This past December, during the Baseball Winter Meetings, El Paso Chihuahuas general manager Brad Taylor was walking the Trade Show floor when he saw a display that stopped him dead in his tracks.
These outlandish duds, offered by preeminent theme jersey provider OT Sports, celebrated a band that's never been accused of subtlety. Taylor's reaction was immediate.
"Did anybody do this yet? No? Sign us up, we're gonna be the first. Put us down right now," said Taylor, a KISS fan since seeing them in the late '70s at the Cap Centre in Landover, Maryland. He and OT Sports' Elaine Gastineau worked on designing a jersey unique to the Chihuahuas, featuring flaming sleeves, red, white and blue KISS font and the words "Made in the USA" beneath the band themselves.
This past Saturday, the Chihuahuas took the field wearing these KISS jerseys. The KISS Army turned out in force, leading to the best-attended game since Opening Night and what Taylor said will be the most successful theme jersey auction in team history. The jersey auction benefits Operation Noel, a local organization that, among many endeavors, provides children with coats during the winter months.
Taylor said that he and his staff worked hard to integrate KISS into the on-field entertainment. Highlights included an air guitar contest (natch) and on-field host Andy Imfeld kicking off the postgame fireworks with a brief display of his own fire-breathing prowess.
"Being in Minor League Baseball and being into KISS, it just fits together," said Taylor. "It's all about showmanship."
Wear your vegetables
Stockton, California, has long touted itself as "the asparagus capital of the nation." The Ports have long-celebrated this vegetative distinction via their "Five O'Clock Dock" alternate logo; on Saturday they took things a step further:
Make sure to check out Wednesday's MiLB.com California League notebook for a full "Asparagus Night" recap, courtesy of Josh Jackson (the Roger Angell of Minor League notebook writers). He won't asparagus any details.
Space is the place
The Altoona Curve designated this past Friday through Sunday as "Out of This World Weekend." On Friday, the team eschewed earthly concerns via the distribution of a bobblehead that depicted Andrew McCutchen gently undulating through the cosmos.
"Out of This World Weekend" was set to continue the following day with a Star Wars promotion featuring Jar Jar Binks jerseys, but rainy weather put the kibosh on these plans. Fans will now have to wait until June 4 to see the Curve take the field in these beauties, which celebrate the most progressive and popular character in the entire Star Wars universe.
Heretofore now, this column had been engaged in the task of looking back. Let us now look forward, affixing our gaze on that which there is to look forward to.
May 25: It's "Good Karma Day" in Fresno, in which the Grizzlies allow fans to pay whatever they wish for a ticket. But those with karmic concerns and acceptable cash flow should still pay generously as all ticket proceeds go to charity.
May 26: The Pensacola Blue Wahoos jump into the "What If Night" fray by becoming the "Mullets" for an evening. "Mullets," of course, was one of the finalists in the "Name the Team" contest the team staged prior to their inaugural 2012 campaign.
Throughout the evening, mullets of the aquatic and hairstyle variety will both be celebrated. Planned events include a "Mullet [Fish] Measurement Contest," a "Mullet [Fish] Toss" and a "Mullet [Hairstyle] Competition." Oh, and "Mullet Nuggets" will be served at the concession stand. I don't know which of these ideas I like best. I'll have to, oh, I don't know, mullet over.
May 28: The Akron RubberDucks pay tribute to Happy Gilmore by welcoming actor Christopher McDonald to the ballpark and giving away Shooter McGavin bobbleheads. McDonald played Shooter McGavin in the film. Everything is connected.
The New Orleans Zephyrs honor shortstop Austin Nola with his own bobblehead. Nola, a Louisiana native, has already enjoyed the distinction of having his name on both the back and front of the team's jersey…. Moving from Nola to Nolan, the Round Rock Express give away bobbleheads commemorating Nolan Ryan's seventh no-hitter. Ryan authored this gem at the tender age of 44.
Where to begin? The West Michigan Whitecaps welcome Team Ghostriders (monkeys riding dogs herding sheep) on Planet of the Apes Night. A "big banana car" is also slated to make an appearance at the ballpark. Fans won't want to let this opportunity potassium by.
The West Virginia Power once again embrace regional stereotypes with "Redneck Night 5." Highlights include a sleeveless T-shirt giveaway, postgame "redneck prom" and much-higher-than-average tall boy consumption.