A post earlier this week was dedicated to the preponderance of top-quality videos that had recently arisen from the vast Minor League landscape. But lest anyone think I’m giving short shrift to the still image, today’s entry will feature a few of the many photos I have recently received.
So let’s, as they say, get to it.
Yesterday was Earth Day, spurring teams across the country to spout their environmental bonafides in fortuitously-timed press releases. But only one club is currently featuring both a power-generating hamster as well as a fanatical wearer of an all-encompassing green body suit.
That club would be the Fort Myers Miracle:
Sez the team:
Sparky makes appearances nightly to run in a hamster wheel…for a half-inning the entire ballpark is energized thru his swiftness. If Sparky slows down the lights on the scoreboard may dim.
While Sparky is running to his little heart’s content, the newly introduced “Green Guy” keeps the inside of the stadium clean.
Let’s move from Southwest Florida to South Bend, Indiana. There, the Silver Hawks staged their annual “Halfway to Halloween Night” promotion. The evening featured discounted admission to those in costume, such as these characters:
That Pirate up there on the right was the winner of the costume contest, marking the first time since 1992 that the Pirates were able to win anything. His “booty” was a pair of round-trip airfare tickets, which he gripped with gusto:
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Regular readers of my weekly “Promotion Preview” column (and aren’t you all?) will recall Bowie’s “Outdoorsman Night”, a salute to fresh air recreational activities. Cold weather put somewhat of a damper on the proceedings, but nonetheless the show went on. Here’s a ballpark image you don’t see every day:
Baysox media relations director Tom Sedlacek, who sent these pictures, writes “I’m not exactly sure what this race was, but contestants had to put on all the camo gear and run.” Sounds reasonable enough to me!
Sedlacek also wrote that “neither contestant in the duck call competition actually knew how to use the duck call.” There is something about this image that saddens me.
And when I feel down, there’s only one thing that can lift my spirits: baseball-themed adolescent folk art. The Bowling Green Hot Rods staged “Art Night” earlier this month, which was highlighted by a calendar giveaway featuring youthful interpretations of the Bowling Green Baseball experience.
I don’t know what it is, exactly, but this drawing in particular really speaks to me:
Kudos to this young artisan, may he (or she) go on to a creative career of colossal consequence.
An excellent example of this is the Fort Myers Miracle’s recent initiative, in which the team offered free tickets to European tourists stranded in southwest Florida due to volcanic ash. Miracle GM Steve Gliner reports 27 individuals took them up on the deal over the past two days.
An equally timely promotion was staged on Wednesday evening, in a South Atlantic League contest between the Rome Braves and visiting Kannapolis Intimidators. The teams were so inspired by Saturday’s 20-inning game between the Mets and the Cardinals that they played a 20-inning contest of their own!
Despite his fatigue, Intimidators broadcaster Josh Ellis took the time to send in the following information on Wednesday morning. I provide additional observations in italics:
— The game only took 4:41, an amazing 14 minutes and three seconds per full inning. The Mets-Cardinals contest took 6:53 (over twenty minutes per inning).
— There were no mid-inning pitching changes.
— There were 31 strikeouts and only seven walks.
— The Intimidators went 0-for-23 from the 13th to the 20th. And they won!
— The winning hit came on a 3-0 count. Congratulations, Kyle Colligan.
— The Intimidators bullpen has now allowed four earned runs over 55 innings this season, and have gone 21 straight innings without allowing a run.
The teams will play a 1 p.m. game today. The Braves won, 3-1, in a speedy 2:18.
An audio montage of this marathon ballgame can be heard HERE. In closing, I would like to commend both teams for tapping into the 20-inning zeitgeist. And thanks to Ellis, who so ably utilized the communications tools that I make available at the end of every post. You know, these:
The reason I did this was because I suspected that the promotion would receive national attention. Well, it did, but in a more roundabout way than I initially suspected. The promotion was held yesterday as planned, except with no specific references to Tim Tebow. This counter-intuitive development occurred because the team received a “cease-and-desist” email from the University of Florida.
“Under NCAA rules, it is not permissible to use the name or picture of a student-athlete in the promotion of a commercial product or service,” wrote Florida senior associate athletic director Jamie McCloskey. “Failure to abide by this rule would result in the student-athlete being ruled ineligible.”
It was this aspect of the promotion that ended up getting national attention, largely thanks to an Associated Press article that appeared early this afternoon (“Minor League team sacks Tebow promotion night” read the clever but misleading headline). Where the AP goes, others are sure to follow, and at this point Google lists 170 outlets that have picked up on the story in some way, shape, or form.
But, again, the promotion still happened. It wasn’t so much “sacked” as “deflected into the hands of an open reciever.”
“It turned out positively for us,” said Miracle director of promotions Gary Sharp. “We did everything the same way we would have, except we just said ‘T.T.’ instead of ‘Tim Tebow.'”
One aspect of the promotion that didn’t work out was the guest appearance of a local man named “Tim Tebo”, who was scheduled to walk on water as part of a between-inning stunt.
“I told him that there would be some media, but nothing serious, and he just clammed up,” said Sharp. “I couldn’t get a firm commitment out of him, because he told me that he doesn’t really like being around people. So we had one of our interns don a Gator jersey and walk on water instead.”
“He was out there mingling, but didn’t really get any business,” said Sharp, who perhaps overestimated the market for ballpark faith healing.
The team did get some interesting feedback from fans of rival Florida State, however.
“We got some emails saying ‘This is awesome. You should do the promo as planned so that Tebow isn’t eligible to play this season.'” recalled Sharp.
Sharp’s comment brings up a larger issue. Namely — would it really be possible for a college athlete to lose his eligibility due to the actions of a Minor League Baseball team? If so, teams should take advantage of this newfound power! The opportunity to make some money via blackmail and extortion would be hard to pass up.
Finally, some of you may remember that one of the promotion’s many selling points was this:
[Since] Tebow is perfect the Miracle will also have to be perfect on Wednesday night. If the Miracle commit an error during the game, fans will recieve a ticket to Sunday’s regular season finale.
Well, the Miracle did indeed commit an error, and fans did indeed receive free tickets to Sunday’s game.
“In the locker room after the game, players were asking me ‘Is this what you wanted? Did we do the right thing by making an error?'” said Sharp. “So even they were getting into it.”
As it turns out, very little ceasing and desisting went on in Fort Myers. It was more like “Slightly modify, then proceed as planned.”
On Wednesday, the Fort Myers Miracle will be staging “What Would Tim Tebow Do?” Night. From here on out, I’m going to let the press release do the talking. Here are some relevant highlights:
The night celebrates Tebow’s heavenly presence and his ability to do anything short of leaping tall buildings in a single bound. Any fans wearing their college gear will have a chance to win tickets to see Tebow and the Gators on October 17th against Arkansas.
The ceremonial first pitch will be truly Tim Tebow style with a jump pass toss to the catcher. Tennessee or LSU fans may want to turn away in fear of ugly flashbacks.
Miracle manager Jeff Smith will make a majority of his decisions with the thought process, “What Would Tim Tebow Do?”
Kudos to the Miracle for ending the season on such an irreverent note. This is a club that has in previous years staged the likes of “Billy Donovan Night” and “Mike Tyson Ear Night”, so its great to see them returning to similar territory (for many more Miracle innovations, click HERE).
I’ll be back tomorrow with content of a more original nature. It is currently my goal to gather as much material as possible, so that I can provide original content up until apocalypse 2012. So, please, get in touch while there’s still time.
Early yesterday afternoon, 19-year-old Julio Osegueda emerged as the star of President Obama’s town hall meeting in Fort Myers, FL. The enthusiastic McDonald’s employee and college student questioned Obama about employee benefits and later told the President that he had plans to be a broadcaster or disc jockey.
Less than four hours after the conclusion of the town hall meeting, the Fort Myers Miracle sent out a press release announcing that they had hired Osegueda to provide color commentary on their Opening Day radio broadcast. And less than one hour after that, MiLB.com had a story up on the Miracle’s job offer.
This story was written by — you guessed it — me! I spoke with Miracle promotions director Gary Sharp, who then put me in touch with Julio himself. Read it here.
For those who need a little context, here’s the YouTube video of Julio at the town hall meeting:
Throughout the week, this fine blog will run interviews with
representatives from the nominated teams, in an effort to shine some
light on their promotional strategies and philosophies.
Today’s featured team is the Fort Myers Miracle of the Florida State League. All answers are courtesy of Miracle promotions director Gary Sharp.
The Miracle were also nominated for the MacPhail trophy last season, and an interview with former GM Andrew Seymour regarding that honor can be found here.
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Prior to the season, had your team ever been nominated for a
MacPhail Award? If so, ever won it?
GS: We were honored to be nominated the last
two years and prior to that, 1998-2000. The club won the award in 1992.
How would you define your team’s promotional philosophy?
try and create promotions that not only are creative, but promotions that take
into account how they can also impact ticket sales, food and beverage and
merchandise. The crazier the better!!
What were some of your biggest promotional successes from
GS: We had few that stood out because they were topical that brought
our whole operation in on these promotions.
“Cheaper By The Gallon Days” — This promotion was created
to respond to the escalating price of gas this summer. Our hope was to take
something that was perceived as being one of the most negative stories of the
summer of 2008, and putting a positive spin on it. We decided to set our prices for box seat
tickets and grill items offered at Hammond Stadium, based on the lowest price
for a gallon of unleaded gasoline found in South Fort
Myers, the area surrounding the ballpark. The
Miracle’s goal to “fuel up” the local economy also included “Gallon Giveaways”,
like a gallon of water or a gallon of sour cream. Anything that comes in a
gallon was fair game for a “Cheaper by the Gallon” giveaway. Since there are
four quarts in a gallon, if there were four people in your vehicle when you
arrived at Hammond Stadium, your parking was free on these nights. Every fan
that attended a “Cheaper By The Gallon” Night was also eligible to enter into a
drawing to receive a free tank of gas. As a result of the huge popularity of the promotion, four local
“RaceTrac” gas stations teamed up with the Miracle for the
final month of the season, as well as for the Miracle postseason home games in
FLIGHT TO NOWHERE NIGHT — We poked fun at the airline industry to shed light on the rise of
passengers’ airport hassles and increasing airline ticket prices. Complaints
are up at the ticket counter, but with this promotion, accolades flew in from
our fans. The game was to begin at 7:05 pm, but due to some “unforeseen
circumstance”, the game was delayed a few minutes as long lines at the gates
delayed fans from getting in to the ballpark on time. Passengers were charged
for baggage brought into the ballpark and the ability to check your bag was
available for a nominal fee. We couldn’t guarantee that their possessions
weren’t mishandled, lost, mangled or rummaged through, however. Also, everyone was screened by
our resident FIG (Fun Is Good) agents. We took the opportunity in the midst of a fiscal crisis caused by increasingly
high fuel costs and bad economy to add additional “fees” to generate new
revenue. Pockets schedules, normally free, cost $1 and aisle seats cost an
extra $2. Birthday announcements, participation in on-field games and singing
of the 7th inning stretch all came with a fee. Some seats were
oversold and people were accommodated if they were bumped from their seat. Cart
service, provided from our lovely Miracle in-stadium attendants, was only
available in the box seats. Upgrades were available for an additional fee.
Any misfires, mishaps, or ideas that just didn’t work?
GS: The idea that I thought would be huge, but completely
bombed was “Miracle
Mystery Night”. There were clues set up all over the
ballpark for fans to collect and try and solve the mystery. I was expecting
this to last all game and fans had to visit all the different parts of the
ballpark where the clues were located. But, the mystery was solved by the first
pitch!! Our winner was the first into the ballpark, got the instructions and
basically sprinted all over the stadium picking up clues and then after 20
minutes he finally figured it out. Well, so much for planning.
What are your favorite sports promotions of all time?
Demolition Night in 1979 at Comiskey
I was way too young to remember the night, but through stories from our owner
Mike Veeck (who was involved in the craziest night ever on the South Side of Chicago)
it might have been the wildest idea with the worst result.
In a perfect world, what sort of promotions would you like
to stage in 2009 and beyond?
GS: I would like to have the
first ever snow delay in Florida State
League history. We are working on a Winter at the Park promotion that could
include downhill skiing on our berm, ski package giveaways and who else knows
what are staff will come up with.
Last week, the six Minor League clubs operated by Mike
Veeck’s Goldklang Group staged “Bobblection 2008.” The premise behind
this promotion was simple, according to my Promotion Preview column from two
“Bobblection is very simple at its core,” I wrote informatively.
“Upon entering the stadium, fans will select a bobblehead doll of either
Barack Obama or John McCain. The first candidate to run out of dolls (there
will be 500 of each) is declared the winner.”
The people have spoken, and the leader they prefer is bobblin’ Barack Obama.
Here are the results:
GOLDKLANG GROUP BOBBLECTION RESULTS
Hudson Valley, NY 750
(51.3%) 713 (48.7)
Brockton, MA 500
(52.3%) 456 (47.7%)
Charleston, SC 500
(58.1%) 360 (41.9%)
St. Paul, MN 1250 (58%)
Sioux Falls, SD 500
(55.2%) 405 (44.8%)
Fort Myers, FL 500 (54.4%)
TOTALS 4,000 ( 55.1%) 3,259 ( 44.9%)
Astute observers will note that three of the teams listed
above (Sioux Falls, St. Paul, Brockton) are from the Independent Leagues, that wild and wooly bastion of the Minors that is officially outside of the Ben’s Biz Blog jurisdiction. For one shining moment, Bobblection was able to unite these normally isolated factions of professional baseball. As a candidate of HOPE and CHANGE and UNITY and other buzzwords that signal a NEW ERA, Barack Obama would certainly approve.
In other news: I will be out of the office over the next several days, for two exceedingly good reasons. Blog content will most likely be sparse, but do not think I have abandoned you. I would never do that.
Yesterday I stumbled upon a pair of excellent sports journalism-themed Minor League events, and since they both involve a team from the Mike Veeck-led Goldklang Group I figured I would cover them in tandem with one another.
“The camp will give 10- to 18-year-olds the chance to learn about sports
broadcasting and meet broadcast professionals from Southwest Florida…Professional writers, TV anchors, editors and photographers will talk
about their respective professions, how they got there and what the
campers can do to prepare themselves for a career in journalism.
The highlight of the camp will be the opportunity to cover that
evening’s Miracle game. Campers will watch the game from the Hammond
Stadium press box and report on the game and their experience. Stories
will be reprinted on the Miracle’s website.”
Tonight’s event is at full capacity, and the club is already compiling a waiting list for next year. Obviously, this is a win-win situation. The camp provides aspiring sports journalists with a great opportunity to learn about the ins and outs of covering a game, while simultaneously generating increased fan interest in the Miracle.
Meanwhile…The Charleston RiverDogs announced the details of their “Fancaster Contest” yesterday. The club is currently accepting 1,000-word essays from fans who would like to try their hand in the broadcast booth. They will then select nine of these aspiring announcers, each of whom will broadcast one inning of August 23’s game against the Columbus Catfish. Here are the rest of the details:
At the conclusion of the RiverDogs-Catfish game, nine fan video clips will be
uploaded and available for voting by 5 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 25 at
From Aug. 25-27, fans will have the opportunity to
vote for the best RiverDogs Fancaster fan video on http://www.fancaster.com. There
will also be a link on the RiverDogs’ website.
The winner will be
announced as the “RiverDogs’ Fancaster Fan of the Year” during Fan Appreciation
Night, which will be held as part of the RiverDogs final home game of the season
on Aug 27 against the Savannah Sand Gnats.
On the assumption a position
is available, the winner may be considered for a potential radio play-by-play
position for one of The Goldklang Group’s teams (Charleston RiverDogs, Fort
Myers Miracle, Sioux Falls Canaries, Brockton Rox, St. Paul Saints and Hudson
Valley Renegades). Being named the “RiverDogs Fancaster Fan of the Year” during
Fan Appreciation Night does not guarantee future employment.
So there you have it folks…while the winner of this contest may not be guaranteed future employment, he or she will be guaranteed to win respect and admiration as a result of heretofore unrecognized play-calling skills.
Kudos to both the Miracle and the RiverDogs for staging events for their fans that are both fun and beneficial to professional development. That’s a hard combination to pull off.
When we last checked in with the Fort Myers Miracle, they had just instituted their “Cheaper By the Gallon” promotion. As part of this wide-ranging initiative, ticket prices and concession stand items were sold at the same price of a gallon of unleaded gasoline.
Apparently, this was just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the Miracle’s willingness to poke fun at our nation’s transportation woes. Just yesterday, the club staged “Flight to Nowhere Night” at beautiful Hammond Stadium.
Appropriate to this dystopian, post-modern age in which we live, “Flight to Nowhere Night” is perhaps best described as an “anti-promotion.” The Miracle’s goal for the evening was to bring the commercial airline experience to the ballpark. What did this entail? I believe the press release can answer that question!
“Passengers can begin boarding the Hammond Stadium seats at 6 p.m…You will be able to check your bag
for a nominal fee, but we can’t guarantee that your possessions won’t
be mishandled, lost, mangled or rummaged thru…Allow for extra time to enter Hammond Stadium. Everyone will be screened by our resident FIG (Fun Is Good) agents.”
If you think it ends there, then you are not thinking very hard.
In the midst of a fiscal crisis caused by increasingly high fuel costs
and bad economy, the Miracle will add additional fees to generate
revenue on Thursday. Pocket schedules, normally free, will now cost $1
and aisle seats will cost an extra $2. Birthday announcements,
participation in on-field games and singing of the 7th inning stretch
will now come with a fee.”
Want more? You got it:
“The Miracle does apologize in advance for seats that have been oversold
and will accommodate anyone that is bumped. Box Seats will be
considered first class and Reserved Grandstand seats will be coach.
Cart service, provided from our lovely Miracle in-stadium attendants,
will only be available in the box seats. Upgrades are available for an
additional fee…The flight is scheduled to last nine innings. We can’t do anything
about extra innings or weather-related delays. There is no minimum stay
required and the exit gates may not be open just because the game has
Now, you may be reading this and thinking it doesn’t sound like a very fun night out. The Miracle, however, operate at a higher lever:
“When the night is over you will realize that your experience at Hammond
Stadium is an automatic relief from the stress that is flying these
I would like to see this emerge as a new trend in Minor League promotions: theme nights that highlight the indignities of 21st-century American life in order to illustrate how much better it is to be at the ballpark.
May I suggest “Global Conglomerate Customer Service Night”, in which all tickets and concessions must be purchased by phoning a call center in India? Or — for any fellow New York City residents reading this — how about “G Train Appreciation Night”? Inning breaks would be 20 minutes long, fans would be encouraged to throw their trash on the floor, and the PA announcer would be completely indecipherable.
The possibilities are endless, really, and I shall ponder said possibilities for the duration of the entire weekend. Have a great one, everybody.