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."
Right now, as you're reading this, Slugger the Sea Dog is in the midst of a 114-mile stroll.
Some mascots utilize an ATV as their preferred mode of transportation; Slugger, however, has embarked on an epic walk from Fenway Park to the Sea Dogs' home of Hadlock Field in Portland, Maine. This parent-club-to-Double-A-affiliate journey began May 4, when Slugger and his original trainer, Justin LeBlanc, began pounding the pavement. They're scheduled to arrive at Hadlock Field on May 8, just in time for that evening's Sea Dogs game.
May 8 represents Slugger's 20th anniversary with the Sea Dogs, as it was on that date in 1994 that, as the team puts it, he "emerged from the chilly waters of Casco Bay." But Slugger and LeBlanc were motivated by more than a milestone. The duo's five-day walk will raise money for and awareness of Tourette syndrome, a condition that hits close to home for LeBlanc.
"My youngest son [Theo] has been diagnosed with Tourette's syndrome, and he's been really lucky so far," said LeBlanc, who has remained close with Slugger after working as his "trainer" from 1994-96. "He's in a great elementary school and has supportive teachers and classmates who understand that he doesn't mean to make noises and make tics.
"But as he's gotten older and more cognizant of what's going on, we found a camp that specialized in Tourette's [Georgia's Camp Twitch and Shout]," continued LeBlanc. "As we were driving in, he told me that he'd never met anybody with Tourette's before, and that got me thinking about ways that we can the word out locally."
Hence the walk, which will benefit Camp Twitch and Shout as well as the Tourette's Syndrome Associations' Youth Ambassador Program (fans interested in donating to the cause can do so via the Sea Dogs' web page as well as active.com/donate/sluggerswalk).
"With this being the Sea Dogs' 20th anniversary season, I began thinking about ways to leverage my history with the team in a way that raises money and awareness about something that's important to me," said LeBlanc. "I wanted to do something outside of the norm, go big or go home, something that's going to break through all of the noise."
Slugger and LeBlanc will need to average a healthy 24 miles a day over the course of their journey, walking primarily on Route 1 and then, as they get closer to Portland, the Eastern Trail. They'll have a team employee walking with them at all times, handing out Tourette's awareness bracelets and Sea Dogs tickets to any and all interested parties. Once they arrive in Portland, Slugger and LeBlanc will be joined by Theo and his fifth-grade class, and the entire group will triumphantly enter Hadlock Field as a prelude to Slugger's 20th birthday celebration. There will be much to celebrate, as it is likely that no Minor League mascot has ever walked this far and lived to tell the tale.
"Slugger's laying down the gauntlet," said LeBlanc. "If any mascots think they can walk more than 114 miles, they're welcome to try it."
Best of the Rest
Bowie Baysox (Eastern League)
Charlie Chaplin's 125th Birthday Party, May 8
Sometimes, when writing about Minor League promotions, it's best to go straight to the source. Here's Baysox promotions manager Chris Rogers: "Chaplin's birthday party is being held in conjunction with our Mustache Mania event, so it promises to be a fun night. (His actual birthday was April 16, but we didn't have a game that night and it works too well with mustaches to keep apart.) We'll feature your usual homage to movie star fare: movie clips, trivia, and dress-up contests. Legend has it that Chaplin once entered a "Charlie Chaplin Look-Alike" contest and finished in third, so we may reward our third place finisher to cover all our bases. … In any event, we'll pay homage [to films such as] City Lights, Modern Times and The Great Dictator."
Akron RubberDucks (Eastern League)
Women in Baseball Event with Sharon Hargrove appearance and bobblehead, May 10
Once again, let's go straight to the source. Here's RubberDucks director of promotions Christina Shisler, writing about the merits of Saturday's "Women in Baseball" event: "Sharon Hargrove [wife of former Indians manager Mike Hargrove] will be conducting a pregame VIP event. Fans can purchase a special ticket to hear her speak, answer questions, take photos and get autographs. The first 1,000 fans will also receive a Sharon Hargrove bobblehead. … We will also honor other influential ladies in the area (CEOs, publishers, university presidents), giving them honorary first pitches and taping 30-second videos about how they got to where they are today."
Mississippi Braves (Southern League)
Total Sci-Fi Night, May 10
Star Wars promotions are legion throughout Minor League Baseball, but on Saturday the M-Braves are going in a slightly different direction by staging a worlds-colliding homage to both Stars Wars and Star Trek. The guest list leans heavily toward the Lucas-created side of the equation, however, as the Mississippi Mandalorians, Rancor Raiders Garrison of the 501st, Dagobah Base of the Rebel Legion and Veshok Clan of the Mandalorian Mercs will all be strutting their stuff throughout Trustmark Stadium. But Roddenberry rooters will have characters to cheer for as well, thanks to the presence of the USS Haise Star Trek group. Here's hoping for some sort of intergalactic dizzy bat race.
Wilmington Blue Rocks (Carolina League)
Kayla Miller Bobblehead, May 10
So who's Kayla Miller and why are the Blue Rocks giving away Kayla Miller bobbleheads? One last time, let's go straight to the source. Here's Blue Rocks director of advertising sales, Brian Radle: "Kayla has been a souvenir vendor at the stadium for years and in the process has turned into a fan favorite with her personality and her "Aww, Yeah" yells. She starred at University of Delaware on the women's basketball team alongside WNBA super star Elena Delle Donne, taking the Blue Hens to back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances. She now is heavily involved in youth basketball in Delaware -- and still works the crowd during home games and sells souvenirs!"
Lehigh Valley IronPigs (International League)
Kevin Frandsen wine cork topper, May 11
2014 marks the ninth season in which I've written this column, and in that time I've written about teams giving away fly swatters, ice scrapers, dog bowls, oven mitts, toothbrush holders, mouse pads, coffee mugs, snow globes, pillowcases, cowbells, beer steins, tree saplings, pizza cutters, beach chairs, rubber ducks, kites, maracas and piggy banks (to name just a few). But I've never written about a team giving away a wine cork topper until now, and this professional milestone is made possible by the Lehigh Valley IronPigs. The first 2,000 women in attendance on Mother's Day will receive a wine cork topper, and not just any wine cork topper. This particular wine cork topper is topped by a waist-up miniature likeness of every woman's favorite erstwhile IronPig, one Kevin Frandsen.
Because variety is the spice of life, here's a quick look at even more notable promotions taking place this week. Yes, even more!
- May 7 -- A sense of levity will prevail in Mobile, as the BayBears are holding "Zero Gravity Night." … The Pensacola Blue Wahoos celebrate Halloween, so, yeah, they're calling themselves the "Boo Wahoos."
- May 8 -- In Binghamton, the Mets commemorate "10 years since the Friends finale." Alternate title: A Decade of No Friends.
- May 9 -- Mountain Man's season-long ballpark tour continues with an appearance at a Delmarva Shorebirds game. Where will we find him next? ... The Portland Sea Dogs offer the most workman-like giveaway of all time. Yes, I went for the easy joke: they're giving away Brandon Workman bobbleheads.
- May 10 -- Josh Bell plays for the Bradenton Marauders, so the team is honoring him with a Josh Cowbell giveaway. Makes sense to me. … Charleston RiverDogs vendor Tony the Peanut Man gets honored with his own bobblehead, courtesy of -- who else? -- the Charleston RiverDogs.
- May 11 -- On Mother's Day, the Richmond Flying Squirrels raise awareness of breast cancer via a "Save Second Base" T-shirt giveaway. … Meanwhile, in San Jose, the Giants give away "plantable bookmarks." Your guess is as good as mine.
- May 12 -- It's "Senior Skip Day" in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, as the RailRiders invite seniors of all stripes (old people and students) out to the ballgame. … The Flying Houndz do dog tricks so well that they've forgotten how to spell. See them at the Louisville Bats game.
- May 13 -- The Wisconsin Timber Rattlers give away David Ortiz bobbleheads. That's cool and all, but the greatest David Ortiz bobblehead of all time has already been done.
Benjamin Hill is a reporter for MiLB.com and writes Ben's Biz Blog. Follow Ben on Twitter @bensbiz.