The hit MLB.com game show "Bucks on the Pond," powered by Ford, makes its first visit to PNC Park in Pittsburgh for Tuesday's release of Episode 12. Demetrius Thorn is well prepared as he stands alongside Manny's BBQ out on the Riverwalk to field trivia questions before a recent game.
Thorn is flanked by fellow Pirates fans Jeffrey Lewis to his left and Dirk Selinger to his right, and the big guy in the middle wears a No. 24 full home uniform as a matter of routine -- at least to those who know him. For one thing, he once played the Cowardly Lion during a fifth-grade production, so full acting regalia comes naturally. No surprise, then, that he easily nailed a "Wizard of Oz" question that came up during the show. Two, Thorn is just carrying on a Bucs superstition.
"Last year, I got a picture of Pedro [Alvarez], and my mother's boss told me that I kind of look like him -- like his fat older brother or something," said Thorn, a PNC Park regular who works for a major electronics retailer. "For Halloween, I told them I was going to dress up like him, but I tried it out one time on Aug. 28 of last year, and he hit two home runs and we won, 9-0. Then his wife, the next day, said on her Twitter at the time, 'Are you going to do that again?' I'm like, 'I guess.' We grabbed tickets and we went again, and the next day he had another double and a home run, and we won again. So we went 4-0 real quick whenever I was dressed like this.
"It's been a good-luck thing. Everybody kind of liked it. So I've just got to keep doing it."
It might have even won them some bucks, and you'll have to watch the video to find out.
"Bucks" is hosted by Jeremy Brisiel, and you might be a part of it this season when you least expect it. Fans at the ballpark interact with MLB.com's studio through the magic of technology in conjunction with game action inside. In creating a new experience for fans, MLB.com is giving people a chance to earn bucks while they spend bucks at the ballpark.
Contestants are asked a trivia question -- general knowledge and baseball -- on each pitch during a half-inning of baseball. Get the question correct and win money. Get the question wrong and it's a strike. Three strikes and you're out.
The questions' difficulty and value increase with the number of outs in the on-field action: $5 easy questions to start, $10 medium-difficulty questions after one out, $20 hard questions after two outs. If the contestant lasts longer than the team's at-bat, they win the bucks in their bank.
Here's the new wrinkle: Cross the $100 mark during the show, and it's time for "Say The Word" powered by Ford SYNC. You can wager any part of your bank on the next question. Answer correctly and you win, answer incorrectly and you lose that amount ... and it's another strike. Being asked a question by Frank Thomas for this part of the show makes being on "Bucks" even more fun, now that we're 41 episodes into the series.
"Who cares?" Thorn said when asked how much they would wager in that question. "We came to the ballpark with no money, we can leave with no money. We're still watching baseball."
Topics covered in this episode include home roofing, 2012 Pirates offensive leaders, careers, calendar, "The Wizard of Oz," continents, Grammy Awards, Pirates World Series history, state capitals, philanthropy, Elton John, third base, "Arrested Development," cable TV, museums and mammals.
The three participants are all from Pittsburgh and have known each other for years. Thorn's baseball buddy is usually his "mum," but he was solo for this game and said Lewis and Selinger "happened to be at the park for a promotional BP session and I asked them to join. Timing I guess. That's how me dressing like Pedro Alvarez started too -- timing.
"Being on the show was an incredible experience for me, as well as my buddies, even though one -- Dirk -- didn't show it," Thorn said. "Turns out that he ended having to get medical attention during the game due to dehydration -- probably from all the excitement. I'm at PNC every game, so I'm used to the fun there, and the show made it an extraordinary day."
Thorn's advice for future contestants: "Just relax, have some fun, don't worry about anything else happening."
The "Bucks" crew has been to 18 of the Major League ballparks and is working its way through the full 30. In addition to the Pirates, teams visited include the Angels, Astros, Athletics, Cardinals, Cubs, D-backs, Dodgers, Giants, Marlins, Orioles, Red Sox, Reds, Royals, Padres, Tigers, White Sox and Yankees. Bookmark MLB.com/bucks and be on the lookout for the "Bucks" crew at your ballpark.
Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. Read and join other baseball fans on his MLB.com community blog.