When you're talking Class-A baseball, the draw has never really been competitive games played by top-notch athletes. At this level of the minors, the talented players don't stick around very long, and the ones who do aren't all that talented. For teams like the Lake County Captains, it's all about continuing the long and storied history of promotions. Theme nights, giveaways, and dirt-cheap grub and booze are the name of the game. The more outrageous, the better.
The Captains' outlook for this year? Don't know, don't care. But they are unrivaled in finding creative gimmicks to get people out to Eastlake Stadium. Like bacon — salty, delicious, fatty, cracklin' bacon. On July 29, Lake County will host "Bacon Lovers Night," when you can get anything and everything you could dream of served with succulent, crispy pork belly.
Lake County's consistently entertaining promotions have translated not only into respectable attendance, but some national nods too. Last year, the Captains took home a coveted Veeckie from ESPN. Named in honor of the late, great (and crazy) Bill Veeck, the award salutes the best promotions around baseball every year, and in 2009, Lake County won for "Salute to Cleveland Sports History Night," when they recreated, celebrated, imitated and skewered Cleveland's most infamous sports moments, including Red Right 88, "The Fumble" and more.
"It was one of those things that grew out of a small meeting," explains Craig Deas, media guru for the Captains. "We wanted to salute the ineptitude of Cleveland sports, but also bring honor to the revered athletes who didn't see the fruits of their labor turn into championships. It was a tongue-in-cheek way to salute a history that wasn't that good. Nickel-beer night came out of that too."
The second annual "Salute to Cleveland Sports History Night" is scheduled for July 24, the day before the Captains celebrate Christmas in July with another ingenius giveaway: A Skipper (the Captain's mascot) Leg Lamp Bobblehead.
And then there are the fireworks, the Monday Buck Night with 50 cent hot dogs and dollar fries, beer, soda, onion rings and chips, Thirsty Thursdays with nickel beer for happy hour before the game and dollar beers until 9 p.m., and countless ticket discounts.
"It takes us months to plan the season out," says Deas. "When the previous season winds down, we start looking forward and evaluating what worked and what didn't. It's very calculated. We've only got 70 home games to maximize, and we try to do that as best we can."
Bacon's a good start, fellas. Drop some in my beer, please.