I have been using this blog to document the friends in my life who have sent me souvenir ice cream baseball helmets for my collection. But here’s the thing: There are about 7 billion people in the world, and even if you were to believe Facebook’s inflated number, only about 600 of them are my friends. So I busted out my abacus and figured, if I could get strangers to start sending me ice cream helmets, it would increase my helmet intake by almost 12 million percent.
It all started on Christmas Day, when my sister gifted me three minor league helmets, two from the Wilmington Blue Rocks, Single-A affiliate of the Kansas City Royals, and one from the unaffiliated Lancaster Barnstormers of the independent Atlantic League. Katie, who is already an Uber Helmet Hero (see the list in the sidebar), fessed up that the Christmas helmets had not cost her any money. She had written to several teams asking to purchase helmets, but the Blue Rocks and Barnstormers just sent helmets out of the kindness of their hearts without asking for payment.
When Katie told me this, a thought rattled around in my egg nog-addled brain for a moment and everything seemed to go quiet. If it had been a movie, the camera would have been zooming in on my face as inspiration struck. Then it dawned on me: HOLY CRAP, I thought. I HAVE WORK TO DO. There are 144 affiliated minor league baseball teams. There’s a page on the minor league baseball website that lists every affiliated team, with links to those teams’ websites. Those websites have email addresses.
So I did what any sane ice cream helmet sundae collector would do. I started a months-long letter-writing campaign to every minor league baseball team in North America affiliated with a Major League team. I explained that my son Joel and I collect the helmets, that we’re big baseball fans, and that I’m teaching my son about the geography of baseball through the helmet collection. (All of this is true.)
Some teams did not respond at all. Some teams offered to sell me helmets for anywhere from $1 to $17.95 (don’t flatter yourselves, Durham Bulls), and one person wrote, “You are the first person that has ever requested an ice cream helmet and I have been here 7 years.”
Many teams wrote back that they did not have helmet sundaes with their team logo. This gave me pause, but eventually I wrote back: “You don’t sell helmet sundaes? I’m sorry, I must have been mistaken. I thought your team was located in THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.” (Note: It’s possible I didn’t actually do that.)
But finally, some teams—the Helmet Hero teams—out of sheer kindness and generosity, sent helmets without asking for anything in return. Sometimes they didn’t even email to let me know they were sending helmets. I would just go to the mailbox and there would be packages with my name on them, like Christmas morning.
The first teams to send helmets were the Louisville Bats (AAA, Cincinnati Reds), who sent me five helmets, and the Toledo Mud Hens (AAA, Detroit Tigers), who sent me two. The duplicate helmets allow me to put one of each in the actual collection, then keep the extras in the kitchen and use them for ice cream, per the terms of Judge John Hodgman’s ruling on my collection from a few months ago.
Then I received a box in the mail from the New Britain Rock Cats (AA, Minnesota Twins) with the two helmets pictured here. A very nice woman named Lori from the Rock Cats followed up by email to make sure I had received the package. “The pink one is a real collectors item,” she said, “we haven’t had many of those.”
Over the next few weeks, I received helmets from (from top left) the Albuquerque Isotopes (AAA, Los Angeles Dodgers), Altoona Curve (AA, Pittsburgh Pirates), Bowie Baysox (AA, Baltimore Orioles), Dayton Dragons (A, Cincinnati Reds), Lexington Legends, (A, Kansas City Royals), and Oklahoma City Redhawks (AAA, Houston Astros). A guy named Travis with Redhawks sent an incredibly nice note inviting Joel and me to visit their ballpark some day in the future.
In the course of this process, I discovered the Quad Cities River Bandits (A, Houston Astros). My son absolutely loves raccoons, presumably because he shares their affinity for tipping trash cans in the middle of the night, so a logo that combines baseball and raccoons was perfect. With the exception of this one, every helmet in this blog post was sent to me for free, but the River Bandits only charged me one extra dollar for a helmet when I ordered a T-shirt for Joel’s birthday, so it was practically free.
Finally, the Indianapolis Indians (AAA, Pittsburgh Pirates) may not have read my entire email, as they sent an autographed baseball card of their mascot, Rowdie. I appreciate the gesture, and I’m impressed that a sleepy red marmot can sign his own autograph, but seriously, I’m a man. I’m 40. What am I supposed to do with a baseball card signed by a mascot? Ha! No, I want plastic helmets that I can eat ice cream out of.
Now that I’ve contacted every single affiliated minor league team, I think I can just sit back and relax and just enjoy the collection for a few days. Except there are seven independent leagues with more than 50 total teams out there in North America. Holy crap. I still have work to do. Then there’s the independent winter leagues. And the Mexican leagues. And the Arizona fall leagues. And the collegiate summer leagues…