The third inning had yet to begin Saturday at Whitaker Bank Ballpark as the Lexington Legends faced off against the Hagerstown Suns.
The Legends were down by three runs, yet the crowd began to roar and cheer. The fans were ready to root for the home team, but something else also caught their attention.
The AllSports All-Stars stood atop the dugouts, bringing with them the promise of a free T-shirt to random fans. Fans reached toward the heavens at the prospect of snatching a cotton blend shirt as if it were a home run ball.
Adorned in their blue-and-white AllSports All-Stars shirts, this team of 11 is expected to keep the crowds entertained with promotional events during baseball’s characteristic lulls between innings.
Mike Allison, director of group sales and known on the field as Mykraphone Mike, is in charge of executing the on-field promotions as other AllSports All-Stars aid him in the endeavor.
Allison said his job is to relay the information his sponsors want the crowd to know without it sounding like a commercial.
Allison started in the gift shop his first season with the Legends, but he has been on the microphone for 13 years.
He said the team provides the electricity and atmosphere of the ball park, and that can be done by throwing out T-shirts or having kids race on inflatable horses.
Whether there’s 500 or 5,000 people out here they’ve got to make sure that everybody’s rocking and rolling.
Mike Allison, director of group sales and on-field personality Mykraphone Mike
“Whether there’s 500 or 5,000 people out here, they’ve got to make sure that everybody’s rocking and rolling,” Allison said.
April Smith is the senior corporate sales executive for the Legends and is in charge of the promotions department.
Smith explained the process of performing these promotional events. During the off-season, they sell sponsorships to various organizations. Once the season begins, those sponsorships are fulfilled.
For example, Midway University might sponsor a game called the Midway Balloon Bust, she said.
“It’s not specifically that promotion they sponsor; they just have sponsored some type of on-field promotion,” Smith said. “Then it comes to me and my department, and that’s where I get to put my creativity together with it and be able to put a different spin on what they’re doing.”
She said they’ll get as specific as the organization or company wants them too, but they also have creative reign over their promotional events as well.
Cassie Engle, 21, of Flemingsburg, has been with the AllSports All-Stars for four years. She has an older sister who also was involved with Legends promotions.
Engle said the team typically arrives at the stadium an hour before the gates open to get all the prizes together and determine where everyone will be in the stadium.
She has been with the Legends for four years, including a double header game last year, when the first game went 15 innings and the AllSports All-Stars were in the ballpark until 1 a.m..
“Just continuing to be the personality from the time we got here to the time the last fan left was really fun, and a neat experience to leave the ballpark at 1 in the morning,” Engle said.
Kate Samuel, 18, a Lexington native who has been with the AllSports All-Stars for two years, also has a sister who previously worked with them.
Samuel said she has gone to Legends games since the team’s first season, in 2001. At that time, a child who had a birthday could get on top of the dugout, and that memory came back when she started working with the All-Stars.
I remember getting up on the dugout once as a kid and the first time getting up there for my job, it felt like a total full circle moment.
Kate Samuel, Lexington native and member of the AllSports All-Stars
“I remember getting up on the dugout once as a kid, and the first time getting up there for my job, it felt like a total full-circle moment,” Samuel said.
As the sun began to set over the stadium on Saturday evening, fans began to disperse as the game came to a close.
Aside from the game, fans were able to see two young men engage in boxing combat with oversized boxing gloves, and they led the traditional seventh-inning stretch rendition of Take Me Out to the Ball Game.
There also was a brother-sister duo who competed to see who could run around with their head on a baseball bat and, while disoriented, put on the two inflatable tubes in front of them. In the end, the whole family won a trip to SomerSplash Waterpark in Somerset.
Legends did lose to the Suns, 7-2, but Allison said that often doesn’t matter to him.
He said he wants to make sure that win or lose, the fans leave the stadium having had an amazing time, “whether it’s making light of a situation or making sure a young kid gets a free squishy ball so his memory of the ballpark is, ‘Oh, I got that squishy ball,’ or ‘I caught a foul ball’ or ‘I won a T-shirt,’” Allison said, “not necessarily (that) the Legends won or lost.”