The crack of the bat and the cheer of the crowd may signal the start of baseball season, but ballpark giveaways, theme nights and minor league hijinx are indications of an equally important time of year: Golden Bobblehead season.
Minor League Baseball announced the first round of nominations for their Golden Bobblehead Awards, the grand prize of minor league promotional greatness, which are awarded following the season at the annual Promo Seminar. Top promotions from each month will be selected before the overall winners are recognized at the Promo Seminar, which is being hosted this year by the Iowa Cubs in Des Moines.
As is always the case, the five promotions selected from more than 70 submissions are a mix of creativity, humor and service to the communities the teams call home. In short, they are an extension of the industry’s goal to provide affordable, family friendly entertainment.
So, without further ado, the nominees for Golden Bobbleheads from the month of April are . . .
A Salute to Jorts, Potomac Nationals
The P-Nats paid tribute to this fashion faux pas (ahem!) on April 20 with a variety of ballpark activities, including a Leg Liberation Station—where fans could convert their jeans to jorts—and a jorts competition. Fans arriving to Pfitzner Stadium rocking a pair of jorts could purchase a discounted $5 general admission ticket.
While the evening itself was a hit, the video promoting the event was pure promo gold. Gold!
Field of Dreams Renovation
Four of Iowa’s minor league affiliates came together on April 16 to help renovate the famed “Field of Dreams” movie site in Dyersville, Iowa, that was vandalized in January. The Cedar Rapids Kernels, Clinton LumberKings, Iowa Cubs and Quad Cities River Bandits helped fix the field damaged by a vandal who drove on the wet playing surface. The sod, turf and equipment used to make the infield look like new again were all donated.
The project to help repair the popular tourist attraction was spearheaded by Minor League Baseball Senior Director of Communications Jeff Lantz, an Iowa native who told the Des Moines Register that he “saw the images of the damage that was done on Twitter and it kind of made you sick to your stomach to see it.”
Members of the four teams spent a day fixing up the field with the assistance of their grounds crews. “Basically, we went in, scrapped up the infield and the pitchers’ mound and built a new infield for them and basically put in a pro infield,” Lantz told the Register.
Cam’s Clubhouse, Kannapolis Intimidators
Quietly tucked away on the club level of Intimidators Stadium, Cam’s Clubhouse is minor league baseball’s first sensory-friendly space designed to be a safe area for special-needs children and their families during games. The room, which overlooks the playing field and is filled with toys and activities designed for children with special needs, is the inspiration of new general manager Brian Radle, whose 3-year-old son Cam has non-verbal autism. Cam has followed his dad to the ballpark throughout his young life, and Brian knows that baseball games can be both overwhelming at times for children with special needs and an important, fun experience that they shouldn’t miss out on. The room is designed to make the experience a little easier.
“I hate to think some parents will think that [autism] is a deterrent to coming to the ballpark,” Radle told me before the start of the season. “We welcome them with open arms. We want them to be able to enjoy baseball just like any other kid.”
Jurassic Park Night, Frisco RoughRiders
The RoughRiders went prehistoric on April 20 by bringing the hit movie series “Jurassic Park” to Dr. Pepper Ballpark. The team incorporated the theme into nearly every aspect of the evening, including themed headshots for players, staff dressing up in character, in-game promotions, and a few dinosaurs roaming the ballpark.
Baseballtown Dream League, Reading Fightin Phils
The Fightins celebrated Opening Day of their Baseballtown Dream League, which gives people with mental and physical disabilities on a custom-designed, turf field that accommodates wheelchairs and other assistance devices. The event happened at the brand new Savage 61 Dream Field, which the Fightins helped make a reality by raising more than $650,000 for the area’s first field designed for players with special needs. Fightin Phils players and mascots came out to play and celebrate with the participants.