EVERETT — There’s a common saying among the members of the Everett AquaSox’s creative department: “All right, that’s good. How can we make it dumber?”
It’s the mantra that’s led to some of the witty sayings and jokes posted this offseason on the double-sided marquee outside the Minor League Baseball team’s offices on Broadway in Everett.
The aforementioned “creative department” is really just three account executives and Washington State University graduates — Kieran McMahon, Conner Grant and Scott Brownlee — whose cubicles sit next to each other. They have taken it upon themselves to spice up the sign with funny and bizarre sayings.
For example, during the first day of the offseason, the trio came up with “My life without baseball,” except all the letters were upside down. Other favorites include: “My boss told me to change the sign. Done” and “Qu!t 5t3al!ng our l3tt3r$.”
This week, the message “Honk if you like peace and quiet” was up for northbound drivers, and “Beware of Frog!” greeted those headed south.
“I like it a lot,” AquaSox general manager Danny Tetzlaff said. “I want it to be kind of fun. I mean, we’re a baseball team. We need to be having fun and that’s what our mantra is, so we should have fun with our messages to the fans.”
The inception of the “creative department” occurred during the season with an inside joke. The trio thought of the idea to put up the message “$3 corn dogs!” to poke fun at Tetzlaff’s affinity for corn dogs.
“We just wanted people to buy corn dogs because we thought it was funny,” Grant said.
Well, the corn dogs actually cost $3.50, but that didn’t matter. The hunger for coming up with eccentric messages on the reader board grew from there.
Now that they have more free time on their hands during the offseason, the three account executives are using it as an opportunity to come up with witty messages each week.
“Danny loves that sort of stuff and he gives us the opportunity to be creative with it and do stuff that we think (is) funny,” Brownlee said. “We just kind of ran with it, especially during ‘boring’ season, it’s kind of nice to hear the feedback and have people call. It’s just kind of nice to look out there and see something funny.”
The trio said most of the ideas come from humorous images, videos or texts posted on the internet, usually via social media platforms, and by talking to each other in between sales calls.
Grant, who jokes he is the “director of marquee operations” because he was mainly responsible for putting up messages each night after home games, has chipped in the most ideas. He has a long list of ideas banked on his phone for future signs.
The only complication? The marquee has three rows that hold just 11 characters each, which can make longer jokes difficult to pull off.
The creativity doesn’t stop with the reader board. The AquaSox have started to release videos in the mold of ESPN’s “This is SportsCenter” commercials. The idea is to keep things fun while attracting eyeballs and interest, which the AquaSox hope translates into more people in the ballpark come next summer.
“The idea is to get people to click,” McMahon said. “We want them to think, ‘Oh, that was funny.’ It’s the same with the sign. They see and think it’s funny, so when we post something that has some grit to it about our season, people notice it.”
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The AquaSox hope that leaning toward the eccentric side of the business will build on one of their most successful seasons at the box office. They posted a total attendance of 116,630 in 2019, their highest since they drew 119,396 in 1998.
Being fun and creative is especially important in the world of minor-league sports, as teams don’t boast big-league experiences or superstar players to fall back on. Putting fans in the seats and selling season tickets comes down to thinking outside the box.
The sign and videos align with the spirit of the business. And as long as they keep finding ways to make it dumber, the AquaSox’s three-man creative department will keep providing commuters up and down Broadway some comic relief.
“That’s always something I’ve wanted to do with the sign,” Tetzlaff said. “Those three took it upon themselves to do it, and that’s awesome.”