- Darren Rovell, ESPN.com Sports Business reporter
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One minor league team is off to a sizzling start, even though its first game won't be played until next month.
Since the Lehigh Valley IronPigs put their new, bacon-themed merchandise on sale, they have been as popular as ever.
That's saying a lot for the Triple-A affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies, whose merchandise has been among the 10 best-selling minor league teams for its previous six years of existence.
On Feb. 24, the team announced its players would wear uniforms for Saturday games featuring a wavy strip of bacon on the hats, jerseys and pants.
Since then, the team has sold almost 3,300 of the bacon hats and 1,500 bacon-strip scratch-and-sniff T-shirts that promise to smell through at least 10 trips in the washing machine.
"People clearly love bacon and baseball, and we just hit a nerve by putting it together on our official gear," said Kurt Landes, the team's president and general manager. "We had orders from all 50 states in the first 36 hours."
It's a savvy move to associate with bacon, as sales of the pork product climbed 9.5 percent in the United States to an all-time high of nearly $4 billion in 2013, according to market-tracking company Information Resources Inc.
Landes said the team will continue the theme at the ballpark this year, selling bacon-flavored cotton candy and offering free bacon crumbles on all concession items the team sells, from hot dogs to ice cream. The IronPigs are also in the process of developing a race that involves eating a large number of bacon strips at the halfway point. Bloody Mary cocktails, with pieces of bacon in them, of course, will await those who cross the finish line.