Ideas shared ‘Sooner’ than later — Recap of MiLB Promo Seminar

As previously mentioned, the ValleyCats season may be over, but our Front Office staff is in full swing in preparation for the 2015 season. While Media Relations / Production Manager Chris Chenes enjoyed the warm sun at Instructional League in Florida, General Manager Rick Murphy, Senior Account Executive Chris Dawson, and Account Executive Ben Whitehead flew westward to the Sooner State, as Oklahoma City hosted the Minor League Baseball Promotional Seminar. During the three-day event (Sept. 30 — Oct. 2), staff members from nearly every MiLB team get together for numerous brainstorming sessions. These range from discussing the best promotions of the season to interactive ways to engage our fans throughout the year.

Our schedule for the week, as posted inside the hotel lobby at the Renaissance Convention Center Hotel in downtown OKC.

The week began early Tuesday morning, as we loaded up two buses and headed to The Children’s Center Rehabilitation Hospital for the MiLB Charities Community Service Project. We were treated to a tour of the state-of-the-art facility and a presentation providing information about what the center offers. We then went out to a baseball field located on the hospital grounds and played the game we love with some of the staff and patients. This was an incredible place to visit for the project and was a wonderful opportunity to spend time giving back to a great community.

Some MiLB workers were paired with a buddy for the game. Others were umpires, announcers and the all-important cheering squad!
A view of the action from second base.

Check out this video put together by The Children’s Center: Sidenote: Ben moved from Oklahoma City to the Albany area upon accepting his position with the ‘Cats, and his wife worked at The Children’s Center prior to relocation. Small world!

Interestingly enough, Oklahoma is the birthplace of several great MLB players, including New York Yankee great and Hall of Famer Mickey Mantle. His restaurant, Mickey Mantle’s Steakhouse, is across the street from the RedHawks ballpark. The ballpark also has a statue of Mantle, fellow Oklahoman Johnny Bench and New York native Warren Spahn, who resided in Oklahoma upon retirement.

The front page of a menu at Mickey Mantle’s.

The seminar began Tuesday afternoon and once we were inside the main seminar room, a banner hung reminding us all why we were here…

“One Idea Is Worth The Price Of Admission,” is the slogan of the seminar. We feel like we came back with much more than that and look forward to implementing some of them into our 2015 season!
A Power Session included a panel of former MiLB workers who have advanced in baseball and other industries: NASCAR, MLS, and Intercollegiate Athletics.
One of the emcees, Todd “Parney” Parnell is a staple at the Promo Seminar. He is the Vice President & COO of the Richmond Flying Squirrels (Double-A Affiliate of the San Francisco Giants).
Account Executive Ben Whitehead (left) and Senior Account Executive Chris Dawson having some fun with a selfie during the seminar. The West Michigan Whitecaps presented on their Social Media Night and asked everyone to take a selfie to win a T-shirt. We obliged. And we won.

We were nominated for a Golden Bobblehead, an award given out to the top promotions each season. Our 4 in 24 Field Renovation Project presented by BlueShield of Northeastern New York was a finalist in the “Best Charity Promotion or Event” category.

This was an easy choice for us when voting.

For those who don’t know, the 4 in 24 Project occurs each spring when our staff sets out to renovate four youth baseball fields in 24 hours. Infields get re-sodded, pitcher’s mounds and home plate areas are rebuilt and leveled, new bases are set to proper distances and general cleanup and maintenance of the field is performed. Check out this blog post from our 2014 version of the project when we renovated fields at Schenectady Little League, Twin Town Little League, Spring Youth Baseball, and Berne-Knox-Westerlo Little League.

Although we didn’t come back with the hardware, we were honored to be recognized by our peers for this tremendously rewarding project. Many teams approached us at the seminar to ask about the process and we challenged all teams to spend more time in their local communities promoting the game we all love and positively impacting the youth who will be the stars of tomorrow. We would like to congratulate the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders for winning our category for their HOPE Week. Also, fellow NYPL team Brooklyn brought home two bobbleheads. The Cyclones captured the award for “Best Theme Night” with their incredible “Seinfeld” Night at MCU Park. Additionally, that theme won “Best Overall Promotion/Event.”

One of the presentations was given by Ben Hill, the infamous MiLB writer who travels to Minor League stadiums each season. Ben Hill writes about his experiences on his blog ( and presents his favorite parts of each trip during the Promo Seminar. With his trip to “The Joe” on August 29th, Ben featured us during his presentation. Keep an eye out for his blog soon detailing his night at the ‘Cats game.

Ben Hill featured our Wood-Fire Pizza Oven. He mentioned to the attendees that we have the only one he’s seen in MiLB! You can get your pizza next summer at Left Field Louie’s!
The Tri-City Mayor’s Race also received some love and recognition.

After three days of idea-sharing, presentations and making many connections, the Oklahoma City RedHawks (now the former Triple-A affiliate of the Astros and current Dodgers affiliate) hosted all the attendees for the ballpark outing. Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark is located in the Bricktown district of Oklahoma City and opened in 1998. It has a capacity of over 13,000 and plays host to many events outside of the RedHawks season schedule. The Bedlam Baseball Series between the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University is held at the park annually, as well as many Big 12 Baseball Tournaments, high school baseball games, and even snow tubing in the winter!

One of the many digital boards used inside the stadium. This one shows the available options for one of their beer stands.
Another digital platform used to display the starting lineups, standings and more!
RedHawks mascots Cooper (left) and Ruby were on hand for the ballpark outing. The brother and sister duo said to tell SouthPaw, “Howdy!”
The RedHawks staff got creative with their centerpieces on the tables.
A larger baseball-themed centerpiece, complete with peanuts, a team ribbon and RedHawks baseball.

Kudos to the RedHawks staff for coordinating an amazing outing and thank you for the wonderful hospitality! The feast that evening featured many Oklahoma delicacies such as fried catfish, brisket, hot links, chicken fried steak and many more delicious items!

Even the cheese tray had a block of cheese cut in the shape of the state of Oklahoma.
A covered wagon (or is it a Sooner Schooner?) for decor on one of the food tables.
9-layer fiesta dip, Chicken Fried Steak Fingers with pepper gravy … Yes, it was as good as it looks!
A mashed potato bar complete with RedHawks mini-helmets, old Oklahoma license plates and a sign for Route 66, which runs through the state.
A view of the press box, club level and home plate seating area at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark.
A hotel oversees left and center fields. But check out that loooong video board.
No really, just look at it!

Upon return to the Tri-City area, our staff began preparation for the 2015 season. During our Strategic Planning Meetings held Oct. 15–16, we reviewed our 2014 season at each department level and began laying the foundation for 2015. The meetings were held at the Hilton Garden Inn Troy and there was plenty discussion about new and exciting ideas to enhance the ballpark experience at “The Joe!” Thanks to the ideas generated from the Promo Seminar and our brainstorming sessions in our meetings, we are eager to skip the upcoming winter and ready to open the gates for the 2015 season! Opening Day will be here soon enough and we can’t wait! In the meantime, keep checking our Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and our website for all the latest in ‘Cats happenings! VAMOS GATOS!

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