The season is underway in the independent baseball ranks, bringing about a new batch of promotions for this summer. Promotions Watch will provide a two-part overview of some of the most notable events in the independent leagues, with part one focusing on giveaways and part two—which will be posted next week—highlighting theme nights and appearances.
While there are interesting giveaways throughout the season, a few teams are starting off the year with some premium items. The Somerset Patriots (Atlantic League) will celebrate last year’s league title with a championship t-shirt giveaway for the first 2,000 fans in attendance on April 23.
Another early season promotion to watch comes from the Long Island Ducks (Atlantic League), who will hand out Bud Harrelson garden gnomes on April 28. Harrelson—a former major league infielder who managed the Ducks during their inaugural 2000 season—is currently a co-owner and the senior vice president of baseball operations, as well as a first base coach during home games.
Sticking to the trend of bobbleheads and gnomes, there are several other items to keep an eye on across the independent ranks. Davey Concepion bobbleheads will be handed out by the Florence Freedom (Frontier League) on May 13. The former Cincinnati Reds shortstop will be on hand as the Freedom welcome him for a promotion that also includes several autograph and meet and greet ticket packages.
For their 10th season, the York Revolution are honoring local celebrities, historical figures, and iconic area attractions through their Celebrate York series. Starting with Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf on April 29, the Revolution will hand out several bobbleheads that depict notable people from the York area—including Revolutionary War hero Marquis de Lafayette on May 13, NFL Hall of Famer Chris Doleman on June 10, Special Olympics champion Loretta Claiborne on July 15, and artist Jeff Koons on August 12.
The Celebrate York series will extend beyond bobbleheads and feature a few other items. The Revolution will hand out a garden gnome depicting Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians on June 17, and The York Plan mural tumbler on July 1.
Towards the end of the season, the Gateway Grizzles (Frontier League) will honor a native son with a Yogi Berra bobblehead. While Berra’s Hall of Fame career with the Yankees and his post-playing endeavors make him synonymous with New York and New Jersey baseball, he was born and raised in St. Louis. Based in nearby Sauget (IL), the Grizzlies have tapped into St. Louis baseball history in the past, making Berra a natural choice for a giveaway.
For another promotion that honors Berra’s legacy, check out the New Jersey Jackals (Can-Am League) Opening Day offerings. On May 27, the Jackals—who, fittingly, play at Yogi Berra Stadium—will stage Yogi Berra Night alongside their first Freebie Friday, a weekly promotion that includes giveaway and prize opportunities.
Look for a bobblehead early in the year from the upstart United Shore Professional Baseball League (USPBL). For their June 11 contest against the Birmingham Bloomfield Beavers, the Utica Unicorns will hand out 1,000 bobbleheads of Lancelot the unicorn. The Unicorns and Beavers, along with the Eastside Diamond Hoppers are the USPBL’s charter franchises, and all three teams will play out of the brand new Jimmy John’s Field in Utica (Mich.).
Baseball is back at New Britain Stadium, and the New Britain Bees (Atlantic League) will commemorate their inaugural season with a collectable pin series. Starting with last night’s opener, the Bees are handing out six pins, the next of which will be available on June 4. The remaining pin giveaways include June 4, July 1, July 30, August 6, and September 18.
There are a few other items to keep an eye on this season. The Fargo-Moorhead Red Hawks (American Association) are handing out beer steins to fans 21 and over on August 27, their final Souvenir Saturday of the season. While most of their giveaways are set for Saturdays, the Red Hawks will have a trio of freebies after that date—a team photo on August 28, kids meals on August 30, and a floor mat on August 31.
To tap into the trend of fans connecting to social media at the ballpark, the Sugar Land Skeeters (Atlantic League) will hand out selfie sticks on August 20. The Skeeters have a few other giveaways of note this season, including a facsimile jersey on May 21 and a replica of the team’s bullpen cart on August 20.
Look for a replica jersey from the Sioux City Explorers (American Association) on July 30. Fans who miss out on that promotion can catch one of several replica player t-shirt giveaways throughout the season, including one on August 6 and another on August 17.
As the baseball world engages in the seemingly never-ending debate about unwritten rules—ranging from the etiquette of bat flips, to the proper speed of a home run trot—the St. Paul Saints (American Association) will try to lend a helping hand. On July 6, the Saints will present a book of unwritten rules to the first 1,500 fans in attendance at CHS Field. While it remains to be seen how much ground this book will try to cover—unwritten rules can often emerge out of thin air—at least fans can now use this as a companion to an actual rule book.
With these promotions, the independent slate will be robust in 2016. However, theme nights and appearances will offer even more opportunities for a great night at the ballpark, so be sure to check back early next week when we present part of two this look at independent baseball promotions.