Thunder fans scavenge for a cause

River Bandits fundraise for autism research, deal Mauer dolls

Trenton fans will compete in a county treasure hunt before taking in a Thunder game on Aug. 10.

By Benjamin Hill / | August 6, 2013 6:26 AM

Minor League teams are known for the creativity of their gameday promotions. On Tuesdays this season, we preview 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" or send him a Tweet -- hashtag "#promopreview."

If you're in the Trenton area this Saturday, then, well, you might end up seeing some pretty strange things. The Thunder are staging their third annual "Treasure Hunt," a county-wide free-for-all that the team calls the most "unique, fun and competitive" event that they have ever hosted. tickets

The Treasure Hunt costs $25 to enter, and each participant must be part of teams of two to four people. It all kicks off at the Thunder's Arm & Hammer Park at noon, when the teams are given a list of "treasure" that they will spend the afternoon searching for throughout the entirety of Mercer County (of which Trenton is a part). The winning team receives $1,000, with the remainder of the proceeds benefiting the Thunder's Community Grant Program.

"We put together a huge list of things to do and visit. Sometimes it will be something really specific, sometimes it's just a hint," said Thunder director of media relations Bill Cook, who helps to coordinate the event. "There are lots of different types of clues, way more than anyone can do in one day, so you have to strategize. … It's really anybody's game because it depends how quickly you can get around and how you play the point values. It's really beneficial to have a plan."

Cook remarked that compiling the treasure list is "harder than you think."

"One that I really liked was that that teams were required to go to a First Choice Bank [a Thunder sponsor] and take a picture," said Cook. "You could go to any branch, and points were awarded based on the creativity of the photo. We had people posing in all sorts of positions, and one team had kayaking gear in their car so they used that as prop."

Highlights in years past also included high-fiving a Wawa clerk (Wawa being a much-revered Philadelphia-area convenience store), getting a picture with local policemen and firemen, or locating the largest tooth in Mercer County (hint: it's near the train station). Cook said that at the end of the day, it's a win-win situation in that money is raised for charity, one team receives a hefty $1,000 award, and even the losers recoup their registration fee when they take in that evening's ballgame.

We're always curious to see how it goes. If it's a beautiful day then everyone is going to have so much fun, and then at the end of it you get to watch a game from the picnic area," he said. "It's a $25 donation to enter and it usually costs $26 to watch in the picnic area so, really, you can't lose."

For more can't-lose Minor League Baseball propositions, please peruse the following highlights from the upcoming week:

Kane County Cougars (Midwest League) 25th Anniversary of First Cubs Night Game, August 8 tickets
8/8/88 was a memorable date above and beyond numerical synchronicity, as this was when the Chicago Cubs finally played a night game at Wrigley Field (or they tried to, at least, as the game was called in the fourth inning and thus not an official contest). The Cougars are celebrating the quarter-century anniversary of this momentous Second City happenstance by "lighting up the night sky" -- first with a light-up keychain giveaway and then with a post-game fireworks show. Here's hoping that the Cougars also find a way to get Morganna the Kissing Bandit to the ballpark; the notorious stadium gate-crasher showed up at Wrigley on 8/8/88 and attempted to lay a smooch on Ryne Sandberg as he was standing in the on-deck circle.

Quad Cities River Bandits (Midwest League) Autism Awareness Photo Jersey, August 9 tickets
Last season the Quad Cities River Bandits broke new ground by wearing fundraising photo-themed jerseys as part of a cancer awareness promotion. The number on each jersey featured 198 photo squares available for purchase, with each photo depicting an individual who had been affected by cancer. This altruistic endeavor returns Friday, and this time the River Bandits are raising funds on behalf of the Quad Cities Autism Center. Fans may purchase photo squares for $25, with all proceeds from photo sales and the ensuing jersey auction benefiting the organization.

San Jose Giants (California League) A Giant Luau, August 9 tickets
Hawai'i may be the last state to have been admitted into this union, but it's first in the hearts of the San Jose Giants. The team's seventh annual Giant Luau takes place on Friday, treating fans to a non-stop celebration of Hawaiian culture. The first 1,000 fans in attendance receive leis and thundersticks, with fans already sporting Hawaiian duds receiving free tickets to an upcoming game. Entertainment will be provided by the band Eono Kane (accompanied by the Halau Na Wai Ola hula dancers), with chefs from San Jose's Hukilau Restaurant serving authentic cuisine. The players' Hawai'i-themed jerseys will be auctioned off after the game, with one fan receiving a trip to Hawai'i courtesy of none other than, uh, Alaska Airlines.

Greeneville Astros (Appalachian League) U.S.S. Greeneville Bobblesub Giveaway, August 10 tickets
For each of the past seven seasons, the Greeneville Astros (or G-Stros, as I'm not sure anyone calls them) have given away a "Hometown Hero" bobbletown. Past honorees have included the likes of President Andrew Johnson and big leaguer Rance Pless, but this year the team is going in a different direction. On Saturday fans will receive what is perhaps the first-ever "bobble-sub," in honor of the U.S.S. Greeneville submarine that was named after the town and is stationed in Pearl Harbor. This makes sense, really, as "Hero" and "Sub" are sandwich synonyms. Maybe next season the G-Stros will honor a hometown hoagie?

Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders (International League) Magic Night with Houdini Paperweight Giveaway, August 10 tickets
The RailRiders represent a great summertime escape for fans throughout the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre region, but those looking for more literal forms of escape are perhaps better served by Scranton's Houdini Museum. On Saturday these two disparate northeastern Pennsylvania entertainment entities are teaming up, as its "Magic Night" at the RailRiders game. This celebration of the art of deception begins at the gate -- the first 2,500 fans in attendance receive Houdini paperweights. Perhaps these souvenir trinkets can be put to use on some Scranton-based Dunder-Mifflin product?

Into the Ellipse…

Because sometimes 991 words isn't enough, here are even more notable promotions taking place throughout the Minor Leagues this week.

  • August 7: It's "Thanksgiving in August" in Quad Cities, so the River Bandits are staging a "Mega Bicycle Giveaway." This totally makes sense.
  • August 8: The Akron Aeros commemorate Jamaican Independence the only way they know how: by celebrating the 20th anniversary of Cool Runnings.
  • August 9: Orlando Cepeda -- yes, the Orlando Cepeda -- visits Stockton's Banner Island Ballpark.
  • August 10: It's a big night for bobbleheads: Vinny Castilla in Colorado Springs, Nolan Ryan in Corpus Christi, Craig Kimbrel in Gwinnett, Billy Hamilton in Louisville, Francisco Lindor in Mahoning Valley, Vince Coleman in Quad Cities and Will Middlebrooks in Salem.
  • August 11: You want more bobbleheads? Fine. How about Brandon Nimmo in Brooklyn, Tyler Moore in Potomac, Joe Mauer in Quad Cities and Shelby Miller in Springfield? Is that good enough for you?
  • August 12: Hold the wheat, rye and barley! It's "Gluten Free Night" in Omaha.
  • August 13: Larry Walker makes an appearance at the Vancouver Canadians game, delighting fans who consider him to be one of their "favourite" players.

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

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