Minor League teams are known for the creativity of their gameday promotions. Every Tuesday we'll preview the week ahead, highlighting the best and brightest (not to mention strangest) that the industry has to offer. If you'd like a particular promotion to be considered for this feature, please send it to [email protected] with the subject line "Promo Preview."
A lot has happened at Bradenton's McKechnie Field over the nearly 90 years that the facility has been in existence, but the events of this past February 25 were totally unprecedented. Trevor Gooby, the Pirates director of Florida operations, delivered a baby.
This memorable moment occurred during a stadium open house that was being held in advance of Spring Training. Expectant mother Latisha Kirk wasn't due for another five weeks, but while at Bradenton's McKechnie Field she went into labor.
"We were waiting for the ambulance, and she kept saying, 'This baby's coming,' Gooby told KXAN News at the time. "She gave one push, the baby came out and I caught it. I did my best [outfielder Andrew] McCutchen impersonation."
In commemoration of the anomalous circumstances surrounding the birth, the baby (a boy) was named "McKechnie."
Gooby's brave bit of impromptu midwifery soon went national, and as a result the Bradenton Marauders (who occupy McKechnie Field after the Major Leaguers break north) decided that they had to capitalize. The result is Tuesday's "Babies on Deck Night," an all-encompassing celebration of pregnancy that includes free admission for expectant mothers, baby changing relay races, blindfolded baby food tasting, pickles and ice cream at the concession stands and much more.
But the highlight of the evening is a bobblehead giveaway featuring the bespectacled Gooby triumphantly holding baby McKechnie in the moment after he first emerged from the womb. It's safe to say that there's never been a bobblehead like this before.
"The first [bobblehead] rendering wasn't exactly like we were picturing," said Marauders coordinator of stadium operations Kris Koch. "But then the way we explained it was that Trevor would be presenting the baby Lion King style....And that's how we're doing it. [Gooby] had the experience of presenting a baby to the world in our own ballpark."
The bobblehead was kept secret from Gooby until this past June -- and that was no easy task considering that he's the man in charge. The promotions staff simply marked the expense for the bobblehead as "TBD" (to be determined), but eventually Gooby demanded an answer and Koch had no choice but to tell him.
"He's flattered by it, but mostly he just shook his head," said Koch. "Like, 'This thing is still going? It's not over yet?'"
Not by a long shot. And considering the number of pregnant women who will be at Tuesday's game, Gooby just may get another opportunity.
"You never know," said Koch. "But we will have EMS on site, so he won't be riding solo."
Every year Minor League teams are inspired to take the art of the bobblehead to bold new levels, and this year the Orem Owlz are one of the boldest. On Tuesday the team is staging the first ever "Bobblelimb" promotion, a Frankenstein's monster of an item that fuses three players together whilst featuring three distinct bobbling appendages. The triumvirate of Owlz-turned-Angels featured in this unique item are Peter Bourjos, Mark Trumbo and Jordan Walden -- Bourjos' head, Trumbo's bat and Walden's hand will all bobble on their own accord.
Silver anniversary spectacular
2012 marks the 25th season of Buffalo's Coca-Cola Field, and the Bisons have been celebrating this milestone throughout the year (beginning with a memorable array of ceremonial first pitches back in April). These celebrations culminate on Saturday (the 25th, natch), as the team is staging a "25 Seasons" tribute game. Highlights include a $5 ticket deal, $1 hot dogs, free Coca-Cola Field aerial photos for all fans, and the announcement of the Bisons' "All-25 Seasons Team" (with some of these local luminaries in attendance).
But perhaps most notable is the return of ballpark characters Loudmouth and Earl of Bud. That latter individual, a dancing beer vendor who achieved cult celebrity for his ballpark antics, will be honored with his own bobblehead during Thursday's game.
The War of 1812, in which the U.S. invaded Canada as a response to English naval aggression, has been relegated to footnote status in the history books. The Bowie Baysox, who compete in close proximity to several of the war's battle sites, are seeking to rectify this oversight with Friday's "War of 1812 Night" promotion. The war inspired Francis Scott Key to write what became our national anthem, and therefore local warblers The Chantymen will sing The Star Spangled Banner while dressed in period garb. This will kick off a night of pyrotechnics-enhanced historical exploration.
"What better way is there to celebrate the birthday of the Star Spangled Banner than with a special fireworks show and by firing a real cannon?" queried Baysox marketing manager Brandan Kaiser in a press release.
Surely, this is a rhetorical question.
You can go with this, or you can go with that...
Music fans who travel the country in search of the very best concerts taking place at Minor League Baseball stadiums face an exceedingly difficult dilemma on Friday: Bob Dylan or Uncle Kracker. The former, arguably the greatest songwriter of all time, will be taking the stage at Fort Wayne's Parkview Field. The latter, arguably the greatest songwriter whose name includes the word "Kracker," will be entertaining the fans at Omaha's Werner Park.
There is a notable difference between these two events, however. Dylan's concert is a standalone event (taking place while the TinCaps are on the road), and tickets start at $51. Uncle Kracker, meanwhile, is a free show that will take place following that evening's scheduled contest between the Storm Chasers and visiting New Orleans Zephyrs.
Into the ellipse...
An exceedingly brief rundown of other notable promotions taking place this week...
- Aug. 22: In Spokane, Otto the mascot kicks off his presidential election campaign. In the tradition of John Anderson, Ross Perot and Ralph Nader, he may end up significantly influencing the race.
- Aug. 23: It's "Pirates vs. Ninjas" night in Lancaster, a great concept so long as you accept that they should even be fighting in the first place. ... The Fisher Cats stage their annual "Kids Run the Show" night, in which local youth take a significant role in executing the game day tasks. ... Little Kato takes on Beautiful Bobby in a post-game midget wrestling matchup at Akron's Canal Park.
- Aug. 24: Former relief ace Elroy Face, 84 years young, makes an appearance at West Michigan's Fifth Third Ballpark.
- Aug. 25: The Charleston RiverDogs stage their annual "Ballpark Festival of Beers." That's all you need to know, right?
- Aug. 26: In Iowa, the Cubs stage their annual "As Seen on TV Night." The spirit of Ron Popeil lives on.
- Aug. 27: The Reading Phillies give away a Talking Harry Kalas bobblehead, in loving memory of the Philadelphia Phillies' Hall of Fame broadcaster.
- Aug. 28: The Rochester Red Wings host a "Street Hockey Fest" in the parking lot of Frontier Field. Many goal-oriented individuals will be in attendance.
Benjamin Hill is a reporter for MLB.com and writes Ben's Biz Blog. Follow Ben on Twitter at @bensbiz.