Anyone who’s attended a Minor League Baseball game is aware of just how much entertainment is packed into any given evening — from pre-game concerts to between-inning contests to the time-honored post-game trifecta of launch-a-ball, fireworks, and run the bases.
And on and on and on it goes. But even by these already overstuffed standards, the extravaganza staged last Thursday by the Kane County Cougars deserves special attention. Cue reverb-drenched baritone announcer voice: The Night of 100 Promotions!
It was what it’s name implied — 100 promotions packed into a single night (the State College Spikes originated this concept, if I’m not mistaken). Fans entering the ballpark received a complete list, which included everything from “Hopscotch” to “Hula Hoop Contest” to the very meta “List of 100 Promotions.”
But number one on the list was “Mike Veeck Appearance.” Veeck, the son of legendary baseball owner and innovator Bill Veeck, has carried on the family legacy through his involvement with the Goldklang Group’s stable of teams (Charleston, Fort Myers, and Hudson Valley among them).
Veeck was one of three Chicago baseball icons on hand for the occasion. Rounding out the triumvirate were legendary executive Roland Hemond (promotion #8) and White Sox organist Nancy Faust (promotion #9).
And just because I know I’m going to get emails about it otherwise, let me note for the record that “on-field mascot defecation” was emphatically NOT one of the special promotions. That’s a tail.
But many of the scheduled promotions did make a nod toward the Veeck family’s promotional legacy. An on-field “Record Tossing” contest paid homage to the White Sox’s infamous “Disco Demolition Night,” and the “ballpark shower” was in honor of one that Bill Veeck had installed in the Comiskey Park bleachers.
On a personal level, one of my favorite promotions was #39 — Mr. Kaboom, Jr. One lucky fan got to visit Mr. Kaboom in his outfield lair and help launch off some fireworks, something I had the opportunity to do when I visited Kane County last season.
But enough about me. Here’s a smorgasbord of snapshots featuring last Thursday’s many-tiered promotion.
The evening’s surprise highlight was #98 — listed cryptically as “Rock This” on the list of promotions. What it turned out to be was a flash mob, one that the club had spent nearly two months preparing for.
It was clearly a night to remember in Kane County, and a possible 2011 MiLB.com “Promotion of the Year” contender as well. Perhaps the team might consider belatedly adding a 101st promotion: send friendly blogger complimentary case of Leinenkugel.
My Midwest meanderings concluded yesterday, as did the 2010 regular season. Empty dugouts are going to be the norm from here on out. Get used to it.
Before saying goodbye, I spent an intermittently rainy Labor Day afternoon at Elfstrom Stadium in Geneva, IL. The Kane County Cougars reside therein.
The players were clearly in a hurry to bring things to a close, as the game was played in just two hours and five minutes (with visiting Wisconsin cruising to a 7-0 win). But it was an action-packed two hours and five minutes, filled with many memorable moments.
For starters, I got to meet Jack “Mr. Kaboom” Phelan. For the last 10 years, this one-time usher has been responsible for shooting off in-game fireworks. He resides on a small platform next to the right field picnic area, launching pyrotechnics during the National Anthem, Seventh Inning Stretch, and after every Cougar home run (read more about “Mr. Kaboom” on MiLB.com, coming soon).
During the seventh-inning stretch, Mr. Kaboom gave me the honors of launching the fireworks. I was psyched.
All I had to do was flip three switches in quick succession on the trusty ol’ Delcor-MP20 control board.
The Delcor MP-20 is connected via cable to a blue wooden box approximately 150 feet away. In this box, fireworks can be found:
My meeting with Mr. Kaboom was arranged by Cougars media relations director Shawn Touney, who was a gracious host throughout my Kane County cameo. Touney coordinates between-inning games and contests throughout the game, and brought me onto the field for a closer look at the action.
Here, contestants are briefed for the upcoming shopping cart race as a member of the Timber Rattlers looks on.
The racers in action:
An even more unique between-inning race involved these, parked directly beside the third base dugout.
The Bed Race involves two teams of racing families navigating this unwieldy piece of furniture across the outfield, stopping along the way to don bedclothes. It’s a bit chaotic, but I tried my best to capture the action:
And what do you know? I succeeded at an honest-to-God action shot:
The spacious interior of the “Super Suite”, which seats 200 and hosts events year-round.
Views from the top:
Of course, I also did my best to document the scene from down below.
You can wash down concessions with a regional beer whose name I can’t pronounce:
The grass berm down the third base line slopes down to the home bullpen:
One of the most striking aspects of Elfstrom Stadium is how much land the team has to work with. The facility is located within the Forest Preserve District of Kane County, and named after one of the preserve’s former presidents.
The sheer acreage is apparent almost right away. Here’s a parking lot view:
Walking past the third base line, beyond the stadium, one truly gets a sense of how large the stadium grounds really are. How many other teams would need to display a map of the area?
There’s plenty of room for group outings.
The most scenic play area in the Minors?
This wilderness adventure offered a welcome respite, but soon it was time to return to the field for the final post-game “Run the Bases” of the season. The Cougars allow all fans to run the bases, after every game, and many took advantage of the opportunity. Fans enter the stadium from center field, and the line snaked from there all the way to the basepaths.
Another action shot!
Doing my part to enforce the rules:
After the last runners had crossed home plate, the b
eds were wheeled into storage and a silence descended upon the stadium.
Rest in peace, 2010 Minor League Baseball season.
It was fun while it lasted.