Beloit, Wisconsin's Midwest League team may have a fish in its name, but Sky Carp is actually a slang term for a goose. Nonetheless, the Marlins' High-A affiliate still has an affinity for, and proximity to, the water. This was made abundantly clear this past Sunday, as fans traveled to
Beloit, Wisconsin's Midwest League team may have a fish in its name, but Sky Carp is actually a slang term for a goose. Nonetheless, the Marlins' High-A affiliate still has an affinity for, and proximity to, the water. This was made abundantly clear this past Sunday, as fans traveled to the ballpark on inner tubes.
The third base-side of Beloit's ABC Supply Stadium is located along the Rock River, an approximately 300-mile long tributary of the Mississippi River that flows south from Wisconsin into Illinois. Most fans drive to Sky Carp games, others bike, and some walk. But why not float? It was this simple question that led to Sunday's inaugural "Drift to the Diamond" promotion.
"We happen to have a small [ballpark] footprint, and one of the reasons is because we've got the river on one side," said Sky Carp media and public relations manager Josh Flickinger. "The more things we can do to have fun with this natural geographic advantage, the better. So this idea was brought up, and it went really well."
Sunday's intrepid crew of first-time Diamond Drifters arrived at the ballpark at 11 a.m. They then boarded the team's Goose Caboose shuttle bus and were driven north to the launch site. The exuberant tubers returned to ABC Supply Stadium in conjunction with the 12 p.m. opening of the ballpark gates, in plenty of time for that afternoon's 1:05 ballgame against the Peoria Chiefs. If they had drifted any further, the group would have ended up in the Chiefs' home state of Illinois, as ABC Supply Stadium is located a literal foul ball away from the state line.
"The current isn’t bad at all, and the depth was really shallow. If you needed to, you could stand up," said Flickinger. "It was down and underneath a bridge, seeing a fair amount of downtown Beloit. On one side it's a big tree line with a couple houses high up. But the left side, or east side, it’s our city. It’s Beloit....And there was definitely a [goose] flyover at one point. It's always great when that happens. "
Approximately 20 people took part in the approximately 20-minute journey. Flickinger said that subsequent editions of Drift to the Diamond are likely to be longer and larger, as this time around the Sky Carp were simply "dipping our toe in the water." (Pun intended.)
Drift to the Diamond is based on specific geographical circumstance, but the event did have precedence in the world of Minor League Baseball. In 2012 the Pioneer League Missoula Osprey (now the Paddleheads) first staged their recurring "Float to the Ballpark" promotion, allowing fans to travel along the Clark Fork River en route to the ballpark.
For the Sky Carp, events like Drift to the Diamond are part of a larger story. 2022 marks the team's first full campaign at ABC Supply Stadium, which replaced Pohlman Field. That limitations of that facility, and its resultant attendance woes, presented far less opportunity for promotional innovation.
"This highlights that we're excited about doing non-conventional stuff," said Flickinger. "In the past they did everything they could do to keep the team going, otherwise we wouldn’t be here. But there wasn't the budget or opportunity to do these fun things. Hopefully people get the idea that, yes, you can see baseball's future stars here but there's also a good side of fun to go along with it."
Benjamin Hill is a reporter for MiLB.com and writes Ben's Biz Blog. Follow Ben on Twitter @bensbiz.