R-Phils take homer derby to next level

Dark Knight comes to Fresno, Minors celebrate Independence

By Benjamin Hill / MLB.com | July 3, 2012 1:58 PM 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."

On June 18, the Charleston RiverDogs staged the preliminary round of the South Atlantic League Home Run Derby from atop the USS Yorktown aircraft carrier. With an estimated crowd of 400 fans looking on, participants bashed balls into Charleston Harbor and these water-logged spheres were then retrieved by volunteers on jet-skis.

A case could certainly be made that the RiverDogs' aquatic afternoon was the most creative home run derby in professional baseball history, but when all's said and done, it might not even be No. 1 among home run derbies staged in the last month. The Reading Phillies jump into the fray on Tuesday, and big things are expected from a franchise whose nightly entertainment already includes mascot rock bands, chaotic vegetable races and, of course, the Crazy Hot Dog Vendor.

The R-Phils' derby will feature a full slate of the Eastern League's top sluggers, and though the participants could very well include future Major League superstars, it will be tough to focus on the man at the plate. This is because, quite literally, the entire field of play will be an area of focus. From the press release:

[P]layers will be trying to hit select targets around the field to earn points. ... Targets include outfield dunk tanks, R-Phils fanatics jumping on a trampoline, and pink flamingo yard ornaments sprinkled around the outfield.

Conversely, there will be obstacles hitters will want to avoid in order to not lose points. The Reading Phillies mascots will be scattered around the field, trying to snag balls hit by the All-Stars. For each ball the mascots catch, the hitter will be penalized with negative points.

While the hitting challenge is going on, an exclusive VIP party will actually take place right on the infield. These VIP quests will be protected by a net as they party away with home-run balls sailing over their heads.

This is the sort of thing that will probably only make sense after it has happened (and even that's not a guarantee). Those who feel the need to get a better sense of the spectacle about to unfold are advised to watch the explanatory video that the R-Phils produced this past January. But perhaps the best thing to do would be to make your way to Reading for what will be the most memorable home run derby of the past three weeks.

And, quite possibly, ever.

America at its absolute finest

An Independence Day (or night) spent at a Minor League ballpark is sure to be an unbridled celebration of American pride, with fireworks and grilled meats being a prerequisite of the experience. And in Des Moines it will also be an occasion to perpetuate the legacy of all-inclusiveness that has made America a country worth celebrating in the first place. That evening's Iowa Cubs game will be preceded by an on-field naturalization ceremony in which 29 immigrants from 19 countries receive U.S. citizenship. One of these newly minted Americans will throw out a ceremonial first pitch, a ritualistic offering that will usher in a sure-to-be-memorable evening at the ballpark.

Getting it done on both ends

91-year-old grandmother Anne Kenyon made national headlines last month, when she ably (and by all reports, fearlessly) made a barehanded catch of a foul ball at a San Jose Giants game. This significant instance of nonagenarian accomplishment isn't going to go uncommemorated at the venue in which it occurred, as on Friday the Giants are having Kenyon (now 92!) throw out a ceremonial first pitch. The team reports that Kenyon will "bring a bus with 25 of her closest friends," but no word yet whether she'll be the one driving.


Prior to July 4's regularly scheduled contest, the Stockton Ports are hosting a "vintage" ballgame featuring a cavalcade of retired MLB players. But the mere presence of the likes of Cecil Fielder, Warren Brusstar, Steve Sax, Dave Stewart and Kevin Mitchell isn't what makes the game vintage. The participants will actually be adhering to 1886 rules and traditions and using equipment from that era as well. If you've ever dreamed of seeing Mark Whiten make a bare-handed putout on a one-hopper hit to the outfield, then by all means don't miss this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!

The women of Montgomery are in mourning

Right-handed reliever Alex Koronis was recently demoted from the Montgomery Biscuits to the Charlotte Stone Crabs, a transaction had repercussions felt far beyond the clubhouses in question. On Friday, the Biscuits had scheduled a promotion with the self-explanatory name of Win a Date with Alex Koronis, which gave the region's eligible single women the chance to win a date with the sultry 24-year-old right-hander. Thus far the team has been mum on whether another player will be made available; in the meantime, the single women of Port Charlotte are rejoicing over the fact that Koronis has returned to their fair city.

Into the ellipse...

A brief rundown of other notable promotions taking place this week, featuring giveaways aplenty...

  • July 4: The Trenton Thunder once again take the field in their ultra-colorful Stars and Stripes theme jerseys, a year after Derek Jeter sported one during a rehab assignment (he was less than complimentary).
  • July 5: In Brooklyn, the Cyclones poke fun at hipster fashion and art during Williamsburg Night. ... Twenty years after their first attempt, the Fort Myers Miracle attempt to conjure the spirit of Thomas Edison in an on-field séance. You read that correctly. ... "Whodunit?" will be the question of the evening, as the Lancaster JetHawks host Murder Mystery Night.
  • July 6: To celebrate the release of the latest Batman film, the Fresno Grizzlies take the field in dark, brooding and thoroughly intimidating superhero theme jerseys. ... In Altoona, the Curve give away dreadlock hats in honor of Buccos superstar and reigning NL Player of the Month Andrew McCutchen. ... It'll be a night to remember forever in Northwest Arkansas, as the Naturals are attempting to set a world record in the esteemed category of "most people doing the robot dance at once."
  • July 8: The Kane County Cougars are on the road but Fifth Third Bank Ballpark will be packed nonetheless, as hometown heroes Wilco are performing there. ... Boxer Buster Douglas is the latest Columbus icon to be honored with his own bobblehead, courtesy of the Clippers.
  • July 9: The Tri-City ValleyCats honor Governor Andrew Cuomo with his own bobblehead, as part of their "I Love NY" festivities.

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

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