This season, when I’m on the road, I’ll write a quick blog post about each Minor League ballpark that I visit. Then, upon my presumed return home, I’ll provide the multifaceted blog coverage that you have come to know and perhaps even love. Last night I visited Greeneville, Tennessee, the first stop on my 10-team Appy League road trip.
June 25: Pioneer Park, home of the Greeneville Astros (Rookie-level affiliate of the Houston Astros).
Opponent: Johnson City Cardinals, 6:00 p.m. start time
Pioneer Park, from the outside:
Culinary Creation: Astro Dog (bacon-wrapped and brown sugar-crusted hot dog with pickle, tomato, fried onions and chipotle mayo sauce).
Your Groundbreaking and Subversive Ballpark Joke of the Day:
6/26: Kingsport Mets
6/27: Johnson City Cardinals
6/28: Bristol Pirates
6/29: Elizabethton Twins
6/30: Princeton Rays
7/1: Bluefield Blue Jays
7/2: Pulaski Yankees
7/3: Danville Braves
7/4: Burlington Royals
Yesterday evening, the Pawtucket Red Sox announced that Friday’s game on June 10 would be “Free Brady Friday.” This is, of course, a reference to the Infinite Jest of sports scandals, the absurd dystopian opus that just keeps on giving: Deflategate.
— PawSox (@PawSox) May 31, 2016
As satirical current events-related sports scandal-themed promos go, this one is pretty tame. Fans named “Tom” or “Brady” will be admitted to the game for free, and $13 box seats will cost $12 in honor of Brady’s uniform number (of that $12 ticket price, the PawSox will donate a “quarter back” to the Brady-supported “Best Buddies” charity).
Today, in what is the International League promo equivalent of a rap battle, the Buffalo Bisons played Drake to the PawSox’s Meek Mill. June 11, a doubleheader vs. the Charlotte Knights, is now “Keep Brady Suspended Night” at Buffalo’s Coca-Cola Park.
The Bisons, calling an audible, have fired back pretty hard with this one. I’m not sure Brady supporters can handle these offensive lines, man. They’re doing everything here short of playing underhanded soft ball. Per the team:
The New England Patriots quarterback has been suspended the first four games of the 2016 NFL season for cheating in a playoff game against the Indianapolis Colts. To show our support for this just and rightful punishment, the ‘Keep Brady Suspended Night’ will feature:
Buy-One, Get-one Free Tickets to anyone that brings a PROPERLY-INFLATED football to be donated to area youth football programs
Accepting UN-DESTROYED cell phone donations for ‘Cell Phones for Soldiers’ charity
A 12.5% discount in the Bisons’ gift shop for anyone that brings a Tom Brady jersey/T-shirt to add to the postgame Fireworks Display
Help us remind Tom of the minimum amount of inflation for footballs,
for you know…once he gets to play again
Scoreboard videos featuring some of sports’ greatest cheaters,
with special video tribute to Patriots’ coach, Bill Belichick
The Bisons go on to state that “If you are named ‘Tom’ or ‘Brady’ you will be allowed into Coca-Cola Field … but will not be allowed to watch the first four innings of game one of the doubleheader. Please, no appeals.”
Here’s hoping the PawSox will soon respond in kind, escalating this promo battle royale into even more rarefied air (or lack thereof). Good thing, though, that the Bisons hail from Buffalo, as nothing has occurred during that city’s long and distinguished football history that anyone could possibly make fun of.
On the evening of April 21, mere hours after Prince’s passing, Columbia, South Carolina newspaper The State published an article detailing his legacy in the city. His longtime drummer, John Blackwell, grew up in Columbia. In 2011 this connection led to Prince donating $250,000 to local children’s charity Eau Clair Promise Zone shortly after playing a show in the city.
The Columbia Fireflies, currently playing their inaugural season, are further cementing this connection with June 9’s “Purple Game, Purple Game” promotion. On this Thursday evening, the team will take the field at Spirit Communications Park while wearing these jerseys:
The promotion, which occurs two days after what would have been Prince’s 58th birthday, features myriad in-game elements inspired by the purple-clad polyamorous pop legend. From the press release:
Activities at Spirit Communications Park to honor Prince will include a pregame Prince tribute band, Prince music throughout the night and a pancake-eating contest. After the game, there will be a purple-themed fireworks display.
The pancake-eating contest is inspired by a Chappelle Show sketch, which in turn inspired this Prince song featuring Chappelle as Prince in the cover art. Very meta:
Any fans driving little red Corvettes will receive free parking in the permitted parking lots adjacent to Spirit Communications Park.
All fans born in 1999 will receive a free purple glow necklace at Guest Services with proper proof of age.
For the lovebirds in the crowd, we’ll have a special Prince edition of the Northpoint Heating and Air Kiss Cam, featuring fans wearing purple shirts, blouses with ruffles or raspberry berets.
We will also host a Ping Pong Tournament … with the winner receiving a CD of Prince’s Greatest Hits. In addition, frozen “Purple Rain” adult beverages will be on the bar menu.
Not to nitpick, but wouldn’t a “frozen ‘Purple Rain'” beverage more accurately be known as “Purple Ice”? Nevermind, here’s another image of the jerseys.
Proceeds from a jersey auction will benefit the Palmetto Place Children’s Shelter.
“We are so excited to recognize the legacy of Prince with the Columbia Fireflies at Spirit Communications Park,” said Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin, as quoted in the press release. “Prince’s contributions to the arts and to the causes of children and education in the City of Columbia will never be forgotten.”
If you would like to know more about the Fireflies and their new home of Spirit Communications Park, then please check out my article recapping my visit there earlier this month. It’s a nice place to see a ballgame.
The Omaha Storm Chasers’ “Four Day Frenzy,” in which the front office staff is combining to work 84 straight hours at their home of Werner Park, is taking place now. Throughout the week, the Storm Chasers’ front office will be chronicling their collective “Four Day Frenzy” experience. This is the second installment; to read all of the journal entries click HERE.
Andy: Wow. It is hour 37 of the 84-hour 4-Day Frenzy extravaganza. Ryan and I are “reporting” to you after our Tallboy Tuesday trivia night inside the VIP Club. Everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves. The new $5 Tallboy Cans were a hit and I’m looking forward to Tuesday Nights at Werner Park this season. I haven’t been with the Storm Chasers for very long, and when I was first told about this event I thought it was insane. Going through it, though, it’s definitely sick.
— Omaha Storm Chasers (@OMAStormChasers) February 17, 2016
Ryan: I was in the first full staff meeting where the subject of Frenzy came up. I honestly don’t remember my initial reaction, but I guess nothing shocks me anymore. Perhaps my old age began creeping up on me these past few seasons.
Andy: Tuesday started as a normal day for me. I was on the phone, visiting with folks interested in learning more about this season’s ticket opportunities. The group that was stuffing tickets overnight on Monday came in at 4 p.m. and participated in a four-hour promotion informing fans about a special one-day only ticket package promotion. They could receive a free gift by signing up today.
— Omaha Storm Chasers (@OMAStormChasers) February 17, 2016
Ryan: We should mention that tonight’s “Graveyard Shift” is trickling in now. They will stuff thousands of ticket envelopes and boxes until seven in the morning. Last night the group totaled 108 boxes. Not sure that tonight’s crew has it in them, as a few of them are first timers.
Andy: I’ll be one of those rookies, but I’m not on the overnight shift until tomorrow. I’m still new to the MiLB game, and learning things every day.
Ryan: I know one thing you learned today.
Andy: Yeah, so tonight’s event was held in the VIP Club. The trivia teams were enjoying the new drink specials, etc., and hot dogs and brats were also sold. Then one young member of the staff (who was called out for being born before 1991), acting under some misguided assumption, brought out chips and salsa as a surprise dish. To be fair, we both partook and wanted the chips for ourselves. However, chips and salsa in a full bar never go unnoticed. Indeed, the entire VIP Club ended up wanting to taste some of the chips and salsa. It was a huge hit out of nowhere.
Ryan: We ran out of chips.
Andy: Lesson learned. The trivia came to a good finish, with the eventual second-place team coming back from the bottom of the standings. Congrats to “A View from the Box Seats”.
Ryan: Random questions were also featured, which gave everyone present a good challenge and, at times, a good laugh. There were quite a few teams present, and all of the attendees gave the club a season-like atmosphere.
Andy: Both of us were security for the event, fancy earpieces and all (like the Secret Service, but different]). We were doing simple things, such as making sure that contestants didn’t use their phones and making sure that they got their money’s worth in food and drink the whole night. On that note, it is our time to wrap up our evening shift. We are going to try to be up by 8 a.m., in anticipation of our 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. graveyard shift Wednesday night.
Ryan: I’ll be in bed by 11.
Andy: Pray for us, and Go Chasers!
Check in throughout the week for more Storm Chasers’ Four Day Frenzy updates. Until then, I remain:
To see all posts from my August 1, 2015 visit to the Montgomery Biscuits (this is Part Two) click HERE. To see all of the posts from my July/August 2015 trip through the Deep South, click HERE. To see ALL of my “On the Road” posts (going back to 2010), click HERE.
2015 “On the Road” landing page HERE!
I ended Part One of this Biscuits blog series with a reference to the team’s theme song. Well, if you like team theme songs, then you’re in luck. The Biscuits’ have two of them! If “They’re Out of Sight” wasn’t your thing, then maybe “Bring on the Biscuits” will strike your fancy.
And now, on to Part Two. The game was underway at this juncture of the evening, meaning that it was time for me to wander. It is never not time for me to wander, and it is never not time for a non sequitur.
Did you know that Montgomery is home to a Hyundai plant? In 2015, the three millionth vehicle rolled off of the assembly line and into our hearts. That vehicle was purchased by the city and installed on the Riverwalk Stadium concourse
Meanwhile, upstairs in the owner’s suite, Miss Gravy, Duchess of Pork, was making the rounds. The leash-holder in the above photo is Biscuits co-owner Sherrie Myers, who was hosting a “Leadership Alabama” event that evening and did not have time to speak with me. Myers and her husband, Tom Dickson, also own the Lansing Lugnuts, as well as PSC (Professional Sports Catering).
Big Mo, a biscuit loving beast if there ever was one, always has time to mingle with his constituency.
Big Mo and I spent the better part of an hour just standing there, our arms around one another, gazing lovingly into the middle distance. It was a beautiful evening in which to do such things.
I wrote a feature about the Biscuits for MiLB.com, providing an overview of the operation, and that feature included my observation that Keller “is quite possibly the only native-born German in a Minor League front office.” When will I learn not to write such things? Because, hilariously and inevitably, I soon received an email from Pensacola Blue Wahoos merchandise manager Denise Richardson. The email read, in part:
“I just wanted to point out that [the Biscuits] merchandise manager is not the only native-born German working in a Minor League front office – he is not even the only one in the Southern League. I was also born in Germany. Lived there for several years and then visited my Oma every summer in Maroldsweisach (in Bavaria) until she was too elderly to entertain my brother and I. My mother was the first and only member of her family to come to America. So, while Steve Keller probably spent a larger portion of his life there, I just wanted to let you know that is he not, “quite possibly the only native-born German working in a Minor League front office.”
May I suggest a new league motto?
The Southern League: Current Home to (At Least) Two German-born Merchandise Directors.
My Vines used to be margarine-al, but keep getting butter. Soon I’ll have it down pat, make a lot of dough … https://t.co/YUMLThoM9L
— Benjamin Hill (@bensbiz) August 2, 2015
Upon leaving the team store, I had a chat with the one and only Dr. Miraculous, a man of spectacular facial hair and deep Montgomery baseball knowledge.
Dr. Miraculous — real name, Shane — is a lifelong Montgomery baseball fan who has childhood memories of seeing Mark Fidyrich pitch for the Montgomery Rebels. He attends nearly every Biscuit game, and blogs about Montgomery baseball past and present via the Dr. Miraculous blog.
Dr. Miraculous told me that, through the years, Montgomery has fielded a lot of good teams. The ’40s and ’50s were a particularly fertile period, though he currently finds himself particularly interested in the ’09 team. As in, 1909.
Dr. Miraculous has already written about me on his blog, noting that “I met blogger-king Ben Hill and managed to not make a single reference to Yakkity Sax.”
Dr. Miraculous. This is the fourth straight paragraph that begins with Dr. Miraculous. And, also, the last. Time was running out on the evening, which meant that it was time to write, record and disseminate a groundbreaking and subversive ballpark joke.
Your groundbreaking and subversive ballpark joke of the day, Montgomery Biscuits https://t.co/MUfyUpRKyO
— Benjamin Hill (@bensbiz) August 2, 2015
Yes, there was a baseball game going on throughout all of this, as there always is. Without it, nothing else would have reason to exist. After the visiting Tennessee Smokies secured a 4-3 victory over the Biscuits, it was time for a post-game fireworks display.
Except no. No, it wasn’t yet time for a post-game fireworks display. A CSX freight train was making its way past the stadium, and the fireworks couldn’t commence until the team received permission from the yardmaster to do so.
The delay was considerable, as this freight train was so long — How long was it? — It was so long that it ended up circling the entire globe and running in to its own caboose. While at the mercy of the whims of the mercurial yardmaster and his serpentine machinery, the team passed the time by showing a video of Muppets characters lip-syncing to “Bohemian Rhapsody.”
Post-game fireworks delayed by freight train. Muppets “Bohemian Rhapsody” just gave way to “Let It Go” on v… https://t.co/bKwFH5Ao7w
— Benjamin Hill (@bensbiz) August 2, 2015
As the train snaked by, the yardmaster cackling dementedly in his lair, the folks in the production booth had to scramble to keep the crowd entertained. Over the next 15 minutes or so, they just about exhausted their crowd-pleasing absurdist viral video supply. In addition to Muppets’ paying homage to Queen, there was (of course) “Let It Go,” the Muppets doing “Don’t Stop Believing”, “Turn Down for What” mashed up with video from Frozen, “Happy” accompanied by video of dogs, the SpongeBob SquarePants theme (of course), something that my notes describe as “cats being manipulated to dubstep” and more. The zeitgeist was in full effect.
I was a freight it would never happen, but finally the team got permission to shoot off the fireworks. Could I have taken a worse picture than this? Probably not.
By John Parker / MiLB.com
Just before the game began, Taco Bell upped the ante for the team and the entire city of Fresno.
Your move, Grizzlies.
To see all of my posts from this visit to the St. Lucie Mets (this is Part Two) click HERE. To see all of the posts from my April 2015 Florida trip, click HERE. To see all of my “On the Road” posts (going back to 2010), click HERE.
Hello, and welcome back to this “live” report from Tradition Field, home of the St. Lucie Mets.
The previous dispatch in this series covered an array of pregame sights and sounds. Now, we remove the “pre” from the equation. It is officially game time here in St. Lucie (and, no, it’s not Larry David Lookalike Night).
Further down the third-base line, fans can watch the game from the comfort of the Tiki Bar.
I am never able to watch the games I attend, however. There is always wandering to do. An early bout of wandering this evening occurred alongside St. Lucie Mets general manager Traer Van Allen, who, over the years, has accumulated a 520-strong collection of bobbleheads.
“After spending this long in the industry, it’s really taken on a life of its own,” he told me. “I give them all a home. I don’t care what team it is.”
Bobblehead collection of St. Lucie Mets GM Traer Van Allen https://t.co/mhTB7BTsoB
— Benjamin Hill (@bensbiz) April 16, 2015
While Traer collects bobbleheads with an indiscriminate flair, there is of course an inevitable St. Lucie bias. The “Banana Phone,” for example:
If you’re wondering why a Banana Phone would be honored in collectible figurine form, then you’re wasting valuable brain space. But, nonetheless, I’ll satiate your assumed curiosity via the posting of this excerpt of my 2010 “Promo Preview” column that explained the phenomenon:
St. Lucie Mets (Florida State League)
Banana Phone Giveaway, Sept. 6
All season long, the St. Lucie Mets have played Raffi’s “Banana Phone” whenever the opposing team makes a call to the bullpen. The fan base has responded to this unorthodox musical choice, doing improvised banana phone dances in the aisles and, in extreme cases, bringing bananas to the ballpark. Now everyone can get in on the act as the team will be giving away custom-designed banana phones on Monday. These cheerful anthropomorphic bananas feature a (non-functional) keypad on its belly and are sponsored by Humana. Therefore, it’s the Humana Banana Phone. Don’t let the opportunity to procure one of these items “potassium” you by.
So there you have it.
Moving on to another notable St. Lucie bobblehead in Traer’s collection, here’s “Mary Lou.”
Mary Lou, a long-time St. Lucie Mets game-day employee, is unofficially known as the “world’s oldest intern.” A retired General Motors test driver from Michigan, Mary Lou began working for the team in 1997 and has done everything from maintenance work to running in-game promos to picking players up from the airport to, yes, wearing the mascot suit.
(Trigger Warning: This photo depicts a mascot without its head on.)
Upon emerging from Traer’s lair of bobbleheads, I struck up a conversation with Gayle and Jack Fishbein. They’re the fans with the candy.
I wrote a feature on the Fishbeins for MiLB.com. Again with the relevant excerpt:
Gayle and Jack always bring full-to-bursting Ziploc bags of candy to the ballpark, distributing them to the players as they’re warming up and socializing on the field prior to the start of the game. From Dubble Bubble to Tootsie Rolls, Starburst to Laffy Taffy, they’re equipped to meet the sweet-toothed desires of every St. Lucie Mets player.
No one, least of all Gayle and Jack, would argue that candy is good for the players’ health. But baseball players are known for their oral fixations, and candy is a far superior alternative to chewing tobacco. Tobacco products are banned in Minor League Baseball, but some players maintain the habit nonetheless. Gayle and Jack want to make sure that there is always an alternative, however. As the St. Lucie Mets players move up the Minor League ladder, and, perhaps, make it to the Major Leagues (where tobacco is still permitted), the Fishbeins hope the candy habit will take precedence over the far more dire possibility of being addicted to tobacco.
Oh, and here’s Grace, a familiar figure at Tradition Field.
What’s that sign say, Grace?
Next up on the evening’s agenda was to meet my designated eater (you know, the individual who consumes the ballpark food that my gluten-free diet prohibits). His name is Jay Meyer, and my next post will be dedicated to his exploits.
The deluge caused some fans to head for the exits. Because that evening’s “K Man of the Game” had indeed struck out, fans were entitled to a coupon good for a free Taco Bell taco. This brave employee was on hand to make sure that these fans got what they were entitled to.
— Benjamin Hill (@bensbiz) April 17, 2015
The game was official at this point — the Mets had a 7-3 lead over Brevard County in the bottom of the fifth — but the show must go on. After a 59-minute rain delay, the tarp was taken off the field. The cessation of play had given way to the resumption of play.
With very little to do at this point, I rambled back to Mulligan’s Bar and Grill and cracked wise amid the desolation.
Your groundbreaking and subversive ballpark joke of the day. https://t.co/fpznc5eLT3
— Benjamin Hill (@bensbiz) April 17, 2015
I then introduced my self to a concession stand lizard. I had never seen one of those before.
Finally, I helped myself to a front-row seat so that I could read up on the latest dugout news.
Bobby Parnell on the mound for the St. Lucie Mets https://t.co/yYZ3JK6SWz
— Benjamin Hill (@bensbiz) April 17, 2015
Finally, some four hours after the ballgame began, it ended.
St. Lucie’s handshake line culminated with a man wearing slacks designed to highlight his well-toned posterior.
And to all those fans who left during the rain delay — you lose! After play resumed St. Lucie crossed the 10-run threshold, meaning that fans who stuck it out to the end received both the “‘K’ Man of the Game” free taco and a “10 Run Rule” free chicken sandwich.
Like, you know, a Banana Phone Call to the Bullpen!
Earlier this month I posted a, uh, post that included one item of recent vintage and one left over from the 2014 season. This endeavor received a rapturous response, as most of my endeavors do, so once again I’m going to utilize this format. We’ll start with something new. It’s more of an update, really, regarding the New Hampshire Fisher Cats’ “Fan Photo Contest.” The team’s pitch was as follows:
Want to see your photo on a Season Ticket? Post your favorite Fisher Cats-themed photo on our Facebook page, and it could be featured on a 2015 Season Ticket.
Well, the results are in. Fisher Cat fans such as these will be showcased on season tickets in 2015:
Joseph from Barnstead, who is ready to catch the first pitch:
A triumphant Maureen from Manchester
Ian from Manchester honors America
And so on and so forth. To see all of the winners, go to the Fisher Cats’ Facebook page. I had never seen such a thing done before in the world of Minor League Baseball — correct me if I have overlooked a similar endeavor — and think that it’s a great idea.
Speaking of great ideas…
The Dunedin Blue Jays are located one rung below the Fisher Cats on the Toronto Blue Jays’ organizational ladder. And, this past July, they made baseball history. Therefore, if you care about baseball, history and the intersection of the two, then you will be fascinated by this. I guarantee it:
DUNEDIN, FL –This past Saturday, July 19th, 2014, was a historic day for baseball, as a baseball “first” took place at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium in Dunedin, Florida. The Dunedin Blue Jays defeated the Jupiter Hammerheads 12-7 in front of an announced crowd of 1,098. But the story actually begins almost two weeks earlier and about 58 miles to the east.
On Sunday, July 6th, the Lakeland Flying Tigers were set to host the Daytona Cubs. The Flying Tigers were looking to bounce back after losing the night before at Joker Marchant Stadium. On this Sunday, though, the Flying Tigers weren’t able to get back on the winning side of things.
Because on Sunday, July 6th, in Lakeland, Florida, it rained.
A ticket from that Cubs/Flying Tigers game was redeemed at the box office here in Dunedin, marking the first time in baseball that a fan has made use of the “Universal Rain Check” policy. This policy was created at the beginning of the 2014 season by the Dunedin Blue Jays, and they are the first and only team in Minor League Baseball to offer this unique rainout program.
The program is set up so that fans from all over Minor League Baseball are able to use a rain check from any MiLB game for admission to a D-Jays game. While the promotion is open to teams from all across the minors, as expected, the first redemption came from a fellow Florida State League game.
“I think it’s awesome that someone made use of it,” said Nate Kurant, the D-Jays director of marketing and social media. “I’m grateful that our GM, Shelby Nelson, allowed us to try something unique and I’m glad that it paid off for at least one fan. Hopefully it gains a little more momentum and more fans take advantage of it, especially here in the FSL.”
Longtime Ben’s Biz Blog readers, of which there are several, will recall that the Universal Rain Check idea can at least partially be attributed to reader Peter Golkin. In 2012, Golkin wrote a guest post in which he advocated for the implementation of the Universal Rain Check throughout Minor League Baseball. This post inspired one of the most robust comments section that this blog has ever seen, an occurrence that always does my heart good.
The Baseball Winter Meetings is scheduled to take place from December 7 through December 10 in by-all-accounts beautiful San Diego, California. As always, a primary component of this sprawling and multi-faceted event will be the annual PBEO Job Fair, in which professional baseball aspirants seek to secure a coveted position within the world of, yes, professional baseball.
Looking for a job at the Winter Meetings is a fraught, exhilarating and often maddening proposition, as hundreds of seekers vie to land a professionally, geographically and economically appropriate position. Some are content with securing an internship — anything to get that proverbial foot in the door — while others have already gone this route and are now intent on full-time employment. Some are just out of (or still in) college, while others are taking a leap of faith by trying to break into baseball after having started out within a different line of work.
Every story is unique, is what I’m saying, and these stories are well worth sharing. In 2014, as during the previous two Winter Meetings, I am planning on running a series of Job Seeker Journal guest posts on this blog (these will also be compiled and featured daily on MiLB.com). Are YOU attending the Winter Meetings as a Job Seeker? If so, are you interested in joining this group of distinguished individuals?
If you are interested in sharing your 2014 Winter Meetings job-seeking experience on this blog and MiLB.com, then please get in touch — email@example.com — with the following information:
— Name, age, hometown, college, Twitter handle (if applicable)
— Prior Sports Industry Experience (if applicable)
— Why do you want to work in baseball?
— One random fact about yourself (this can, literally, be anything)
Emails must be received within one week from today: the deadline is Tuesday, December 2 at 12 p.m. EST. Three individuals will then be chosen (selected by myself, with input from an esteemed group of MiLB.com colleagues), and introduced to the public in December 5’s “Minoring in Business” feature on MiLB.com. Journals will begin running the following week — one entry covering each day of the Job Fair, followed by a final post in early 2015 explaining how everything panned out.
Job-seekers, I hope to hear from you! This is a great opportunity to share your unique perspective on a baseball career rite of passage, and, who knows? The exposure you get from these journals could be just what you need to separate yourself from what is always a crowded field of candidates. Good luck, and hope to hear from you!
On Monday evening, Biloxi’s new Southern League franchise announced that it will go by the name of “Shuckers.” This is nothing to do with an action that is often performed in tandem with jivin’; rather it is an homage to the Mississippi Gulf Coast city’s thriving seafood industry. Oysters, which must be shucked by, yes, shuckers, are a big part of this industry.
My MiLB.com story on the new name was published on Monday evening, in conjunction with the team’s official announcement. The story includes a cornucopia of quotes from Shuckers general manager Buck Rogers, who held the same position in the team’s previous home of Huntsville, Alabama.
If you’ve ever spoken with Buck, you know that he’s never at a loss for words. In fact, I would go so far as to dub him “the most loquacious dude in the industry.” This was certainly the case when I spoke with him for my MiLB.com story. In fact, I ended up with a veritable novella’s worth of surplus verbiage. Being a conservationist at heart, I figured that I’d now share some of this surplus with you, the presumably interested and undeniably attractive reader.
On capitalizing on the Shuckers’ name:
Milwaukee, our parent club, has the sausage race. In Huntsville we did a superhero race. Here in Biloxi, we can do a seafood race. The sky’s the limit! (Note: Buck said “the sky’s the limit” a half-dozen times during our conversation.)
Maybe we can call up Smuckers — get a mascot that’s a jar of strawberry jam. The sky’s the limit….I guarantee you, if we take our staff to a beachside bar, get a pizza and some barley sodas and start brainstorming, we’ll come up with a big list of ideas.
I’d love to get Blue Oyster Cult out here to play a post-game concert. They’re my favorite rock band of all time.
On the potential negative of naming the team “Shuckers”:
You can take any name and turn it into something perverse. This is a local name with a local logo, and it’s reflective of the Gulf Coast. We didn’t have Willie-Off-the-Pickleboat design this. It’s professionally done, and we’re really proud of it. This whole thing is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. New team, new name, new stadium. Everything’s brand new. This is Christmas, New Year’s, Mardi Gras and your birthday all rolled into one.
On the Shuckers’ ownership group, which is headed by Ovations Food Services president Ken Young (whose portfolio also includes the Albuquerque Isotopes and Norfolk Tides):
This isn’t their first rodeo. We’ve had members of the Albuquerque staff out here, and they’ve helped tremendously. It’s been a great team effort. Ken owns Ovations, so you know the food here is going to be first class. We had Ovations when I was working in Brevard County [Buck was GM of the Manatees] and I’m happy to be back in that family. We have to think that the sky’s the limit. I’m not gonna tell them “Serve this, serve that.” They know what they’re doing. I expect shrimp po’ boys, oysters, all that kind of stuff. The concession stands will reflect the flavor of the Gulf Coast.
On keeping the Shuckers name a secret:
The Albuquerque staff took the lead on ordering the merchandise. Thank God, because we’ve had so much to do. So a lot of the merchandise was shipped there first, because we didn’t want a box showing up here that said “Shuckers” on it. But we worked really hard to keep the name off of any boxes or labels; we needed the whole thing kept under wraps. All you want to do is reward the locals. If you reveal the name, then you took the prize away, you took the present away. It’s like showing a kid his Christmas presents two days early. You took the joy away. We’ve had people from all over trying to find out the name. I just told everyone “I don’t know. I don’t know.” Lie, deny and counter-accuse. It’s the military way. [Buck is a former airborne infantryman, who took part in the 1989 mission to apprehend Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega.]
On the perks of operating in Biloxi:
We’re right across from the beach, and the team hotel is 100 steps away. We’ve got night life, gambling, clubs, concerts, shows and everything else. This is a good destination. Teams are going to like coming here. We’re going to have the best home record in the league, because the guys on the visiting team, they’ll all have sunburn and will be tired from having spent the night at the casinos.
So what do you think of the “Shuckers” name? Your feedback is always welcome, via whichever medium you might choose to deliver it.