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Benjamin Hill Talks About Minor League Promotions
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We reached out to Benjamin to learn more about his weekly column and some of his favorite promotions in the June 2007 Gameops.com Interview.
Gameops.com: You are a writer for MLB.com, covering major and minor league teams, fantasy baseball and news around baseball....how did you get the task of writing about minor league promotions?
Benjamin Hill: When I started writing "Promotion Preview," I knew nothing about the world of Minor League promotions. One of my editors had been writing the column, but he had too many other things to get done during the course of the week, and asked me to take it on instead. I accepted without thinking much of it, but after a few weeks I realized I enjoyed writing and researching "Promotion Preview" more than just about any other aspect of my job. There's still an "anything goes" mentality in the Minor Leagues which is really refreshing and fun, and a great contrast to the increasingly homogenized world of the Majors.
Gameops.com: I am assuming you only get to see a handful of the promotions you are writing about, so what makes a promotion jump out at you to highlight in your weekly Top 10? Are you looking for the most noteworthy and shocking, or do you focus on ones you really think would draw fans?
Benjamin Hill: Yes, being based in NYC I rarely get to see what I'm writing about, which is frustrating and something I hope to change as the years go on. What I look for more than anything else when selecting the Top 10 is originality. Finding 10 unique promotions each week can be a challenge, as I'm not going to highlight reliable draws like fireworks shows, scout sleepovers or appearances by Dora the Explorer or Myron Noodleman. Promos like those have saturated the Minor League landscape, and would be boring to read (not to mention write). I think the people reading Promotion Preview are most interested in the offbeat and obscure things going on around the Minors. Things that make people say "I can't believe they're actually going to do that."
Gameops.com: Are there a couple of promotions you have featured that you just thought, "I have got to see this?" What were they?
Benjamin Hill: I would have loved to be in Portland (Oregon) last season for their "Rodney McCray bobblefence," when the Beavers gave away dolls commemorating McCray's famous crash through a wooden fence while attempting to catch a fly ball (it has gone on to become a blooper reel staple). McCray was a guest of honor at the game and threw out the first pitch. This season, the Beavers are giving away bobblehead dolls of some random guy who just happens to be named Bob L. Head.
The Altoona Curve's "Awful Night" is always incredible, a game-long celebration of awfulness. I believe it was last season when they handed out lukewarm cups of coffee, in addition to photos of their general manager's recently-removed gall bladder. The Curve has actually been successful with this, and quite a few other teams have now added "Awful Night" to their promotional schedule.
Gameops.com: When you are researching these promotions are there a few teams you always look to for fun promotions?
Benjamin Hill: The aforementioned Altoona Curve are always reliable (especially their "Retro Celebrity Series," featuring appearances by the likes of Erik Estrada and Jimmy Walker). The Hagerstown Suns are never afraid to try goofy stuff, like the recent "Donald vs. Rosie" night. The Brevard County Manatees have a schedule packed with absurdity (Hen-pecked Husbands Night?), and every year they stage a World Record First Pitch Attempt. The Charleston RiverDogs are owned by the Veeck family, and they keep that spirit alive.
Gameops.com: You not only report on the promotions in your weekly column, you often make some playful pokes at them. Has anyone ever written you back upset that you weren't taking their Celery mascot or "Superhero Appreciation Night" seriously?
Benjamin Hill: The only feedback I've ever gotten from teams is "Thanks for including us," and remarks along those lines. I like to make a lot of jokes in the column, but I love what these teams are doing. I don't want to come across like some snide, sarcastic jerk who only writes about this stuff in order to make fun of it. Minor League promotions are one of my absolute favorite things in all of sports.Best of the Decade Audio Roundtable
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