Omaha to honor longtime skipper Jirschele

Dunedin gets in on Pizza Night, while Ben Hill dresses like a goose

Mike Jirschele managed Omaha from 1995-97 and again from 2003-2013 (Ken Inness/

By Benjamin Hill / | July 15, 2014 10:57 AM ET

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 with the subject line: "Promo Preview" or send a Tweet to @bensbiz, hashtag "#promopreview."

The Omaha Storm Chasers have been an affiliate of the Kansas City Royals since their 1969 inception, when they were known as the Royals, and in that time they've retired the numbers of just three individuals: George Brett, Frank White and Dick Howser.

On Thursday, Mike Jirschele joins that exclusive club.

"Jirsch," as he is commonly called, may lack the name recognition that Brett, White and Howser (a World Series-winning manager) possess, but perhaps no man has had a bigger impact on the Omaha franchise. He managed the club from 1995-97 and again from 2003-13, a tenure representing 14 of the 36 seasons that he spent in the Minors as a player, coach and manager. In October he finally received his big league call-up, and he now serves as the third-base coach for the Kansas City Royals.

"Jirsch is a consummate professional. He's very even-keeled and has a dry sense of humor. There aren't a lot of highs with him, and there aren't a lot of lows," said Storm Chasers general manager Martie Cordaro. "It was great winning the [Triple-A] National Championship, but to see him make it to the big leagues was the pinnacle of our [2013] season. Now he gets to be a rookie after 36 years of tirelessly giving to the game, and this is our opportunity to say thank you."

"This" is Thursday's "Mike Jirschele Night," which was scheduled to coincide with the MLB All-Star break so that the man of honor could attend. The first 1,500 fans in attendance receive a Mike Jirschele bobblehead, and from 6:30-7:20 "Jirsch" will be on hand to sign them. He'll then be ushered to the field for the jersey retirement ceremony, as his No. 23 will be immortalized alongside Brett, White and Howser.

"He definitely deserves to be in that company. It's great that he'll have the opportunity to be at the game with his family, without worrying about what's happening on the field," said Cordaro. "I bet you could count on two hands the number of games he's been to where he didn't have to do anything."

There will be a charitable component to the evening as well. The Storm Chasers are selling "Be Like Mike" T-shirts, with portions of the proceeds benefiting the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Jirschele has done a tremendous amount of work on this organization's behalf -- the disease claimed the lives of each of his three brothers.

"He's so dedicated to the game, but he's always been a servant to his family," said Cordaro. "We just want to make this a great night for him. We're hopeful that he enjoys it as much as we're honored to do it."

Best of the Rest

Dunedin Blue Jays (Florida State League)
Pizza Night, July 17

This column strives to avoid double negatives, but nonetheless: Never let it be said that the D-Jays don't take their food competitions seriously. Thursday is "Pizza Night," which joins the likes of "Wing Night" and "Beer, Bacon and Fireworks Night" in the team's hallowed promo pantheon. A ticket and all-you-can-eat pizza can be had for $12, allowing fans to sample the offerings of participating pizzerias. These establishments will be vying for one of three coveted "best slice" trophies, which feature a mounted (and properly preserved) piece of pizza. For more info, please view this promotional video featuring pitching coach Darold Knowles, intern Mark Watson and pitchers Tony Davis and Daniel Norris (he of Minoring in Twitter fame). It's a Class A Advanced cinematic masterpiece.

Akron RubberDucks (Eastern League)
World's Largest Game of Duck Duck Goose, July 18

According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the largest game of "Duck, Duck, Goose" ever played occurred on Oct. 7, 2011, when Missouri's Logan-Rogersville High School enticed 2,135 individuals to participate. On Friday the Akron RubberDucks will attempt to break this esteemed mark, with yours truly (as in me, Benjamin Hill) playing the part of "Goose." This will surely be one of the highlights of my next ballpark road trip, which kicks off in Akron before moving on to West Virginia, Columbus, Indianapolis, Louisville, Lexington and Dayton. Follow me on Twitter @bensbiz for updates from the road, and stay tuned for plenty of articles and posts on Ben's Biz Blog. That's an order!

Charleston RiverDogs (South Atlantic League)
Disco Demolition Night with Bill Veeck Bobble-leg giveaway, July 19

Disco Demolition Night, one of the most notorious promotions in baseball history, was staged 35 years ago this month by the Chicago White Sox. Last week, two teams (the New Orleans Zephyrs and Myrtle Beach Pelicans) paid tribute with "Disco Demolition" promos of their own, but the RiverDogs' iteration has special significance in that team co-owner Mike Veeck was the mastermind behind the original version. "Disco Demolition Night 2: You Better Belieb" takes place on Saturday, and fans are asked to bring Justin Beiber and Miley Cyrus memorabilia so that it can be demolished after the game. But that's not all! The first 1,000 fans receive a bobble-leg honoring Veeck's father, Bill, a legendary executive who, following a war injury, went through life sporting a stylish pegleg.

Toledo Mud Hens (International League)
"12 Hours of Christmas" Doubleheader with Santa and Elf Jerseys, July 19

The Mud Hens have long been on the forefront of the "ridiculous theme jersey" trend, reaching new heights (or depths, depending on your perspective) with last month's Ghostbusters tribute. They'll be at it again Saturday, during a day-night doubleheader that has been dubbed "12 Hours of Christmas." In the noon opener, the Mud Hens will take the field in green elf jerseys, while in the nightcap they'll don uniform tops modeled after Santa's iconic red and white duds. Santa, purportedly a huge fan of all-time International League home run leader Mike Hessman, will be greeting fans on the concourse during both games.

West Michigan Whitecaps (Midwest League)
World's First Printed 3D T-Ball Game, July 19

Minor League promos are often creative, clever and absurd, but rarely are they mind-boggling. However, there's really no other way to describe what the Whitecaps are doing on Saturday. The team is staging the world's first "Printed 3D Baseball Game" and, truly, it boggles the mind. Whitecaps promotions manager Keith Roelfsema writes that "[We've] teamed up with a local 3D printing facility and they are printing almost all of the items associated with a tee ball game -- bats, helmet, bases and balls (these will be more like Wiffle balls). The only things that they won't be printing are the jerseys and gloves. Then before the game, two teams will square off in the world's first 3D-printed tee ball game!" The future is now.

Quick Hits

Before climbing into the goose outfit, here's a succinct rundown of even more notable Minor League promotions taking place this week.

  • July 16: Follow the yellow brick road to Eastwood Field, as the Mahoning Valley Scrappers stage "Wizard of Oz Night." … "Redundancy Night" is Saturday, as the Mobile BayBears celebrate "Redundancy Night."
  • July 17: The Fresno Grizzlies begin their "Holidays in July" celebration, featuring four charity drives over the course of four days. … It's "Mark Bowman Day" in Gwinnett, as the G-Braves tip their caps to the veteran Atlanta Braves beat writer. … The Lancaster JetHawks' "Fake St. Patty's Day" celebration is sure to be a sham.
  • July 18: Rod Serling was a native of Binghamton. The B-Mets celebrate him accordingly via their annual Twilight Zone promotion. … The Bradenton Marauders' annual "Condiment Night" pits ketchup against mustard in a game-long battle for food topping supremacy. … Tea cups will be given away in Cedar Rapids, as the Kernels salute Duck Dynasty.
  • July 19: The Elizabethon Twins welcome a Matt Foley impersonator to the ballpark on "Van Down by the River Night." ... Mountain Man, peripheral Duck Dynasty character extraordinaire, continues his season-long ballpark tour with a stop in Frederick. … The Jacksonville Suns honor infielder and master juggler Derek Dietrich with a "juggling bobblehead."
  • July 20: The Missoula Osprey stage their annual "Float to the Ballpark" promotion, in which fans travel to the game via raft. … One day after Frederick, Mountain Man makes his way over to Wilmington in order to visit the Blue Rocks. … The Altoona Curve raise awareness and funds on "Bone Marrow Donor Night."
  • July 21: Johnny Evers, of "Tinker to Evers to Chance" fame, is honored with a bobblehead courtesy of the Tri-City ValleyCats.
  • July 22: The Famous Chicken, now semi-retired, graces the Iowa Cubs with his presence.

Benjamin Hill is a reporter for and writes Ben's Biz Blog. Follow Ben on Twitter @bensbiz. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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