Understanding what’s important to your fans and the local community is key to running a successful minor league franchise, and the Stockton Ports have jumped on that in the most creative of ways: with asparagus.
In 2016, when it came time to pick a specialty food to feature at their concession stands, on their jerseys and in their marketing campaigns, the Ports front office opted to pass on the calorie-crushing dishes common at many ballparks and chose a vegetable near and dear to the fans’ hearts. Asparagus. What resulted is an annual promotion that brings fans to the ballpark and has attracted national attention along the way.
The original Asparagus Night in 2016, which featured alternate jerseys that were auctioned off charity, was such a hit that the team has made the promotion an annual night. Asparagus Night returns this evening and features a first for the Ports: a giveaway of asparagus socks. Yes, the first 1,000 fans at Banner Island Ballpark will receive quite arguably the coolest fashion accessory since John Witherspoon coordinated a mushroom shirt, belt and jacket in “Boomerang.”
The green socks that blend into asparagus tips are much more than a gag to the Ports faithful. They are a way to connect with the greater local community and part of a much larger marketing campaign, which includes annual asparagus jerseys that will once again be auctioned off to benefit the team’s charities.
“Asparagus has become a staple, not just on the promotional front, but on our apparel, our hats our uniforms. We incorporate it as much as possible on some of our promotional items we give away,” Stockton General Manager Taylor McCarthy said. “Stockton is known as the unofficial asparagus capital of the world. So every year, Stockton holds the San Joaquin County Asparagus Festival, and basically there are thousands of people who come through and a lot of people from this area. While we are neighbors to the Bay Area, Stockton itself is in the Central Valley of Northern California, which is known for agriculture and farmland.”
Asparagus has also managed to work its way into the Ports regular rotation and is featured on the team’s Friday night home jerseys. Stockton’s mascot, 5 O’clock Dock, brandishes an asparagus spear on that jersey, a nod to the area’s port and agricultural industries.
“People take pride in being from Stockton,” McCarthy said. “A lot of asparagus is produced up here and a lot of Stockonians, as they are referred to, take pride in the area and where they are from, and asparagus is the staple of this area when it comes to vegetables.”