The Tucson Toros won a division title last summer, and owner Jay Zucker said the baseball team will take fans to "new heights" - literally.
At a news conference at the Tucson International Airport's executive terminal, the Toros announced they will give away a small plane - a white Cessna 150 from Wright Flight school - as well as flying lessons.
The winner will be the fan who makes the most accurate throw of a baseball on Sept. 4 at the last regular-season game, Zucker said. In addition, every Fireworks Friday, a fan will be selected to fly over Hi Corbett Field to view the fireworks.
"When Jay does something, he does it big," manager Tim Johnson said before his new coaches emerged from the stationary plane on the tarmac.
Stan Cliburn, a manager for 22 years and a former catcher, will be the new hitting coach, replacing Pete LaCock, who holds the position with the Schaumburg (Ill.) Flyers. Jason Jacome, an ex-big leaguer and Rincon High School product, will be the pitching coach but will also continue to pitch for the team. He will replace Ed Vosberg.
Cliburn worked in the same organization as Johnson's brother, Sandy - the Texas Rangers - when Cliburn managed their Double-A team in the early 1990s. Cliburn most recently managed the Minnesota Twins' Triple-A team from 2006 to 2009.
"Having a chance to work under T.J., a guy I have a lot of respect for ... I'm glad to be a part of their staff," Cliburn said.
Jacome pitched for the Toros last season and is expected to again be in the starting rotation. He will help Johnson pare down the team's pitching group from 25 to 11 in time for the start of the season May 19 in the Golden Baseball League.
"I enjoyed last year being the older guy on the team and helping out the younger guys if they had questions or any concerns," Jacome said.
First baseman Mayo Santana, outfielder Lino Garcia and starting pitcher Vince Davis are among those returning to the team. Former major-league pitcher Albie Lopez, outfielder Josh Womack and third baseman Wally Backman Jr. are among the newcomers.
"I'm excited about Albie," Johnson said. "He's still got that great curveball."
Infielders Skip Adams and Junior Spivey are not expected back. The team traded outfielder Lyndon Poole and catcher Dylan Parzyk to Schaumburg for future considerations.
The team will begin its spring training May 5 in Tucson with the Edmonton Capitals.
The Toros will face Arizona Diamondbacks extended-spring training players in an exhibition at 6p.m. May 15 at Hi Corbett.
"We had a tremendous season last year," Johnson said.
"We were one of the few (first-year) independents ever in the history of independent ball to get into a final. Usually independent teams start very slow, and they gradually get into it. We were fortunate to have so many good players and fans. And this year, we feel we're going to have a better team, and our goal isn't just to have a great year, but to win a championship and bring it to Tucson."