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 fourth article in a year-by-year series chronicling of the
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 fourth article in a year-by-year series 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; 2012.
On Opening Night, Minor League teams always strive to begin their seasons with a proverbial bang. But let it be remembered that in the year 2013, there was a whole lot of shaking going on.
In the winter of 2013 as President Barack Obama was beginning his second term in office, the Harlem Shake took the internet by storm. This was a comparatively early example of a video-based meme that spread rapidly on social media platforms. Users worldwide posted surreal videos of themselves dancing to Baauer's "The Harlem Shake." The videos generally began in an innocuous fashion, with sheer pandemonium breaking out in tandem with a booming bass drop.
Where the nation goes, so goes Minor League Baseball. At roughly the same time they were releasing their season promotion schedules, dozens of teams throughout the nation released their own variation of the Harlem Shake. These videos were staged on the playing field as well as in dugouts, suites, clubhouses, offices and team stores. It was a phenomenon within a phenomenon, encompassing Rookie Advanced through Triple-A levels and collectively conveying the energy of the industry as Opening Night loomed. From among many examples, here's one:
A perfect bookend to 2013's Harlem Shake craze came courtesy of the Double-A Pensacola Blue Wahoos, who did it on the field in late August during a between-inning infield drag. Everyone got involved, including the players. Warning: This is the sort of video that can induce severe cravings for the expedient return of Minor League Baseball.
For the purposes of phonetic and alphabetical proximity, we now shift our attention from shakes to sharks. The latter were pretty big in 2013 as well, largely thanks to the release of the absurd-as-it-sounds basic cable movie "Sharknado."
Among the teams to capitalize on the "Sharknado" craze were the Class A Lake County Captains, who staged a chummy,tongue-in-cheek celebration of a movie that is literally about sharks falling from the sky. After consulting with meteorologists, marine biologists and crackpot conspiracy theorists, the Captains determined a Sharknado was headed their way. The result was a B movie-worthy evening of inflatable shark attacks, temporary shark tattoos, gummy shark treats and shark-costumed staff.
And speaking of sharks: During their World Series championship-winning season of 2019, the Washington Nationals adopted "Baby Shark" as a celebratory theme song of sorts. This quirky happenstance was the result of outfielder Gerardo Parra choosing "Baby Shark" as his walk-up music. But lest we forget: The strange combination of sharks and Washington Nationals had a strong historical precedent that reached a new plateau in 2013.
Outfielder Roger Bernadina, who played for the Nats from 2009 through 2013, was known as "The Shark" because he (allegedly) hunted down fly balls in the same manner in which a great white shark hunts his prey. Bernadina spent the 2006 season as a member of the Class A Advanced Potomac Nationals, and in 2013, the team honored their now-famous alum with a Roger "The Shark" Bernadina "Sharkarine" giveaway. This popular item marked the start of the P-Nats' strange and compelling "half-man, half-beast" giveaway legacy. In subsequent seasons, the Carolina League franchise (which moved to Fredericksburg following the 2019 season) turned Wilson Ramos into a buffalo, Jayson Werth into a wolf, Anthony Rendon into an ant, Bryce Harper into a turkey, Trea Turner into the Road Runner and Adam Eaton into Mighty Mouse.
At this point in the article, it becomes prudent to abandon clever segues and tenuous connections in favor of the random. Because, after all, what are Minor League Baseball promotions if not random? Here are some that, for one reason or another, stood out:
Akron Aeros -- Vegan Iron Chef -- This celebration of a healthy cruelty-free diet included a concourse cooking competition between local vegan chefs as well as a fruit and vegetable carving competition at the Double-A Aeros game. As the above photo makes clear -- check the top left -- some of these carved creations were very creative.
Brooklyn Cyclones -- Mascot Bar Mitzvah -- Sandy the Seagull turned 13 in 2013, and the Class A Short Season Cyclones celebrated this transition to manhood via a "Jewish Heritage Night" bar mitzvah.
New Britain Rock Cats -- Failed Marriage Proposal -- OK, so this turned out to be a hoax. But it was a hoax that went viral, propelling the Double-A Rock Cats to a string of sold-out ballgames.
Fort Wayne TinCaps -- Twitter Theme Jerseys -- Class A TinCaps players took the field in a theme jersey that displayed the Twitter handles of over 6,200 of the team's followers. Talk about a great way to send a direct message!
Salem Red Sox -- College Night -- College Night meant concessions catered to a collegiate crowd. The highlight of Class A Advanced Salem's offerings on this evening of higher learning was a Ramen Dog, consisting of dry ramen noodles served atop a hot dog.
When all was said and done, it could be argued that 2013's top two promotions were staged by a New York Yankees affiliate. The Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders were fortunate enough to play in a locale that also served as the setting for NBC's "The Office." In conjunction with the series finale, the entire cast of the beloved TV show appeared at Scranton's PNC Park for a farewell sendoff. After the season, the RailRiders' "The Office Wrap Party" won a Golden Bobblehead Award for Best Non-Game Day Event.
An even more poignant goodbye was staged by the Double-A Trenton Thunder on July 5, as the team held a MiLBY Award-winning retirement ceremony for Chase the Bat Dog. The first 2,500 fans received bobbleheads featuring the 13-year-old golden retriever, and Chase's daughter and various grandchildren all assembled for an on-field family portrait. (They are all part of the Thunder's "Family Business.") Chase was scheduled to retrieve a bat for the final time during the first inning, but this was not to be. His worsening arthritis, combined with an offseason lymphoma diagnosis, had weakened him to the point at which even retrieving one bat wasn't feasible. Nonetheless, Chase basked in the attention and left the field to thunderous applause.
"We took him out [of the hospital] the day before [the ceremony] because the vet said 'Take him out of there, let him be in the place where he's happiest.' So that's what we did," said Thunder senior vice president Eric Lipsman, who also served as Chase's caretaker. "I think it cheered him up, and we saw a little of the old Chase despite how bad and horrible he was feeling. He was the ultimate professional, like 'OK, I'm going to go out there and give it one last shot.'"
Chase passed away on July 8, just three days after the ceremony. But, of course, his legacy lives on.