Every fall, Harrisburg Senators team president Kevin Kulp takes his staff on a retreat to reflect on the season that was and brainstorm ideas for the following year. On Tuesday, the Class AA affiliate for the Nationals announced a promotion born during the staff’s most recent getaway last October, an amusing take on a concept started by one of Washington’s National League East rivals.
In 2017, the Atlanta Braves launched a mid-inning race in which one lucky fan was given an enormous head start in a foul-pole-to-foul-pole race along the warning track against “The Freeze,” a Braves staffer in an arctic blue spandex bodysuit and ski goggles who ran track in college. Harrisburg is flipping that popular promotion on its head with the introduction of “The Anti-Freeze,” a less athletically gifted Senators staffer who will be given an enormous head start in a similar mid-inning race against a fan.
“It was a collaborative effort,” Kulp said in a phone interview on Tuesday. “We came up with this idea to take that promotion and just put our spin on it. We love to try to figure out ways to create characters out of our front office staff. This is a grueling job — overworked, underpaid — and if we can make it more fun by creating characters out of ourselves, we love to do that."
“The Freeze,” who regularly chased down his competition with ease, was later identified as Nigel Talton, a member of the Braves’ grounds crew since 2012 who broke a 23-year-old record as a freshman sprinter at Iowa Wesleyan. “The Anti-Freeze” is Senators sales and service coordinator Josh Bleyer, who, in his bio on the team’s site, lists playing video games and fantasy sports among his hobbies.
(On the heels of Tuesday’s announcement, a member of my long-running fantasy baseball league suggested we make Harrisburg the destination for our annual in-season trip.)
“He just embraces being involved like this, so it was a natural fit,” Kulp said of Bleyer, who dons ski goggles, a cape and an arctic blue spandex bodysuit in a video to announce the promotion. “We do need to take him out on the warning track now that the snow has melted and see what his speed is, so we can gauge that against the contestants we’ll be putting out there."
Kulp, who has been with the Senators since 2008, said Harrisburg’s “Beat the Anti-Freeze” promotion will take place at every home game. The timing of the race and the prize for any fan who manages to beat Bleyer has yet to be determined. While 2019 ushers in the first year of “The Anti-Freeze” at Harrisburg’s FNB Field, the Senators’ all-male dance team featuring Kulp and “four of the oldest guys in the front office” will return for a fourth consecutive season.
“We go out there every game and we shake what we got,” Kulp said. “We’re not dancers. The crowd loves it. We try to one-up ourselves every year with silly suits . . . We’re always looking to do new things and have fun with it.”
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