A Toe-Tapping Good Promotion

Each year one bobblehead giveaway momentarily captures the national media’s attention and draws headlines in publications that rarely give minor league baseball a second look.

There was Triple-A Portland’s epic search for Bob L. Head last season, the Goldklang Group’s George W. vs. John Kerry bobblelection and independent Brockton’s rendering of Grady Little’s arm that should have yanked Pedro.

The St. Paul Saints have stepped into that spotlight with their planned promotion for this Sunday.

The independent Saints, long renowned for being on the cutting edge of promotions, have managed to combine National Tap Dance Day with Idaho Sen. Larry Craig’s infamous bathroom stall arrest at the Minneapolis airport. St. Paul will pass out to the first 2,500 fans in attendance a "bobblefoot" doll, honoring the senator’s wide-stanced, foot-tapping approach to airport restrooms.

Saints general manager Derek Sharrer the idea spawned from a front-office brainstorming session on how they could incorporate National Tapdance Day into a promoton.

"What about the incident with that senator. What did he say, he uses the bathroom with a wide stance? Well there’s a baseball reference, and it happened right in our backyard. And all of a sudden you have a promotion," Sharrer said.

The Saints haven’t officially tied the promotion to Craig, but there is no denying the team’s inspiration.

"Senator Craig is the reason that the incident became famous, but our focus is on the incident itself," Sharrer said. "More people than just Senator Craig have been arrested in that bathroom."

Sharrer said public response to the upcoming promotion has been about 90 percent positive, with the detractors arguing the Saints pushed the envelope too far. However the Saints have built a reputation for promotional creativity by tap dancing on the line of good taste.

"Any chance we can find an idea that shoots outside of just the sporting world, it’s been a success," Sharrer said. "We’re a minor league team in a major league market. Trying to generate a consistent response from the local media has always been a challenge. We’ve found over the years just how much the local media responds when the national media is interested."

The Saints have a couple more promotions planned that, while not quite as edgy, should be entertaining. The team will celebrate Prince’s 50th birthday on June 7 with a "Purple Game" promotion. Instead of numbers on the back of their jerseys, Saints players will sport Prince-inspired symbols. Sharrer said they are still trying to get the Saint Paul native to make an appearance.

Sharrer said front-office employees have often joked about how easy their jobs are–so easy that a chimp could certainly do it. Well, they’re putting that theory to test on July 16 during "A Monkey Can Do That" promotion. One lucky monkey will get its shot at running a minor league baseball team and do everything from PA announcements to running the scoreboard to slinging hot dogs.

I wonder if it could put out a bi-weekly baseball magazine?

A few other promotions to watch out for this weekend:

* Tonight: Itlalian Heritage Night, low Class A Lake County.

The Captains combine Italian Heritage Night with haircuts on the concourse (Enzo, from Seinfeld, is not doing the cutting). All proceeds from the haircuts go to United Mitochondrial Disease Foundation.

Among the evening’s events, two local Italian teams will face off in a game off Bocce on the field prior to the Captains taking on the West Virginia Power.

* Tonight: Penny Giveaway, low Class A Beloit.

The first 500 fans to the ballpark will receive an envelope filled with pennies, ranging in quantity from one to 1,000 (which equals $100 if you didn’t want to bother counting).

* Saturday: Economic Stiumulus Night, Triple-A Richmond.

No, the city is not raising money for a new ballpark (though that’s not a bad idea). The Braves are rewarding loyal fans, who pre-purchase their tickets from the box office, with four Diamond Dollars. Inside the Diamond, those dollars are legal tender and can be used to purchase food, beer and other goodies.

Saturday: Drag Kings Bobblehead Giveaway, Triple-A Fresno.

Who are the Drag Kings? Why, they’re only the best infield dragging dance troupe in Fresno. Now they’ll join the millions of faux celebrities immortalized in a bobblehead.

Monday: Tribute to WWII Veteran Minor Leaguers

Minor league ballparks across the country will honor the 4,000 former minor leaguers who served in World War Ii, including the 113 veterans who lost their lives in military combat and training. Each park will honor the veterans with a pregame public address announcement.

Monday: Salute Your Local Heroes Night, Double-A Tennessee.

The Smokies will honor America’s veterans and local emergency personnel in attendance and dedicate a permanently reserved stadium seat behind home plate. The seat will remain vacant in memory of American soldiers who were prisoners of war or missing in action.

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