Winning a Golden Bobblehead is a big deal. They’re the “the Oscars for minor league baseball,” honoring the best promotional ideas by teams, Billy Harner, the director of communications for the Brooklyn Cyclones, told HuffPost.
Harner and the Cyclones won the award in 2014 when he came up with the notion of having the team host a “Seinfeld”-themed night to coincide with the 25th anniversary of the show’s start on NBC.
“While I’m up there talking about it [while accepting the award], then you just hear the roars of laughter,” said Harner. “I kind of had a really good idea that it was gonna be something that would sort of catch on.”
It became an annual event for the Cyclones. And now minor leagues teams all across the country host their own “Seinfeld” nights. Harner knew of multiple teams in the New York area alone doing it the same weekend as the Cyclones promotion this year, which occurred on Saturday at the team’s Coney Island home.
“They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery,” said Harner. “We enjoy it.”
The Cyclones version of the night has traditionally had various “Seinfeld”-themed competitions throughout the night, most notably people trying to dance as terribly as the character Elaine Benes.
“You sit and you look at this stuff and you’re like, ‘This is ridiculous,’
Billy Harner, the creator of “Seinfeld” night for the Brooklyn Cyclones
“Now it’s sort of a ‘Seinfeld’ convention with a baseball game going on in the background,” Harner said.
For Saturday’s event on Aug. 5, a competition Harner was particularly excited about was a nod to the character George Costanza streaking through Yankee stadium in a flesh-colored bodysuit. At the Cyclones game, two people wore bodysuits head-to-toe and ran around the outfield warning track. Not being able to see very well, the winner accidentally ran into a Cyclones’ social media person ― which was partially captured on video.
From the stands, the social media person could be seen flying backwards about 10 feet. She was later overheard saying she was alright.
“You sit and you look at this stuff and you’re like, ‘This is ridiculous,’” said Harner. “But it’s what people come back for.”
The actor who played lawyer Jackie Chiles on the show, Phil Morris, was also present to sign autographs and lead the 7th-inning-stretch. Specialty pins with his character’s face on it and the word “Cyclones” were available.
Harner lamented that despite the fan interest, the “Seinfeld” show, which aired from 1989 to 1998, means basically nothing to most of the Brooklyn Cyclones players and much of the team’s staff.
“One of the things that absolutely breaks my heart is that the majority of the people that work for us and the majority of the people that play for the team are all so young,” said Harner. “I had to give everybody like a primer of, ‘This is the show. Watch some DVDs on your road trip, so you can at least sound sort of knowledgeable.’ And you find one or two guys that watch it, they know the re-runs, so it works out okay.”
Harner remains proud of being able to create this send-up to one of his favorite shows.
“This is the most ridiculous thing we’ve ever done,” he said. “And it’s amazing that so many people are embracing it ― sort of the way that in my head, how I wanted it to play out.”