Minor League teams are known for their game-day promotions. Every Tuesday during the season, we'll preview 10 of the best 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."
Greenville Drive (South Atlantic League)
"Shoeless" Joe Jackson Night
Wednesday, April 11 vs. Columbus Catfish
"Shoeless" Joe Jackson hit .356 over his Major League career, the third-highest in Major League history. Yet, due to his involvement in the "Black Sox" scandal of 1919, he is permanently ineligible for the Hall of Fame. Many fans consider this to be a grave oversight on the part of the baseball establishment, and nowhere is this more true than in Jackson's hometown of Greenville, S.C. On Wednesday, the Drive will celebrate their local hero by distributing "Shoeless Joe" Hall of Fame plaques to season-ticket holders. Additionally, the club is encouraging fans to bring new or gently used shoes to the stadium, which will be donated to Soles4Souls. This Nashville-based charity is dedicated to bringing quality footwear to those affected by natural disasters and other calamitous events.
South Bend Silver Hawks (Midwest League)
Ugly Sweater Night and Clothing Drive
Wednesday, April 11 vs. Dayton Dragons
The first week of the 2007 Minor League season has been characterized by unseasonably cold weather, forcing fans to wear many layers of clothing in order to stay warm. Now, the Silver Hawks are asking fans to look as ridiculous as possible in their attempts to endure the cold. The club is holding "Ugly Sweater Night," and fans will compete throughout the game for the coveted honor of having the absolute ugliest sweater. The "winner" receives a shopping spree at Goodwill, a fine charitable organization that will be the evening's true beneficiary. The Silver Hawks are encouraging fans to bring unwanted clothing to the ballpark for donation to Goodwill, and those who do so will receive a free ticket to that night's game.
Oklahoma RedHawks (Pacific Coast League)
Opening Night with Bobby Murcer
Friday, April 13 vs. Memphis Redbirds
The RedHawks have dedicated their Opening Night ballgame to Oklahoma native and former New York Yankee great Bobby Murcer, who was diagnosed with brain cancer late last year. The five-time All-Star will throw out the season's ceremonial first pitch, in addition to being honored in a pre-game ceremony that also includes legendary reliever Rich "Goose" Gossage. The first 2,500 fans in attendance receive commemorative Bobby Murcer baseballs, and the club will be raising money for cancer research all throughout the ballgame.
Peoria Chiefs (Midwest League) Schedule magnets for the first 1,500 fans;
Guaranteed Win Night (if Chiefs lose, fans can redeem Opening Night ticket for a game in April or May);
Managerial debut of Hall of Fame second baseman Ryne Sandberg; and
Post-game fireworks show.
Opening Night Festivites
Friday, April 13 vs. Burlington Bees
Last week we had to resort to bullet points in order to quickly convey how much the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes had planned for Opening Day. The bullet points now return (with a bullet!) for a rundown of the Chiefs' Opening Day extravaganza:
Wow. I'm winded just from typing all of that. Time to go take a nap.
Richmond Braves (International League)
Rabbit's Feet Giveaway
Friday, April 13 vs. Indianapolis Indians
Like virtually all Minor League clubs, the Braves will be distributing schedule magnets to all fans who attend on Opening Day. But early-arriving attendees (the first 2,500, to be exact) will be treated to something far more unique: a rabbit's foot key chain. The key chains will, of course, serve as good luck talismans for the Richmond Nine all season long. And lest anyone get indignant about the slaughter of innocent bunnies, let it be known that the key chains are actually "synthetic" rabbit's feet. Everyone wins.
West Michigan Whitecaps (Midwest League)
Cameron Maybin Bobblehead Giveaway
Friday, April 13 vs. South Bend Silver Hawks
Attention, Ebay speculators: the Whitecaps will be distributing 1,000 Cameron Maybin bobblehead dolls prior to Friday's contest against South Bend. For those who don't know, Maybin is one of the most highly regarded prospects in the Tigers' organization. The 20-year-old former first-round draft pick played for West Michigan in 2006 and hit .304 with nine home runs and 27 stolen bases, helping to lead the club to the Midwest League championship. In the name of all that is good and pure, it is our sincere hope that the first 1,000 fans in attendance will not be comprised entirely of Ebay speculators. Remember the children.
Sarasota Reds (Florida State League)
Ken Burns lectures on Buck O'Neil
Saturday, April 14 vs. Tampa Yankees
Esteemed documentarian Ken Burns (the man behind the spectacularly long "Baseball" mini-series which aired on PBS in 1994) will be visiting Sarasota on Saturday to help celebrate the life and legacy of Negro League legend Buck O'Neil. Burns will speak at Ed Smith Stadium in a ceremony prior to that evening's contest between the Reds and the Yankees. During the game, players from both teams will wear the uniforms of various Negro League teams, and former Negro League players will be on hand on hand to sign autographs. O'Neil, who died last October at the age of 94, grew up in Sarasota.
Toledo Mud Hens (International League)
Championship Celebration Weekend
Friday, April 13 through Sunday, April 15 vs. Durham Bulls
The Toledo Mud Hens have won the Governors' Cup for each of the past two seasons, something no International League team had accomplished since the 1979-81 Columbus Clippers. The team will be celebrating their recent IL dominance all weekend, with Championship activities taking place at a fast and furious clip. On Friday, the club's returning players will raise the 2006 Champs banner. On Saturday, returning players and coaches will receive their rings, while 3,000 fans will take home replica versions. Finally, on Sunday, championship mini-pennants will be distributed. And those are just the highlights of the weekend. A full list of the Mud Hens' planned itinerary would require more space than this column allows, and we've already used our bullet-point allotment.
Tucson Sidewinders (Pacific Coast League)
Replica Championship Ring Giveaway
Saturday, April 14 vs. Colorado Springs Sky Sox
Last season's other Triple-A champion was the Tucson Sidewinders, who defeated the Mud Hens in the inaugural "Bricktown Showdown" contest after capturing the Pacific Coast League crown. On Saturday, the Sidewinders will commemorate last season's success by giving away replica championship rings to the first 2,000 fans in attendance. Game attendees will be able to see the real thing, as well, as the official Championship ring ceremony is scheduled to take place before the game. All returning Tucson players and coaches will be honored in the ceremony.
Iowa Cubs (Pacific Coast League)
Knit Cap Giveaway
Sunday, April 15 vs. Round Rock Express
As Minor League promotions go, the Iowa Cubs stocking cap giveaway isn't a particularly memorable one. But, given how bitterly cold it has been recently, it certainly ranks as one of the most practical. The first 2,000 fans in attendance at Sunday's game will undoubtedly be the warmest, as they appreciatively don their newly acquired caps (which are smartly embossed with the team's logo). Looks like the I-Cubs have won this round. Schedule magnets and bobbleheads are all well and good, but they do nothing to make your ears warmer. And that's what matters most.