Winter (and Martin) coming to Staten Island

Yankees set to become Direwolves, host Game of Thrones creator

Author George R.R. Martin will greet fans in Staten Island on Aug. 8 as the Yankees don special uniforms. (AP, Yankees)

By Tyler Maun / MiLB.com | August 4, 2015 10:00 AM

Minor League teams are known for the creativity of their gameday promotions. On Tuesdays this season, we preview the most intriguing for the week ahead. If you'd like a particular promotion to be considered for this feature in the future, please send it to benjamin.hill@mlb.com with the subject line: "Promo Preview" or send a Tweet  to @bensbiz, hashtag "#promopreview."

When Staten Island Yankees senior director of marketing and fan experience Mike Holley came up with the idea for a night dedicated to the HBO juggernaut Game of Thrones, he took the shot in the dark of trying to email the show's creator, George R.R. Martin. When he was stunned to hear back from Martin mere hours later, it appeared he had hit a substantial roadblock.

"Sounds like fun," Martin replied. "But I'm a Mets fan."

White walkers, red weddings and pinstripes -- Game of Thrones is coming. On Saturday the Yankees will morph into being the Direwolves and welcome Martin himself to King's Landing -- or as you know it, Staten Island.

"He did an interview on one of the late-night TV shows where he mentioned he was from Bayonne (New Jersey) and that he would look and see Staten Island across the water and that, when he was a kid, that was the city to him," Holley said. "That actually was what helped him inspire the layout of King's Landing. I thought that was a cool tie in, so we should get him here."

The Yank…er...Direwolves are taking Saturday's festivities to an advanced level. With HBO helping to cultivate the concept due to Martin's enthusiasm about it, Staten Island will have the most in-depth Game of Thrones Night to hit a Minor League park yet.

"There are so many great ideas that there are so many ways for it to get shot down," Holley said. "We had to get so much permission for everything [from HBO, the show's distributor]. I was kind of holding my breath the whole time. From the start, he has been very into it. We've had a lot of email dialogues about a lot of the programming ideas, and he's said yes to this, no to this. He's had ideas of his own, so he's been a very active participant in this."

Martin will arrive at the ballpark and sign autographs for fans from 6:30-7:30. By his side will be a wolf from the Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary in Ramah, New Mexico, Martin's chosen charity for the night. Martin will address the crowd from the field -- alongside his canine friend -- and explain the organization's mission.

"They have several of what they call 'ambassador wolves,' which are wolves that have been trained and domesticated to the point where they're good around people," Holley said. "George sometimes does appearances with them in different places, so they wanted to bring that up here."

Staten Island isn't stopping at just television tie-ins. In addition to themed jerseys -- House Stark for Staten Island and House Lannister for visiting Hudson Valley -- Random House, which gave the franchise its start as a book first released in 1996, is on board to hand out copies of the original book A Game of Thrones in addition to a 1982 Martin novel titled Fevre Dream.

"They're sponsoring the hat giveaway, and they asked if they could do books as well," Holley said. "The first 2,500 through the gates are going to get a [Staten Island Direwolves] hat and two pretty substantial books, which is cool. They'll be there helping out, and they'll have a table down in George's little area where we'll have the jersey auctions and the wolf."

Adding to the intrigue of the night, the Stark-Lannister rivalry will mean something on the field as well. Just a game and a half separates last-place Hudson Valley from second-place Staten Island -- who are only a half-game behind Brooklyn for the top spot in the New York-Penn League McNamara Division. Every inning counts as the season draws late.

After all, winter is coming.

Best of the Rest

Fresno Tacos (Pacific Coast League)
Taco Truck Throwdown 5, Aug. 6

At last, the Tacos cometh. One of the Minors' most anticipated promotions arrives in the fifth installment of Fresno's battle of taco-slinging vehicles. On Thursday night, the Fresno Grizzlies will become the Tacos for one night only under the banner slogan "We Are What We Eat." The internally designed and crafted Tacos logo, wordmark and uniform have become an international craze with reports that the Grizzlies are at least mulling over the idea of a full-time change to the name. And don't forget the Throwdown. Taco trucks from all over the region will compete outside Chukchansi Park for the right to be crowned king.

Corpus Christi Hooks (Texas League)
Whataburger 65th Anniversary Party, Aug. 8

The Hooks call Whataburger Field home and will celebrate the 65th birthday of the classic A-frame franchise when they take on Midland. Whataburger started as a humble hamburger stand in Corpus Christi in 1950 and has grown to a 750-franchise in 10 states. The first 2,000 fans through the gates will receive a special Whataburger Birthday Cap. (And if you're looking or some clarity on the debate between Whataburger and In-N-Out, former Hooks pitcher and No. 2 Astros prospect Mark Appel shared his thoughts on that in the fourth episode of MiLB.com's The Show Before The Show podcast.)

Akron RubberDucks (Eastern League)
Michael Dean Perry appearance and bobblehead giveaway on Browns Night, Aug. 8

The man responsible for one of the most devastating moments of my young sports fandom will be in attendance when the 'Ducks honor him with a bobblehead of the former defensive lineman -- I assume -- hustling off the field before a crucial 12-men-on-the-field penalty. Actually, no. From the picture, it looks like the 1988 second-round pick is just standing still. Anyway, Akron will be sporting Browns replica jerseys -- as they did last year -- and entertaining fans with "$2 hot dogs, the Johnny Footlong and other delicious concessions" that may or may not include dog biscuits.

Lancaster JetHawks (California League)
Aerospace Night, Aug. 9

Back in the 1950s and '60s, some of the coolest people and biggest celebrities on the planet (and the only ones off of it) were astronauts. These days, our hero worship has trended more toward terrible musicians who sing about high school and children of rich people who start reality shows and clothing lines, the JetHawks will pay tribute to an awesome American when they host former astronaut Jerry Ross -- who landed two space shuttles at Edwards Air Force Base, just 22 miles northeast of Lancaster -- and hand out bobbleheads in his likeness to the first 1,000 fans through the gates.

Quick Hits

Aug. 5: It might not be May, but the Cedar Rapids Kernels will honor the special relationship between mothers and sons with Mother-Son Superhero Night featuring special activities for moms and their boys. … The Peoria Chiefs will honor their late former owner Pete Vonachen with a bobblehead.

Aug. 6: Yes, you are old enough that the 2000s are now their own decade to be honored by a Minor league team. The Durham Bulls will pay tribute to the 10 years that gave us things like the iPod, the euro, Napoleon Dynamite, Facebook and William Hung. … The Nashville Sounds pay homage to the Music City's long-time Minor League residents with a Nashville Volunteers bobblehead.

Aug. 7: Madison Bumgarner debuted with a breakout pro season in 2008, going 15-3 with a 1.46 ERA for the Augusta GreenJackets who will honor the 2014 World Series MVP with a bobblehead.

Aug. 8: In their primary logo, the Asheville Tourists' Mr. Moon is smiling with a closed mouth, but the club will be helping fans be proud of their smiles with a Mr. Moon Toothbrush Holder giveaway. … The Toledo Mud Hens will honor their 2005 International League championship squad with one member of that team, the new co-reigning Minor League home run king Mike Hessman, back on their roster.

Aug. 10: Though Jerry Seinfeld thinks it's the lowest function of human life, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders won't shy away from it when they give away dog poop bags to the first 500 pups in attendance for their second Bark in the Park night of 2015.

Aug. 11: Speaking of dogs, the Charleston RiverDogs are into both your relationship and that weird friend of yours who is always hanging around. Bring the love of your life and your awkward BFF to The Joe for Date Night Tuesday/Third Wheel Night.

Tyler Maun is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @TylerMaun. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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