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Minor League Baseball promos of the decade: 2011

Braden's belly and ballpark belles, in 3D: A look back at year's best
The top promotions of 2011 included a bobblebelly, taco trucks, 3D glasses and beauty queen grandmothers.
October 22, 2020

The lack of a 2020 Minor League Baseball season meant the lack of gameday promotions. While there may not be any to look back on this year, there are still plenty of promotions upon which we can reminisce. Today marks the second article in a series, a year-by-year chronicling of

The lack of a 2020 Minor League Baseball season meant the lack of gameday promotions. While there may not be any to look back on this year, there are still plenty of promotions upon which we can reminisce. Today marks the second article in a series, a year-by-year chronicling of this past decade's most notable Minor League Baseball gameday promotions. To share your own favorite promotions of the decade that was, please reach out via email ([email protected]) or Twitter (@bensbiz). Previous installments: 2010

Dallas Braden grew up in the 209 and pitched a perfect game in 2010. The convergence of those circumstances resulted in one of 2011's most celebrated promos.

Braden is a native of Stockton, California, and proud of it. So much so that he has the city's area code, 209, tattooed on his abdomen. Shortly after his Mother's Day 2010 perfect game, the celebrated Oakland A's hurler visited the Stockton Ports' home of Banner Island Ballpark to receive the key to the city. The most memorable part of the pregame ceremony was when Braden lifted up his shirt to reveal the "209" tattoo.

The following season, the Ports' immortalized Braden and his hometown pride by staging a Dallas Braden Bobblebelly giveaway. This bare-stomached figurine was later chosen by readers as the top promotion of 2011.

"[Braden] was all for it," Ports director of marketing Jeremy Neisser said. "The only thing he asked for was, 'Make sure you give me a six-pack.'"

The Ports' bobblebelly giveaway occurred in July, which is perhaps the most fertile month for Minor League Baseball promotions. The Fort Wayne Tin Caps, meanwhile, wasted no time before staging one of the most notable promotions of the 2011 season. On Opening Night, the team handed out 3D glasses to fans as they entered the ballpark. Portions of the game night entertainment were presented on the videoboard in 3D, including pregame player introductions, a fan welcome video, a mascot introduction segment, the cap shuffle game and the postgame fireworks countdown.

The TinCaps' "In 3D" promotion went on to win the 2011 Golden Bobblehead Award for "Best Theme Night" and "Best Overall Promo," but it was not an idea that had staying power within the industry. On the other hand, the Fresno Grizzlies "Taco Truck Throwdown" debuted in 2011 and has since become one of the team's signature events. The inaugural iteration, held on the Chukchansi Park concourse, featured seven local taco trucks and drew more than 10,000 fans. Subsequent versions of the Taco Truck Throwdown were moved to the exterior of the ballpark to better accommodate the massive crowds that reliably show up year after year. It's now a two-day event.

Here are six more theme nights from 2011 that, for one reason or another, stood out:

Kane County Cougars -- Night of 100 Promotions: An evening of promotional overload that doubled as a tribute to baseball innovator Bill Veeck and his family. Two other Chicago baseball icons -- legendary executive Roland Hemond and former White Sox organist Nancy Faust -- joined the festivities.

Lake Elsinore Storm -- Charlie Sheen-Co De Mayo: As you may recall, Sheen was "winning" in 2011. The Storm felt compelled to honor the chemical-addled actor at the ballpark, with festivities that included Tiger Blood Cocktails, a limited-edition bobblehead and the retirement of Rick "Wild Thing" Vaughn's No. 99 jersey.

Lehigh Valley IronPigs -- Social Media Night: In a Minor League first, Lehigh Valley took the field in Twitter-themed @ironpigs jerseys. Fan tweets were displayed on the videoboard throughout the evening, and the "Twitter Bird" even made an appearance. It was a simpler time.

Memphis Redbirds -- Organ Donor Night: On this evening, the Redbirds literally showed a lot of heart. As a means to highlight the importance of organ donation, the team took the field in innards-exposing theme jerseys.

State College Spikes -- Purr in the Park: In a daring twist on "Bark in the Park," the Spikes welcomed cats to the ballpark while staging between-inning games such as the "Kitty Litter Dig."

Visalia Rawhide -- Belle of the Ballpark Grandma Beauty Pageant: A quartet of young-at-heart ladies competed for the crowd's affections throughout the game. The winner was a sprightly 96-year-old named Doris.

And the year's premier giveaways went far beyond Dallas Braden and his bobblin' belly. To wit:

Altoona Curve -- Team-Logo Tighty Whities: The Curve's "Summer Cruise" giveaway series was highlighted by the July 7 distribution of team logo underpants. This was an homage to Tom Cruise's iconic living-room dance moves in "Risky Business." Cue Bob Seger.

Brooklyn Cyclones -- Angel Pagan Bobblehead: In a prime example of "taking things literally," the Cyclones' Angel Pagan bobblehead featured the outfielder with wings and a halo.

Inland Empire 66ers -- Ken Griffey Jr. Bobble-Arm: In 1988, 18-year-old Ken Griffey Jr. suited up for the 66ers predecessors, the San Bernardino Spirit. The team's Griffey Jr. "Bobble-Arm" depicted the smiling teen outfielder on the cusp of a home run-robbing catch.

Lake County Captains -- "A Captains Story" Skipper Figurine: One year after the "Skipper Leg Lamp," the Captains again paid tribute to "A Christmas Story" via a mascot-related giveaway. Skipper was depicted with his nose frozen to the foul pole, mirroring one of the film's classic scenes.

Wisconsin Timber Rattlers -- Scooter vs. the Snowman Bobblehead: After the Timber Rattlers' 2010 home opener was snowed out, a young infielder (and current free agent) by the name of Scooter Gennett took out his frustrations by decimating a snowman with a bat. A year later, the team immortalized this unique moment with a bobblehead depicting the carnage.

Finally, a shoutout to a pair of standout promotions that were in the category of the largely uncategorizable.

Lowell Spinners -- Human Home Run: Between games of a doubleheader, the Spinners shot David "The Human Cannonball" Smith out of a cannon and over the outfield wall. It was, literally, a human home run.

Quad Cities River Bandits -- Midwest League All-Star Game Home Run Derby: In lieu of a potentially underwhelming slugfest, the River Bandits littered the playing field with targets that included oversized beer bottles, a team logo van and a dunk tank.

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