A promotion that was the brainchild of two members of the Florida Fire Frogs’ front office came to life and took social media by storm Thursday night.
The Fire Frogs, the Class-A-Advanced affiliate of the Atlanta Braves, held its first free beer promotion for the Fire Frogs’ game against the St. Lucie Mets. The promotion gave fans free beer as long as the Fire Frogs did not give up a run, leaving the promotion’s duration totally dependent on the home team’s play.
Fire Frogs president Erik Anderson and assistant general manager Adam Whitlow are natives of Osceola County and Kissimmee, Fla. The duo joined the club at the end of 2017, the team’s first season as the Fire Frogs and the first time Kissimmee had minor league baseball since 2000.
Whitlow said they wanted to make the most of baseball’s return to their town. In their minds, that included coming up with as many firsts as they could.
“We just happened to have a weekend off, and at a local watering hole we were spitballing a few ideas. A couple local patrons overheard our discussion,” Whitlow said. “Each promotion we came across with other teams just felt like a replication of what everyone else had already done.
“As we were chatting around, most people jokingly say that they want things for free. In reality, they aren’t really joking. At that point, I guess we weren’t really joking, either.”
The discussion got the wheels turning for a new promotion for the Fire Frogs. The promotion’s success, however, hinged completely on planning ahead and executing. Because the promotion set up for a considerable amount of beer if the Fire Frogs pitched a shutout, management met with the team’s food and beverage manager to make sure they would be able to handle the potential demand from the fans.
From there, they began to carve out their plan.
The team designated two areas of the park for the promotion’s space and set up several kegerators, which hold about four kegs worth of beer apiece. Fans were IDed then given wristbands, allowing the three people working at each spot to give them the greenlight for one Pabst Blue Ribbon beer to keep the line moving. Fans had the choice of getting a 10-ounce cup or buying a 20-ounce cup, which could be kept and filled for $2 beers once the opponent scored.
The anticipation lingered in the air for Whitlow and the other de facto bartenders as the gates opened and they awaited first pitch, which marked the start of the promotion. Once the P.A. announcer explained the setup, it was time for Whitlow and crew to get to work.
The promotion’s length hinged a great deal on Fire Frogs pitcher Joey Wentz, a 20-year-old left-hander the Braves drafted two years ago. A strong effort could mean a lot of cold ones on the house, but as Whitlow explained, those pouring the drinks were more than up for the challenge.
“When we spoke with (Joey), we said, ‘Our goal is to be prepared for having a full game where nobody scores a run,’” Whitlow said. “Of course, it can be stressful because sometimes a no-run game can be two hours, and the same game could be played a week later and it could be a three-hour game. We were battling back and forth and making sure we had enough beer to go around.”
As fans continued to get back in line for beer, Wentz was working. He threw a season-high five innings and six strikeouts and managed to not allow any runs despite giving up eight hits. Reliever Justin Kelly gave up the game’s first run in the sixth inning, drawing the promotion’s first go to a close.
Wentz’s ability to keep the Mets off the scoreboard and allow free beer to flow only intensified the talk and intrigue around the promotion.
“Having all those people so focused on what’s going on in the game, every pitch drew an ‘Ooh’ and an ‘Aww,’” Whitlow said. “Every hit had somebody wondering what’s next. We had a huge double play early in the game, and the eruption of the crowd was something I felt like I’ve never heard before, at least in this town.”
The Fire Frogs’ first free beer promotion drew a crowd of 1,202, which Whitlow said was double what the team typically drew for Thursday games a year ago. Whitlow said in all, the fans went through about 12 kegs’ worth of beer over the course of the promotion.
The latest promotion is just one of a series the Florida front office have concocted, which includes a Sunday brunch special where women 21 and older are provided brunch and served bottomless mimosas and bottomless bloody Marys.
The free beer promotion turned out to be a smooth operation for the Fire Frogs, and the team announced it will do it again May 3. Whitlow said the promotion was an opportunity to draw more fans in to watch these up-and-coming players, thus bringing more recognition for these potential future baseball stars.
Whitlow said if he had to adjust anything, he would probably add another keg on standby just to keep everything moving smoothly. Whitlow and his team saw the first edition turn out successfully, and now they’re gearing up to keep it going.
“We have 11 more (home games on Thursday) that happen throughout this year,” Whitlow said. “We look to honor that promotion every single Thursday.”