Minor League teams are known for the creativity of their gameday promotions. Every Tuesday we'll preview the week ahead, highlighting the best and brightest (not to mention strangest) that the industry has to offer. If you'd like a particular promotion to be considered for this feature, please send it to [email protected] with the subject line "Promo Preview."
Support for a preferred political candidate can be shown in a number of ways, from making a donation to volunteering or wearing campaign pins and T-shirts. But what is the optimal way to express one's lack of support?
The Stockton Ports have a suggestion: sit on the candidate's face.
That really and truly is what they're giving fans the opportunity to do with Friday's Presidential Seat Cushion Giveaway. One side of the cushion features presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney, while the other is of Democratic incumbent Barack Obama. And the fans are being asked to sit on the face of the candidate that they do not support. It's all summed up in the Twitter hashtags that the team is using to promote the giveaway: #BunsOnObama and #SitOnMitt.
Ports director of promotions Jeremy Neisser says that the promotion was born out of two overlapping factors: wanting to do something fun and irreverent in an election year but not wanting to be just one more team staging a "bobblection" at the end of the season. (For those unfamiliar with this soon-to-be-common Minor League promotion, in a "bobblection," fans choose the bobblehead of the candidate that they support, and the first candidate to run out of bobbleheads is declared the winner).
"We don't take our jobs too seriously -- we're always trying to have some fun," said Neisser. "And if the fans see that we're having fun, they'll know they should have fun as well. We asked ourselves, 'What can we do that's two-sided?' There weren't a lot of options out there, but a seat cushion is inexpensive, and we care about the comfort of our fans. What better way is there to get comfortable and show disapproval of a presidential candidate at the same time?"
Neisser says that the Ports are "like Switzerland when it comes to this promo. We're splitting everything right down the middle." Nonetheless, he's aware that there are and always will be a subset of fans who believe that politics are anathema to baseball.
"This is all in good fun -- we're not trying to shove politics down anyone's throat," he said. "It's just us acknowledging that there's a campaign going on now," he said. "And even if you really don't like the political stuff, we're still shooting fireworks off after the game. So come and enjoy the fireworks!"
Home is where the Hart is
Each season, more and more semi-active (or outright retired) professional wrestlers seem to find their way to the ostensibly lucrative Minor League ballpark appearance circuit. This year's most prominent new addition is none other than "the best there is, the best there was, and the best there ever will be": Bret "The Hitman" Hart. Particularly ardent fans who live in the northeast quadrant of this great country will be able to get a triple dose of the WWE legend this week. Hart will be a special guest at Thursday's Wilmington Blue Rocks game, Friday's Reading Phillies contest and Saturday's Lakewood BlueClaws' tilt. All three teams are making Hart the centerpiece of a wrestling theme night, with the Reading Phillies going so far as to stage a post-game ladder match.
Another celebrity guest worth mentioning this week is idiosyncratic slugger Jose Canseco, who seems like the kind of guy who would actually participate in a post-game ladder match (he did box a 60-year-old man prior to an Arkansas Travelers game in 2010, as you may recall). Canseco -- currently on the roster of an independent league team -- will be visiting Banner Island Ballpark on Saturday, the home of the aforementioned Stockton Ports.
This begs the obvious question -- when are the Ports going to stage a Jose Canseco seat cushion giveaway, with his face on both sides?
Dear old Dad
Father's Day is Sunday, that annual opportunity to honor the man responsible for half of your genetic triumphs and deficiencies. Minor League teams are finding unique ways to honor dads at the ballpark throughout the weekend -- let's take a look:
Short on season, long on fun
- Salute to Duct Tape (High Desert Mavericks, June 16): Because a dad without duct tape is like a zebra without its stripes.
- Hunter Morris Bobblehead (Huntsville Stars, June 17): The Southern League's leader in doubles and a Huntsville native, Hunter Morris is featured with his child in a Father's Day special.
- Father's Day Sleeve of Golf Balls (Lakewood BlueClaws, June 17): Emblazoned with the logo of every Lakewood dad's favorite South Atlantic League baseball club.
- Ashburn-style Father's Day hat giveaway (Reading Phillies, June 17): What Philly-area dad wouldn't want to emulate the sartorial style of the late, great Richie Ashburn? Cigar not included.
- BBQ-tool set giveaway (Sacramento River Cats, June 17): A perfect gift for boys who love grills.
The four short-season leagues kick off over the next week, meaning that the Minor League Baseball season is now really and truly in full swing. The Northwest League gets underway Friday, New York-Penn and Pioneer Leagues follow on Monday and, finally, the Appalachian League says hello to the 2012 campaign on Tuesday.
Expect clubs from all four circuits to make regular appearances in this column from here on out, but for now let's take a look at the State College Spikes as an exemplar of just how action packed a short-season opener can be. The team opens its home season next Tuesday, and it features skydivers leaping into the stadium in order to deliver a ceremonial first pitch baseball to new Penn State head football coach Bill O'Brien. Then, after the game, an extended fireworks show lights up the night sky over the Nittany mountains. Hopefully there won't be any skydivers in the vicinity.
Into the ellipse...
An exceedingly brief rundown of other notable promotions taking place this week...
June 13: The Harrisburg Senators pay tribute to forgotten and failed amusements with their "Island of Misfit Toys" night.
June 14: In Altoona, the Curve initiate their second annual "Summer Cruise Series" of Tom Cruise-related promotions with a Mission Impossible-inspired puzzle cube giveaway. ... As part of their "Tribute to Steve Jobs," the New Britain Rock Cats give away actual apples to presumably hungry fans. ... From the "your guess is as good as mine" department: the Salem Red Sox are staging something called "Occupie Ballstreet."
June 15: The Lexington Legends honor their recently retired former CEO with an Alan Beer Stein giveaway. ... One night after welcoming Bret Hart, the Wilmington Blue Rocks host miniscule touring entity "Those Funny Little People."
June 16: An innovation dubbed "Beep Baseball" enables the blind to play baseball, and the Iowa Cubs are hosting a pre-game exhibition. ... The Richmond Flying Squirrels are giving away bobbleheads of their gregarious and intimidatingly handsome team president Todd "Parney" Parnell. ... It's "Miner" League Baseball in West Virginia, as the Power honor the local coal industry.
June 17: Tired of bobbleheads? Then come to Beloit for the Snappers' "Wobblehead" giveaway. These subtle semantic distinctions can mean a lot. ... The aforementioned Blue Rocks give away T-shirts featuring beloved local cult mascot Mr. Celery. ... Arrive early! The bobblehead-crazed fans of Springfield, Mo., will certainly be lining up well in advance for the Cardinals' David Freese giveaway.
June 18: Retirees and third-shift workers rejoice -- the Reading Phillies are hosting their annual morning game.
June 19: None other than Bill Murray will be inducted into the South Atlantic League Hall of Fame, prior to a Charleston RiverDogs game (a team he co-owns). ... Wait, it's All-Star Game season already? Apparently so, as the Kane County Cougars host standouts from the Midwest League. ... The Lowell Spinners, who are bobblehead obsessed, kick off their 2012 slate with one honoring Dick Bernardino.
Benjamin Hill is a reporter for MLB.com and writes Ben's Biz Blog.