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Minor League Baseball promos of the decade: 2012

Hitting from the dock to the bay headlined noteworthy endeavors
A pair of unusual home run derbies were among 2012's most notable promotions. Pulled pork also played a role, as did cows.
October 29, 2020

The lack of a 2020 Minor League Baseball season meant the lack of gameday promotions. While there may not be any to look back on this year, there are still plenty of promotions upon which we can reminisce. Today marks the second article in a series, a year-by-year chronicling of

The lack of a 2020 Minor League Baseball season meant the lack of gameday promotions. While there may not be any to look back on this year, there are still plenty of promotions upon which we can reminisce. Today marks the second article in a series, a year-by-year chronicling of the past decade's most notable Minor League Baseball gameday promotions. To share your own favorite promotions of the decade that was, please reach out via email ([email protected]) or Twitter (@bensbiz). Previous installments: 2010; 2011

In the early 2010s, one of Minor League Baseball's most popular trends was the unorthodox home run derby. These endeavors were born of the same impulse that drives most memorable promotions -- to breathe new life into predictable and well-worn concepts.

The Class A Quad Cities River Bandits put other teams on notice in 2011, when they hosted the Midwest League All-Star Game. Rather than just have players swing for the fences during the Home Run Derby, the team littered the playing field with targets that included oversized beer bottles, a team logo van and a dunk tank. The following season, the Class A Charleston RiverDogs took the long ball contest into even more unprecedented territory. The result was an innovative endeavor that sparked national interest, ultimately resulting in a double-whammy of fan and industry approval.

The RiverDogs' South Atlantic League Home Run Derby on the deck of the USS Yorktown won the 2012 Promo of the Year MiLBY Award as well as the Golden Bobblehead Award in the category of Best Overall Promo. The Yankees affiliate moved the home run derby from the ballpark to the deck of a decommissioned aircraft carrier, with the circuit's top sluggers launching baseballs into the Atlantic Ocean. The waterlogged spheroids were summarily retrieved by volunteers on jet skis, marking the first time that volunteers on jet skis played in a key role in the execution of a Minor League Baseball promotion.

"In order to think outside of the box, we removed the batter's box," said Dan Migala, who, in a consulting role, conceived the idea. "This could start a trend."

The RiverDogs' aircraft carrier home run derby didn't create a trend, although the Lake Elsinore Storm did copy the idea four years later. Nor was it 2012's only memorable tater competition. The Double-A Reading Phillies, hosts of the Eastern League All-Star Game, staged what was (and may always be) the most over-the-top and flat-out ridiculous home run derby of all time. Highlights included an in-derby musical performance, dunk tank targets and an intern catching balls while suspended from a crane. Let R-Phils general manager Scott Hunsicker give you a guided tour.

It's tough to categorize the above "non-traditional" home run derbies. But, then again, it's often tough to categorize Minor League Baseball promotions. Here are four more that stood out, each in their own non-categorizable way.

Fresno Grizzlies -- Piedmont Cigarettes Raffle -- Don't smoke 'em if you got 'em. At the end of the season, the Triple-A Grizzlies awarded a circa 1909-11 pack of cigarettes to one lucky fan. This pack had the possibility of containing a Honus Wagner T-206, long considered the holy grail of baseball cards.

Jackson Generals -- World's Largest Pulled Pork Sandwich -- Question: How large was it? Answer: 1,566 pounds. Over 400 pounds of this massive sandwich were eaten by fans at the Double-A Generals game, in exchange for a $5 charitable donation. The remaining 1,100-plus pounds were distributed among three local outreach ministries.

Lake Elsinore Storm -- Post-game mass "Tebowing" -- These days, erstwhile collegiate gridiron star Tim Tebow can be found patrolling the outfield as a member of the New York Mets organization. In 2012, the Class A Advanced Storm foreshadowed his future occupation by having over 500 people simultaneously adopt a prayerful Tebow pose in the outfield. Not surprisingly, it was "Faith and Fellowship Night."

Missoula Osprey -- Float to the Ballpark -- The Rookie Advanced Osprey -- fittingly now known as the Paddleheads -- gave fans the opportunity to take a leisurely two-hour raft trip on the Clark Fork River prior to arriving at the ballpark.

No matter what, Minor League Baseball teams are sure to deliver innumerable creative theme nights over the course of a season. What follows is a particularly noteworthy quartet.

Bradenton Marauders -- Plumber Olympics -- In 2012, promotions based around the Summer Olympics were commonplace. The Class A Advanced Marauders took things in a decidedly uncommon direction, staging a Plumber Olympics that included events such as the Plunger Javelin and the Toilet Seat Discus.

Mahoning Valley Scrappers -- Zombie Survival Night -- Rather than fearing the apocalypse, the Class A Short Season Scrappers embraced it. The evening's zombie-themed elements featured a pregame zombie crawl, makeup artists on the concourse and a between-inning (gummy) brain eating contest.

Stockton Ports -- Johnny Cash Night -- The Class A Advanced Ports honored the legendary Man in Black with -- what else? -- black theme jerseys. A Johnny Cash tribute act was on hand, as was roving Oakland Athletics instructor Rickey Henderson.

Wisconsin Timber Rattlers -- Salute to Cows -- These days, the Class A Timber Rattlers suit up as the Udder Tuggers on Salute to Cows Night. But this bovine celebration has a long and proud pre-Udder Tuggers history, one that dates back to 2009. 2012's iteration included a "cow and cheese" photo baseball giveaway and between-inning games such as the cheese curd toss, a milk-chugging competition, and of course, a mooing contest.

Of course, no article of this nature would be complete without mentioning giveaway items. The following triumvirate really stood out from the rest.

Arkansas Travelers - Loek Van Mil Growth Chart - Looking back on this promotion is now an exercise tinged with sadness, as Loek Van Mil passed away in July 2019 following a hiking accident. The 7-foot-1 right-hander pitched for the Travelers in 2011, and the following season the team gave away a growth chart so that kids could measure themselves in comparison to his formidable frame.

Bradenton Marauders - Babies on Deck Night - In late February, 2012, Pirates director of Florida operations Trevor Gooby helped deliver a baby during a Spring Training game at McKechnie Park The Marauders commemorated this good deed with "Babies on Deck Night," highlighted by a bobblehead featuring Gooby triumphantly holding the baby.

Stockton Ports - Presidential Seat Cushion Giveaway - The Ports, dogged champions of the democratic process that they are, handed out double-sided seat cushions featuring both 2012 presidential candidates. Barack Obama was on one side, Mitt Romney on the other. Fans sat on the face of the candidate they did not support.

Benjamin Hill is a reporter for and writes Ben's Biz Blog. Follow Ben on Twitter @bensbiz.