ORLANDO, Fla. -- On Monday, Minor League Baseball announced the winners of the 2021 Golden Bobblehead Awards for top promotional activities and events in six categories and one overall winner for the best overall promotion of 2021.
Best Promotion or Event and Best Overall Promotion -- Erie SeaWolves, “Wonders Night”
On Sept. 4, the SeaWolves hosted “Wonders Night” to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the 1996 movie That Thing You Do! The film, which was the directorial debut of Tom Hanks, featured the rise and fall of a fictional 1960s “one-hit wonder” band from Erie, Pennsylvania, named, "The Wonders." The cast of the movie was reunited at UPMC Park, and the event also served as a fundraiser for NoticeAbility, a nonprofit organization that helps students with dyslexia find their strengths. The cause carried extra meaning for The Wonders, as three of the four actors have had to overcome challenges with the language-based learning disability.
The actors (Steve Zahn, Tom Everett Scott, Johnathon Schaech and Ethan Embry) participated in a pregame panel discussion and charity autograph session, played a role in the in-game promotions and led the singing of Take Me Out to the Ballgame while the team wore Wonders jerseys. The event was covered by Entertainment Tonight and other national media outlets and resulted in a season-best crowd of 5,020, which included guests from more than 20 states.
“This is a tremendous honor to win not one but two Golden Bobbleheads for Wonders Night, celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Tom Hanks film That Thing You Do!, which was fictitiously set in Erie, PA,” Erie assistant general manager Greg Gania said. “It was a promotion almost two years in the making and wouldn’t have been possible without the support of actors Tom Everett Scott, Ethan Embry, Steve Zahn and Johnathon Schaech. Raising over $25,000 for charity was the icing on the cake to an amazing night at the ballpark.”
Best In-Game Promotion or Event -- Oklahoma City Dodgers, appearance by speed painter Revel
On July 3, the Oklahoma City Dodgers hosted world-class speed painter and performance artist Revel for a performance that fans wouldn’t soon forget. Revel painted two portraits upside down, each during a 90-second break between innings, including one of Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson.
After the game, Revel returned to the field to create a painting of Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark with proceeds from the sale of the three paintings generating $2,000 for the Oklahoma City Dodgers Baseball Foundation.
“Winning our first Golden Bobblehead award is another benchmark for our organization,” said Oklahoma City Dodgers president and general manager Michael Byrnes. “I’m proud of our team members for not only devising the idea of having a performance artist be part of our game presentation, but also finding a way to make it work with the unique constraints within a baseball game. We’d also like to recognize Revel, because without his incredible talent and willingness to try something new, this would have never happened.”
Best Non-Gameday Event -- St. Paul Saints, Cat Video Festival
In 2012, Kate Hill, a program associate with the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, suggested the idea of a Cat Internet Video Festival as a joke. After the event drew more than 10,000 people in its first year, the event outgrew its venue and the Saints stepped in and it instantly became one of the largest non-baseball events in the history of CHS Field.
Partnering with a local radio station, the Saints encouraged fans to dress up and bring out cat toys, photos of their cats and anything else that would lead to some feline fun. Upwards of 13,000 people visited to watch one hour of cat videos. Pet vendors lined the 360-degree concourse selling various cat supplies, and the Saints, who work closely with the local art community, invited artists out to the ballpark for face painting, while a firework show brought the night to a close.
“It’s such an honor to be recognized by our peers and fortunately we work in a business where often times the silliest ideas are the most valuable, especially if they bring people together and make them smile,” said Saints executive vice president and general manager Derek Sharrer. “Cat Video Fest is one of those ideas and we appreciate that our friends at the Walker Center for the Arts and myTalk 107.1 radio that have helped us do exactly that for the past several years.”
Best Community Event -- Spokane Indians, Operation Fly Together
In 2021, the Spokane Indians launched a community campaign called Operation Fly Together, in conjunction with Fairchild Air Force Base. The first-of-its-kind campaign is designed to celebrate the KC-135 tanker plane and help better the lives of the 40,000 veterans from all branches of the United States Armed Forces that have settled in the Spokane region.
The Indians honored Team Fairchild and Veterans by selecting a “Fairchild Family” each Friday night, in addition to the team wearing specialty uniforms modeled after the current U.S. Air Force Service Dress Uniforms on “Fairchild Fridays” throughout the season. The jerseys were auctioned off to raise money for the Operation Fly Together Veterans Fund to enhance the lives of veteran groups in the Spokane region. The Indians’ team store also offered a full line of Operation Fly Together merchandise, with a portion of the proceeds going to the Operation Fly Together Fund.
“We’re honored to be included with so many other great nominees and are extremely proud of our historic partnership with Fairchild Air Force Base and its impact on the greater Spokane community,” said Indians vice president Otto Klein. “We feel fortunate that we were recognized by Major League Baseball with a Golden Bobblehead for the positive influence that this campaign has had on local veterans, and we’re excited to continue the tradition of Minor League Baseball teams being leaders in their communities.”
Best Digital Campaign -- Myrtle Beach Pelicans, Beer Bats
The best digital activation naturally began with a tweet. On May 15, Pelicans fan @bryan_kurp tweeted a photo from his seat with a beer bat in hand. The tweet went viral, generating over one million impressions and had fans around the globe clamoring for a Pelicans beer bat.
Since the beer bats were only available at the ballpark, the club found a way to capitalize on the concessions item worldwide, as team president Ryan Moore “took the night off” and allowed fans to send him $25 to drink a beer on their behalf and be mailed a "game-used bat."
While the team thought they might sell a few dozen, several hundred were ordered the first night and nearly 900 beer bats were sold overall as a result of the tweet.
“Some of the best promotions are the ones that happen organically, and the beer bat phenomenon was just that and its popularity and success far surpassed our wildest expectations,” Moore said. “Thanks to @bryan_kurp for the tweet that started it all, and thanks to everyone who engaged with our posts and purchased a beer bat. In order to execute this promotion, everyone on staff pulled together to make it happen, and this award is a testament to the great staff at the Pelicans and all the hard work they put in to provide the best experience in sports.”
Best Specialty Jersey -- Reno Aces, Remo Srirachas
On Sept. 18, the Aces hosted “Remo Sriracha Night” at Greater Nevada Field. The event was inspired by a video from the Overly Excited Tourist that went viral locally in 2017. The team brought the Overly Excited Tourist, Ryan O’Flanagan, back to the stadium he snuck into in the video to interact with fans and be part of the in-game entertainment.
The Aces created special Remo Sriracha jerseys that were worn in the game and auctioned to benefit a local charity. The 33 jerseys raised nearly $7,000 and the event garnered the Aces’ largest social media numbers of the year and provided fans with a night they won’t soon forget.
“Our marketing team exudes the Reno Aces’ values of opportunity, energy, and creating memories,” said Aces president Eric Edelstein. “I couldn’t be prouder of their commitment to making Remo Sriracha Night an event worthy of a Golden Bobblehead, which we will display proudly and use as motivation for more.”