As a relentless chronicler of the myriad goings-on in the Minor League Baseball industry, I am always gladdened when I stumble upon something that has never been done before. After all, learning about new promotional techniques is one of the best ways for me to keep my mind stimulated as I wile away the offseason months in the darkest recesses of our labyrinthian MiLB.com headquarters.
So kudos to the California League’s Stockton Ports, who on December 3 became the first team in all of professional baseball to launch their own customized search engine — www.searchwith stocktonports.com
The Ports’ search engine was designed by Prodege, a company that specializes in this sort of thing.
It works like any other search engine, and is in fact powered by Google and Ask. What makes it unique is that every day, prizes are randomly awarded to the site’s users. According to the Ports’ press release, these prizes range from "merchandise to autographs, and even unique ‘fan experiences’ such as throwing out the first pitch." Furthermore, users are frequently awarded "Swag Bucks", which can be put toward a wide array of prizes (I, in fact, was quickly awarded a "swag buck" when I visited the site and predictably typed in "Ben’s Biz Blog").
Of course, it remains to be seen whether the Ports’ search engine will remain an anomaly in the world of the Minor Leagues, or whether other teams will give this idea a go. For now, I’m just happy to find something that frequently utilizes the term "swag buck", which to me sounds like the name of a brawling, tobacco-spewing baseball player from the 1890s.