Here come the Chihuahuas! Thoughts from Jason Stadel

You might have wondered how I could ignore the obvious click bait of weighing in on the El Paso Chihuahuas. But, I try to keep my life positive, so I didn’t want to get into it with you spoilsports. Especially with all the hurtful comments I’ve been reading on Facebook about Chihuahuas. My Chihuahua, Scamp, has been very hurt by it all.

So, instead, here is a guest post by Jason Stadel. Here are his thoughts on how the team should promote baseball in El Paso.

The wait is over. We now know the name of El Paso’s AAA team. And in the spirit of the Lakeland Flying Squirrels, Leigh Valley IronPigs, Montgomery Biscuits, El Paso will be known as the Chihuahuas. For those of us that have followed the AAA team relocating to El Paso, Chihuahuas was considered a dark horse. Sun Dogs and Desert Gators seemed to be the favorites. Either way, the name fits in with the tradition of quirky and odd mascots for Minor League Baseball teams.

When the name was announced the immediate reaction on social media was fairly negative (although, I don’t think you can judge the reaction of an entire city by Facebook. My belief is that many of those that are complaining likely wouldn’t have gone to many games anyway). However, even with the Facebook backlash, the team store downtown has had great sales and the online store has been active enough to post this message on their webpage:  “Due to high demand, please allow 1-2 weeks for delivery.” People are buying the gear. Regardless of comments on Twitter and Facebook, people from across the country are also buying. San Diego Padres fans (El Paso’s parent team) have ordered gear too, according to, again, social media.

There are people getting behind this team.

I love baseball and was planning on going to the games no matter the mascot. But there are those that don’t seem too enticed to go. There are two things the Chihuahuas need to do to keep fans and to attract those that might be on the fence about going to a game, the first is easy, they need to win. No further explanation is needed. The second is, game-day promotions.

The El Paso team has started interacting with fans via social media by having fans send pictures of their pet chihuahuas to be posted on the club’s official Facebook page. It seems to have been a success so far.

Game-day promotions need to be special, fun and topical (and free stuff doesn’t hurt). Some are big and some are small. MiLB is all about wacky, and often odd, promotions. They need to be to set that team apart from the next.

There are the obvious promotions: $.25 hot dog night, first 3,000 fans get a foam finger (or baseball, or seated cushion, or bobblehead doll, etc.). These are great, and will attract fans. But, it’s the ones that will set El Paso apart that are the key.

Some are good, some are clever and some are outright dumb. Here are a few that have drawn attention in the past.

Chance to win One Million
From Real Clear Sports (www.realclearsports.com):
By 2002 the hit TV show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire was fading but the Nashua Pride of the Atlantic League were still hoping to cash in on the success of the show. They would play their own version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. But a minor league team whose payroll is probably under a million dollars couldn’t sustain giving that type of money away. So instead, they played “Who Wants to Be a Turkish Millionaire.” Fans answered trivia questions in an attempt to win a million Turkish lira, which at the time was worth a little over one dollar.

 

Not bad. Nice stunt to get people to the park. Fans need to be aware, often times there is a major catch to these promotions. It’s all in good fun.

Pregnancy Night

From Real Clear Sports:

On Sunday, July 19,2003 the Brooklyn Cyclones (Class A affiliate of the New York Mets) had “Bellies and Baseball: A Salute to Pregnancy Night.” Pregnant women threw out the first pitch and were allowed to run the bases; they had a cravings concession stand with anchovies, ice cream, and pickles; and they had Lamaze on the field before the game. One part of the promotion no one cashed in on was the free tickets. If one of the women had given birth in the ballpark she would have received free season tickets for life.

 

Hmmm…I’m sure this was popular. My wife would have loved it (although she probably would have been too embarrassed to take part). A promotion like this opens the doors to a different fan base.

Silent Night

Again, Real Clear Sports:

A brilliant promotion from Mike Veeck and the Charleston Riverdogs took place on July 14, 2003. The Riverdogs tried for the quietest game ever, with Silent Night. During the first five innings of the game no talking was allowed. Most fans duct-taped their mouths shut and held up signs to cheer or boo, and even had “HEY BEER MAN!” signs. In place of ushers, librarians were used and golf marshals with “Quiet Please” signs lined the field as well. It was almost as quiet as a Florida Marlins game. (Paragraph was modified from the source).

 

I didn’t really like this one the first time I read it. Apparently the team was embracing the low attendance. However, I added it because of the clever way the fans took part. The beer man signs are simple and ingenious at the same time.

Free funeral

Morbid? Yes. Creative? Absolutely. In the summer of 2013, Philadelphia Phillies AAA affiliate, the Leigh Valley IronPigs, offered a free funeral to a “lucky” fan. Contestants had to send a 200-word essay to the front office to be considered a “winner.” The IronPigs said the funeral was worth $10,000. From USA Today:

“On a minor league level, people are more acceptable of this stuff,” Leigh Valley General Manager Kurt Landes, told USA TODAY Sports. “Teams try to one-up each other to do something unique each season and our fans have come to expect the unique and the different from us.”
The Lehigh Valley front office set out to take the game to a new level this season by offering up a free funeral to one “lucky” fan at the “Celebration of Life” Night on Aug. 20 against the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (Pa.) Yankees.
“We put the ‘fun’ in funeral,” Landes said.
The all-inclusive funeral, courtesy of Reichel Funeral Home in nearby Northampton, comes with a casket, memorial service, embalming or cremation, transportation of the body, headstone and casket spray of flowers — roughly a $10,000 value according to Landes.

 

The winner was Steve Paul.  Here is more from the IronPigs website:

Steve Paul, a 64-year-old from nearby Freemansburg, Pa., was chosen as the winner of the free funeral package. Paul submitted a 200-word essay detailing his recent diagnosis with ALS — along with the emotional and financial toll it has taken on him and his family — and was chosen from more than 50 submissions to take home the grand prize funeral package. Paul was honored on-field during the game and after his heartwarming essay was read aloud he received a lengthy standing ovation from the sell-out crowd at Coca-Cola Park.

 

That promotion, along with the debut of the world’s first-ever urinal gaming system (you play video games while using the urinal at the IronPig’s stadium) and a foam finger give away to raise awareness for prostate cancer earned Leigh Valley “Promotion of the Year” from Ballpark Digest.

Creativity is the key. Some are silly, but promotions get people in the stands. A free foam finger goes a long way to get someone to spend $20 a seat.

The Chihuahuas need to include local youth teams in these promotions. Think of how great an eight-year old baseball player would feel if he and his teammates were honored at a game and given a free ice cream cone. Not all promotions need to have a large dollar value; sometimes a little goes a long way.

So I hope the Mountain Star Sports group has put their thinking caps on for this upcoming season to come up with a fun and creative way to get those marginal baseball fans to the park. I’m thinking free Chihuahua giveaway.

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One Response to Here come the Chihuahuas! Thoughts from Jason Stadel

  1. Rotten Peppers says:

    How about Mordida Night? Everyone sends their city rep a dollar for stealing our right to vote on the stadium?

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