Commentary

Bush League Stunts: Dairy Day to Pillow Fight Night

Updated: April 4, 2008, 2:05 AM ET
By Josh Pahigian | Special to ESPN SportsTravel


• Photo gallery: Minor league publicity stunts

As observers of minor league baseball have come to know and love, offering a robust promotional calendar is central to any bush league team's success at the turnstiles.

Favorite ballpark attractions range from the ubiquitous Friday night fireworks show to the nearly-as-common Thirsty Thursday cheap-drink night to giveaway dates when fans can score bobble-head dolls, pennants and inflatable bats.

But even more enjoyable than these typical attendance-getters are those extra-special dates when the local team goes above and beyond the ordinary call of duty to present fans with a night at the ballpark unlike any other.

The teams and their staff enjoy these occasions as much as their fans, and not just because they generate buzz and put extra fannies in the seats.

"It's fun to get our staff's creative juices flowing and to get our fans talking," said Ken Clary, general manager of the Columbus Catfish.

"People go into work the next morning and tell their friends, 'I went to a Catfish game last night and you won't believe what they did.'"

Clary's team has two nights on the docket in April that seem sure to get fans chattering. Both provide a link to seminal moments – for better or worse – in our nation's history.

The first pays tribute to the anniversary of the designated hitter's inception in 1973. The second celebrates the date widely considered the birthday of the World Wide Web, which entered mainstream American consciousness in 1993.

If the possibilities presented by these and the other special nights profiled below pique your interest, then obviously they're serving their intended purpose.

But don't despair if your home team didn't make the list of bang-up events. The best thing about the minor leagues is the frequency with which teams borrow winning ideas from one another. So this year's one-of-a-kind spectacle in Columbus is apt to be next year's countrywide fad.

Here then is a Travel Ten of minor league promotions scheduled for 2008 that fans won't want to miss (listed in the order in which they will occur), with honorable mentions to follow:

1. Designated Hitter Day, Columbus Catfish, April 6
Golden Park
100 Fourth St.
Columbus, GA 31901
Ballpark Web site

Thirty-five years after the Yankees' Ron Blomberg stepped to the plate against Boston's Luis Tiant and drew a walk in the first plate appearance by the game's first designated hitter, the Catfish will pay tribute to the game's most controversial rule.

Purists will cringe, fans of slugfests will cheer and the batters who suit up at DH for the Catfish and visiting Savannah Sand Gnats will take center stage.

"We'll do something special every time the DH comes to bat," Clary said. "When ours is at the plate, fans will have a chance to win something if he does well. When theirs is, they'll win something if he gets out."

2. Greek Toga Night, Myrtle Beach Pelicans, April 21
BB&T Coastal Field
1251 21st Ave. N.
Myrtle Beach, SC 29577
Ballpark Web site

 Spring break will have come and gone for our nation's college students by the time  the Carolina League starts its season, but that doesn't mean the Myrtle Beach  Pelicans can't embrace the college ethos.

First, the Pelicans will host Greek Night, when fans will don togas, participate in between-inning Olympic events and enjoy clips from the epic fraternity flick "Animal House."

Then, in a unique follow-up event May 21, the Pelicans will present Geek Night. Fans will be encouraged to wear their worst plaid, thick-rimmed glasses and whatever else makes them look geeky, and clips from "Revenge of the Nerds" will serve as between-inning entertainment.

3. Instant Vacation Night, Reading Phillies, April 25
FirstEnergy Stadium
1900 Centre Ave.
Reading, PA 19601
Ballpark Web site

 Fans are being encouraged to arrive at the ballpark with their bags packed for this  Friday night affair in Reading. They might also make sure their schedules are cleared  and a sitter is lined up for the kids.

That's because three lucky couples will win an instant weekend getaway to Atlantic City.

The winners will receive limo transportation from the ballpark to the city that's "Always Turned On," and a two-night hotel stay, all courtesy of a local travel agency.

After the third inning the contestants will be winnowed down to thirty finalists, who will be called down to the field with their luggage in tow.

Then, after the fifth inning, the winners will be announced and a limo will drive right onto the field to whisk them away mid-game, whether they like it or not. (We're betting they like it.)

4. Mom's Baseball Clinic, Port St. Lucie Mets, May 10
Tradition Field
525 N.W. Peacock Blvd.
Port St. Lucie, FL 34986
Ballpark Web site

What better way to celebrate Mother's Day weekend than with a pregame event especially for the moms?

On Mother's Day eve, St. Lucie manager Tim Teufel and his coaches will hold an instructional camp for mothers looking to refine their hardball skills. If time allows, the moms also will play a game of Wiffle Ball while their adoring families look on.

"Someone brought it to our attention that our clinics are always centered around the kids," said team spokesman Ryan Strickland. "So we said, 'Here you go, here's something just for the mothers.'"

5. Midget Wrestling Night, Arkansas Travelers, May 16
Dickey-Stephens Park
400 W. Broadway St.
North Little Rock, AR 72114
Ballpark Web site

 This won't be the first time the fans in Little Rock enjoy the strange marriage of  midget wrestling and baseball. The event has been a staple of the Travelers' promo  schedule for years, owing to the vision of former team-owner Bill Valentine.

Valentine once even took a page out of the major-league promoter Bill Veeck's publicity-stunt handbook and sent a midget to bat for the Travelers.

And as if 40 minutes of pregame midget wrestling wasn't enough theater-of-the-absurd for one night, fans also will enjoy the crooning of popular local entertainer Belvis, the Black Elvis.

NEXT PAGE (Publicity stunts Nos. 6-10)

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