It was a promotion that worked on several levels, with plenty of heart and an effective way to announce the launch of the 2015 season. That’s why Ambush Baseball from the Brooklyn Cyclones (short season A; NY-Penn League) was named Ballpark Digest’s Promotion of the Year Award for 2015.
“We’ve always held that the best promotions in baseball stand out in the media clutter because they touch the emotions of fans,” said Ballpark Digest Publisher Kevin Reichard. “While Ambush Baseball wasn’t necessarily the most elaborate of promotions of the 2015 season, it certainly was the most heartfelt – and the team’s fans responded.”
“We are honored to have our Ambush Baseball event recognized as Promotion of the Year by Ballpark Digest,” said Cyclones Vice President Steve Cohen. “But even without that recognition, seeing the smiles on the faces of the players, coaches, parents and friends that night at the ballpark, was one of the most memorable moments in the 15 years of Cyclones baseball.”
The premise of the promotion is simple. As two Brooklyn youth baseball teams were preparing for a game, a bus pulls alongside the field. Out comes King Henry (Guy Zoda), the very distinctive onfield entertainer for the Cyclones, announcing that the teams – by royal decree, no less – were to play their game at MCU Park.
But not just play their game: the Bluebirds and the Ice Screaming Eagles dressed in the MCU Park clubhouses, were cheered on by team cheerleaders and mascots, and saw their faces displayed on the videoboard.
“An experience like this is what every youth baseball player dreams of – and the Cyclones made those dreams come true.” Reichard added. “Seeing those kids having the time of their life is what baseball is all about.”
As usual, the competition for our award was filled with outstanding promotions throughout professional baseball. Other promotions worthy of praise, emulation or thievery:
- Last season’s promotions winner, the Myrtle Beach Pelicans (High A; Carolina League), followed up with two great 2015 promotions. Christmas Vacation in July was a great twist on an old MiLB promo, Christmas in July. Inspired by the 250 strands of lights from the film Christmas Vacation, the Pelicans took an all-out approach in crafting a promo jersey. A green colored font featuring the Pelicans name looks rather subtle compared to the jersey’s main body, which is in the style of a red and white Santa Claus suit. On Old School Hip Hop Night, Biz Markie was on hand to bring fans back to the 1980s and 1990s. A group of break dancers performed on the main concourse, while the group Studio 8 will perform a pregame hip-hop dance routine on the field. When players were introduced on the videoboard, their headshots resembled album covers from that era, as well.
- The Fort Wayne TinCaps (Low A; Midwest League) wowed the crowd with a Saturday Night Live promo that perfectly captured the feel and tone of the long-running comedy show — complete with a great Don Pardo imitator.
- The Schaumburg Boomers (independent; Frontier League) annually host a giant marshmallow fight. After the last out, fans are invited onto the outfield grass and provided with Campfire Marshmallow’s Giant Roasters (almost baseball sized marshmallows) to throw at each other in a good-natured free-for-all. As you can tell from the above photo, it’s turned into a tradition at Boomers Stadium.
- The St. Paul Saints (independent; American Association) do promos on a grand scale, as was shown at a July 21 game to distribute 8,000 free pillows in conjunction with My Pillow in order to break the Guinness Book of World Record for the largest pillow fight. It was quite the event: Joe Piscopo sand the national anthem as Frank Sinatra and actor Billy Baldwin led the pillow-fight festivities. The Saints set an official with 6,261 people confirmed in the pillow fight, surpassing the previous record of 4,201 that was set at a Motel 8 in Brookings, S.D. before a college football game.
- The Worcester Bravehearts (summer collegiate; Futures League) partnered with Worcester County Memorial Park, a local cemetery, to fund free parking for all 28 home games in 2015. As fans entered the parking garage, attendants handed them small cards. These cards could then be entered in to win a 4 pack of tickets and a $25 gift card for a future game. The card reads “Parking at Worcester Bravehearts’ home games is courtesy of Worcester County Memorial Park. Please consider us for your final parking spot.” In addition, Worcester County Memorial Park sponsored the team’s drink rails with a simple message: “Rest Here.”
- Finally, the Wisconsin Rapids Rafters (summer collegiate; Northwoods League) put a new twist on an established promotion: instead of targeting a specific charity or illness, the team launched themed jerseys with signatures from the community, including those fighting a disease or anyone wanting a tribute to a loved one. These were combined with celebrities signatures from the likes of WWF Hall of Famer Hacksaw Jim Duggan, figure skater Scott Hamilton, ESPN reporter Shelley Smith and NFL Hall of Fame Quarterback Jim Kelly — famous cancer survivor personalities who participated in the promotion.