Minor League teams are known for the creativity of their gameday promotions. On Tuesdays this 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" or send him a Tweet -- hashtag "#promopreview."
The 2013 Minor League campaign is getting under way, and this means it's time to kick off yet another season of MiLB.com's longest-running sitcom.
I am speaking of Promo Preview, of course, a weekly romp through the best, boldest and altogether most baffling promotions taking place throughout the Minor League season. This special Opening Week installment will cover promotions from Friday (April 5) through Tuesday (April 9), with subsequent editions running each and every Tuesday for the remainder of the season. (Meanwhile, a roundup of the most exciting promotions happening TODAY can be found in MiLB.com's Fans Guide to Opening Day column.)
Now that we've gotten the annual introductory hullabaloo out of the way, it's time to dive right in to the column's main course -- or, in this case, dessert.
A Promo That's All Killer, Plenty of Filler
When news hit this past November that Hostess would be shutting down its operations, the entire nation went into existential panic. Is a life without Twinkies a life worth living? But amidst this turmoil the front office staff of the Inland Empire 66ers acted quickly and decisively.
"As soon as the news of [the closing] got out, our staff members went out to a Hostess factory store located just a couple of blocks from us," said Matt Kowallis, the 66ers director of marketing and promotions. "We were able to get a bunch of them, which we've been storing in the freezer."
The 66ers stockpiled 1,000, to be exact, the first 999 of which will be given to fans as they arrive at the ballpark for Friday's "Farewell to Twinkie Night." Twinkie No. 1,000 is a special case, however, and the fan who obtains it will have to do much more than simply stroll nonchalantly through the gates. The team has labeled this particular preservative-laden snack treat "The Golden Twinkie," and it will be awarded to the winner of a silent auction held on the ballpark concourse. The proceeds from this "Golden Twinkie" windfall will benefit Operation Glove, an organization dedicated to providing "emotional and physical support to our deployed soldiers using the game of baseball."
But Operation Glove's involvement doesn't end there. Mike McCue, the organization's founder, is slated to compete in an in-game Twinkie eating contest against 66ers general manager Joe Hudson and assistant general manager Ryan English. McCue has been training rigorously for the event -- as this video amply proves -- and for good reason: for every Twinkie he eats, $1,100 will be donated to Operation Glove (click HERE to pitch in for the cause).
Kowallis also reports that the promo staff will use a T-shirt gun to shoot Twinkies directly into the crowd, and that particularly Twinkie-enamored fans can pose on the concourse in front of a "Twinkie backdrop" made of more than 200 cardboard Twinkie boxes. It will all culminate in -- what else? -- a Twinkie-themed fireworks show in which all of the music will have a "sweet" theme. Song selections include the likes of Def Leppard's "Pour Some Sugar On Me" and Weird Al Yankovic's New Kids on the Block parody "White Stuff."
Note: The 66ers "Farewell to Twinkie Night" is proceeding as planned despite the recent news that the Twinkies brand will soon be revivified. The Altoona Curve, acting with the same promotional dexterity that the 66ers displayed back in November, will be celebrating this bit of news with June 26's "Twinkie Day in Curve, PA" promotion.
The cream may rise to the top, but here are five more eminently worthwhile promotions happening this week.
Pensacola Blue Wahoos (Southern League) Billy Hamilton Bobble-legs, April 5
When Billy Hamilton received a promotion to Pensacola in July of last season, he had already swiped a staggering 104 bases as a member of the Bakersfield Blaze. He then stole 51 more in Pensacola en route to establishing the all-time professional baseball record for most steals in a season. Clearly this is something that needs to be commemorated, and the Blue Wahoos have hit on just the way to do it: on Friday, the first 2,000 fans through the gates receive a Billy Hamilton "Bobble-legs" figurine. B-Ham is depicted in the midst of a head-first slide, his preferred method of pilfered base arrival.
Stockton Ports (California League) Alternate Logo Ball Giveaway, April 5
An "alternate logo ball" might not sound like the most enticing of giveaway items, but in this case one must consider the alternate logo in question. This past November the Ports unveiled what has been dubbed "The Asparagus Logo," as it features a tattooed sailor by the name of Five O'Clock Doc menacingly brandishing an oversized piece of asparagus. The logo is a nod to Stockton's status as "Asparagus Capital of the World," which explains why the Ports are the only team in all of Minor League Baseball to offer deep-fried asparagus at the concession stands.
Louisville Bats (International League) Corky Miller Bobblehead, April 6
The Bats are giving away Corky Miller bobbleheads on Saturday, providing me with a good excuse to write about him. Known for his tank-like physique and elaborate facial hair, the 37-year-old has played in the International League in every season since 2001. He logged time with Louisville from 2001-04 and then went on to compete for Rochester, Pawtucket, Richmond and Charlotte before returning to the Bats in 2009. As MiLB.com's Sam Dykstra noted in his International League preview, Miller "enters the season 70 games short of matching Louisville's franchise record for games played and needs 45 hits and just eight doubles to take over the top spot in each of those categories." All hail Corky, a 21st-century International League icon!
Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders (International League) Greg Legg Day with Greg Legg Bobblehead Giveaway, April 6
Saturday marks Day Three of Scranton/Wilkes-Barre's "RailRiders" re-invention, but that doesn't mean the franchise plans on forgetting the past. The team began play in 1989 as the Philadelphia-affiliated Red Barons, and from that season all the way through 1994, the improbably named Greg Legg was a stalwart of the infield. Legg has spent the ensuing two decades coaching and managing in the Phillies system, and on Saturday he'll return to Lackawanna County in order to be feted as the local hero he is. Please note, however, that unlike the Billy Hamilton figurine written about above it is not Legg's legs that will bobble. I guess that would have been too obvious.
Hickory Crawdads (South Atlantic League) We're Still Here Celebration, April 8
Last season the Crawdads staged a "May Mayan Mayhem" promotion commemorating the impending apocalypse predicted in the Mayan calendar, and during this promotion they made the dubious promise of free season tickets for life for all fans if, in fact, the apocalypse came to pass. It didn't, of course, but consider Monday's "We're Still Here" promotion a consolation prize of sorts. Because the Crawdads "are jubilant with relief that the Earth is still spinning," they are offering free grandstand tickets to all fans. It's good to be alive.
Into the ellipse...
Because too much is never enough, here's a brief rundown of other notable promotions taking place over the next five days.
April 5: Lehigh Valley IronPigs fans will be entertained by the Dueling Pianos set atop each dugout, while Richmond Flying Squirrels fans get dual Brandons: the team is giving away a bobblehead that simultaneously commemorates Messieurs Belt and Crawford.
April 6: Speaking of Brandons, the Gwinnett Braves are distributing Brandon Beachy bobbleheads. And because April weather is anything but Beachy, fans in both Fresno and Lakewood will receive scarves upon entering the ballpark.
April 7: Bingo, Bongo and, uh, Steve, the Harrisburg Senators nightly "Monkey Race" participants, are immortalized in commemorative baseball form.
April 8: The Wisconsin Timber Rattlers' longstanding Opening Day bobblehead tradition continues. This year's iteration features skipper Matt Erickson proudly holding the Midwest League championship trophy.
April 9: What the Heck is Weck? That's the question the Akron Aeros are posing to their fans. Attend the game to find out the answer. Or just Google it.
Benjamin Hill is a reporter for MLB.com and writes Ben's Biz Blog. Follow him on Twitter @bensbiz.