There is nothing quite like a little national media attention to help bring fans to the ballpark.
Just ask the Richmond Flying Squirrels, whose Salute to Scandal promotion went viral earlier this week after the Eastern League franchise announced that it would include a hot-dog themed tribute to Anthony Weiner, the former congressman and current New York City mayoral candidate with an ill-advised penchant for sending salacious text messages. The promotion had been on the team's calendar all season but didn't take off until Richmond announced its plan to offer $1 hot dogs and reward fans with prizes for tweeting photos of themselves eating those hot dogs.
Sports-talk radio, national morning shows and the Associated Press picked up the story, and the attention helped Richmond draw 6,094 fans to The Diamond last night—a tick below its season average of 6,532 but a strong showing for a rainy Thursday evening. That figure would have been bigger with better weather, says Richmond chief operating officer Todd Parnell, but walk-up sales all but disappeared when a steady rain began falling roughly one hour before first pitch, leading to two-hour rain delay—the team's longest of the season.
The delay did gave fans time to take to Twitter and post a variety of photos.
— caitlynmayers (@caitlynmayers) August 1, 2013
"For whatever reason, there was a special buzz before the game," said Parnell, noting that two of the three local television stations led their evening newscasts with a report from the ballpark. "It almost felt like an Opening Night or Fourth of July buzz."
Though the Weiner wieners were the headliners of the night, the Flying Squirrels offered a few between-innings, scandal-themed acts as well. These included a Milli Vanilli singing contest, a Mike Tyson ear of corn eating contest and an Ohio State let's make a deal contest (where all the prizes were temporary tattoos).
Richmond is hardly the first team to draw attention by poking fun at public figures, or addressing current events, at the ballpark. The Fort Myers Miracle (Florida State League) passed out water bottles in honor of Marco Rubio following the Florida senator's dramatic pause during a GOP response to President Obama's State of the Union address in February. The Huntsville Stars, which annually rank near the bottom of the Southern League in attendance, backed off its plan to auction off a rifle during its celebration of the Second Amendment.
Parnell said that the impact of these kinds of promotions isn't necessarily seen in that game's attendance, but the national attention does boost the team's standing in the community.
"A lot of people in the stands came out because they were proud of the national attention we received," Parnell said.
Taco Truck Throwdown
The Fresno Grizzlies’ signature event of the season has little to do with baseball. For fans of the Pacific Coast League franchise, it's all about tacos.
The Grizzlies drew 13,394 fans to Chukchansi Park last night to celebrate the team's third-annual Taco Truck Throwdown. The crowd was the 14th-largest in team history and the second-biggest of the season (the Grizzlies drew 13,899 when they gave away World Series replica rings in April).
Fresno welcomed 13 taco trucks to an open courtyard within the ballpark grounds for a friendly, eat-off competition to determine which local vendor offers the best Mexican fare. More than 20,000 tacos were sold—a 33 percent increase from last year—and the Golden Truck award for the best taco went to Dusty Buns for its duck taco.
Taco trucks are a staple of the Fresno community—"Here in the valley, taco trucks have always been a big thing," says Fresno native and Grizzlies coordinator of media relations Chris Kutz—and the team views the event as an opportunity to celebrate this passion. Fans arrived at the ballpark two hours before first pitch to cue for tacos and stayed well after the final out was recorded.
"We do this to bring different communities together," Kutz said. "A minor league baseball stadium is like a melting pot and it was great to have trucks competing against each other and fans of those come to a game and supporting their favorite trucks. It's always great to see downtown buzzing like that."
Fresno sees even more room for growth in the event and the team is mulling whether to host more than one per season. The first Taco Truck Throwdown, which former Fresno Bee sportswriter and current Yahoo Sports scribe Mike Oz helped organize, attracted seven trucks and sold nearly 8,000 tacos. That number grew to 13 trucks and more than 14,000 tacos last season.
"We're picky on how far to expand this," Kutz said. "We don't want to dilute the product. If you hold three of these, do you get the same kind of atmosphere at each one? This one was such a packed house, such a success, that we don't want to take away from the success of it too much, but at the same time we want it to keep growing."
For a breakdown of last night’s promotions and complete attendance figures, see the promotions tracker below:
|Lehigh Valley||Rochester||Team Card Set Giveaway||8,845||8,832|
|Louisville||Syracuse||$1 Budweiser Beer “Happy Hour”||8,679||8,076|
|Toledo||Durham||Three Day Baseball Camp, Pub 315 Beer Tasting Event||8,562||7,464|
|Indianapolis||Scranton/WB||Thursday Value Night||7,332||8,610|
|Pawtucket||Norfolk||Governors’ Cup Champions Team Poster/On-Field Autograph Night||6,113||7,445|
|PACIFIC COAST LEAGUE|
|Fresno||Round Rock||Taco Truck Throwdown, Tecate Thursday, Post-Game Wrestling||13,394||6,660|
|Memphis||Tucson||Eat Fresh Thursday, Thursday Night Out||9,279||6,770|
|Sacramento||Albuquerque||Miller Lite Thirsty Thursdays||8,021||8,090|
|Salt Lake||Iowa||Principal Financial Dreams Tour||6,829||7,067|
|Nashville||Las Vegas||Throwback Thursday||6,441||4,957|
|Okla City||Reno||$1 Beer Night||5,203||5,846|
|New Orleans||Colo. Springs||Thirsty Thursday||4,535||4,872|
|New Britain||Akron||Park and Rec. Day||6,616||4,546|
|Richmond||Portland||Fireworks, Salute to Scandal Night||6,094||6,532|
|Reading||Erie||Fireworks, Wrestling Legend Kevin Nash Appearance, Post-Game Wrestling||5,977||6,204|
|Trenton||Harrisburg||Fireworks, Jewish Heritage Night, Thirsty Thursday||4,886||5,286|
|Bowie||New Hampshire||Youth Camp Day||3,492||3,579|
|Altoona||Binghamton||Curve Party Pack Series: Koozies, German Heritage Night, Thirsty Thursday||2,926||3,838|
|Mississippi||Montgomery||Sanofi Play4Health, Thirsty Thursday||3,782||2,700|
|Jacksonville||Chattanooga||Jiffy Lube Ticket Offer, Thursday Night Throw Down,||3,371||4,240|
|Tennessee||Birmingham||Day Care Day, Kids Eat Free, Knox County Night, Pilot Prize Night, Super Splash Day||2,609||3,807|
|Jackson||Huntsville||Dollar Thursday, Chase Skelton Band Post-Game Concert||2,385||1,937|
|Corpus Christi||Midland||Thirsty Thursday||5,274||5,471|
|Frisco||San Antonio||$1 Dr Pepper Thursdays, RoughRiders Horse Race||4,823||7,120|
|N-west Arkansas||Tulsa||Thirsty Thursday and Buck Night||4,087||4,743|
|Arkansas||Springfield||$3 Discount Ticket Coupon||3,336||4,465|
|San Jose||Visalia||OSH Merchant Day||2,533||2,796|
|Inland Empire||Lake Elsinore||Bacon Bonanza, Thirsty Thursday Summer Concert Series||2,111||2,707|
|High Desert||Stockton||Thirsty Thursday||1,249||1,353|
|Lynchburg||Salem||Theme Thursday-Pirates & Mermaids Night, Thursday Cheers, West Virginia University Night||1,524||2,360|
|Potomac||Myrtle Beach||Thursday Cheers||1,497||3,484|
|FLORIDA STATE LEAGUE|
|Brevard County||Bradenton||Thirsty Thursday||931||1,354|
|Fort Myers||Clearwater||Odd Pet Day, Thirsty Thursday||905||1,989|
|Palm Beach||Daytona||Theme Night Thursday||459||1,011|
|Lakeland||St. Lucie||$1 Sodas, 2-for-1 Beers||380||1,090|
|Kane County||Wisconsin||FIREWORKS, Quick Change, Run The Bases, Travel Mugs||5,798||5,708|
|Great Lakes||West Michigan||$1 Family Feast Night||5,571||3,252|
|South Bend||Lansing||Big Jackpot Toss, Thirsty Thursday||5,011||3,500|
|Quad Cities||Peoria||Reynolds Ford Used Car Giveaway, Legends of Rock Night, Thirst-Day Thursday $2 Drink Specials||4,395||3,346|
|Bowling Green||Dayton||Red, White & Blue Night, Thrifty Thursday||3,813||3,139|
|Lake County||Fort Wayne||Date Night, Salute to Technology, Thirsty Thursday||2,819||3,281|
|Clinton||Beloit||Downtown Clinton Night, Thirsty Thursday||2,683||1,607|
|Burlington||Cedar Rapids||Thirsty Thursday||868||933|
|SOUTH ATLANTIC LEAGUE|
|Greenville||Savannah||$1 Drink Night||4,843||4,698|
|West Virginia||Lakewood||Thirsty Thursday, BIG 12: NFL Night||2,750||2,248|
|Hickory||Asheville||Thirsty Thursday, ’80s Night||2,532||2,084|
|Rome||Lexington||$1 Drink Night||2,009||2,688|