Bearing Down: #NoogaStrong

Welcome to the latest installment of the Bearing Down, where we'll look back at the week in the minor leagues in a way you don't normally see. Yes, we'll highlight some of the best performances, but most often that sort of stuff will be saved for the Prospect Hot Sheet. Instead, we'll look at the lighter side because, after all, baseball is still just a game, and it's supposed to be fun.

One of the first rules of baseball mandates that every player wear a uniform. Nowhere, however, does it say the uniform must be the same every day. That’s most often on display in the minor leagues, where zany jerseys rule the day, every day. Just this year we’ve seen Star Wars jerseys, Australia jerseys, “Portlandia” jerseys, old school jerseys, new school jerseys, and everything in between.

But today we’re going to spotlight a team, the Charleston RiverDogs, not for what they wore on their backs, but for what they wore on their heads.

In the middle of July, Chattanooga, Tenn., was rocked when a man opened fire first on a military recruiting center and then again on a Naval operations center. Four people were killed in the attacks. To pay tribute, Charleston (a city which saw its own tragedy when a man shot up a church and killed nine people), decided to alter its uniforms for a subtle yet poignant tribute.

NoogaDogs
Credit: @RiverDogs

In the second game of their doubleheader on Aug. 19, Charleston wore Chattanooga hats, then auctioned them off after the game. The proceeds were then mailed to Chattanooga, which was free to donate to a charity of its choice. The act of kindness was the second half of a reciprocal agreement between the teams—the Lookouts wore Charleston’s hats four days earlier—set in forth by the RiverDogs.

“The RiverDogs saw the outpouring of support from the Minor League Baseball community in the weeks following the Mother Emanuel AME tragedy,” Charleston general manager Dave Echols said in a press release. “When the heartbreak in Chattanooga happened, we saw an opportunity to pay it forward to another team in the brotherhood that is Minor League Baseball.”

And once the ball got rolling, the Lookouts, spurred by assistant general manager Harold Craw (a former RiverDogs employee), jumped on board.

“The RiverDogs approached us with this idea and we immediately jumped on board,” Craw said. “The support we have received from other teams around all of baseball has been humbling. We’re thrilled this opportunity presented itself and more than happy to participate in this symbol of solidarity with the RiverDogs.”

The RiverDogs used the proceeds from the Lookouts’ auction to support the family of Chris Singleton, a Charleston Southern baseball player whose mother was killed in the the church shooting.

Events like this prove that sometimes baseball can be more than just a game.

AND NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT

Speaking of the RiverDogs, the team this past week continued to merge charity and fun with a unique bobblehead idea that’s sure to raise a few eyebrows.

Before we get there, however, let’s go back to last year, when the team helped introduce the “two-knuckle challenge” as a way to help men become aware of their need to get screened for prostate cancer. To refresh, here’s the video the team put out to explain what was happening to their general manager, Dave Echols, while he sang “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” at a game last year.

With that lovely image in mind, the other end of the spectrum is to do something to raise awareness for breast cancer screenings. A live mammogram during the seventh-inning stretch probably wouldn’t go over so well, so the RiverDogs turned to the time-honored tradition of bobbleheads and gave fans at their fans, well, this … CLICK LINK.

That gem was given away on Aug. 22 to the first 1,000 fans 18 and older, marking possibly the first adults-only giveaway in the minor leagues. What did you think of this promotion? Tell us in the poll below.

HOWDY, NooDy

There are plenty of superfans throughout baseball. Some are season ticket-holders who have kept their seats for years. Some are particularly loud (and sometimes obnoxious) fans who like to pretend they’re an attraction instead of a customer. Some have parlayed their loyalty into a modicum of fame. And some, like Mason (aka NooDy), capture the hearts of a team.

NooDy is a young boy with three chromosomal diseases—cerebral palsy, epilepsy and apraxia—who is a gigantic fan of the Tennessee Smokies, the Cubs’ Double-A affiliate in the Southern League. His Twitter and Instagram accounts are littered with pictures of him interacting with players—pitcher Corey Black and catcher Taylor Davis appear to be two of his favorites—and generally having a great time in the Smoky Mountains.

Take a look. Here he is before throwing out a first pitch at a game and getting a hug from P.J. Francescon.

Credit: @CupOfNooDy
Credit: @CupOfNooDy

And here he is getting some pitching lessons from Black:

Credit: @CupOfNooDy
Credit: @CupOfNooDy

If you want more pictures like these, or just want to follow along on NooDy’s journey, give @CupOfNooDy a follow on Twitter.

ZOOPERSTAR OF THE FUTURE

This week's entry: Astros shortstop …. Carlos Cor-RAY-a

— Have an oddity or otherwise cool happening at a minor league game you'd like to see in this space on Wednesdays? Drop me a line at joshnorris@baseballamerica.com

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