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."
When Chris Rogers took over as the Bowie Baysox's director of promotions in 2011, one of the first questions he asked himself was, "Are we ignoring homonyms?"
The answer was yes -- at least when it came to the team's long-running "Pi Day" promotion. This evening was originally conceived as a way to honor area middle school students who had recited Pi to the most digits, but under Rogers' leadership it has become that and much, much more.
"In the eternal battle of cake versus pie, I pick pie," said Rogers matter-of-factly, going on to explain that "I'm always in the corner of pie versus anything else" and that "when I got married we didn't have a wedding cake, we had various kinds of pies."
So "Pi Day" has become "Pi(e) Day," celebrating both the mathematical constant and one of America's favorite desserts. This year's iteration takes place on Thursday, April 19, the culmination of a series of initiatives that began -- when else? -- on March 14 (also referred to as "Pi Day," as the date is expressed as 3.14).
On Pi Day, fans were able to purchase $3.14 tickets to any of the first eight dates on the home calendar, and to sweeten the deal (literally and figuratively), the team also delivered pies to the homes of the first 30 fans to order a "Fielder's Choice" ticket pack. In conjunction with the ticket deals, a bracket style "Pie Madness" tournament was launched in order to determine "the top pie of the land."
"It ended up being apple versus Dutch apple in the finals," said Rogers, the disappointment evident in his voice. "You can only do so much to change the assumptions of the public."
But those who assume that a weekday Minor League Baseball game in mid-April will be an inherently dreary affair have got another assumption coming. In additional to on-field mathematical recitation, Thursday's festivities include pie-eating competitions, pie at the concession stands (only available with the purchase of a special "Pi(e) Day" ticket package) and the debut of a between-inning game called "Cipcic's Choice." The concept is simple: stadium operations manager Brian Cipcik is given an outlandish task to perform atop the dugout, and if he fails or refuses then a pie will be launched forthwith into his face.
But perhaps most intriguing is what Rogers calls "The Office Pie Tag Game." Every member of the front office staff will be assigned a colleague to pie in the face, but they will not know who has been assigned to pie them.
"What we're looking to get is that look of surprise, right before the whipped cream hits the cheekbone," said Rogers.
Presents from the recent past
It's a light week on the giveaway front, but to the extent that a trend can be discerned, it would be the distribution of souvenirs related to 2011 triumph. On Thursday, the Springfield Cardinals are staging the first of what will be several replica ring giveaways, which honor the parent club's World Championship. As an added bonus, the Cardinals' World Series trophy will be at Springfield's Hammons Field, ready to pose next to awestruck St. Louis partisans.
The Daytona Cubs are celebrating Florida State League glory Saturday with what is described as a "ring on a stand" giveaway. (Fans unable to attend can create their own idiosyncratic facsimile by placing a DVD copy of the Japanese horror film atop Stephen King's post-apocalyptic classic).
Finally, in Rancho Cucamonga, the Quakes are recognizing Clayton Kershaw's ascendance to pitching royalty with their "2011 Cy Young Replica Giveaway." Apparently the team didn't take it personally when Kershaw skipped the California League en route to making his big league debut with the Dodgers in 2008.
This week in undulating appendages
It is an exceedingly quiet week in the world of bobbleheads, as according to my (possibly incomplete) records, the only team to have one to offer are the Lehigh Valley IronPigs. The honoree in question is fourth-year IronPig Rich Thompson, and it's April 23 distribution date is certainly not coincidental. Thompson turns 33 years young on the 23rd, but as his 48 stolen bases last season amply illustrate, there's still plenty of gas left in the tank.
Your weekly Dale Murphy update
As his 26,000-plus Twitter followers are well aware, Atlanta Braves legend Dale Murphy is a man on the move. Last Thursday he was the VIP guest at the Richmond Flying Squirrels' home opener, and from there he flew to New York to be part of a baseball card symposium at New York City's Metropolitan Museum of Art before returning south in order to join the Atlanta broadcast team over the weekend.
This week Murph resumes his Minor League travels, with an appearance at Friday's Charlotte Knights game. He'll do the usual first pitch/pose for pictures/sign autographs rigamarole, and one lucky fan will have the opportunity to have a catch with Murphy on the field prior to the ballgame. The winner of this coveted honor will be determined via an ultra-concise essay contest, in which fans must express their Murphy fandom in 75 words or fewer.
Into the Ellipse...
An exceedingly brief rundown of other notable promos taking place around the Minors...
- April 20: The Altoona Curve, intent on remaining at the fashion forefront, are giving away team-logo beanie caps. ... On the anniversary of last year's devastating tornado outbreak, the Birmingham Barons are staging "Tornado Helmet Awareness Night." The importance of wearing protective headgear in tornadic conditions will be emphasized. ... The aforementioned Bowie Baysox hold the first of two consecutive "Basketball Nights" featuring guest appearances by NBA and WNBA hoop heroes with Washington ties.
- April 21: It's innocuously listed as "concert" on the New Orleans Zephyrs' promo schedule, but this is no ordinary ballpark performance. The team is welcoming none other than Mini-Madonna, a performer who proves that size is immaterial when it comes to the Material Girl. ... The Peoria Chiefs have the distinction of staging the season's first post-game candy drop, in which a helicopter showers the field with sugary snacks. A scramble ensues.
- April 22: The consistently retro-minded I-Cubs will wear Iowa Oaks jerseys, with the first 1,500 fans receiving a jersey T-shirt of notable Oaks hurler Vida Blue.
- April 23: The Huntsville Stars' "Death By Dove Chocolate" party promises to be a sweet experience, so long as its title is not taken literally.
Benjamin Hill is a reporter for MLB.com and writes Ben's Biz Blog.