PITTSFIELD — He gave away a toilet once while working for a baseball team in Minnesota and a free funeral while employed by another team in Connecticut.
But Sander Stotland, the general manager of the Pittsfield Suns, who has spent more than 20 years in the sports entertainment business, may have outdone himself this time.
He’s taken the controversy over the sale of nip bottles in the city of Pittsfield to add another quirky promotion to that already unusual list.
On Saturday the summer collegiate league baseball team will provide free admission to their game with the Brockton Rox to anyone who shows up at historic Wahconah Park with a small empty liquor bottle, containers also known as “nips.”
Stotland said he came up with the idea after hearing that the city of Pittsfield has been considering placing a ban on the sale of nips, a measure opposed by several Pittsfield package store owners because they believe it unfairly targets their businesses.
One man’s controversy is another man’s opportunity.
“In minor league baseball you’re always looking for an angle, you’re always looking for something to shake the tree up, color outside the lines a little bit,” Stotland said.
“It’s become a hot topic and this is a little play on it,” Stotland said, referring to the proposed nip ban. “It’s 100 percent one of those jokey promotions. It’s not intended at all to be political or to take a side or to stir the pot.
“It kind of took on a life of its own with all the comments and such,” he said. “So literally, we just went with it. We actually got sponsors behind it.”
This quirky promotion is also another way to draw attention to the Suns, who are marking their 10th anniversary in Pittsfield this season. Wahconah Park’s grandstand has been shut down this year because of structural problems, and Stotland believes both that and the unseasonably cold weather — a wind chill of 41 degrees was recorded at a recent home game — are what have caused the attendance at Wahconah Park to drop by roughly 15 to 20 percent so far this year.
“We’ve been getting phone calls from people that still don’t understand that even though the grandstands are not accessible, that we’re still playing baseball,” he said.
Under those circumstances, bringing an empty nip bottle to receive free admission to a Suns game serves a purpose.
“At the very least people are talking about the Suns,” Stotland said, “good, bad or indifferent.”
Could all these empty nip bottles be used for another promotion? The Suns have a Christmas in July night scheduled for next month.
“We thought about making Christmas lights out of them,” Stotland said. “But we’re going to dispose of them like they’re supposed to be disposed of.
“I think I pushed the limit.”