Minor League teams are known for the creativity of their gameday promotions. Every Tuesday we'll preview the week ahead, highlighting the best and brightest (not to mention strangest) that the industry has to offer. If you'd like a particular promotion to be considered for this feature, please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line "Promo Preview."
When I spoke with Frederick Keys promotions manager Brandon Apter on Monday afternoon, he had just finished a very important errand: "shopping for the apocalypse."
The haul from this strange-sounding shopping trip was minimal, consisting of several survival kits and a smattering of "end of the world" movies such as The Day After Tomorrow, Book of Eli and The Day the Earth Stood Still. These items will serve as raffle prizes during Thursday's Keys game, in which the team is staging its "Six Months Until the End of the World" promotion.
Why not? If the world really is going to end on Dec. 21, as the Mayans have prophesied, then we might as well have some fun in the interim. And what's more fun than irreverently reveling in our imminent doom? In addition to the aforementioned apocalyptic raffle prizes, the team will be blasting out end-times tunes ("It's the End of the World as We Know It"!) as the backdrop for fun and games such as Last Meal Eating Contests. But for those who survive the evening, it's likely that one aspect of the promotion will stand out above the rest: zombie interns.
A select few interns as well as Apter (the on-field MC) will indeed spend the evening in a brain-obsessed undead state, courtesy of a local professional face-painter. Apter warns that fans should expect "zombie interruptions" both in-game and in the stands, as they'll be "popping up when you least expect it" throughout the evening.
"Once we get the face paint on, you never know what's going to happen," Apter elaborated. "We're going to keep the emphasis on family fun, but that's not very easy when there's blood all over your face."
But family-friendly it will (hopefully) be, and despite the sobering premise, there should be plenty of room for unexpected uplift. Keyote the mascot is currently training himself in the art of zombie annihilation and just may save the day at a point when all seems lost. But no matter what happens, does it really matter? If the Mayans were right, then our days are numbered anyhow.
"Hopefully there won't be any casualties, but we can only control so much," said Apter.
Nods to the past
Humanity might not have much of a future, but at least there's still time to celebrate the past. The Peoria Chiefs will be doing this in grand fashion throughout what they have dubbed their "30th Anniversary Weekend," which celebrates their three decades as a franchise. In 28 of their 30 years the Chiefs have been either a Cardinals or Cubs affiliate (they're currently the latter), and as part of Friday's "Cubs-Cards Rivalry" festivities, fans will be able to choose either a Mark Grace or Yadier Molina giveaway T-shirt. Both the Budweiser Clydesdales and the Chicago Pipe and Drum Corps will be in attendance, but even these luminous guests shall be outshined by the evening's headliner -- none other than the Famous Chicken. Nothing helps bridge the gap between rival factions of fans than the world's most famous six-foot-tall performing fowl, and that's a fact.
Meanwhile, in Hagerstown, the Suns are going even further back in time with their "Civil War Weekend." The first 1,000 fans in attendance at Friday's game receive a bobblehead of "Angel of the Battlefield" Clara Barton, and throughout the weekend the team will take the field in Union Army replica jerseys.
This week in undulating appendages (and other items)
The Suns' Clara Barton bobblehead is one of this week's premier giveaway items, but there are two others that are worthy of special recognition. On Friday, the Sacramento River Cats are paying homage to their long-time broadcaster Johnny Doskow with an unprecedented "bobblenose" giveaway. As the team notes on its website: "After his soulful voice, River Cats radio broadcaster Johnny Doskow's most recognizable characteristic might be his plus-sized nose. Celebrate Johnny's 12th season ... with this honker of a giveaway."
And then there are the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, who are bobbling an area of the body that is just south of the nose. Friday's giveaway is none other than a "Sal Fasano Bobble Stache," in honor of their manager's formidable (and famous) facial hair. This item will be distributed to the first 1,500 fans, so make sure to arrive as early as possible. In fact, go to the stadium right now and camp out for a few days. What you lose in money, respect and cleanliness will be more than offset by the thrill of acquiring a strange piece of Minor League memorabilia.
Since we're on the topic of mustaches, it's also worth noting what is going on in Boise on Friday evening. Bill Buckner is now the hitting coach for the hometown Hawks, but he's darn near unrecognizable after shaving off his iconic mustache in deference to the facial hair policy of the parent Chicago Cubs. The team is giving away "Bring Back the 'Stache" pint glasses in response, taking a bold stance in the face of this grave injustice.
Into the ellipse...
A brief rundown of other notable promotions taking place this week in the Minors...
June 20: The Altoona Curve devote their evening to a theoretical premise: "What if mascots were movie stars?" ... Attendees in Great Falls will go home a little richer than they arrived, thanks to the Voyagers' Wooden Nickel giveaway.
June 21: A seemingly endless grudge match continues in Bradenton, as the team's annual "Condiment Duel" once again pits ketchup vs. mustard. ... Billy Wagner visits the Pulaski Mariners to raise money and awareness for the Second Chance Learning Center. ... In State College, fans receive a draw string bag emblazoned with the face of otherwise elusive mascot the Nookie Monster.
June 22: The Birmingham Barons give away Bobby Thigpen bobbleheads, in honor of their prestigious pitching coach. ... The Lowell Spinners immortalize multi-talented Jacoby Ellsbury with a bobblehead in which he is holding both a Silver Slugger and Gold Glove. ... Billy Wagner shows up yet again at an Appy League ballpark, this time in Princeton.
June 23: More Billy Wagner! This time he's in Bluefield. ... Because nothing says "I love you" like the gift of a spatula, the Clinton LumberKings will be giving them away. ... The Fresno Grizzlies distribute a bobblehead bearing the likeness of late-blooming hurler Ryan Vogelsong.
June 24: The Clippers' "Columbus Icons" bobblehead series continues, and this time the honoree is race car driver Bobby Rahal.
June 25: The Fort Myers Miracle facilitate romance with their "Nine Innings to Love" promotion. Hopefully it isn't followed by "extra innings to divorce." ... Local hero Christie Rampone, captain of the US Women's Soccer team, receives bobblehead immortality courtesy of the Lakewood BlueClaws.