The Publicist

Minor league baseball teams are major league promoters

Minor league baseball teams are major league promoters

When I was growing up, America's PR moniker was "baseball, mom, and apple pie."

(Mom, presumably, ranked second because she couldn't throw a curve ball.) The new lifestyle trinity for LA's youth is "video games, undocumented nanny, and strawberry-protein smoothies." Doesn't have the same ring, does it? So I went searching for the old-school trio of Americano and found it in Tulsa, OK. Baseball, mom, and apple pie are alive and well in the heartland - and the former is still affordable. Families can buy tickets without stopping to sell some blood on the way to the game. And parking is cheap, too.

Minor league hardball has always been a marketing-driven event - and it remains so today. Luring people from their 277 satellite channels and DVDs takes even more ingenuity than before, something the Tulsa Drillers' front-office staff is well aware of.

"Promotions are the single most important aspect of minor league baseball," says Jason George, the team's director of promotions and merchandise. Indeed, the necessity of drawing casual fans led to the creation of America's greatest recent contribution to the world art scene: the bobblehead doll.

The Drillers are in first place in their Texas League division, but it's the Sammy Sosa bobblehead that caused the line to stretch outside the ballpark. And that's just for starters. Over the course of the season, the team will hand out everything from calendars and beach towels to baseball caps and mini statues. (Alas, in an indictment of society's occasional descent into English-soccer hooliganism, few clubs give away bats anymore.)

The Drillers are named for the city's former PR motto, "oil capital of the world," a title that has since migrated to Houston and Saudi Arabia. So there's another reason the town needs to rally around its baseball team. Man, if they could just get Saudi Arabia on the schedule it would be time to even the score.

The king of ballpark promotions, however, is fireworks. I attended a Phillies game last year just to see some, and wouldn't you know it, the game went into extra innings and we couldn't stay. Not this time. The Drillers game politely ended after nine innings and the glorious aerial display began. Beautiful. Keep your sushi, Dodger Stadium. Forget your latte, Yankees. I'll take a simple hot dog and fireworks at Driller Park. With money left for some apple pie on the way back.

Lawrence Mitchell Garrison is an LA-based freelance publicist and writer

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