Not all Opening Day promotions are created equal. Sure, you’re likely to receive a magnet schedule to slap onto your refrigerator when passing through the gates of most any ballpark at the start of the season. But every year, in different towns and for different reasons, Opening Day means a little extra.
Below are a few of the notable headlines from around the sport, followed by a tally of scheduled promotions and attendance figures from last night’s games.
The newly-minted RailRiders opened its season at a completely renovated PNC Field, one that hardly resembles the aging stadium that underwent a $53 million facelift last year while the Triple-A Yankees affiliate spent the entire season on the road.
The ballpark wasn’t filled, likely in part to cool game-time temperatures, and construction workers continued to put finishing touches on it up until the first pitch, but the new venue received largely positive reviews from local fans and media. But the announced crowd of 8,443 was the most on Opening Day since 2007, when the team first affiliated with the Yankees. And after complaints of a lack of promotions and giveaways in past seasons, the team kicked off a full promotional schedule by having Yankees legend Reggie Jackson throw out the ceremonial first pitch and fans receive a photo of the actual first pitch as they exited the stadium.
New general manager Rob Crain, who arrived at the ballpark at 4:30 a.m. to film segments on the local morning shows and didn’t return home for another 20 hours, proved he is a man of his word. After promising last week that first-pitch temperatures would be at least 60 degrees, Crain passed out free tickets to fans when the ballpark thermostat didn’t top 54.
“It was a hell of a night,” Crain said. “But we’re open and ready to go.”
• Buffalo welcomed the Blue Jays to town in record fashion, as 15,852 fans—not including a troop of Toronto executives and dignitaries—turned out at Coca-Cola Field for the first game with its new affiliate. It was the biggest Opening Day crowd in Buffalo since 2004.
The Bisons signed a player-development contract with the Blue Jays after last season following a four-year stretch as a Mets affiliate in which the team failed to reach the postseason and attendance steadily dropped. Officials from Buffalo and Toronto championed the agreement as a relationship between local teams, and Blue Jays brass that made the 90-minute trip across the boarder included CEO Paul Beeston, general manager Alex Anthopoulos and farm director Charlie Wilson. Blue Jays Hall of Fame second baseman Roberto Alomar threw out the first pitch.
“You’re going to see a lot of Toronto staff here over the course of the season,” Anthopoulos told the Buffalo News. “We were just taking a look at the calendar in the clubhouse and trying to cherry pick games, some of the day games and come back to see Toronto at night. This is great. I plan on trying to be here a lot.”
• Double-A Jacksonville began its first season with longtime owner Peter Bragan Sr. The man who oversaw the construction of the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville in 2003 and was a familiar face at the ballpark during his 28 years of ownership passed away last season. As a tribute, the team renamed the playing field in his honor and unveiled last night two markings etched in grass in front of the dugouts and a sign at the front of the ballpark recognizing Bragan Field.
Bragan was also honored in true minor league fashion, as the Suns passed out a talking mini-bobblehead in his likeness to fans.
• Mother Nature did a number on several Opening Day celebrations around the sport.
A rainout is certainly not how the Gwinnett Braves hoped to start their fifth-anniversary season. Nor is it how the Myrtle Beach Pelicans envisioned kicking off their 15th season at TicketReturn.com Field.
The Norfolk Tides hoped to play ball—and challenge fans with their new six pounds of pork eating competition—but instead saw rain wash out Opening Day for the second time in three years. And the South Atlantic League would have preferred to get in more than just four games yesterday. In all, 12 of the 57 Opening Day contests were washed out by inclement weather, as Mother Nature took away one of the most important dates on a team’s calendar—an almost-guaranteed big draw for a weeknight game.
See below for a breakdown of every team’s promotions and attendance from last night’s game. It should be noted that while promotions can impact a team’s performance at the gate, it is not the only factor–the ballpark, concessions, weather, and the arrival of young phenoms certainly play a role.
|Buffalo||Rochester||Opening Day/Magnetic Schedule Giveaway||15,852||15,852|
|Indianapolis||Columbus||Opening Night Fireworks, Schedule Magnet Giveaway & 60 Degree Weather Guarantee||12,769||12,769|
|Lehigh Valley||Syracuse||Fleece Blanket Giveaway, Heroes Night||8,848||8,848|
|Louisville||Toledo||Opening Night, $1 Budweiser Beer “Happy Hour”, Joey Votto Commemorative Beer Stein Giveaway, Magnetic Schedule Giveaway||10,019||10,019|
|Scranton/WB||Pawtucket||First Pitch Photo Giveaway, Opening Day Fireworks, Thirsty Thursday||8,443||8,443|
|PACIFIC COAST LEAGUE|
|Albuquerque||Iowa||Opening Night, Blanket Giveaway||9,369||9,369|
|Colorado Springs||Reno||MicroBrew Thursday||3,944||3,944|
|Fresno||Tacoma||Fireworks, Drag Kings Performance||10,415||10,415|
|Memphis||Oklahoma City||Opening Night & Magnet Schedule Giveaway, Eat Fresh Thursday, Thursday Night Out||ppd||N/A|
|Nashville||New Orleans||Opening Night, Magnet Schedule Giveaway, Throwback Thursday||1,901||1,901|
|Round Rock||Omaha||The Original Thirsty Thursday||8,444||8,444|
|Sacramento||Las Vegas||Cling Schedule Giveaway presented by Raley’s and Bel Air, Miller Lite Thirsty Thursdays||7,180||7,180|
|Salt Lake||Tucson||Magnetic Schedules||8,781||8,781|
|Akron||Binghamton||Opening Night Fireworks, Thirsty Thursday and Magnet Schedule Giveaway||6,273||6,273|
|Erie||Altoona||Opening Day, Northwest Thursday||3,689||3,689|
|Harrisburg||Bowie||Fireworks!, Jordan Zimmermann Bobblehead Giveaway, Opening Night!, Thirsty Thursday||4,170||4,170|
|New Hampshire||Reading||10th Anniversary Celebration/Commemorative Ticket Giveaway||6,224||6,224|
|Portland||Trenton||Opening Day, Sea Dogs Dance Team||5,447||5,447|
|Richmond||New Britain||Opening Night Celebration featuring Javy Lopez, Fireworks||ppd||N/A|
|Chattanooga||Huntsville||Magnet Schedule Giveaway||ppd||N/A|
|Jacksonville||Jackson||Opening Night at the newly renamed BRAGAN FIELD, Peter Bragan, Sr. Talking Mini Bobblehead||4,853||4,853|
|Mississippi||Mobile||Couponing Night, Magnetic Schedule Giveaway, Opening Night Fireworks Show Thirsty Thursday||2,529||2,529|
|Pensacola||Tennessee||Magnet Schedule Giveaway, Opening Day, Thirsty Thursday||5,038||5,038|
|Corpus Christi||Springfield||Fireworks, Hooks Schedule Magnet, Thirsty Thursday||6,264||6,264|
|Northwest Arkansas||Midland||Magnet Schedule Giveaway, Post-Game Firework Spectacular, Thirsty Thursday and Buck Night||4,856||4,856|
|San Antonio||Tulsa||2013 Magnet Schedule Giveaway, Cricket Dollar Night||5,849||5,849|
|Inland Empire||Modesto||Opening Night, Hangar 24 (Baseball Beer) Release, Magnet Schedule Giveaway, Thirsty Thursday||3,128||3,128|
|Lancaster||High Desert||2013 Magnet Schedule Giveaway, Opening Night Championship Celebration, Throw’em Back Thursdays||3,128||3,128|
|Rancho Cucamonga||Lake Elsinore||Opening Night Fireworks, Thirsty Thursday & Magnet Schedule Giveaway||3,811||3,811|
|Stockton||Bakersfield||Opening Night Fireworks||4,189||4,189|
|Visalia||San Jose||Opening Day||2,842||2,842|
|Myrtle Beach||Wilmington||Fireworks, A Red Carpet Evening, Schedule Giveaway, Thirsty Thursday||ppd||N/A|
|FLORIDA STATE LEAGUE|
|Daytona||Brevard County||Opening Night Featuring Fireworks||3,923||3,923|
|Fort Myers||Bradenton||Prelude to Opening Weekend, Prep/Pro DH: South Fort Myers vs. Cypress Lake, Thirsty Thursday||1,375||1,375|
|Burlington||Clinton||Magnet Schedule Giveaway, Thirsty Thursday||760||760|
|Cedar Rapids||Beloit||2013 Magnet Schedules, Thirsty Thursday||1,943||1,943|
|Great Lakes||Fort Wayne||Opening Day Celebration, $1 Family Feast Night, Magnet Schedule Giveaway||3,765||3,765|
|Kane County||Quad Cities||Autograph Session, Opening Day Baseball Caps, Ozzie’s Reading Club, Run The Bases||4,962||4,962|
|Lake County||Lansing||Magnet Schedule Giveaway, Date Night, Fleece Blanket Giveaway, Harvest for Hunger Food Drive, Opening Night, Post-Game Concert by The Extremes, Thirsty Thursday||4,823||4,823|
|Peoria||Wisconsin||Fireworks, Magnet Schedule Giveaway, Thirsty Thursday||4,322||4,322|
|South Bend||Bowling Green||Big Jackpot Toss, Magnet Schedule Giveaway, Opening Night 2013, Thirsty Thursday||5,650||5,650|
|West Michigan||Dayton||Bonus Fun, Fireworks, Hat Giveaway, Thrifty Thursday||6,128||6,128|
|SOUTH ATLANTIC LEAGUE|
|Delmarva||Hagerstown||Magnet Schedule Giveaway, Opening Night Bash, Prize Giveaways, Thirsty Thursday||3,657||3,657|
|Lakewood||Kannapolis||Opening Night, Thirsty Thurday||6,585||6,585|
|Savannah||Rome||Opening Night Magnet Schedule Give Away, Fireworks, & Thirsty Thursday||2,509||2,509|
|West Virginia||Asheville||BIG 12: Opening Night, Magnet Schedule Giveaway, Post-Game Fireworks, Thirsty Thursday||2,693||2,693|