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Modesto's dancing nuts among promos

Cal League mascots, plethora of bobbleheads top the week
July 26, 2011
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."

Fort Myers Miracle (Florida State League)
Drop the 'S' Night, July 28

The Miracle have been in existence since 1993, and in that time they've established themselves as a force in the world of southwest Florida professional baseball. Nonetheless, many still erroneously refer to the club as the "Miracles," and on Thursday the club plans to put a stop to this egregious mistake once and for all with "Drop the 'S'" night. The evening will be highlighted by a ceremonial burying of all articles and correspondence that have referred to the "Miracles," and the letter "s" will be excluded from all scoreboard graphics and in-game announcements. Ounds to me like it'll be the mot memorable "Thirty Thurday" promotion of the eaon.

Fresno Grizzlies (Pacific Coast League)
Man Night, July 28

Some teams might find it unnecessary to cater to the demographic that is already the most likely to attend a sporting event, but not the Fresno Grizzlies. The team is hosting "Man Night" on what is, appropriately enough, a "Thirsty Thursday" featuring discounted beer. The evening should appeal to the more hedonistic members of the decidedly un-fairer sex, as it includes eating contests, between-inning dugout girls and a chance to win upgraded seating in a beer pong-equipped "Man Cave." It's the sort of thing dreams are made of, so long as your dreams don't involve any interactions with women.

Jamestown Jammers (New York-Penn League)
70th Anniversary of Diethrick Park featuring '41 Falcons Throwback Uniforms, July 29

Jamestown's Russell Diethrick Park has been hosting professional baseball for the past 70 years, and the Jammers are celebrating this platinum anniversary by honoring the facility's very first occupants. That would be the Jamestown Falcons, who competed in the long-defunct PONY League (short for Pennsylvania-Ontario-New York). The team will take the field in throwback Falcons duds Friday, offering all involved a brief respite from wearing a uniform featuring the perpetually perplexed visage of an anthropomorphic grape.

Modesto Nuts (California League)
Al and Wally's Dance Party, July 29

I wish I had more information on the Nuts' upcoming dance extravaganza, but what I do know is this: Al the Almond and Wally the Walnut, a pair of anthropomorphic drupes, are hosting a dance party this Friday. And, come to think of it, that's all I really need to know. When a pair of footloose sentient nuts issue an invite to a baseball stadium so that the local populace can showcase its best moves in a judgment-free environment, you don't ask questions. You just go.

Billings Mustangs (Pioneer League)
Corky Miller Bobblehead, July 30

Corky Miller is one of Minor League Baseball's most enduring veterans, a burly 35-year-old backstop possessing some of the most formidable facial hair in all of professional sports. He's currently a member of the Louisville Bats and has appeared in 199 Major League games spread out over each of the past 10 seasons. Miller's long professional odyssey started with the Billings Mustangs in 1998, where he compiled a .455 on-base percentage over 45 games thanks to his 24 walks and 21 (!) hit by pitches. Clearly this is a man who deserves his own bobblehead, and on Saturday he's going to get one. The Mustangs are distributing 1,000 Corky Miller bobbleheads, a fitting way to honor such an accomplished and indefatigable team alumnus.

Quad Cities River Bandits (Midwest League)
Lee Smith "Should Be A Hall-of-Famer" Bobblehead Giveaway, July 30

Lee Arthur Smith played for eight teams over an 18-year career, but he made a particularly strong impression in America's heartland. The intimidating 6-foot-5 reliever pitched for the Cubs (1980-87), Cardinals (1990-93) and Reds (1996) en route to accumulating 478 saves and helping to redefine the closer's role, and a strong case can be made that he belongs in the Hall of Fame. The Quad Cities River Bandits, members of the Midwest League and a Cardinals affiliate, certainly endorse Smith's candidacy. The club is giving away 2,000 "Should Be A Hall of Famer" Lee Smith bobbleheads Saturday, featuring the goateed hurler in a Cubs uniform.

Greenville Drive (South Atlantic League)
Mill League Night, July 30

The Mill Leagues -- featuring teams comprised of local mill and textile workers -- are a huge part of South Carolina's baseball history. For each of the past three seasons, the Drive have paid tribute to this industrial past by hosting "Mill League Night." This year's version takes place on Saturday, with the team taking the field in gray and red jerseys featuring the names of various Mill League clubs (the "Spinners," for example). Former Mill and Textile League players will be in attendance at the ballgame, with alumni Joe Anders tossing out a ceremonial first pitch.

Memphis Redbirds (Pacific Coast League)
Guaranteed Win Night, Aug. 1

"Guaranteed Win" nights are common throughout the Minor Leagues, with teams offering fans free tickets should the home team somehow not emerge victorious. But the Redbirds put a new spin on the promotion by hiring local psychic Rhonda Manning this past offseason. Manning looked into the future and declared that the Redbirds would definitely win on Aug. 1, but the team explains that "due to the chance of an astrological shift in the universe, the Redbirds could lose. ... In that case, each fan at the game will receive a ticket to any other regular season game." Talk about hedging your bets.

Toledo Mud Hens (International League)
Moses Fleetwood Walker Bobblehead Giveaway, Aug. 1

Moses Fleetwood Walker is one of the most fascinating figures in professional baseball history, a restless Renaissance man who in 1884 became the first black player in Major League history when he suited up for the Toledo Blue Stockings. The Mud Hens are celebrating this overlooked pioneer Monday by giving away bobbleheads featuring a mustachioed Walker sporting a natty Blue Stockings jersey. Several of Walker's great-great-great nephews will be on hand to throw out ceremonial first pitches, and a multimedia documentary on his life and times will air as part of an educational pregame ceremony.

Reading Phillies (Eastern League)
Chooch-ing Owl Giveaway, Aug. 2

The Reading Phillies have long been at the forefront when it comes to innovative giveaway items, distributing everything from the Michael Jack Schmidt-in-the-Box to the Ryan Howard Garden Gnome to Crazy Hot Dog Vendor night lights. Former R-Phil and current Philadelphia catcher Carlos Ruiz will be honored Tuesday as the team is giving away figurines featuring the Panamanian backstop as a talking owl. And the only word in this owl's vocabulary happens to be "Chooch" -- Ruiz's nickname. This all makes sense, right? I'm doing the best I can.

Bonus Coverage! Because it's too late to turn back now, here are seven promotions that could have been included in last week's column -- could have been, but, alas, were not:

Roscoe the Rooster Christmas Ornament (Princeton Rays, July 21): Because nothing represents the sanctity of the holiday season more than a miniature rooster mascot.

Skateboard Deck Giveaway (Everett AquaSox, July 22): Just add wheels.

Book Swap (Bowie Baysox, July 24): Fans were asked to bring unwanted books to the stadium so that they could be made available to all.

Brides and Baseball (Bradenton Marauders, July 24): An array of bridal vendors set up shop on the concourse, and one lucky lady won a $2,000 ring.

Acornament Giveaway (Richmond Flying Squirrels, July 24): That's just a brilliant melding of words right there, on par with "bromance."

Salute to Stink Bugs (Frederick Keys, July 25): Because we are all part of a delicate ecosystem, living in harmony with all species no matter how smelly.

Salute to Yankees Facial Hair Policy (Akron Aeros, July 26): Not a good night for the aggressively swarthy.

Benjamin Hill is a reporter for and writes Ben's Biz Blog.