State College Spikes

From human cannonballs to aliens: How the State College Spikes get creative with marketing

Minor league baseball teams need to get creative.

Like any other business, minor league baseball is profit driven, and while other companies might pour money into advertising that makes their corporation seem more legitimate and appealing, minor league baseball tends to go in a different direction.

Whether it be changing your name to the Rumble Ponies, Muckdogs, or Yard Goats (all real names), or coming out with pop culture-related promotions completely out of left field, the family-oriented business of minor league baseball thrives off the quirkiest ideas.

The State College Spikes are no different.

“There’s a big trend with not only the Spikes but everyone around minor league baseball of coming up with fun and innovative theme nights that are sometimes at the turn of the switch,” said Joe Putnam, the Spikes’ communications manager and play-by-play announcer.

Whether it be dedicating a night to male rompers (something the Spikes did two years ago) or offering postgame entertainment that involves a man being shot out of a massive cannon (something the Spikes did last week), the Spikes have tuned into the minor league promotional zeitgeists very well.

They will continue this proud tradition on Saturday with Area 51 night, the same day as the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.

This event is related to the now-viral Facebook page “Storm Area 51, They Can’t Stop All of Us,” which encourages people to storm the top-secret Nevada military base Area 51 en masse on Sept. 20 — with already more than 1.5 million people pledging to do so — and steal the aliens that are rumored to be captured within the base.

The satirical page prompted the Spikes to come up with a last-minute promotion, with the pop culture phenomenon giving baseball fans an opportunity to save money at the ballpark.

Sticking to the Area 51 theme, outfield bleacher seats will cost $5.10, and hot dogs will be available at a paltry 51 cents.

In addition, aliens will be hidden around the ballpark, and the Jumbotron will be playing clips from multiple alien-themed movies throughout the night.

Finally, random fans will be selected to compete in a Naruto race on the field.

Naruto is a Japanese animated character, notable for his strange running style, allowing him to run at super speeds. One of the most famous mantras of the “Storm Area 51” movement is “if we Naruto-run, we can move faster than their bullets.”

“Every now and again something comes up, and being plugged into pop culture as we are, this is something that has gone viral over the last week or so,” Putnam said. “So we decided, ‘hey, we could do some things with this and create a fun atmosphere at the ballpark as well.”

Area 51 night will be the Spikes’ first game back at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park since Monday, as they start their three-game series against the Williamsport Crosscutters.