The curtain has closed on the Minor League Baseball season. The heads have stopped bobbling, the mascots are out of costume and visiting celebrities have an entire offseason in which to hone their first pitch technique.
All that's left to do, then, is determine MiLB.com's 2010 Promotion of the Year.
In an effort to encompass as many promotions as possible into this annual roundup, this year's voting has been divided into four categories -- giveaways, theme nights, celebrity appearances and the always nebulous "miscellaneous." The nominees were selected by yours truly, with substantial input provided over the past week by readers of Ben's Biz Blog.
So take a gander at each category, click on the links provided for more info on each promotion, and then cast your vote. The polls will remain open through Wednesday at 9 a.m. ET, with the winners in each category then facing off against one another in a no-holds-barred battle to be named MiLB.com's "2010 Promotion of the Year."
From illuminated appendages to hair-growing groundskeepers, fans received a bountiful array of unique items whilst passing through the turnstiles. Behold, the nominees:
Brooklyn Cyclones -- Ike Davis Bobble Legs
Ike Davis, a member of the 2008 Cyclones, was called up by the Mets in April and immediately made a name for himself via a triumvirate of tumbling dugout catches. The fast-acting Cyclones immediately found a way to capitalize.
Charleston RiverDogs -- Groundskeeper Mike Williams Chia Head
RiverDogs groundskeeper Mike Williams lovingly cultivates the turf at Charleston's Joseph P. Riley Park. In perhaps the ultimate tribute, this item allows fans to lovingly cultivate the turf atop a ceramic likeness of Williams' head.
Iowa Cubs -- Player to Be Named Later Bobblehead
"The Player to Be Named Later" is a key part of many transactions, but he rarely gets any credit for his prominent role in the annals of baseball history. The I-Cubs rectified this oversight by distributing a bobblehead honoring a player actually named "Later."
Lake County Captains -- Skipper Leg Lamp Bobblehead
In honor of "The Christmas Story" being filmed in Cleveland, the nearby Captains gave away an item that commemorates one of the film's most memorable moments.
Lancaster JetHawks -- Robert "Hoot" Gibson Aerospace Bobblehead
Fans certainly gave a "Hoot" about this local aerospace hero, especially those dedicated to collecting all 15(!) bobbleheads that were given away as part of the JetHawks uber-impressive "Hangar Heroes" series.
Orem Owlz -- Torii Hunter Bobblearm
The Owlz honored one of their most prominent alumni with a figurine featuring Hunter in the midst of one of his signature homer-robbing catches. His arm may bobble, but the ball remains firmly ensconced in his glove.
Portland Beavers -- Viewmaster Giveaway
3-D is experiencing a major cultural revival, and the Beavers capitalized by giving away team-logo versions of the iconic Viewmaster. The item came equipped with 10 slides featuring photos of Beavers baseball as well as local military units.
St. Lucie Mets -- Banana Phone
An anthropomorphic communication-enabling fruit inspired by a Raffi song regularly played at the ballpark during opposing team pitching changes. Truly, this is what Minor League Baseball is all about.
Which was the best giveaway for the 2010 season?
|Ike Davis bobble legs
|St. Lucie's banana phone
|Captains' skipper leg lamp
|Player to be named later
|Groundskeeper Chia head
|Torii Hunter bobble arm
A night at the ballpark is always enhanced by a start-to-finish overriding promotional theme. Everything's fair game in this category, which encompasses frivolous pop-culture celebrations, divergent responses to Midwest sporting trauma and salutes to meat-tossing stadium celebrities.
Akron Aeros -- Ship Out LeBron Night
The Aeros turned Ohio's loss of LeBron James into a positive by giving fans free tickets in exchange for unwanted LeBron James apparel. The clothing collection was then donated to international relief organizations.
Brooklyn Cyclones -- Jersey? Sure! Night
The Cyclones were the first Minor League team to announce a promotion based on the infamous "Jersey Shore" reality show. The club gave away fist-pumping collectible mesh jerseys, staged dugout dance battles and gave away "GTL" gift certificates.
Fresno Grizzlies -- "Twilight" Night
Fans voted on whether the team should wear "vampire" or "werewolf" theme jerseys, sat in sections denoting their loyalty to Edward or Jacob and watched a screening of "Twilight: New Moon" following the game. It all took place on a lunar eclipse while raising money for a blood bank.
Lake County Captains -- Please Stay LeBron Night
In a spirited, but ultimately unsuccessful bid to get LeBron to stay, the team changed their name to the "LeLake LeCounty LeCaptains." Fans waved "Please Stay!" signs as the home team came out to the field in a baby powder haze.
Lake Elsinore Storm -- Obscure Sports Night
Caber throwing, wife carrying and keg heaving all got their due, but nothing could compete with the pure spectacle of fish tossing. There were more fish on the field than at a Marlins intrasquad game.
Lowell Spinners -- 50 Years of Bubble Wrap Celebration
The sight of 3,692 fans simultaneously popping Bubble Wrap in the stands was the highlight of this promotion, but there was much more. Fifty-year-olds danced atop Bubble Wrap to the music of 50 Cent, and one lucky fan won a year's supply of popcorn because the game's 50th batter popped out.
Reading Phillies -- Salute to the Crazy Hot Dog Vendor
Kids received Crazy Hot Dog Vendor t-shirts, but his most zealous supporters showed up at the stadium in full regalia (including their own ostrich). Players took the field wearing faux bow-tie theme jerseys while the man himself signed autographs for his adoring fan base.
Trenton Thunder -- World Cup Night featuring Racing Babies
The evening featured a soccer ball giveaway, but the real draw was the team's attempt to predict the Group C outcome via an on-field pregame baby race. Baby USA emerged victorious, but sadly the team he was representing failed to do the same.
Which is the top theme night of the 2010 season?
|Jersey? Sure! Night
|Ship Out Lebron Night
|50 Years of Bubblewrap
|World Cup Night
|Salute to Crazy Hot Dog Vendor
|Please Stay Lebron Night
|Obscure Sports Night
It's hard to resist the allure of a bold-faced name at the ballpark, especially when they come ready and willing to mingle with the common folk in exchange for a modest appearance fee. Some of the best:
Arkansas Travelers -- Jose Canseco Pregame Boxing Match
The esteemed memoirist went toe-to-toe with 60-year-old ex-baseball coach Gary Hogan in a pregame boxing match -- and lost! Hogan's four-round triumph will go down in history as one of the greatest upsets ever.
Fresno Grizzlies -- Alfonso "Carlton" Ribiero
The Fresh Prince of Bel Air co-star was the highlight of the Grizzlies' "Mad Tight 90s Night," as he signed autographs, posed for pictures and demonstrated his prodigious and oft-imitated dance moves.
Lakewood BlueClaws -- Jeff "Chunk" Cohen
There were several Goonies anniversary celebrations in the Minors this season, but only one featured "Chunk" himself. The guest of honor participated in an array of activities, even judging a "Truffle Shuffle" contest.
Oklahoma City RedHawks -- Peter "Chewbacca" Mayhew
The RedHawks were making Wookiee on this special evening, as the science-fiction genre's preeminent 7-foot thespian graced Bricktown Ballpark with his commanding presence.
Peoria Chiefs -- Greg Maddux Jersey Retirement Ceremony
A quarter-century after his lone season with the Chiefs, Maddux returned to Peoria in order to see his No. 31 retired at O'Brien Field. A classy night at a Class A ballpark.
Reading Phillies -- Dennis "Mr. Belding" Haskins
The "Saved By the Bell" principal went all-out in this appearance, leading fans in pregame karaoke and singing during the Seventh-Inning Stretch while being wheeled around the field by a costumed carrot.
Round Rock Express -- Rojo Johnson (Will Ferrell)
In this conceptual comedy masterpiece, a jewelry-wearing, Bud-drinking relief pitcher by the name of Rojo Johnson took the mound for the Round Rock Express. Chaos ensued.
Vermont Lake Monsters -- Bill "Spaceman" Lee and Dennis "Oil Can" Boyd
An unbeatable 1-2 punch of mound-based eccentricity, this well-loved and oft-controversial pair greatly increased the energy levels at Vermont's Centennial Field.
Which is the best celebrity appearance of the 2010 season?
|Jose Canseco vs. Gary Hogan
|Will 'Rojo Johnson' Ferrell
|Greg Maddux jersey retirement
|Jeff 'Chunk from Goonies' Cohen
|Dennis 'Mr. Belding' Haskins
|Bill 'Spaceman' Lee and Dennis 'Oil Can' Boyd
|Alfonso 'Carlton' Ribiero
|Peter 'Chewbacca' Mayhew
Because the inability to properly categorize something has no bearing whatsoever on its quality, here are eight additional high-caliber promotions.
Birmingham Barons -- Rickwood Classic
As they have for each of the past 15 years, the Barons returned to their old haunt for an afternoon matinee of nostalgia-drenched baseball. This year's Classic had a special significance, as it marked Rickwood's 100th birthday.
Daytona Cubs -- Front Row Joe's 1,000th Game
D-Cubs super-fan "Front Row" Joe Rowe attended his 1,000th consecutive game, and to celebrate the team wore retro jerseys and rolled back concession prices to what they were when the streak began.
Frederick Keys -- Volt Night
Superstar chef (and Frederick native) Bryan Voltaggio set up a concession stand at the ballpark, and the results were sublime. Dippin' Dots Rock Shrimp Ceviche, anyone?
Huntsville Stars -- Car Survivor
The premise was simple: Five individuals entered an automobile parked outside of Huntsville's Joe Davis Stadium, with the last to exit winning the car. Machiavellian maneuvering ensued.
Mobile BayBears -- Opening of Hank Aaron Childhood Home and Museum
A truly unprecedented initiative in which the BayBears moved Hank Aaron's childhood home to the grounds of aptly named Hank Aaron Stadium. The Opening Night ceremony featured Aaron and a bevy of Hall of Fame friends.
Omaha Royals -- Final Game at Rosenblatt Stadium
Nearly 24,000 fans turned out to say goodbye to Rosenblatt, a 62-year-old facility known for hosting the Omaha Royals and the annual College World Series.
San Antonio Missions -- Randy vs. Puffy Taco, the Rematch
In 1992, the Puffy Taco mascot defeated 11-year-old Randy Neuenfeldt in a race around the bases. Eighteen years later, he finally got a chance to redeem himself.
Savannah Sand Gnats -- Fire Run around the Basepaths
Incendiary stuntman Ted Batchelor was lit on fire and circled the bases before sliding into home. That image is burned into the minds of all lucky enough to witness it.
Which is the best other promotion of the 2010 season?
|Rickwood's 100th anniversary
|Opening of Aaron Museum
|Last game at Rosenblatt
|Fire walk around the bases
|Front Row Joe's 1,000th game
|Puffy Taco rematch