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."
The Lake County Captains have traditionally done well with "Heritage Night" promotions, in which they reach out to one of the Cleveland area's many distinct demographics. The likes of "Jewish Night," "Hungarian Night" and "Irish Night" have long been staples of the promotional calendar, but this Saturday marks the first time that the team has staged "Pride Night."
According to the Captains, the goal of "Pride Night" is to "celebrate a night of equality with the LGBT [Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender] community at Classic Park." To this end, the team has partnered with several Cleveland-area LGBT organizations, whose members will be attending the ballgame en masse via group ticket sales.
"This is really no different than any other [Heritage Night], where we target a certain group of people to get them out to the ballpark," said Captains assistant general manager Neil Stein. "This is a diverse city to begin with, and we're always challenging our ticket sales people to try new things."
It all sounds like a win-win proposition, but Minor League Baseball teams have thus far shied away from gay-themed promotions for fear of offending the more conservative elements of their fan base. Stein acknowledges that "there are still some out there that are not OK with this," but goes on to note that "It's 2012. [Gay fans] are no different from any other fans; their money is no different than anyone else's money. We want them to feel welcome and to come to our games whenever they want."
In what has to be a Minor League first, that evening's ballgame will be preceded by a "drag softball game" in which, yes, all the participants will be in drag. ("The groups we're working with thought it would be a fun thing to do," said Stein.) And, though not specifically part of the "Pride Night" promotion, the Captains will take the field in flamboyant pink jerseys designed by Project Runway runner-up Joshua McKinley. Editor's note: the Captains have since rescheduled the pink jersey night and accompanying ovarian cancer research auction to a later date due to the positive response and interest it has generated. The team would like more team to organize the event.
"[McKinley] is from Willoughby, the city that's right next to us, and we thought it'd be awesome if he designed a jersey for us," said Stein.
The jerseys will be auctioned off that evening, with a portion of the proceeds benefiting ovarian cancer research (McKinley's mother passed away from ovarian cancer). At least one member of the Captains will have a hard time parting with the jersey, however, as Stein reports that manager David Wallace is "a huge Project Runway fan; he and his wife watch it all the time."
Though Stein claims that the pairing of "Pride Night" and the Project Runway jerseys is "more of a coincidence than anything else," it will nonetheless enhance an already groundbreaking night at the ballpark.
"Cleveland is accepting to any race, culture, or background," he said. "This will be a positive thing."
Worthwhile endeavors, from Brooklyn to Boise
Body-slamming, hair-pulling and relentless verbal taunting are all part of their stock in trade, but don't get confused: professional wrestlers most emphatically do not condone bullying. This message will be conveyed throughout Wednesday's ballgame in Brooklyn, as the Cyclones are hosting, yes, "Anti-Bullying Night."
WWE superstars David Otunga and Zack Ryder will be in attendance, signing autographs and spreading the message of the "Be a Star" anti-bullying campaign. This message? "[E]nsuring a positive and equitable social environment for everyone regardless of age, race, religion or sexual orientation."
An equally worthwhile promotion takes place a mere two days later, when the Cyclones stage a fundraiser for the Gary Carter Foundation. The team will take the field in blue and orange jerseys adorned with "Kid 8" patches in honor of the beloved former Mets catcher who tragically succumbed to brain cancer in February. The uniform tops will be auctioned off after the game with proceeds benefiting the Gary Carter Foundation.
The Cyclones aren't the only team paying homage to a recently departed local hero this week, as on Saturday the Boise Hawks are retiring the No. 3 worn by Hall of Fame slugger Harmon Killebrew. Though Killebrew never played Minor League Baseball in Boise (or anywhere in Idaho), he was born in the nearby town of Payette. The Hawks will retire the number during a pregame ceremony, and as part of the promotion, fans will receive No. 3 replica Killebrew jersey T-shirts.
From the big screen to the baseball field
The eagerly anticipated (?) film Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter opened last weekend, and the Jamestown Jammers aren't about to let such pop culture ridiculousness go unnoticed. Monday is -- what else? -- "Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter Night" at Russell E. Diethrick Jr. Park. The first 1,000 fans receive glow-in-the-dark vampire teeth, and those who donate a box of Count Chocula (or any other kind of cereal) receive free admission. Abraham Lincoln impersonator Jeff Bloomquist is scheduled to throw out the first pitch, but as of press time, it was unknown whether he'd have to battle the undead on his way out to the mound.
And then there are the Huntsville Stars, who are staging a Hunger Games promotion on Thursday. Representatives of six "completely made up" districts will compete for the honor of being named champion of the Huntsville Stars Hunger Games, and, per the infallible source that is the team press release, here's how it's going to go down:
"Participants can look forward to great food from Baumhower's, Chili's, Applebee's, Costco bakery, Jet's Pizza, Buffalo Wild Wings and more! ... Participants will proudly represent their districts by attempting to clean their plates as much as possible during each inning. Eat fast or risk elimination! ... The contestants who eat the most in each round will advance until only two remain to face the ultimate challenge in the ninth inning. The one left standing at the end of the game will receive a trophy, a season pass to the remaining 2012 Stars games, a skybox for one night and be named the first champion of the Huntsville Stars Hunger Games!"
Into the Ellipse...
An exceedingly brief rundown on the (many, many) other notable promotions going on in Minor League Baseball this week, with a special emphasis on the bobbleheads that, somehow, I didn't get around to writing about otherwise. It's a busy time of year!
- June 27: The Batavia Muckdogs are staging a "Car Detail Giveaway" and, ironically, I have no details. ... It'll be bizarro world in Fort Myers as the Miracle are serving breakfast for dinner as part of their "AM in the PM" promo.
- June 28: The Greeneville Astros give away bobbleheads immortalizing local pop-country heroes The Band Perry, and said band will be in attendance at the ballgame. ... Tubby Raymond, the legendary athlete and University of Delaware football coach, gets his own bobblehead courtesy of the Wilmington Blue Rocks. ... The Wisconsin Timber Rattlers' "Ultimate Tailgate Night" is highlighted by a three-piece grill set giveaway.
- June 29: Leather can undulate as well as any body part, as the Delmarva Shorebirds' "Nick Markakis Bobbleglove" giveaway will surely demonstrate. ... The Missoula Osprey's "Smokejumper Bobblehead" honors a special breed of Montana firefighters. ... In Stockton, the Ports are giving away five -- count 'em, five -- brand-new iPads.
- June 30: The Bakersfield Blaze pay tribute to none other than Don Drysdale, via a bobblehead honoring the legendary Dodgers hurler. ... Doc Gooden visits Lakewood in order to sign autographs for enthusiastic BlueClaws supporters. ... In Omaha, the Storm Chasers offer fans the existentialist opportunity to "Paint Your Own Vortex."
- July 1: The Columbus Clippers series of local icon bobbleheads rolls on, this time with a dual bobblehead in honor of Dave and Wendy Thomas. ... The Frederick Keys' "Zoo Night" features wildlife aplenty, and mascot Keyote might even ride a camel. ... Greatest giveaway ever? Young fans attending that afternoon's San Antonio Missions game receive a picture of mascot Henry the Puffy Taco.
- July 2: The bobblehead-obsessed Lowell Spinners honor Dom DiMaggio with his own undulating figurine. ... In Princeton, W.V., the Rays distribute Evan Longoria cereal bowls to their breakfast-loving fan base.
- July 3: The Buffalo Bisons' Independence Day celebrations are highlighted by a post-game concert by the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra. It doesn't get any better than that.
Benjamin Hill is a reporter for MLB.com and writes Ben's Biz Blog.