Oh, boy. The inexorable passage of time has once again brought us face to face with a new Minor League Baseball season. I, for one, am psyched. I, for two, have also been remiss in updating this blog over the past week or so. I have various excuses for this, of varying degrees of legitimacy, but who cares? The drought is over. New content — the lifeblood of the internet, the lifeblood of my existence — begins now.
As the title makes clear, this post will be a full-to-bursting bouillabaisse of delectable Minor League morsels. I’d like to start by noting that, over on MiLB.com, my first “Promo Watch” column of the 2016 season is now live. “Promo Watch” is a tweak on the old “Promo Preview” format, encompassing not just the traditional previews but also reviews and larger promo trend analysis. In today’s column, I highlighted a few 2016 promos that I am looking forward to. They involve previous planet Pluto, President James Garfield and pork roll.
I’d like to think I’m writing the most consistently (and justifiably) weird stuff in the entire sports journalism ecosystem. But of a less weird variety is this Opening Day Guide, co-written with my colleague Sam “No, I’m not related to Lenny” Dykstra. Read and learn.
Everybody loves dogs, so everybody will love this: Former Greensboro Grasshoppers bat dog Miss Babe Ruth has accepted a new position with the team.
— Benjamin Hill (@bensbiz) April 6, 2016
In this capacity, Miss Babe Ruth (how is she not named “Babe Ruff”?) will “greet fans in the concourse during games and also advertise her new association” with a flea and tick prevention product named BRAVECTO.
Remember at the Winter Meetings when I wrote about the complex issues surrounding drone usage at Minor League Baseball games? Well, that’s because, like it or not, drones are here to stay (and not just in the broadcast booth). This season, the Reading Fightin Phils are using them in an official context. This is the “Drone Cam.”
During the offseason, the Lexington Legends partnered with a local school on “Stache Tank.” This “Shark Tank”-inspired competition asked students, working in teams as part of an economics unit, to pitch a promotional giveaway item as well as a ballpark improvement. Winning student presentations include a slap bracelet giveaway and the construction of a rock climbing wall in right field. Pretty cool idea.
The Durham Bulls have announced that, on June 9, they will wear “the first Bulls uniform created by a company outside of the sports industry.” It was designed by Durham-based RUNAWAY, which is weird because it seems their focus would be all-caps.
The jerseys are modeled after the flag of Durham, with “DURM” in the center. DURM is a “term coined by RUNAWAY as an ode to the city’s hard-nosed history.” If you’ve got a hard nose then you should probably go see the durmatologist.
In my previous blog bouillabaisse I mentioned that the Sacramento River Cats had installed 472 solar panels and five SMA inverters at their home of Raley Field. The team’s environmentally-friendly endeavors continue apace, with last week’s announcement of “River Cats Road Relief.“ This three-pronged initiative includes a carpool program, which enables cars with four or more passengers to receive free parking.
— River Cats (@RiverCats) April 6, 2016
New Jersey’s pro baseball scene has gone through some hard times, as three indy clubs have ceased operation. But their pain is the Trenton Thunder’s gain. On Wednesday, the team announced announced that Camden Riversharks, Newark Bears and Atlantic City Surf gear can be exchanged for a free ticket, food voucher and team store discount.
Trade in your @Riversharks gear for tickets, food, and 20% off at the company store!
— Trenton Thunder (@TrentonThunder) April 6, 2016
The Tri-City ValleyCats don’t start their season until June, but they’re still making good use of their time. On April 14, the team is staging its annual “4 in 24” initiative, in which four local youth fields are renovated within a 24-hour span. This is a great idea.
I began with dogs, so I’ll end with dogs: The Inland Empire 66ers have installed Minor League Baseball’s first-ever permanent dog park.
Here’s to the 2016 season! I promise I’ll be announcing my road trip schedules shortly.
— Benjamin Hill (@bensbiz) April 7, 2016
It can be tough to stand out within this oversaturated media landscape that we all find ourselves immersed in, but Minor League teams have become particularly adept at doing just this via the tried and true tradition of riffing on newsworthy events. In this post, please find a few offseason examples of relatively recent vintage.
Inland Empire 66ers — Farewell to Twinkies Night
In the wake of the news that Hostess was shutting down its operations, the 66ers leaped into action and secured 1000 Twinkies before they disappeared from the shelves. With snack cakes secured, they then announced that April 5 will be “Farewell to Twinkies Night.” Per the team:
The first 999 fans in attendance will receive a free Twinkie; however there will be a silent auction for the final Twinkie to be awarded during the seventh inning stretch with proceeds going to charity.
But, of course, that’s not all:
The organization has also extended an offer to actor Woody Harrelson, who in 2009, starred as the Twinkie obsessed Tallahassee in the zombie comedy, Zombieland, to throw out the ceremonial first pitch. Beyond the invitation to Harrelson, the 66ers have also contacted Hostess about featuring Twinkie the Kid, Hostess’s well known mascot, in the Mascot Dash vs. the team’s own Bernie.
Hickory Crawdads — The Mayans Got It Wrong
In the wake of the world continuing on as usual post 12/21/12, the Crawdads decided that a ticket-related celebration was in order. Explained the team:
Being as we’re jubilant with relief that the earth is still spinning, the ‘Dads are offering all fans FREE Grandstand Tickets for The Mayans Got it Wrong Night on April 8.
“As part of last year’s May Mayan Mayhem promotion, we were prepared to give everyone a free season ticket for life if the world did end today,” said Crawdads Director of Promotions Jared Weymier. “But we think free tickets on April 8 AND the world not ending is a pretty good combination!”
The Crawdads are also to be commended for this out-of-left-field press release, issued in the wake of the news that New York Jets superfan Fireman Ed was retiring from going to games.
In light of former New York Jets Superfan Ed “Fireman Ed” Anzalone declaring this week that he will retire from going to Jets games, the Hickory Crawdads are formally inviting him to become the new Official Superfan of the Crawdads.
Fireman Ed cited increasing confrontations with other Jets fans at Metlife Stadium as the reason why he is retiring from attending Jets games and leading their faithful in his renowned “J-E-T-S, Jets Jets Jets” chant. With the family-friendly atmosphere at Crawdads games, as well as the ‘Dads long-standing appreciation of firemen and all emergency responders, L.P. Frans Stadium is the perfect location for Ed to retire.
As part of becoming the Official Superfan of the Crawdads, the ‘Dads are offering Fireman Ed a free season ticket and parking pass for life, a customized Crawdads fireman’s hat and a personalized Crawdads jersey that no one will ever negatively confront him for wearing. Fireman Ed will have free reign to lead Crawdads fans in whatever chant he chooses – after all, “D-A-D-S, Dads Dads Dads” has a good ring to it!
Finally, we have this press release masterpiece from the Myrtle Beach Pelicans, in which they wax indignant about New Orleans’ basketball team “copying” their name.
I’m just going to go ahead and drop a massive chunk of cut and pasted text right here. Myrtle Beach earned it with this one:
Inspired by the mind-numbing creativity shown by the NBA’s New Orleans franchise in recently announcing a surprise and out-of-left field (pun intended) name change from Hornets to Pelicans, Minor League Baseball’s Myrtle Beach (S.C.) Pelicans, the Advanced Class-A affiliate of the Texas Rangers, are asking their fans to consider a sweeping re-branding and promotional effort, effective for the 2013 Carolina League season.
The re-branding and promotional plan would not only pay homage to everything New Orleans, but would provide Minor League Baseball fans from the Grand Strand an opportunity not extended to basketball fans in Louisiana — participating in selecting the team’s new nickname. Using the same level of out-of-the-box thinking used by the Hornets, nickname choices have been narrowed to Saints, Hornets, Jazz, Bayou Bengals, Ragin’ Cajuns and Voodoo, along with any other current or former sports nickname the club could poach from the Bayou State.
The re-branding plan has already affected the team’s organizational structure. Current General Manager Scott Brown, the reigning Carolina League Executive of the Year, is so inspired by the idea that he has decided to re-trace the Hornets past history and move he and his family to Charlotte, North Carolina, where he will become the General Manager of that city’s Triple-A franchise. The Hornets called Charlotte home from 1988-2002.
If fans select choose to drop the Pelicans name in favor of a New Orleans-themed moniker, the club will institute of a series of NOLA-themed promotions and ballpark changes to complement the club’s new brand:
- The team’s home ballpark would be renamed “TicketReturn.com Field at Preservation Hall”
- Areas of the ballpark would also be re-branded. The pond in the parking lot would be called “Lake Pontchartrain”, while patrons entering ballpark restroom facilities would be taking their personal business to the “French Quarter”
- The club would petition city and county officials to rename streets and landmarks around the area. 21st Avenue North, which runs along the ballpark, would be called “St. Charles Avenue,” Broadway at the Beach, Myrtle Beach’s entertainment hot spot, would become “Bourbon Street,” and, boldy, the team would call its home county “Horry Parrish.”
- The logo of the new team name would include a fleur de lis, much in the same fashion as the current logo, which incorporates a crescent-shaped moon in the background.
- A different NOLA-themed promotion for every day of the week would be incorporated. The lineup would feature Mardi Gras Mondays, Fat Tuesdays, Wet Wednesdays (featuring 1/2 price hurricane drinks), Thirsty Thursday (featuring Creole Bloody Marys), Big Easy Fridays (featuring the music of Al Hirt, Louis Armstrong, Aaron Neville and other New Orleans legends), Sazerac Saturdays and Voodoo Sundays (Details currently under development).
- The team’s game night entertainment would also reflect the newly-created team image. The club’s entertainment staff would be known as the “Promotional Krewe”, jazz music would serve as player at-bat songs, legendary political strategist James Carville would be invited to serve as one of the team’s radio announcers, and the playing of the Smokey and the Bandit theme song during the 7th Inning Stretch would be replaced by “When the Saints Go Marching In.”
- Saints quarterback Drew Brees would be invited to toss out the ceremonial first pitch of the 2013 season and a season-long “Superdome” promotion would be instituted, providing ticket discounts to anyone with a “bald dome.”
- TicketReturn.com Field at Preservation Hall concession stands would offer traditional New Orleans foods such as poboys, crawfish, jambalaya and gumbo with classic side dishes such as red beans and rice.
- Team merchandise would obviously include team beads, as well as NOLA-themed t-shirts, and plush dolls of mascot Splash would be turned into Voodoo dolls
If you are aware of other teams displaying a similarly Peli-can do spirit, then get in touch.
This has been Ben’s Biz Blog post #900 — here’s to more, but hopefully not 900 more. That would be overkill.
Maybe it’s an example of my sticktuitiveness, maybe an example of stagnancy. Probably both. But, at any rate, I am able to begin today’s Leap Year post by looking at what I wrote about 2/29 the last time it rolled around.
So let’s leap to it!
The year was 2008. While most Americans were busy listening to the 10th anniversary edition of the Baha Men’s epochal Doong Spank LP, the Lancaster JetHawks made their presence felt by staging a Leap Year promo. Most notably, all fans with a leap year birthday received a box seat season ticket!
Not to be outdone, the Altoona Curve soon announced a season-long “Leip Year” celebration, all in honor of skipper Tim Leiper.
This one had the Rainmain-like fixation on numbers that is a hallmark of any good Minor League promotion, including the provision that if any Curve player was batting .366 after April 29’s ballgame, he (or she, you never know) would be awarded $366.
Maybe I’m just jaded, but I don’t think we’ve reached that level of inspiration in 2012. But a lot is going on. Here is a thorough (but by no means authoritative) rundown of who’s doing what how. Said rundown is in alphabetical order, but starting with “N” and then continuing back around through “M.”
Most notably, the above deal includes a $29 Citgo gas card.
$17 all-you-can-eat seats, to any game. I’m just not sure who would want to eat seats in the first place, though.
More bang for the buck than a bringing an exploding dollar bill along on a deer hunt! $29 gets four tickets to exhibition game vs. Triple-A Sacramento, four ticket vouchers to opening weekend, and two souvenir caps.
Interesting twist to this one, in that the $29 ticket packages includes admission to all games falling on the 29th of the month.
This offer comes with a $29 concession stand credit. Beet eggs included?
Two extra games included with the purchase of a five or 10-game pack!
A $95 savings!
Buy a six or 12-game ticket pack, get an additional game free.
Lake Elsinore Storm
This concludes THE MOST COMPREHENSIVE RECAP OF MINOR LEAGUE BASEBALL LEAP DAY PROMOTIONS EVER ASSEMBLED. And yet I still don’t have my own Wikipedia page.
This is me, in Inland Empire, dressed as a Molar Racer.
The reason I’m showing this picture is because it features my Sony Webbie camera, which has accompanied me on all road trips that I’ve ever undertaken while under the employ of MiLB.com.
We’ve been through a lot, Webbie and I, but I’m now ready to end our relationship. I have become increasingly disheartened with the quality of the photos, especially if movement and/or low lighting is involved. It’s time for an upgrade, but to what?
Does anyone out there have any recommendations? I need something lightweight, easy-to-use, durable, (relatively) cheap, and capable of taking photos worthy of appearing on the number one Minor League Baseball promotions/game operations/travel blog on the internet (I mean, if it’d be good enough for them then it would be good enough for Ben’s Biz Blog.)
I know that many of my readers are far more tech-savvy than I, so let’s hear it! What should be the next Ben’s Biz Blog camera of choice?
Technologically-minded endeavors certainly have their place, but it’s the simple pleasures that what make life worth living. And pleasures don’t get much simpler than that which was covered in Monday’s post: armadillo racing.
Upon seeing said post, one of my embedded contacts within the Tulsa Drillers front office sent the following photos. Apparently, Sparky Sparks and his team of racing armadillos are regular ballpark visitors.
Armadillo racing is undoubtedly thrilling, but not quite as thrilling as stuntman Ted Batchelor. The last time that Batchelor appeared at a Minor League ballpark was 2009, when he ran the bases while on fire following a Savannah Sand Gnats game.
Batchelor, who recently set a Guinness World Record for longest “on fire run” (492 feet), wrote me to report that he has one team booked in 2012 (I’ll let that team make the announcement) but that he “needs many more!” (This is, after all, a man with a stated goal of getting lit on fire in all 50 states.) Check out his website for more info.
But while lighting a man on fire is still a relatively rare occurrence in the Minor Leagues, fireworks are about as common as it gets. And what better way to promote an increased fireworks slate than with a parody of the song “Fireworks”? Take it away, Akron Aeros!
Perry-dy is more like it!
Writing a pre-Thanksgiving post on “what I am thankful for” has the whiff of an obligatory elementary school essay assignment, but I want to get something up on this slice of the internet before it all goes (mercifully) dark for the holidays.
And you know what I’m thankful for? That I have a job that puts me in absurd situations on a regular basis. Some highlights from the 2011 season.
The point of this unbridled exercise in Holiday week narcissism is…well…I guess there is no point. But I do want to issue a sincere THANK YOU to everyone who has supported these absurd endeavors of mine. And it’s never too early to start thinking about the 2012 season — please, get in touch if you have any suggestions regarding Minor League places to go and things to do. I really do try to say “yes” as much as possible.
Finally, two stories are up today that I’d really appreciate if you checked out. First up is my story on Greg Halman, who was stabbed to death earlier this week. I talked to people who knew him at all stops on his Minor League journey, and did the best I could to write something that went beyond “I’m shocked that his happened” quotes.
Elsewhere, I have a guest column up on Baseball Propectus. It’s a pretty through overview of the Minor League mindset, and I sincerely hope it brings a few new converts into the fold.
Monday’s game between the Inland Empire 66ers and visiting Visalia Rawhide didn’t start until 7 p.m., but I made it to the ballpark nearly four hours early.
Why? Because I had been tipped off that an exorcism was going to take place. The 66ers have been playing miserably in the month of May, with the low point being the previous day’s 17-2 loss. So the team decided to burn their struggles away, via a soul-cleansing trash-can fire in the groundskeeper’s area beyond center field.
I went out there around 3:30, and came across a plastic bin full of sacrificial baseball detritus.
One of the most prominent items contained therein was one of first baseman Casey Haerther’s rejected pieces of lumber.
Soon the players emerged from the dugout and somberly trudged toward the ceremonial grounds.
The plastic bin was emptied into a trash can, and a copious amount of lighter fluid was poured on top.
Before lighting this mess ablaze, veteran southpaw Harold Williams gave a speech about how this fire symbolized a fresh start. It was a surprisingly somber and serious affair (to me, at least), but losing is no fun so I can appreciate how miserable these guys had been recently.
Burn, burn, yes you’re gonna burn!
But not for long.
And wouldn’t you know it? The 66ers went out on Monday night and scored five runs in the first inning, highlighted by back-to-back-to-back home runs by Michael Wing, the aforementioned Cody Haerther, and Kole Calhoun. Meanwhile, a trio of pitchers kept the Rawhide offense in check, and the 66ers rolled to a 7-1 win.
I have a newfound faith in the power of baseball voodoo. If this works for writers, then when I get home I’m going to set fire to a trashcan filled with a laptop, old notebooks, broken pens, rejection letters, and business cards.
Read more about the 66ers’ ceremony over at MiLB.com, please. But it’s now time for us to turn our attention toward the usual blogging shenanigans. For example, I soon noticed that one of the outfield billboards featured the world’s most voluptuous peach.
Viewing that image got me all worked up. In order to restore a sense of calm to my harried brain I hung out for a bit in the air-conditioned comfort of the 66ers’ front office. Director of Ticket Operations Joey Seymour filled me in on the team’s “Road to the Show” ticket package, marketed to nearby Angels fans and featuring home games taking place when that team is out of town.
Good idea, right?
Seymour also removed the perforation from tickets this year, in order to make them more of a souvenir item. Keeping with that philosophy, the season tickets are jumbo-sized and perfect for player — or mascot — autographs.
The man in the suit seen above is Douglas Maiden, in his first season as Bernie but with 12 seasons of mascot experience.
An interesting aspect of the Bernie character is that he often emits a high-pitched “Wooooo!” catchphrase. All through the evening, this noise could be heard (from Bernie as well as from fans trying to get his attention).
At one point in the evening, I heard a one-second sound clip come on over the PA, simply the word “Bernie.” My ears perked up immediately — this solitary word had been taken from Weird Al’s “Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota” (!!!) This is one of my favorite Weird Al songs of all-time — a loving celebration of aburdist Americana that pretty much encapsulates everything that is great about this country. Upon graduating college, I embarked on a road trip to the Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota, located in Darwin, MN. I want this song played at my funeral.
But I digress…
My next stop was the home dugout in order to do a few player interviews (I ended up speaking with Jean Segura, Mike “No, Not that Mike Piazza” Piazza, and Harold Williams). Also milling about was a contingent of local bloggers. The team had invited them on “Ode to Bloggers” Night, part of their series of “Social Media Monday” promotions.
And — hey! — I blog as well. Perhaps this is why I was asked to throw out the first pitch.
First pitch friends for life!
The evening’s contingent of bloggers spent the evening in a suite owned by 66ers consultant Byron Marquez. It was swanky.
But my peripatetic tendencies are too strong, so I commenced to wandering.
The 66ers, like virtually all teams, claim to have one of the largest scoreboards in Minor League Baseball. It certainly is beautiful.
Arrowhead Credit Union Stadium doesn’t offer an open concourse, but at least there’s plenty of room to move back there.
By this point you may be saying to yourself, “This place reminds me of Lancaster’s stadium.” Well, that’s because they’re virtually identical (designed by the same architect, built around the same time. But in Inland Empire, the builders at least remembered to include player clubhouses. This was overlooked in Lancaster, resulting in extraneous buildings in far right and left field).
But what you’re really here for is to check out the team’s concession prices. Here you go:
Thank goodness the team didn’t offer Ben’s Biz Blog a Bernie’s Belly Buster Burger. So many “b”s involved, I would’ve broke out in hives.
Corporate Groups Manager David May spent much of the evening extolling the virtues of “Flavor Burst” ice cream. Perhaps the company can use the following photo in their promotional materials.
But out on the concourse, a game was going on. It was a cold gray Monday night, not exactly the kind of evening that packs ’em in. Still, a beautiful place to see some Class A Advanced baseball.
“Passing the Hat” after the 66ers’ first-inning tater triumvirate.
The scoreboard was often used as the focal point of between-inning games and contests, such as the “Dueling Banjo Cam.”
But soon it came time for me to compete in a between-inning promotion. May, website manager Robert Peters and I descended into the prop room…
And suited up as “racing molars.”
We had plenty of time to kill while waiting for the race, which was largely spent interacting with a gaggle of kids who descended upon us. I was asked for my autograph no less than six times, despite doing nothing more than gripping a pen in my fist and scrawling “TOOTH.” Kids are the best.
But it was all business once race time came, and I’m pleased to say that I emerged victorious.
But my on-field participation wasn’t quite over. Upon the conclusion of the eighth inning, I served as MC for the “Yodeler” contest (modeled after the popular “The Price is Right” game). I had to ask the contestant (who said his name was “Bruiser”) three 66ers trivia questions, and if his answers kept Bernie from falling off a cliff then he would win two tickets to an upcoming game.
I think I did alright, but it’s kind of nerve-wracking to hear your own voice echo through the stadium on a slight delay. I felt like I was talking too slow, and was so focused on not messing up that I didn’t add much personality to it. I guess this is to say that like anything else, being an on-field host is an acquired skill (and one I wouldn’t mind learning if ever given the opportunity).
But the night, like all things in life as well as life itself, soon came to an end. You know what tipped me off to this? Tennis balls on the field.
I’ve written about literally thousands of promotions in my time here at MiLB.com, but it nonetheless took until yesterday until a team finally stepped up and staged this:
The team doing the saluting was the Harrisburg Senators, who had a very good reason for doing so. As the press release so helpfully explains:
This past week, the City of Harrisburg experienced a water main break that affected downtown Harrisburg and City Island. It took a couple of days for city workers and contractors to fix the problem, but fix it they did. After the problem was corrected, the New York based contractors were asked what caused the break. The answer, beavers.
That was all the motivation the Senators needed, and they soon announced a promotion honoring “all fans with a connection to beavers.” This sub-demographic includes the following:
The Senators are giving fans a free box seat if they can produce proof their last name is Beaver or they are from or currently live in Beaver, PA. But that’s not all, the Senators will also give a free ticket to anyone with the last name of Cleaver, in honor of the television show Leave it to Beaver. And if you’re named Theodore, Ward, June or Wally, you can purchase a box seat for just $5. Not to be left out, graduates of Beaver College can also purchase a box seat for just $5.
The Senators are planning special events on Monday including a Dam building competition, a Beaver Cleaver look-a-like contest and a “blind race” since beavers have a terrible sense of sight and depend on smell and sound.
Moving from beavers to quarter-ton garden gnomes, the Reading Phillies recently delivered a life-size and copiously bearded Ryan Howard to one Amy Vandehei of Rosemont, PA (the winner of an Opening Night drawing).
More photos and info can be found on Tommy Viola’s “Philling You In” blog, and this report from WFMZ-69 is well worth watching. The next 550-lb giveaway on the R-Phils schedule is Crazy Hot Dog Vendor on July 10.
Continuing on in the “unorthodox figurines” category — in the wake of last week’s “Ken Griffey Jr. Spirit Bobble-Arm” giveaway, the Inland Empire 66ers have hidden five “gold” versions throughout the surrounding community. More details to be released soon, but in the meantime here’s a gold KGJ doll doing whatever it is a gold KGJ doll does.
Meanwhile, non-gold real-life KGJ is currently back in the Cal League for a two-day stint, assisting High Desert Mavericks players as part of his full-time consultant gig with the Mariners. The Mavs’ opponent during this time are the aforementioned 66ers, who KGJ played with in their previous incarnation as the San Bernardino Spirit. Meanwhile, Ken Griffey Sr. currently serves as manager of the Cal League Bakersfield Blaze. Got all that? I hope so, because there’s no time for further explanation.
Finally, it looks like the Boston Pops w/ Kenny Loggins Minor League ballpark tour has some company this season. Yesterday the Big Apple Circus announced a brief mid-July itinerary, featuring the mind–bending quintet of Mongolian contortionists, the cavorting canine troupe of American trainer Jenny Vidbel, a phenomenal hand–balancing act by Bulgarian–born Andrey Mantchev, the awesome artistry of the Wuqiao Acrobats from China….and the Big Apple Circus’s very own star clown, Grandma!
The stops on this Minor League extravaganza include Syracuse (July 13), Rochester (July 15), Lake County (July 17) and indy league Lancaster, PA (July 19). The tour was put together by ESI Concerts, responsible for the aforementioned Boston Pops ballpark tour as well as the annual Principal Family Fun Fest.
Number one on my Minor League Ballpark tour wishlist is, of course, Weird Al Yankovic. Please don’t forget that June 21 is the “Al-Pocalypse”, and that it is therefore your duty to ignore all my pleas to schedule a Weird Al promotion on this date.
Despite the season’s increasing imminence, last week was an extremely slow one in the world of Minor League news. But such periods of lethargy are to be expected, and flush times will be here soon enough.
Lately, the greatest boom time harbingers have come courtesy of the Richmond Flying Squirrels. Here, in an image akin to a wolf introducing a lamb, Nutzy the Squirrel helps to unveil new mascot Zinger the Acorn:
Zinger isn’t the only new character in the Flying Squirrels pantheon, for the team is also currently staging a “Pig Pickin'” contest:
The team issued the following declaration:
The Flying Squirrels have announced a Pig Pickin’ Contest where fans are encouraged to vote for one of four piglets to become the team’s new Rally Pig. Voting begins today and will run through Thursday, March 3rd, on the Richmond Times-Dispatch website…The winning piglet will be unveiled at the Flying Squirrels’ Fan Fest on Saturday, March 5th.
And as for that FanFest? It’s a two-day extravaganza:
The evening includes a “Ballpark Bonfire” complete with live music and subsequent on-field sleepover. The fans who do spend the night will have first crack at buying tickets the next morning, and additional festivities that a.m. include the unveiling of the aforementioned “Rally Pig” as well as an “Extreme Eating Contest” (I greatly hope those two events are not related).
Todd “Parney” Parnell, seen above dressed like a cow (for reasons known only to him), is a veteran of staging such extravaganzas thanks to his time spent as general manager of the Altoona Curve. That organization is humming along nicely in his absence, however, and on Monday they unveiled their 2011 giveaway calendar.
The highlight would have to be the “Rudy Owens Perm Hat”, in honor of the wonderfully-coiffed southpaw who suited up for the team last season.
Perhaps even more strangely, the team is staging a series of Tom Cruise-related giveaways as part of their “Summer Cruise Series.”
The four giveaway nights will be themed with some of Cruise’s most electrifying and Oscar-worthy work as an actor and will begin onThursday, June 16 vs. New Britain with an Aviator Sunglasses Giveaway presented by Bud Light….The three other Cruise nights will be the Thursday, July 7 Tighty Whitey Giveaway…the Thursday, July 21 Shot Glass Giveaway…and a Thursday, August 4 Foam Football Giveaway.
Fans who collect all four giveaway items can bring them to September 4’s contest, in order to be entered into a drawing to win a cruise. Curve GM Rob Egan attempts to make sense of it all via the following quote:
We came up with the idea for the Summer Cruise series while pulling tarp last season, about as far away from Hollywood or the Caribbean as you can get,” said Egan. “We think it will be a lot of fun for our adult fans to remember some of Mr. Cruise’s earlier films with some different giveaways – plus have a chance to win a cruise.”
Hey, if that explanation is good enough for you then it’s good enough for me. But to return to the extremely important issue of “camping out at the ballpark” — in Inland Empire, even Bernie the mascot isn’t guaranteed admittance to 2011’s slate of games.
Got a lot on the docket today, starting with an intriguing ticket offer from the Timber Rattlers of Appleton, Wisconsin: The team is offering complimentary ducats to the 400 “displaced Super Bowl attendees” who bought tickets to the game but were unable to watch due to a seating snafu.
The “Super Second Chance” offer is really only applicable to 399 fans, as Timber Rattlers box office manager Ryan Moede was among the “displaced.”
Hopefully the aggrieved individuals in question take advantage of the offer, as it could be the first step toward overcoming the unimaginable trauma they were forced to endure.
But those lucky enough to actually have seats at sporting events now have incentive to tell the world. At least if said seats are located within Waterfront Park in Trenton.
The Trenton Thunder announced their “Tweet Your Seat” promotion yesterday, an initiative that comes equipped with its own URL (tweetyourseat.net). On game days, fans can “Tweet Their Seats” for a chance to win a gift card to the nearby Nassau Inn. Declares the organization:
Include your seat location, tag BOTH the Trenton Thunder and Nassau Inn in your tweet or status update and use the hashtag”#TweetYourSeat”.
We’ll pick one winner and deliver the gift card to their seat during the game! We’ll also post the winner’s name and/or twitter handle on this page….The contest opens at 10am on every game day and runs right up until the first pitch of the game.
This is the first time I’ve seen such a promo in the Minors, but I highly doubt it will be the last. It can easily be adapted to any market, and should help teams build social media followings for both themselves and the sponsor.
Moving from hi-tech to low, details regarding the 16th Annual Rickwood Classic were announced yesterday. The host Birmingham Barons will take on the Chattanooga Lookouts, with both teams wearing 1961-era uniforms. Hall of Famer Gaylord Perry will be the VIP Guest of Honor.
As you’ll no doubt recall, Rickwood Field is the oldest stadium in all of professional baseball. Last year, the Classic was named the top promotion in all of Minor League Baseball.
I’m not sure what the weather’s like in Alabama right now, but in Northwest Arkansas things have been unprecedentedly frigid. Check out Arvest Ballpark, home of the Naturals:
“No doubt about it,” writes Naturals marketing and public relations manager Frank Novak. “I think the people of Northwest Arkansas are ready for some baseball.”
Yesterday, the people of Earth were ready for love, and Minor League mascots across the land helped to deliver some. This picture shows Bernie of the Inland Empire 66ers with some new friends he made.
We are in the midst of “Hot Stove Dinner” season, that time of year when teams stage gala banquets featuring distinguished celebrity speakers, memorabilia auctions, and awkward jokes from suit-wearing media relations directors pressed into MC duty.
I’ve already written about these dinners in the past, and an exhaustive rundown of that which has or will take place would exhaust the reader while making me feel run down. But in the interest of stirring up what passes for debate these days, I’d like to remark that the Richmond Flying Squirrels have put together what I believe is this year’s best Hot Stove Dinner line-up:
— Darryl Strawberry
— Billy Wagner
— Tommy John
— Javier Lopez (San Francisco Giants reliever)
— Eddie Kasko (Played for the International League’s Richmond Virginians, 1954-56)
— The entire Flying Squirrels 2011 field staff
— Pat O’Conner, president of Minor League Baseball
Remarkable, no? Would anyone care to dispute my assertion that this is the year’s best Hot Stove line-up? If so, put your disputation into email form and send to firstname.lastname@example.org
But let’s face it, Hot Stove Dinners are little more than a way to pass the time during the interminable offseason void. One indication that said void is on its way out is that teams have begun releasing 2011 promotional schedules. Observe:
— Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs (favorite promo: Harry Kalas bobblehead, May 16)
— Lakewood BlueClaws (favorite promo: appearance by tag-team tandem of Iron Sheik and Nikolai Volkoff, June 11 )
— Inland Empire 66ers (favorite promo: Lucha Libre Mask Giveaway, July 22)
Also, in the “weekly promo” category, the Lake Elsinore Storm have announced the alliterative beauty that is “Wacky Weenie Wednesday.” All fans receive free hot dogs through the seventh inning.
There will be plenty more where all this came from, but like an opponent of the Iron Sheik or an empty beer keg I’m all tapped out for now. Well, except for this. It’s a video featuring Conrad the easily-distracted costumed crustacean: