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Choosing the decade's best Minor League promos

After much deliberation, veteran scribe unveils his 2010's Top 10
Ben Hill's favorite Minor League promotions of the decade all had one thing in common -- originality.
January 5, 2021

Over the past three months,'s Ben Hill provided a year-by-year overview of Minor League Baseball's top promotions of the 2010s. Today, he chooses his 10 favorite promos of the entire decade. This series will conclude Thursday -- National Bobblehead Day -- with a look at the decade's best bobbleheads.

Over the past three months,'s Ben Hill provided a year-by-year overview of Minor League Baseball's top promotions of the 2010s. Today, he chooses his 10 favorite promos of the entire decade. This series will conclude Thursday -- National Bobblehead Day -- with a look at the decade's best bobbleheads.

During the 2010s, tens of thousands of promotions were staged by Minor League teams across the country. From the first week of April through Labor Day, any given day brought a host of old standards, and if we were lucky, something that had never been done before. Choosing favorites from among this overwhelming amount of raw material was a formidable and, yes, wholly subjective task. What follows was this writer's attempt to do just that, picking one promo from every year of the decade. The promos in question proved to be wildly disparate, but had one thing in common: Originality.

Disagree with these selections? Of course you do. To share your own favorite promotions of the decade that was, please reach out via email ([email protected]) or Twitter (@bensbiz).

2010: San Antonio Missions -- Randy vs. Puffy Taco, the Rematch

In 1992, Double-A Missions mascot Henry the Puffy Taco mascot defeated 11-year-old Randy Neuenfeldt in a race around the bases. This marked the first (and still only) instance in which Henry won such a race. Eighteen years later, Neuenfeldt was given the opportunity to redeem himself and the demons of this childhood trauma were finally exorcised.

This promotion was notable for its unique backstory and attention to detail. It came about after Rick Hill, the Missions intern who escorted a humiliated Neuenfeldt off the field in 1992, penned a local newspaper article expressing his regret for the incident. Neuenfeldt saw the article, and the team set up the rematch. They even arranged for Jimmy Gonzalez, the 1992-era Puffy Taco who defeated Neuenfeldt, to reprise his role as the anthropomorphic regionally popular culinary treat in question.

2011: Fresno Grizzlies -- Taco Truck Throwdown

The Triple-A Grizzlies' "Taco Truck Throwdown" made its debut in 2011; it has since become the team's signature event. The inaugural iteration, held on the Chukchansi Park concourse, featured seven local taco trucks and drew more than 10,000 fans. Subsequent versions of the Taco Truck Throwdown were moved to the exterior of the ballpark to better accommodate the massive crowds that reliably have shown up year after year. It's now a two-day event.

And that's not all. This annual celebration of taco culture was so successful that, in 2015, the Grizzlies decided to play a game as the Tacos. This marked the first time a Minor League team adopted a regional food-based alter ego, a trend that has since permeated the Minor League landscape. The Grizzlies have been playing as the Tacos on a weekly basis, assuming the identity for -- what else? -- Taco Tuesday.

2012: Missoula Osprey -- Float to the Ballpark

The majority of fans rely on cars to get them to the ballpark. Others bike or take public transportation, and a lucky few can even walk. But only one team has offered aquatic transport, and that team was the Rookie Advanced Osprey (fittingly now known as the Paddleheads). Approximately 75 fans signed up for the Float to the Ballpark experience, which entailed a leisurely two-hour raft trip on the Clark Fork River that ended at a boat launch located just 100 yards from Ogren Park's left-field foul pole.

2013: New Britain Rock Cats -- Failed Marriage Proposal

If this promotion was wrong, then the Double-A New Britain Rock Cats didn't want to be right. The team, seeking to generate some publicity, staged a failed between-inning marriage proposal (failed as in, "she said no"). The stunt went viral, with media outlets here and abroad falling for the hoax. Mike Abramson, now the general manager of the Double-A Hartford Yard Goats, played a key role in the hijinks. This past February, he reflected on the experience:

"For some reason, we thought it was a good idea to come clean and let people know it wasn't a failed proposal but a stroke of marketing and execution genius. It backfired. The story once again was covered all over the world, but as a 'scam' and a 'hoax.' People were outraged, clearly crazy, and I received multiple email death threats. Which all struck me as extreme. I did, however, follow up with every single person who complained and converted eight of those complainants to season-ticket holders. We also sold out the final eight games following the 'failed' promotion due to all the exposure."

2014: El Paso Chihuahuas -- Bark in the Park jerseys

We are currently living in the era of Trash Pandas and Rumble Ponies, making it easy to forget that, in 2014, the "Chihuahuas" was a controversial, boundary-pushing name choice for Triple-A El Paso's new Pacific Coast League team. The Chihuahuas were undeterred by the criticisms, and embraced their feisty small canine identity from the jump. This was most evident during a very special "Bark in the Park" promotion, when the team wore unforgettable jerseys featuring a gargantuan, hyper-realistic chihuahua face.

2015: Toledo Mud Hens -- "Back to the Future" Doubleheader

"Back to the Future" turned 30 in 2015, prompting many teams to pay tribute to this time-traveling classic at the ballpark. The Triple-A Toledo Mud Hens found a way to stand out from the pack, as they wore different "Back to the Future" theme jerseys during both games of a doubleheader. During the opening "Back" game, the Mud Hens donned throwback 1980s-themed jerseys. This was followed in the nightcap by forward-looking "Future" apparel based on what the team's uniforms might look like in another 30 years.

2016: Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders -- Man vs. Marathon

On "Man vs. Marathon Night" at PNC Field, 12 five-person teams tried to run a marathon in less time than it took to play that evening's game between the Triple-A RailRiders and the visiting Gwinnett Braves. The marathon course consisted of .42-mile laps, beginning on the right-field concourse and encircling the perimeter of the ballpark before re-entering on the left-field side. To enhance the evening's theme, RailRiders players suited up in glow-in-the-dark jerseys featuring a team logo that looked as though it had been affixed with safety pins.

And for those wondering, just one of the 12 running teams was able to complete the marathon before the evening's three-hour-and-seven-minute ballgame concluded.

2017: Multiple Teams -- Baseball and the Eclipse

On Aug. 21, the United States experienced its first coast-to-coast total solar eclipse in 99 years. The ideal place to watch this phenomenon, during which day turned into night as a result of the moon obscuring the sun, was from within a 67-mile-wide strip of near-total darkness known as the "path of totality." Seven Minor League teams were within the path of totality: the Class A Short Season Salem-Keizer Volcanoes, the Rookie Advanced Idaho Falls Chukars, the Class A Bowling Green Hot Rods, the Triple-A Nashville Sounds, the Class A Greenville Drive, the Class A Columbia Fireflies and the Class A Charleston RiverDogs. All seven of these teams conducted a ballpark event that day as the eclipse made its approximately 1,500-mile southeasterly journey across the United States.

This writer, after doing an eclipse-themed interview with Bill Murray at a RiverDogs game, witnessed the eclipse at the Fireflies' home of Segra Park. It was a truly amazing thing to behold.

2018: Syracuse Chiefs -- Devices Night

You might think you don't know what a Brannock Device is. But the thing is, you do know. You just never knew what it was called: The Brannock Device is a metal foot-measuring tool invented in Syracuse in 1927 by Dr. Charles Brannock. If you've ever bought shoes at a shoe store, then you've slid your foot into a Brannock Device. The Triple-A Syracuse Chiefs, celebrating the provenance of this ubiquitous but anonymous item, played a game as "The Devices." The team took the field wearing black jerseys emblazoned with "Devices" in a red-accented metallic font, while their hats featured an anthropomorphic Brannock Device named Chuck.

2019: Charleston RiverDogs -- Helen McGuckin Night

In May 2018, the RiverDogs received the following review from McGuckin, a level 7 local guide on Google: "Just drove by, 2 out of 5 stars." This assessment prompted the RiverDogs to embark on a quest: Find Helen McGuckin, stage a theme night in her honor and do everything in their power to change that two-star review to five. Were they successful? Yes and no. The RiverDogs did indeed locate McGuckin, but she was unable to attend the ballgame in question. So the team recruited a Helen McGuckin stand-in to enjoy the ballpark experience that the real McGuckin was promised.

"We ended up with a number of new five-star reviews. People bought into it. They had fun," said RiverDogs promotions director Nate Kurant. "[McGuckin's] review was just so unique. It wasn't mad. It wasn't thrilled. It was just bland. And she has a funny name, and in Minor League Baseball, that was just a humorous perfect storm that got us an entire theme night."

Benjamin Hill is a reporter for and writes Ben's Biz Blog. Follow Ben on Twitter @bensbiz.