While spring training games are often associated with the return of baseball, fans who look closely can find good promotions throughout the Grapefruit and Cactus leagues. These events — giveaways, ticket specials and grand openings — are the focus of our latest Promotions Watch.
The first spring training games are now just a matter of weeks away, meaning that fans will soon be flocking to ballparks in Florida and Arizona. With 15 teams in each state, the potential is there for travelers to plan a good trip in either place.
Those looking for an item relating to their favorite players will have several options in both states. At Goodyear Ballpark, tenants Cleveland Indians and Cincinnati Reds will honor one of their respective rising stars with a bobblehead giveaway. On March 7, the Indians will hand out Michael Brantley bobbleheads to the first 1,500 fans at the 1:05 p.m. game. The Reds will follow at the same time on March 14, when the first 1,500 people through the gates for the contest will receive a Billy Hamilton bobblehead. Both players emerged with breakout seasons for their respective Ohio teams in 2014, with Brantley earning his first All-Star selection while Hamilton stole 56 bases and netted a second-place finish in Rookie of the Year voting.
As two of baseball’s rising stars are featured in Arizona, two promotions in Florida honor some of the game’s recently retired players. At Clearwater’s Bright House Field, the Philadelphia Phillies will handout 6,000 Roy Halladay bobble figurines on March 7. While the Phillies had a Halladay bobblehead during the regular season last year, this spring training promotion has an interesting connection. Their opponent for that day’s 1:05 p.m. game is the Toronto Blue Jays. Not only did Halladay wear a Blue Jays uniform from 1998-2009, but Toronto’s camp is just minutes up the road from Clearwater in Dunedin, meaning that some of their fans will make the short trip for the game.
In Tampa, the New York Yankees are planning a Derek Jeter keychain giveaway on March 21. The keychain will be a replica of the ticket stub to Jeter’s last home game, played at Yankee Stadium on September 25, 2014. That giveaway is just a small part of a busy spring on the promotions front for the Yankees. On March 14, the team will hand out a pin commemorating their 20th season at George M. Steinbrenner Field and, on April 2, the Yankees will hand out commemorative 1978 World Series rings. That giveaway is part of a series for the Yankees that dates back to 2010, as each year the club gives away a replica championship ring from one of the seven years in which the team has won the title under Steinbrenner. Other notable promotions include poster giveaways for the first 5,000 fans 14 and under, featuring pitcher Mashahiro Tanaka and catcher Brian McCann on March 15 and 28 respectively.
While player-related giveaways are a staple on the promotions circuit, a few teams chose different routes with their promotions. Both the Baltimore Orioles and the Pittsburgh Pirates will handout luggage tags as part of Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport (SRQ) Day. The Pirates will be the first with the giveaway at Bradenton’s McKechnie Field on March 5, with the Orioles following on the 8th at Sarasota’s Ed Smith Stadium. The Orioles will also feature a seniors (fans 55 and older) run the bases day on March 25 as part of their extensive promotional calendar, which includes a busy opener on March 4 that features giveaway magnet schedules and rally towels, as well as flowers for the first 1,000 women through the gates. Meanwhile, the Pirates equally eventful schedule includes a cell phone wallet giveaway on March 4 and a drawstring bag on March 18.
The Tampa Bay Rays will kick off their promotional schedule at their first game with a military appreciation day. A Support Our Troops t-shirt featuring the Rays’ logo will be given out to the first 5,000 fans in attendance to the March 5 contest against the Orioles, while the USSOCOM Parachute Team will hurl the ceremonial first pitch.
Giveaways are usually effective in luring fans to the games, but some teams opt for a different approach. Rather than handing out items, many clubs are using festival-type promotions and fan appreciation days. These events will sometimes include meet-and-greets with the players, special discounts, and all-access stadium tours.
Those wanting the all-access experience will not have to wait for the games to begin. As the Oakland A’s prepare for their first season at Mesa’s renovated Hohokam Stadium, fans will have an advanced look at the facility during February 21’s A Day at the Diamond. This free event, which begins at 11 a.m. and runs through 5:00 pm, will include ballpark tours, family activities, and a baseball card show. After serving as the longtime home of the Chicago Cubs, Hohokam underwent renovations throughout 2014 to prepare for the A’s, who will play their first spring in the facility after training at Phoenix Municipal Stadium from 1984-2014.
In Florida, the Minnesota Twins and Lee County will host a special ceremony on February 22 at the CenturyLink Sports Complex, their newly renovated spring home. This open house runs from 10 am to 2 pm and will feature a ribbon cutting ceremony for Hammond Stadium. Among the notable guests include Hall of Famers Bert Blyleven and Paul Molitor, who is also the team’s new manager, as well as county dignitaries and officials from Manhattan Construction. The day will also include a meet and greet with players, on-field clinics, stadium tours, as well as opportunities to purchase merchandise and tickets. This event is free, but fans are asked to bring non-perishable items for a food drive. The Twins will host another, smaller open house on March 1.
To end the spring, the Seattle Mariners and the San Diego Padres are planning a special appreciation for their fans. Beginning with the Mariners’ contest on April 1, the Peoria Sports Complex will host back-to-back fan appreciation days. Specials include buy one get one free tickets for lawn seating, bleachers, and outfield box seats. Discounted concession prices will also be available for select items, as popcorn, pretzels, 16 oz. sodas, and hot dogs will be on sale for $2. Fans are asked to purchase the discounted seats at the stadium’s main box office. This should cap an interesting spring training at Peoria, which just underwent another round of improvements, including renovations to the seating bowl and the main entrance plaza.
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