With the first Back to the Future movie celebrating its 30th anniversary this year and a tie to baseball in Back to the Future II, many Minor League Baseball teams are launching promotional events based on the trilogy this season, as discussed in our latest Promotions Watch.
The connection between baseball and Back to the Future relates to a scene in the second film, Back to the Future II. One of the main plotlines of the 1989 film is when Marty McFly (played by Michael J. Fox) and Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) travel forward to the year 2015. In one of the 2015 sequences, a billboard appears to congratulate the Chicago Cubs for winning the World Series against a Miami team that is only depicted by its logo: an alligator holding a bat.
While the Cubs are hoping that this scene fulfills a prophecy this October, it is also the origin of a separate and long-running baseball myth. When the Florida Marlins won the World Series in 1997, rumors began to swirl that Back to the Future II had predicted this outcome. The legend circulated again in 2003, when the Marlins defeated the Cubs for the National League Pennant before winning their second title. The myth of the Marlins has been decidedly rebuked, but it has already added a link between baseball and the Back to the Future series.
As noted in this year’s first installment of Promotions Watch, Back to the Future nights are popular across all levels of baseball: The Montgomery Biscuits (Class AA; Southern League) and the New Hampshire Fisher Cats (Class AA; Eastern League) were some of the first teams in the minors out of the gate with related theme nights, along with two independent teams—the Joliet Slammers (Frontier League) and the Gary SouthShore RailCats (American Association).
In the meantime, many teams have joined in on this trend by announcing Back to the Future nights, including three Cubs’ affiliates. On June 16, the South Bend Cubs (Low Class A; Midwest League) will host a Back to the Future Night. While the promotion was first announced last month, the team waited until last Friday to release its jersey design.
Dubbed the “Marty McFly Jersey,” the uniforms will be auctioned off by the Cubs following the game. In addition, the night will feature an appearance from the film series’ famed DeLorean Time Machine, which is making its way around the minors this season (more on that later). Back to the Future will be part of a much larger batch of promotions during that game—including $2 fun zone tickets and a firework show—making it a premier night for a team that is priming for a big season.
Along with South Bend, two other Cubs’ affiliates—the Myrtle Beach Pelicans (High Class A; Carolina League) and the Tennessee Smokies (Class AA; Southern League)—have announced Back to the Future nights. The Smokies will be the first of those two teams to host the event, which has been scheduled for June 5. While the team has not unveiled a jersey design, the Smokies have revealed that special videoboard graphics and clips, as well as music from the film will be featured throughout the night. On June 20, the Pelicans will follow with their Back to the Future night, which will include a special jersey. Though the design for the jersey has not been released, the Pelicans have announced that they will be sold in a post-game auction, the proceeds of which will benefit The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research.
As noted earlier, an appearance from the DeLorean will be an integral part of most team’s Back to the Future night. Among the other locations in which it will appear include Coolray Field on June 20, when the Gwinnett Braves (Class AAA; International League) take their turn at the theme night and BB&T Ballpark on July 8 as part of the Charlotte Knights’ (Class AAA; International League) Back to the Future Knight.
The DeLorean and a limited edition jersey will be featured at many Back to the Future nights this season, but a few teams have decided to take a unique spin. For their homage to Back to the Future on August 15, the Fresno Grizzlies (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League) are promising a unique experience. While the DeLorean will also take its tour to Fresno, the Grizzlies are adding to the night by including a soon-to-be-announced item that has teased as “the boldest giveaway in professional sports history.” The Grizzlies will also auction off “The Future Starts in Fresno” jerseys.
There are also a few examples of this trend unfolding in the Low Class A Midwest League, beginning with some shrewd scheduling on the part of the Great Lakes Loons. The Loons will host the event on July 2, which is one day before the anniversary of Back to the Future’s original release in 1985. For true fans of the movie, this might make it the only time it is acceptable to root for a game to reach midnight.
Prior to the Loons’ event, their league rival Wisconsin Timber Rattlers will feature Back to the Future Night on May 30. A twist to their promotion: Rather than paying tribute to the movie, the Timber Rattlers will pay an homage to their past by wearing replica Appleton Foxes uniforms. The uniform will include a hat and a jersey that is an exact reproduction of the uniforms worn by the Foxes in 1985. Prior to assuming their current name in 1995, the Timber Rattlers were known as the Foxes from 1962-1994, beginning as the Appleton Foxes in 1962, before switching to the Fox Cities Foxes for four seasons starting in 1963, then finally reverting back to Appleton.
Another Back to the Future night to keep an eye on in the Midwest League is the Fort Wayne TinCaps on August 27. While the TinCaps have not released many details about the promotion, they do have a long list of theme nights in the works, so something unique could be in the offing.
One last Back to the Future-themed promotion to highlight is one that will occur before the season. On April 3, the Greensboro Grasshoppers (Low Class A; Sally League) will host We Are the Future Friday. As part of their exhibition game against the Miami Marlins—which was detailed here a couple of weeks ago—the Grasshoppers will wear We Are the Future jerseys, which will be auctioned off following the game to benefit the Cone Health Neurorehabilitation Center’s Parkinson’s program. Between now and the game, the Grasshoppers will offer more details about the promotion by posting weekly updates to their YouTube channel every Friday.