You wouldn't know it to look outside, but baseball season is here: it sneaked in this past weekend as pitchers and catchers reported for most major league teams. Yep, we Giants fans had a scant three months of offseason to enjoy that world championship, and now it's back to the grind.
But the minor leagues have begun preparing for the new season as well, and that means not only pitchers and catchers, but the really important players - the promotions staff. Minor league marketing is just as important as the game on the field, and the various front office personnel are already busy dreaming up ways to get behinds into seats in towns such as Fresno, Reno and Savannah, Ga.
And one can always count on the Fort Myers Miracle to come up with something unusual. The Miracle, a Single-A affiliate of the Minnesota Twins playing in the Florida State League, is planning a Marco Rubio Water Bottle Giveaway Night this season.
When will they hold this gala promotional event? That's still up in the air, because they've invited Sen. Rubio to throw out the first pitch at that game, and would plan it around his availability.
The promotion is the brainchild of Miracle President Steve Gliner.
"The idea really came about while I was watching 'The Today Show,'" Gliner told me by phone. "They had a two-minute recap of all the late night humor about the water bottle incident, and it seemed like a fun thing to get in on, since Rubio is based in Florida and it's in the news."
Of course you recall Sen. Rubio's televised speech last week, in which he gave the Republican response to President Obama's State of the Union address. It was during Sen. Rubio's remarks that he made a slow, awkward lunge for a water bottle, and proceeded to guzzle the liquid while on camera. The move quickly became social media fodder, and then an object of fun for most of the late night talk show hosts. NBC's Brian Williams dubbed it "The Aqua Lunge," and "Saturday Night Live" devoted a skit to it.
All of this made it perfect for the Miracle, who love to transform social trends into marketing tools. Among past Miracle promotions have been Billy Donovan Night (in which fans could attempt to negotiate their way out of the price of their ticket, just as the University of Florida men's basketball coach got out of his NBA contract with the Orlando Magic to re-sign with the Gators) and Mike Tyson Ear Night (fake Evander Holyfield ears, with a bite missing, were distributed).
"We're still working on it, but I'm sure the bottles will have creative labeling of some sort," Gliner said. "It's hot in Florida during baseball season, and any time you can combine hydration with current events, it's a good thing."
What else will happen on Marco Rubio Water Bottle Giveaway Night? From the Miracle press release:
"In an effort to keep the field saturated, the Hammond Stadium grounds crew will participate in a mid-game rain dance because even the Earth needs a drink on a hot day. Fans can expect to make a big splash with a stadium-wide game of Marco Polo.
Of course, the Miracle will extend an invitation to Sen. Rubio to throw out the first pitch, provided he uses the rosin bag beforehand and is thoroughly hydrated.
May I suggest a dunking booth? That may be the only thing that will do the trick.
- Rick Chandler is a columnist for NBCSports.com and author of the NBC Sports Blog Off the Bench. Contact Rick at RickChand@gmail.com