As mentioned in the previous post on the blog, I spent this past weekend at the 2011 Minor League Baseball Promotional Seminar in Myrtle Beach.
The above photo encapsulates why it can be difficult to cover these sort of events: pictures of hotel conference rooms trade show mingling just aren’t very exciting. Nonetheless, it’s important for me to socialize with those in the industry, and to get a gauge on promotional techniques and concepts that may be popular in 2012 and beyond.
One of the topics touched upon is the Lake Elsinore Storm’s Grounds Crew Gorilla, winner of the 2011 “Golden Bobblehead” for “best in-game promotion.” The Gorilla made a cameo appearance at the seminar, attacking attendees with pool noodles and overturning the speaker’s table. My best attempt to document this chaotic moment:
Certainly, the Grounds Crew Gorilla was one of the highlights of my May visit to a Lake Elsinore Storm game.
Meanwhile, at the Trade Show, Trampolines USA was selling their “Pony Hops.” These things swept through the Minor League landscape last season, and I imagine that there will be even more teams using them in 2012.
The roster of the mighty Skillville Group was on display as well, bathed in beatific blue light.
But I think this mascot was my favorite part of the trade show, a costumed creature available to the highest bidder during Saturday night’s silent auction.
At the time I took this picture, the Danville Braves were the highest (and only) bidder. I’ll have to check to see if they won, because I’d love to see this dazed and confused character at an Appalachian League baseball game.
On Sunday night, there was an industry outing to Ripken Baseball’s Myrtle Beach Baseball complex. My lens was dirty in the following photo, but I like the effect.
This marks the second time this month I was at a Ripken Baseball youth complex, with my first outing taking place in conjunction with an Aberdeen IronBirds game.
According to my hastily-scribbled notes (the only kind of notes I’ve ever made), the Myrtle Beach complex is a 10-month a year operation and devoted almost exclusively to youth, high school and collegiate baseball tournaments. There are three regulation-sized diamonds and five youth size, all on synthetic turf.
Here’s Griffith Field, where an estimated 2500 games have been played over the past six years.
All synthetic everything, even the “dirt.”
A few more shots of the surroundings, some of them taken from the back of a moving golf cart.
From there the festivities moved on to Myrtle Beach’s BB&T Coastal Ballpark, home of the Myrtle Beach Pelicans. I had visited there in late July, but was happy to be back.
Upon entering, we were greeted with some very welcome sights.
1. Popcorn and boiled peanuts!
2. Beer, as poured through the Bottoms Up beer dispenser (yes, they fill from the bottom. Magnets are key). Needless to say this was good marketing, using this product in full view of curious (and endlessly thirsty) industry decision-makers.
You may recall that when I was in Myrtle Beach I interviewed noted groundskeeper Chris “Butter” Ball, during which he observed that he keeps “extreme banker’s hours” in the offseason.
Well, this offseason might be a little different:
A buffet-style meal was set up in the right field picnic area, while down the left field line attendees could play corn hole and test their arms at the speed pitch.
As is too often the case, the demands of attending and covering an event such as the seminar leaves little time for exploring the area. But I’d like to close with this shot, as it features a business that has found a way to carry on amidst Myrtle Beach’s proliferation of neon-hued dining palaces and soul-destroying theme bars.
Harry’s Breakfast Pancakes — RIP Harry!
Next time I got to Myrtle Beach, this will be first on my list of places to check out.
I usually wouldn’t put up a new post on a Friday, but this is no ordinary Friday.
For starters, I am writing to you live and direct from Myrtle Beach, SC, home of the 2011 Minor League Baseball Promotional Seminar. Here’s the view from the hotel room, just so you know where I’m coming from:
I took this photo about 10 minutes ago, as a means to express how limited one’s view of a city can be if you only experience it from a hotel room. But this pessimistic take on the situation was immediately superseded, as I noticed that there was an honest-to-God rainbow amidst the dreary late September afternoon (it’s there, I swear).
So now all that I want to express is that there’s beauty everywhere, even (and especially) if you’re not looking for it.
In a nutshell, the Promotional Seminar is an annual industry gathering dedicated to — drumroll, please — promotions. One of the great things about this business is that affiliated teams do not compete directly against one another; they all have their own designated geographical area in which to operate. Therefore, everyone is more than willing to share their best ideas and practices — what’s good for one is good for all! The seminar is a good occasion for everyone to congregate, collaborate, and start laying the groundwork for the season to follow.
Trust me, it is NEVER too early to start thinking about next season.
But, right now, my mind is on the season that just transpired. Just a few short hours ago, the annual “MiLBY Award” ballots went live on MiLB.com.
There are a plethora of categories, but of course what I would like to highlight is my annual promotion round-up. I have divided the year’s promotional endeavors into four categories — giveaways, theme nights, celebrity appearances and the unfortunately-named but eminently worthwhile “miscellaneous” — and chosen 10 nominees for each category. The voting runs all the way through October 13 (vote early and vote often), at which point the four winners will vie for “Promotion of the Year.”
I hope this all makes sense, feel free to email me if you need clarification or have comments, complaints, commendations or concerns.
MiLB.com’s “Promotion of the Year” has a long and illustrious history, one that dates all the way back to those halcyon days of 2007. The winner’s circle is as follows:
What I like most about the above four promotions is that they have absolutely nothing in common with one another, thereby demonstrating Minor League Baseball’s ability to do just about anything and to do it well. What’s next?
The Myrtle Beach Pelicans do not play in a typical Minor League market. Not by a long shot.
On the plus side, Myrtle Beach is a region inundated with tourists and therefore the team can market themselves to an ever-changing fan base with ample discretionary income. But, conversely, there is a lot of competition for that entertainment dollar (Helicopter Rides! Ripley’s Believe it or Not! The Carolina Opry!)
I mean, there was some sort of amusement park right outside of my hotel.
The Pelicans’ BB&T Coastal Field, built in 1999, fits right into the beachy environs.
Upon arriving at the stadium, I did a few player interviews with my trusty Flipcam. I realize these might not be the best, quality wise, but I do enjoy being able to get a sense of who the players are as people (and hope you do as well). And, almost to a man, they are very friendly and generous with their time. This go-round, I spoke with the uber-convivial trio of Barrett Loux, Jared Hoyer, and Robbie Ross.
And did you know that the Pelicans have three outfielders named Jared on their team? For the sake of obscure baseball fact junkies such as myself, I hope that one day they all play out there together at the same time.
But I digress. After talking to the players, I ran into my good friend Duffman.
Duffman was one of many costumed characters at the ballpark, as part of the Pelicans’ “Superhero” theme night. It was also, appropriately enough, Thirsty Thursday.
While the concourse was empty in the early going, the beer lines were packed.
And for good reason — time was a wastin’!
As part of the pre-game “festivities”, I did both a pre-game radio interview and then an on-field Q&A with Pelicans media relations director/radio announcer Tyler Maun. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — hearing your own voice on a delay over a stadium loudspeaker is a highly disconcerting experience.
Maun and I took turns making ridiculous faces.
The pre-game activities also included Catwoman interviewing a local baseball coach.
While outfielder Travis Adair took it upon himself to learn a new trade. Maybe he had wanted a better view of Catwoman?
Meanwhile, mascot Splash burst onto the field to a roar of applause.
During the exchange of the line-up cards, the umpires moderated a spirited debate between Pelicans manager Jake Wood and Blue Rocks skipper Brian Rupp about the proper way to wear one’s uniform pants.
Incidentally, after making my way back into the stands the mother of field umpire Ben Leake (on right) introduced herself to me and suggested that I do a piece on Minor League umpires. I told her that I already have — here it is, Mrs. Leake.
Once our country had been properly saluted, the game got underway. As I am wont to do in such situations, I commenced to wandering.
Sweet Carolina League All-Star game duds in the team store:
Business was booming at the “Pitcher’s Mound” and the “Bullpen Grille.”
Just past the Grille was this classic bit of Americana, the game within the game:
An ownership group led by Chuck Greenberg bought the Pelicans prior to the 2007 campaign, a transaction that led to a more creative and regionally appropriate ballpark atmosphere. For instance, what had once been bleacher seating down the right field line is now the “Contract Data Beach.”
Bleachers remain in left field, however.
But I’m a man of discerning tastes, disdainful of the hoi polloi. Therefore, I made my way to an ultra-exclusive seating area: the groundskeeper’s balcony perch overlooking right field.
While there, I interviewed noted turf-tender Chris “Butter” Ball. Read it on MiLB.com! Please!
To get to Butter’s lair, one must pass underneath the Pelican bullpen. I did so hastily, wary of the projectiles being endlessly spit forth from that particular area.
Having safely arrived back among the rabble, I ordered my dinner for the evening: a fried clam strip basket. I was told that the team has been offering a lobster sandwich this season, but Thursday was end of an eight-game homestand and they were nowhere to be found.
So fried clams it was.
The fried clam strips were great — perfect breading to clam ratio and possessing an excellent crispness. The fries, however, were a bit on the bland and mushy side.
And speaking of mushy (but never bland), I was then moved to order some boiled peanuts. In a nutshell: I love these things. Absolutely love ’em. When I was in Alabama last year I bought a microwavable pouch of boiled peanuts at a gas station, but in the northeast they’re next to impossible to find.
As I enjoyed the various comestibles, I took in some of the game (for a change).
The Pelicans’ staff did a great job with the Superhero theme throughout — a nice touch was that each home player was assigned a super hero scoreboard graphic and theme song.
While Superman was at-bat, Batman was in the stands and signing autographs galore. His energy never Wayne-d when it came to this task.
My attempts to document the nightly crab race were similarly blurry. My suggestion — add an elderly crab to the race and name him “Grandfather Claws.”
Green Crab did not win, but at least he got some face time with Poison Ivy.
More importantly, the home team ended up with a come-from-behind victory.
But as you are no doubt well aware, the end of a game does not mean the end of the evening. Deuce the canine mascot came out for a “victory lap,” and disappointed me by not even defecating once.
Deuce was followed by the post-game launch-a-ball…
which was followed by fireworks…
which was followed by kids running the bases.
Only then was it time to go home. And home, in this case, was located next to an endlessly pendulating pirate ship.