Minor League teams are known for the creativity of their gameday promotions. On Tuesdays this season, we preview the most intriguing for the week ahead. If you'd like a particular promotion to be considered for this feature in the futurFue, please send it to [email protected] with the subject line: "Promo Preview" or send him a Tweet -- hashtag "#promopreview."
'N Sync reunited onstage during Sunday's Video Music Awards, leading many to speculate exactly what might be next for the much-beloved '90s boy band. Well, in the case of founding member Chris Kirkpatrick, the answer is simple: he'll be heading to a Florida State League baseball game.
Somewhat surprisingly, Kirkpatrick will not be visiting the FSL club that actually boasts a J. Timberlake as its general manager (that would be John of the Clearwater Threshers). Instead, he'll be the guest of honor at McKechnie Field during Thursday's "Salute to Boy Bands Night" in Bradenton.
Kirkpatrick will mingle with fans both before and during that evening's game between the Marauders and visiting Fort Myers Miracle, and the Class A Advanced Pittsburgh Pirates affiliate is encouraging fans to bring 'N Sync memorabilia to the game so that Kirkpatrick may autograph it.
"This came about when we were planning [Salute to Boy Bands Night], saying 'Wouldn't it be funny if we could actually get someone from a boy band to appear that night?'" said Marauders general manager Trevor Gooby, who last appeared in this column after helping to deliver a child at the ballpark. "We made a phone call to his agency, and since [Kirkpatrick] happens to be from Pittsburgh, this was a natural fit and he agreed to do it."
The timing of the promotion is fortuitous, but Kirkpatrick was booked in Bradenton well in advance of the news that 'N Sync might reunite.
"When we first heard on the radio that 'N Sync was getting back together, we were worried it might be the same night [as Salute to Boy Bands] and he'd have to cancel," said Gooby. "But it worked out. [The reunion] has created more publicity for us, there's definitely a buzz, and people are excited to come out to the park and say hello."
Kirkpatrick won't be performing at McKechnie Field, but his music (and that of other prominent boy bands) will be heard throughout the ballpark. The front office will dress up in their favorite boy band styles (let's hope for some frosted tips), and the potentially well-lubricated Thirsty Thursday crowd is invited to stick around after the game for some "Boy Band Karaoke."
If Gooby takes part in that last endeavor, he'll pay tribute to a boy band whose superstardom predates that of 'N Sync.
"The first concert I ever went to was New Kids on the Block. It was a long time ago -- they were opening for Tiffany," he said. "I'm from Boston, so that was my No. 1 band."
Reading Fightin Phils (Eastern League) Win Jim Murphy's Jaguar, Aug. 29
Reading Fightins slugger Jim Murphy is following in the footsteps of no less a baseball immortal than Everett AquaSox trainer Spyder Webb, giving away his automobile during the last homestand of the season. The automobile in question is a 1991 Jaguar XJ6 Sovereign, and the team notes that it is "fit for a home run king." Murphy decided to part with the car rather than drive it back to his offseason Washington State home, so instead the Fightins will be selling $5 raffle tickets throughout the ballgame (proceeds go to charity). The lucky winner will surely enjoy this vehicle as it boasts a wood interior "that would even make Paul Bunyan blush" and, even better, features a working cassette deck.
Tucson Padres (Pacific Coast League) Final Game in Franchise History, Aug. 29
It would take hundreds of words to explain the circumstances that led to Tucson hosting a PCL franchise over the past three seasons, but the bottom line is this: it ends Thursday. The team currently known as the T-Pads relocates to El Paso in 2014, but not before one final Thirsty Thursday blowout at Kino Stadium. The players will take the field wearing throwback Tucson Toros uniforms, competing in front of a fan base whose sorrow shall be somewhat mitigated by the existence of $1 beer.
San Jose Giants (California League) Italian Night, Aug. 31
Last week I attended an "Italian Night" promo hosted by a team that shall remain nameless and consisting of little more than a few grammatically challenged videoboard graphics. For an example of an Italian Night promo done right, I direct your attention to a team that will not remain nameless: the San Jose Giants. Sunday's festivities include "Italian-themed" jerseys that will be auctioned off after the game, a corresponding "Italian-themed" hat giveaway and one-time only concession stand offerings such as spaghetti, cannolis and the doughnut-like dessert treats known as "sfingis." Here's hoping that the San Jose players don't get too swept away in the evening's geographically specific spirit as this would lead to booting ground balls before getting booted from the ballgame.
Charlotte Knights (International League) Last Game at Knights Stadium featuring Replica Ticket Giveaway, Sept. 2
The word "bittersweet" is sure to be bandied about at Knights Stadium on Monday as the Knights play their last game at this 24-year-old facility before moving across the state line and into a new downtown Charlotte stadium in 2014. Those attending this Labor Day finale shall receive commemorative ticket replicas, and these souvenir keepsakes shall be paired with an enticement of a far more ephemeral nature: $1 hot dogs. Between bites, rampant Knights Stadium reminiscing is sure to ensue -- for example, who will soon forget the championship-winning 1993 Knights club that was managed by Charlie Manuel and featured both Jim Thome and Manny Ramirez in the starting lineup?
Lowell Spinners (New York-Penn League) Milan Lucic Rock and Jock Softball Game, Sept. 5
The New York-Penn League season ends Wednesday, Sept. 4, but the cessation of regular-season play doesn't signal the cessation of promotions. The very next day, the Spinners are hosting Milan Lucic's "Rock and Jock" softball game at LeLacheur Park, in which the Boston Bruins standout and a contingent of his athlete friends (the Jocks) take on a team of TV and radio hosts (the Rocks, for the sake of rhyming, if nothing else). Tickets start at $10, and all proceeds benefit Milan Lucic's personal coffers. Or, wait, no, I read that wrong. All proceeds go to charity.
Into the Ellipse…
This is the final Promo Preview column of the season, but it's so hard to say goodbye. Therefore, please enjoy this exceedingly brief rundown of other notable promotions taking place this week…
- Aug. 28: Soaring rhetoric will be the order of the day in Beloit as the Snappers pay homage to the 50th Anniversary of Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech. … Bill O'Brien, who has ably led Penn State in the post-Joe Paterno era, is immortalized with his own bobblehead courtesy of the State College Spikes.
- Aug. 29: The Bowie Baysox celebrate Maryland the best way they know how: with a beer dinner consisting of state-specific food and beverage delicacies. … In Lancaster, the JetHawks go heavy on the giveaways with their "Super-Mega-Prizeathon" (no relation to Dickie). … The joys of bacon will be celebrated in full at Bowman Field as the Williamsport Crosscutters are, yes, saluting bacon.
- Aug. 30: The relatively recent past shall be honored in Connecticut as the Tigers are staging "Norwich Navigators Night." … The aforementioned JetHawks aren't the only team staging a "Super-Mega-Prizeathon." The Erie SeaWolves are doing one as well. … But perhaps even more "mega" is that which can be found in Northwest Arkansas as the Naturals are holding a "Night of 1,000 Giveaways."
- Aug. 31: Zombies are welcome at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville as the Suns celebrate "Halloween Two Months Early." Or would that be 10 months late? ... The Mayberry Deputy, rarely seen outside of the confines of the Appalachian League, makes an appearance at the Salem Red Sox game.
- Sept. 1: New England dialect makes an appearance in the heartland as the Quad Cities River Bandits stage "Wicked Awesome Fan Appreciation Night." … If you've somehow made it through the season without receiving a team-logo pet food bowl mat, don't despair: the Springfield Cardinals are giving them away.
- Sept. 2: It's Labor Day and, accordingly, the Bowling Green Hot Rods are staging a "Salute to Expectant Mothers."
Benjamin Hill is a reporter for MiLB.com and writes Ben's Biz Blog. Follow Ben on Twitter @bensbiz.