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Promotions Watch: Back to School/College Nights

West Virginia Power giveaway

As the calendar turns to August and the summer winds down, students find themselves just weeks away from another school year. In this week’s Promotions Watch, we look at some of Minor League Baseball’s best Back to School nights, a batch of events that features giveaways, family-friendly discounts, and even movie tributes.

Back to School Nights are popular at all levels of baseball because of their ability to attract families and younger fans. Even outside of affiliated baseball, the promotion and its companion College Night is catching on. As was covered in an earlier Promotions Watch, the Sioux City Explorers (Independent; American Association) are planning a College Sports Night that features a variety of discounts and drink specials. There are also some supply giveaways planned in the Atlantic League, including a drawstring backpack giveaway from the York Revolution on August 7 and a lunchbox from the Long Island Ducks on September 3.

Students in need of supplies before the school year begins will find plenty of options around the minors. The Tulsa Drillers (Class AA; Texas League) are planning a school kit giveaway for the first 500 kids 12 and under on August 9. The kit—which includes a pencil and ruler set—has been combined with kids eat free as well as kids run the bases, making for a family-friendly day at ONEOK Field.

Later in August, the Pawtucket Red Sox (Class AAA; International League) will host school-related giveaways on back-to-back days. On August 18, the first 3,000 fans 14 and under through the gates of McCoy Stadium will receive a free back to school supply kit. Those 3,000 fans can plan on coming back the next day, when the PawSox hand out free notebooks.

Of course, students will need something to carry their new supplies. Fans in the Southeast can look for a free backpack from the Bradenton Marauders (High A; Florida State League) on August 15, while those in the Southwest can get a backpack from the El Paso Chihuahuas (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League) by heading to Southwest University Park on August 23.

There are also backpack options in the Midwest and the Northeast. The Vermont Lake Monsters (Short Season A; NY-Penn League) will give out backpacks to students from the age of 5-18 on August 8, one week after the West Virginia Power (Low A; Sally League) stage their giveaway. Also look for backpacks from a pair of Low A Midwest League teams, as the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers and the West Michigan Whitecaps will hand out the item on August 11 and August 29 respectively.

The options do not end there. Many teams—including the Omaha Storm Chasers (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League, Harrisburg Senators (Class AA; Eastern League), Fresno Grizzlies (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League), Bowling Green Hot Rods (Low A; Midwest League), Asheville Tourists (Low A; Sally League), and Round Rock Express (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League)—are planning backpack giveaways outside of the back to school night canon.

In a break from the normal routine, not only are some back to school promotions stretched out over a weekend, but feature giveaways that are not necessarily school related.  The best example comes from the Lake Elsinore Storm (High A; California League), who have a robust Back to School Weekend planned for August.

The Storm’s weekend kicks off with Teacher Appreciation Night on August 6. That promotion—which has been paired with Thirsty Thursday—grants free admission to anyone with a valid school staff ID, and features a pre-game mixer in the Diamond Club Restaurant. The following night will be highlighted by a post-game fireworks show, while Saturday’s contest will feature disabilities awareness night, SDCCU Customer Appreciation night, and Social Media Saturday.

It will culminate on Sunday, when the Storm hand out Trevor Hoffman bobbleheads to the first 1,500 fans in attendance. The day will also feature a post-game kids run the bases.

As this feature transfers to promotions aimed at older students, who better to bridge the age groups than the State College Spikes (Short Season A; NY-Penn League). On August 29, the Spikes will host a Back to School Bash at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.

The promotion will have plenty of offerings for younger students. A complementary school kit will be given to the first 1,000 kids in attendance, and admission to the Spikes’ Kid’s Zone will be free. Assuming that the unlimited access to the Kid’s Zone does not consume their energy, all children in attendance will be eligible to run the bases after the game.

Since they are located on the campus of Penn State University, the Spikes are ensuring that the older students are not left out. As part of the Spikes’ recurring 3-2-1 Special, students with a valid college ID will received $3 tickets, $2 sodas, and $1 hot dogs. The Spikes will feature the 3-2-1 Special on several nights throughout August and September, including their PSU Homecoming Night on September 2.

Teams usually try to reach college students through ticket specials and other discounts. In some cases, however, colleges are being celebrated through theme nights. Tributes to the film Animal House is one example of that trend, and two teams in particular are pulling out all of the stops in their homages to the movie.

On August 13, the Eugene Emeralds (Short Season A; Northwest League) will host their annual tribute to Animal House. The City of Eugene holds a special connection to Animal House, as the bulk of the film’s shooting took place at the University of Oregon campus. In an effort to highlight that history, the Emeralds—who are boasting this year’s offering as “the most raucous night on the calendar”—have taken elaborate steps in the past to honor the film, including free admission to anyone who wears a toga. This year’s Animal House Night will coincide with Tall Boy Thursday, a weekly special that offers fans $3 box seats and 32 ounce sodas, as well as discounts on Pabst Blue Ribbon Tall Boys.

Another Animal House tribute to keep an eye on comes from the Myrtle Beach Pelicans (High A; Carolina League). On August 27, the Pelicans will take the field wearing COLLEGE jerseys while including Animal House-themed videoboard graphics and between-innings promotions, as well as a tribute to the late Kingsmen front man Jack Ely.

In addition, the Pelicans have invited Richmond Flying Squirrels (Class AA; Eastern League) executive Todd “Parney” Parnell to serve as the honorary Bluto. If Parney makes the trip to Field, he will don a toga will lead a “toga, toga, toga,” chant before the “Seventh Inning Stretch.” Fans can also get in on the action by submitting their photo to the Bluto Look-A-Like contest, which is ongoing at the Pelicans’ Facebook page.

For students of all ages, Back to School and College nights make for a great outing at the ballpark. Not only is it a chance to take in a game and catch a unique promotion, but it is also a way to celebrate the end of summer before school goes back in session.

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