Minor League Baseball promos of the decade: 2014
The lack of a 2020 Minor League Baseball season meant the lack of gameday promotions. While there may not be any to look back on this year, there are still plenty of promotions upon which we can reminisce. This marks the fifth article in a year-by-year series chronicling of the
The lack of a 2020 Minor League Baseball season meant the lack of gameday promotions. While there may not be any to look back on this year, there are still plenty of promotions upon which we can reminisce. This marks the fifth article in a year-by-year series chronicling of the past decade's most notable Minor League Baseball gameday promotions. To share your own favorite promotions of the decade that was, please reach out via email ([email protected]) or Twitter (@bensbiz). Previous installments: 2010; 2011; 2012; 2013.
In the world of Minor League Baseball promotions, 2014 was the year in which sublimated desires became reality.
Sublimation, in addition to being both a psychological and a scientific term, refers to a jersey design process which achieved new levels of Minor League Baseball popularity in 2014. With sublimation, all elements of a jersey's design can be permanently dyed directly into the material. Unlike traditional screen printing, no separation exists between design and fabric. They become one. Elaine Gastineau, Minor League Baseball sales representative for jersey manufacturer OT Sports, spoke about the process with MiLB.com prior to the 2015 season.
"Before sublimation, we had stock fabrics and would design our jerseys based on those colors. We were pretty limited in what we could do," she said. "Printing the designs, the logo, the numbers on the back, we used to have to outsource that. The advantages [of sublimation] are twofold -- now we can do everything in-house and we have a lot more to offer in terms of what our capabilities are. … It's really expanded our market."
Wild and crazy theme jerseys permeated Minor League Baseball in 2014, as more teams than ever before took advantage of the greatly expanded range of design possibilities. Many of the jerseys went viral, greatly aided and abetted by Twitter's inherent affinity for the absurd. One of the most memorable theme jerseys of the season was introduced by the then-fledgling Triple-A El Paso Chihuahuas, who took the field on Aug. 3 in uniform tops that featured a gigantic, hyper-realistic chihuahua face. At the end of the season, the Bark in the Park duds took home the fan-voted "Promo of the Year" MiLBY Award.
"The jerseys were just so funny, so in your face, that it was like, 'Holy cow, how do we not do this?'" Chihuahuas general manager Brad Taylor said in the wake of the MiLBY win. "When they were hanging in the players' lockers, they were tweeting pics out, posting them on Instagram. Now we have the players doing PR for us! It just became a phenomenon. Everyone got into it."
And lest we forget, 2014 also was the year in which the Triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs first wore bacon-themed uniforms during Friday home games.
This IronPigs' innovation, along with the 2015 debut of the Triple-A Fresno Grizzlies' Tacos identity, kick-started the food-themed alter ego craze that remains prevalent across the Minor Leagues. That topic will be explored in greater detail in future editions of this column. But plenty of Minor League Baseball theme jersey designs took center stage during the 2014 campaign. A small sampling follows forthwith.
Brooklyn Cyclones, Star Wars Night -- The Class A Short Season Cyclones played as the Sithclones, wearing disturbing dark red jerseys featuring Darth Maul. These jerseys featured the emblem of the Sith Empire on the right sleeve and had Brooklyn spelled across the chest using the letters of the "Star Wars" Aurebesh alphabet.
Fresno Grizzlies, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles -- The Grizzlies celebrated "Turtle Power" by taking the field in turtle shell jerseys. The evening also featured a "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" lunchbox giveaway as well as a postgame wedding proposal by a man dressed in full Ninja Turtles regalia. (The woman he asked, who said yes, also was dressed as a Ninja Turtle.)
Inland Empire 66ers, Zombie Apocalypse Night -- Thankfully, "blood-spattered" is not a descriptor often used in conjunction with baseball jerseys. But it was in Inland Empire on a horrifying Thursday night in June, as the Class A Advanced 66ers and their fans fought off legions of ballpark zombies. Proceeds from these gory duds benefited a local network of blood donation centers.
State College Spikes -- Now this is a story all about how the Class A Short Season Spikes wore "Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" theme jerseys on a night on which they welcomed special guest Alfonso "Carlton" Ribeiro.
Theme jerseys, by definition, are worn on theme nights. But theme nights don't necessarily mean a team wears theme jerseys. Here are four more memorable theme nights of 2014.
Altoona Curve, Weird Al-toona Night -- The greatest pop culture moment of 2014? In this writer's opinion, it was when Weird Al Yankovic's album "Mandatory Fun" debuted at No. 1 on the charts. The Double-A Curve staged an evening-long celebration of America's premier parodist on Aug. 27, in honor of of Al's unexplained career-long obsession with the No. 27.
Brooklyn Cyclones, Seinfeld Night -- The Cyclones' long-running "Seinfeld Night" promotion was especially memorable in 2014 as the team gave away Keith Hernandez Magic Loogie bobbleheads while welcoming the Soup Nazi and the real-life Kramer to the ballpark.
Potomac Nationals, Jayson Werth Beard-a-palooza -- Jayson Werth's beard in 2014 was huge. How huge was it? Jayson Werth's beard was so huge, the Class A Advanced Potomac Nationals needed three days to celebrate it. Beard-a-Palooza Weekend included a bobblebeard giveaway (featuring real hair), a Beard Olympics and, uh, a beard-tasting competition.
Rochester Red Wings, Batman and Robin Night with Burt Ward -- The Triple-A Rochester Red Wings' tribute to the 1960s "Batman" TV series included an appearance by Burt "Robin" Ward, who joined forces with Batman to battle nemeses such as the Joker, the Riddler and the Penguin. The Batmobile was parked outside the stadium, in case a quick getaway was needed.
Any article of this nature would be remiss without giveaway items. There were interesting bobbleheads aplenty in 2014 as well as at least one item that fell into its own category.
Akron RubberDucks, Rock n' Bobblehead Series -- Over the course of the 2014 season, the Double-A Akron RubberDucks gave away bobblehead versions of four local music legends: DEVO, Joe Walsh, Chrissie Hynde and the Black Keys.
Charleston RiverDogs, Harold Ramis bobblehead -- Ramis, a comedic genius perhaps best known for playing the role of Egon Spengler in "Ghostbusters," died in February 2014. The Class A RiverDogs, a team co-owned by Ramis' friend and collaborator Bill Murray, honored his legacy via the distribution of bobbleheads depicting Ramis in full "Ghostbusters" regalia.
And speaking of Bill Murray and "Ghostbusters," the man himself endorsed the Toledo Mud Hens' paranormal theme night in 2014.
Lake County Captains, Jobu bobblehead -- The Class A Lake County Captains took their annual tongue-in-cheek "Cleveland Sports History" promo to a new level, thanks to a bobblehead giveaway featuring Jobu. This wild-eyed voodoo deity was worshipped by Pedro Cerrano in the Cleveland-centric comedy classic "Major League."
Lehigh Valley IronPigs, Kevin Frandsen wine cork topper -- On Mother's Day, the IronPigs gave away 2,000 wine cork toppers featuring the waist-up likeness of erstwhile IronPig Kevin Frandsen. The reasons they did this are difficult to discern.
We conclude this column by featuring two distinctive promos that carved out new niches.
Middle Child's Day (various teams) -- As you might know, Aug. 12 is Middle Child's Day. Bruce Hopman, founder of a middle child advocacy blog, convinced teams across the country to stage a theme night in their honor. Highlights included customized team-logo "Middle Child Union" membership cards, a "Guess the Middle Child" videoboard challenge, a meet-and-greet with middle children on the team roster, middle names used during player introductions and a middle child postgame parade around the bases.
Portland Sea Dogs, Slugger's Walk for Tourette's -- From May 4-8, Double-A Sea Dogs mascot Slugger undertook a 114-mile pedestrian journey from Boston's Fenway Park to Portland's Hadlock Field. The goal, ably accomplished, was to raise money and awareness for Tourette's Syndrome.
Benjamin Hill is a reporter for MiLB.com and writes Ben's Biz Blog. Follow Ben on Twitter @bensbiz.