying that bobblehead dolls are not anatomically correct, especially when it comes to the all-important head-to-body ratio. But Saturday's Adrian Beltre bobblehead in Inland Empire features an undulating cranium even more out of proportion than usual, leading the team to advertise said item as a "Big Head" bobblehead. It's fitting, then, that the team will also be celebrating Star Wars Night on Saturday. Throughout the ballgame the 66ers' PA announcer will emulate the wheezing vocal stylings of one Darth Vader, perhaps the most famous big-headed individual of all time.
Lakewood BlueClaws (South Atlantic League)
Iron Sheikh and Nikolai Volkoff Appearance, June 11
The likes of Jerry Lawler, George "The Animal" Steele, and Sgt. Slaughter have become commonplace on the Minor League appearance circuit, but the BlueClaws are going where no team has gone before with Saturday's promotion. The team welcomes the Iron Sheikh and Nikolai Volkoff, Reagan-era WWF villains who together comprised the "Foreign Legion" tag team. This duo (an Iranian and Russian, respectively) were renowned for their vociferously anti-American views during their heyday, but on Saturday, cultural differences will be put aside and autographs signed for all.
Lehigh Valley IronPigs (International League)
Social Media Night, w/Twitter Jerseys, June 11
Twitter's ascendance into mainstream culture is now complete, as on Saturday the vaunted micro-blogging communication platform will be immortalized with its first Minor League theme jersey. Lehigh Valley is set to take the field in uniforms that read @IronPigs on the front and #Pigout on the back, and these hashtag-equipped duds will later be auctioned off for charity. In advance of the promotion, the team is running a contest in which fans are encouraged to change their Facebook and Twitter profile pictures to an IronPigs graphic. Those who take part in this willful suppression of individual identity will be eligible to win game tickets and autographed memorabilia.
Modesto Nuts (California League)
Graffiti Night, June 11
The Nuts staged a Star Wars promotion last week, and now the team is setting its sights on a far less heralded George Lucas production: American Graffiti. This rollicking celebration of 1950s West Coast youth culture was filmed in Modesto, and the Nuts celebrate this regional claim to fame with root beer floats, non-stop oldies on the PA and classic cars on the concourse. It'll be an evening to remember for all the nostalgic baby boomers in attendance, made all the sweeter by the senior citizen discount they'll be eligible for at the box office (as part of an attempt to make this column more eco-friendly, the preceding line was recycled from one of last season's columns).
Akron Aeros (Eastern League)
Car Survivor, June 14
The concept behind Car Survivor is simple: five individuals enter into a car, and the last one to leave wins it. But such a format leaves room for plenty of drama (and local media attention), as Machiavellian maneuvering is a must within these claustrophobic conditions. The Huntsville Stars memorably staged this promotion last season (it lasted more than a week), and come Tuesday the Aeros will be getting into the act. What better reason to come to the stadium than to gawk at a handful of voluntarily imprisoned masochists?
Erie SeaWolves (Eastern League)
Facebook Fan Suite Giveaway, June 14
The relentless online accumulation of like-minded friends will be explicitly rewarded by the Erie SeaWolves on Tuesday, as internet-adept fans compete to win a free night in a ballpark suite. Those interested in obtaining such a prize need to bring a printout of the team's Facebook Fan page to the ballpark, and the individual with the most friends that also "like" the team wins. You may find yourself asking at this juncture: "But what's to stop someone from creating fake Facebook accounts in order to ramp up the total?" Common decency, that's what.
Bonus Coverage: Because failure is implicit in all human endeavors, here are seven promotions that could have been included in last week's column -- could have been, but weren't:
Morning Game (Reading Phillies, June 1): Featuring a start time ideal for graveyard shift workers, senior citizens and those who think it's never too early to start drinking beer.
Led Zeppelin Night (West Michigan Whitecaps, June 2): Fans of the band had a Whole Lotta Love for the team's theme jerseys, both the titular dirigible as well as singer Robert Plant.
Salute to Tony the Peanut Vendor (Charleston RiverDogs, June 4): Charleston's self-proclaimed "Ambassador of Goodwill and Goobers" plans to wear a superhero costume on this special evening.
Mini-Gaga Performance (New Orleans Zephyrs, June 4): Meat dresses don't cost as much when you're less than four feet tall.
Foam Nutzy Head (Richmond Flying Squirrels, June 5): Because who wouldn't want to look like a gigantic gliding rodent?
Rest the Vest Night (Fort Myers Miracle, June 6): In honor of ousted Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel, the Miracle asked fans to bring unwanted sweater vests to the ballpark.
Vampire Night (Peoria Chiefs, June 7): Some promotions are designed to suck.
Benjamin Hill is a reporter for MLB.com.