What started as a happy little idea has morphed into one of the Daytona Tortugas' biggest promotions of the year.
Saturday is "Bob Ross Night" at Jackie Robinson Ballpark, during which the Tortugas -- Class A Advanced affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds -- pay homage to one of Daytona Beach's most beloved native sons. Bob Ross, of course, was the big-haired, benevolent, endlessly encouraging host of PBS's long-running Joy of Painting. Ross, who passed away in 1995 at the age of 52, hosted 403 episodes of the nature-landscape-themed show between 1983 and 1994.
On "Bob Ross Night," the first 1,000 fans in attendance will receive a bobblehead featuring the iconic painter decked out in a Tortugas jersey. This marks the first time that the Tortugas have ever staged a bobblehead giveaway.
"It's been a whirlwind," said Tortugas president Ryan Keur. "We reached out to Bob Ross' foundation [Bob Ross Incorporated], and they were so excited. They gave us permission to use Bob Ross' name and do the bobblehead. They've played an integral role in all the little pieces, transforming this into a full day of Bob Ross activities."
Those "little pieces" include the "Bob Ross Happy Little 5K," which will take place Saturday morning. Keur noted that, throughout the run, there will be eight-foot canvases at which competitors can stop and paint. Fans can also sign up for a $35 ticket package that includes game tickets, a bobblehead and a pregame painting class taught by certified instructors wearing Bob Ross wigs.
"It just continues to take off," said Keur. "[Tuesday] we're introducing a ticket package with a Bob Ross T-shirt, and I think the Bob Ross Chia Head we have in our office will be making an appearance. We're also unveiling a tree planting on our [ballpark] riverwalk that will be dedicated to Bob Ross. We'll have lookalike contests throughout the game, and Bob Ross DVDs as prizes.
"Theme nights are cool, but you've really got to embrace them," he concluded. "This is one we've had circled for a long time, and we're happy it's only a few days away."
Coming Soon! We've only just begun, of course. What follows is a thorough, yet by no means exhaustive, list of other notable Minor League Baseball promotions taking place this week.
July 13: The Delmarva Shorebirds are giving away "Mystery Bobbleheads." According to the team, "mystery" in this case means "random bobbleheads from other sports teams, universities, companies, etc."
July 14: The Shorebirds are once again giving away bobbleheads, and this time there's no mystery. The first 1,000 fans through the gates receive "Vintage Manny Machado" undulating figurines.
The Hartford Yard Goats pay tribute to the NHL's late, lamented Hartford Whalers via their inaugural "Whalers Alumni Weekend." The Yard Goats, whose team colors reference the Whalers, will wear Whalers theme jerseys. And, of course, a bevy of alumni from the defunct NHL franchise will make appearances at the ballpark.
It's Christmas in July in Kane County, and the Cougars are celebrating by giving away Cousin Eddie bobbleheads to the first 1,500 fans in attendance. Cousin Eddie, of course, was an unforgettably crude character in the classic comedy National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation.
During his 1999-2002 tenure as a Memphis Redbirds player, Stubby Clapp endeared himself to fans via his penchant for onfield back flips. Clapp's now the Redbirds manager, and the team is paying homage to his acrobatic ways with a "Stubby Clapp Backflip bobblehead."
The Richmond Flying Squirrels stage "Yacht Rock Night," a tribute to the light, breezy and impeccably produced music of luminaries such as Hall and Oates, Steely Dan and Toto. Yacht Rock tank tops will be distributed, and Yacht Rock tribute band Three Sheets to the Wind will take the stage prior to that evening's game.
July 15: The premier date on the Charlotte Knights' promo calendar has finally arrived. As part of a wide-ranging homage to Carolina barbecue, the team will suit up as the "Pitmasters."
There'll be plenty of bells and whistles during the Frisco RoughRiders' "Retro Game Show Night," which includes campy, bombastic theme jerseys mimicking the aesthetic of '70s game shows. Bob Eubanks, best known for hosting The Newlywed Game, will be the evening's guest of honor.
Jason Heyward's biggest contribution to the 2016 Chicago Cubs just may have been the inspirational speech he gave to his teammates during a rain delay in Game Seven of the World Series. The Myrtle Beach Pelicans, proud Cubs affiliate that they are, are giving away a Jason Heyward "King of Rain Delays" talking bobblehead. It remains to be seen if this talking miniature version of Heyward can inspire the Pelicans -- or anyone -- to victory.
July 16: The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders' post-game fireworks are billed as a "Kosher Kaboom." What makes fireworks kosher? They are being shot off on a Sunday night and can therefore be enjoyed by Sabbath-observing Jewish fans.
July 17: The Lake Elsinore Storm stage "Nothing Night," a non-promotional idea that they originated and has since been copied by other teams. On "Nothing Night," there are no tickets, promotions, mascots, between-inning contests, music or PA announcements. Once these superfluous details are eliminated, all one is left with is baseball.
Andrew Benintendi bobbleheads will be distributed by the Portland Sea Dogs, representing the final piece in the team's interlocking "Win, Dance, Repeat" Red Sox outfield triumvirate.
July 18: It's "Track Night" with the Tri-City ValleyCats, highlighted by the distribution of Chad Brown bobbleheads. Brown, who has roots in the Tri-Cities (New York) area, is one of the most successful horse trainers of all time.