The number one reason to attend a Major League Baseball game in person is for the on-field product. Obviously the mileage varies based upon the bout's combatants, but it's still high-quality baseball, no matter the teams involved.
Most ballparks these days have found ways to enhance the experience, too. One of the ways that's long been around but has recently been taken to the next level would be ballpark promotions and giveaways. In this space, we'll rundown the best promotion giveaway by each team this season.
Now, this is obviously a subjective exercise and the marketing departments of each team might disagree, but I've combed through every single game of all 30 team schedules and come up with the following list. I'm partial to bobbleheads, but they have to be more than just the player. Make it unique. This goes for all items, actually. The more creative, the more I'm perked up. Giving away a player jersey is cool and all, but it doesn't really set the giveaway apart. And every team does give away some pretty cool jerseys/hats/bobbleheads throughout the season.
All pictures come from the official team schedule pages, and I apologize for how small they are, but that's what has been provided. To the giveaways!
[NOTE: Teams listed alphabetically by city]
The Sugar Skull Tee on May 5 looks pretty cool, but I'm intrigued by the Archie Bradley "audio" bobblehead on April 21. He's shown himself a good personality guy, so we'll go with that one.
OK, so this isn't a general admissions giveaway, but it was too good for me to not pick it. As part of a ticket package for the Braves' July 29 home game, purchasing fans get a Chipper Jones souvenir mug that is made out of a hollowed out baseball bat!
On June 15, there's a Bud "Snow"alter snow globe giveaway. No picture provided, but I'm going for unique and this certainly fits the bill, especially in the middle of June with snow globe.
Boston Red Sox
Another strong calendar for the Red Sox, including a Chris Sale strikeout counter bobblehead, but that's been done (it's still great, just saying it's not new!). How about May 14? It's a Craig Kimbrel beard-growing plant. That's our pick. Could be weird, but I'm giving it a shot.
Strong slate in Wrigleyville, but June 6 caught my eye with a replica old scoreboard clock from the hand-operated center field scoreboard:
Chicago White Sox
OK, this one is amazing.
I'm a sucker for Star Wars anyway, so I always take a look at Star Wars night themes. Many teams have a player as Han Solo (for example, the D-Backs go with Paul Goldschmidt as "Paul Solo"). Here, it's the White Sox long-time, polarizing
homer broadcaster Hawk Harrelson.
Yes, on May 19, the White Sox fans on hand will get a "Hawk Solo" bobblehead, holding a microphone instead of Solo's blaster:
As noted, it's amazing.
On June 6 last season, Scooter Gennett etched his name in the annals of MLB history with a four-home run, 10-RBI game in Great American Ball Park. That's one of the greatest individual offensive performances in MLB history and the Reds ended up giving him a ceremony about a week and a half later. Included in the ceremony was the Reds gifting Gennett with his own scooter. Along with his name and number, the scooter (little S!) had #un4gettable on the side.
I say this now because on June 9, the Reds are giving away a Scooter Gennett on a scooter bobblehead.
A jersey of Indians manager and future Hall of Famer Terry Francona would be great in its own right, but there's a twist on May 26. It's a Francona player jersey from exactly 30 years ago. Yes, the one year Francona played for the Indians was 1988 (he hit .311!) and the Indians will be giving away his 1988 jersey. It's a nice combination here of a manager jersey with a throwback jersey on a round-numbered anniversary. Also of note is that long-time member of the Indians family Tito Francona -- Terry's father -- passed away this past offseason, so everything kind of comes together here to make this giveaway special.
Remember Nolan Arenado's walk-off homer last year that also meant he hit for the cycle? If not, here's a reminder with all four hits:
That was last June. On July 14 of this year, the Rockies are giving away a Nolan Arenado walk-off cycle bobblehead. Love it!
This season marks the 50th anniversary of the Tigers' 1968 World Series championship. With that, several promotions are related to 1968, including a series of bobbleheads of well-known players from that team. All of them are great, but my selection here is Al Kaline. The Hall of Famer hit .379/.400/.655 with two doubles, two homers and eight RBI in that seven-game series victory. Also, his bobble is of him robbing a home run and looks really cool:
The Astros are the World Series champions, and what comes with that -- among many, many other things -- is a full slate of incredible, World Series-related promotional giveaways. They've got replica trophies, banners, blankets, hats, the works.
As is evident here, I'm partial to bobbleheads and I'm going to give the nod here to a trio of entrants.
- April 14, George Springer World Series MVP bobblehead
- April 28, Jose Altuve MVP bobblehead
- Sept. 1, Alex Bregman walk-off bobblehead (remember, this was the end of Game 5, possibly the most ridiculous and amazing World Series game of all-time).
Kansas City Royals
The Royals generally have a strong promotional schedule and we can almost always find a good one related to the ever-lovable George Brett. How about this one? On May 19 vs. the Yankees, it's a George Brett bobblehead. I mention the Yankees, because it's not just any Brett bobble. It's a pine tar bobblehead:
He's also standing on a 50, as this is part of a theme to honor the Royals' 50th anniversary this season.
Los Angeles Angels
Not surprisingly, the Angels are heavy on Mike Trout gear throughout the calendar, as well they should be. How about something a bit more off-the-wall than simply a jersey or bobblehead, though? Here's a Mike Trout nutcracker, available June 22:
Los Angeles Dodgers
As usual, the Dodgers are as good as anyone in the promotional giveaway game. They have several very good bobbleheads, but I'm partial to the April 15 giveaway.
Yes, that's Jackie Robinson Day in Major League Baseball and he was obviously a Dodger back in his day. Though it was all Brooklyn Dodgers for Robinson, it's still the Dodgers.
Anywho, on April 15, the giveaway item at Dodger Stadium is a Jackie Robinson jersey.
Sadly and not surprisingly, the Marlins' offering on this front is the weakest in all of baseball. We'll go with a Billy the Marlin pool float giveaway. I didn't even record the date, as I was so underwhelmed.
It should be noted, the Marlins in 2015 had what I said was the number one promotion in all of baseball. This new ownership group doesn't seem to be trying just yet. Then again, if they tried to order a bunch of bobbleheads of their best players from last season, they all would have been worthless as the players were traded.
The Brewers generally do a good job here and this season is no different. They'd probably rank in the top half overall with the promotional calendar. I know how beloved Robin Yount is up in those parts, so we'll pick the July 8th giveaway, which is a replica 1970s-era Robin Yount jersey.
OK, I love this one. It's a combination, but stick with me. On June 1, there's a Max Kepler bobblehead of him playing good defense. On June 22, Byron Buxton doing the same. July 13? Eddie Rosario. They all fit together -- but could stand alone if need be -- in a series called "nothing falls but raindrops." Take a look:
New York Mets
When you have a player like Noah Syndergaard with a nickname like "Thor," it seems pretty obvious there will be good promotions. Sure enough, on Aug. 4, there's a "Marvel presents Noah Syndergaard as Thor bobblehead." That works.
New York Yankees
Aaron Judge as a Jedi Knight? Sure! May 4 ...
The A's are always one of the best here and this season is no different. On May 26, they are giving away a Harvey The Rabbit backpack. Who is that? Well, he used to deliver baseballs to the umpire at the Oakland Coliseum.
On the other end of the spectrum (see what I did here?), the Phillies are pretty weak. Fortunately, most of their good ones are giveaways to kids and that's a plus. Our selection here is a kids giveaway: A Rhys Hoskins starting lineup figure on May 27.
With Andrew McCutchen gone and an expected down year, Pirates fans might be asking: Where have you gone, Andy Van Slyke? On Aug. 4 -- versus the Cardinals, which is a nice touch -- they don't have to ask, because he's diving right in on this bobblehead.
San Diego Padres
It's the 20-year anniversary of the Padres' pennant-winning 1998 team. Holy smokes, it's been 20 years. We're old. But I digress. The Padres have a series of bobbleheads from that 1998 team, such as Ken Caminiti and newly-minted Hall of Famer Trevor Hoffman. My pick here is Mr. Padre, though. On May 10, it's the Tony Gwynn 1998 commemorative bobblehead at the beautiful Petco Park.
San Francisco Giants
AT&T Park is one of the best in the bigs and the Giants are always strong on promotions. Good combo. This year is no different and the Giants are celebrating the 60-year anniversary of their move to San Francisco. I love the unique nature of my selection here. On June 24, the giveaway is a mini-statue of "Mount Crushmore."
It's a pretty good bet that Willie Mays, Willie McCovey and Barry Bonds are 75 percent of Mount Crushmore (the exact names aren't yet available). This is the anniversary of the move to San Fran, so any New York Giants (Mel Ott) are out. Matt Williams, Orlando Cepeda and Jeff Kent are some possibilities for the fourth guy.
Regardless, this is a great giveaway.
Pretty solid slate for the M's at Safeco Field this year, which is the norm. I'll pick a really fun one that wine drinkers would love. On May 25, the giveaway is a set of Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz wine-bottle stoppers:
St. Louis Cardinals
This is the 50th anniversary of Hall of Famer Bob Gibson posting a record -- and obscene! -- 1.12 ERA. On May 18, the Cardinals are giving away a commemorative Bob Gibson pitching rubber.
Tampa Bay Rays
This season marks the 20th anniversary of the (Devil) Rays and there are several promotional items tied to said anniversary. What's unique? The cowbell in The Trop, of course. On March 29 -- yes, opening day -- the Rays are giving away 20th Anniversary cowbells.
The sounds will be annoying, but that's pretty damn cool.
Remember the Twins promotion above? The Rangers are doing a "best friends" tandem bobblehead set with Adrian Beltre and Elvis Andrus. I love that, of course, but I also wanted to highlight the June 9 giveaway. It's a Joey Gallo "tape measure" bobblehead, obviously pointing out his penchant for tape measure home runs. But it actually has a tape measure on it.
What a great idea.
Toronto Blue Jays
Marcus Stroman will occasionally do a little "shimmy" after striking guys out. Remember this one from the World Baseball Classic championship game?
You know where this is going: June 6, Marcus Stroman Shimmy Wobble Bobble. Excellent work, Jays.
Awards bobbles are always good, so the Nats May 4 giveaway of a Max Scherzer Cy Young bobblehead can close us out:
That's Scherzer holding his 2016 and 2017 Cy Young awards. He also won one in Detroit in 2013.