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."
It all started with a Magic Loogie.
Last offseason, the Brooklyn Cyclones front office decided that it wanted to honor Keith Hernandez via a bobblehead immortalizing a memorable episode of Seinfeld. In the episode Kramer and Newman accuse Hernandez of spitting on them; Jerry, citing the laws of physics, refutes their account and calls Hernandez's alleged spitball a "Magic Loogie." The bobblehead, which will be given away Saturday, depicts a later scene in the episode in which Hernandez outs reliever Roger McDowell as the true culprit.
This so-called "Magic Loogie bobblehead" is the centerpiece of a larger Seinfeld-themed promo which, as Cyclones director of communications Billy Harner puts it, has "spiraled out of control."
"With the connection between Keith and the Mets, the bobblehead was a natural tie-in," said Harner, referencing both the Cyclones' status as a Mets affiliate and Keith's role as a color commentator on Mets broadcasts. "And then we just kept adding and adding to it."
Indeed, they have, to the extent that the Cyclones have posted an extensive article on their website entitled, "Everything You Need to Know About 'Salute to Seinfeld Night.'" Highlights include appearances by Larry "the Soup Nazi" Thomas and Kenny Kramer (the "real-life" Kramer), an interactive game-long Seinfeld trivia contest, and many, many Seinfeld-themed between-innings contests.
"Right now I've got this big list of things to buy at Costco," said Harner. "Junior Mints, a big salad, a Pez dispenser. … My favorite thing is the 'Marble Rye Fishing Contest.' [Contestants] will have the rye on a fishing pole and then have to reel it up two flights of stairs….It should be visually ridiculous and amazing at the same time."
Some ideas had to be rejected, however, given Minor League Baseball's emphasis on being "family-friendly" at all times.
"People wanted a guy in a body stocking to streak across the field, but we couldn't find a way to make that work. Same thing with 'The Contest,'" said Harner, referring to more off-color moments of the series. "But we found a family-friendly way to include 'shrinkage,' by having parents race around the field in kids-sized clothes."
But, through it all, the bobblehead remains at the core of the promotion.
"We've got people telling us that they're going to sleep over [in front of the stadium] on July 4, so that they can get the bobblehead," said Harner. "I'm going to be interested to see how many people are already here when I pull into the parking lot the next day."
Best of the Rest
Lake County Captains (Midwest League)
Mark Emmert Appreciation Night, July 2
After NCAA president Mark Emmert declared that "Minor League sports aren't very successful" in regards to fan experience, he was hit with a wave of criticism from those who work in Minor League Baseball. But no team hit back harder than Class A Lake County, which will be "celebrating" Emmert and NCAA athletics throughout Wednesday's ballgame. To cite one of many examples, "participants who take part in … in-game promotions will not be rewarded for their efforts; rather, they will have the satisfaction of just having the opportunity to participate." At the end of the game, one of these uncompensated participants will be crowned "BCS [Big Captains Superstar] Champion" via a subjective vote using a computerized algorithm. Emmert, who has been invited to the game, should feel right at home.
Charleston RiverDogs (South Atlantic League)
Harold Ramis Bobblehead Giveaway, July 5
Harold Ramis, a wide-ranging comedic genius perhaps best known for playing the role of Egon Spengler in Ghostbusters, died in February. The RiverDogs, a team co-owned by his friend and frequent collaborator, Bill Murray, are honoring Ramis' legacy on Saturday via the distribution of 1,000 instantly collectible bobbleheads depicting Ramis in full Ghostbusters regalia. Fans who want one will really want one, so much so that they'll be excited beyond the capacity for rational thought. Egon? Sure. But he'll never be forgotten.
Mahoning Valley Scrappers (New York-Penn League)
Forrest Gump Night, July 6
Sunday is "Forrest Gump Night" in Mahoning Valley, an idea that originated with the grounds crew. The Scrappers have a lot planned for the occasion, and I can't fit it all. Here are five highlights -- consider your appetite whetted:
- Fans will be given boxes of chocolates containing gift cards of varying denominations. Because, you know: "Life is like a box of chocolates…"
- The grounds crew's John Deere Gator tractor will be decorated to look like a boat named Jenny.
- The grounds crew members will be dressed as different stages of Forrest: military, Alabama football and, of course, groundskeeper.
- On the videoboard, players will be depicted wearing Bubba Gump Shrimp hats.
- A ping pong competition will take place on the concourse.
South Bend Silver Hawks (Midwest League)
Jose Canseco vs. Fans Home Run Derby, July 6
The surreal public spectacle that is Jose Canseco's post-retirement career makes a stop in South Bend on Sunday -- the 50-year-old slugger visits the Silver Hawks as part of his Home Run Tour. Canseco will compete in a pregame home run derby against three fans who bid for the opportunity to do so. (If this seems embarrassing, consider that Canseco once competed in a pregame boxing match against a 60-year-old man). Fans not wishing to compete in the derby can still get a piece of Canseco via a $60 private "Meet and Greet" session. He'll be signing autographs throughout the session, meaning you can finally get his Jose Hancock on your pristine condition "Bash Brothers" poster.
Lancaster JetHawks (California League)
Heroes Week, July 7-13
The JetHawks' annual "Heroes Week" kicks off on Monday, marking the start of a homestand dedicated to honoring the truly heroic efforts of local first responders. From July 7-10, the JetHawks will recognize a different first-responder agency via information tables on the concourse, award ceremonies and color guard presentations. These efforts culminate on the 13th, as each of the five agencies will face off for a good cause in the annual "Fallen Heroes Charity Softball Tournament."
Because my disposition is quite different from that of the Soup Nazi, here are even more notable promos for you to peruse.
- July 2: The Erie SeaWolves celebrate "Good Deeds Day" via a series of -- you guessed it -- good deeds. … It's Gluttony Night in Reading, as the Fightin Phils invite fans to eat to their heart's (dis)content, all the way through the seventh inning. … Steve Garvey visits the Vancouver Canadians. Let's hope that his passport hasn't expired.
- July 3: The USA Collegiate National Men's team takes on Chinese Taipei at the Charlotte Knights' new home of BB&T Ballpark. Fireworks will follow.
- July 4: Still haven't had your fill of USA baseball at an International League ballpark in North Carolina? This time the venue is Durham Bulls Athletic Park. Once again, the USA Collegiate National Men's team takes on Chinese Taipei, and, once again, fireworks will follow.
- July 5: The Akron RubberDucks' "Rock 'n' Bobblehead" series concludes with a bobblehead honoring the Black Keys. … The Idaho Falls Chukars pay homage to the region's most notable crop on "Potato Night." … A trading card set honoring local members of the military is on the docket in Williamsport.
- July 6: The Delmarva Shorebirds' "Home Improvement Night" features a bevy of giveaways from local businesses in the business of home improvement -- no word on whether Tim Allen will be there. … The Louisville Bats are giving away a "Buddy Bat bobblehead picture frame." Good news for those who already possess an unframed Buddy Bat bobblehead. … The Mobile BayBears are staging "Battleship Night." It'll be a hit -- don't miss it.
- July 7: The Hickory Crawdads' celebrate Kevin Bacon's birthday with a "Kevin Bacon Bash" featuring plenty of, yes, bacon.
- July 8: In Richmond, the Flying Squirrels are giving away rubber ducks on an evening in which they are playing the Akron RubberDucks.
Benjamin Hill is a reporter for MiLB.com and writes Ben's Biz Blog. Follow Ben on Twitter @bensbiz.