Minor League Promos of the Decade: 2015
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 sixth 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 sixth 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; 2014
When it comes to 2015's slate of notable Minor League Baseball promotions, the benefit of a half-decade of hindsight makes one thing clear: The Fresno Grizzlies staged that year's most influential promotion.
The Grizzlies, in their first of what would be four seasons as the Triple-A affiliate of the Houston Astros, suited up as "The Tacos" on Aug. 6. They did this in conjunction with the fifth installment of their annual Taco Truck Throwdown promotion, in which the Fresno region's premier taco trucks vie for supremacy. Fresno's one-night Tacos rebrand marked the first time a Minor League team assumed an alternate identity based around a beloved regional food item. As we will see in future installments of this "Promo of the Decade" series, this quickly became an industry-wide trend. If, in recent years, you've thrilled to the Omaha Runzas, Delmarva Scrapple or Mahoning Valley Peppers in Oil (to name three of what are dozens of examples), then you have the Fresno Tacos to thank for leading the way.
As for the team that staged 2015's second-most notable promotion, that is perhaps more open to debate. This writer's choice would be the Staten Island Yankees, who played as the Direwolves during Aug. 8's "Game of Thrones" Night. The SI Yanks weren't the only team to salute HBO's massively popular fantasy series, but their promotion was significant due to the fact that "Game of Thrones" author George R.R. Martin was the evening's guest of honor. Martin's childhood memories played a large role in his decision to grace the Staten Island Yankees with his presence. He grew up in Bayonne, New Jersey, and would gaze across the water at Staten Island as he imagined the fantasy world that he could go on to create in the "Game of Thrones" series.
Martin's presence helped propel "Game of Thrones" Night to the 2015 "Promo of the Year" MiLBY Award, with fans choosing it by a narrow margin over the aforementioned Fresno Tacos.
Prominent pop-culture theme jerseys were hardly limited to Staten Island, of course. A quartet of further examples follows forthwith:
Brooklyn Cyclones, "Saved By the Bell" Night: The Cyclones wore Saturday morning sitcom-inspired theme jerseys, welcomed special guest Dennis "Mr. Belding" Haskins and staged contests such as "A.C. Slater's Sitting Backwards Musical Chairs."
Frisco RoughRiders, "Full House" Night: The RoughRiders' tribute to a TGIF staple featured a visit from Dave "Uncle Joey" Coulier. The players were introduced via a "Full House"-inspired intro video before taking the field in colorful jerseys packed with references to the show's San Francisco locale. They were everywhere you looked.
Potomac Nationals, "Star Wars" Night: There were "Star Wars" Nights all across Minor League Baseball, of course. But the Potomac Nationals found a way to stand out via theme jerseys featuring Cloud City administrator Lando Calrissian.
Toledo Mud Hens, "Back to the Future" Doubleheader: The Mud Hens hosted a time-traveling twinbill featuring a pair of theme jerseys. The team went "Back" in the first game before proceeding to the "Future in game two. Set the flux capacitator!
In 2015, Minor League Baseball's mania for theme jerseys led to some of the first documented examples of the theme uniform. When it came to these theme night duds, pants were not optional.
Durham Bulls, Star Wars Night: The Bulls upped the "Star Wars" Night ante by wearing an entire C-3PO theme uniform. The team described the jerseys as a "re-creation of bolt-era C-3POs torso." These were complemented by black and gold hats, gold pants and sublimated black and gold socks.
Eugene Emeralds, Portlandia Night: The Emeralds honored Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein's hipster-skewering sketch show by taking the field in a flannel and skinny jeans ensemble. Highlights of the evening included pregame kickball and a concourse pickling demonstration.
Frederick Keys, Nickelodeon Night: Frederick got nostalgic for '90s cable children's programming in a big way, suiting up in jerseys and pants inspired by Chuckie from "The Rugrats."
Not every theme night includes a theme jersey, of course. These three promotions serve as time capsules to 2015's sports and pop culture landscape.
Lake Elsinore Storm, Donut Tread On Us: Remember when Ariana Grande visited a donut shop and licked several donuts before declaring "I hate America"? Of course you do. And of course you remember that the Storm built a promotion around this short-lived controversy, in which the first 1,000 fans received an unlicked donut.
Lakewood BlueClaws, David Letterman Night: David Letterman retired in 2015, at which point he began a new life as a bearded Montanan recluse. The BlueClaws said goodbye to the legendary late night host with an evening of Top 10 Lists and Stupid Mascot Tricks.
Myrtle Beach Pelicans, #DeflateCancer: The Pelicans' "Deflate Cancer Night" was inspired by the saga of Tom Brady and his allegedly deflated balls. The evening, which aimed to "tighten the grip on testicular cancer," included a ball inflation station and general manager Andy Milovich participating in a "rocky mountain oyster" eating contest.
Any roundup of Minor League promotions would be remiss if it did not include at least a stray, fleeting mention of bobbleheads. Therefore, in the interest of not being remiss, a stray and fleeting roundup of 2015's notable bobbleheads:
Brooklyn Cyclones, Sidd Finch Night: Despite a 35-year-old Sports Illustrated article to the contrary, Sidd Finch and his 168 mph fastball never existed. But the man who was photographed as Finch, retired art teacher Joe Berton, was on-hand for the Cyclones' Sidd Finch bobblehead giveaway.
Round Rock Express, Willie Nelson bobblehead: Country music legend Willie Nelson has done a lot in his long and rambling life, but it took until 2015 for him to authorize production of a bobblehead featuring his likeness. The Round Rock Express, located just outside of Willie's Austin stomping grounds, were the team that had the honor of producing them.
Benjamin Hill is a reporter for MiLB.com and writes Ben's Biz Blog. Follow Ben on Twitter @bensbiz.