Naturally, this is the time of year when baseball fans look ahead to the coming season and pinpoint things to watch for.
It’s also when many begin planning trips to the ballpark, which in recent years have more frequently dovetailed with the high points of a team’s promotional schedule.
Cheap hot dogs, fireworks, and allowing sugared-up kids to frantically scurry around the basepaths after the game have become the norm, and the Indians and their Ohio-based minor-league affiliates will offer plenty of those events in 2015. But it takes more than dollar sodas and family days to make a really good promotional schedule.
Mostly, it’s bobbleheads. The Indians and their intrastate farm clubs will host a total of 12 bobblehead giveaways this year, emblematic of a growing trend that will see 121 different bobbleheads handed out by teams at the big-league level alone in 2015.
“We give away a bobblehead,” Milwaukee Brewers’ chief operating officer Rick Schlesinger told ESPN.com last month, “it automatically becomes a sellout.”
In other words, bobblehead it and they will come. And God knows the Indians – dead last in the American League in attendance last year and 14th in the 2013 wild-card season – need all the help they can get.
But regardless of the giveaway item, it also takes cunning and wit to make a promotion a true success. In their uphill struggle to lure people to the ballpark, the Indians and their affiliates tend to put a lot of thought into this aspect of the fan experience.
So to acknowledge their efforts, here are the 10 best promotions they’ll be offering in 2015:
10. Larry Doby Statue (Progressive Field, July 25)
Similar to the well-done miniature replica of the Jim Thome statue the Indians gave away last year, this should be a nice souvenir of one of the most anticipated (and, let’s face it, overdue) components of the Progressive Field facelift.
9. Mr. Belding Appearance (Huntington Park, May 22)
Quick round of applause for the Columbus Clippers and the pure randomness of dedicating a night to the arch nemesis of the Saved by the Bell gang. Fingers crossed this paves the way for Kelly Kopowski to make the rounds next year.
8. The Richfield Coliseum Strikes Back/Star Wars Night/Larry Nance Bobblehead (Canal Park, June 20)
Speaking of arbitrary nonsense, no promotion offers more bang for your buck than the hootenanny the Akron RubberDucks have planned to commemorate the summer solstice (or that may just be coincidence). Granted, it’s not baseball-related, but when you can equate the fallen Richfield Coliseum with Darth Vader’s Galactic Empire, sprinkle in some fireworks and John Williams tunes, and top it off with a Larry Nance bobblehead, who even cares if there’s a game?
7. Truffle Shuffle Bobblebelly (Canal Park, May 30)
Let’s take a moment and absorb the fact that The Goonies celebrates its 30th anniversary this summer. And to cheer you up from the heavy weight of age that was just dropped upon your shoulders like a sopping wet towel, you can pick up a Truffle Shuffle Bobblebelly and, presumably, shake your flabby midsection just like Chunk did in the movie. Like the Goonies themselves, the RubberDucks’ promotion ideas never say die.
6. Corey Kluber Bobblehead (Progressive Field, June 6)
Admittedly, this was a no-brainer, but how fantastic will it be to see Cy Young Award winner and T-1000 prototype Corey Kluber rendered into bobblehead form? Rumor is it will be smiling – making it even more of a collector’s item.
5. 1995 T-Shirt (Progressive Field, June 20)
To the surprise of absolutely nobody, the Indians will have a handful of promotions celebrating the 20th anniversary of the epic ’95 season. But the GV Art & Design t-shirt giveaway may be the crown jewel. Tough call with this one on the same night as the RubberDucks’ Coliseum/Star Wars/Larry Nance night, but that’s what I-77 is for.
4.Brian Williams Pants on Fire/National Tell a Story Day (Canal Park, April 27)
You can’t say the RubberDucks’ promotional team doesn’t watch the news. To meld National Tell a Story Day with the NBC anchor’s downfall for…ahem…embellishing his memories, there will be games of Two Truths and a Lie (aka “Two Truths and a Brian Williams”), a fan named Brian Williams will read tall tales to the crowd, and a pair of Williams’ pants (best not to ask how these were acquired) will be immolated.
3. Albert Belle Bobblebicep (Canal Park, June 28)
Again, whatever happens this season, we will have no trouble remembering 1995. While technically a repeat (the Indians themselves handed out something similar in 2013), why not double-dip the most deliciously macho moment in Tribe history…and probably a better choice than him chasing down Halloween pranksters with his car.
2. Pedro Cerrano Bobblehead (Canal Park, July 25)
As the perfect counterpiece to their Jake Taylor bobble knees giveaway (as well as the Lake County Captains’ Jobu bobblehead) last year, the RubberDucks will once again dip into the Major League well and ladle out another loose-necked figurine based on one of the film’s beloved characters.
1. Terry Francona Red Scooter Bobblehead (Progressive Field, September 12)
The Indians’ final bobblehead giveaway of the season is the best – or at least the most unique. Not only are they bobbleheading instantly iconic manager Terry Francona, but putting him on his trademark red scooter – which becomes even more poignant following its tragic wreck early in spring training.
While this is the cream of the crop, there are still loads of other trinkety and yet still strangely alluring reasons to head out to the ballpark(s) this summer. Be sure to check out the complete promotional schedules for the Indians, Clippers, RubberDucks, and Captains.