SAN DIEGO — Minor League Baseball (MiLB) announced today the winners of the 2022 Golden Bobblehead Awards for top promotional activities and events in six categories.
During a Sunday afternoon game in May, the St. Paul Saints executed a promotion that included a feel-good comeback story, a first-of-its-kind promotion and a charitable component all in one with the “Marathon Sunday Runday.” Seigo Masubuchi is a staple at Saints games, where he has a cult following for his between-innings promotion “Singing with Seigo” where he sings a song based upon the theme of the night, something he has done for more than 20 years. Seigo is also an avid marathon runner, having finished over 90 marathons, including the Boston Marathon. Prior to the pandemic, the Saints planned to have Seigo run his 100th marathon at CHS Field. Sadly, Seigo was sidelined with COVID and hospitalized again for a serious heart issue, putting his running on hold.
Fast forward to 2022 with Seigo healthy again, and the Saints held their annual Running of the Pigs races. This includes three separate runs: Kids Race, 0K, and 5K. The Kids Race was a simple lap around the field, and the 0K was a new race where racers sign up, get a T-shirt, stand at the starting line, the starter gun goes off and the race is over. The “racers” then enjoy their cold beverage of choice while rooting on the 5K racers. Once the Running of the Pigs races were over, it was time for the main event of the day, where Seigo Masabuchi would run a marathon at CHS Field as a Saints game was taking place.
The marathon was officially certified and was named the Rebecca Veeck Marathon Course at CHS Field, named after Saints owner Mike Veeck’s daughter, who passed away in 2019 from Batten’s Disease. Seigo was also running to help raise money for the Batten Foundation and fans could give a donation or donate money to run a lap with Seigo. The course was 84 laps around the concourse of CHS Field. In the end, he raised more than $5,500. Stanchions and course marshals were placed around the concourse so fans wouldn’t impede Seigo’s running. In order for Seigo to finish during the game, he began about 90 minutes prior to first pitch and managed to throw out the ceremonial first pitch from the track and still do his normal “Singing with Siego” promotion, performing “Born to Run.”
The videoboard kept fans updated on Seigo’s progress throughout the game as he completed each lap. In the seventh inning, and four hours and 17 minutes after he started, Seigo crossed the finish line, 26.2 miles, 84 laps around CHS Field to an incredible ovation not just by the fans, but by players and coaches from both teams.
We were all very proud to see this promotion finally come to fruition because it meant so much to our staff to make this a meaningful event for Seigo and our owner, Mike Veeck,” said Saints Assistant General Manager, VP of Brand Marketing and Experience Sierra Bailey. “The Saints are known for coming up with fun promotions and being able to do something fun like this, while also raising funds and awareness for Batten’s Disease was really great.”
> Read more: Karaoke and marathons: Seigo does it all in St. Paul
After the unspeakable tragedy at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, last May that took the lives of 21 students and teachers, the Missions immediately went into action, planning Uvalde Community Healing Night. The club worked with Uvalde city officials and the Uvalde Superintendent’s office to plan a memorable night for the Uvalde community that featured the Missions wearing uniforms that were replicas of Uvalde High School’s baseball uniforms.
The Uvalde High School baseball team joined the Missions on the field for a pregame team picture, and the game was attended by nearly 2,000 more fans than the Missions’ nightly average. The Missions won the game on a walk-off base hit and the families of the two slain teachers joined the team on the field for a moment of prayer and reflection after the win. The Missions auctioned off the game-used uniforms and raised $50,357, which was donated to the Robb Elementary Memorial Fund to assist the families of the victims. The club provided the Uvalde superintendent with a framed team-signed jersey that will be included in a tribute to Robb Elementary.
“This award really caps the event for what we were trying to do, which was put the spotlight on the community of Uvalde,” said Missions General Manager Dave Gasaway. “We wanted to do something for that community and having a lot of them join us at the ballpark and many of them told us it was the first time since the incident that had been able to smile, which really meant a lot to us.”
> Read more: Missions pitch in to support Uvalde community
The South Bend Cubs modernized a staple of their promotional calendar from previous years, using technology and improved prizes to attract more participants, while also saving their staff hundreds of hours of data entry. After giving away a flat screen TV every inning on Saturdays in previous years, in 2022 the club offered fans a chance to spin the wheel for a shot to win a 50” smart TV, a $100 Visa Gift Card, an iPad, PlayStation5 or Xbox One or a $150 grocery gift card, among other prizes. Instead of having fans sign up by writing down their name, phone number and email address on a slip of paper (which later had to be entered into their CRM system by hand), the club created a QR code to allow fans to sign up using their smart phone. Participants were notified by text message and the following inning would spin the wheel live on the videoboard for the entire ballpark to watch. On the rare occasion the fan would win a “dud prize” (hot dog or soda) the team would surprise them with a real prize. Using the simple QR code to register fans led to thousands of new contacts in their customer database and provided additional sponsorship opportunities for the club.
“We work in an amazing industry that is always creating new and innovative promotions on an annual basis, so to be selected as this year’s winner is very humbling and we are incredibly honored to receive our first Golden Bobblehead,” said South Bend Cubs President Joe Hart. “Spin to Win Saturday has become a popular promotion and has created a new level of excitement at the ballpark.”
BEST NON-GAMEDAY EVENT – Las Vegas Aviators, Enchant Christmas at Las Vegas Ballpark
The Las Vegas Aviators turned Las Vegas Ballpark into a winter wonderland as one of four locations in the country to host Enchant Christmas (joining Nationals Park, Tropicana Field and the Cotton Bowl Stadium). Billed as the largest lighted holiday maze, the event drew 267,000 people to the ballpark over 38 event nights from Black Friday through New Year’s Day, creating an emotional and memorable holiday moment for thousands of families to enjoy together. The extended event in the ballpark created revenues that far exceeded the team’s annual holiday party business, and its popularity helped create an opportunity for additional MiLB teams to host similar events in their facilities this fall and winter.
“The Aviators are grateful to be a recipient of a Golden Bobblehead Award as non-gameday activations at Las Vegas Ballpark are a priority for our very talented special events team,” said Aviators General Manager Chuck Johnson. “Our staff sacrificed a lot of family time to make this event so incredible and showcase the versatility of our ballpark for the community.”
BEST THEME NIGHT COLLECTION OR SPECIALTY JERSEY – Tacoma Rainiers, Slammin’ Sam
While Throwback Weekend is an annual occurrence at Tacoma’s Cheney Stadium, in 2022 the Rainiers changed things and ended up creating one of the most popular team identities among their fanbase.
With salmon being a unique and storied contributor to culture in the Pacific Northwest and South Sound, Slammin’ Sam was born with a Louisville Slugger in his fins and a regal red Rainiers hat atop his head. The fast-talking fish is a representative for the South Sound area. The internet screamed its approval of the concept, proving Slammin’ Sam’s relevance outside of Tacoma alone and creating immediate demand for jerseys and other products. After three rounds of merchandise orders, the club decided to add the Slammin’ Sam to their Authentic Collection lineup for 2024.
“This is a great honor for our creative team and our merchandise staff as it was their idea, and I actually fought them on it for a while, but it’s a testament to our staff fighting for something, and they were totally right,” said Rainiers President Aaron Artman. “It’s a clean logo and as much of a lifestyle brand as it is a sports team brand and it’s so popular with our fans, we will make it part of our on-field uniform collection in the years ahead.”
BEST DIGITAL CAMPAIGN OR ACTIVATION – Indianapolis Indians, Joey Jaws
With hopes of adding a little flavor to one of Victory Field’s already-popular daily deals – the Tuesday Dollar Menu featuring hot dogs, peanuts, potato chips, Cracker Jack and popcorn all available for $1 – the Indianapolis Indians partnered with the World’s Greatest Competitive Eater, Joey Chestnut, for a “Joey Jaws”-dropping promotion. Chestnut’s first appearance was a series of one-minute, in-game eating challenges to prepare for his world record popcorn-eating attempt the following week.
The day before Chestnut’s first appearance, the media blitz garnered live in-studio hits with Chestnut and Indians personnel on several local TV news programs, several radio shows and written articles in most local news outlets. In total, the Joey Chestnut vs. Dollar Menu promotion received more earned media coverage than any other promotion at Victory Field in 2022.
Thanks to Chestnut’s popularity and the creativity of the posts promoting his appearances, some of the Indians’ most successful social media posts from the 2022 season stemmed from the Joey Chestnut vs. Dollar Menu promotion. The 17 Facebook posts garnered 493,189 total impressions and 37,105 total engagements, while the 14 Instagram posts garnered 255,937 total impressions and 17,440 total engagements. The club’s 15 tweets drew 147,496 total impressions and 4,375 total engagements.
Chestnut participated in pregame meet and greets with fans as well as the one-minute eating challenges and signed bottles of various sauces.
"Anytime you are recognized by your peers it certainly means a lot, and for us to tap into a national celebrity who just moved to the Indianapolis area, like Joey Chestnut, was fun for us and our fans,” said Indians President and General Manager Randy Lewandowski. “To be able to highlight the fun of Minor League Baseball is why we do what we do every day.”
> Read more: Get the popcorn: Joey Chestnut visits Indy Indians