The lack of a 2020 Minor League Baseball season meant the lack of gameday promotions. However, there are still plenty of promotions upon which we can reminisce. This marks the seventh article in a year-by-year series chronicling 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; 2013; 2014; 2015.
In 2014, the Lehigh Valley IronPigs wore bacon-themed uniforms. In 2015, the Fresno Grizzlies suited up as the Tacos. Is it any surprise that, in 2016, both teams continued to attract attention for their food-based alternate identities?
On Feb. 22, approximately six weeks prior to the start of the 2016 season, the Grizzlies announced they would play as the Tacos for every #TacoTuesday home game. In conjunction with this major expansion of the theme, Houston's Triple-A affiliate unveiled new "hint of lime" jerseys while also announcing Tuesday games would feature a "rotation of local taco trucks" at the ballpark.
One month later give or take a day, the IronPigs announced their upcoming season's premier food-based initiative. For June 10's "Salute to Philadelphia Night," the Triple-A Phillies affiliate would play as the Cheesesteaks. The uniforms, featuring "Steaks" splashed across the front in "Cheez Whiz yellow," contained sleeve patches "specifically designed to emulate the characteristics of hot cheese on a steak sandwich.” And as for the cheesesteak hats, the IronPigs ran a Philly slang-inspired fan vote: Should the cheesesteaks be depicted "wit" onions, or "witout"? ("Wit" won, as it should have.)
The Grizzlies and IronPigs, both desirous of being recognized as the team with the best food-themed promos, playfully insulted one another (and celebrated themselves) on social media throughout the season. In 2017, the animosity was ratcheted up to a whole new level that will be chronicled in the next edition of this column.
As regards 2016's top food-based identities, a healthier option was provided by the Class A Advanced Stockton Ports. The California League stalwart staged "Asparagus Night" on May 21, paying homage to Stockton's self-declared status as the "Asparagus Capital of the World." The Ports already had been longtime celebrants of this fragrant green vegetable, serving it in various forms at the concession stand and even unveiling an alternate asparagus-themed logo. But 2016 marked the first time they wore theme jerseys, which MiLB.com's Josh Jackson described as a "dark-green-sleeved top with humongous stalks of asparagus shooting up the torso."
But that, of course, was not all. Again, per Josh Jackson: "Along with an asparagus-eating contest and an expanded ballpark menu that included such items as asparagus fries, asparagus dogs and asparagus sausage, there was a first pitch from Gaby Muro, 'Miss San Joaquin Asparagus Festival 2016,' who is also, coincidentally, an usher at Banner Island Ballpark."
While teams like the Ports celebrated food, the Class A Bowling Green Hot Rods went all-in on drinks. Specifically, they celebrated the hard stuff. The Hot Rods played as the Bootleggers on July 16, paying homage to their region's history of illicit whiskey production. The team took the field wearing bourbon barrel theme jerseys and caps on this special evening. Of-age fans received mason jars upon entering the ballpark, while a "pickin' and grinnin'" bluegrass band helped establish the throwback, raucous ballpark atmosphere. At the end of the season, "Bootleggers Night" took home the fan-voted Best Promo MiLBY Award. This made the Hot Rods the first (and only) team to win two Promo of the Year MiLBYs. Their first came in 2009 when they played as the Cave Shrimp during Minor League Baseball's first-ever "What Could've Been Night."
Of course, 2016 featured plenty of notable theme nights that had nothing to do with food. Four notable examples follow forthwith:
Albuquerque Isotopes, "Better Call Saul" Night: Both "Breaking Bad" and its spin-off "Better Call Saul" were shot in Albuquerque. The Triple-A Isotopes celebrated their city's role in 21st-century prestige television by wearing Jimmy McGill theme jerseys. Bob Odenkirk -- Jimmy McGill himself -- was the evening's guest of honor.
Altoona Curve, "Star Wars" Night: Why was the Curve's "Star Wars" Night different from all other "Star Wars" Nights? Because the Double-A team made the bold choice of wearing jerseys featuring Jar Jar Binks, arguably the most maligned character in the history of the film franchise.
Columbia Fireflies, Purple Game, Purple Game: On what would have been Prince's 58th birthday, the Class A Fireflies wore purple jerseys, hosted a Prince cover band and shot off purple fireworks. Any fan driving a little red Corvette received free admission.
El Paso Chihuahuas, KISS Night: The Triple-A Chihuahuas became the first Minor League Baseball team to pay uniformed homage to the rock band KISS. The KISS Army turned out in full force, resulting in legions of makeup-wearing fans and over $20,000 raised via a jersey auction.
At this juncture, you may be asking yourself, "Where are the bobbleheads?" Fair question, and here's your answer:
Harrisburg Senators, Life-Size Bobblehead Hall of Fame: When it came to their new team Hall of Fame, the Double-A Harrisburg Senators went big. 2016's three honorees -- Vlad Guerrero, Cliff Floyd and Bryce Harper -- were enshrined via life-size bobbleheads on the stadium concourse. Guerrero, the first inductee, was in attendance for his big day.
Lake County Captains, James Garfield bobblehead: The Captains, the Class A affiliate of the Indians, are located in close proximity to Cleveland. As you may recall, Cleveland was the host city for the 2016 Republican National Convention. The Captains took the opportunity to honor a Republican of a bygone era: James Garfield, an Ohio native who went on to become the 20th president of these United States.
Lexington Legends, Glenn Hubbard 'Snake' bobblehead: Glenn Hubbard's 1984 Fleer baseball card featured a photo of him smiling contentedly with a giant snake draped over his shoulders. In 2016, long after his stadium snake-handling days, Hubbard was a member of the Class A Legends coaching staff. The team honored him with a "Snake" bobblehead inspired by the aforementioned, inexplicably weird baseball card.
Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, Greg Bird bobblehead: This bobblehead is based on a simple premise: What if Greg Bird was an actual bird? The Triple-A RailRiders, for whom Bird had played, created a bobblehead featuring the winged first baseman emerging from an egg with bat in hand.
We conclude with a brief overview of the heretofore uncategorizable.
Frederick Keys, Family Fitness Weekend: The Class A Advanced Keys' celebration of healthy lifestyles was highlighted by a game in which both of the team's broadcasters -- Geoff Arnold and Doug Raftery -- called the entire contest while riding exercise bikes. During the rain-shortened five-inning contest, Arnold biked 24.90 miles against Raftery's 24.52.
Fresno Grizzlies, My Big Fat Fresno Wedding Show: Fresno mascot Parker T. Bear took it upon himself to become an ordained Universal Life Church minister. During the Grizzlies' "My Big Fat Fresno Wedding Show," Parker oversaw the weddings of three couples and renewed the vows of three more.
Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, Man vs. Marathon: The RailRiders enlisted 12 teams of five runners trying to run a marathon in less time than it took to play a nine-inning game. RailRiders players, meanwhile, wore glow-in-the-dark running-themed jerseys.