Results tagged ‘ promotions ’

An Edifying Evening in Honor of a Cultural Icon

It took me more than five months to get around to it, but please don’t mistake tardiness for a lack of interest. Today’s post looks back at one of 2014’s most notable Minor League promotions. It is mandatory that you read it: 

Major League Baseball has long been concerned with the issue of parity, working to insure that there is a level competitive playing field across the sport. Minor League Baseball, meanwhile, is more concerned with the issue of parody. At no time was this more apparent than this past August 27, when the Altoona Curve staged a night in honor of consummate pop parodist (and one of my personal heroes) “Weird Al” Yankovic.

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I have long advocated for a Minor League promotion of this nature (see HERE), and previewed the Curve’s promotion this past August. While there is no wrong time to honor the work of Mr. Yankovic, “Weird Altoona Night” occurred during a particularly noteworthy time of his career. From the Curve press release:

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His “Mandatory Fun” album reached #1 on the Billboard pop charts recently and he’s now being championed by his fans to be the entertainment at next year’s Super Bowl. So, the time is right for the Altoona Curve, Double-A affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates, to celebrate the success of Weird Al Yankovic with “Weird Al(Toona) Night” on Wednesday, August 27. At the same time, the team’s rally mascot, Al Tuna, will play a starring role on the night when the Curve play the Richmond Flying Squirrels in a 7 p.m. game at Peoples Natural Gas Field. 

(Note: Please take a moment to appreciate the fact that the Curve play at a stadium named “Peoples Natural Gas Field.”)

I am happy to report that, soon after this promotion took place, the Curve got in touch with photos and a recap. As a result of having recently enjoyed a five-month nap, I am just getting to it now.

Curve director of creative services Mark Milligan writes:

Please see the pictures attached for some of our staff dressed as Weird Al and some sponsor slides that makes me question if I need my college degree for this.

So here we go. Here’s Curve general manager “Weird” Rob Egan, who apparently did the best he could with the wigs that were available from the promo supply closet.

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This staffer — who I believe might be ticket associate Luke Johnson — didn’t even wear a wig. Weird Al purists were appalled.

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Milligan also sent along the team’s “Weird Al” playlist for the evening. These songs were used for between-inning contests tailored to the “Weird Al” theme. (My commentary on each song is in parentheses.)

Seat Upgrade – ‘Such a Groovy Guy

This, a deep cut off of Al’s eponymous 1983 debut album, is an original composition in which Al reveals that his idea of romance involves “pouring chocolate pudding down your pants.” Regardless of the specifics, it is clear that a seat upgrade would make any fan feel groovy. 

Sheetz Shuffle (Find the ball under the hat on the videoboard)  – ‘Bob’

This Bob Dylan-themed stylistic parody, from 2003’s Poodle Hat, inspired a spot-on “Subterranean Homesick Blues” parody video. The lyrics consist entirely of palindromes, and yet still sound quintessentially Dylan in content. “God, a red nugget, a fat egg under a dog/Go hang a salami, I’m a lasagna hog.”  

— Sheetz Tags (a social media to screen promotion) – ‘Word Crimes’

A parody of Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines,” which transformed 2013’s misogynistic ear worm into an impassioned screed against flagrant grammar and syntax transgressions. An all-time classic Weird Al track (and video), and for my money the best song on Mandatory Fun.

— Gift Card Giveaway – ‘Bedrock Anthem

This song is a parody of Red Hot Chili Peppers “Give It Away,” which would of course be far more apropos as regards this contest. Al’s version is about The Flintstones. It’s fine for what it is, but a much better classic TV-themed parody within Al’s oeuvre is 1990’s “Isle Thing” (Tone Loc’s Wild Thing, with lyrics about Gilligan’s Island).

— Minute to Win It (Twinkie Weiner Sandwich eating contest) – ‘Eat It’

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“Eat It,” Weird Al’s best-known parody, makes sense in this context. But, given the name of the contest, the Curve could also have opted to go with the nostalgic balladry of 1985’s “One More Minute.” (One of my greatest fourth grade coups was convincing the bus driver to play this song on the way to school). In any case, the Twinkie Weiner Sandwich employed in this between-inning endeavor is a nod to this scene from the 1990 cult classic film UHF: 

Budweiser Thirst Inning – ‘Beer Barrel Polka’ performed by Frankie Yankovic

The Curve took some liberties with this one. While Al and Frankie are both famous accordion-playing Yankovics, they are not related to one another.

— Burrito Scream (burrito coupons given away to screaming fans) – ‘Tacky

“Tacky,” a parody of Pharrell’s “Happy,” was the first single released off Mandatory Fun. If the team wanted to go deep on this one, they could have chosen the scream-laden midsection of “Nature Trail to Hell in 3D” (the closing song on In 3D). 

— Grounds Crew dragging the infield – ‘Handy

Well, why not? Grounds crew members are the handiest people in the ballpark. This, a parody of Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy,” is the leadoff track on Mandatory Fun. “Hardware Store,” one of the strongest tracks off of Poodle Hat, would also have been an acceptable choice. 

— T-shirt Launch – ‘Bohemian Polka

This, off of 1993’s “Alapalooza,” is Al’s polka-fied rendition of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Carry on, carry on. 

— Birthday Announcements – “Happy Birthday” played on the accordion

I mean, sure, that works. But I’m very disappointed that the Curve passed on the opportunity to play Al’s “Happy Birthday,” in which birthday wishes are offered amid a dsytopian landscape of poverty, famine and nuclear armageddon. “Well what’s the matter, little thing? You think this party is the pits? Enjoy it while you can, we’ll soon be blown to bits!” 

– Eye Ball Race (Hamster ball race) – ‘Rye or the Kaiser’

In which “Eye of the Tiger” is reconfigured, describing a post-retirement Rocky and his new life as a deli proprietor. But given that this is a hamster ball race, it’s a shame that a “Harvey the Wonder Hamster” reference wasn’t worked in at some point. 

– Kiss Cam — ‘If That Isn’t Love 

An Al original off of 2011’s Alpocalypse, in which he extols his gentlemanly bonafides (“I’ll kiss you even if you have omelettes for breakfast, and I can’t stand omelettes.”)  

Sing for Dairy – ‘Amish Paradise

Sing-for-Dairy

This, off of 1996’s Bad Hair Day, is one of Al’s best known parodies. The Curve milked it for all that it was worth. 

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Mascot Race – ‘Another One Rides the Bus’

My favorite Weird Al song of all time is this, a parody of Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust.” Y’know, in case you weren’t aware, Al has been doing his thing for quite a while now. 

Dessert in Curve, PA — I Love Rocky Road

A perfect choice, of course. This, like “Another One Rides the Bus,” “Happy Birthday,” and “Such a Groovy Guy,” can be found on Al’s 1983 self-titled debut. It goes without saying that this album is an all-time classic, probably my favorite of all.   

Fan Cam — Polka Face

Each Weird Al album includes a polka medley of (more or less) current Top 40 hits. This one, from 2011’s Alpocalypse, includes snippets from the likes of Lady Gaga, Lady Antebellum and various other notable ladies (and gents). 

Sweetfrog Selfie Winner – ‘Livin in the Fridge

This is a parody of Aerosmith’s “Livin on the Edge.” I’m not sure what this song has to do with selfies, but I’ll trust the Curve’s judgement on this one.

Chili’s Delivery Dash – ‘Taco Grande

This homage to Mexican food, from 1991’s Off the Deep End, is a perfect choice for a contest sponsored by Chili’s. “Taco Grande” is a Gerardo parody, not to be confused with Al’s Geraldo parody from the UHF film:

Angry Birds Ballpark – ‘I Can’t Watch This

Another cut from Off the Deep End. This is a parody of MC Hammer’s “Can’t Touch This,” in which Al rants against the banality of television.

When I started writing this blog post I really had no idea what I was that I was getting myself into, but I suppose that sentiment applies to most of life’s endeavors. At any rate, I hope that, in addition to illuminating my love for Weird Al, that this post illuminates how much detail must go into each and every Minor League Baseball promotion. I commend the Curve for the work they did on “Weird Altoona Night,” and hope that other teams follow suit in 2015 and beyond.

Until next time, I thank you for your continued support.

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benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Deflated Balls, Good Cause

There’s been a lot of chatter lately regarding “Deflategate.” Unless you are living under a rock and/or don’t care about extremely trivial matters, then you are no doubt already familiar with this latest and greatest NFL controversy. It revolves around allegations made against the New England Patriots and their coach, Bill Belichick, who have been accused of gaining an unfair advantage in last Sunday’s AFC Championship game against Indianapolis via the use of improperly inflated balls.

This scandal, ridiculous yet captivating, calls out for a satirical response from a Minor League Baseball team. Yesterday evening, after a little Twitter prompting from yours truly, one team answered the call: The Myrtle Beach Pelicans.

On Wednesday, April 15, the Pelicans will be staging #DeflateCancer Night at their home of TicketReturn.com Field. The aim, as the team puts it, is to “tighten the grip on testicular cancer.”

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This promotion, simply put, is brilliant. Minor League Baseball at its best. Tire service checks? Free ball inflation? A Rocky Mountain Oyster eating contest? A deflation ceremony? An apropos Breeders reference? It’s all here, along with much, much more. Let’s go to the press release:

In light of the NFL and New England Patriots “Deflate-gate” scandal, #DeflateCancer Night will focus on raising awareness for testicular cancer and feature an inflatable baseball giveaway to the first 1200 fans through the gates. Eleven of every 12 fans will receive a deflated ball, while one in every 12 will receive a “properly” inflated ball.

When fans arrive at the ballpark, they will be greeted by a variety of ball-related promotions. Any fan who arrives in a vehicle with a Massachusetts license plate can request a complementary tire-pressure check from service technicians from Tire Town, who will also be on-site passing out free tire pressure gauges to fans.  

The Pelicans staff will offer free ball inflation at Gate 1 to fans that bring deflated balls in need of inflation. If they wish to donate their deflated (but functional) balls (footballs, beach balls, basketball, volleyballs, and soccer balls), the Pelicans will donate them to the Boys and Girls Club of the Grand Strand.

Once inside the ballpark, fans can take advantage of concessions discounts on meatball sandwiches, chicken bog balls, roasted and boiled nuts, and of course, discounted hot dogs as a part of the yearlong Weiner Wednesday promotion. The team also plans to conduct a Rocky Mountain oyster-eating contest between Pelicans Vice President and General Manager Andy Milovich and one “lucky” fan as a between inning game. Fans can also take deflated hot-air balloon “rides” at the park.

The Pelicans will also pass out balloons to fans during the game to engage in a communal deflation ceremony while playing the “Deflate-gate” press conference of New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick on the left field video board.

Music for the night is sure to feature famous ball-related tunes like “Great Balls of Fire,” “Cannonball,” “Wrecking Ball,” and “Balls to the Wall.”

Important to note for concerned parents, the Pelicans have opted not to invite the New England Patriots equipment manager to run the Kids Zone. The bounce house, speed-pitch, and obstacle course will, as always, be inflated to the specified safety levels outlined in their respective manuals.

Finally, the Pelicans plan to formally invite Walt Anderson and his officiating crew from the AFC Championship Game to inspect the game balls prior to first pitch.

Word from Splash, the Pelicans mascot, is that Mugsy, the Salem Red Sox mascot, has been hatching plans to film the Pelicans practices prior the three-game series, which begins on April 13 at TicketReturn.Com Field at Pelicans Ballpark.

“In honor of the New England sports tradition, the choice of a night in which the Boston Red Sox affiliate was in town was the obvious choice for this night,” explained Milovich. “To be able to promote awareness of such a serious disease so early in the season, while having some fun in the process is what we are all about.” 

#DeflateCancer Night is one of the nights in the Pelicans’ Strike Out Cancer series, a six-night series devoted to raising awareness and money to fight different types of cancer. The series was a great success in 2014.

Kudos to Andy Milovich and the Pelicans staff for once again showcasing their formidable brainstorming skills, and for once again tying it all in to a good cause. As you may recall, Milovich has ample experience with this sort of thing:

Meanwhile, word on the street is that at least one other Minor League team will be announcing a #DeflateGate promo today. Stay tuned…

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Hey Hey My My the 2013 Season Will Never Die

On Tuesday night the Omaha Storm Chasers emerged triumphant in the Triple-A Championship Game and the Idaho Falls Chukars won the Pioneer League title. And that, folks is all she wrote. There are no more Minor League Baseball games until April 3, 2014 and April 3, 2014 is a somewhat imposing 197 days away.

It is now the offseason, then, but with one exception: this blog! This post, like the last one and like the next one and like the one after that, will be devoted to material that I wasn’t able to get to during the season due to my peripatetic lifestyle. It’ll be random, but it will be educational, and it will be fun. I insist.

Let’s start with a community-minded initiative that, in my opinion, every team should do a variation of. On June 8 the Tri-City ValleyCats staged “Show on the Road,” in which they brought the Minor League Baseball game day experience to a local youth field. The ValleyCats, in partnership with Hannaford supermarkets, picked a league that “exemplifies sportsmanship” and that league turned out to be the not-so-pithily named East Greenbush-Castleton Youth Baseball League.

Per the team’s ‘Cats Corner blog, the event “featured pregame entertainment, live team introductions, a live performance of the national anthem, and in-game promotions including fan favorites such as the Mayors’ Race, T-Shirt Tosses, Pony Hops and more.”

A few pics from that post:

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Ceremonial introductions

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T-Shirt Toss

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A triumvirate of racing mayors

And so it went. I’m going to momentarily assume that I have any sort of influence in this industry and once again insist that all teams do this in 2014 and beyond.

And now for something completely random: this article (and video), which my Mom brought to my attention, profiles veteran Ocean City (New Jersey)  PR man Mark Soifer. Soifer’s irreverent, absurd and always family-friendly promotional philosophies should resonate with anyone who works within Minor League Baseball.  For example: He once staged a wet t-shirt contest, in which participants competed to see who could throw a wet t-shirt the farthest.

Moving on, here’s a Tweet that is both self-explanatory and awesome.

Finally, back in June I received an email from David Perahia of BobblesGalore. It read, in part: 

I thought this may be a bobble that your readers would get a kick out of. We just came out with this item, only 90 were produced and each one is serial numbered.

It is the first bobblehead ever produced with 5 Mascots on one base, it is also the first bobblehead produced of the Washington Nationals new racing president – William Howard Taft.

0024-Washington-Nationals-Racing-Presidents-5-My-Pic

 

Five presidential mascots, one bobblehead base. Some of the greatest achievements in human history are taking place right before our eyes, and we should never forget that.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Ben’s Biz Backlogged Blog Bonanza, the Sequel!

Hey, remember that thing I did yesterday? Where I wrote a bouillabaisse blog post that included a bunch of Minor League items thrown together in haphazard fashion? Well, that’s happening again, so buckle up the brain belt and drive right in!

After an extended liaison with the Pittsburgh Pirates, 2013 marks the State College Spikes’ return to being a Cardinals affiliate. And, wouldn’t you know it? The team now has a resident cardinal. (They’ve named him Ozzie, as in Smith.)

cardinal
Minor League team stadium visitation by a species representing said team’s Major League affiliate are rare, though who among us can forget that time a crusty sailor took up residency at Clinton’s Ashford University Field after the LumberKings became a Mariners affiliate?

I’ll be visiting the West Michigan Whitecaps later this month — June 27th! — and if the ultra-spicy Squeeling Pig is available in gluten-free form then I’m definitely going to give it a try. Either way, it’s the only concession item I am aware of that requires a waiver.

In this video, some intrepid members of the team give it a try. No trips to the disabled list resulted.



I’ll also be visiting the Wisconsin Timber Rattler later this month — June 21 and 22! Think they’ll give me a ride in this sweet bullpen car?

bullpencar

I’ve written about Daytona super-fan Front Row Joe on several occasions, but little did I know that there is a Front Row Joe equivalent in good ol’ Curve PA. This Altoona Mirror article profiles Susan Mielnik, who has attended every Altoona Curve game since the franchise’s 1996 inception. Hats off to her!

I wrote about the Fort Wayne TinCaps rather brilliant Social Media Night jerseys in this week’s Promo Preview, which of course you read already. But that’s indicative of the team’s larger approach, as the TinCaps have been taking theme jerseys to new levels of transcendence all season. Just check out these 50’s Night duds:

50s1

TinCaps creative director Tony DesPlaines writes:

Designed in-house and produced by Wilson, these jerseys featured a beautiful green argyle design with a jukebox on one sleeve and the TinCaps logo on the opposite sleeve. The team thought they looked like golfers, but from the stands they looked great.

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Speaking of theme jerseys, check out what the Omaha Storm Chasers wore during their Star Wars promo.

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Force Hat

There’s more to this than meets the eye. Storm Chasers director of marketing and promotions Ben Hemmen explains:

May the FORCE be with you… The Omaha Force that is! It’s the second annual “What If… Night” presented by Autism Action Partnership featuring a unique Jersey auction…. Plus, it’s “Star Wars Night”! Dress up like your favorite Star Wars characters, help us find “Yoda” around the ballpark, hear Princess Leia sing the National Anthem, and meet Darth Vader. The force, Omaha & Jedi will definitely be strong at Werner Park Saturday night so it should not take a Jedi mind trick to tell you not to miss out on this special evening. What If… the Storm Chasers had been renamed the Omaha Force three years ago? Head out to Werner Park to find out!

More where all of this came from? Oh, you better believe it.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

2013 Promotions: Strange Combinations

Over the past two weeks I have spent a heroic amount of time combing through the promotional schedules of Minor League full season teams, in search of the best, brightest, weirdest and wackiest innovations that will be on offer during the 2013 campaign.

As always, this was a LOT of information to digest, especially since there are many teams that schedule multiple promotions for each and every contest. Such promo overload is the inevitable result of the industry’s never-ending quest to be all things to all people, and as an added bonus it sometimes provides unintentional comedy fodder. (The best example of this comes courtesy of an Eastern League club that shall remain anonymous, who in 2011 scheduled “Tribute to Michael Jackson” on the same evening as “Boy Scout Sleepover Night.”)

What follows is a brief list of absurd and/or incongruous promo combinations scheduled for the 2013 season. Maybe one of them will be incongruously taking place at a ballpark near you! (And, of course, if you have further examples then please send ‘em my way.)

Akron Aeros — International Juggler’s Day/Thirsty Thursday

This can’t end well.

Kannapolis Intimidators — $2 16 oz Budweiser drafts/Operation Family Time (May 17)

Spending time with the family can be stressful, but the Intimidators are offering a way to take the edge off.

Myrtle Beach Pelicans — Hangover Night/Thirsty Thursday (May 23)

Seems like “Hangover Night” would make more sense on May 24th…

Omaha Storm Chasers — Superhero Cape Giveaway/Diaper Derby (June 8)

Perhaps unprepared Diaper Derby participants could just use the cape?

Lakewood BlueClaws — Cecil Fielder Appearance/Wing Fling (June 12)

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While perhaps not quite as rotund as his immodestly-named son, Tigers slugger Prince, there’s no denying that Cecil Fielder was one of the largest individuals to ever don a Major League uniform. He’s scheduled to sign autographs at Lakewood’s FirstEnergy Park on June 12, during which the BlueClaws will also be staging a “Wing Fling.” Local restaurateurs will compete in a “best wing” contest, and it seems to me that Cecil would be the perfect judge. And if he’s moved to participate in the scheduled “wing-eating contest”? Forget about it…

Quad Cities River Bandits — “Ghost Rider” Cowboy Monkeys/John Deere Night (June 15)

The Cowboy Monkeys usually ride border collies, but perhaps on this special evening they could ride a tractor instead.

Frederick Keys — Meet the Team/Pajama Night (June 23)

Finally — a socially acceptable way to mingle with professional athletes in an outdoor setting while wearing a bathrobe.

Frederick Keys — Military and Civilians Night (July 31st)

Or, as I like to call it — “Everybody Night.”

Hickory Crawdads — Kids Run the Show/Unemployment Night (August 7)

Well, yeah — when kids are running the show then the adults are out of a job!

I’ve got plenty more where this came from, and I’m sorry if that sounds like a threat.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Siptomatic of a Larger Issue

When it comes to political gaffes, Marco Rubio’s nationally televised cotton-mouthed lunge for a water bottle ranks as a pretty minor one.

And now, of course, it has become Minor. This past Thursday, the Fort Myers Miracle announced that they will be staging a “Marco Rubio Water Bottle Giveaway” at a to-be-determined point during the 2013 season.

Marco Rubio

AP

The details:

Fans entering Hammond Stadium will receive a water bottle while being encouraged to gather in the shady parts of the ballpark to stay cool when the heat is on and prevent perspiration. The Miracle will help recreate Rubio’s thirst-quenching moment on national television by setting up a booth where fans can put on a sports jacket, stand in front of a set and down some high-quality H2O.

Those picking up tickets at the will call window should be prepared for unlicked ticket envelopes because our parched Capital Bank ticket office employees will be saving saliva. Fans will need to salvage water water wisely with special deals on high-sodium concession items such as chips, popcorn and peanuts.

In an effort to keep the field saturated, the Hammond Stadium groundscrew will participate in a mid-game rain dance because even the Earth needs a drink on a hot day. Fans can expect to make a big splash with a stadium-wide game of Marco Polo.

Of course, the Miracle will extend an invitation to Senator Rubio to throw out the first pitch, provided he uses the rosin bag beforehand and is thoroughly hydrated.

Funny stuff — I especially like the unlicked ticket envelopes — and par for the course for the satirical savants within the Miracle front office.

But this brings up the old debate: to what end? Much like myself at the junior prom, this promo is conspicuously lacking a date. But even if it is scheduled in April it will most likely seem outdated and irrelevant by the time that it actually occurs.  Barring a visit from Rubio himself, the number of fans who purchase tickets as a direct result of the Miracle’s pop culture riffing will be negligible. It’s possible that the team won’t have much of an incentive to execute the promo at all due to a lack of interest from the fans.

But maybe that’s not the point? Simply by announcing the promo (and taking the time to brainstorm some clever components thereof), the Miracle have ample elicited media coverage/Twitter mentions/blog pontifications and perhaps the cumulative effect of this is a greater brand awareness that does in fact lead to more ticket sales. Or is that wishful thinking? What it the best way to quantify such endeavors, to determine if they are worth doing?

Or, hell, maybe I’m thinking too much (per usual). Maybe the best reason for the Miracle (or any team) to do promotions such as these is simply because they can. Unless you’re on the writing staff of a late night talk show, Minor League Baseball is perhaps the only industry where antics such as the above can legitimately be called part of one’s work day. And THAT might be what makes it worth doing, in and of itself.

Talking to myself, unless you want to talk to me:

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Livin’ the Dream

It wasn’t motivated by anything in particular, but over the past few days I’ve created a compendium of Minor League front office cliches on Twitter. If you’re interested in seeing them simply search Twitter for the #MinorLeagueFrontOffice cliche hashtag. And, of course, feel free to submit your own as I will be compiling these cliches in an upcoming blog post. (If you don’t use Twitter, feel free to leave your Minor League Front Office Cliche in the comments or send me an email.)

Such a cliche compilation is both the literal and figurative definition of the term “inside baseball,” and I apologize to readers who I am leaving in the cold. But, in conjunction with this apology, I’d like to direct you to an interesting new initiative that can give anyone a chance to see these cliches come to life in an up-close-and-personal fashion.

This season, the Hickory Crawdads are offering a “Day in the Minors” fan package.

dayinminors

From the team:

[T]he ‘Dads Day in the Minors program offers a behind the scenes experience like none other, giving YOU the chance to see what it’s like to work for a minor league baseball team for a day. For just $99, you will receive experience in all areas of the organization, including promotions, sales, concessions and media!

Of course, there’s no such thing as a “typical” day in the Minors, but the Crawdads are offering the following as a “sample” schedule:

9am – Staff meeting 
10am – Work with the promotions team to prepare for the game 
11am – Go on a mascot appearance and wear the suit if you want the total experience 
12pm – Work with the Group Sales department 
1pm – Work with the Stadium Operations team to make sure the stadium has been properly cleaned from last night’s game and is stocked and ready to go for tonight’s game 
2pm – Check in concessions deliveries and set up for a picnic 
3pm – Assist the groundskeeper with field preparation 
4pm – Batting Practice 
5pm – Make sure the Press Box is all set up 
6pm – Open the gates, greet fans, take tickets and hand out giveaway items 
7pm – Go over the ground rules and exchange the lineup card with the visiting manager during the managers meeting at home plate with the umpires 
7:15pm – 10pm – During the game you will receive experience in most of the following areas: Ticket Office, concessions, promotions, customer service & the Press Box 
10pm – Break down and clean up 
Midnight – Go home as an official Day in the Minors survivor!

Plus, if you are truly lucky, it will rain during the day and you’ll have the opportunity to pull tarp!

This could be you.

This could be you.

While $99 is far more than most people spend on MiLB-related endeavors, I do believe that this is a worthwhile expenditure that could be enjoyed by people of all ages. In particular, a “Day in the Minors”-style program could be a great way to expose high school and college-age fans to the realities of working in the sports industry so that they could then make a better informed decision as to whether this would be a career they’d like to pursue.

Teams could also waive the fee and make this part of their community outreach efforts. In recent years Minor League Baseball president Pat O’Conner has emphasized the need for teams to diversify both their staffs and fan base in response to changing demographics, and offering a full immersion into front office culture would be a unique way to engage portions of the community that currently aren’t aware of or interested in the local Minor League product on offer.

But I’m just riffing here…As far as I know the Crawdads are currently the only team offering such a program, and it will be interesting to see if they are successful with it. Your thoughts? Would you pay $99 for this comprehensive Class A experience? Or, if you work for a team, is “Day in the Minors” the sort of initiative that you’d consider making available to your fan base?

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Real Talk Regarding the Make-Believe

This past Friday sure turned out to be a doozy in the world of Minor League promotions. The independent Florence Freedom got most of the attention with the announcement of their “Manti Te’o Girlfriend” bobblehead (the box is empty, see?), but they were soon joined on the affiliated front by the Brooklyn Cyclones.

On June 21, the team will be staging “Fictitious Friday.”

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Below, please find a bite-sized portion of the Cyclones press release:

Anyone who purchases one ticket at regular price will be allowed to bring their make believe significant-other to the ballpark free of charge. Fans will also have the chance to draw a picture of their girlfriend, because obviously something came up and she couldn’t make it, so that their friends can finally see what she looks like. As a special treat, MCU Park will host a unique petting zoo for those in attendance, featuring a unicorn, a mermaid, and a Minotaur. The Cyclones are also in discussions with the Loch Ness Monster and Big Foot to throw out a ceremonial first pitch that evening. In keeping with the tradition of Coney Island amusements, the Cyclones will put a spin on a traditional carnival game, as fans that are able to toss a ping-pong ball into a fish bowl will receive a catfish. Lastly, all of the player headshots used on the video board will just be random people whose photos we find on the Internet.

Eager, as always, to get the facts behind the fiction, I contacted the Brooklyn Cyclones for more info on this most imaginative of promotions. GM Steve Cohen was quick to provide answers to my queries:

Letting make-believe girlfriends in for free is a very generous gesture. How much do tickets for make-believe girlfriends usually cost?

Steve Cohen: It depends on if they take up a seat or not. To keep up with the ruse, you might need an empty seat next to you in case you run into somebody you know. This way if they ask where your girlfriend went, you can tell them “Oh, you just missed her. She just went to grab something to eat, but she was sitting right here.” We have always supported make believe girlfriends – haven’t you seen our staff?

How are your negotiations with the Loch Ness Monster and Bigfoot progressing? 

Steve Cohen: Not good. The market for make-believe creatures is currently at an all-time high. Their agents see this as a golden opportunity to cash in and they are asking an enormous amount as an appearance fee. Plus they are making odd demands like every picture we take of them needs to be out of focus and from at least 100 yards away.

A most demanding celebrity guest

A most demanding celebrity guest

How many catfish do you expect to give away on this special evening? 

Steve Cohen: We had a couple wash into our office during Super Storm Sandy, so we already have a pretty decent supply to start off with.

If this promotion is a success, will other make-believe promotions follow? 

Steve Cohen: You bet — the make-believe ones are a lot less expensive than the real ones!

And would you believe that yet another team has jumped into the fray? I bet you would! In the wake of the Cyclones’ “Fictitious Friday,” the San Jose Giants announced that April 12 would be “Lennay Kekua Night.” Per the team:

Items such as catfish will be featured on the Turkey Mike’s BBQ menu and fans who purchase a game ticket can bring their imaginary or real significant other to the game for free. A meet and greet will also take place prior to the game for all couples to introduce their significant others to their parents, to avoid any confusion about the existence of a boyfriend or girlfriend.

Two free future game tickets will be given to all fans who dress like Manti Te’o and to all Stanford University students because they may know or be Te’o’s girlfriend. During the game, promotions will include individuals and their imaginary significant others competing to win great prizes.

For the record, I am no stranger to on-field solo competition:

Oh, and “speaking” of the Lake County Captains: on Friday they announced the first Lance Armstrong-themed promotion in Minor League Baseball (my guess is that, risky topic or not, other teams will follow suit). I went ahead and wrote an MiLB.com news piece on it, yet another specious example of how I am using whatever talents I have to the best of my abilities. Here’s the graphic that ran with the piece:

lancecap

And that’s about all I have to report on regarding this particular news “cycle.”

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

In it for the Long Haul

Approximately two and a half months have passed since the advent of superstorm Sandy, and the areas most affected by this meteorological calamity are still in the beginning stages of what has been and will continue to be a long and arduous clean-up process.

With the long view in mind, I wanted to dedicate (the bulk of) today’s post to informing you of/reminding you about a forward-thinking Lakewood BlueClaws initiative: Restore the Shore.

restore

“Restore the Shore” is a multi-faceted and long-running program, which the BlueClaws are running in conjunction with several local businesses. It all starts with the purchase of a “Restore the Shore” t-shirt, which can be obtained HERE.

shirt

Per the team:

How It Works
- Companies, or individuals, order t-shirts online here and register by emailing restore@blueclaws.com or returning this registration form.

- Each Friday until Memorial Day, staff members (or families) wear the t-shirts and each person makes a donation every Friday.

- Donations are made through PayPal at BlueClaws.com/Restore orAtlanticPTCenter.com.

Businesses that participate will be honored in a ceremony at a 2013 BlueClaws game.

And then there’s this all-important question: Where does the money go?

More from the team:

The BlueClaws and Atlantic Physical Therapy Center are committed to supporting families impacted by Hurricane Sandy. In early 2013, those impacted will be able to fill out an application and donations will be made to as many families as possible.

The BlueClaws staff has been wearing their Restore the Shore shirts each and every Friday since the initiative started (I even spotted them doing so at the Baseball Winter Meetings in Nashville), and since then the movement has spread to other Minor League markets as well. Behold, the Lexington Legends.

lexshore

Minor League Baseball charities has donated $10,000 to the program, thus far the largest single contribution received.

restoremilb

Kudos to the BlueClaws for taking the lead in such a long-running and impactful charitable initiative. I’ll continue to publicize and provide updates on these efforts as we move closer to Opening Day.

In (far) less notable news, remember last week when I gave some publicity to the retro baseball-card inspired staff bios of the State College Spikes?

Well, as a reward for my positive PR the team sent along my very own retro baseball card. I am honored.

87toppstemplate-hill (2)

The above pic was a self-portrait taken during one of my “On the Road” stadium visits last season. The first person to identify in the comments where I was in that picture shall receive a random assortment of Minor League swag that I have lying in a box under my desk.

Good luck, and for (far) more 1987 Topps content click HERE to check out last year’s multi-part series on players included in that set who have gone on to Minor League coaching careers. It won me a Pulitzer.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Dan vs. Dave, Soak and Wade

As part of my unwavering commitment to always be several months behind when it comes to delivering blog content, today’s post returns to a topic that was first touched upon last week: Olympics-themed Minor League Baseball promotions!

That’s what you’re all here for, right? Then let’s do this!

In Eastlake, Ohio, the Lake County Captains satiated our nation’s pent-up desire for 1992 sneaker commercial nostalgia by staging their own version of Reebok’s Dan vs. Dave campaign. This time around, the Dan and Dave in question were Captains account executives Dan Torf and David Kodish.

Captains assistant general manager Neil Stein has more info, because of course he does:

[R]emember the 1992 Dan vs. Dave ad campaign for Reebok when those two were qualifying for the Decathalon….We decided to do our own Dan vs. Dave promo in honor of the Olympics, [beginning] when the opening ceremonies began. The two guys are competing in a Heptathalon (one event in 7 different games while the Olympics are taking place – that’s all we have at home during the Olympics). 

The resulting images were fairly ridiculous. Let’s all take a look, together as one.

While I’m not sure of the myriad twists and turns that led to the final outcome, let it be known that it was Dan Torf who emerged victorious. Here he is speaking with Grover, one of the most ebullient MCs in the biz.

Let’s just keep on rolling, because there’s always more to write about. If you have a moment to relax for a little bit, then take a deep breath and watch this stirring tribute to Mobile BayBears batboy Wade Vadakin. On July 21st, Wade worked his 1000th (!) game for the BayBears, and the team made sure that his accomplishment received ample recognition.

We have not hit upon my secret self-imposed word limit quite yet! Therefore, let’s take a look at a late-season Delmarva Shorebirds innovation. The team partnered with sponsor Pool Tech, Inc. and installed a hot tub seating area down the third base line. Fans vied for the chance to sit in the hot tub during the game via a Facebook contest, and judging by the picture below it looks like Randy Newman may have been one of the chosen few.

This is not the first time I’ve written about hot tubs at Minor League ballparks, but I can’t recall any other teams that did this in 2012. Prove me wrong, please. Or prove me right. At this point in the calendar year, all that really matters is that someone takes the time to momentarily validate my existence.

And with that gratuitous sentence, I have now exceeded my self-imposed word count. Thanks, as always, for tolerating the barely-suppressed series of OCD rituals that is this blog.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

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