Baseball's Top-10 Minor League Publicity Stunts
1. Speed Dating Night, July 19, New Britain Rock Cats
And you probably thought minor-league promotions were just for kids. Well, think again. Speed-dating company A Match Made in 7 is partnering with minor-league teams throughout New England to stage ballpark matchmaking events this summer. On this night, when Connecticut's Rock Cats play the Binghamton Mets, 25 men and a like number of women will have the chance to make a love connection in the New Britain Stadium stands.
While the dating company's name usually refers to the seven-minute meet 'n' greets it sets up for singles, here it might better apply to the seventh inning. But any inning could be the one for participants, as singles will change seats at the end of every frame all game long. They'll track their encounters on scorecards, which they'll turn in at the end of the night; afterward the company will forward contact information to participants in cases where both agreed that a second, longer, date would be desired.
"What could be better than to spend a nice summer night out under the stars with 25 to 50 of your newest friends while cheering on your hometown team?" asked Paula Pogorzelski, executive director of A Match Made in 7.
"A baseball game serves as a great backdrop because it's casual, low-pressure, familiar and it can be a conversation opener for couples. The appeal of minor-league games, in particular, is that they're affordable and local to many metro areas.
"But it's the game's structure that enables us to produce a unique type of singles event that is part entertainment, part recreation, part adventure and pure fun."
2. Harry Potter Night, July 20, Connecticut Defenders
The seventh and final book in J.K. Rowling's "Harry Potter" series will be released at bookstores July 21. If history is any indication, Potter fanatics will be camping on sidewalks outside bookstores, many of which will open their doors at midnight to give diehards the first crack at the limited number of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" copies they've been provided.
For Potter disciples who also are baseball fans, the Defenders of Norwich, Conn., are teaming up with Borders Books of Waterford to offer "Harry Potter Night."
Kids and adults are encouraged to arrive at the ballpark in costume, and the Dodd Stadium concourse will be replete with magical activities and games. Quidditch anyone?
After the game, Defenders fans will watch clips from their favorite "Harry Potter" movies on the stadium big screen, play Potter-themed trivia games and watch a fireworks display. At midnight, fans who ordered the book earlier in the night will receive their copies.
3. Christmas Eve in July, July 24, Burlington Bees
The Bees are out to prove that whoever said, "Christmas comes but once a year," was only seeing half the picture, because in southeast Iowa, jolly old St. Nick has been known to turn out at Burlington's Community Field in July.
There may not be snow on the ground, but you can bet the stadium will be decked out with Christmas trees, wreaths and colorful lights, while Christmas carols will be playing through the PA system all game long. And when Santa arrives, the girls and boys whose names appear on his "nice" list will receive presents, courtesy of the local Kiwanis Club.
"The first time we did this event three years ago was a Sunday afternoon and the temperature was 104 degrees," said Bees spokesman Adam Small. "It's a surreal experience singing Christmas carols when it's that hot out, but it was a lot of fun. Each year, we try to do it a little bit bigger and better than the year before."
4. We Hate the Yankees Night, July 28, Greenville Drive
There's usually a pretty good chance things will get ugly when South Carolina rivals the Greenville Drive the South Atlantic League affiliate of the Boston Red Sox play the Charleston RiverDogs the New York Yankees' affiliate in the league.
But on this night, things are guaranteed to get ugly, as West End Field will be full of vitriolic fans and ballpark staff.
The Drive are flying in Red Sox mascot Wally the Green Monster for the event. And promoters plan to play great moments in Red Sox-Yankees history on the big screen all game long, offer lots of Red Sox-Yankees trivia questions and do whatever else they can to make the night miserable for the visitors.
5. County Fair Night, July 30, Mahoning Valley Scrappers
The Scrappers of Niles, Ohio, are teaming up with local 4-H organizations to offer an evening at the ballpark that will feel a lot like a night at a county fair.
The between-inning entertainment will include cow-milking contests, steer-head lassoing (with an intern dressed as the steer), stick-horse races and hay-baling contests. A quick-tongued auctioneer will sit in for the regular public-address announcer. And the concession stands will feature caramel apples and other county-fair delicacies.
"It was something we thought of at the end of last season when we were brainstorming," said Jordan Taylor, director of ticket operations for the Scrappers. "We've gotten a good response from the local media, and the advance ticket sales have been strong."
6. Awful Night, July 31, 2007, Altoona Curve
Usually bush-league teams aim to please, but not on this night.
On its annual Awful Night, the creative Altoona front office strives to make the Blair County Stadium experience as unpleasant as possible.
In past years the team has handed out giveaways such as squares of bubble wrap and color photos of a removed gall bladder. Between innings the video board has featured clips of Ben Affleck movies and David Hasselhoff videos. Meanwhile, non-celebrities have signed autographs and fans have munched on Spam and Cheese sandwiches.
The players are treated poorly, too, as their failing averages are posted whenever they come to bat, instead of their batting averages.
7. Political Correctness Night, July 31, Lowell Spinners
Is it politically incorrect to be politically correct to a fault? The Spinners of Lowell, Mass., intend to find out at LeLacheur Park when they welcome fans to "Political Correctness Night."
Visitors can expect: the first baseman to be referred to as a "first base person" all game long; the scoreboard operator to refrain from identifying what position is being charged with an error when fielding miscues occur (to avoid stepping on anyone's feelings); and copies of "Politically Incorrect" host Bill Maher's book "New Rules: Polite Musings from a Timid Observer" to be handed out.
"We're not out to hurt anyone's feelings," said Spinners spokesman (oops, make that spokesperson) Jon Goode.
"We just pay attention to what's in the news, and it seems like you're always hearing about people getting upset over what seem like the silliest things to the vast majority of people. So we thought, why not have some fun with it?"
8. August Fools Day, Aug. 1, Charleston RiverDogs
A team famous for its zany promotions unveils a new one that's sure to be a hoot when the RiverDogs celebrate August Fools Day.
"We'll be turning everything on its ear," said Jim Pfander, the South Carolina team's assistant general manager. "We'll be playing pranks on the fans and staff all night long."
While Pfander wouldn't tip his hand as to exactly what the night would entail, he did hint that the ticket prices and ballpark signs might not make a whole lot of sense.
"Our fans really get what we're all about," Pfander said. "Their sense of humor enables us to do these crazy promotions."
9. Kiss the Season Goodbye, Aug. 25, Brockton Rox
The Rox of Brockton, Mass., plan to "Rock And Roll All Nite" during their penultimate game of the season, which just so happens to be scheduled for the same day as rocker Gene Simmons' birthday.
Fans will get their faces painted to look like their favorite Kiss stars on the concourse, the players will wear Kiss-inspired jerseys and the stadium speakers will blare Kiss songs throughout the evening.
10. Noah Bobblehead Night, Aug. 26, Hickory Crawdads
Minor-league teams get more imaginative every year when it comes to the bobblehead dolls they give away. Now, in the perfect marriage of the Bible and the bobble, the Crawdads of Hickory, N.C., plan to pass out Noah bobbleheads to the first 1,000 fans that enter L.P. Frans Stadium on this special day.
The promotion, sponsored by the East Valdese Baptist Church, begs the question of whether Noah brought crawfish those spindly freshwater crustaceans after which the club is named on his ark when the rains came, or if aquatic creatures were left to their own devices. Hmm, maybe Conrad the Crawdad, the team's big red mascot, would know?
Toilet Seat Cushion Night, July 26, Hudson Valley Renegades
After staging a plunger giveaway night last year, the Renegades of Fishkill, N.Y., are returning to the bathroom for inspiration, this time doling out toilet seat cushions to the first 3,000 fans to enter Dutchess Stadium. The cushions, which are actually stadium-seat cushions designed to look like ovular toilet-seat tops, are being provided courtesy of M&O Sanitation.
Scientology Night , Aug. 10, Fort Myers Miracle
Early-season events included "Billy Donovan Night," when wishy-washy ballpark staffers kept changing their minds, and "Mike Tyson Ear Night," when fans were given plastic ears with a bite-size chunk missing to commemorate the anniversary of Iron Mike going cannibal on Evander Holyfield.
Now Florida's Miracle plan to charge fans $5 to enter William Hammond Stadium on "Scientology Night" and $5,000 to leave, in addition to offering other ballpark nuances that pay tribute to the religion of Tom Cruise and other celebs.
Batting Practice for the Fans, Aug. 31, Iowa Cubs
As the season winds down, the Cubs of Des Moines, Iowa, will let all ticket-bearing fans take five swings on the field before their game against the Omaha Royals. Eventgoers may file into the batting cage from 4 to 6:30 p.m., then the real players will take the field for their scheduled 7 p.m. game.