The upcoming season is shaping up to be an active one across Minor League Baseball when it comes to bobblehead and gnome giveaways. Some of the most notable examples will be featured in this week’s Promotions Watch, which concludes our two-part look at bobblehead and gnome nights.
There is a significant difference between minor league and major league bobblehead and gnome nights—which were covered last week. Whereas major-league teams will typically honor former or current players, minor-league teams will add to that approach by also recognizing celebrities and other well-known local individuals.
Many celebrities will be honored in bobblehead form this season. The Round Rock Express (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League) will giveaway Willie Nelson bobbleheads on June 18. In the unique design, Nelson—a Texas native who owns a ranch in nearby Austin—will be depicted in an Express jersey while strumming a guitar and sporting one of his trademark bandanas. The bobbleheads will be available to the first 2,500 fans through the gates of the Dell Diamond.
One night after Nelson’s giveaway in Round Rock, Wheel of Fortune host Pat Sajak will be honored by the Frederick Keys (High Class A; Carolina League). The Keys are welcoming him to Nymeo Field at Harry Grove Stadium as part of game show night, which will include a Sajak bobblehead for the first 1,000 fans in attendance. Inviting Sajak to the ballpark makes sense for the Keys: He owns a home in Severna Park, Md., and is a well-documented fan of their parent club, the Baltimore Orioles.
The Akron RubberDucks (Class AA; Eastern League) are also tying bobbleheads giveaways into their theme nights, but are honoring popular movie characters along the way. On May 30, the Rubber Ducks will giveaway Truffle Shuffle bobbleheads as part of their tribute to The Goonies. The film is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year and will be recognized by several clubs—including the Potomac Nationals (High Class A; Carolina League), who will host a One-Eyed Willie bobblehead on August 1. Another Akron promotion to keep an eye on is Pedro Cerrano bobblehead night on July 25, when the popular character from Major League will be recognized on Christmas in July night.
Another team that is active when it comes to bobbleheads for off-field figures is the Pensacola Blue Wahoos (Class AA; Southern League). Golfer and two-time Masters Champion Bubba Watson will be recognized with his own bobblehead night at Pensacola Bayfront Stadium on May 16. The first 2,000 fans in the ballpark will receive the giveaway, which honors a native of nearby Bagdad, Fl. Joe Scarborough, former Congressional Representative and current host of MSNBC’s Morning Joe, will be featured later in the year, when the Blue Wahoos hand out 2,000 bobbleheads on August 11. Scarborough is a native of Pensacola and served the city in Congress from 1995-2001.
Other teams recognizing politicians include the Wilmington Blue Rocks (High Class A; Carolina League), who will feature a Senator Tom Carper bobblehead on July 31. On a local level, the Bakersfield Blaze (High Class A; California League) will honor the city’s mayor, Harvey Hall, in bobblehead form on May 23.
For those into Biblical figures, the Nashville Sounds (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League) have some big plans. The team has slated two bobblehead giveaways to coincide with separate Faith Nights: Angel on June 28 and Joseph on August 9. These two giveaways continue a long running theme of Bible-related promotions from the Sounds, including last year’s three-part Wise Men giveaway. As they move into new First Tennessee Park, the Sounds will double the number of bobbleheads given out, with 2,000 of each figure available this season.
On the player side, there are a few unique items to keep an eye on, including three from the Eastern League. A bobblehead depicting Babe Ruth in his minor-league Baltimore Oriole uniform will be given out by the Bowie Baysox on July 19. The Reading Fightin’ Phils will honor new Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez on July 28, which falls just after induction weekend, with a bobblehead that recalls his rehab assignment with the team in 2009. The Altoona Curve will recognize former pitcher Tony Watson in a Sherlock Holmes-themed “Elementary Bobblehead” on May 29.
One last unique bobblehead comes from the Springfield Cardinals (Class AA; Texas League), who are giving away 10 mini player bobbleheads to celebrate their 10th anniversary. The twist: each bobblehead will be decided by a fan vote. As part of the 10 Years of Fan Favorites series, the Cardinals are asking fans to name a player from each season to be honored. Voting will be on April 9 and runs through May 8. The series begins with 2005 on June 18 and concludes on August 22 with 2014.
If you are a bigger fans of gnomes than bobbleheads, there are a few interesting options. Based on the promotional slates announced thus far, it seems that 2015 will be a popular season for mascot-related gnomes.
Among the earliest in that trend will be the Birmingham Barons (Class AA; Southern League) who will hand out 1,000 Babe Ruff gnomes on May 1. Among the other teams that will depict their mascots on gnomes include the Erie Seawolves (Class AA; Eastern League) and C. Wolf, as well as the Augusta GreenJackets (Low Class A; Sally League) and Auggie. Both of those promotions will take place on May 22.
Continuing with the mascot theme, there are two others to keep an eye on for different reasons. In their inaugural season since a dramatic rebranding proccess, the Daytona Tortugas (High Class A; Florida State League) will feature a Shelldon gnome on July 31. Shelldon is part of the Tortugas’ marketing strategy this season, which will see them play under a new name after their longtime relationship with the Chicago Cubs ended last fall, opening the door for the Cincinnati Reds to become their new parent club.
As a twist on a mascot-related gnome, the Quad Cities River Bandits (Low Class A; Midwest League) will giveaway Harry Potter Rascal gnomes. The first 1,500 fans at Modern Woodmen Park will receive this item in the middle of a special weekend at the ballpark that begins with a Superhero Night on July 10, followed by the gnome as part of a tribute to the Harry Potter series on July 11, and then concluding with a theme night for Star Wars.
Finally, it seems appropriate to conclude our two-part look at bobbleheads and gnomes by highlighting another Tommy Lasorda gnome giveaway. If you cannot make the Los Angeles Dodgers version of the promotion, the Tulsa Drillers (Class AA; Texas League) are providing an alternative, as they will handout the exact same gnome to 1,500 fans on July 18.
While the concept of hosting a giveaway that is identical to that of a parent club’s does not seem original, it could pay off for the Drillers. The distance between Tulsa and Los Angeles makes it unlikely that Driller fans would travel to Dodger Stadium, and picking up a gnome as a giveaway rather than buying one secondhand will appeal to them. It also solidifies the Drillers’ ties with the Dodgers, with whom they signed a player development contract this offseason after ending their longtime affiliation with the Colorado Rockies.