Celebrating the Past, in the Present

I took a vacation day on Friday. It was a vacation that brought me all the way to my kitchen, which I cleaned.

True story.

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.

Feller, Smith, Sutter, Jackson, Aaron, Henderson (Willie Mays not pictured, but he was there!)

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.

Scooter Tucker's first appearance on this blog

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?

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

4 Comments

The Dunedin Jays have a list on one of the concourse walls who have made the majors after playing for Dunedin. It goes back a few decades.

Cool, thanks. Every team should do something like that (and most do), to reinforce the connection between the players on the field and potential Major League stardom.

The Pawtucket Red Sox have a tradition of issuing murals for PawSox players that reached The Show with the Red Sox. Back in the the day, they were painted directly onto the stadium walls but now they’re done on large canvasses and framed. Here’s a link:

http://web.minorleaguebaseball.com/team1/page.jsp?ymd=20080909&content_id=456286&vkey=team1_t533&fext=.jsp&sid=t533

They’re prominently displayed on the exit ramps surrounding the stadium. An awesome tradition, in my completely biased opinion.

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