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 firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line: "Promo Preview" or send him a Tweet -- hashtag "#promopreview."
It's rare for a Minor Leaguer to make his professional debut at the Double-A level, and rarer still for that player to be married with children. But that will be the case for baseball card collector Tim Kane on Thursday, when he suits up as a member of the Corpus Christi Hooks.
Kane, who lives in Maryland, was the winner of Topps' "Make YOUR Pro Debut" contest that ran in conjunction with the company's launch of their 2012 Heritage Series - Minor League Baseball edition. Kane, along with his wife and son, will be flown to Corpus Christi so that he can live the life of a player at the inimitably named Whataburger Field. He'll sign a one-day contract, be given his own locker, face the media at a press conference, take batting practice, throw out the first pitch, present the lineup card, be interviewed during the radio broadcast and feast upon the sumptuous delicacies of the clubhouse spread.
But, for Kane, there are two aspects of the contest that he's looking forward to most: meeting Hooks owner Nolan Ryan and getting his own card in Topps' 2013 Heritage Series.
"Meeting Nolan Ryan is going to be a big thing. He was one of my childhood heroes, but I never got to see him play outside of TV," said Kane.
Kane's eight-year-old son, Peyton, was given the middle name "Ryan" in honor of the legendary Texas flamethrower. And, fittingly, it was Peyton's love of baseball that inspired Kane to enter the contest.
The Kane family regularly attends Bowie Baysox games, and Peyton became a diehard fan of the Erie SeaWolves after sitting behind the visitor's dugout one evening and interacting with members of the team ("We left the ballpark with seven baseballs and a bucket of bubblegum," recalled Kane). Believing that Peyton's enthusiasm would surely extend to Corpus Christi as well, Kane entered the contest by submitting a 200-word essay explaining why he should be chosen as the winner. His essay was selected as a finalist, and went on to receive the most Facebook "likes" during a voting period that Kane describes as among the most stressful weeks of his life.
"Words can't describe the joy on my son's face when he opens a pack of cards and gets a player we have seen play, such as [Erie Seawolves] Brandon Douglas, Bryan Pounds or Rob Brantly," Kane wrote in the essay. But perhaps Peyton will soon have a new favorite player?
"Imagine him opening up a pack and seeing me there. Like, 'Hey this is Dad!'" marveled Kane.
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Impending cardboard mortality is just one of the promotional highlights taking place this week in the Minors. Presented here for your perusing pleasure are five more.
Kannapolis Intimidators (South Atlantic League) NHRA vs. NASCAR Softball game, April 17
The Intimidators got their name because racing legend Dale "The Intimidator" Earnhardt owned a share of the team. So it's fitting that they'll host the inaugural NASCAR vs. NHRA (National Hot Rod Association) softball game. The rosters are packed with luminaries from both organizations, with proceeds benefiting charities hand-picked by the racing organizations themselves. In the Intimidators' press release, NHRA driver Bob Vandergriff concedes that his circle-racing opponents might have the edge. "Our NASCAR brothers have one built-in advantage," he remarked. "They already know how to keep turning left until you get back home. I'm going to have to make sure my guys don't just keep on going straight, all the way to the right-field fence."
Portland Sea Dogs (Eastern League) 20th Anniversary Game, April 18
2013 marks the 20th season in the history of the Portland Sea Dogs, and the team is celebrating on Thursday with their nothing if not appropriately named "20th Anniversary Celebration." Eleven Sea Dogs alumni will be on hand, an assemblage that will represent every Sea Dogs squad from 1994-2008. Fans of players whose names are one letter removed from other, more well-known players will be happy to know that Pookie Williams is on the guest list, but the most prominent guest is former big league backstop Charles Johnson. A member of the inaugural 1994 squad, Johnson blasted 28 home runs while with Portland and, later that season, became the first Marlins Minor Leaguer to reach the bigs.
Richmond Flying Squirrels (Eastern League) Larry "The Soup Nazi" Thomas appearance, April 19
Last season the Orem Owlz ushered Larry "The Soup Nazi" Thomas into the wonderful world of Minor League Baseball promotional appearances, and this wonderful world will never be the same. The one-time Seinfeld phenomenon descends upon Richmond's The Diamond on Friday, signing autographs with the same enthusiasm with which he once denied soup. The Flying Squirrels are hosting a canned soup drive in conjunction with Thomas' appearance, leading team president Todd Parnell to remark "We have turned the Soup Nazi's catch phrase 'No Soup for You!' into soup for as many as possible." Not as catchy, perhaps, but it's hard to argue with the sentiment.
Fresno Grizzlies (Pacific Coast League) Mini-Maker Faire, April 21
Maker Faires, in which creative individuals from a wide variety of discplines gather to showcase their creative efforts, are described as "part science fair, part county fair, and part something entirely new." They are gaining in popularity throughout the country, and on Sunday the Grizzlies will become the first professional sports team to host such an event. The event has been scheduled on a ticket redemption day for members of the Grizzlies "Wild About Reading" program in the hopes that the young fans in attendance will be see the innovation on display and become inspired to become makers themselves.
Akron Aeros (Eastern League) Epic Meal Time Ballpark Faceoff, April 23
The Akron Aeros have become known for their "extreme" concession items in recent years, thanks to items such as the behemoth "Nice 2 Meat U Burger" and the "Three Dog Night" (like turducken, but with hot dogs).But, somehow, that's not enough.The team is looking to move further into uncharted concession territory and for that they need YOUR help. Fans have been asked to submit their own "extreme" food recipes online, and the best ones will be available for ballpark taste-testing on Tuesday. What could be next? The "Nice 2 Meat U Burger Times 2"? The "Six Dog Night"? If the human mind can conjure it, it can probably be served at a ballpark.
Into the ellipse...
Because too much is never enough, here is a brief rundown of other notable promotions taking place this week:
- April 17: Aspiring Grouchos take note: the Iowa Cubs are giving away novelty glasses as part of "Funny Face Disguise Night." ... Umpires beware: In Asheville, the Tourists are staging a tribute to their iconic former manager Joe Mikulik.
- April 19: Sometimes all you can do in life is pick up the pieces and move on. This will certainly be the prevailing attitude following Friday's Shorebirds game, as the team is staging a puzzle giveaway.
- April 20: Few teams will be able to "ketchup" to the energy "mustard" by the Rome Braves, who are giving away Henry the Hot Dog bobbleheads. ... Country music aficionados will enjoy visiting the Tennessee Smokies, as the team pays tribute to Dolly Parton by staging a theme night in her honor.