The airing of tonight’s MLB Draft signals the arrival of short season baseball and a new batch of promotions to look forward to over the coming weeks. Some of the best offerings across four leagues—New York-Penn, Northwest, Appalachian and Pioneer leagues—which include theme nights and giveaways are covered in this week’s Promotions Watch.
Catching a short season game is a good way to spice up the summer schedule. Along with an array of facilities that span from state-of-the-art ballparks to historic ballparks, the short-season leagues are also a good way to see some of the minors’ newest stars in a small and affordable setting. Complementing these elements in this promotional slate, which looks strong in all four leagues.
Summer is also the perfect time for a backyard BBQ, and teams around the minors are offering the supplies. The Greenville Astros (rookie; Appalachian League) will hand out aprons on August 8, while there will be plenty of ways to enjoy a cold beverage. The Vancouver Canadians (short season A; Northwest League) giving away bottle openers on August 24, which sets up a drink for the free pint glass from the Princeton Rays (rookie; Appalachian League) on July 16. For those who prefer cans, the Great Falls Voyagers (rookie; Pioneer League) are giving away koozies on July 8.
While gathering the necessities for a party, fans can expect some interesting collectibles to pop up during the 2015 season. The first fans to attend a New York-Penn League game at Monongalia County Ballpark—home of the West Virginia Black Bears—will come away with a unique souvenir. On June 19, the Black Bears will hand out commemorative tickets to every fan who comes to opening day. The Black Bears are playing their first season in Morgantown after relocating from Jamestown, NY.
The Aberdeen Ironbirds (short season A; New York-Penn League) will feature several special appearances by team owner and Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. this season. The two that are worth keeping in mind are June 30 and September 2, as both will include a Ripken bobblehead giveaway to the first 1,200 fans through the gates of Ripken Stadium. Each bobblehead will honor a milestone from Cal’s career: June 30 will commemorate his 1982 Rookie of the Year winning season, while September 2 will honor his 2,131st consecutive game which allowed him to break the games played streak that previously held by Lou Gehrig.
The Eugene Emeralds (short season A; Northwest League) will honor a Hall of Famer of their own on August 29. A Mike Schmidt bobblehead will be handed out to the first 1,000 fans in attendance at PK Park. Before going on to a stellar career with the Philadelphia Phillies, Schmidt played the 1972 season as an infielder for the Emeralds, who at that time were members of the Class AAA Pacific Coast League.
For some other unique bobbleheads, check out the Hillsboro Hops (short season A; Northwest League) tribute to SportsCenter anchor Neil Everett—who was born in nearby Portland, OR—on August 21, as well as a Zombie player figure from the Lowell Spinners (short season A; New York-Penn League) on August 23. The bobblehead—Balking Dead, a play on words of the popular TV series The Walking Dead—will be given out to the first 1,000 fans part of the Spinners’ third annual Zombie Night.
One last bobblehead to profile comes from the Brooklyn Cyclones (short season A; New York-Penn League). On August 26, the Cyclones with honor Sidd Finch as part of the Sidd Finch 30th Anniversary Celebration. Finch is the subject of a classic Sports Illustrated story by George Plimpton that was published on April 1, 1985. In that account, Plimpton details a seemingly once-in-a-generation phenom that appeared with the New York Mets during spring training, only to subtly reveal that his identity is a hoax at the story’s end.
The Cyclones are also a team to watch when it comes to theme nights, which will be covered in the final part of this post. Brooklyn will once again feature its Jersey Thursday, an offering of replica jerseys for a select number of fans. Details on who is eligible to receive the uniform tops can be found here, but there are a few unique replicas in the bunch, including a July 2 tribute to Back to the Future and a Classic BKLYN Jersey on August 27.
Another team that is including a giveaway as part of a theme series is the Hudson Valley Renegades (short season A; New York-Penn League). On consecutive nights—August 9 and August 10—the Renegades will give their fans an opportunity to receive a replica Star Wars jersey. The first giveaway will be for the first 1,000 fans 13 and older, with the second making the item available to 1,000 spectators 12 and younger.
While theme nights covered in past Promotions Watch features have included some popular film franchises—including Back to the Future, Star Wars, and even a few mentions of Harry Potter—one that has not received significant attention is Jurassic Park. With Jurassic World due out later this week, there is a renewed sense of interest in the series. For those looking for a good Jurassic Park tribute, the Johnson City Cardinals (Rookie; Appalachian League) will among the first out of the gate at the short season ranks. On June 27, The Cardinals will take the field wearing special Jurassic World jerseys, which will be auctioned off after the game.
Two other theme nights to watch include the Boise Hawks (short season A; Northwest League) Paint it Purple night on July 3. As part of that promotion, the Hawks will wear purple jerseys to honor their new parent club, the Colorado Rockies. The Hawks have made several steps to promote their new affiliation, including renaming their beer garden the Purple Porch. Another unique offering comes from the Eugene Emeralds, who will honor the TV series Portlandia. On August 27, the Emeralds will wear flannel jerseys as an homage to the show, which is set in Portland.
Usually football-themed nights, although fun, provide a signal that the baseball season is coming to a close. For fans of the State College Spikes (short season A; New York-Penn League), however, it will mark one of more elaborate promotions of the year.
To celebrate the Pro Football Hall of Fame induction of Jerome Bettis, the Spikes will wear Gold Jacket Jerseys on August 9 and hand out Bettis bobbleheads to the first 1,000 fans in attendance. Bettis—who has been part of the Spikes’ ownership group since their inaugural season in 2006—was known throughout his career as The Bus, which has led to the Spikes including a Bus Drive Appreciation as part of the promotion. Fans will be able to obtain the jerseys through a post-game auction that will benefit the Children’s Miracle Network.
The short season leagues are clearly primed for a big year when it comes to promotions. While the last few months of the season can be bittersweet, these offerings gives fans plenty to look forward to and will build interest throughout the rest of 2015.