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Major Attraction: Inside Minor League Promotions

by Tom Ando
July 4, 2019 - International League (IL) - Rochester Red Wings

Dwier Brown at the Buffalo Bisons game
Dwier Brown at the Buffalo Bisons game
(Buffalo Bisons, Credit: Taylor Ando)

Rochester, Buffalo bring baseball movie icons to their fans

In an age when superhero movies dominate the box office, fans of baseball movies still hang on to their favorites. They watch the cult classics over and over, quote their favorite lines, and wear shirts and jerseys of their favorite fictional characters. As the nostalgia roots itself deeper, it's no surprise minor league teams across the country let their fans get up close and personal with stars of the screen.

Baseball fans in Western New York were treated to two iconic characters in their ballparks this past weekend as the Rochester Red Wings and Buffalo Bisons hosted Major League Night and Baseball Movie Tribute Night respectively.

On Friday night, the Red Wings brought television and movie star Corbin Bernsen to the Flower City as the team paid homage to the classic "Major League," which is currently celebrating its 30th anniversary. Bernsen played prima donna third baseman Roger Dorn and often graces the front of the movie's posters alongside actors Charlie Sheen and Tom Berenger. After deciding to celebrate the movie, the appearance worked itself out naturally.

"We have a couple of different agents that we deal with, so we said 'We're looking for someone that was in the movie "Major League"' and he lives in New York state, not far from here so he could drive here, which great for him and for us," said General Manager Dan Mason, currently in his 30th season with the Red Wings.

Bernsen himself was impressed with the atmosphere the team created.

"It seems like everybody was having fun out there, lots of fans wearing their "Major League" gear, especially Ricky Vaughn, the Wild Thing," said Bernsen.

Other "Major League" themed promotions included free Wild Thing glasses to the first 1,000 fans into Frontier Field, free Wild Thing haircuts, several fans mimicking the famous bleacher creatures depicted in the film as well as some concessions offerings. Fans lined up for the Dorn Dog, a quarter pound Zweigle's hot dog loaded with peppers and onions, meaty hot sauce and big red BBQ sauce.

The Red Wings keep fans excited with similar promotions throughout the season, including the following night which featured an appearance from Cory Michael Smith, the actor who plays the Riddler on the television series Gotham, as part of Batman Night.

"People come out here to have fun and that's our job is to make sure the fans have a great time, whether the team wins or loses and hopefully we created a lot of great memories for them tonight," said Mason

As for Bernsen, of all the autographs he signs over the years, he laughs at the biggest request he still gets.

"Strike this mother effer out. Please write 'Strike this mother effer out,'" said Bernsen, "You'd be surprised how many people want that written for their kids."

While the Red Wings celebrated "Major League," their neighbors to the west celebrated baseball movies as a whole. As part of Baseball Movie Tribute Night at Sahlen Field, the Buffalo Bisons had several trivia games, a first pitch thrown out by the team's radio color analyst Duke McGuire, who appeared in the movie "The Natural," and they also welcomed Dwier Brown, better known as John Kinsella from the classic "Field of Dreams," also celebrating its 30th anniversary.

Brown also threw out a first pitch then signed autographs right up until the time he sang the seventh inning stretch. While most celebrities simply sign their names and go on to the next guest, it's common to see Brown chatting with and even hugging fans in line.

"I really try to take people in. My Dad used to say 'Anything worth doing is worth doing right.' I try to think that my Dad is watching me," said Brown, also the author of "If You Build It...A book about Fathers, Fate and 'Field of Dreams.'" "These people want to be a part of 'Field of Dreams.' That's something I found out about that movie is that it means so much to them and people want to give something back to it. That movie has its place in people's hearts, so if I can just come and they can thank me for that movie and I can say 'You're welcome' and look them in the eyes and treat them like a human being, that's completing that interaction, sort of like a game of catch. If I don't thank them or take a picture it's almost like I dropped the ball. I have to catch it and throw it back to them."

Brown recalls on the initial cast screening as the moment he realized the gravity the film has.

"By the end, when the lights came up many of us were crying. We shot the movie, it was our faces were up there on the screen and it still got us," said Brown. "That was a moment when we're all saying 'Wow, what did we do here?' The fact that we're still talking about it 30 years later, I think we hit a nerve that needed to be touched."

Brown is scheduled to connect with fans at around 40 minor league ballparks this season, where fans will have the honor to play catch with, hug and open up to the man who played Kevin Costner's Father.

"That to me is continuing the legacy of this movie," said Brown "And that's what's so special about baseball."

About Tom Ando:

Tom works in Food & Beverage in the Sports Hospitality business. He enjoys the whacky and fan friendly ideas that Minor League Baseball is known for. In 2018, as Director of Food & Beverage for the Erie SeaWolves, Tom created the Cotton Candy Hot Dog that went viral and became the only known Minor League Baseball food item to ever be talked about in Tonight Show opening monologue.

Images from this story

Dwier Brown at the Rochester Red Wings
Dwier Brown at the Rochester Red Wings "Major League" game

(Tom Ando)
Dwier Brown at the Buffalo Bisons game
Dwier Brown at the Buffalo Bisons game

(Taylor Ando)

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