Toward the end of the season, several teams are staging “Bobblection” promotions in which fans get to choose either an Obama or Romney bobblehead. Supplies are limited, and the evening’s winner is he whose bobblehead supply runs out first. I’ll certainly be covering these exercises in American democracy as they occur, but in the meantime let’s take a look at even more absurd promotion being staged by the Stockton Ports on June 15th.
Yes, fans will have the chance to sit on the face of either Obama or Romney. These items are unique pieces of political pop culture ephemera and should be valued as such, but the premise is admittedly a little confusing. The thinking here is that you would want to sit on the face of the candidate you DON’T support. Hence, the #SitOnMitt hashtag under Obama and the #BunsOnObama tag beneath Romney.
The promotion inspired a spirited discussion on the team’s Facebook page, with many fans arguing that baseball and politics just don’t mix. But one Kevin Rager delivered the most cogent remark: “in all honestly both are butt munchers,” he wrote.
Partisan politics have always been a fact of American life, but recently the Birmingham Barons hearkened back to a much less divisive era. The annual Rickwood Classic was held on Wednesday afternoon (in which the team returns to its old Rickwood Field home), and this year’s theme was WWII-era baseball. Check out the beautiful posters created for the event, which drew a lot of fan interest when I first posted them on Twitter:
And, more and more often, teams are staging promotions to eras that NEVER existed. On June 8th, the Northwest Arkansas Naturals’ “What Could’ve Been Night” will imagine a reality in which the team went by the name of “Thunder Chickens.”
These t-shirts will be available for this day only:
And here are the chicken-scratch hats. One of these should be sent to Axl Rose so that he can update his wardrobe.
I am missing this promotion by one day (I’ll be visiting the Naturals on June 9), but I hope the team sets aside some Thunder Chickens gear for me. It will be a nice complement to my Bowling Green Cave Shrimp t-shirt.
Finally, you may remember my post about the Quad Cities River Bandits photo jerseys, which will feature a collage of cancer survivors. Last week, the Gwinnett Braves announced that they would be doing a photo jersey promotion as well. Their take on it is that it will be a Fan Appreciation Day promo that features — who else? — the fans.
G-Braves fans will have the opportunity to have an image of their face featured on the back of replica jerseys which will be given out to the first 2,000 fans on that night, courtesy of Coolray Heating and Cooling. The images will be embedded as half-inch squares creating a mosaic in the uniform number 12 on the back of the jersey.
Another unique aspect is that fans will not know if they have been selected to be featured on the jersey. Fans will have to “like” the G-Braves post of the Fan Appreciation Night story to be considered to be featured on the giveaway. Approximately 390 faces will be featured, but fans will have to come to the game in order to see if they have won!
Great stuff, right? I’m always writing about great stuff. It’s what I do.
I took a vacation day on Friday. It was a vacation that brought me all the way to my kitchen, which I cleaned.
Also on Friday, my latest “Minoring in Business” article appeared on MiLB.com. It was about using a team’s history as a promotional tool, and focused on an in-depth project undertaken by the Visalia Rawhide.
The article was inspired by broadcaster Visalia broadcaster Donny Baarns, who gave a speech at the Winter Meetings entitled “Learning From Orwell: How History Can Enhance Your Club’s Brand.” There are many advantages to a historically-minded marketing approach (read the article!) but one of Baarns’ more unexpected examples was this: re-connecting with old sponsors.
In 1952, Buckman-Mitchell Insurance had their name at the top of the club’s pocket schedules.
At some point along the way, Buckman-Mitchell stopped sponsoring Visalia’s professional baseball team. But upon being shown the schedule seen above, the company is now back on (bill)board.
Visalia’s efforts have been particularly impressive, but historically-minded promotions and displays can be found throughout Minor League Baseball. The Rickwood Classic, in which the Birmingham Barons return to their former home for an afternoon of nostalgia, is a justly-celebrated annual tradition. I was lucky enough to attend in 2010.
Also in 2010, the Mobile BayBears opened the Hank Aaron Childhood Home and Museum. In an unprecedented effort, they moved Hank Aaron’s childhood home to the grounds of the stadium, renovated it, and re-opened it as a museum.
I attended the opening, which was attended by luminaries even more luminous than myself.
And then there are the Delmarva Shorebirds, whose stadium hosts the “Eastern Shore Baseball Hall of Fame.”
Finally, last week I took to Twitter in order to ask “In what ways do you promote your team’s history, at the ballpark and otherwise?”
I got a wide range of responses, including the following:
Bowie Baysox: Celebrating 20th anniversary this season. Articles on website recapping past seasons, and several events scheduled during season.
Connecticut Tigers: Pay tribute to Norwich’s previous franchise by staging “Navigator’s Night” promotions with throwback jerseys.
Hagerstown Suns: Put out a “Legends” baseball card set honoring players from throughout the past three decades.
Harrisburg Senators: All time roster on a board, and pictures of the ballpark going back 60 to 70 years.
High Desert Mavericks: Year-by-year Opening Day line-ups displayed on stadium pillars.
Inland Empire 66ers: 66ers celebrated 25 years last season. Had articles on team history, wore throwbacks every Tuesday and did themed giveaways.
The San Jose Giants went ahead a sent a few photos, of the hand-painted murals and timelines located throughout the ballpark.
And on and on it goes. This is the part of the blog where, without the slightest hint of disingenuosness, I ask YOU to get in touch. In what ways is history celebrated and promoted by your favorite Minor League team? What else could be done?
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.
The quest to determine the top Minor League promotion certainly was an arduous process. A series of blog posts led to a field of 32 semi-finalists which, in turn, led to the selection of four finalists.
And of those four finalists, the one that received the most votes was…
The Rickwood Classic!
Looking back on it, it appears that my coverage of the event turned out pretty well. It is very rare that I ever feel this way about my own writing, but why fight it? Riding this wave of self-confidence, I’ll re-attempt a joke that totally bombed when I tweeted it this morning.
Chili in Minors is today’s number one news story! Click HERE for exclusive info.
Why doesn’t anyone else think this is funny? I’m drowning in virtual flop sweat. And when that’s the case, time to resort to the tried and true: New Logos.
The Delmarva Shorebirds will be hosting the 2011 South Atlantic League All-Star Game, and today they revealed the logo.
This bird, his bearing upright and exclamations stentorian, was designed by Plan B Branding (who, by the way, maintain an excellent blog). As the logo implies, the game is sponsored by Perdue’s “Strike Out Hunger” campaign. More info can be found HERE.
Finally, in honor of Wednesday the 13th, a scary video courtesy of the Bowie Baysox.
The above video was rated “horror.”
Over the past three days, I’ve presented my picks for favorite giveaways, theme nights, and celebrity appearances of the year. Nearly all Minor League promos fall into at least one of those categories, but lest anything slip through the cracks I’ve created a fourth and final category. For lack of a better name, I’m calling it “Marvelous Miscellany.”
The following six promos don’t have much in common with one another, save for the fact that they were all exceedingly memorable. But what am I missing? Surely there were many other tough-to-categorize but eminently worthwhile ballpark events that deserve postseason commemoration — let me know!
Birmingham Barons — Rickwood Classic/100th Anniversary of Rickwood Field
Frederick Keys — Volt Night
Huntsville Stars – Car Survivor
Mobile BayBears — Opening of Hank Aaron Childhood Home and Museum
San Antonio Missions — Puffy Taco, the Re-Match
I’m just using this blog to illuminate universal truths. Also, to solicit feedback. Keep your promo suggestions coming, in all categories. You know where to find me.
The 15th annual Rickwood Classic was played today, with the visiting Tennessee Smokies eking out an 8-7 win over the Birmingham Barons. You can read all about it HERE, and while you’re there be sure to click on my first-ever photo gallery (of which I am very proud).
My “Southern Swing” must soon continue, but before moving on to Huntsville in my rented Mercedes-Benz with Texas plates (this is true), I’d like to leave you with some odds, ends, scraps and sods from my Birmingham experience.
Let’s start with this photo, taken from the roof of Rickwood Field with my trusty spy-cam. Press box sources had informed me that Josh Vitters of the Smokies had left his pants in his hotel room, and this certainly did appear to be the case:
Take it from one who knows, Josh: nothing good can ever come from leaving your pants in a hotel room.
But my favorite photo from my Rickwood excursion is this one, for reasons that I will explain once you are done perusing it:
Fans of juxtaposition should take note of Barons starter Matt Long, quietly stewing in his own juices in the bowels of the dugout while the rest of his teammates loiter carelessly atop roof while waiting for the game to start. But even more hilarious is ol’ #10 there, showing off a beautiful hour-glass figure rarely seen amongst baseball professionals.
I’d also like to say thanks to the various individuals who have provided me with Rickwood information over the past several days. Noted sports scribe Allen Berra was kind enough to share several articles he has written about Rickwood, which informed my writing while whetting my appetite for his upcoming book on the iconic stadium. I’ll certainly be covering the release of this tome on MiLB.com, but get a head start by pre-ordering it on Amazon HERE.
Meanwhile, a reader by the name of Sam Hamm, a former Rickwood bat boy, sent me some inside info on the stadium:
While time was too short for me to obtain photos of ’80s Rickwood, I did make a point to drink two Mello Yellos at the Barons game on Tuesday evening (I also put in Donovan’s Greatest Hits on the car ride home).
I was able to take a photo of the oft-painted over dugout walls, however:
And here, once again, is a photo that shows the discrepancy between the original and “new” outfield walls:
This discrepancy was the subject of another reader email I recently received, this one from a woman by the name of Marcia Bullard:
I just read your story on Rickwood. I was fortunate to visit there a few years ago when my daughter worked for the Barons. On the day we visited there was a high school tournament. We watched a bit of the game and then my daughter showed me around a bit. We were even able to go between the walls and see the back of the scoreboard and the outer wall. I seem to remember that straight away center was over 500 feet! There is a two-track that runs between the walls and to get into the scoreboard (it operates like the one at Wrigley) you have to climb a ladder. We were cautioned to stay on the track because there are snakes living in the grass! If you haven’t already, try to go between the walls. It really is an experience!
And speaking of readers — I must give a shout-out to a man by the name of Larry Lefebvre. Not only did Larry recognize me at Rickwood despite not being a member of the industry (a professional first, to be identified by a baseball civilian!), he also recently sent me an email which warmed my heart to a considerable degree:
“For the past two weeks my daughter has been singing Weird Al’s eBay song non-stop. She went on YouTube and discovered that this is not Weird Al’s only song; he has hundreds of them! After watching his videos for at least 30 minutes I heard her say to herself, ‘This guy is a genius!'”
It goes without saying that if YOU have anecdotes regarding emerging Weird Al fandom in America’s youth, then please contact me immediately so that I may spread the good word.
I suppose I should close with something baseball related, so let me just mention that it was an honor to meet Harmon Killebrew at Rickwood this afternoon. He was very friendly, unassuming, and soft-spoken, immediately making everyone feel at ease around him. I of course don’t know Harmon in any real way, but I walked away from our conversation absolutely convinced that he’s a genuinely nice guy (this was in stark contrast to another member of the 500 Home Run Club I recently met, a condescending and belittling individual whose name either rhymes with or is Reggie Jackson).
So before I shut things down for the night here at the good ol’ Birmingham-Hoover Microtel, here’s a picture of Harmon and the Barons just before the start of today’s Rickwood Classic:
While I wait for my endorsement check from Microtel to arrive, I figured I may as well update this blog with the goings-on of what has been an unfathomably long day. What I’d like to do is regale you with anecdotes regarding my inability to comprehend the dashboard of my Mercedes Benz rental car (which I got at an economy price!), but that’s probably not why you’ve typed this particular URL into your browser of choice.
I’ll be attending the Rickwood Classic on Wednesday, an annual contest held in the oldest professional baseball stadium in America. So upon arriving in Birmingham early Tuesday afternoon, I drove over to the stadium for a self-guided tour (these are available to everyone during standard business hours, and something I highly recommend doing if you’re ever in Birmingham).
An article on my self-guided adventure tour can be located HERE. Consider this to be supplemental visual content.
Spanish Mission-style Ballpark Exterior:
The “Breezeway”, featuring pictures of Rickwood heroes as well as the faded starting line-up from the 2009 Classic:
Wear and Tear:
Tellin’ It Like It Is:
Rooftop Gazebo Press Box:
Right Field Grandstand (a later addition to the stadium, modeled after Forbes Field in Pittsburgh):
Scoreboard (from before the days of “ARI”, “FLA”, “TB”, and other such affronts to the natural order of things):
After touring Rickwood, I made the ill-fated decision to “guess” my way to the Microtel. Many wrong turns later, I arrived there in the midst of a violent downpour. This mini-monsoon subsided quickly, however, and therefore did not effect the day’s next chapter: Regions Park, current home of the Barons.
While 23-year-old Regions Park is no spring chicken, it sure felt like one compared to Rickwood. Although it boasts a Birmingham mailing address, the stadium is more accurately located in the nearby suburb of Hoover (a far different environment than Rickwood’s economically depressed surroundings).
The first impression I had of Regions was that it was spacious — although lacking an open concourse, there is a wide passageway that wraps around the stadium. This provides easy access to a wide range of vantage points.
And the press box is very impressive, a multi-level palace that has been the beneficiary of extensive renovations (as a result of Regions hosting the SEC college tournament). A full spread of food was provided as well, making me regret my desultory meal at a suburban “road house” that featured buckets of peanuts on every table.
Let’s go to the pictures, for the second and last time this evening.
View from the press box:
Inside the press box (palatial, by Double-A standards):
Seriously, the press box is huge:
Left Field Bleachers:
Plenty of Room to Move:
And, Finally, A Concessions Menu:
Can I get a round of applause for Cajun Roasted Peanuts?
At any rate, I was so preoccupied with various Rickwood-related conversations and copious picture-taking that I barely noticed the strong outing of Smokies’ pitcher Austin Bibens-Dirkx. Fortunately, my MiLB.com colleagues were there to pick up the slack.
Signing off from the Microtel,
I sure do love living New York City, but it is nonetheless crucial that I periodically leave my domestic lair in order to report live and direct from the ballpark. Only two of Minor League Baseball’s 160 teams play in the Big Apple, meaning that there are 158 cities perpetually on my list of places to visit.
When it comes to places I’d like to visit within the world of Minor League Baseball, I have a list that’s two feet wide and a mile long. It’s a most unwieldy list, and upon consulting it I can not help but feel there should be a more economical way for me to write out my desires.
But at the top of this list, towering 5,280 feet above the ground, is this item:
Attend the Rickwood Classic.
For those who may not yet be “in the know” — Each season the Birmingham Barons play one game at Rickwood Field, which served as their home from 1910 through 1987 and is now recognized as the oldest functioning professional stadium in the country. The club pulls out all the stops for the Rickwood Classic, honoring a different period of Birmingham baseball history each year by suiting up in that era’s uniforms.
I bring this up because yesterday the Barons announced the details of the 2010 Classic. Here’s a relevant excerpt:
The Birmingham Barons will do their part to celebrate the 100th
anniversary of historic Rickwood Field when the team returns to their
old stomping grounds for the 15th Annual Rickwood Classic on June 2.
The 12:30 p.m. contest will pit the Barons
opposite the Tennessee Smokies…The two franchises will use the occasion to pay homage to the early
years of Rickwood Field. The $75,000, 7,000-seat facility opened on
Aug. 18, 1910, when the Barons took on the Montgomery Climbers in a
game witnessed by an estimated 10,000 fans….The Barons will wear replicas of uniforms from the 1910 season while
the Smokies will wear uniforms from the 1914 season, when they were
known as the Appalachian Smokies.
I wrote a feature about the Rickwood Field earlier this year, which can be viewed HERE. And since I’m on the topic, I’d like to point out that in both 2006 and 2007, the Barons won the Classic, 3-2, on the strength of a late-inning tie-breaking sacrifice fly by Thomas Collaro. Seriously, you cannot make this stuff up.
At any rate, June 2 is now marked on my 2010 calendar with an Alabama state flag puffy sticker. Maybe this year I’ll be able to traverse the Mason-Dixon line in order to see Rickwood Field in all it’s glory.
— On Tuesday I wrote about the Lakewood BlueClaws’ bowling league, and even attempted to brainstorm some potential team names. Well, the BlueClaws held a “best bowling team name” contest via Twitter, ultimately selecting these entries: Pinchy’s Pin Busters, BlueClaws Pin Setters, and Alley Claws.
I’m surprised no one suggested “Pinchsetters.”
— Finally, a new edition of “Promo Preview Offseason Edition” can be found HERE. At the very least, read the column in order to discover my three favorite songs on “Appetite for Destruction.” I’d be interested to hear yours.