Yesterday evening, the Pawtucket Red Sox announced that Friday’s game on June 10 would be “Free Brady Friday.” This is, of course, a reference to the Infinite Jest of sports scandals, the absurd dystopian opus that just keeps on giving: Deflategate.
— PawSox (@PawSox) May 31, 2016
As satirical current events-related sports scandal-themed promos go, this one is pretty tame. Fans named “Tom” or “Brady” will be admitted to the game for free, and $13 box seats will cost $12 in honor of Brady’s uniform number (of that $12 ticket price, the PawSox will donate a “quarter back” to the Brady-supported “Best Buddies” charity).
Today, in what is the International League promo equivalent of a rap battle, the Buffalo Bisons played Drake to the PawSox’s Meek Mill. June 11, a doubleheader vs. the Charlotte Knights, is now “Keep Brady Suspended Night” at Buffalo’s Coca-Cola Park.
The Bisons, calling an audible, have fired back pretty hard with this one. I’m not sure Brady supporters can handle these offensive lines, man. They’re doing everything here short of playing underhanded soft ball. Per the team:
The New England Patriots quarterback has been suspended the first four games of the 2016 NFL season for cheating in a playoff game against the Indianapolis Colts. To show our support for this just and rightful punishment, the ‘Keep Brady Suspended Night’ will feature:
Buy-One, Get-one Free Tickets to anyone that brings a PROPERLY-INFLATED football to be donated to area youth football programs
Accepting UN-DESTROYED cell phone donations for ‘Cell Phones for Soldiers’ charity
A 12.5% discount in the Bisons’ gift shop for anyone that brings a Tom Brady jersey/T-shirt to add to the postgame Fireworks Display
Help us remind Tom of the minimum amount of inflation for footballs,
for you know…once he gets to play again
Scoreboard videos featuring some of sports’ greatest cheaters,
with special video tribute to Patriots’ coach, Bill Belichick
The Bisons go on to state that “If you are named ‘Tom’ or ‘Brady’ you will be allowed into Coca-Cola Field … but will not be allowed to watch the first four innings of game one of the doubleheader. Please, no appeals.”
Here’s hoping the PawSox will soon respond in kind, escalating this promo battle royale into even more rarefied air (or lack thereof). Good thing, though, that the Bisons hail from Buffalo, as nothing has occurred during that city’s long and distinguished football history that anyone could possibly make fun of.
On the evening of April 21, mere hours after Prince’s passing, Columbia, South Carolina newspaper The State published an article detailing his legacy in the city. His longtime drummer, John Blackwell, grew up in Columbia. In 2011 this connection led to Prince donating $250,000 to local children’s charity Eau Clair Promise Zone shortly after playing a show in the city.
The Columbia Fireflies, currently playing their inaugural season, are further cementing this connection with June 9’s “Purple Game, Purple Game” promotion. On this Thursday evening, the team will take the field at Spirit Communications Park while wearing these jerseys:
The promotion, which occurs two days after what would have been Prince’s 58th birthday, features myriad in-game elements inspired by the purple-clad polyamorous pop legend. From the press release:
Activities at Spirit Communications Park to honor Prince will include a pregame Prince tribute band, Prince music throughout the night and a pancake-eating contest. After the game, there will be a purple-themed fireworks display.
The pancake-eating contest is inspired by a Chappelle Show sketch, which in turn inspired this Prince song featuring Chappelle as Prince in the cover art. Very meta:
Any fans driving little red Corvettes will receive free parking in the permitted parking lots adjacent to Spirit Communications Park.
All fans born in 1999 will receive a free purple glow necklace at Guest Services with proper proof of age.
For the lovebirds in the crowd, we’ll have a special Prince edition of the Northpoint Heating and Air Kiss Cam, featuring fans wearing purple shirts, blouses with ruffles or raspberry berets.
We will also host a Ping Pong Tournament … with the winner receiving a CD of Prince’s Greatest Hits. In addition, frozen “Purple Rain” adult beverages will be on the bar menu.
Not to nitpick, but wouldn’t a “frozen ‘Purple Rain'” beverage more accurately be known as “Purple Ice”? Nevermind, here’s another image of the jerseys.
Proceeds from a jersey auction will benefit the Palmetto Place Children’s Shelter.
“We are so excited to recognize the legacy of Prince with the Columbia Fireflies at Spirit Communications Park,” said Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin, as quoted in the press release. “Prince’s contributions to the arts and to the causes of children and education in the City of Columbia will never be forgotten.”
If you would like to know more about the Fireflies and their new home of Spirit Communications Park, then please check out my article recapping my visit there earlier this month. It’s a nice place to see a ballgame.
This word, spoken from outside the door, is my alarm clock when I’m on the road. It brings me back to hotel room reality, as I lie in bed and wish to the high heavens that I had remembered to put up a “Do Not Disturb” sign the night before.
Housekeeping is also the purpose of this post, as I fear that readers of this blog may not have been picking up on much of what I’ve been putting down lately. To wit:
Are you familiar with “The Show Before the Show”? It’s the weekly MiLB.com podcast, co-hosted by esteemed colleagues Sam “Not Lenny’s son” Dykstra and Tyler “Maybe Lenny’s son for all I know” Maun. Each week, I join Tyler and Sam for “Ben’s Biz Banter,” in which we riff on current MiLB events that fall within my broad purview. Listen, rate and review HERE.
But THAT IS NOT ALL. I’ve been promoting it relentlessly on Twitter, but earlier this month, Tyler and I hosted a special “ALL MINOR LEAGUE TEAM THEME SONGS” edition of the podcast. Seventeen baseball earworms, three interviews with songwriting masterminds and all the contextualizing info and theoretically witty banter you could could ever want. Look — like Richard Marx, it’s right here waiting for you! Listen now! I won’t give up until I’m satisfied.
After listening to all of these songs way too many times, I think my favorite is “Everybody Loves Curve Baseball.” What’s yours? Also, if you’d like a specific team theme song to be featured in an upcoming episode, please get in touch.
Every Friday, I have a feature story on MiLB.com. Today’s piece tracks a remarkable 36-season streak, as at least one new Minor League ballpark has opened every season from 1981-2016. Check it out HERE. And, hey, here’s a visual that shows how much the Minor League landscape has changed over the last two-plus decades.
I had to compile and contextualize a lot of info for this piece and, unfortunately, there were a few omissions. I appreciate people pointing them out, but jeez, it’s not intentional. If I ever make a mistake regarding your team, it’s not because I don’t like your team. I love everyone.
Meanwhile, earlier this month, I wrote a piece about David LaBounty and his “Bookstores and Baseball” zine. I was very glad to get the chance to write about a zine in a professional context, and this one fit as it is about, yes, bookstores and baseball.
For years, David and his family have gone on road trips centered around attending literary festivals, visiting independent bookstores and seeing baseball games (many in the Minors). Each issue — or inning — of the zine covers a year of travel, and there are eight so far. If this sounds like your kind of thing, in line with your sensibilities, then give the article a read and check out the zine HERE.
Also, if you like being kept abreast of the Minor League promo scene, check out “Promo Watch.” It runs every Tuesday. Where else can you find important information such as how Greg “The Hammer” Valentine bailed out of a Fort Myers Miracle appearance due to “unspecified differences” with fellow guest (and former tag team partner) Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake?
Don’t worry. Bushwhacker Luke showed up in Greg’s place and all was well.
And, of course, there’ll be plenty of road trip material — on MiLB.com and on the blog — in the very near future. I’ll be hitting the road next week!
Okay, I shall now consider this house to be kept. Thanks, as always for reading.
The Lehigh Valley IronPigs love food, and the Lehigh Valley IronPigs love Philadelphia. So what do you get when you combine the two?
No, not a Liberty Bell replica made of bacon or a William Penn statue carved out of ham. You get this: A “Salute to Philadelphia” promotion in which the Triple-A Phillies affiliate will change its name to the “Cheesesteaks.” Finally, the northeast has it’s own version of “Fresno Tacos.” It happens on June 10.
“Steaks” is splashed across the front of the jersey, using a font I’ll call “Cheez Whiz yellow.” (Update: the IronPigs are already calling this font “Cheez Whiz yellow.” Great minds think alike.)
The team also notes that the chest patch, “complete with the appearance of dripping cheese, was specifically designed to emulate the characteristics of hot cheese on a steak sandwich.”
Similar to their bacon-centric “Smell the Change” campaign of 2014, the IronPigs have launched a website dedicated to the Cheesesteaks identity. (And, yes, merch is already available). They are also asking fans to determine a key element of said identity:
“Wit” onions? Or “Witout”?
As the IronPigs note in their press release:
“There is much consternation over the proper way to eat these sandwiches — either ‘wit’ or ‘witout’ onions….Fans are encouraged to pick a side by using #TeamWit or #TeamWitout on social media, LVCheesesteaks.com or through the Uber app to decide whether the “Wit” or the “Witout” cap is worn on-field for “Salute to Philadelphia Night” on June 10.
Speaking as someone who grew up in the Philly area — Ambler! — I’d say that there is “much consternation” regarding just about everything cheesesteak-related. And come to think of it, there is much consternation regarding just about every topic in Philly. Philly is the consternation capital of the country.
But back to onions.
IronPigs general manager Kurt Landes, who is rarely, if ever, quoted in a press release without using some sort of food pun, states the following:
“Today, we’ve officially raised the Steaks. As a Phillies affiliate, we can’t wait to celebrate all things Philadelphia, including the iconic cheesesteak on ‘Salute to Philadelphia Night.’”
If Landes needs more cheesesteak puns, I won’t stand Pat or say I can’t take Geno more. I’ll provolone him a few, gra-cheese, as they’re Amoroso funny and, of course, display ample “wit.” Stop me, I’m on a roll!
Other “things Philadelphia” that the IronPigs plan on celebrating during their “Salute to Philly Night” include a Phillie Phanatic appearance and, uh, “post game Friday Night Fireworks presented by Brown Daub Kia.” I’m holding out for a pregame concert by a Hooters cover band, a Buddy Ryan lookalike contest and a roundtable discussion on the lasting cultural impact of WMMR’s “Morning Zoo.” I’d also suggest gauging the popularity of the city’s sports radio landscape by starting a #WIP or #WIPout social media contest.
But, look, it all comes down to visuals in this biz and, thus, it all comes down to cheesesteaks. Here’s two more photos, and then I’m outta here.
The Frisco RoughRiders, fresh off of their internet-conquering announcement that they would open a Lazy River at Dr Pepper Ballpark, are once again in line for some nationwide accolades. Today, the team announced their 2016 theme nights, which were highlighted by the following Millennial and Gen X-friendly pop culture trifecta:
Let’s start with the theme jersey on the left, which will likely generate the most hyperbolic acclaim. Friday, July 8, is “Salute to 8-Bit and Arcades Night” and the RoughRiders will take the field in Game Boy uniforms. (Maybe if they lose the game the fans will receive a console-ation prize.)
Of course, it is now time to defer to the press release.
The uniforms feature the text “Riders” inside of the Game Boy “screen” on the front of the uniform top, above of a directional pad, “A,” “B,” “Select,” and “Start” buttons along with the classic Game Boy vent-style speaker on the lower right-hand side. On the back of the uniform, each player’s number will be represented with 8-bit digits and their name written on the top of an inserted “game cartridge.” The team will feature retro arcade games inside the ballpark and will be giving away both a next-gen and a retro gaming console that night. The fun continues as the Riders will be recreating classic video games as in-between innings contests.
Recreating classic video games as between-inning contests? I saw the Hudson Valley Renegades do that once.
July 29th is Ghostbusters Night. Ernie “Winston Zeddemore” Hudson will be on hand at Dr Pepper Ballpark for the festivities, as will the Ecto-1 automobile. Fans will have the slime of their lives.
The players will be introduced by their flight call signs as they come up the plate. Fans can participate in a “Lost that Loving Feeling” singing contest, and the first 30 fans that come dressed in the official Top Gun beach volleyball outfit (swimsuit and dog tags) can participate in sand volleyball match at the ballpark during the game on a genuine sand court!
Finally, Star Wars Night is August 20. While the RoughRiders have not yet released their jerseys it is worth noting that fans in the Lazy River will float that night on Star Wars rafts. This may be one of them.
It’s promo scheduling unveiling season — or p.s.u.s. for the acronymically inclined — meaning that teams across the land are announcing buzzworthy theme nights at a rapid clip.
But the most literally buzzworthy is that which was announced by the Bowling Green Hot Rods on Wednesday.
— BG Hot Rods (@BGHotRods) February 10, 2016
As a longtime aficionado of whisky, barrels (my Mom’s maiden name is Cooper) and the covert production and distribution of illicit goods, I’m a big fan of the Hot Rods’ “Bootleggers” promo. Especially because there are already visual elements. No one gets excited by text-only promotion announcements, much like no one is excited by reading the words in this blog post that appear between the images.
Images like this. Let there be merch!
— BG Hot Rods (@BGHotRods) February 10, 2016
In short, “Bowling Green Bootleggers” equal bats, beards, buttons, boots, bourbon and barrels. Just watch what you’re doing with your right hand there, Mr. Moonshiner sir.
— BG Hot Rods (@BGHotRods) February 11, 2016
For more on “Bootlegger Night,” let’s go to the lazy blogger’s best friend: The press release! (Why do the work when it’s already been done for you?)
An idea brought on by past and present members of the Bowling Green staff, Bootlegger Night will serve as a tribute to the “Hot Rod” aiding the bootlegging industry over a century ago as a way to outrun law enforcement. This rich bourbon heritage has since become synonymous with Kentucky, with over 35 distilleries present throughout the state.
As fans will be greeted by a special “Mason Jar Giveaway” when they enter the gates, the Hot Rods will wear customized hats and specialty jerseys styled after a bourbon barrel….In addition to the customized apparel, fans will also have the opportunity to pre-order two packages featuring personalized memorabilia from the night.
And here those packages are:
Prior to unveiling this promo yesterday, the Hot Rods tweeted that it would, possibly, be 2016’s best promo.
Time will tell. For now, it’s worth noting that, in their inaugural season of 2009, the Hot Rods won MiLB.com’s “Promo of the Year” for “What Could’ve Been Night.” On that evening — the first “What Could’ve Been Night” in Minor League Baseball history — the team suited up as the Cave Shrimp.
“Cave Shrimp” was one of the finalists in the Hot Rods’ 2008 “Name the Team” contest. Bootleggers was not. So, in effect, Bootleggers never “could’ve been.” But yet, here we are: Bootleggers soon will be, resulting in the first”What Could’ve Been ‘What Could’ve Been’ Night” in Minor League Baseball history.
Life is weird. Minor League Baseball is weird. I’m weird. You’re weird. Drink whisky.
— Benjamin Hill (@bensbiz) February 10, 2016
The Lake County Captains, located in the Cleveland suburb of Eastlake, Ohio, have made an annual habit of staging satirical tributes to Cleveland’s ignominious sports history. It comes as no surprise, then, that the Class A Indians affiliate is having a little bit of fun with the latest controversy surrounding Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel.
For those who unaware of this latest bit of ridiculousness: Manziel partied in disguise in Las Vegas last weekend, wearing glasses, a blond wig, a fake mustache and a hoodie. During this period of surreptitious bacchanalia, he went under the assumed name of “Billy.”
Enter the Captains, via Twitter, bringing their trolling A-game:
To the victor, goes the spoils.
The mayor of Flavortown need not apply, however.
While waiting for the fan submissions to roll in, please enjoy the Captains’ 2014 homage to Major League.
I, meanwhile, will be once again reliving the greatest moment of my life. This happened in Lake County in 2011.
Situated as we are within the depths of the holiday season, I don’t get many opportunities to dash off timely posts about recently-announced pop culture-referencing Minor League Baseball promotions. So thanks, Frisco RoughRiders, for coming up with THIS:
As you may have already guessed (or read elsewhere, if I am somehow not your only source for Minor League Baseball news), this promo is in direct response to Sunday night’s Miss Universe debacle.
Oh, man. Every one was “Phillipian” out about this. Mistakes happen. I really don’t think Steve Harvey deserves the internet-fueled scorn that has been heaped upon him, but at the same time this is an all-time classic pop culture moment. It was inevitable that a Minor League team would respond, and kudos to the RoughRiders for being the first team to celebrate second-place.
In times like these, when there is only one set of footprints in the sand, it is because I have deferred to the press release:
The RoughRiders plan to formally invite Ariadna Gutiérrez Arevalo, “Miss Colombia,” as a VIP guest for the night. Gutiérrez will enjoy a suite for the night and an opportunity to throw out the first pitch. The RoughRiders are also inviting Steve Harvey to serve as the on-field host for the evening.
With the night celebrating famous second-place finishes, the Riders have also extended an invitation to Jim Kelly, Andre Reed, and Marv Levy the quarterback, a wide receiver, and the coach of the Buffalo Bills during their four-year stretch of runner-up finishes in the Super Bowl (1991-1994). The team will celebrate other second-place finishers including Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera (runner-up on Star Search); Adam Lambert and Clay Aiken (American Idol); Carrie Underwood and Michelle Obama (high school salutatorian); Al Gore and Mitt Romney (presidential elections); and Cowboys running back Darren McFadden (two-time Heisman Trophy runner-up).
Like all Riders home games, fans will have the chance to participate in on-field games, but on Runner-Up Night, prizes will be awarded to the second-place, not first-place, finishers. Other in-game promotions include a seat upgrade to the “Second-best seat in the house.”
During the game, RoughRiders players will be displayed on the video board with a sash, announcing each American player as “Mr. Texas” or whatever state they are from and international players honored with the name of their home country.
The RoughRiders plan to host an in-park beauty pageant throughout the game. Any fan that can prove a second-place finish in a beauty contest or pageant at any level will receive a free ticket to the game between the RoughRiders and the San Antonio Missions.
If I had had to guess which team would have been the first to announce such a promotion, I would have gone with the Myrtle Beach Pelicans. They have experience with this sort of thing. But, fittingly, my second guess would have been the Frisco RoughRiders. They share an ownership group with the Pelicans, as well as staff members (Hi, Nathan Barnett) who cut their promo brainstorming teeth while working in Myrtle Beach. And it’s certainly no surprise that, via Twitter, Pelicans prez Andy Milovich offered a suggestion regarding another “Runner-Up” that the Pelicans could honor.
And since I can do anyone’s job better than they can do it, I have a few suggestions of my own. Maybe the RoughRiders could honor Teddy Roosevelt — the inspiration for their team name and logo –and his second-place showing in the 1912 presidential election.
Or how about the 1986 Boston Red Sox, who were congratulated thusly on the Shea Stadium scoreboard?
I wish I could come up with more examples, but as longtime author of the greatest Minor League Baseball blog of all time so I don’t really know much about what it’s like to be a runner-up. If you have any suggestions, let me know via Twitter, email or that archaic, dust-filled sliver of internet real estate known as “the comments section.”
I’ve got plenty more “On the Road” content to share over the coming weeks, but today I wanted to take a brief break from all of that and head to the Staten Island Yankees’ home of Richmond County Bank Ballpark. On Saturday, the team staged “Game of Thrones Night” and Robert Pimpsner of Pinstriped Prospects was kind enough to send along a plethora of photos from the evening.
“Game of Thrones Night” turned out to be the most successful promotion in the history of the franchise, drawing a record crowd of 7.529 to the ballpark. The team, often referred to as the “Baby Bombers”, instead suited up as the “Direwolves”. And the creator himself, George R.R. Martin, was on hand as a special guest.
Martin is, yes, a Mets fan, but this didn’t stop him from visiting the home of the Yankees’ Class A Advanced Short Season affiliate:
I’ve never seen Game of Thrones, so forgive me that this post won’t be peppered with clever references to the show. It will be peppered with lots of photos, however, because on the internet photos > words. And Pimpsner more than picks up the slack with his photo captions.
The evening began with one of the most generous fan giveaways I’ve ever seen, as the first 2500 fans through the gates received Direwolves hats as well as copies of of the original Game of Thrones book and Martin’s 1982 novel Fevre Dream.
Martin addressed the crowd before the game:
Before the game the
SI Yanks Direwolves made a donation to the Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary, a charity chosen by Martin.
Representatives from the sanctuary brought along Flurry, an “ambassador wolf” who, yes, peed on the field!
Martin also spent an hour signing autographs, which resulted in predictably long concourse lines.
The Direwolves line up for the National Anthem:
Here, Direwolf Brandon Wagner circles the bases after a home run.
It was that kind of night for the Direwolves, who defeated House Lanister (the Hudson Valley Renegades) by a score of 10-1.
Everyone, that is, with the possible exception of Yankees special assistant to the general manager Hideki Matsui. He has no time for your theme night shenanigans.
Okay, that’s all I’ve GOT.
This week I have been aware of a distinct shift in the tone and tenor of the national Minor League Baseball conversation. Valentine’s Day promos and borderline insane snow-related ticket deals are on the way out, as the primary focus is now on the 2015 season that soon will be. Promotion schedules are being released at a rapid clip, and as a result Opening Day know feels like a tangible thing as opposed to a vague abstraction.
What I’m trying to say here, as always, is that I have a bunch of random new Minor League promos to share with you. So share them, I will:
My prediction is that, by the end of 2015, we’ll be so sick of 30th anniversary Back to the Future celebrations that a future pop culture Terminator will go back in time in order to insure that the movie doesn’t get made at all. But for now, let’s celebrate this rising promotional trend. The Biscuits will be wearing these theme jerseys on June 27, for example:
— Montgomery Biscuits (@BiscuitBaseball) February 6, 2015
Meanwhile, the Charlotte Knights will have a Delorean on the premises.
While currently lacking a distinct visual to go along with it, the Bowie Baysox announced that, on July 19, they will be giving away a Babe Ruth bobblehead in which he is wearing the uniform of the 1914 (Minor League) Baltimore Orioles. This is, in a word, great.
(As for that “Touch a Truck” event, my hope is that the Baysox release a promotional “trailer.” For far more truck puns, courtesy of myself and several Minor League broadcasters, go HERE.)
Also lacking a distinct visual, but also great, is this August 6 eggs-travaganza in Toledo:
Bacon & Eggs Night
Fans will have a sizzlin’ good time at the first ever ‘Bacon and Eggs Night’ at Fifth Third Field. Things will heat up when the Hens take the field wearing egg-themed jerseys and hats against the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, who will be wearing their popular bacon-themed jerseys.
Thanks to a “last-minute” recruiting day commitment, the Bowling Green Hot Rods are pleased to announce that Ickey Woods will be visiting the ballpark on August 15. Per the team:
Woods will sign autographs, mingle with fans, and showcase his signature celebration….His appearance will be joined by specials on cold cuts, and Woods will lead Bowling Green Ballpark in an attempt to break the record for the most “Ickey Shuffles” done simultaneously in one location.
The Sacramento River Cats are capitalizing on on our nation’s apparently insatiable appetite for ’90s pop culture nostalgia via this “Legends of the Hidden Temple” theme jersey:
If the mere mention of the Shrine of the Silver Monkey brings up intense emotion, our ’90s Night jersey is for you. pic.twitter.com/au5UzLIrM8
— River Cats (@RiverCats) February 6, 2015
Speaking of ’90s nostalgia, you probably heard about this one already. The Brooklyn Cyclones are staging “Saved By the Bell Night” on June 24:
You’ll have to use your imagination for now, but the Richmond Flying Squirrels are giving away Joe Panik “Panik Buttons” on July 21.
Star Wars promotions have become an epidemic throughout Minor League Baseball. The Buffalo Bisons, one of many teams to tie a theme jersey into the evening’s attractions, will be wearing “Jedi Robes” on July 18.
In what is certainly one of the cruder promotions of the year, the Midland RockHounds are wearing these black gold-splattered duds during August’s “Oil Field Weekend.”
(For what it’s worth, I am a much bigger fan of locally-oriented theme jerseys such as that shown above. Pop culture jerseys have their place, but as a general rule I believe that clubs should give precedence to that which highlights the uniqueness of their own community. And, certainly, Midland is a unique baseball market.)
Finally, we have the Lakewood BlueClaws. On May 22, two days after David Letterman signs off from the airwaves, the team is staging a promotion in honor of the iconic late night host. If you’re wondering why they would do such a thing, then simply consult the BlueClaws’ Top 10 List.
This post represents a mere smattering (is there any other type of smattering?) of the notable promotions that will be staged in 2015. Stay tuned, as there will be (too) much more where this comes from.
Can Minor League Baseball be stopped? No, it cannot be stopped.