Andrew Seymour is buzzing with energy. You can hear it in his voice and almost feel it over the telephone from Fort Myers, Fla., where Seymour is busy putting the final touches on his latest production, Don't Be a Bengal, Be a Good Citizen Night.
"We had to do something," Seymour explained. "The [Cincinnati] Bengals were giving us script every day."
By script, Seymour means comedic bits he can string together to entice fans and draw a crowd to Hammond Stadium, home to the Fort Myers Miracle of baseball's Florida State League.
The Miracle are a minor-league affiliate of the Minnesota Twins, and Toronto-born Seymour is their assistant general manager and promotions director extraordinaire. He got his first job with the club 10 years ago when he called Miracle owner Mike Veeck, the son of Hall of Famer Bill Veeck, and asked to work as an intern.
"He said, 'I can't pay you, but have fun,' " said Seymour, who has been having as much fun as possible without answering to police officers. His Don't Be a Bengal promo is a prime example.
To set the scene, it helps to know that the National Football League Bengals became a running gag last season when nine of their players were arrested in a nine-month span. Things were so bad, the team media guide had to be reprinted to show the players' mug shots from both the front and side.
Then last weekend, Bengals receiver Chad Johnson decided to race against a horse. He won (after being given a 100-metre head start), then bragged about it for hours on end. Johnson is also known for selecting his own nickname, Ocho Cinco, which is Spanish for 85, his jersey number, not his IQ.
With all that script, Seymour and his fellow front-office funsters came up with Thursday's promo for the Fort Myers-Sarasota Reds game at Hammond Stadium.
Any fan attending the game in Bengals gear will have to pay Ocho Cinco for a ticket, and for a minor-league ball game, that's steep, really steep. Fans wearing anything orange will have to visit an on-site lawyer and receive a slap on the wrist. ("It will actually be a gentle tap," Seymour cautioned.)
Club employees will be working the crowd handing out paper bags (so fans can put them over their heads as a show of disgust) while dressed in Chad Johnson jerseys with targets on them. They'll also be wearing gold shoes, à la Johnson, and handcuffs.
"The good thing is if you come to the stadium dressed in stripes or an orange jumpsuit, you get in free," Seymour cracked. "We figure if they're taking their day leave to join us, they should get something."
The musical entertainment for the evening will be the theme song from the old comedy show WKRP in Cincinnati. And here's the kicker: throwing out the first pitch will be … Chad Johnson.
"Chad Johnson will be there?" Seymour is asked.
"Yes," he said. "Chad Johnson is throwing out the first pitch. We looked through the phone book and found a Chad Johnson [in Fort Myers] and he's throwing out the first pitch. I've never met the guy. I have no idea what he looks like."
That didn't stop Seymour when the Miracle did their Snakes on a Plain Ol' Wednesday Night. They got two girls with the surnames Samuel and Jackson to toss out the first ball.
"Our principal owner [Veeck] comes from a family that knows how to have fun," Seymour said. "We have goals and targets to meet, but we're also encouraged to enjoy our work. Fun is good, is our mantra."
Bill Veeck was very much the forefather of the zany baseball promotion. Along with some sensible innovations, Veeck will always be remembered for sending 3-foot-7 Eddie Gaedel to bat in a game for the 1951 St. Louis Browns. Veeck told Gaedel there was a gunman in the crowd who would shoot him if he swung at the ball. Eddie walked on four pitches.
But back to Don't Be a Bengal.
Along with Chad Johnson, the Miracle will spare no expense and bring in a real Bengal tiger, although it could be a lion. Seymour's not sure. He hasn't seen the cat, either.
What is certain is that the Miracle will be giving away two tickets to this season's NFL clash between the Bengals and Miami Dolphins in Miami. And once today's game is done, Seymour & Co. will begin work on their next notable production — Mike Tyson Ear Night.
Rumour has it the first 100 fans will get a free facial tattoo