It was Opening Day all over again around the minor leagues, as four teams kicked off their home schedule—and did so with typical minor league flair.
The Durham Bulls drew the largest crowd of the night, as 8,035 fans came out to Durham Bulls Athletic Park to check out the Rays affiliate's prospect-laden roster. They also got a look at one of the ways the Bulls plan to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the movie that put the team—and minor league baseball as an industry—on the map.
As part of their tribute to "Bull Durham"—no, Kevin Costner, Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon were not at the ballpark—the Bulls unveiled a trio of racing mascots in the likeness of the film's stars.
And for anyone keeping track, Annie breathed through her eyelids all the way to a victory in the debut race.
Also celebrating Opening Day last night were the Bowling Green Hot Rods (South Atlantic), Lexington Legends (South Atlantic) and Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (Midwest).
The opener in Wisconsin marked the first game at Fox Cities Stadium since the 18-year-old ballpark underwent a $6 million renovation during the offseason. Just over 3,000 fans braved chilly temperatures to check out the new-and-improved ballpark, which now features a club level that can seat 250 people, twice as many restrooms as before, an expanded concourse and team store, and a renovated home clubhouse. Fans in attendance also got to take home a bobblehead of Matt Erickson with a championship trophy. And just who is Matt Erickson, you may wonder. Only the hometown kid who guided Wisconsin to its first-ever Midwest League championship last season.
"I think (trainer Jeff) Paxson told me it's the first bobblehead ever that's going to be given out that's life-size," Erickson told the Post Crescent (Appleton, Wis.), poking fun at the former Brewers minor leaguer's 5-foot-11 frame. "So I just might put it at third base when I get hungry and go up top and get a bite to eat if I need some time off. Just have the bobblehead stand out there at third."
Attracting fans to the ballpark on an early April Monday evening can be challenging enough—just ask the seven teams that drew fewer than 1,000 fans last night. That task can be even more challenging when the hometown college hoops teams is playing in the NCAA title game.
Such was the case last night for the Triple-A Louisville Bats (International), as much of its fanbase in basketball-mad Kentucky were focusing on the Louisville Cardinals knocking off Michigan for the school's first championship since 1986. Officially, 4,453 fans turned out attendance at Louisville Slugger Field, but "the turnstile (count) was a lot less than that," Bats director of media relations Chadwick Fischer said.
Include Fischer, a 2009 Louisville graduate, among those on staff whose attention may have drifted away the playing field to the running score of the basketball game displayed on the videoboard—or even the many mobile devices in the pressbox streaming the game. "Thank goodness for the March Madness app," he said.
Below is a round-up of last night's promotions and attendance. Keep in mind that attendance can be influenced by more than just promotions—like brisk temperatures throughout much of the Midwest League last night.
|Durham||Gwinnett||Opening Day, Fireworks||8,035||8,035|
|Scranton/WB||Rochester||$1 Hot Dogs||3,054||5,422|
|Indianapolis||Toledo||Monday Dollar Menu||2,924||6,314|
|PACIFIC COAST LEAGUE|
|Round Rock||Iowa||$1.00 Hot Dogs & Sodas||4,027||7,228|
|Memphis||New Orleans||Chick-fil-A Mondays||3,555||7,051|
|Fresno||Las Vegas||Monday Madness||3,146||7,385|
|Nashville||Oklahoma City||Dollar Hot Dog Night||1,601||3,386|
|Colorado Springs||Tucson||Kids Eat Free Monday||1,546||3,992|
|Richmond||Bowie||Fountain of Youth Night, Reading Night #1, McDonald's Monday, $1 Hot Dogs||4,592||6,335|
|New Hampshire||Trenton||College Night||3,905||4,804|
|Akron||Altoona||Hot Tub Party||1,016||2,651|
|Chattanooga||Huntsville||Hamilton Place Night||4,975||4,942|
|Pensacola||Tennessee||Social Media Monday||4,328||4,896|
|Jacksonville||Jackson||Senior Citizens Day||1,711||4,009|
|Mississippi||Mobile||Clinton Night, Make a Difference Monday||1,541||2,299|
|Corpus Christi||Tulsa||One Dollar Hot Dogs & Soda||4,875||5,608|
|Northwest Arkansas||Frisco||$1.00 Hot Dog Night, Baseball Bingo, Monday Night Lights||2,663||4,260|
|Arkansas||Midland||$3 Discount Ticket Coupon||2,132||4,057|
|Lancaster||Lake Elsinore||Make-A-Difference Mondays||ppd||2,251|
|Inland Empire||High Desert||Man's Best Friend Monday||3,726||3,165|
|Stockton||San Jose||2 Buck Mondays||1,708||2,787|
|Rancho Cucamonga||Modesto||Social Media Monday||819||2,224|
|Visalia||Bakersfield||Make A Difference Monday||553||1,784|
|Potomac||Salem||$1 Monday, 2013 Magnet Schedules||1,874||2,638|
|FLORIDA STATE LEAGUE|
|No games scheduled|
|Bowling Green||Lansing||Opening Day 2013, Opening Day T-Shirt Giveaway, Post-Game Fireworks||4,072||4,072|
|Wisconsin||Cedar Rapids||Opening Day, Matt Erickson w/ Trophy Bobblehead Giveaway, Post Game Fireworks, Qdoba Q'Monday||3,036||3,036|
|Kane County||Clinton||Ozzie's Reading Club, Run The Bases||1,584||2,531|
|Peoria||Beloit||Markdown Mania Monday||1,088||1,966|
|West Michigan||Fort Wayne||All Faiths Night||976||2,415|
|South Bend||Dayton||Belly Buster Monday||902||2,422|
|Great Lakes||Lake County||Social Media Monday||837||1,559|
|Burlington||Quad Cities||Dollar Monday||595||564|
|SOUTH ATLANTIC LEAGUE|
|Lakewood||Hagerstown||Magnetic Schedules, Most Improved Student Night, Ocean Head Start Night, Kids Eat Free||4,190||5,706|
|Lexington||Asheville||Ford Fireworks, MHFCU Kids Eat Free, Opening Day!||4,132||4,132|
|West Virginia||Charleston||Family Buck Night||1,479||1,719|
|Delmarva||Kannapolis||2 Buck Monday||1,276||3,558|
|Hickory||Greenville||We're Still Here! Celebration, Special Olympics Night, BINGO, Senior 2-for-1, WSVM Night||1,121||2,056|