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 firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line: "Promo Preview" or send a Tweet to @bensbiz, hashtag "#promopreview."
When Jayson Werth made his professional debut in 1997, he was an unassuming teenage catcher with short blonde hair and decidedly unintimidating Coke bottle glasses. These days, however, he's known as "The Wolfman," a wild-haired, fully bearded All-Star who can be found on a nightly basis patrolling the outfield for the Washington Nationals.
On Saturday, the Potomac Nationals, for whom Werth has played while on rehab assignments, are celebrating this transformation by giving away Jayson Werth "Wolf-A-Rines" to the first 1,000 fans in attendance. These harrowing figurines depict Werth in a most bedraggled state, his beard in full bloom and his arms and legs busting out of his uniform and completely covered in fur.
"Our fans have been eagerly waiting for the Wolf-a-Rine since we released the first renderings," said P-Nats general manager Josh Olerud. "It has really taken on a life of its own, and rumor is there will be a full moon on Saturday!"
Further research reveals that, on Saturday, the moon will be in its waning gibbous phase following the "Supermoon" on Aug. 10. Nonetheless, P-Nats broadcaster Bryan Holland maintains that there will be plenty of werewolf-like activity at the ballpark.
"I'm not a meteorologist, so I can't predict how hard the silver bullets will be coming down," he said, "but the fans are going to be howling."
Indeed, there is a lot of anticipation for the Wolf-a-Rine in what has already been a banner year for Werth-related promos. In June, the P-Nats gave away Jayson Werth bobblebeards (featuring real hair) as part of a "Beardapalooza" weekend celebration that included a cornucopia of beard-related contests as well as Minor League Baseball's first ever "beard tasting competition." Then, last month, a Jayson Werth garden gnome giveaway staged by the big league Nationals drew more than 40,000 fans to a Tuesday night contest.
"Our pre-sold [tickets] are huge for [Saturday], and playing just 30 minutes from D.C., I'm sure we'll have a lot of fans making the trip," said Holland. "It's always cool to renew our friendly [promotional] rivalry with the big league club."
Werth is not the first player to have received an animalistic reworking courtesy of the P-Nats. Last season the club gave away a Roger Bernadina "Shark-a-Rine" (in honor of his shark-like ability to track down balls in the outfield), and Holland reports that the team is now considering honoring Wilson "The Buffalo" Ramos by doing a "buffalo-rine" giveaway in 2015.
"When it comes to [giveaways] like this, there's nothing really to compare it to," he said. "We encourage people to get in touch with suggestions about what we should do next."
BEST OF THE REST
Charleston RiverDogs (South Atlantic League)
Service Industry Day with "Professional" Hot Dog Eater, Aug. 13
Charleston, South Carolina, boasts a high concentration of bars and restaurants, and therefore, many of its residents make their living in the food service industry. Most of these food service employees cannot attend RiverDogs games on a regular basis, given that they take place during their work hours, so the team is playing a 12:05 p.m. matinee on Wednesday, offering $5 tickets to service industry employees and recruiting one of them to attend as a professional hot dog eater. This individual will be paid $7.25 an hour for the duration of the game and supplied with all of the hot dogs he or she can eat. Interested in getting the job? Then click HERE to check out the team's Craigslist ad.
Fresno Grizzlies (Pacific Coast League)
Taco Truck Throwdown IV, Aug. 14
The Grizzlies' annual "Taco Truck Throwdown" is an absolute promo powerhouse, as mammoth crowds flock to the ballpark in order to sample offerings from 12 of the Fresno area's preeminent vehicular taco purveyors. Fans purchasing the team's alliterative $25 Taco Truck Throwdown ticket package receive admission to the ballgame, a Taco Truck Throwdown T-shirt and a voucher for four taco truck tacos. I'm an East Coast-based taco truck amateur, but nonetheless I implore all attendees to visit Taquerias las Toritos. I was able to visit those guys during my visit to Fresno last season, and, simply put, they served the greatest tacos that I ever tasted.
Norfolk Tides (International League)
Ron Johnson Gnome Giveaway, Aug. 15
Like most professional baseball managers, Ron Johnson of the Norfolk Tides is a master of the gnomic utterance. Perhaps this is why the team is giving away 3,000 Ron Johnson gnome figurines prior to Friday's game while also taking the field in beard-bedecked gnome-themed jerseys. Fans attending this game are advised to take caution, however, as in recent days an evil Ron Johnson gnome has been on the loose wreaking havoc throughout the greater Norfolk area. Evil gnomes are not to be trifled with.
Clinton LumberKings (Midwest League)
Throwback Night with Jim Leyland Appearance, Aug. 16
If it seems like Jim Leyland has been around forever, and that's because he pretty much has. In 1972, at the age of 27, he began his esteemed managerial career as the pilot of the Clinton Pilots. Leyland went on to manage that squad again in 1973 as well as in 1975 (where one of his charges was a pre-karate kicking Dave Rozema), and on Saturday it all comes full circle when he makes an appearance at Clinton's Ashford University Field (when Leyland managed there, it was known as Riverview Stadium). The LumberKings' website explicitly states that "Smoking is not allowed in the stadium," but perhaps they can make an exception for a man who smoked cigarettes in the dugout for the entirety of his managerial career. Jim Leyland makes his own rules.
Quad Cities River Bandits (Midwest League)
Tom Harkin bobblehead, Aug. 17
Politically themed promotions are a rarity in Minor League Baseball, as teams do not wish to take sides in an increasingly contentious partisan divide. But the River Bandits are putting these concerns aside Sunday, distributing 1,000 bobbleheads in the likeness of Democratic senator Tom Harkin. Harkin has represented Iowa on a national level since 1975, going back to the days when the aforementioned Jim Leyland was still managing in the state. He'll be in attendance at Saturday's ballgame, where he'll throw out the first pitch, sign his bobblehead and, presumably, express his disdain for congressional pork by only eating all-beef hot dogs.
Because whoever said "Less is more" never worked in Minor League Baseball, here's a succinct rundown of even more notable promotions taking place this week.
- Aug. 13: Middle Child Day was Aug. 12, but in case you ignored it, the Fort Myers Miracle are celebrating it tonight. After all, Wednesday is the most unremembered day of the week.
- Aug. 14: The Greensboro Grasshoppers are wearing tropical jerseys, which are designed to appeal to fans of tropical humor. … Mountain Man, the greatest of all peripheral Duck Dynasty characters, continues his tour of the Minor League landscape with a visit to the Inland Empire 66ers… The New Orleans Zephyrs are celebrating "Halfway to Mardi Gras Night." Wear a midriff.
- Aug. 15: The Skyriders, unparalleled trampoline auteurs, visit the Louisville Bats. … The Mahoning Valley Scrappers are shooting off 1984-themed fireworks. Big Brother is watching. … Zombies battle vampires at the Modesto Nuts game. While everyone is distracted by this, the werewolves will take over.
- Aug. 16: The Mayberry Deputy entertains fans at the Salem Red Sox game. Kids are gonna all be like, "Who?"
- Aug. 17: I've got nothing. Teams, tell me what I'm missing.
- Aug. 18: See above.
- Aug. 19: The Akron RubberDucks are giving away Whoopie Cushions and calling it "Oops I Stepped on a Duck Night." It will be a most mallard-orus evening.