Minor League teams are known for the creativity of their gameday promotions. On Tuesdays this season, we 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."
No matter what the final score, Wednesday's game in Brevard County is going to end with a close shave.
This is because the hometown Manatees are staging "Pack the Park for St. Baldrick's Night," an evening-long event designed to promote awareness of childhood cancer. Following the ballgame and just before an Independence Day fireworks display, 17 (and counting!) players, coaches and front-office members have agreed to have their heads shaved on the field. This drastic grooming decision is a simple act of solidarity with children affected by cancer, who often lose their hair while undergoing treatment for the disease.
"We did something like this last year on a small level. So this year we started to think about how we could incorporate it into a game," said Manatees assistant general manager Chad Lovitt. "[St. Baldrick's] are a good nonprofit to work with, as they do a lot here in Brevard County."
Those who have volunteered for an awareness-raising buzz cut include Manatees manager Joe Ayrault, GM Kyle Smith, pitcher Chad Pierce, strength and conditioning coach Jonah Mergen and more than a dozen more. This will be the culmination of a long stretch of philanthropic activities that also includes a pregame blood drive, a first pitch from young cancer patient Julie Spurlock and an in-game "Home Run to Remember" featuring a local 8-year-old boy whose leukemia is in remission. Representatives from the National Marrow Donor Program will be recruiting potential matches on the concourse, and, of course, a variety of fund-raising activities are scheduled to take place before and during the ballgame. The end result should be both more cash in St. Baldrick's coffers and more awareness of their cancer-fighting mission.
"We believe we're going to raise a lot of money," said Lovitt. "And it's going to be great to see those guys getting their heads shaved."
Huntsville Stars (Southern League) Second Amendment Night, July 3
The Huntsville Stars, under the leadership of GM Buck Rogers, have long been promotional risk-takers. They once counted a drive-through "one-stop romance shop" as one of their sponsors and have long staged a "Car Survivor" stunt in which durable and foolhardy individuals live in an automobile for days at a time. But the Stars got more than they bargained for with "Second Amendment Night," as a plan to raffle off three guns courtesy of a local pawn shop was scuttled after it went viral and sparked a contentious nationwide debate. Nonetheless, Wednesday is still Second Amendment Night. NRA members get in free, and copies of the Declaration of Independence will be given away as a means to spark discussion about our nation's founding principles and how they might relate to Minor League Baseball teams raffling off guns that may then be obtained at a pawn shop.
Tulsa Drillers (Texas League) Oklahoma Hurricane Relief Jerseys, July 3
The state of Oklahoma -- and in particular the town of Moore -- is still reeling in the aftermath of last month's devastating tornado. On Wednesday the Tulsa Drillers seek to raise both morale and money by taking the field in powder-blue jerseys emblazoned with the words "We are Oklahoma." The jerseys will be auctioned off after the ballgame, with all proceeds going toward the tornado relief efforts. The Drillers are one of four area teams to wear these theme jerseys, which have also been donned (or will be donned) by the Oklahoma City RedHawks, San Antonio Missions and Omaha Storm Chasers.
Trenton Thunder (Eastern League) Chase Bobblehead and Retirement Party, July 5
The mood at Trenton's Arm and Hammer Park will be decidedly bittersweet Saturday, when the Thunder host a retirement party for their beloved "bat dog" Chase. This stalwart Golden Retriever's retirement is being held in conjunction with his 13th birthday. To celebrate his years of service, the team is distributing Chase bobbleheads to the first 2,000 fans while also allowing well-behaved canines into the ballpark free of charge. Though Chase will no longer be seen at the ballpark retrieving bats and delivering water to umpires, his legacy lives on. His son Derby has been serving as his apprentice since 2008, while another son, Ollie, has found similar employment with the New Hampshire Fisher Cats.
Lake County Captains (Midwest League) Skipper Rock 'n' Bobble, July 6
As befits a franchise that operates in close proximity to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Captains have annually given away bobbleheads that feature mascot Skipper striking various rock poses. This year's iteration of the giveaway also references the Cleveland-based baseball comedy Major League in that it plays a snippet of Randy Newman's "Burn On" (Newman is one of this year's inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame). If you'll allow me to editorialize for a moment: Newman's Sail Away, the album on which "Burn On" appears, is an all-time classic and absolute must-have for anyone who enjoys unreliable first-person narrators, wry and often pitch-black humor and impeccable yet idiosyncratic singer-songwriter craftsmanship.
Toledo Mud Hens (International League) Create Your Own Hot Dog/Hot Dog Theme Jerseys, July 6
The Mud Hens are really on a roll with their theme jerseys, as in, literally, they're really on a roll. This Saturday's hot dog duds feature colors that I will describe as bun brown, mustard yellow and ketchup red. Those who relish such color combinations will have the opportunity to bid on these jerseys during a silent concourse auction, but the frankfurter fun doesn't stop there. For $24, fans can purchase a game ticket that provides access to an all-you-can-eat hot dog buffet that features 30 toppings. Outside of winning a pawn shop-sponsored gun raffle, could there possibly be a better way to celebrate America?
Into the Ellipse…
Because completely imagined occupational obligations require me to keep on writing, here are even more notable promotions taking place this week:
- July 3: The Frederick Keys "Taste of History" tastes, more accurately, like beer. Brews on offer include "Gettysburg Wheat," "Proclamation Porter" and "First Draught." ... For more history, check out the Portland Sea Dogs' "Civil War Night." Re-enactors will be on hand, and one "Joshua L. Chamberlain" throws out the first pitch.
- July 4: The State College Spikes' season-long "Mini-Majors Head-to-Toe Giveaway" begins with the head part of the equation as young fans receive a snap back cap.
- July 5: Fort Myers celebrates the Miracle that was the '90s by giving away Beanie Babies. ... Appy League olfactorists will thrill to the Greeneville Astros' air freshener giveaway.
- July 6: Appy League bargain hunters will thrill to the Bluefield Blue Jays' generous offer of free admission to the first 100 fans in attendance. ... In Idaho Falls, the Chukars celebrate their ample spud legacy by donning 1939 Russet jerseys.
- July 7: The Inland Empire 66ers celebrate "Cupcake Appreciation Day" the only way they know how: by giving away a 25-pound cupcake to one lucky and hopefully not diabetic fan. … If you've always wanted your very own mascot inner tube, then something is wrong with you. Nonetheless, the Richmond Flying Squirrels are giving them away.
- July 8: Because you can't keep a bad thing down, the Mobile BayBears are staging "Awful Night Resurrected."
- July 9: In honor (?) of their elusive mascot Mr. Celery, the Wilmington Blue Rocks are hosting a "Celery Cook-Off."