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Minor league teams use Te'o hoax for promotion

FLORENCE, Ky. (AP) - The Kentucky-based Florence Freedom minor league baseball team is jumping on the Manti Te'o girlfriend hoax story, offering a bobblehead giveaway of the girlfriend - only the boxes will be empty.

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And the New York Mets' Class A Brooklyn Cyclones will hold a ``Fictitious Friday'' on June 21. Sid Finch will make his professional debut against Roy Hobbs and the New York Knights - all fictional. The Cyclones said they will have a petting zoo ``featuring a unicorn, a mermaid and a Minotaur,'' adding they ``are also in discussions with the Loch Ness Monster and Big Foot to throw out a ceremonial first pitch.''

The Freedom, a member of the Frontier League, said Friday that the boxes will go to the first 1,000 fans on May 23. They also will rope off a special section just for people to bring imaginary friends.

Freedom General Manager Josh Anderson says fans can make the bobblehead out to be whatever they want it to be.

Te'o, an All-American from Notre Dame, said this week he was duped in a bizarre scheme involving a fake ``girlfriend'' he met online. The tale of how Te'o played through the pain of the pain of the girlfriend's ``death'' became a major story line during the 2012 season.

The Cyclones will honor Finch, the pitcher with the 168 mph fastball in the fictional Sports Illustrated story from April Fool's Day 1985, and Hobbs and the Knights from ``The Natural,'' a 1952 novel and 1984 movie.

``Fans should be sure to arrive early because prior to the game, The Beatles will reunite for a once-in-a-lifetime concert event,'' Cyclones spokesman Jason Solomon said in an email, adding, ``OK, that's apparently not true either, but this girl I met online told me she could make it happen.''

Brooklyn's video board will feature player headshots of ``random people whose photos we found on the Internet.''

``Everywhere you look, there seems to be another story about an athlete that was covering up something,'' said Cyclones General Manager Steve Cohen said. ``People don't know who, or what, to believe any more. That got us thinking - let's have a night where our fans don't have to worry about what's real and what's not, we'll just tell them everything planned for that night is a hoax.''

Copyright 2017 by STATS LLC and Associated Press.
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