Thu, Jun 25, 2009 - Page 19 News List

Lured by bobbleheads, fans line up to see Baracklyn Cyclones take the field

AP , NEW YORK

Steve Fischer of Marlboro, New Jersey, poses with his Obama bobblehead during the Brooklyn “Baracklyn” Cyclones event at the KeySpan Park, New York, on Tuesday.

PHOTO: AP

Nearly an hour before the gates to KeySpan Park even opened on Tuesday, the line stretched for two streets. Fans waited for the prized possession: A Barack Obama bobblehead.

For one night, minor league baseball’s Brooklyn Cyclones renamed themselves the Baracklyn Cyclones in tribute to the new US president. And tickets cost no more than US$16, cheaper than nosebleed seats at Yankee Stadium and Citi Field.

‘STIMULUS PACKAGE’

Steve Fischer bought US$5 seats when they were sold in January as an “Economic Stimulus Package.” With the bobbleheads going to only the first 2,500 fans at the 7,500-capacity stadium, he wanted to be at the front of the line before the Cyclones played the Hudson Valley Renegades.

“You can come to a nice little community ballpark like this, tickets are a couple of dollars. Food prices are much more inexpensive,” he said. “You get a lot closer to the action.”

The action included ceremonial first pitches thrown out by Amber Lee Ettinger, the Obama Girl, and Obama lookalike Randall West.

The real first family didn’t take the Cyclones up on their invitation to attend, though in the first inning news broke that Obama planned to throw out the ceremonial first pitch at the MLB All-Star game in St Louis on July 14.

Players on the New York Mets farm team wore white jerseys with “Baracklyn” across the chest, red-and-white stripes on one sleeve and a mixture of stripes, white stars and a blue background on the other.

In a promotion invented by Cyclones general manager Steve Cohen, some fans received free Band-Aids as part of “Universal Health Care.” People named Barack got in for free, anyone named McCain or Palin received free bleacher seats and plumbers named Joe got two free tickets.

It’s all part of the fun of Minor League Baseball, coming off six straight years of record attendance. Its 176 teams combined to draw 43.2 million fans last year; through Sunday they attracted an average of 3,993 per game.

Despite the recession, that’s down only 27 fans, or less than 1 percent, from last year’s average through the same time.

The 30 major league teams averaged 29,412 through Sunday, a drop of 6.6 percent from the average of 31,484 through June 21 last year.

Brooklyn isn’t alone in the bobblehead craze. The Quad Cities River Bandits, a St Louis Cardinals farm club in Davenport, Iowa, is giving the first 2,000 fans bobbleheads of Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Saturday.

‘WOMEN ONLY’

Hudson Valley has an attention-grabbing promotion scheduled for July 7. The Tampa Bay Rays’ affiliate is presenting a “Women Only” night, when only women and boys aged seven and under will be allowed into the ballpark until the game is official. All male employees will be dressed in women’s clothing. Large screen TVs will be outside the ballpark for men to watch while the women are inside.

Benjamin Hill of minorleaguebaseball.com said that this season’s promotions have included a mooing contest on “Sale to Cows” night at the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers game on June 4 and the “Sunglasses at Night World Record Attempt” by fans of the Eastern League’s Bowie Baysox on May 29. The first 1,000 fans received sunglasses as the team tried to set a record for most people wearing them at night.

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