Education Days ruled the day at minor league ballparks on Wednesday. The Toledo Mud Hens topped all teams in attendance by recording their third sellout of the season on “School Celebration Day,” which featured $5 tickets for students and teachers, and optional $4 bag lunches. The Bowie Baysox packed them in as well, drawing 7,825 fans and finishing second on “College Fair Day” for middle school and high school students.
Today marks sellout number 3⃣ on the season for your first-place Hens.
In total, eight of the top 10 teams yesterday opened their gates in the morning to welcome schoolchildren for some form of an education day promotion—the Hartford Yard Goats, for example, featured an anti-bullying day for school children. Education Days make for a long day at the ballpark for players and staff, but seem to be a consistent draw for teams and are a staple of spring schedules.
Below is a list of the top 20 attendance figures in the minor leagues.
Steve Gliner didn’t think much of the tornado warnings that buzzed across his phone as he sat in his office at Dutchess Stadium yesterday afternoon. The Hudson Valley Renegades president look outside and saw nothing but clear skies—a seemingly perfect day for a ballgame a month from now when the New York-Penn League season begins.
Renegades employees took shelter in their offices early yesterday afternoon as a storm battered the ballpark for about 10 minutes, knocking down a portion of the outfield wall, tearing down much of the stadium signage, overturning equipment on the concourse and toppling trees in the parking lot. No determination has been made if a tornado passed by the ballpark, but at the very least Gliner said “it was probably the strongest thunderstorm to ever come through here.”
Red Sox veteran second baseman Dustin Pedroia’s minor league stint was put on hold Tuesday night when the Pawtucket Red Sox’s game against the Buffalo Bisons was rained out. The teams are scheduled to play bright and early this morning at 11:05 as part of a “Student Day” promotion.
Last night’s rainout was certainly a blow to Pawtucket, which is trying to make the most out of the Red Sox hero’s time in Triple-A. The team has promoted Pedroia (aka Captial Grille for his generous postgame spread Monday) on its social media platforms, and while his presence is hardly equivalent to “Tebow Mania,” he would likely have helped the PawSox draw a larger-than-normal crowd Tuesday night if the weather had cooperated.
Major League Baseball played the first professional baseball game on an active military base two years ago when the Marlins and Braves faced off at Fort Bragg in historic fashion as part of a Fourth of July weekend tribute to servicemen and servicewomen. More than 12,000 fans, predominantly members of the armed services and their families, filled a temporary venue on the military base in North Carolina to watch the Marlins top the Braves on a newly renovated field funded by MLB and the Players Association.
Over this past offseason, Minor League Baseball considered bringing a game of its own to Fort Bragg. With a Carolina League team coming next season to a new ballpark in Fayetteville, N.C., which neighbors Fort Bragg, Minor League Baseball was eager to reach out to the local military community. MiLB officials traveled to Fort Bragg earlier this year to tour the facility, meet with base leaders and assess the possibility of having two teams play at Fort Bragg Field. However, Minor League Baseball President Pat O’Conner said there were too many logistics to coordinate in too short a time frame to turn the idea into reality.
“There is a long list of stuff that you have to do to make that happen,” O’Conner said. “MLB did it and it takes an organization with their kind of resources to be able to do it.”
Josh Whetzel has been calling minor league baseball games for nearly 25 years. Beginning in 1995 with the now-defunct Albany (Ga.) Polecats, Whetzel has steadily climbed his way up the minor league ladder, including stints with the Kinston Indians and Binghamton Mets before joining the Rochester Red Wings in 2003.
Like most everyone else in the minors, Whetzel, a native of Parsons, Kan., keeps his sights set on making it to the majors. Though a career in the minors can be a grind — whether as a player, executive or broadcaster — Whetzel considers himself fortunate to be calling games in the International League.
What follows is my conversation with Whetzel about his path through minors and what it takes to make it as a broadcaster in baseball. The transcript has been edited in spots for length and clarity.
Can you describe what a day in the life of a minor league broadcaster is like?
It kind of varies a lot depending on the guy and his job description. Quite frankly, I have a few less responsibilities than probably a lot of the other minor league broadcasters, which is fine by me. It gives me more time to focus on trying to come up with stuff to talk about in the games.
My previous jobs, I was more involved in the PR stuff and putting together game notes and that sort of thing. In this particular job with the Red Wings, I don’t have to do as much of the PR stuff and I am not involved with the game notes, and so basically I spend all day getting ready for the broadcast, scouring the internet for tidbits of information that I am going to use in the game that night.
I know a little bit about your backstory, that you survived cancer at a young age and in some ways that helped lead you into a career as a broadcaster. Can you shed some light on that experience?
By the time I was in high school, I knew that I wanted to get into sports broadcasting, but I’m not the sort of person who is good at asking people for stuff, so I didn’t necessarily know how to get a job in radio. I was helping the local sports announcer in my hometown do stats for high school games and that sort of thing. And when I got diagnosed with cancer when I was going into my senior year of high school, some classmates of mine knew that I was a huge baseball fan, and specifically a Dodgers fan. So they contacted an outfit called the Dream Factory, which is kind of like Make-A-Wish, and organized a trip to Los Angeles for me to see the Dodgers.
The Eagles won the Super Bowl. Villanova took home the NCAA tournament title. The Sixers’ “plan” is actually working. And the Phillies are a half-game out of first place (keep blinking, but it’s true).
What could possibly be next for the suddenly-blessed sports town of Philadelphia and its fans across the region? How about LeBron James coming to town. And by town, I mean Allentown, home of the Lehigh Valley IronPigs. Sure, it’s a longshot, but when you’re running good there’s no harm in asking, right?
The always-creative IronPigs did just that yesterday, courting The King as his free agency approaches this summer by making their pitch on a billboard along a local highway and creating a viral sensation all at once.
If @KingJames really wants to catch MJ, he needs to spend a season in Minor League Baseball.
The four-time NBA MVP hasn’t responded to the IronPigs’ tongue-in-cheek offer, but seemingly everyone else on social media has. The promotion was picked up by mainstream news and sports outlets, as well as by other minor league teams. The IronPigs’ tweet had received 3.1 thousand Likes and 1.1 thousand Retweets, which according to IronPigs president/general manager Kurt Landes is the most popular tweet, with the biggest reach, in team history.
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 . . .