Royal wedding fever sweeps the Minors

Four teams set to celebrate nuptials of former colonial masters

Minor League teams celebrate Prince William and Kate Middleton's nuptials. (Michael Dunlea/AP)

By Benjamin Hill / | April 26, 2011 6:00 AM ET

Minor League teams are known for the creativity of their gameday promotions. On Tuesdays for the entire season, we'll 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 with the subject line: "Promo Preview."

Altoona Curve (Eastern League)
Tenacious C Hankies, April 29
CFL Light Bulb Kit Giveaway, April 30
This weekend, consider the Altoona Curve your one-stop shop for all custom hanky and eco-friendly light bulb needs. On Friday, the team honors new engineer mascot Tenacious C by giving away 1,000 hankies influenced by his impeccable sense of railroad fashion. On Saturday, the first 3,000 fans to exit the stadium receive a CFL (Compact Fluorescent Lamp) light bulb kit. Hopefully, the rush to obtain these earth-friendly items won't bring to mind a quite different CFL entity: the Calgary Stampeders.

Bowie Baysox (Eastern League)
Date Night, April 29
The mere thought of Friday night Eastern League baseball is imbued with romance, an outing comparable with a candlelit dinner in a Michelin-starred Paris restaurant or a leisurely boat ride along the canals of Venice. The Baysox are capitalizing on such intense and automatic associations with their "Date Night at the Diamond" ticket package, in which $20 procures two tickets, a carousel ride, a flower, and a commemorative picture beneath a romantic archway. A quick word of advice to Bowie city planners: prepare yourselves for a late January population explosion.

Hickory Crawdads (South Atlantic League)
Memphis Redbirds (Pacific Coast League)
Myrtle Beach Pelicans (Carolina League)
San Jose Giants (California League)
Royal Wedding Night, April 29
Last week's Promotion Preview column featured a write-up on the Toledo Mud Hens' "Royal Wedding Rehearsal" theme night, a fitting pre-cursor to what is turning out to be an industry-wide celebration of Will and Kate's impending nuptials. Further research has uncovered no fewer than four clubs dedicating an evening to the occasion, with the Redbirds in particular receiving points for creativity. Highlights of Memphis' promotion include an on-site fan proposal (with the groom-to-be receiving a free bachelor party suite for his troubles), season ticket holders "Roy" and "Al" teaming up to toss a particularly meaningful first pitch, and two fans receiving seat upgrades after being named "King" and "Queen." Displaced anglophiles will be heartened to know that "English Heritage" group outing ticket packages are currently available as well.

Omaha Storm Chasers (Pacific Coast League)
Warren Buffett Replica Road Jersey, April 30
Plenty of Minor League teams regularly set up concession stand buffets, and plenty more regularly stage promotions in honor of Jimmy Buffet and his legion of "Parrotheads." But only one team counts startlingly prescient billionaire investor Warren Buffett among its ownership group -- the Omaha Storm Chasers. The newly rechristened team will give away 2,500 Warren Buffett replica road jerseys on Saturday, with the number on the back (1/16) representing his stake in the franchise. It is believed that this is the first giveaway jersey in Minor League history to honor an octogenarian investor with a 6.25% ownership share, but further research is needed before being able to say for certain.

Salem Red Sox (Carolina League)
Cooter appearing with the real General Lee, April 30
"The Dukes of Hazzard" was inarguably one of the greatest TV shows of all time, its recurring "moonshiners vs. obese county commissioner" story line serving as a heartwarming metaphor for the triumph of the common man over entrenched corruption. The Salem Red Sox are celebrating this enduring narrative on Saturday by hosting Hazzard County's resident mechanic Ben "Cooter" Jones, who will be accompanied by the iconic "General Lee" 1969 Dodge Charger. Don't be surprised if an impromptu car chase breaks out on the concourse, initiated by a couple of modern day Robin Hoods fightin' the system.

Tennessee Smokies (Southern League)
Starlin Castro Bobblehead and Prom Night, April 30
Come for the undulating figurine, stay for the tribute to an adolescent rite of passage! That, in essence, is the Smokies' pitch to fans on Saturday. The first 2,000 fans receive a Starlin Castro bobblehead, in honor of the 2010 Smokie-turned-Chicago Cub. Then it's time to revel in awkward Prom Night memories, featuring staff members in formal attire, tuxedo-adorned player headshots, and members of the visiting Mudcats walking to the plate to "last-dance" songs such as "I've Had the Time of My Life." Romantic intrigue will be in the air all evening; rumor has it that mascot Slugger is trying to work up the nerve to ask on-field host Mollie to Prom. Go for it, dude!

Wilmington Blue Rocks (Carolina League)
Dancing With the Stars Night featuring Edyta Silwinska, April 30
Edyta Silwinska was a Dancing With the Stars mainstay over the show's first 10 seasons, pairing with everyone from Joey Lawrence to Lawrence Taylor. The 29-year-old sashays her way to Wilmington on Saturday, highlighting a footloose and fancy-free evening at the ballpark. The team's "Dance Package" group ticket offer includes a pregame meet and greet and autograph session, and the five local dance groups that purchase the most tickets will perform on field in front of Edyta's watchful eye. Perhaps she'll even be able to convince elusive mascot Mr. Celery to join her in performance, an occasion that would bring a tear to the eye of even the most stalwart opponents of anthropomorphic vegetable-men.

Reading Phillies (Eastern League)
Crazy Hot Dog Vendor Metal Lunchbox Giveaway, May 1
One of the joys of each new Minor League Baseball season is discovering the ways in which the Reading Phillies plan to immortalize the Crazy Hot Dog Vendor. This year's promo schedule honors the bespectacled ostrich-rider in a variety of ways, including a "Paint-Your-Own-Bobblehead," night light and (most impressively) a 550-pound life-size replica giveaway. It all starts with this Sunday's Crazy Hot Dog Vendor metal lunch box, distributed to the first 2,000 children in attendance. The item is also suitable for safe and effective transport of breakfast or dinner, if you're into that sort of thing.

Lehigh Valley IronPigs (International League)
Dancin' Dirt Dudes Chia-Bobblehead Giveaway, May 2
In the past, there have been bobbleheads honoring both dancing grounds crew members (see the Fresno Grizzlies "Drag Kings" bobblehead ) and Chia dolls honoring head groundskeepers (see the Charleston RiverDogs' Mike Williams doll). And now, inevitably, we have a dancing grounds crew Chia-bobblehead giveaway to contend with. The team staging the promo in question are the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, who are honoring their beloved "Dirt Dudes" with a giveaway that combines the excitement of bad dancing with the intrigue of watching grass grow. The item is for the first 3,000 adults in attendance because, let's face it: kids can't handle this kind of responsibility.

Frederick Keys (South Atlantic League)
Purist Night, May 3
A common sentiment among those who work in Minor League Baseball is "If we only marketed to the purists, we'd be out of a job." This attitude is borne out of the hard reality that there simply aren't enough pure baseball fans to fill the park on a regular basis, and therefore the need exists to pull in customers from every conceivable demographic. But exceptions can be made to this all-inclusive approach, as evidenced by the Keys' "Purist Night" promo. For one gloriously serene evening, the ballpark will be free of mascots, videoboard prompts, between-inning contests, and other hallmarks of the ADD-addled gameday experience. If promos like this become more popular, then the first person out of a job will be me.

Bonus Coverage: Because I clearly have nothing else going on, here are seven promotions that could have been included in last week's column -- could have been but weren't:

Spring Cleaning Giveaway (Toledo Mud Hens, April 19, 21-22): The Mud Hens emptied out their storage closet, surprising and delighting fans with a bizarre cornucopia of past-their-prime giveaway items.

Tree Sapling Giveaway (South Bend Silver Hawks, April 22): How did you celebrate Arbor Day?

Bryan Stow Night (Fresno Grizzlies, April 23): $10 of each $15 ticket went toward the Stow Fund, benefiting Bryan Stow and his family. Stow remains in critical condition after being assaulted outside of Dodger Stadium on Opening Day.

Salute the Beaver Night (Harrisburg Senators, April 25): After beavers caused a water main break in the city of Harrisburg, the Senators decided to pay tribute to these resourceful yet troublesome creatures.

Go Fly a Kite Night (Akron Aeros, April 26): In celebration of National Kite Month, fans were invited onto the field for a pregame flying session. This promo definitely had strings attached.

Little League World Champions Anniversary Celebration (Lakewood BlueClaws, April 26): A night in celebration of the 1975 Lakewood Little League team, with manager Dick Work in attendance.

Steve Klauke 2,500th Game (Salt Lake Bees, April 26): The Bees' first and only play-by-play man celebrated a significant milestone behind the mic.

Benjamin Hill is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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