Minor League teams are known for the creativity of their gameday promotions. On Tuesdays for the entire 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."
Brooklyn Cyclones (New York-Penn League)
BrooklyNite, Aug. 17: The Cyclones don't mince words when it comes to the place they call home, as evidenced by the press release for Wednesday's "BrooklyNite" celebration: "Brooklyn is known as the County of Kings, and we are asking you to help us keep our crown as ... the best city in the world!" To that end, the team has invited an array of notable natives -- from Mets legend John Franco to colorful borough president Marty Markowitz -- to sign autographs and participate in on-field activities. The team will take the field in jerseys featuring the Brooklyn Bridge as a backdrop, the first 3,000 fans in attendance receive Brooklyn rally towels, and Brooklyn legend Duke Snider will be honored before the game. Yes, it's a team from Kings County with a parent club in Queens paying tribute to the Duke.
Vermont Lake Monsters (New York-Penn League)
Military Night with Hellfly Ballistic Sunglasses Giveaway, Aug. 17: It's rare for a team to list a "manufacturer's standard retail price" alongside a giveaway item, but that's what the Vermont Lake Monsters have done in preparation for Friday's promotion. The team is giving away 500 pairs of "Hellfly Ballistic Sunglasses," items boasting an MSRP of $99.99! These sleek shades protect the wearer from "environmental elements and unexpected fragments," and fans wishing to score a pair are advised to arrive well before game time. It's all part of the team's "Military Night" promotion, with patriotic accoutrements including armored vehicles and theme jerseys. Unexpected fragments will hopefully be absent from the evening, but you never know.
Lakewood BlueClaws (South Atlantic League)
$10,000 Home Run Giveaway, Aug. 18: Few teams are as adept at promotional multi-tasking as the BlueClaws. Thursday features a "Back-to-Back Championship Ring Display" giveaway for the first 2,000 fans, a "Ladies Night" promotion highlighted by a BlueClaw player auction, a special appearance by legendary Jersey surfer Dean Randazzo and "Thirsty Thursday" drink specials. But as if all that wasn't enough (and, really, it ought to be), one fan will have the chance to win $10,000. In celebration of their 75th anniversary, team sponsor First Financial Credit Union will award the cash if a BlueClaws player hits a home run on the 75th pitch thrown by a Greensboro pitcher. The odds are slim, of course, but the only way to fail is if you don't try.
Lowell Spinners (New York-Penn League)
"Fighter Night" featuring Sgt. Mickey O'Keefe Bobblehead, Aug. 18
Senator Scott Brown Bobblehead, Aug. 22:
Lowell Police Sgt. Mickey O'Keefe spent five years as boxer Mickey Ward's personal trainer and then went on to play himself in Mark Wahlberg's 2010 Ward bio-pic The Fighter. But celluloid immortality pales in comparison to bobblehead immortality, which is what O'Keefe will achieve Thursday. The Spinners are staging "Fighter Night" in honor of the Lowell-based film, with the first 1,000 fans receiving undulating O'Keefe figurines. Four days later the team honors a different sort of Massachusetts icon -- it's the second annual "Senator Scott Brown Bobblehead" giveaway, and this time around the photogenic politico is depicted inside his famous pick-up truck. Nothing says "man of the people" like a pick-up truck, especially if you're looking to take the voters for a ride.
Lynchburg Hillcats (Carolina League)
NASCAR Night, Aug. 18:
Lynchburg is located in close proximity to a pair of prominent speedways (Martinsville and South Boston), making the Hillcats a particularly appropriate team to stage a "NASCAR Night" promotion. Pace cars and race cars shall be on display outside of the ballpark, with the contingent of special NASCAR guests headlined by 1960 Grand Racing Champion Rex White. Naturally, the evening's theme will extend to the between-inning contests. All participants will be adorned with stock car-style numbers prior to competing, with checkered flags signifying the beginning and end of each contest. $1 draft beers will be available throughout the evening as well; of-age fans are advised to approach this deal like a yellow flag and proceed with caution.
Rochester Red Wings (International League)
Jose Canseco Appearance, Aug. 18
Syracuse Chiefs (International League)
Jose Canseco Appearance, Aug. 19 :
When we last saw Jose Canseco within the realm of affiliated Minor League Baseball, he was getting pounded into submission by a sexagenarian boxer. This week, the much-maligned former slugger makes his triumphant (?) return, appearing in Rochester on Thursday and Syracuse the following evening. He'll be available to sign autographs at both stops and will be throwing out a ceremonial first pitch prior to Friday's Chiefs game. While Canseco never played in either of these International League cities, he did wrap up his affiliated career within the circuit. The one-time "Bash Brother" played for the Charlotte Knights in 2002, prior to his unlikely second act as muckraking memoirist, reality show staple and, of course, pre-game sexagenarian punching bag.
Greeneville Astros (Appalachian League)
Rance Pless Bobblehead, Aug/ 19:
The Greeneville Astros have long had a tradition of paying tribute to local heroes via the bobblehead, everyone from President Andrew Johnson to frontier icon Davy Crockett. This year's honoree is one of the town's greatest baseball talents, the excellently named Rance Pless. Though his only Major League action came in 1956 as a member of the Kansas City Athletics, Pless played in 1,755 games over a 14-season professional baseball career. The powerful third baseman won the American Association MVP as a member of the 1955 Minneapolis Millers and in 1957 slammed four grand slams over a 34-day period while suiting up for the circuit's Denver Bears. The 85-year-old Pless, no doubt delighted to have finally been recognized in bobble form, will be in attendance at Saturday's game.
St. Lucie Mets (Florida State League)
Banana Phone Bobblebanana Giveaway, Aug. 19: When an opposing team makes a call to the bullpen during a St. Lucie Mets game, the sweet strains of Raffi's "Banana Phone" are heard throughout the ballpark. This in-game tradition led to last season's giveaway of a "Banana Phone" plush toy, and on Friday the team is upping the ante with the distribution of 500 "Banana Phone Bobblebanana" figurines. Images of this highly-coveted item have yet to materialize, so just close your eyes and imagine an undulating anthropomorphic banana possessing a numerical typepad midsection. Who needs photographs?
San Jose Giants (California League)
A Giant Luau, Aug. 19 :
Hawai'i may be the last state to have been admitted into this Union, but it's first in the hearts of the San Jose Giants. The team's fifth annual Giant Luau takes place on Saturday, treating fans to a non-stop celebration of Hawaiian culture. The first 1,000 fans in attendance receive leis and thundersticks, with fans already sporting Hawaiian duds receiving free tickets to an upcoming game. Entertainment will be provided by the band Eono Kane (accompanied by the Halau Na Wai Ola hula dancers), with chefs from San Jose's Hukilau Restaurant serving authentic cuisine. The players' Hawai'i-themed jerseys will be auctioned off after the game, with one fan receiving a trip to Hawai'i courtesy of none other than, uh, Alaska Airlines.
Tulsa Drillers (Texas League)
Super Tulo Bobblehead, Aug. 20:
Colorado superstar Troy Tulowitzki only played 126 games in the Minors before getting the call to the Rockies, and 104 of them were with the Tulsa Drillers. The shortstop's meteoric ascent and subsequent big league success has seemed almost larger than life, leading the Drillers to create the "Super Tulo" bobblehead. This figurine features Tulowitzki in a cape and requisite form-fitting tights, his face streaked with eye-black and a Tulsa "T" emblazoned across his chest. Exactly what powers he possesses remain unconfirmed but are rumored to include the ability to hit for power when down in the count and traveling between cities in a single plane trip.
Bonus Coverage: Because the only way to do something is to do it obsessively, here are seven promotions that could have been included in last week's column -- could have been but, of course, were not.
Pet Bandana Giveaway (Everett AquaSox, Aug. 10): I'm not sure who would want to keep a bandana as a pet, but to each his own.
Bob Seger Night (West Michigan Whitecaps, Aug. 11): Hopefully the evening included some deep cuts from Bob's days with the appropriately-named "Bob Seger System."
Sacramento Zoo Night (Sacramento River Cats, Aug. 12): The River Cats took the field in black-and-white-striped jerseys, in honor of the Sacramento Zoo's new zebra exhibit.
Viral Vader Appearance (Salem Red Sox, Aug. 12): Officially pushing the definition of "celebrity" past its breaking point, the Red Sox welcomed a kid in a Darth Vader costume who had once worn said costume in a car commercial.
Brittani Kline Appearance (State College Spikes, Aug. 13): After winning Cycle 16 of America's Next Top Model, Kline added a touch of class to the Spikes' joint by throwing out a first pitch and signing autographs.
Evander Holyfield Appearance (Greenville Drive, Aug. 14): The former heavyweight champ threw out the first pitch and then got to the real business at hand -- promoting his "Real Deal Barbeque Sauce."
You Asked For It Night (Eugene Emeralds, Aug. 15): In response to fan complaints about aspects of the game presentation, the Emeralds turned down the volume, gave the promo crew some time off and sent Sluggo the bear mascot into hibernation.
Benjamin Hill is a reporter for MLB.com and writes Ben's Biz Blog. Follow him @BensBiz on Twitter.