These days, anything is a great promotion for sports teams, including bobbleheads, apparel, fireworks, souvenir posters and even garden gnomes. But the latest way to get people in the gate of a minor league baseball team this summer doesn’t include a give-away. In fact, it’s a free show: the total solar eclipse on August 21. It’s also a great opportunity for sports event tie-ins.
In a solar eclipse, the moon passes between the earth and the sun, leading to a short period of near-darkness. This is a big deal, by the way, since there hasn’t been a coast-to-coast eclipse in the United States in nearly 100 years. In addition, real science aficionados (some might say nerds but we’re taking the high road here), are aware of a ‘path of totality,’ or area in which the eclipse will be most noticeable. (Fun fact: In many cases, hotel rooms in cities within the path of totality have been booked for years.)
According to MiLB.com, several teams are hosting promotions for games held on the day of the eclipse. In fact, MiLB is calling it a “total eclipse of the park” (apologies to Bonnie Tyler).
In the blog, PromoWatch, (and yes, there is such a thing), writer Benjamin Hill discusses the phenomenon, noting this will be the first coast-to-coast eclipse in the U.S. in nearly 100 years.
“Oregon’s Salem-Keizer Volcanoes Stadium is in the 67-mile wide path of totality, making it an ideal location from which to experience this once-in-a-lifetime event. Therefore, the team has announced a Monday morning ballgame featuring a built-in, first-of-its-kind "eclipse delay."
During the eclipse delay, fans -- and the players on the field -- will wear team-logo eclipse safety glasses (SDM’s note to planners: there’s your idea for a sponsored promo) that will allow them to look straight at the sun as the moon begins to obscure it. The start time of the ballgame is yet to be determined, but it will most likely be somewhere between 9 and 9:30 a.m. (the team plans to serve breakfast at the ballpark). At approximately 10:15 a.m. -- 10:17:21 a.m., to be exact, according to nationaleclipse.com -- near-total darkness will occur as the moon aligns itself between the Earth and the sun. The "duration of totality" is one minute and 54 seconds, at the conclusion of which a slow return to normalcy begins. Within 15 minutes or so, once the skies have sufficiently brightened, the game will resume as if nothing out of the ordinary had even happened. Clearly, this will be a most surreal ballpark experience.”
To get the promotion going meant advance preparations, according to Hill’s blog, which noted:
"We had received our schedule for next season and were thinking of events that tied into our games," said Volcanoes president of business operations Luke Emanuel. "Someone mentioned the eclipse. Two thirds of the room had no idea, but we did a bunch of research and realized we were in the path of totality. So we thought, 'How can we capitalize on this, when people can literally walk outside and view it?'"
A consultation with an enthusiastic NASA representative helped the Volcanoes learn the specifics of the phenomenon, which led them to plan the four-day "Eclipsefest" (tagline: Baseball-Brews-Blackout).
"People are coming in from all over for [the eclipse]. The hotels are already booked, so we're thinking of opening up our parking lot for RVs," Emanuel said. "And people already come to Oregon for microbrews and wine, so we said, 'How about getting all of these things in one location?' We'll do all the things that make Oregon great, at the best time of year to come visit."
For a certain subset of Americans, the intersection of astronomical phenomenon and our national pastime will be hard to resist.
"This is very unique," Emanuel said. "We're providing not just a chance to experience the eclipse but also to experience the first eclipse delay in baseball history."
Already it appears other teams are tying in with the eclipse promotion, and others could do so. According to the e-zine, Ben’s Biz, “of the remaining teams within the path of totality, all but the Idaho Falls Chukars will be home on August 21. The Bowling Green Hot Rods, Nashville Sounds, Greenville Drive and Charleston RiverDogs have yet to announce anything, but I am confident that at least one of those entities will follow suit (There are a lot of moving parts to something like this, including getting unorthodox start times?—?and a built-in game delay?—?approved by the parent clubs of both the home and visiting teams.)”
Some cities have already started their promotions. Greenville, South Carolina, for example, has a “Darkness is Coming” page, with information on hotel packages, as well as the Daniel Observatory at the Roper Mountain Science Center, which has the eighth-largest refractor telescope in North America. (And check out the cool count-down feature.)
The Columbia (SC) Fireflies MiLB team will not only be doing a special promo on the day of the eclipse, but will have interactive booths available to teach kids about science, technology, engineering and math – as well as the solar system and more – a great back-to-school event.
Want to know where your city stands when it comes to the eclipse? NASA has full information.