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Greetings from FirstEnergy Park, N.J.

Lakewood honors hometown hero with BruceClaws uniforms
July 5, 2011
Minor League teams are known for the creativity of their gameday promotions. On Tuesdays throughout the season, we'll preview 10 of 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."

Brooklyn Cyclones (New York-Penn League)
Social Media Madness, July 6

The Cyclones recently accrued their 15,000th Facebook fan, and they're celebrating this milestone with Wednesday's Social Media Madness promotion. Fans who change their Facebook profile to a special "I <3 BK" graphic are eligible to win a luxury suite, and the first 50 fans who "check in" upon arriving at the ballpark receive $10 in "Cyclones Cash." Further prizes are available to those who Tweet their seat locations from the stadium, and discount tickets can be obtained by using a Facebook promo code. Moving into the realm of the ridiculous, the team is offering free tickets to fans with the initials of "LOL" or "OMG." Meanwhile, those with "BFF" initials will receive free admission for their best friend.

Montgomery Biscuits (Southern League)
Ladies Night featuring "Win a Date With Pitcher Chris Archer," July 7

Chris Archer is a right-handed starter for the Biscuits, but on Wednesday the only thing he'll be pitching is woo. The (presumably single) 22-year-old is playing the role of "The Bachelor" during the Biscuits' annual Ladies Night promotion, and one lucky female fan will win a date with him. Even those who miss out on this opportunity should go home feeling satisfied, thanks to the mini-massages on offer at the concourse as well as the many rounds of speed-dating scheduled to take place within the stadium bar. At the very least, a kiss from beastly mascot Big Mo is a virtual guarantee.

Kinston Indians (Carolina League)
Jim Thome Bobblehead, July 8

Akron Aeros (Eastern League)
Jim Thome Bobblehead, July 9

Jim Thome is currently on the cusp of the 600 home runs, the latest milestone in a career full of them. 20 years ago he was just a middling Cleveland Indians prospect, working his way up the Minor League ladder. Thome played with Kinston in 1990 and Canton-Akron in 1991-92, and this week both franchises are honoring him in bobble form. The Kinston Indians are distributing Thome bobbleheads to the first 500 fans in attendance at Friday's game, while the Akron Aeros have 1,000 to give away on Saturday. And as if the miniature likeness of a future Hall-of-Famer wasn't enough, the Aeros will also be welcoming General Hospital thespian Patrick Drake to the ballpark. That guy's like the Jim Thome of soap opera stars.

Stockton Ports (California League)
Jeremy Barfield Rocket Arm Figurine, July 8

In addition to putting up prodigious power numbers with the Stockton Ports last season, outfielder (and offseason limo driver) Jeremy Barfield wowed fans with his what was often referred to as his "rocket arm." The Ports are taking that description literally on Saturday, distributing 1,000 figurines featuring Barfield possessing an actual rocket for an arm. Here's hoping this trend catches on throughout the Minors, as it'd be great to see items honoring lead-footed catchers, lumber-swinging sluggers and fire-balling relievers.

Hagerstown Suns (South Atlantic League)
Captain Dahlgren Bobblehead, July 9

For each of the past six seasons, the Hagerstown Convention and Visitors Bureau has sponsored a bobblehead featuring a notable local figure. The diverse list of past honorees includes Abner Doubleday, symphony director Elizabeth Schulze and author Nora Roberts, with the latest being Civil War hero Ulric Dahlgren. Dahlgren has been dubbed "the hero of Hagerstown" for leading his men into hand-to-hand combat with ransacking Confederates on the city's streets in 1863, an act of bravery certainly worthy of posthumous immortalization via bobblehead. Ulric Dahlgren the IV and V will be on hand to throw out a ceremonial first pitch; Confederates are advised to keep their distance lest history repeat itself.

Kane County Cougars (Midwest League)
Wilco-themed Fireworks, July 9

The Cougars are one of the most incendiary-obsessed teams out there, as their 2011 promotions schedule includes a whopping 28 fireworks displays. But while most of these post-game displays are set to patriotic music or pop hits, Saturday's show will be choreographed to the oft-experimental Americana of Wilco. This could easily lead to one of the most eclectic fireworks soundtracks of all time, in which straight-ahead country rock alternates with heady psychedelia and droning electronic soundscapes. Lee Greenwood this isn't.

Lakewood BlueClaws (South Atlantic League)
Bruce Springsteen Appreciation Night, July 9

For the fourth consecutive year, the BlueClaws will honor Garden State hero Bruce Springsteen by wearing "BruceClaws" theme jerseys. This year's version of the one-night-only duds include a patch paying tribute to recently deceased E Street Band saxophonist Clarence Clemons, who will also be honored in a pregame ceremony. The game will also be preceded by a 90-minute performance by top-notch tribute band E Street Shuffle, and Bruce's music will play over the PA all night long. Fans can also check out the "Born to Run" fire truck, recently purchased by Bruce for the local Freehold Fire Department. I guess they didn't want to call it the "I'm on Fire" truck.

Reading Phillies (Eastern League)
Tribute to the Crazy Hot Dog Vendor, July 10

One of the biggest celebrities in all of Reading, Pa., is the ostrich-riding Crazy Hot Dog Vendor, who has risen from niche ballpark entertainer to bona fide folk hero. Proof of his local dominance will be in abundant evidence Sunday, with players taking the field in red-and-white striped Crazy Hot Dog Vendor jerseys and the first 2,000 children in attendance receiving "Future Crazy Hot Dog Vendor" t-shirts. Many of these aspiring frankfurter disbursers will perform with the Crazy Hot Dog Vendor on-field prior to the game, with one lucky fan going home with a life-sized replica of the fabled man and his ostrich. Truly, this is a phenomenon that has to be seen to be believed.

Vermont Lake Monsters (New York-Penn League)
Brutus "The Barber" Beefcake Appearance, July 10

Old wrestlers never die -- they just take their talents to Minor League ballparks! The likes of George "The Animal" Steele, Jerry Lawler, "King Kong" Bundy, and Sgt. Slaughter have become stadium staples in recent years, and this distinguished roster just keeps on growing. The latest 50-something grappler to hit the Minor League appearance circuit is Brutus "The Beefcake" Barber, the nattily-attired villain who gained mid-80s notoriety for cutting the hair of his unconscious or otherwise immobilized opponents. He'll be signing autographs and posing for pictures throughout Sunday's Lake Monsters game -- just make sure no scissors are in the vicinity before approaching him.

State College Spikes (New York-Penn League)
Purr in the Park, July 11

It might sound like a joke, but State College's Purr in the Park is gloriously, hilariously, real. Inspired by the rampant success of Bark in the Park promotions in which fans bring their dogs to the game, the Spikes are now extending the invitation to cats. All felines are welcome so long as they are leashed or in carriers, and throughout the game the team will stage between-inning games and contests related to that most aloof of domesticated species. Famous felines throughout history will be honored as well, from Garfield to Heathcliff to that cat who was always hanging out on Dr. Claw's lap in Inspector Gadget.

Bonus Coverage: Because the best way to celebrate our nation's independence is by staying inside and writing, here are seven promotions that could have been included in last week's column -- could have been but weren't:

Snoopy Bobbleheads (Orem Owlz, June 29): A night of Peanuts and Cracker Jack.

$1,000 Hot Dog Night (Lowell Spinners, June 30): In which legal tender was tenderly (and legally) placed within hot dog wrappers, waiting to be found by hungry fans.

Air Guitar World Record Attempt (Northwest Arkansas Naturals, July 1): Fans engaged in simultaneous strumming of mass proportions, no strings attached.

Welcome to the Big Ten Night (Omaha Storm Chasers, July 1): The Storm Chasers celebrated the University of Nebraska's entry into the Big Ten with a cavalcade of conference-themed games, contests, parades and prizes.

Bowman Field Big Top (Williamsport Crosscutters, July 1): A circus-like atmosphere prevailed, highlighted by special guest performers from the Forbidden Oddities Sideshow.

AC/DC Fireworks (Jupiter Hammerheads, July 2): "TNT" would have been an especially appropriate choice.

Cell Phone Olympics (Modesto Nuts, July 2): This promotion got an excellent reception.

Benjamin Hill is a reporter for