Captain America sprinting up the line. Thor bringing the hammer at the plate. Spider-Man providing web gems. Hawkeye showing impeccable control. Rocket Raccoon entering from the mound for comic relief. Black Panther protecting home forever.
Defenders of the Diamond, assemble.
Minor League Baseball and Marvel Entertainment announced a promotional three-year partnership on Wednesday at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry, home of the “Marvel: Universe of Super Heroes” exhibit.
Set to launch next season, the program will feature 96 different Minor League clubs across all four levels hosting at least one super hero theme night involving popular Marvel characters -- complete with specialized jerseys, of course -- along with other Marvel-themed activities and promotions taking place throughout the game.
The event series is officially called "Marvel's Defenders of the Diamond" and will also come with its own run of comic books, which will be distributed at participating ballparks. And then there's this plot twist from the press release: "Co-branded merchandise and other surprises will be unveiled in 2022."
"This partnership is more than about driving attendance -- it's about fans of the Minor Leagues and Marvel getting to experience baseball in a whole other way with Marvel character appearances, Marvel-themed uniforms, social media engagement, storytelling, in-stadium graphics to name just a few," said Jon Harris, CEO of AthLife, Marvel’s longtime sports representative. "Of course, it would not be Marvel if we were not holding some things back, so expect some surprises along the way."
“MiLB’s new partnership with Marvel Entertainment brings together two storied brands who create memories that are passed down from generation to generation,” said MLB vice president of Minor League business operations Kurt Hunzeker. “The possibilities with this partnership are endless and we look forward to some incredibly creative content, merchandise and promotions.
"We all know the story of how Tony Stark became Iron Man, just as baseball fans know that before Mookie Betts, Fernando Tatis Jr. and Mike Trout were Major League All-Stars, they were prospects preparing for their hero moments in baseball-loving MiLB communities like Greenville, South Carolina, Fort Wayne, Indiana, and Little Rock, Arkansas."
Of course, Marvel has a long history of superhero team-ups, dating back to its first comic book in 1939 that introduced the Human Torch and Namor the Sub-Mariner. That began in the comics with the Avengers, X-Men, Fantastic Four and Guardians of the Galaxy, among many others, and has extended through the Marvel Cinematic Universe that began in 2008 with the film Iron Man. Fittingly, a few of the clubs that will help form these Defenders of the Diamond already have Marvel-tinged names (looking at you Aberdeen IronBirds, Lehigh Valley IronPigs, Lake Elsinore Storm and Lake County Captains).
Like any good origin story, this is just the start of fans getting to know Marvel's Defenders of the Diamond. Twists and turns and endless possibilities await both Marvel true believers and Minor League Baseball fans in 2022 and beyond.
"We have only just started exploring the new Marvel’s Defenders of the Diamond universe of content," Hunzeker added, "and we cannot wait to explore the endless possibilities and potential integrating Marvel’s award-winning creativity with Minor League Baseball’s award-winning creativity to tell new stories about our players, teams, communities, and most of all, our fans starting with the 2022 season."
Below is the full list of 96 clubs participating in the "Marvel's Defenders of the Diamond" program:
Aberdeen IronBirds, Albuquerque Isotopes, Amarillo Sod Poodles, Arkansas Travelers, Asheville Tourists, Augusta GreenJackets, Beloit Snappers, Biloxi Shuckers, Binghamton Rumble Ponies, Birmingham Barons, Bowling Green Hot Rods, Buffalo Bisons, Cedar Rapids Kernels, Charleston RiverDogs, Charlotte Knights, Chattanooga Lookouts, Clearwater Threshers, Columbia Fireflies, Columbus Clippers, Corpus Christi Hooks, Dayton Dragons, Daytona Tortugas, Delmarva Shorebirds, Durham Bulls, El Paso Chihuahuas, Erie SeaWolves, Eugene Emeralds, Everett AquaSox, Fayetteville Woodpeckers, Fort Myers Mighty Mussels, Fort Wayne TinCaps, Fresno Grizzlies, Frisco RoughRiders, Great Lakes Loons, Greensboro Grasshoppers, Greenville Drive, Gwinnett Stripers, Harrisburg Senators, Hartford Yard Goats, Hickory Crawdads, Hillsboro Hops, Hudson Valley Renegades, Indianapolis Indians, Inland Empire 66ers, Iowa Cubs, Jersey Shore BlueClaws, Kannapolis Cannon Ballers, Lake County Captains, Lake Elsinore Storm, Lansing Lugnuts, Las Vegas Aviators, Lehigh Valley IronPigs, Louisville Bats, Lynchburg Hillcats, Memphis Redbirds, Midland RockHounds, Modesto Nuts, Montgomery Biscuits, New Hampshire Fisher Cats, Norfolk Tides, Northwest Arkansas Naturals, Oklahoma City Dodgers, Omaha Storm Chasers, Pensacola Blue Wahoos, Portland SeaDogs, Rancho Cucamonga Quakes, Reno Aces, Richmond Flying Squirrels, Rochester Red Wings, Rocket City Trash Pandas, Rome Braves, Round Rock Express, Sacramento RiverCats, Salem Red Sox, Salt Lake Bees, San Antonio Missions, San Jose Giants, Scranton Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, Somerset Patriots, South Bend Cubs, Spokane Indians, Springfield Cardinals, St. Lucie Mets, St. Paul Saints, Stockton Ports, Sugar Land Skeeters, Syracuse Mets, Tampa Tarpons, Toledo Mud Hens, Tri-City Dust Devils, Tulsa Drillers, West Michigan Whitecaps, Wichita Wind Surge, Winston-Salem Dash, Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, and Worcester Red Sox.
Sam Dykstra is a reporter for MiLB.com. Follow and interact with him on Twitter, @SamDykstraMiLB.