Saturday, May 3, 2003

In minors, promotion is name of the game



By JEFF D'ALESSIO
FLORIDA TODAY

Win or lose, the Brevard County Manatees and Vero Beach Dodgers are strongly advised to leave the field immediately following Saturday night's Florida State League baseball game in Viera, Fla.

Either that, or run the risk of getting trampled by hundreds of moms on a mission.

Saturday night is "Don Traver's World Famous Diamond Dig" at Space Coast Stadium, when women are invited to tear up the infield for a chance to win half-carat diamond earrings.

"They squeal, they scream, they yell," said Traver, a Suntree, Fla., jeweler. "They'll dig until their hands get blisters. Some of them even come with kneepads.

"Quite frankly, all you see are butts and elbows, I'm telling you."

Here's how it works: Before the 5:05 p.m. doubleheader, white chips which can be redeemed for diamonds will be buried in the infield clay between first and third base. Following the second game, any woman 18 and older - preferably mothers - can come onto the field, where they'll be given half of a paint stirring stick. When Traver, the emcee, gives the go sign, they're free to start digging.

"Whoever stated that diamonds are a girl's best friend was extremely accurate," said Andy Dunn, director of Brevard operations at the stadium.

The idea has been borrowed by other minor-league promoters, who are always looking for creative ways to put fannies in the seats.

And, boy, do they come up with some doozies. Here's a list of some of the best we discovered in an informal survey of minor-league executives:

Tattoo you

Before they became known for their pitchers throwing at ospreys, the Daytona Cubs earned national notoriety for their outrageous offer to fans.

The team granted a lifetime general admission pass to anyone 18 or older who shelled out $100 to get the team's logo tattooed on their bodies from Willie's Tropical Tattoo in Ormond Beach, Fla. (Tattoo parlors are illegal in Daytona Beach). Twelve fans took GM Buck Rogers up on his offer last year - "If we're permanent on your body, your body is permanent in our ballpark," he says. Four more fans signed up this year.

Collector's item

Mike Veeck, son of master promoter Bill, is sure to hear from Randy Moss' attorneys about his latest St. Paul Saints stunt: Randy Moss Hood Ornament

Night. Moss, you may remember, was charged with bumping a Minneapolis traffic control agent last fall with his Lexus when she tried to stop him from making an illegal turn. The first 2,500 fans who attend the Saints' Aug. 16 game will get this Moss memento.

The beer batter

Before every home game, the San Jose Giants anoint one hitter from the visiting team "the beer batter." If he strikes out between the first and sixth innings, fans can buy beer at half price for the next 15 minutes.

"They play 'Roll out the Barrel' and the fans really get into it, getting louder and louder with each strike," said Mike Curto, broadcaster for the Tacoma Raniers.

To die for

On Aug. 16, the Hagerstown Suns and a local funeral parlor will team up for Gerald N. Minnich Funeral Home Preplanned Funeral Giveaway Night. Between now and then, fans are invited to write an essay on how they'd want their "dream" funeral to go. Six finalists will be chosen and essays will be read over the P.A. system between innings. The lucky winner gets a casket, flowers, death certificate, the works.

Fear Factor Night

Kids, don't try this at home: Virginia's Potomac Cannons picked eight volunteers from the crowd, who went at it in a three-round grossfest. The events: eating octopus and squid, drinking a dog food milkshake and bobbing for raw hot dogs in a tub of cold oatmeal. Yum.

Win a car

Once a year, the Chattanooga Lookouts hold Used Car Night, where they give away a free automobile every inning. "Some of them are in great shape, some of them don't make it all the way around the warning track," said Sally Violin, the Lookouts' director of marketing. "But people love it and it brings in a huge crowd."

She's having a baby

Delaware's Wilmington Blue Rocks gave new meaning to "Labor Day," when they invited all expectant moms from the area to their final home game last Sept. 2. The mom-to-be to give birth closest to the first pitch received a year's supply of diapers, baby wipes and formula. An ObGyn doctor was on hand just in case. The winning baby was born shortly after 1 a.m. two days later.

Bald is Beautiful Night

In 2001, the Lowell (Mass.) Spinners invited hairless men from the area to the ballpark to celebrate baldness. They sat in the same section, wore "Bald is Beautiful" T-shirts, participated in a pregame "Bald Parade" and posed for a bald team picture.

Mothers' day

Every mom who went to the Mexico City Tigers' game last Mothers Day was greeted at the gate by mariachis and a Tiger player, who handed them a red rose. During the game, the team gave away household appliances and a trip for two to Acapulco.

Build your own bobblehead

The bobblehead craze has swept through minor league towns everywhere - the Sarasota Red Sox even had a Jerry Springer bobblehead giveaway in honor of the team's most famous season-ticket holder - but few do it like the Fort Myers Miracle. Instead of immortalizing a player, manager or mascot, the Miracle drew the seat number of a lucky fan and created 10 special bobbleheads in his likeness.

Free food!

Only in Wisconsin: In the bottom of the fourth inning of every home game, the Appleton-based Timber Rattlers roll a mini-cannon around the field and fire 10-12 free individually wrapped bratwursts into the crowd. The mechanism's name: "The Bratzooka."




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