If you are headed to Medlar Field at Lubrano Park for Sunday’s baseball game, you may notice a few differences on the field.
When the State College Spikes face the Williamsport Crosscutters, there may be a need to adjust your colors.
Be ready for some pink, green, yellow and just about every other color in your box of Crayolas as one of the team’s most unusual promotions of the season — and maybe in the franchise’s history — hits the field.
Inspired by the 1990s hit television show “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air,” the Spikes will be holding “Fresh Prince Night” for Sunday’s game, with first pitch at 6:05 p.m.
The promotion coincides with a celebrity appearance by Alfonso Ribeiro, who played “Carlton” on the TV series.
As part of the event, the Spikes will be wearing special jerseys inspired by the show, which look like graffiti on a brick wall. The uniforms will be auctioned after the game to benefit Children’s Miracle Network.
To make the night more interesting, the Crosscutters will be wearing “ugly Christmas sweater” jerseys. The team was supposed to wear them Wednesday (June 25) but the game was rained out.
The idea, according to general manager Jason Dambach, came last fall. The staff was spit-balling ideas for this season’s promotions, and since celebrity appearances do well in State College, the first thought was to reach out to Ribeiro.
The actor only makes a few appearances each year, but the two sides were able to strike a deal.
“We thought to ourselves, how do we take this to the next level?” Dambach said. “Instead of just having another appearance, we said, ‘What’s another layer we can add to this?’”
The team usually does a couple special jersey promotions each season, including an annual pink jersey auctioned for the benefit of Mount Nittany Medical Center, but inspiration struck for Sunday’s sartorial display. The idea was sent to the uniform manufacturer, Wilson, and after about 30 designs and re-designs, and about four months of effort from the first inkling, a final product was done.
The artwork was inspired by the graphics on the original TV show, with cartoons and faux-spray paint words. There is also a license plate that says “Fresh” — which was the plate on the taxi in the show’s opening credits. The plate was changed from California to Pennsylvania for the jersey.
When the Spikes announced the promotion in late April, the response was immediate.
“When we first released them it obviously got a lot of attention,” media relations manager and radio broadcaster Joe Putnam said. “Some people were like, ‘These are the best things ever!’ and some were like, ‘These are the ugliest things I’ve ever seen!’ But they all were anxious to see how they looked on the field.”
About three hours after the team posted the announcement with a picture on Twitter, the Spikes were a trending topic on the social network.
“The response was overwhelming immediately,” Dambach said. “We were re-Tweeted by almost every major organization out there — ESPN, Sporting News, Yahoo, Bleacher Report, you name it.
“The reviews were overwhelmingly positive. Probably the feedback that we got from these jerseys and this particular promotion surpasses anything that I’ve been a part of in my 16 years in professional baseball.”
Putnam added the response has already been generally positive from the players when they got their first look at the attire about a week ago. As far as the staff knows, this particular idea is a first in the minors.
“They kind of know the drill,” Putnam said. “Minor league baseball, we certainly have the eye-popping jerseys from time to time.”
The Crosscutters’ eye-popping fashions were then invited to be worn to add to the fun. They will hope for dry weather Aug. 2 when they try again to wear the jerseys and auction them off at Bowman Field.
Bids will be taken during the game for the Spikes’ game-worn shirts. Two already are available for bids online at the team’s web site. One is autographed by Ribeiro and the other by the Spikes team. Bidding starts at $150, although as of Saturday evening a bid had yet to be made.
Whatever the amount raised for Children’s Miracle Network, Dambach already knows the plan has far exceeded his expectations in benefiting the Spikes.
“I’ve certainly been a part of plenty of ideas that we thought would be that ‘one,’ that never really did catch on,” Dambach said. “It’s a lot of fun. Ultimately that’s what our management team and ownership group — we enjoy that kind of stuff. Minor league baseball is not just about baseball, it’s about the experience, the fun, the promotions.”