Promo Watch: In Jackson, Hippos are no joke

April Fool's stunt becomes reality as Generals assume alter-ego

Every Friday home game, the Jackson Generals celebrate western Tennessee's nonexistent hippo population by suiting up as the "Hub City Hippos."

By Benjamin Hill / | May 9, 2017 10:00 AM

On April 1, 2016, the Jackson Generals announced they were changing their name to the "Hub City Hippos."

This was an April Fool's joke, and not a particularly successful one in terms of the number of people who fell for it. But then a funny thing happened. 

"[Hub City Hippos] was something we threw together quickly, being as silly as we could be," said Generals general manager Jason Compton. "It was just a joke, but it was one of those jokes that didn't die. It continued throughout the season. 'Hey, how are the Hippos doing?' 'The Hippos are winning the championship this year.'

"The craziest thing was, in May we started seeing people wearing 'Hub City Hippos' T-shirts. They used the logo that was in our press release. Well, alright then."

The unexpected grassroots support that the Hub City Hippos received helped turn this joke into reality. On April 1, 2017, the Double-A Arizona Diamondbacks affiliate once again announced that they would be the Hub City Hippos, and this time there was no fooling. The Generals are suiting up as the "Hub City Hippos" during every Friday home game with the third such contest occurring this week. The jerseys, sponsored by underground utility notification center Tennessee 811, will be auctioned off after the season with the proceeds donated to the local Boys & Girls Club. Additionally, the team is now offering Hub City Hippos hats and T-shirts, which Compton says "sell out before we can get them out of the box." 

And while most outlandish Minor League monikers have at least a nominal connection to the region in which the team plays, there is literally nothing that connects Western Tennessee with hippopotami.

"It's a complete coincidence that the Memphis Zoo, which is 80 miles from the ballpark, had a hippo born there during the first week of April," said Compton. "A lot of people drew that conclusion, but [the name] was just us trying to get people talking and asking 'Why?' Well, why not? My story changes every time somebody asks me."

Tweet from @jacksongenerals: It's official! We will be the Hub City Hippos for every Friday home game this year!

"Hub City," on the other hand, is a longstanding nickname for Jackson, Tennessee.

"Jackson is in the middle of a rural area in west Tennessee, so here it's the quote-unquote 'big city,'" said Compton. "It's the Hub City. People come here for entertainment, medical, shopping, whatever."

Given the surprising evolution of the Hub City Hippos thus far, is it possible that it could one day supplant "Generals" as the team's full-time moniker?

"Never say never, but I think it's good for what it is," said Compton. "But if we get a few more hippos in West Tennessee and more demand, then who knows?" 

Coming attractions

Both metaphorically and literally, April showers have given way to May flowers. Notable Minor League promos are happening at a fast and furious rate, and will only get faster and furiouser as the season goes on. 

May 10: It's "National Shrimp Day" and -- surprise -- the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp are celebrating by offering a ticket package that includes a robust serving of Boom Boom Shrimp.

May 11: The Bowie Baysox were on the road during Cinco de Mayo, so they're instead having a "Once de Mayo" party. It only comes once a year.

Speaking of belated celebrations -- "May the Fourth" may have come and gone, but the Tacoma Rainiers are celebrating Star Wars by donning theme jerseys that are more pleasing to the eye than the average theme jerseys. 

Tweet from @RainiersLand: We're throwing a belated, but intergalactically awesome Star Wars celebration on the 11th. Until then, May the Fourth be with you.

The Winston-Salem Dash, meanwhile, are commemorating a holiday happening in the here and now. It's "National Eat What You Want Day," so the Dash are offering a free diet soda to anyone who eats a Cheesy Pig Dog (a hot dog topped with pulled pork and macaroni and cheese). This mixed message will further be exacerbated by the presence of treadmills on the concourse, so that fans can work off the calories. 

Tweet from @WSDashBaseball: One more time, because it is so beautiful: our new Cheesy Pig Dog!!BBQ & mac and cheese on a hot dog. #blessed

May 12: The Lancaster JetHawks' "Aerospace Appreciation Night," dedicated to honoring one of their region's largest industries, is a long-standing tradition. This year's version features a rocket-launching contest, F/A-18 flyovers and the opportunity to meet a NASA pilot.

May 13: As this author learned first-hand in 2016, the Durham Bulls pull out all the stops for Star Wars Night. For this year's iteration, the Triple-A Tampa Bay affiliate will wear uniforms featuring "BB-8 wandering the deserts of Jakku." 

Tweet from @DurhamBulls: JUST ANNOUNCED: #DurhamBulls to wear BB-8 jerseys on #StarWars Night. We have a thing for droids.Details:

If the Bulls don't fully satiate your desire for Star Wars promotions taking place in the International League on May 13, then please know that the Gwinnett Braves are giving away bobbleheads featuring veteran infielder Sean Kazmar as a saber-wielding something or other.

Tweet from @GwinnettBraves: #MayThe4thBeWithYouGet your tickets for the legendary Star Wars night with the #GBraves.��

Your desire for International League Star Wars promotions is probably now satiated, but please know that the Lehigh Valley IronPigs are also staging "Star Wars Night." There will be Star Wars-themed fireworks.

They obviously didn't play there at the same time, but Greg Maddux and Yadier Molina both played in Peoria. The Chiefs are honoring them with a dual bobblehead that they claim is "a battery made in baseball heaven."

Tweet from @peoriachiefs: Two all time greats Maddux #31 & Molina #30 get our countdown started! Get tickets for May 13 bobblehead night.

We are nearly halfway to Thanksgiving, which has given the Potomac Nationals the impetus they need to stage a "Pfitzgiving Celebration" at their home of Pfitzner Stadium. This out-of-season feast is highlighted by the distribution of Bryce Harper "Gobbleheads." 

Tweet from @PNats42: The @Bharper3407 Gobblehead has arrived at The Pfitz! Check out the rare sighting!

May 14: It's Mother's Day. You gave your Mom flowers, but now she needs a vase. The Hartford Yard Goats are giving away vases, so make sure your Mom gets the vase she needs for the flowers you so thoughtfully gave her.

May 15: If you thought Bowie's "Once de Mayo" promotion was a stretch, then please know that things are going to get even stretchier: The Augusta GreenJackets are celebrating "Quince de Mayo."

May 16: In 2016, Steve Harvey's Ms. Universe snafu (in which he declared the wrong winner) inspired the Frisco RoughRiders to stage "Runner-Up Night." The Double-A Texas Rangers affiliate is at it again Tuesday, this time inspired by La La Land and the Oscar win that wasn't. Representatives from PricewaterhouseCoopers will not be in attendance.

The Portland Sea Dogs give away Jackie Bradley bobbleheads, the first in an interlocking three-part "Win, Dance, Repeat" series commemorating the jubilant post-win routine of the Boston Red Sox's current outfield. 

Tweet from @PortlandSeaDogs: Collect all 3 of our interlocking #WinDanceRepeat bobbleheads!May 16- @JackieBradleyJr June 6- @mookiebetts July 17- @asben16

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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