Minor League teams are known for the creativity of their gameday promotions. On Tuesdays this season, we preview 10 of the most intriguing for the week ahead. If you'd like a particular promotion to be considered for this feature in the future, please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line: "Promo Preview" or send him a Tweet -- hashtag "#promopreview."
On Sunday, the Memphis Redbirds will out-do what has come before, simply by doing nothing at all.
Prior to that afternoon's matinee contest against the Nashville Sounds, the team is staging a deeply paradoxical and quintessentially American "0.0k Race." To complete this event, all fans need to do is amble underneath a celebratory balloon archway set up at the AutoZone Park entrance. Team employees will be there to greet them, handing out cups of water, bananas, foil blankets and, to the first 1,000 participants, a commemorative t-shirt.
Barring the invention of some sort of avant-garde race in which the distance traveled is expressed in negatives, the bar could not possibly be set any lower. By comparison, previous ballpark competitions such as the Bowie Baysox's "1K Beer Race" and the Charleston RiverDogs "Zero K Race to the Bar" (which at least had an ending point) seem like veritable triathlons.
"Basically, this is a tongue-in-cheek excuse to do a t-shirt giveaway," said Redbirds marketing manager Erin O'Donnell. "We've gotten some good publicity with it so far, because people are curious to know what it is. I think we'll have some beer specials, because people are really going to need to carb up after that tough race."
The t-shirt in question, sponsored by the carb-heavy eatery that is Moe's Burritos, features a set of bird footprints tracking across home plate. The "K" in "0.0K" is backwards, perhaps as a tribute to the backward K's that are used to denote "caught looking" strikeouts in baseball scorebooks. After all, to go down on a called strike is to have literally done nothing while at the plate.
"You know those oval stickers you always see on cars, like 13.1?" asked O'Donnell, referring to a particularly self-congratulatory way of celebrating one's racing achievements. "One day we saw one that said '0.0' and thought, 'Ah, that's a clever person right there.' That's really what started this idea."
And if Sunday's race is a success, then fans can expect a sequel.
"There's definitely an opportunity to make this an annual event," said O'Donnell. "We're encouraging as little exertion as possible."
Altoona Curve (Eastern League) Pensatoona, June 5 and June 7
On both Wednesday and Friday, the Altoona Curve are transforming their home of People's Natural Gas Field into the Pittsburgh hockey fan haven that is "Pensatoona." This effort, borne of the pragmatic realization that Minor League Baseball in Western Pennsylvania is trumped by playoff hockey, allows fans to watch the Penguins-Bruins game in the left field party deck while drinking $3 "man cans" of Pabst. (For those who'd like to host a private viewing party, 20-person suites are available at $500 each.) But all Curve patrons will be kept abreast of the action, no matter where they are sitting: the videoboard "will have a continuous score/time ticker" and Penguins goals will be accompanied by "celebratory sound blasts."
Fort Myers Miracle (Florida State League) Bucket List Night, June 6
When I saw "Bucket List Night" on the Miracle's schedule, I was intrigued, but the website description was merely "come to the ballpark for a chance to win prizes that you can cross off your bucket list!" Displaying the investigative chops which perpetually land me on the Pulitzer shortlist, I emailed Miracle general manager Andrew Seymour for info on what would be given away. His response: "Laser hair removal, opportunity to sing the National Anthem, water jet pack ride, wrestle our mascot, go on our broadcast, call "Play Ball!", drink with Thirsty Thursday mascot CHUGGS, work the grill with Val the Russian, throw out a first pitch." In conclusion: if you want to ensure a sense of fulfillment while on your deathbed, go to Thursday's game.
Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (Midwest League) Salute to Cows, June 6
Given their indispensable role in America's food chain, we should all be deeply appreciative of cows, but in the dairy epicenter that is Wisconsin this appreciation is especially pronounced. So much so that, each season, the Timber Rattlers stage the self-explanatorily titled "Salute to Cows." As with last year's promotion (which I wrote about extensively) the team will be giving away a bovine-bedecked commemorative baseball, but that's just the first drop from the udder. Cow-themed games and contests take place all night long, with the traditional tipping point being a mooing contest that, per announcer Chris Mehring, requires participants to "moo from the depths of one's soul."
Bakersfield Blaze (California League) Color-changing Mug Giveaway, June 8
This is one of those cases in which the team's description of what's in store is far more evocative than what I could provide. Take it away, anonymous writer of Blaze promotional blurbs: "Drink in style... no, wait... drink in styles! This color-changing mug will let you know what you're drinking, and will let everyone else know that they missed out on some chic, yet utilitarian, Blaze giveaway goodies." Making this giveaway even better is that it's sponsored by the Rivers of Living Water Church. If this living water is placed in the Blaze's mug, then will the mug change colors?
Stockton Ports (California League) Miles BobbleHead, June 8
If your last name is "Head" and you achieve any level of success within the world of professional baseball, then it's a near certainty that you will be honored with your own bobblehead. (Again, this is because your last name is "Head.") This is just what the Ports are doing on Saturday, as the first 1,000 fans receive a bobbleHead of third baseman Miles. He certainly deserves it, as all he did for the Ports in 2012 is hit .333 with 24 home runs and 83 RBIs. You might say that he was a "Head" of the competition, but, then again, you probably wouldn't.
Into the Ellipse…
Because too much is never enough, a brief rundown of even more noteworthy promotions taking place this week…
- June 5: Because 17th anniversaries should never pass uncommemorated, the West Michigan Whitecaps are celebrating the championship squad of 1996.
- June 6: Pray for a precipitous plunge in petroleum prices, as the Dunedin Blue Jays are selling tickets for the price of a gallon of gas. … It's a "Fan vs. Food" showdown in Hickory, marking yet another chapter in man's battle against that which sustains him. … Enlightened dialogue is the order of the day in Jacksonville, as noted cultural philosopher John Rocker makes an appearance at the Suns game.
- June 7: The fans aren't booing the Delmarva Shorebirds, it's just that they're excited for Boog Powell's promotional appearance.
- June 8: Fans of Right Said Fred and Deadeye Dick should get thee to Akron, as the Aeros' fireworks show will be set to the music of one-hit wonders. … The Omaha Storm Chasers are giving away superhero capes on the same day as their "Diaper Derby." Impromptu superhero diapers may result. … For the latest in comfort, head to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre for the RailRiders' "Porcupine Pillow Pet" giveaway.
- June 9: The San Antonio Missions give away pictures of Henry the Puffy Taco. Suitable for framing!
- June 10: The Reading Fightin Phils stage their annual "Morning Game," which is geared toward retirees and night-shift workers. Those in attendance receive a coffee mug adorned with Mike Schmidt's mustache.
- June 11: From the "things you never even knew you wanted" department: the San Jose Giants are giving away inflatable air plane hats. I guess it's for those who like to put on airs.