Recent years have seen an explosion of promotional giveaway events at baseball parks across the nation. A tradition that once was geared primarily toward kids, one that was limited to a smattering of anxiously awaited dates such as Bat Day, Ball Day, and Helmet Night, has burgeoned into a veritable smorgasbord of free commemorative pins, beach towels, water bottles, not to mention the ever-popular fanny packs. Some clubs even give away radios and watches.
The list of a team's promotional specials can provide a glimpse into the home city's psyche -- or, at the very least, a glimpse into the psyche of the ballclub's management (i.e., what type of fan do they think they attract?) Thus the Los Angeles Dodgers, located in the entertainment capital of the world, host a Hollywood Stars Night on August 20, featuring a pre-game game between celebrities. The St. Louis Cardinals, owned by the Busch family of beer-brewing fame, cater to fan interest with several boozy events A last month's Busch Light Beer Mug Night, for example, and the recent Bud Ice Can Cooler Night. Among the New York Mets' list of giveaways is Ski Mask Day, a September 17 event that could be interpreted as a sign that winter is just around the corner, or that Met fans' predilection for mayhem will translate into heightened armed-robbery activity in the tri-state area.
Is it possible to tell, from scanning the roster of Florida Marlins promotional days and nights, just what sort of fan team owner H. Wayne Huizenga hopes to lure to Joe Robbie Stadium?
In a word, yes.
Consider these promos, drawn from the team's list of 33 giveaway events scheduled for the current season: Briefcase Day (April 28); Executive Pen Day (August 25); and Executive Planner Day (April 14).
Executive Planner Day?
It's not difficult to imagine a conversation between two eight-year-old Marlins fans after that game.
Timmy: Yeah, Billy, it was great! Dad got the best seats and everything! And not only did the Marlins cremate the Astros, but I got this really neat executive planner.
Billy: Gee! When can I see it?
Timmy: Well, let me have a look. I can pencil you in for Thursday at 1:15, just before I take my nap.
"Actually, those promotions are geared toward adults," corrects Neal Bendesky, director of promotions for the Marlins, explaining that the ballclub doesn't target a specific fan demographic as much as the fans target themselves. "The audience tells us what they want," says Bendesky. "They dictate what we do." The Marlins promo man refers to the above-mentioned trio of promotions as the team's Business Day Specials. "These are day games during the week, when kids should be in school," he notes. And there are plenty of events for kids, he adds, including the traditional bat, cap, and ball giveaways.
Still, the Marlins seem to be the most aggressive team in the majors when it comes to corporate-minded fans. An informal survey of teams from Chicago, New York, and L.A. yielded only one business-oriented event, Briefcase Day, hosted by the Yankees. ("Yo, Vinny! Nice freakin' briefcase!") Neal Bendesky says his promotions are already the envy of other clubs, and have crossed over to other sports. The Miami Heat, says Bendesky, had their own executive pen night this past season.
Those trend-setting Marlins, the first team ever to sell advertising space on stadium foul poles, obviously know where their true devotees are commuting from.
With this in mind, New Times submits its own list of potential blue-suit special giveaways, a Grand Slam of suggestions Marlins officials are welcome to im-plement next year:
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* Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Wrist Protector Night
* Stapler Day
* Three-Martini Lunch Day
* Sexual Harassment Handbook Night
But the Marlins need not stop at mere trinkets. Clearly even more could be done to cater to the businessmen who fill Joe Robbie Stadium. The team could augment the scoreboard with a stock ticker, for instance, flashing up-to-the-minute prices from the New York Stock Exchange. There could be several CPA Days, on which the first 10,000 fans eighteen and older receive a free fifteen-minute consultation with a certified public accountant. And doubtless dictation equipment could be installed at every box seat so the
South Florida honcho-on-the-go can root, root, root without ever actually leaving work.
Those picnic tables in the outfield stands could go, too: Replace them with small, wood-paneled corporate boardrooms. And best of all would be a day-care center in the parking lot. After all, kids always seem to get in the way at the ballgame.