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. 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."
Late April is not a great time for Minor League promotions. The euphoric optimism of Opening Day has faded, the weather is often cold, and those halcyon days of summer still seem so far away.
But the show must go on, of course, and if it's going to go on then you may as well have some fun while you're at it. This week, there are three teams staging patently absurd theme night promotions, the details of which must now be explored. For if I don't, then who will?
We start in Greensboro, as on Wednesday the Miami-affiliated Grasshoppers are celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Marlins' 2003 World Championship season. Jack McKeon, that squad's cigar chomping skipper, will be on hand to throw out the first pitch and 50 bobbleheads in his likeness will be given away as well. But here's where things get a little strange -- the Grasshoppers are also staging a tribute to Steve Bartman, the Cubs fan who inadvertently gave the Marlins a new lease on life when he interfered with a foul ball during Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS.
Grasshoppers director of production Shawn Russell writes that a staff member will dress in Bartman's trademark glasses, hat and headphones get-up and "ruin" or "interfere" with many of the evening's on-field promotions.
If that's not weird enough for you, then Thursday's festivities in Omaha might be more amenable to your wavelength. The Storm Chasers are staging "Manager Cell Phone Night," in honor of Major League Baseball's recent switch to wireless technology as a means to communicate between the dugout and the bullpen. Storm Chasers director of promotions Ben Hemmen said that specifics were still being finalized, but many ideas were under consideration. These included allowing fans with rotary phones to attend for free, a "How many cell phones would Billy Martin have destroyed?" guessing game, and "Don't Text and Walk to the Mound" public service announcements.
"We're also going to have a lot of fun with the concept of managers pocket dialing each other," said Hemmen.
But when it comes to sheer absurdity, the theme nights taking place in Greensboro and Omaha pale in comparison to the Binghamton Mets' "Budget Cut Night." This free-wheeling tribute to financial difficulties takes place April 30 and will include a bevy of money-saving elements. Director of community relations Connor Gates explained via email that:
- Instead of some live contests, we will air contests from previous seasons.
- The Hot Dog Horse will be replaced by a hobby horse and, in an attempt to save money, fans will throw hot dogs back to him so that we can resell them.
- Occasionally the video board may or may not cut out.
- Instead of a stadium-wide P.A., we'll use a bullhorn so we can save the cost of the speakers.
And so it goes. Late April may be a slow time of the season when it comes to eye-popping, attention-getting Minor League promotions, but if you look hard enough, you can always find something ridiculous to enjoy. And with that in mind, here are five more instances of such ridiculousness taking place this week.
Charleston RiverDogs (South Atlantic League) Zero K Race to the Bar, April 25
Being a competitive runner requires hard work and self-discipline, two things that sound good in theory but are a real buzzkill in practice. Fortunately the RiverDogs, ambitious in their lack of ambition, have found a way to provide even the most lethargic fans with the thrill of crossing the finish line. Billed as an event for "the lazy and uncommitted track star in all of us," participants in Thursday's "Zero K Race to the Bar" receive a race T-shirt, bib, dinner and a ticket to that evening's ballgame against the West Virginia Power. A bevy of post-race awards will be given to the event's competitors, including the heart-warming honor of "Most excited to start drinking."
Jacksonville Suns (Southern League) Halfway to the World's Largest Cocktail Party, April 27
Whether it's Thanksgiving in June or Almost Halfway to St. Patrick's Day, Minor League teams will pounce on just about any excuse to celebrate an offseason holiday. One of the most creative examples of such takes place in Jacksonville on Saturday, as the Suns commemorate the legendary Florida-Georgia football rivalry that has long been known to fans as "the world's largest outdoor cocktail party." As part of this "halfway there" celebration, the first 3,000 fans get to choose between a Suns T-shirt in either Gator or Bulldog colors. One lucky fan will win tickets to this year's contest which, in case you need reminding, is only half a year away.
Myrtle Beach Pelicans (Carolina League) Ladies Night with Drake Hogestyn, April 27
Drake Hogestyn has long played amnesiac heartthrob John Black on Days of Our Lives, and at Thursday's Pelicans game, he'll be signing autographs and posing for pictures with legions of Myrtle Beach-based soap opera fans. But few among these fans will know that Hogestyn was once a Minor League Baseball player, as he was drafted by the Yankees in 1976 and went on to play for both Oneonta and Fort Lauderdale before hanging up his spikes in pursuit of an acting career. "I'll cherish those days forever," said Hogestyn, in a sprawling MiLB.com profile that ran in 2006. "They were some of the best days of my life."
Reading Fightin Phils (Eastern League) Chocolate Baseball Gloves Giveaway, April 28
Baseball gloves are a standard ballpark giveaway item for young fans, but Sunday's Reading Fightin Phils game marks the first time that the baseball gloves will be edible. This revolutionary development comes courtesy of Pennsylvania-based Reppert's Candy, who have produced 1,500 chocolate baseball gloves that will be given away to fans 14 and under attending the ballgame. These chocolate gloves are not recommended for game use, in much the same way that normal baseball gloves are not recommended as dessert.
Altoona Curve (Eastern League) Case of the Mondays Night, April 29
"Sounds like somebody's got a case of the Mondays" is one of the many, many quotable lines in the cult comedy classic Office Space, and now it's the name of a Minor League promotion being staged in celebration of it. The Curve are giving away somewhat mysterious-sounding "office prize packs" to select fans, and clips from the film will run on the videoboard during the ballgame. But, of course, the main draw of any Office Space promo is the opportunity to mimic the film's protagonists by taking a bat to a particularly uncooperative piece of technology. Details are currently scarce, but the Curve have let it slip that there "may be a fax machine to destroy."
Into the ellipse…
Usually, this section of the column serves as a lightning-quick roundup of other newsworthy promotions taking place during the week. But truth be told, there is very little else of note to write about. So let's just call it a column, regroup and come back that much stronger next week. Late April can't last forever.
Benjamin Hill is a reporter for MLB.com and writes Ben's Biz Blog.