Minor League teams are known for the creativity of their gameday promotions. On Tuesdays this season, we 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" or send him a Tweet -- hashtag "#promopreview."
In 1960, the Chicago White Sox became the first team to feature names on the backs of their uniforms. On Thursday, the Fort Wayne TinCaps will become the first team to feature 6,000 names.
Yes, 6,000, as in a "6" followed by three zeros. This truly unprecedented effort is part of the TinCaps' "Social Media Night" promotion in which the team will take the field in jerseys featuring the Twitter handles of virtually all of their followers.
"On March 11, we got a list of our followers from Twitter, and as of that date we had around 6,200 followers. We said to ourselves, 'Okay, let's see how many we can fit on there,'" explained TinCaps creative director Tony DesPlaines. "We started laying them all out, and we were able to fit almost all of them."
The TinCaps worked closely with Wilson Sporting Goods to develop the jersey.
"[Wilson] sent us photos, but we still weren't really sure how clear [the names] would look. We were worried that you wouldn't be able to read them unless you were right up on it with a magnifying glass," said DesPlaines. "But they're clear as day, and we're thrilled with that."
The 6,000-plus Twitter handles appear in green over a white background, with "@TinCaps" overlaid across the front in red. On the right sleeve, meanwhile, an image of the team's apple logo is preceded by a hashtag. These unique duds will be made available to fans following the ballgame, but not via the silent auction method that is most common to theme jersey promotions. Instead, the TinCaps will stay true to the spirit of the evening.
"We're going to give them away via social media avenues," said DesPlaines, going on to explain that Facebook, Twitter, Vine, Instagram and Foursquare would all be utilized in these efforts. "The final thing we're doing is that a QR code will be on staff t-shirts, and fans can use their phones to scan the shirts and that will take them to a page on our website. We'll give three or four [jerseys] away from there.
"Our fans are there for us; they've got our backs," he continued. "Now we've put them on ours."
Myrtle Beach Pelicans (Carolina League) Reverse the Curse, June 13
The Pelicans recently sent out a press release announcing that they'll be "calling on super heroes and religious leaders to help 'Reverse the Curse.'" But what does this mean, exactly? Let's break it down: The "curse" in question is two-fold, as the Pelicans have lost 12 of their last 14 games while also being plagued by miserable weather. To combat this alleged hex, the team is asking fans to come to the ballpark dressed as their favorite superhero, and this influx of spandex will be preceded by a ceremony in which local religious leaders bestow their blessings upon the team. This approach may be whimsical, but the Pelicans are maintaining their sense of perspective: throughout the ballgame, they'll raise money for Oklahoma tornado victims.
West Michigan Whitecaps (Midwest League) Charlie Maxwell Appearance, June 14
Did you know that former Detroit Tigers slugger Charlie Maxwell was the inspiration for the Beatles song "Maxwell's Silver Hammer?" Well, I didn't either, because it's not true. But what is true is that Maxwell, whose 14-season Major League career largely pre-dated the Fab Four, will be at Fifth Third Field as part of the Whitecaps' ongoing "Tiger Friday" series. The 86-year-old Michigan native will sign autographs, and the first 1,000 fans in attendance receive a Tigers lithograph.
Durham Bulls (International League) 25th Anniversary of Bull Durham, June 16
In April, the Durham Bulls announced a bevy -- yes, a bevy -- of ways in which they would be celebrating the 25th anniversary of the film that made them internationally famous: Bull Durham. This included a trio of racing mascots based on characters from the film, theme jerseys, giveaway items and the fiery Nuke Dog concession item that recently finished as one of the finalists in MiLB.com's #foodfight contest. Sunday marks the veritable epicenter of these celebrations, as it was on June 16, 1988, that Bull Durham opened in theaters across the country. Expect the Bulls to commemorate the occasion with all of the above initiatives as well as a bevy -- yes, a bevy -- of Bull Durham games, contests and videoboard tributes.
Lakewood BlueClaws (South Atlantic League) Celebrity Hitting Challenge, June 17
In 2012, the Reading Phillies took the All-Star Game Home Run Derby to ridiculous new levels, littering the field with a bevy -- yes, a bevy -- of absurd targets. This year it's another Philadelphia affiliate getting into the act, as the BlueClaws are staging a "Celebrity Hitting Challenge" as a prelude to Tuesday's South Atlantic League All-Star Game. The celebrities, who range from BlueClaws manager Mickey Morandini to stand-up comic Artie Lange, earn points by hitting targets that have been dispersed throughout the field of play. Fans can watch this madness from the stands, of course, but a VIP area will be located on the infield itself (surrounded by protective netting). That sounds like a great vantage point from which to heckle Artie Lange.
State College Spikes (New York-Penn League) Opening Night, One Millionth Fan Celebration, June 17
Okay, now it's baseball season. The four short-season leagues commence action over the next 10 days, with the Northwest League beginning Friday, the New York-Penn League on Monday and the Pioneer and Appalachian Leagues on June 20. Opening Night celebrations abound, such as that taking place in State College on Monday. The Spikes are set to welcome their one millionth fan, and this fortunate individual receives, among other goodies, season tickets for life. He or she will also get the chance to win $1 million, via a "dice roll" that will take place after the ballgame. Feeling lucky?
Into the ellipse…
Because there is always a bevy -- a bevy! -- of promotions to write about, here are a few more exceedingly brief write-ups of notable happenings.
- June 12: Only one team will be able to factually announce "Steve Garvey is in the house!" and that team is the Great Lakes Loons. … It's "Awful Night" in Inland Empire, leaving the 66ers to explain how it will be different from any other night (I kid, I kid). … The New Hampshire Fisher Cats give away "mini-David Ortiz bobbleheads," marking the first time that "mini" and "David Ortiz" have been used in the same sentence.
- June 13: Sedentary individuals with globe-trotting minds should check out the Beloit Snappers' "Around the World Deck Party." Ethnic cuisine shall be served. … If "Christmas in July" is a thing, then it follows that "Thanksgiving in June" should be as well. Bravo, Hickory Crawdads. ... Val Chmerkovsky? The Val Chmerkovsky? Yep, the one and only Val Chmerkovsky is visiting the New Britain Rock Cats.
- June 14: "Take it from the Tinkersons" is a comic strip penned by Altoona Curve brand development director Bill Bettwy. The first 1,000 fans in attendance receive a bobblehead featuring character Tillman. … Gaylord Perry is visiting the Charlotte Knights, I spit you not.
- June 15: If the one thing missing from your life is a team-logo pool raft, then contentment shall be yours after attending the Arkansas Travelers game. … The Asheville Tourists distribute bobbleheads featuring middling Minor Leaguer-turned-NFL superstar Russell Wilson. … In Modesto, the Nuts stage their annual tribute to the George Lucas film American Grafitti. … The Northwest Arkansas Naturals celebrate the facial hair of their manager via a Brian Poldberg bobble-stache.
- June 16: The Fresno Grizzlies stage "Throwdown in the No-Town." I don't know what this means, but it involves wrestling.
- June 17: Bernie Carbo visits the Connecticut Tigers on Opening Night. If you give him a glass of water, then you can see how Bernie Carbo hydrates.
- June 18: The Springfield Cardinals give away "Puzzle Cubes." That's all I've got.
Benjamin Hill is a reporter for MLB.com and writes Ben's Biz Blog. Follow Ben on Twitter @bensbiz.