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Rally 'round the Family with a Pocket Full of Towels: A Look at 2011 Reds Freebies

This list of 2011 Promotions and Giveaways at Great American Ballpark dropped a while a go, but I thought its  contents might merit a closer examination while we're all waiting for the impending deluge of Edgar Renteria and Scott Podsednik signing(s). (There is a very real possibility, though remote, that the Reds will sign multiple Scott Podsedniks.)

Though many of the announced giveaways don't rise to the level of planning your attendance schedule around them, there's plenty of respectable swag here. In the past, I've grabbed such miscellanea as team collectible card sets, a Brandon Phillips Gold Glove and a Skyline Chili/Fox Sports Net co-branded charcoal gray adjustable hat just slightly too shallow for my melon. There's also a healthy dose of oddball bric-a-brac, puzzling corporate partnerships and inexplicable goings-on. What is a Jay Bruce Back to School kit? Is it a kit that helps Jay Bruce go back to school? Given his contract extension, this seems ill-advised.

Let's take a slightly closer look at how the Reds are hoping to lure fans to the gate, braving those waist-level turnstiles and menacing radiation-emitting (probably) ticket scanners. Personally, I'm planning to "opt-out" when I go through security this season, which is a freebie in itself.

The Objectively Good:

Fireworks Fridays
April 2, May 13, June 3, June 17, July 1, July 15, July 22, July 29, August 12, August 26
You may not want to stick around after a 12-inning gut-punch loss to the Braves on July 22nd (a dyspeptic old man gave me a Sports Almanac containing only Reds July 2011 box scores), but I still file fireworks under "objectively good."

Joey Votto MVP Bobblehead
April 30 vs. Marlins (first 30,000 fans).
Not much of a sell required here. It's Joey Votto and it's a bobblehead - two Platonically ideal things in perfect harmony with each other.

Run the Bases Days
April 17, May 15, July 24, August 28
I enjoyed this gimmick even on that terrible Riverfront turf, which I still blame from short-circuiting my playing career. In general, baseball seems to be more open to allowing its fans to muck about on the field. Unfortunately, this promotion happens after the game has concluded, owing to an unfortunate incident in which a Brooklyn fan was tagged out at home in the bottom of the ninth, costing the 1898 Bridegrooms a chance at 9th place. Suggestion for improvement: Allow for fan time trials vs. Ramon Hernandez.

Sparky Anderson Bronze Statue
May 14 vs. Cardinals
Maybe this belongs in the next category, as it borders on crass profiteering. But the statues are free - and there are far worse ways to commemorate the brilliance of the Main Spark.

Aroldis Chapman Action Figure
July 16 vs. Cardinals (First 30,000 fans)
If this season is anything like last, fans shouldn't need a sweetener to show up for a Cardinals' series. Even if they butcher the likeness, I already want this thing pretty bad. Suggestion for improvement: Stretch Armstrong action. Or at least Jack Armstrong action.

Scott Rolen Mesh Jersey
July 30 vs. Giants (First 20,000 fans)
It depends on what kind of mesh we're talking about. I hope they learned their lesson from that Pete Harnisch fishnet giveaway.

Reds Playing Card Set
August 27 vs. Nationals First 20,000 fans)
Great giveaway for Southeast Ohio on the heels of recession and casino expansion. We're going through decks of cards like Chapman goes through third digits on a radar gun readout.


The Ridiculous and/or Sublime:

Gapper Pillowcase
June 5 vs. Dodgers (First 10,000 kids 14 and younger)
I know I speak for every Tri-State area kid 14 and younger when I say I don't sleep soundly unless my head rests on an image of one of the Reds seven mascots.

Reds Spirit Hair
June 18 vs. Blue Jays (First 20,000 fans)
What is Spirit Hair? Is it even of our crude, physical realm? The description has specifics: "Free red mohawk hair." A nice nod to Gomes, but I'd like to see to a fuller range of Gomes-inspired accessories: permanent fake tattoos, wine decanter and stick-on ToughMan Beard Stubble.

Bronson Arroyo Plush Doll
July 3 vs. Indians (first 10,000 kids 14 and younger)
Another border case. This seems like a good one, in that I like Bronson Arroyo and sometimes enjoy kitsch novelty items. But the fact that it's a plush doll for kids under 14, which essentially suggests "put Bronson in your child's bed," is vaguely creeping me out.


The Puzzling:

Weather Day
May 19 vs. Pirates
Appropriate that "Weather Day" is scheduled for the Pirates' tilt - most fans would probably rather discuss the forecast than the permanently irrelevant Buccos. But this promotion isn't a general celebration of that last-ditch conversation life preserver. According to "Weather Day combines the excitement of Reds baseball with a 45-minute interactive and fun program about severe weather specific to our region."  This seems a lot like getting in bed with the enemy, as "severe weather specific to our region" has ruined many a trip to the ballpark. Although if the interactive program includes a cloud-seeding demonstration, I might change my tune.

Scout Night Campout
August 13 vs. Padres
During my time as a failed Cub Scout, I fantasized often about stepping onto the outfield grass of a real, live Major League ballpark. But those fantasies almost never included falling asleep next to my dad.

Jay Bruce Back to School Kit
August 14 vs. Padres
While I support Jay's continuing education, should we really be equipping him to go get that PhD in Russian Literature he keeps crowing about?