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 future, please send it to [email protected] with the subject line: "Promo Preview" or send a Tweet to @bensbiz, hashtag "#promopreview."
The Inland Empire 66ers and the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes play each other 24 times per season, and their ballparks are located a mere 20 miles apart. Therefore, the relationship between the two clubs can be summed up in three words:
Familiarity breeds contempt.
That time-honored cliché sums up the impetus behind Inland Empire's "Beat the Quakes" promotion as Thursday evening will be dedicated to the thorough denigration of their closest California League rival. How thorough, you ask? Well, consider this: the first 1,000 fans through the gates receive a roll of Quakes-branded toilet paper.
"This promotion is based on the proximity of the two clubs," said 66ers director of marketing and promotions Matthew Kowallis. "The Quakes are just 20 minutes away from us, so we approach this kind of like a high school rivalry. This season, we wanted to take it up another step."
They've certainly succeeded in that. In addition to the irreverent (some might say "crass") TP giveaway, the 66ers are also staging a T-shirt exchange. Fans who bring a Quakes T-shirt to the game receive a new 66ers shirt in return, with the discarded Quakes apparel taking part in a post-game parking lot bonfire. There will also be a charitable component to the evening as the 66ers have procured a clunker car and plastered it with Quakes logos. Fans are invited to whack this unfortunate automobile with a sledgehammer in exchange for a donation to the local Boys and Girls club.
But that, of course, is not all.
"As for in-game entertainment, we'll be playing segments of us beating up on the Quakes," said Kowallis. "We had a pretty good win-loss record against them last season [16-8], and then knocked them off in the playoffs."
The Quakes have thus far been silent in the face of this provocation, but another California League team has already gotten in on the act. Motivated by the 66ers' decision to give away Quakes toilet paper, the Lake Elsinore Storm gave away two toilets branded with the 66ers logo during April 25's ballgame. ("Now you can wipe with the Quakes and flush the 66ers," declared the Storm.)
Kowallis, for his part, was unfazed by Lake Elsinore's pee-emptive strike.
"We did a polar plunge against the Storm last year, raising money for the Special Olympics, and we out-fundraised them by a three-to-one margin," he said. "I'm not really too concerned."
The best of the rest
Omaha Storm Chasers (Pacific Coast League)
Star Wars Weekend, May 2-5
While many teams attempt to schedule their annual Star Wars promotion on "May the Fourth," the Storm Chasers have gone ahead and dedicated an entire four-game homestand to it. Their "Star Wars Weekend" features standard-issue enticements such as in-character appearances by members of the 501st Legion as well as a ballpark-wide contest in which fans follow videoboard clues to ascertain the whereabouts of the ever-elusive Yoda. Not guaranteed, however, is the sort of memorable moment that occurred at the team's old home of Rosenblatt Stadium (when they were known as "The Royals"). In 2010, a Star Wars enthusiast by the name of Jason proposed to his girlfriend while wearing full Stormtrooper regalia.
Bowling Green Hot Rods (Midwest League)
Mint Julep Glass Giveaway, May 3
At 6:24 p.m. on Saturday, the 140th running of the Kentucky Derby will take place. Upon its conclusion, Hot Rods fans can head over to Bowling Green Ballpark to procure a souvenir item specially created for Kentucky Derby fans: mint julep glasses. Featuring the Hot Rods logo emblazoned inside a horseshoe, these one-of-a-kind specialty beverage containers will be distributed to the first 1,000 fans to pass through the turnstiles. I've been saying this so much that my voice is horse: Minor League Baseball needs more giveaway items that appeal to neigh-sayers.
Bowie Baysox (Eastern League)
1k Beer Run, May 4
While's it's not quite as unambitious as the "Zero K Race" staged by Memphis last season, Bowie's twice-annual "1k Beer Race" is geared toward those who prefer their exercise routines to be as booze-soaked as possible. On Sunday at 1:15 p.m., some 50 minutes before game time, participants line up along the warning track and commence to run (or walk or stagger) around the stadium. Upon completing each lap they receive a beer for their efforts to be consumed while completing the next lap. After three laps -- and three beers -- participants amble up to their seats and watch the ballgame, presumably while drinking more beer. Fitness has never felt so slovenly or counterproductive.
Reading Fightin Phils (Eastern League)
Crazy Hot Dog Vendor Birthday Celebration, May 4
When the Reading Phillies rebranded themselves as the "Fightin Phils" prior to the 2013 campaign, they adopted an ostrich as their primary logo. This was a ridiculous move, no matter what the motivation, but at least there was motivation: the team's beloved Crazy Hot Dog Vendor rides an ostrich, Rodrigo, while he throws frankfurters into the crowd. What I'm getting at here is that ostriches are popular in Reading, but the Crazy Hot Dog Vendor is even more popular because he's the one that gets to ride the ostrich. To better understand this seemingly arcane phenomenon, simply visit Reading's FirstEnergy Stadium on Sunday for the Crazy Hot Vendor's gala birthday celebration. I did in 2010, and I've never been quite the same.
Charleston RiverDogs (South Atlantic League)
Mardi Golf Tournament, May 6
Tuesday's an off-day for the RiverDogs, offering a brief respite after a seven-game homestand. Except, no. The front office is shifting from the diamond to the links, hosting their ninth annual golf tournament to raise money to combat blindness. And this being the RiverDogs, it won't be an ordinary day on the green. The theme is "Mardi Golf," with prizes given for best cart décor, costumes and masks. Each hole also features a Mardi Gras-themed contest, including time-honored traditions such as French toast stacking, crawfish chucking and feather juggling. And who knows who'll be in attendance for this madness? The RiverDogs have declared that their "Director of Fun" won't want to miss this, and that "Director of Fun" is none other than Bill Murray.
Because someone out there surely wants to read it -- could it be you? -- here's a rapid-fire summary of other notable promotions taking place this week.
- May 1: The Birmingham Barons host "Mardi Gras in May," complete with a crawfish boil. It's not every day that one gets to suck on the heads of small crustaceans in a Minor League ballpark.
- May 2: In honor of (yet) another Spiderman movie hitting theaters, the Asheville Tourists don "spider jerseys." … In Cedar Rapids, the Kernels give away bobbleheads in which local news anchor Bruce Aune is made up to look like Rob Burgundy.… It's "Cinco de Milo" in Myrtle Beach as Pelicans president Andy Milovich gives the holiday a personalized touch.
- May 3: In honor of "National Wear Two Different Colored Shoes Day," the Beloit Snappers are encouraging fans to do just that.
- May 4: Portland Sea Dogs mascot Slugger begins an epic walk from Portland to Fenway as part of an effort to raise money for Tourette's research.
- May 5: Wrestler Tito Santana visits Charlotte, where'll he'll be the focal point of the Knights' "Cinco de Mayo" celebration.
- May 6: The Albuquerque Isotopes host a "Geeks who Drink" pre-game trivia contest.… The Harrisburg Senators pay tribute to the Negro League Harrisburg Giants.… It's T-Shirt Tuesday in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre as the RailRiders give away "Keep Calm and Play Ball" tees.
Benjamin Hill is a reporter for MiLB.com and writes Ben's Biz Blog. Follow Ben on Twitter @bensbiz.