The proof of a successful promotion can be found in the results, and that certainly was the case for the winner of Minor League Baseball’s July Promotion of the Month. The Frisco RoughRiders took home the honor, earning the Texas League franchise a spot in the Promo Seminar’s Golden Bobblehead competition, for its Dude Perfect Appearance on July 20.
The RoughRiders set a single-game attendance record for Dr Pepper Ballpark of 12,067 by welcoming the five Dudes who form the trick-shot making group that has become a viral sensation over the past few years. The Frisco-based group has earned more than 32 million subscribers and 5 billion views on YouTube as well as their own show on Nickelodeon, making their appearance one of the most anticipated in team history. In fact, the appearance was the earliest sellout in RoughRiders history, with all of the tickets being snapped up three days before the game.
The Fresno Grizzlies rank among minor league baseball’s most creative and trend-setting teams. The fad of teams transforming their names into a favorite concession item? That began with the Fresno Tacos, which grew out of the team’s often-replicated Taco Truck Throwdown promotion.
Sam Hansen is the person behind the concept and creation of these promotions and a long list of others that has helped the Grizzlies make local and national headlines each season. As the Grizzlies’ director of marketing, Hansen has developed promotions ranging from the celebration of pop-culture hit movies like “Good Burger” and “Coming to America” to converting the team’s furry mascot Parker into an ordained minister.
What follows is Part One of my conversation with Hansen about the art of minor league promotions, how Fresno has turned into one of the premier marketing franchises in professional sports and how he got his start. Part Two of our conversation will follow in this space next week. The transcript has been edited in spots for length and clarity.
The sellouts have come so fast and furious at Nat Bailey Stadium in recent years that the Vancouver Canadians have stopped announcing when they happen. Falling under the category of a nice problem to have, the team has been staying mum about crowd size so fans on the outside looking in don’t get discouraged.
“We were selling out so much that the community started thinking that you can’t get in,” Canadians President Andy Dunn said. “We had to take a different approach and tell the community that you can get in, but you have to plan accordingly. You can’t show up at 6:30 on a game night thinking that you are going to get a ticket.”
Eric Edelstein has enjoyed a steady climb up the minor league ranks. He was just two years removed from Bowling Green State University when he landed his first general manager job in 2002 with the Jamestown Jammers, the now-defunct New York-Penn League that was one of the smallest markets in the minors. The following season brought him to Wichita, where he ran the Double-A Wranglers for three years before bringing it to a new ballpark and launching the Northwest Arkansas Naturals. Edelstein helped establish that franchise’s footing in a new market, earning Baseball America’s Freitas Award for overall excellence following the 2012 season.
Each of those experiences, Edelstein said, shaped his approach to the game and influences how he operates the Triple-A Reno Aces, where he now serves as president. Edelstein oversees operations of the Aces and Reno 1868 FC, which made its United Soccer League debut at Greater Nevada Field in 2017.
What follows is my conversation with Edelstein about how to succeed in minor league baseball, the different—and similar—approach to running teams in various-sized markets and the changing dynamic of the game. The transcript has been edited in spots for length and clarity.
The wait is over, folks. The next round of Golden Bobblehead nominees is upon us as Minor League Baseball releases its candidates for the best promotion for the month of July. The winner receives an automatic entry into the coveted Golden Bobblehead competition at the Minor League Baseball Promo Seminar this September in Des Moines.
As has been the case all season, there is no shortage of great candidates, but there can only be one winner. In fact, if you have not been following along and tracking the Golden Bobblehead nominees (shame on you!) catch up on all of the brilliant and creative promotions at minor league ballparks this season by clicking here.
This month’s nominees were selected from a plethora of entries and embrace the fun, fan-friendly and community-minded spirit of the sport. Each month, teams can either nominate promotions or events of their own or other teams for the award. The winner qualifies as a finalist for the Golden Bobblehead competition at Promo Seminar held in Des Moines, where they will present their promotion before their peers, who will then vote on winners in the following categories:
We want your input on the new North Alabama MiLB team name! Should it be… 🔘 Army Ants 🔘 Comet Jockeys 🔘 GloWorms 🔘 Lunartics 🔘 Moon Possums 🔘 Puffy Head Bird Legs 🔘 Space Chimps 🔘 Space Sloths 🔘 ThunderSharks 🔘 Trash Pandas
Hudson Valley Renegades Vice President Rick Zolzer has been entertaining crowds from the PA booth at Dutchess Stadium for 22 of the New York Penn League team’s 25 years. He brings a unique perspective on minor league baseball—not only because of his poking-fun, party-first approach to the game—but also because he doubles as a team executive and public-address announcer.
A Bronx native who moved to the Hudson Valley as a child, Zolzer is a household name in the region, where he has worked as a sports-talk radio host, served as the public-address announcer for the NBA’s New Jersey Nets and Army West Point’s football team, and runs his own party entertainment company. However, he says, his first and true love is baseball, in particular the Renegades. That’s what led him to be an early advocate for the team before it relocated from Erie, Pa., in 1994 and why he continues to strive to find new ways to entertain fans who come to the ballpark.
What follows is my conversation with Zolzer about his career in minor league baseball and advice for others in the gameday entertainment side of the business. The transcript has been edited in spots for length and clarity.