Another Minor League season has begun, and with it another season of Promo Preview. Each week, this column will serve as your premier source of Minor League Baseball promotions news and analysis.
However, April is a fairly slow month when it comes to Minor League promotions. Teams wisely save their grandiose endeavors for later in the season, when school is out of session and the weather is far less likely to be miserable. So instead of covering the meager slate of promos taking place in the coming week, this edition of Promo Preview will take an overarching look at the season to come. These lean times will soon pass, there is much to look forward to.
2018's Top Promo Trend: The Sandlot Night
The Sandlot turns 25 this year, a milestone that has prompted many teams to take a nostalgic look at a baseball movie that was itself rooted in nostalgia. According to this writer's research, at least 18 teams are staging The Sandlot tributes. The first such promotion occurs during Saturday's Columbia Fireflies game, and they'll continue on across the country all the way through the Binghamton Rumble Ponies' Aug. 31 undertaking. The anniversary-driven interest in the film has been a boon for actor Chauncey Leopardi, who played Squints. Leopardi will be a special guest at several The Sandlot nights, including the Potomac Nationals Aug. 4 game at which the team will give away a Squints bobblehead.
But no team is pulling out The Sandlot stops quite like the Richmond Flying Squirrels, who are staging FIVE separate The Sandlot nights. This "Squintet" of promotions includes three giveaways referencing fearsome canine "The Beast," which is a lot to chew on.
An out of this world theme night
Last Aug. 21, every Minor League team in the solar eclipse's "Path of Totality" staged a promotion that took advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Some of these promotions were conducted with the help of NASA employees, and that organization made it clear they wanted to continue to work with Minor League Baseball teams in the future.
"We [at NASA] can go to science museums and people who are already interested will come," said NASA scientist Noah Petro told MiLB.com last August. "But with Minor League Baseball, you're talking with people who may not necessarily go to a science museum. We're reaching out to people not in our traditional audience."
Hence, NASA Night. At least four teams -- the Fresno Grizzlies, Myrtle Beach Pelicans, Arkansas Travelers and Lowell Spinners -- are staging NASA Night this season, with more likely to follow. The Grizzlies' NASA promo takes place during their first homestand on April 14, with the team promising "live demos of Moon and Mars portals/simulators, an 'Ask a Scientist' Booth and much more space-related 'edu-tainment.'"
Video: Solar eclipse reaches totality in Columbia
Columbia was one of seven teams to stage an eclipse-related promotion.
A show of force on May the 4th
Star Wars promotions are, of course, a Minor League staple. And, of course, the best day to stage a Star Wars promotion is on the unofficial holiday that is "May the 4th" (as in, "May the 4th be with you"). This coming May the 4th is on a Friday, resulting in what may be a record for most Minor League teams celebrating Star Wars on the same night. (At least) 25 teams are doing just this, often wearing theme jerseys and almost always including costumed members of 501st Legion Star Wars fan clubs. This writer will be attending the Delmarva Shorebirds game that evening, when the team is giving away a Manny Machado Stormtrooper bobblehead. Those who prefer to travel Solo will enjoy teams who wear jerseys such as those that will be sported by the Altoona Curve.
Over the past several seasons, several Minor League teams have assumed temporary team names that pay tribute to regional food items. Edible entities making their debut in 2018 include the Thunder Pork Roll, Binghamton Spiedies, San Jose Churros, Hartford Steamed Cheeseburgers and the quintessentially Nebraskan Omaha Runzas.
If the shoe fits
One of the joys of Minor League promotions is that they are infinite in their possibility. For example, this season the Syracuse Chiefs will become the first team to pay tribute to the Brannock Device. For those not in the know, the Brannock Device is the iconic foot measuring tool found in shoe stores everywhere. The company is headquartered in Syracuse, hence the Chiefs promo. Paul Lukas, author of the long-running Uniwatch column, has a Brannock Device tattoo, and, accordingly has been invited by the team to throw out a first pitch.
If Brannock Devices aren't random enough for you, there's plenty more where that came from. For example:
-- The Lehigh Valley IronPigs are shooting off "Bacon-themed" fireworks on June 2. As to what that entails, your guess is as good as mine.
-- On June 28, the Altoona Curve are giving away replica championship rings in Jell-O. Why? It's "Office Night," and the Jell-O-encased ring references one of the pranks that Jim played on Dwight in the long-running NBC sitcom.
-- The Lake Elsinore Storm are staging "O.J. Simpsons Night" on Aug. 9. It's a celebration of both orange juice and The Simpsons. What did you think it was?