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MiLB honors top promotions of '23

Six teams were honored at the inaugural Fall Meetings
November 10, 2023

This is an excerpt from the latest edition of the Ben's Biz Beat Newsletter, bringing Minor League Baseball business and culture news to your inbox each and every Thursday. Check out the full newsletter HERE. Subscribe HERE.

This is an excerpt from the latest edition of the Ben's Biz Beat Newsletter, bringing Minor League Baseball business and culture news to your inbox each and every Thursday. Check out the full newsletter HERE. Subscribe HERE.

The Minor League Baseball Promotional Seminar, which began informally in the ‘80s and grew to become a staple of the early-offseason calendar, was held annually through 2020. The Golden Bobblehead Awards, honoring top promotions in a variety of categories, emerged out of this event and continue to this day.

This year’s Golden Bobbleheads were awarded at the inaugural Fall Meetings, a Minor League Baseball-specific gathering that took place earlier this week in Las Vegas. I did not attend the Fall Meetings but was a member of the Golden Bobblehead Award voting panel. What follows are the six winners -- four of whom I voted for -- and my thoughts on each.

Best Promotion or Event: Eugene Emeralds, Exploding Whales
If you’ve been a regular reader of this newsletter, then you’ve already been exposed to plenty of Exploding Whales coverage. Briefly, for the newbies: In 1970 the city of Florence, Ore., attempted to remove a beached whale by blowing it up with 1,000 pounds of dynamite. It did not go well, but a resulting local news report went on to become an enduring viral video.

The Emeralds’ Exploding Whales alternate identity was a massive hit both locally and nationally, resulting in upticks in attendance, social media engagement and, of course, merchandise sales. I attended May 6’s Exploding Whales game, where I spoke with a plethora of individuals who had intimate connections to this epochal 1970 event.

My vote: Exploding Whales

Best Community Event: Kannapolis Cannon Ballers, Starry Night
2023 marked the third iteration of the Cannon Ballers’ Starry Night, an all-day initiative benefiting the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation. Components include a sunrise “Shooting Star 5K” race, Starry Night theme jerseys and a postgame lantern lighting recognizing those who have been lost to brain tumors, those who are currently afflicted and those who support the cause.

My vote: Fresno Grizzlies, Back to School Night
I appreciated the scope and ambition of this pragmatic event. The Grizzlies gave away 5,000 backpacks prior to an early August game, and a multifaceted health fair offering a variety of free back-to-school-related products and services was held on the concourse.

Best In-Game Promotion or Event: Corpus Christi Hooks, Mutton Bustin’
The Hooks added a new twist to their annual Rodeo Weekend this season, as they gave young fans the chance to ride a boisterous lamb on the field between innings. The Double-A Astros affiliate chose 10 kids to participate, and the one who stayed on the mutton the longest was awarded with a two-foot tall trophy.

My vote: Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp, Duct Tape Night
I’m predictable in that I’ll usually choose and champion the weirdest and most absurd Minor League promos. Hence, my vote for Jacksonville’s Duct Tape Night. Promotions director David Ratz was duct-taped to a concourse pole and, when this endeavor became too much for him to handle, cut himself down. What happened next is a little murky, but it involved Ratz being escorted from the ballpark by onsite EMTs. I wrote a story about it.

Best Non-Gameday Event: Fresno Grizzlies, Tequila Fest
The Grizzlies’ long-running Taco Truck Throwdown started out as an in-game promo and evolved to become a standalone event held in the offseason. The team’s experience with tacos led, inevitably, to tequila. May 20’s celebration of this mood-altering elixir featured 36 vendors and drew over 7,000 fans. The evening’s musical lineup, featuring T.I., Rick Ross and Lil Jon, was about as top-notch as Minor League ballpark bookings get.

My Vote: Tequila Fest

Best Theme Night Collection or Specialty Jersey: Hartford Yard Goats, Bouncing Pickles

Like the Exploding Whales, Hartford’s Bouncing Pickles theme jersey received quite a bit of coverage throughout the season (read Rob Terranova’s story about it HERE). For the uninitiated: The Yard Goats somehow came across an archaic state law targeting unscrupulous pickle sellers, which stipulated that a pickle isn’t a pickle if it doesn’t bounce. The Yard Goats made sure that theirs did, and went on to sell over 3,000 pieces of Bouncing Pickles merch.

My pick: Bouncing Pickles

Best Digital Campaign or Activation: Buffalo Bisons, MARK bobblehead
Mark Aichinger, a 59-year-old with physical and mental disabilities, is a beloved Bisons superfan best known for yelling “Hey, you stink!” at opposing players. The Bisons gave away a bobblehead in his honor on Sept. 2, which was preceded and followed by an online marketing campaign. Highlights included a video of Bisons GM Anthony Sprague telling Mark about the bobblehead, and another one that recapped Mark’s special night in full. Both are very well done and therefore worth your time.

My pick: MARK bobblehead

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