Potomac tries to replace irreplaceable

Braves legends to appear in Jacksonville; bobbles abound

By Benjamin Hill / MLB.com | July 17, 2012 9:00 AM ET

Minor League teams are known for the creativity of their gameday promotions. Every Tuesday we'll preview the week ahead, highlighting the best and brightest (not to mention strangest) that the industry has to offer. If you'd like a particular promotion to be considered for this feature, please send it to benjamin.hill@mlb.com with the subject line "Promo Preview."

Potomac Nationals mascot Uncle Slam is on the 60-day disabled list, and the team wants YOU to pick his replacement.

This unique example of democracy in action takes place during Wednesday's contest at Pfitzner Stadium, when fans vote for their favorite among a pool of 10 qualified candidates. The winner -- whomever he, she or it may be -- will spend the remainder of the 2012 campaign as the P-Nats' primary mascot.

Trips to the disabled list are certainly rare for mascots, who by nature are a durable and resilient breed. Uncle Slam's current hiatus from ballpark tomfoolery is well-justified, however, as his costume was damaged in a fire that swept through the team's administrative offices on June 29. P-Nats vice president Josh Olerud promises a "more fan-friendly, bigger and better" Uncle Slam in 2013, but for now there's the matter of the remaining seven weeks of the season.

When the team first put out a press release issuing a call for a replacement, it was deluged with responses. Olerud characterizes this response as a "mixed array," ranging from "very professional" to a fan who "sent in a picture of a dog wearing bunny ears." The team chose 10 finalists, all of whom will be on hand to greet fans on the concourse and strut their stuff on-field.

"We picked the ones that represented us best, the ones we thought that the fans would most want to see," said Olerud.

Olerud pegs Harrisburg Senators mascot Grrrounder as an early favorite, citing fan familiarity. But, really, this is a wide-open contest. Those in the running include Talon from the DC United soccer club, Fluffy from AvantGarb Inc. and an unaffiliated darkhorse candidate known only as "Chicken." And the region's vibrant roller derby scene cannot be overlooked -- three local franchises have volunteered the services of their mascot, including the intimidating tandem of Beelxebubba and Battlecat of the Demon Cats.

No matter who wins, the P-Nats' mascot election stands as an excellent example of the old "when life hands you lemons..." cliché.

"[The election] just jumped out as something that we had to do and generated a lot of positive response. Many of the teams we've partnered with we had never partnered with them before," said Olerud. "So this will open the door to other things that we can do. It's pretty cool, the number of people who read about this and decided to help out."

Yin and yang

John Rocker The Jacksonville Suns are welcoming a pair of Atlanta Braves notables on back-to-back nights this week and, really, they couldn't be any more dissimilar when it comes to their public personas. Former closer John Rocker stops by on Thirsty Thursday, and his presence is sure to rile up what figures to be an already raucous crowd. Rocker enjoyed several dominating seasons in Atlanta but remains best known for a controversial 2000 Sports Illustrated interview in which he made disparaging remarks about New York City and its diverse population. (Rocker appears not to have mellowed much since those days, as he currently sells "Speak English" T-shirts on his website).

The far less controversial Dale Murphy appears at the Jacksonville Baseball Grounds on Friday, where he is sure to bask in the goodwill created over his long and distinguished playing career. These days "Murph" is a regular on the Minor League appearance circuit, and he often promotes his schedule on his popular and highly interactive Twitter feed (@dalemurphy3). Truly, he is a man of the people.

In memoriam

And speaking of the Jacksonville Suns -- the team has just announced that its annual charity golf tournament has been renamed "The Peter Bragan Sr. Memorial Golf Classic" in honor of their recently deceased long-time owner. As the team's press release notes, "Mr. Bragan was an avid golfer who made three holes-in-one in his lifetime and delighted in hitting a good tee shot and then proclaiming, 'kind of ladylike, but down the middle!'"

Better ladle than never

For that small subset of fans who have been clamoring for Seinfeld cult hero Larry "The Soup Nazi" Thomas to make an appearance at a Minor League ballpark -- well, I am proud to report that that day will be soon upon us. And in Orem, Utah, of all places. The hometown Owlz host "No Soup For You Night" on Saturday, during which Thomas will pose for pictures and sign autographs. And, perhaps best of all, the first 1,000 fans receive their very own team-logo soup ladle.

A memorable milestone

Despite being born with congenital brain damage, Wade Vadakin has gone on to live a fruitful and active life. He has served as the Mobile BayBears' bat boy since Hank Aaron Stadium opened in 1996, and this Saturday marks his 1,000th game in that capacity. Details are scarce regarding just how the team will honor the 33-year-old Vadakin, but what is known is that a major celebration is planned. He may have started with the BayBears as a bat boy, but he is now a bat man.

Into the ellipse...

A brief rundown of other notable promos happening this week, with an emphasis on that which bobbles.

July 18: The Buffalo Bisons continue their series of giveaways honoring local landmarks with the distribution of City Hall replicas. ... Giveaway of the year? The Wisconsin Timber Rattlers distribute "Cash Envelopes."

July 19: Alliteration overload! The Bowie Baysox give away Al Bumbry bobbleheads on the same night in which they host a "Bierstube" German dinner. ... In State College, the Spikes give away Batman-referencing Dark Knight bobbleheads of mascot Ike the Spike. ... The Quad Cities River Bandits stage their annual "Tattoo Night," in which fans are permanently affixed with the team logo in exchange for season tickets.

July 20: So many bobbleheads! Matt Moore in Bowling Green, Dillon Gee in Brooklyn, Ben "Zorilla" Zobrist in Princeton, Jemile Weeks in Stockton and Erik the Peanut Vendor in Tri-City (Dust Devils). ... The West Virginia Power stage "Toast Fest" in honor of bread-hurling super fan "The Toastman." ... The Osprey are on the road, but Missoula's Ogren Park hosts a musical performance by multi-talented comedian Steve Martin.

July 21: So many more bobbleheads! Jim Thome in Colorado Springs, Corey Spangenberg in Eugene, Bryce Harper in Harrisburg, Shane Victorino in Jacksonville, mascot Cosmo in Las Vegas, Mike Matheny in Quad Cities, Mark Haley in South Bend and Allan Craig in Springfield. ... The Richmond Flying Squirrels give away a pony as part of their "Princess Night" promotion. Bill Veeck would approve.

July 22: The Quad Cities River Bandits' annual Mega Candy Drop features sweet treats dropped onto the field via helicopter.

July 23: Even more bobbleheads! "Old School" Jimmy Rollins in Reading, Tommy Milone in Vermont and Corey Hart in Nashville. ... The Toledo Mud Hens take the field in their throwback "Mortimer" jerseys. ... In Brooklyn, the Cyclones host "Ballet and Baseball."

July 24: Jim Kaat makes an appearance in Rochester. ... The State College Spikes commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Titanic by paying tribute to the music of Celine Dion.

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

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