Like 3D Television, light beer, and marriage, Minor League Baseball home run derbies are often far better in theory than they are in practice. The thrill of seeing emerging baseball superstars belting balls out of the park often gives way to a monotonous string of foul balls and harmless outfield flies.
In order to avoid such an underwhelming spectacle, the Quad Cities River Bandits — hosts of the recent 2011 Midwest League All-Star Game — put an entirely new twist on this year’s Derby. One glance at the field should tell you just how different this particular contest was.
As River Bandits marketing and promotions manager Shelley Heward explained in an email:
What the home run derby became was a hitting contest with over 50 targets and prizes scattering the outfield, ranging from a River Bandits-themed van, sponsor banners, cutout beer bottles and even a dunk tank with Hooters girls ready to splash down…. We even gave away $2 beers when a batter hit the cardboard beer cutout which sent the crowd racing to the concession stands.
The team invited category leaders from each division, including home runs, batting average and stolen bases, and points ranging from one to 15 were awarded for various hits and points were deducted for foul balls and swinging strikes. Each player represented a fan and a charity. The fan received prizes as their player hit targets.
This culminated in a highly entertaining event with four on-field emcees, a charity receiving over $2,500 in donations and the event coming down to one final swing that had the fans on their feet. While the final hit did not result in a home run, it was still good enough for the player to win and get mobbed by his teammates.
Derby winner Travis Witherspoon and his designated fan.
In conclusion, Heward writes that:
The River Bandits redefined the home run derby with this event, involved local media, fans, charities and gave not only the All-Star players, but also thousands of fans, a memory that will not soon be duplicated.
Thanks to Heward for writing a detailed enough email that all I had to do was cut and paste. I’ll close today’s post by once again mentioning that, apropos of nothing, I am currently soliciting introspective mascot photos such as the one seen below.
I will not stop soliciting these until I have at least 10 (the current count is three), so please do your part and send ’em to me.