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On the Road: The Daytona Tortugas abide

FSL club celebrates 'The Big Lebowski' with bowling, bathrobes
The Tortugas staged "The Big Shellbowski Night" on Saturday, a wide-ranging 20th anniversary celebration of a cult classic.
July 16, 2018

Think The Big Lebowski and baseball don't mix? Yeah, well, you know, that's just, like, your opinion, man. 

Think The Big Lebowski and baseball don't mix? Yeah, well, you know, that's just, like, your opinion, man. 

The Daytona Tortugas staged "The Big Shellbowski Night" on Saturday, a wide-ranging 20th anniversary celebration of the 1998 cult classic. The Class A Advanced Cincinnati Reds affiliate, whose name is Spanish for "turtles," gave away a bobblehead of a turtle-shelled Dude. There were White Russian drink specials, a bathrobe-clad mascot and on-field emcee, a Dude lookalike contest, a between-inning ball cleaning contest and a pregame lawn bowling tournament.(This writer participated in the latter two endeavors, winning the ball cleaning contest but finishing dead last at lawn bowling.) Other, comparatively subtle elements included movie clips on the videoboard, a classic rock soundtrack (no Eagles) and audio clips of Walter yelling "Mark it zero!" after every half-inning in which the opposing Bradenton Marauders failed to score. 
Tweet from @daytonatortugas: [email protected] ���mark it eight, dude.��� #BigSHELLbowskiNight pic.twitter.com/Dff5aNskBg
The lawn bowling tournament, an homage to the Dude, Donny and Walter's favorite pastime, was held at a tennis court adjacent to the Tortuga's home of Jackie Robinson Ballpark. Eight teams of two participated, competing under names inspired by the film (Shut Up Donny) and otherwise (Butt Sweat and Tears was a particularly cheeky monker). The winning team recieved a rug. 
Tweet from @kyzman: This will tie the room together. Thank you, @daytonatortugas #ShellYeah #BigSHELLbowski pic.twitter.com/JUHigQBVbV
"For the last day and a half [the rug] has been here, it's really tied the ballpark together," said Tortugas director of sales Austin Scher. "Maybe it will help tie a room in the winner's home together as well. I did find that there are companies that make exact replicas of the movie rug, but since we don't do anything conventionally here we just decided to go unconventional and go with the blue version of the originally red rug. Just to let people think about that light blue accent in our logo."
Tweet from @daytonatortugas: The ShellDude abides. #BigSHELLbowskiNight pic.twitter.com/KZLCxBR1Uc
Scher, a big fan of The Big Lebowski, was the driving force behind the Tortugas' promotion. 

"This is my first year here in Daytona. I saw what they were able to do promotionally last year, especially with Bob Ross Night," he said, referencing the Tortugas wide-ranging tribute to the Daytona Beach-born PBS painter. "It was more of an all-inclusive day-long event rather than something that would bring people in for the game itself. So that was kind of the motivation."
Tweet from @bensbiz: Cleaning balls, Jesus-style, during Saturday���s @daytonatortugas ���Big Shellbowski Night.��� pic.twitter.com/8CvH9uz84d
The Florida State League is, arguably, the toughest in Minor League Baseball from an operations standpoint. The 14 teams in the curcuit must contend with hot weather (punctuated by frequent thunderstorms) while competing in markets offering plenty of other entertainment options. 
"It's a Saturday in July, it's 100 degrees out in the state of Florida and we've got people lined up outside the gates before they open," said Scher. "And it's just kind of a continuation of what [Tortugas president] Ryan Keur and the team started last year, proving that when you put the product together people are going to come. And when you make sure they're enjoying their time here, they're going to come back regardless of what the age demographic in the area is, what the temperature looks like. All the things that some people have traditionally looked down on this league for, we're looking to flip on their heads. This is part of that effort."
Tweet from @daytonatortugas: ���Welp, that about does her. Wraps her all up. Things seemed to have worked out pretty good for the Dude.���And with that, #BigSHELLbowski Night comes to end. But what a night it was! #PromoOfTheYear @PromoSeminar @MiLB @bensbiz pic.twitter.com/SWCWwss2oe
The evening had one not-insignificant hitch, however. The bobbleheads did not arrive in time for the game, with the Tortugas explaining that they were "held up in international transit in port and customs." Fans instead received vouchers.
Tweet from @daytonatortugas: Fans waiting for the best bobblehead of 2018. #BigSHELLbowskiNight pic.twitter.com/3RAPMCLeLr
"I'm not sure if it's the new tariff stuff, or The Dude might be smuggling something somewhere in the bobbleheads," said Scher. "We don't really know."

Benjamin Hill is a reporter for MiLB.com and writes Ben's Biz Blog. Follow Ben on Twitter