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 [email protected] with the subject line: "Promo Preview" or send a Tweet to @bensbiz, hashtag "#promopreview."
Mississippi Mandalorians, Rancor Raiders Garrison of the 501st, Dagobah Base of the Rebel Legion, Veshok Clan of the Mandalorian Mercs Costuming Group and the USS Haise Star Trek. How's that for a list of ballpark guests?
Costumed characters representing the above five groups, numbering approximately 250 individuals in total, will all be in attendance for the Mississippi Braves' "Total Sci-Fi Night" on Saturday. This annual promotion represents a night of sensory overload for the region's Star Wars and Star Trek fans, although there will admittedly be an emphasis on the former. The first 1,500 fans through the gates receive a mini-light saber, while, for the first time ever, the M-Braves take the field wearing Star Wars theme jerseys.
"In the past we never went through the process of trying to get permission [from LucasFilms]," said Mississippi Braves general manager Steve DeSalvo of the theme jerseys, which depict both Yoda and Darth Vader. "But now with the hype around the new Star Wars movie [Episode VII: The Force Awakens], we were ready to go that route."
The jerseys will be auctioned "off the player's backs" following the ballgame, with proceeds benefiting the Multiple Sclerosis Society.
The M-Braves are clearly subscribing to the "too much is never enough" school of thought on Saturday: in addition to the "Total Sci-Fi Night" festivities, the team is also staging the latest edition of their "Super Tailgating Saturday" promotion. This is the M-Braves' attempt to bring a college football atmosphere to the ballpark, with fans encouraged to wear their University of Mississippi or Mississippi State gear (if they're not dressed as a storm trooper, that is). The parking lot opens at 2 p.m., with live music, a cornhole tournament, fishing contests and DeSalvo himself manning the grill. Then, after the game, fireworks are preceded by a $10,000 "Dash for Cash" in the outfield (in which 20 randomly-selected fans have 60 seconds to pick up all of the $1 bills they can).
The final result will be the (hopefully) seamless merging of a Minor League Baseball industry standard ("Star Wars Night") with an M-Braves promo original ("Super Tailgating Saturdays").
"Like everyone else in this industry, we steal -- excuse me, borrow -- ideas," said DeSalvo. "But I challenged my staff this year to come up with something original. This whole tailgating thing, once it catches on, I think it'll become a pretty big deal."
The Mississippi Braves are one of many teams around the Minors celebrating Star Wars this week, in advance of the unofficial holiday that is "May the Fourth." To see some of the highlights, check out this Promo Preview Extra on Cut4.
The best of the rest
Charlotte Knights (International League)
Superhero "Knight" featuring wrestler "Hurricane" Helms, April 30
Promotional appearances by pro wrestling icons have long been a Minor League staple, with the likes of Jerry "The King" Lawler, Sergeant Slaughter and the Million Dollar Man gracing the ballpark with their hyperbolic presence. On Thursday the Knights add a new face to these ranks -- Shane "Hurricane" Helms appears as part of "Superhero 'Knight.'" Those in the know know that Helms -- best known for his time in the WCW and WWE -- is an ideal choice for such a promotion. "The Hurricane" not only dresses in a cape and mask, he also sports a prominent Green Lantern tattoo. Any villains foolhardy enough to be in the ballpark are likely to find themselves on the receiving end of one of Hurricane's "Hurrichokeslams."
Northwest Arkansas Naturals (Texas League)
Strike's Birthday Celebration, May 1
It seems like just yesterday that Strike, a "baseball-loving sasquatch," emerged from the Ozark wilds to begin a new life as the Northwest Arkansas Naturals mascot. But, alas, it wasn't just yesterday. It was seven years ago, and this means it's time for the Naturals to stage Strike's annual birthday celebration. All of his local mascot pals will be in attendance, with the Naturals taking the field wearing theme jerseys depicting Strike in a decidedly non-celebratory mood. He can be seen staring out from behind "NWA" lettering, as if the jersey was a jail cell and he was contemplating vengeance against those who imprisoned him.
Charleston RiverDogs (South Atlantic League)
"Night of Man" Prostate Cancer Awareness Night, May 2
Men are naturally reticent when it comes to looking after their own health, so how do you inspire them to schedule a prostate cancer exam? The Charleston RiverDogs have a simple answer: by appealing to manliness. Saturday's "Night of Man" is dedicated to "manly" activities revolving around feats of athleticism and personal grooming, all while pushing the larger message of "Hey, check that prostate!" Exams will be administered on the concourse using a "simple pin prick," while general manager Dave Echols is scheduled to undergo a prostate exam "to the extreme." If recent Minor League Baseball history is any indication, then Echols' experience will probably go a little something like this.
Bowling Green Hot Rods (Midwest League)
Cinco De Mayo Night, May 5
Few Americans understand why Cinco De Mayo is a holiday, but nonetheless a lot of Americans enjoy celebrating it. This season, it'd be hard to find a more enthusiastic ballpark celebration than that which can be found in Bowling Green. Early arriving Hot Rods fans can choose between a team-logo sombrero and a "Los Hot Rods" T-shirt, the appropriate attire for enjoying $5 burritos, "super-nachos" and $2 Lime-A-Ritas. In-game promos include a taco launch, jalapeno popper eating contest, musical donkeys, a dizzy churro race and a seventh-inning stretch conga line. Best of all, the regularly scheduled "Roscoe's Rodeo" mascot chase will be replaced by "Chase the Worm," as front-office staffer Kevin Worm leads a group of kids across the outfield.
Because too much is never enough, here's a look at even more notable promotions taking place this week.
April 29: The Pensacola Blue Wahoos pay "Tribute to the '90s Kid." That would be the 1990s, for those keeping score at home.
May 1: The Las Vegas 51s distribute two versions of a Noah Syndergaard bobblehead, one in which he is wearing a policeman's uniform and the other a fireman's uniform. Both are public servants who "gaard" us against danger. … In a case of promotional Von Trapp-ment, the New Britain Rock Cats stage "The Sound of Music Night."
May 2: The Asheville Tourists are celebrating the 100th year of the "Tourists" name throughout the season. Tonight, they give away 1915 replica jerseys. … The Chattanooga Lookouts give away Harmon Killebrew bobbleheads. Killebrew played for the Lookouts in 1957 and 1958. ... Scott Rolen visits the Reading Fightin Phils so that the team may enshrine him in their Hall of Fame.
May 3: Like Frozen? Like puns? Then you'll love this Kannapolis Intimidators press release.
May 5: Want a sombrero? Go to the Trenton Thunder game. They'll give you a sombrero.
Benjamin Hill is a reporter for MiLB.com and writes Ben's Biz Blog. Follow Ben on Twitter @bensbiz.