Monday, May 3, 2010

Wacky Golden Baseball League Promotions

Ever since the movie Bull Durham helped popularize minor-league baseball in the late 1980's, the affiliated minor-leagues have become a lot more corporate. For example, true family-run professional baseball teams in the affiliated minor leagues are now as rare as defensive gems from Manny Ramirez. But thankfully, in the last 15 or so years, the independent leagues have become more and more like the minor leagues of old. Not only can you find plenty of examples of family-run teams (like the Victoria Seals) in independent baseball, but the oddball promotions that use to be a staple of affiliated minor-league baseball are now much more common in the "indy" leagues. And by oddball promotions, I'm not talking about the relatively dull Bobblehead Night or the Bring Your Dog To The Ballpark Night. Consider a couple of the promotions in the Golden Baseball League this summer.

The Tucson Toros are giving away a plane. Yes, one lucky fan will win a Cessna 150 airplane and flying lessons to boot! At every Fireworks Friday game in Tucson, a fan in attendance will be selected to fly over the ballpark and view the fireworks. At the final home game of the season, each winner will get a chance to Pitch for the Plane and the most accurate pitch will win the Cessna.

Not to be outdone, the Orange County Flyers recently held an auction on eBay for the right to coach the team for a day (starting bid: $2,500 USD). The package included a pair of engraved bats, 25 tickets to the game, two official game balls with autographs and an inning doing colour commentary in the broadcast booth. Unfortunately, the auction ended without any bids being made.  Nice try, though.

Of course, neither of those two stunts compare with the York Revolution of the independent Atlantic League (Jamar Hill's current team) using a dwarf in spring training last season. Dave Flood, a Florida radio personality, attempted to make the club solely on his ability to draw walks with his tiny six-inch strike zone. Flood, who stands 3' 2" tall, went 0 for 3 with three strikeouts and one walk before leaving the team shortly before the regular season began. The stunt hearkened back to the day when St. Louis Browns owner Bill Veeck sent 3' 7" Eddie Gaedel up to the plate in a regular-season big-league game in 1951. Gaedel, who wore the number 1/8, walked on four pitches in his only plate appearance in the majors.

Seal Blubber Bits
  • Ex-Seal Isaac Hess has settled down of late and he now sports a respectable 3.99 ERA for the Diablos Rojos del Mexico (AAA).  In his last six appearances, Hess has only given up two hits and three walks in six and one-third innings.  He has also lowered his WHIP (walks plus hits per inning pitched) to 1.36 and he may end up forcing his way back into the starting rotation.
  • Victoria Seals alumnus Austin Bibens-Dirkx is on fire for the Tennessee Smokies, the AA affiliate of the Chicago Cubs.  Since being rocked in his second start of 2010, Bibens-Dirkx has only given up three runs on eight hits in his last 19 innings pitched.  His ERA now stands at 2.88 and his WHIP is a sparkling 0.96.  Bibens-Dirkx has held opponents to a .193 batting average, so if he keeps this up he could earn himself a promotion to the Iowa Cubs (AAA) before the season ends.