Minor League teams are known for their game-day promotions. On Tuesdays for the remainder of 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 email@example.com with the subject line: "Promo Preview."
Fort Myers Miracle (Florida State League)
What Would Tim Tebow Do?, Aug. 26
University of Florida quarterback Tim Tebow is treated with God-like reverence in the Sunshine State, a fact that the Miracle are lampooning with Wednesday's "What Would Tim Tebow Do?" night. Fans will receive promise rings upon entering the stadium, because "Tim is saving himself for marriage and you should too." But that's not all! The first pitch will instead be a jump-pass, a local man with the same name will attempt to walk on water, a faith healer will roam the stands curing various ailments, inspirational Tebow speeches will play on the videoboard and Gatorade will be sold at the concession stands. The Miracle are even offering free tickets to Sunday's game should any player make an error, because mistakes are most unTebow-like.
Iowa Cubs (Pacific Coast League)
Autographed Baseballs Giveaway, Aug. 26
To a large extent, we are all at the mercy of that which we cannot control. This week, the promotion that most embodies this essential life truth is the Iowa Cubs' autographed baseball giveaway. A whopping 3,000 signed spheres will be distributed to the fans, but whose autograph one will receive is a total crapshoot. A few of the more marquee names include Andre Dawson, Greg Maddux, Gaylord Perry, Pete Rose and Willie Mays, but most of the balls will feature a current (or recent) member of the I-Cubs. So while fans should hope for the best, they should also be prepared to fully embrace whomever it is they end with. Beauty is in the eye of the ball-holder, after all.
New Hampshire Fisher Cats (Eastern League)
Papelbon Bobble-Leg Giveaway, Aug. 26
Ted Williams Hitters' Hall of Fame Bobblehead Giveaway, Aug. 31
The Fisher Cats are giving away two bobbleheads this week, and together they encompass the full range of bobble possibilities (or "bobblebilities," if you are a fan of insufferable uses of the English language). Wednesday's Jonathan Papelbon bobble-leg represents the experimental end of the spectrum, bobbling an unorthodox appendage and also documenting a very specific moment in space and time (Papelbon's on-field jig in celebration of clinching the AL East in 2007). Monday's Ted Williams bobblehead represents timeless traditionalism, as it features perhaps the greatest hitter of all time with a bat in his hands -- no back story required. That there is room for both approaches illustrates the beautiful open-mindedness of Minor League Baseball -- and, by extension, America.
Jamestown Jammers (New York-Penn League)
Space Night, Aug. 27
I enjoy covering Minor League promotions because there are an "infinitely vast" number of things that can be done in order to get fans through the turnstiles. And one of the things that teams can do is salute "infinite vastness" itself -- space! The Jammers will be doing just that Thursday, and Russell Diethrick Ballpark will be the final frontier. Fans who make the trek receive an educational DVD as well as the opportunity to observe the heavens via a high-powered telescope. But those who really want the opportunity to contemplate their universal insignificance are invited to spend the night in the stadium, gazing up at the stars and wondering "Is camping out at on a Minor League Baseball field really all there is?"
Lowell Spinners (New York-Penn League)
Mickey Ward Bobblehead Giveaway, Aug. 27
Extreme Blue the Frisbee Dog Bobblehead Giveaway, Aug. 29
Gary DiSarcina Bobblehead Giveaway, Aug. 31
So a boxer, a dog and a former Major League shortstop walk into a bar, and the bartender says "Hey, look, it's this week's Spinners promotional schedule!" That bartender didn't have the knack for a good punch line, but he was remarkably well-informed when it comes to New York-Penn League giveaways. In the span of four days, the Spinners are distributing bobbleheads featuring fighter (and upcoming A-List biopic subject) Mickey Ward, Frisbee-catching wonder dog Extreme Blue and current Spinners skipper (and former Angels infielder) Gary DiSarcina. Never in the annals of bobblehead history have three disparate subjects been honored in such close proximity to one another, and fabricated tavern keepers have taken notice of this fact.
Lake County Captains (South Atlantic League)
Goodbye to the Sally League/Hello to the Midwest League, Aug. 28-29
The Captains, along with the Bowling Green Hot Rods, will be relocating from the South Atlantic to the Midwest League in 2010. Lake County is commemorating this momentous transition by staging back-to-back theme nights that celebrate both past and future. Friday's farewell to the South Atlantic will feature a cornucopia of facts, figures and anecdotes related to their time in the circuit. For instance, did you know that the Captains went 91-54 all-time against Hagerstown? Saturday's promotion is designed to educate fans on the new opponents who will be coming to town in 2010, with a special emphasis on the in-state Dayton Dragons. I hope that there will also be a thorough tutorial on the Midwest League's playoff procedures, because there is nothing in life that confuses me more.
West Michigan Whitecaps (Midwest League)
1984 World Champion Hat Giveaway w/ Appearances by Willie Hernandez, Dan Petry and Milt Wilcox, Aug. 28
Most teams would be loath to stage a tribute to 1984, as that year will always be associated with Orwell's dystopian vision of a totalitarian surveillance state. For Tigers fans, such unsavory connotations are wholly negated by the fact that 1984 was the last year the club won the World Series. And this is what the Whitecaps will be commemorating Friday. One thousand 1984 World Champion hats will be given away, and a triumvirate of team alumni -- Willie Hernandez, Dan Petry and Milt Wilcox -- will be on hand to pose for pictures and sign autographs. Big Brother will be nowhere in sight, unless you elect to attend the game with an older sibling.
Jacksonville Suns (Southern League)
Blackout Night, Aug. 29
The best way to create true home-field advantage is by turning one's facility into a psychological house of horrors that thoroughly unsettles the hapless opposition. There are many ways to go about doing this, but perhaps the simplest is to outfit the fans in the same clothing. This transforms the crowd into a seething single organism, one united in its conviction that the home team is in fact the superior team. The Suns will achieve this effect on Saturday when they distribute black team logo t-shirts to the first 3,000 fans in attendance. The negation of individuality as a means of achieving mass consciousness has never been so much fun.
Lehigh Valley IronPigs (International League)
Oven Mitt Giveaway, Aug. 31
Energy-drained and road-weary baseball players are currently slogging through the "Dog Days of Summer," and in my own way I'm suffering from the same sort of fatigue. There are only so many promotions to go around, and more and more I'm finding myself at a loss as to what to write about. So take a look at this: The IronPigs are giving away team-logo oven mitts on Monday! In addition to serving as protective kitchen gloves, these fine items can also be utilized for catching foul balls in the stands! Was that observation clever enough? I hope so, because beyond that I've got nothing.
Vancouver Canadians (Northwest League)
Bill "Spaceman" Lee Appearance, Aug. 31
These days, a player can gain the label of "iconoclast" simply by dancing a celebratory jig in a provocative manner. But in the far more lenient '70s, athletes still had the freedom to promote truly counter-cultural lifestyles and modes of thought. One of the decades' most free-spirited individuals was Bill "Spaceman" Lee, a Mao-quoting, health food-eating marijuana smoker who was immortalized in song by Warren Zevon. The "Spaceman" lands in Vancouver on Monday, where he will pose for pictures and sign autographs for earthling and alien alike.
Bonus Coverage: Because I am not going to deviate from routine in this, the penultimate column of the season, here are seven promotions that could have been included in last week's column. Could have been, but weren't.
Dennis Holmberg's No. 35 Retired (Auburn Doubledays, Aug. 19): The Doubledays surprised their still-active skipper by retiring his number. He can still wear it, though.
TwitCam Broadcast (Hudson Valley Renegades, Aug. 21): The Renegades made history by broadcasting their game via Twitter. The world will never be the same.
John Lannan Bobblehead Giveaway (Potomac Nationals, Aug. 22): Imagine that! A bobblehead giveaway! At a Minor League ballpark!
Unemployment Night (Hickory Crawdads, Aug. 23): In which jobless fans were able to procure up to four complimentary tickets to the evening's ballgame.
Jack McDowell Appearance (Stockton Ports, Aug. 23): None of the other members of V.I.E.W. were able to make it.
Dave Doster Inducted into Reading Baseball Hall of Fame (Reading Phillies, Aug. 25): I don't have the room to get into the reasons why, but I have always been a big fan of Dave Doster.