In recent years, Asheville, North Carolina, has exploded into one of the craft beer capitals of the world. Buncombe County, of which Asheville is a part, is home to 24 breweries alone. This concentrated collection of alcoholic enterprise has prompted many a tourist to put out an ABV for Asheville aka “Beer City, USA.”
Today, the Tourists themselves got in on the act, with the announcement that they will suit up as the Beer City Tourists on June 2. This team’ll have some suds in their duds, but save your applause. Booze would be more appropriate.
In the Tourists’ press release, which may have been written by their IPA announcer, the endeavor is explained and justified thusly:
The Tourists jerseys will display the customized print “BEER CITY” across the chest and their New Era caps will have a pint glass logo with the official Asheville “A” embedded on the pint glass. These unique jerseys will be auctioned off with proceeds going to the Asheville Tourists Children’s Fund which uses money to purchase shoes for needy children in Western North Carolina.
Asheville Tourists president Brian DeWine is also quoted in the release, yet it is not mentioned whether he will change his name to Brian DeBeer on June 2. Just wanted to pint that out.
Anyhow, Beer City t-shirts and (Pilsnerbox?) hats are already available in the Tourists’ team store. The former piece of apparel looks like this:
The Tourists are no stranger to beer-related promotions; they’ve always had a can-do spirit. The term “Thirsty Thursday” originated with the team, and they had it trademarked in 1995. I wrote an article about the team’s “Thirsty Thursday” legacy when I visited McCormick Field in 2013. Look, they’ve got a trademark and everything!
Anyhow, the “Beer City Tourists” promotion makes a nice complement to Bowling Green’s “Bootleggers” night. That bourbon-themed celebration is scheduled for July 16, almost six weeks after Asheville’s promotion, marking a rare instance in which the beer follows the shot.
For much more MiLB promo material, guaranteed to provide equal parts titillation, inspiration and edification, check out my new “Promo Watch” column on MiLB.com. This week’s edition focuses on the Nashville Sounds’ new “Country Music Legends Race,” featuring tottering, inexplicably khaki-clad facsimiles of Reba McEntire, George Jones and Johnny Cash.
It’s time for another installment of “Why I Love,” in which Minor League fans explain what they love about their favorite team and why. Today’s guest writer is Michael James, who lived in Asheville in the summer of 2012 and quickly became enamored with the Tourists and their home of McCormick Park. James is now based in Baltimore; his travel blog can be found HERE.
(all photos courtesy of Michael James)
Why I Love the Asheville Tourists, by Michael James
I first experienced one of the coziest stadiums in all of professional baseball during the summer of 2012, when I arrived in town as a curatorial intern at the Asheville Art Museum. Soon, I found myself making the quick drive to McCormick Field on a daily basis, seeing the likes of Trevor Story, Taylor Featherston, Sam Mende, and Will Swanner bludgeon the baseball night after night while getting just enough pitching — led by Tyler Anderson — to produce an overall 88-52 record. This memorable regular season campaign was punctuated by a South Atlantic League championship over the Greensboro Grasshoppers. Managed by the fiery, infamous Joe Mikulik, that team set numerous offensive records, batting .278 and ripping 127 home runs and 335 doubles over their 140-game regular season.
The Tourists’ offensive numbers were inflated by the extremely hitter-friendly dimensions of McCormick Field – just 297 feet to right and 373 feet to center. Lazy fly balls hit to right would either clear the 36-foot high wall, which is cut into a hillside that serves as the parking lot for players and fans alike, or bounce high off the fence for a double. Hard-hit shots that would be doubles in almost every other park would become singles due to the short throw back to second base for right fielders, who routinely played near the warning track. In the Colorado Rockies’ farm system, numerous players have put up huge numbers during their stints in Asheville. A truer test of those players’ abilities has usually come the next season, while playing for Modesto in the Class A Advanced California League.
I went back to Asheville for a weekend last July and took in two more games at McCormick Field, bringing my total to 28 games there over the two and a half months I’ve spent in that city in total. The 2014 team would again go on to win the South Atlantic League title, posting a superior 89-49 record, including a 43-26 mark at home. I was in attendance for Games Three and Four of their championship series in Hagerstown against the Suns, though, to my extreme annoyance, I was not able to make it to the decisive Game Five. That team featured some of the system’s top prospects, including Ryan McMahon, Raimel Tapia, Correlle Prime, and Antonio Senzatela. I loved seeing the Tourists so much that now, as I currently live in Baltimore, I went to watch them on the road in Lakewood, New Jersey, as well as Hagerstown and Salisbury (home of the Delmarva Shorebirds), both in Maryland. I’ve now visited six of the 14 South Atlantic League stadiums, all in my support of the Tourists.
The baseball itself is one thing. It’s a major thing. More than that, though, it’s the overall experience that keeps me coming back. It is a difficult thing to convey in words, even for someone who prides himself on his writing, the feeling that one gets when taking in a game on a warm summer’s night. Is there anything better than spending three hours in the fresh air enjoying cheap nachos and even cheaper beer amongst like-minded fans, who are all there to enjoy the fellowship and camaraderie of the ballpark?
It’s the people.
It’s the entertainment and smiles produced by the PA announcer, Rick Rice. Asheville has one of the best in the business in Rice, whose humor and wit makes every between-inning promotion and on-field game a sight to behold. It’s the way the Tourists’ Spirit Squad gets the crowd on its feet to perform “YMCA” during the seventh-inning stretch. It’s the way the Tourists’ mascot, Mr. Moon, constantly engages the youngest fans and makes them jump up and down and run through the aisles to give him a hug.
It’s the way every usher at McCormick Field would work feverishly to towel off the bleachers after one of Asheville’s notorious summer rain showers, and the way every ticket-taker treated fans with kindness and genuinely asked each one of them how they were doing, wishing them a good time at the game.
It’s the way I sat behind the Tourists’ entire front office at Municipal Stadium in Hagerstown last September, after they made the 453-mile trek up I-81 from Asheville. Right next to the visitors’ dugout on the third base line, players and staff interacted with each other so warmly. It’s the way Correlle Prime signed every autograph, flashing his huge smile and laughing with opposing fans.
That, to me, is the beauty of baseball. No other sport allows you this daily interaction, this sense of community and togetherness that is fostered night in and night out from April to September. Has it helped that the Asheville Tourists have been great during the two seasons I’ve been able to watch them? Of course. Everyone loves a winning team. But McCormick Field is so beautiful, and Asheville is such a great town, that it would be a privilege to spend three hours every summer night there to watch the 2003 Detroit Tigers.
I urge everyone to visit McCormick Field at some point. It made a cameo appearance in Bull Durham. It has hosted the “Sultan of Swat.” Its venerable history more than makes up for whatever it may lack in modern and cutting-edge amenities. Go on a Thursday night – it is the original home of “Thirsty Thursdays,” a promotion many teams have emulated over the years. Your experience there will be one you remember; I can assure you that.
Thanks to Michael for taking the time to write this and, again: If YOU would like to submit a post for this series, then send an email to the address below. In the meantime, here is my 2013 blog account of my visit to McCormick Field (one of my Top 10 favorite ballparks): Part One/Part Two.
It’s that time of year again, that time of year when I fulfill my journalistic talent to its full potential by posting pictures of new Minor League ballpark concession offerings.
Following standard operating procedure, we’ll begin with the West Michigan Whitecaps’ annual Fan Food Voting contest.
— Whitecaps (@wmwhitecaps) March 2, 2015
Through March 6, the masses can vote for one of the following 10 items. The winner will be served at the team’s home of Fifth Third Field in 2015, joining perennial favorites such as the Baco and, of course, the Fifth Third Burger.
First Row: Beer-a-Misu (scoop of tiramisu gelato added to craft beer), Cheesy Does It (hamburger with a cheese bun), Cotton Candy Curveball (cotton-candy wrapped Twinkie), Crispy Pig Chips (pork rinds with all the standard nacho fixings)
Second Row: French Fry Pizza Pie (self explanatory), Hot-to-Tot (tater tots with buffalo chicken and bleu cheese), Kat Dog (Kit-Kat bar inside of a hot dog), Picnic on a Stick (fried chicken, tater tots and pickles on a stick, fried in cornbread batter)
Third Row: The Legend of Pickle Hollowed (a hot dog inside of a hollowed out pickle, deep fried), Weenie Panini (hot dog stuffed panini)
For the record, here’s a picture of the Baco (taken during my 2013 visit to West Michigan)
Keeping within the Midwest League, we now move on the Appleton-based Wisconsin Timber Rattlers. On Thursday afternoon, the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers sent the following tweet:
— Timber Rattlers (@TimberRattlers) February 26, 2015
“This,” in this case, was this:
Grilled Cheese Bacon Cheeseburger. Wisconsin Timber Rattlers 2015 pic.twitter.com/MxqnWFkIAB
— TimothyMichaelHansen (@ChefTimHansen) February 26, 2015
Then, on Friday, the T-Rats executive chef unveiled this. It’s a bacon cheeseburger enveloped within a funnel cake.
— TimothyMichaelHansen (@ChefTimHansen) February 27, 2015
No matter what your opinions are regarding hyper-fattening, internet-baiting Minor League cuisine, there is no doubt that chef Hansen knows exactly what he’s doing. I learned this first-hand in 2013, during a visit to the T-Rats’ home of Fox Cities Stadium. Hansen does high and low cuisine with equal aplomb; in his world sesame tuna on endive with pineapple salsa coexists peacefully alongside jerk chicken wings and a Philly cheesesteak.
Heading east, we find that the Lehigh Valley IronPigs have recently unveiled some new creations as well.
Pork Parfait: “Layers of mashed potatoes, pulled pork and cheese sauce topped with green onions.”
24-inch Frankfurter, “topped with chili, beer cheese, bacon, onion straws.” It is cut into four pieces; sharing is encouraged.
Finally, the Oklahoma City Dodgers will have more than a new name in 2015. The entity formerly known as the RedHawks will also offer these new concession items.
New concession items to whet your appetite before lunch: bacon & bleu nachos, pepper gravy fries, and Oreo churros! pic.twitter.com/enx8UY3sXr
— OKC Dodgers (@okc_dodgers) February 20, 2015
Actually, disregard the “finally” in the above item. As this blog post was being written, the Asheville Tourists unveiled this:
Topped with your choice of Syrup or Nacho Cheese. pic.twitter.com/yK5QNzVtOy
— Asheville Tourists (@GoTourists) March 2, 2015
That looks great and all, but can it compete with a deep-fried Moon Pie?
Welcome to the second 2013 installment of “Return to the Road,” in which I highlight that which was experienced above and beyond the ballparks during my road trip travels. Part one covered May 8 and 9 in Bowling Green and Nashville, and today’s post picks up in the early afternoon of Friday, May 10th. I had attended the previous night’s Sounds game at Nashville’s Greer Stadium — read about that HERE — and upon checking out of the hotel (complete with Road Trip Hotel Room Review #2) I made my way back to the area surrounding the ballpark.
My destination was Gabby’s Burgers, an unassuming but very well-regarded burger joint located the proverbial hop, skip, and jump away from Greer.
The above photo was taken as I was leaving Gabby’s, but when I arrived there was a line that snaked all the way out of the door. It was hard to take pictures within such a cramped environment, but this more or less conveys what the scene was like inside.
As many of you know, a celiac disease diagnosis has forced me to adapt to a gluten-free diet. Ultra-specific fast food establishments such as Gabby’s can sometimes be difficult to navigate, but I had been informed the previous evening that they did in fact offer a “jazz style” burger in which the bun was replaced with lettuce. Not ideal, perhaps, but perfectly acceptable! I ordered a “Seamus burger, jazz-style” and then snagged a seat at the counter. About 10 minutes later, this arrived.
I’m writing this six months after the fact, so perhaps my adjectival command is not what it might have been, but I can say without equivocation that this burger was STUPENDOUS, easily one of the top three that I’ve ever had in my life. If you’re in Nashville, and especially if you’re in the vicinity of Greer Stadium, then you owe it to yourself to make a visit.
Greer Stadium’s iconic guitar scoreboard can be seen from the Gabby’s parking lot, and a record pressing plant (!) is located just down the street as well. Burgers, baseball, and vinyl — what more could you want from life? (Well, actually, I can immediately think of a few other things.) But all good things must come to an end, even if they come in threes, and soon enough I was off to Kodak (or would that be Sevierville?), home of the Tennessee Smokies. My journey was not without its miscues, as you may recall from my Smokies’ “On the Road” post:
I arrived at Smokies Park a bit later than I was aiming for, due to a GPS/common sense snafu in which I drove to a “Stadium Drive” in Knoxville instead of the one in Sevierville. It wasn’t until I made a turn onto “Peyton Manning Pass” that it occurred to me that I may have driven to the University of Tennessee’s Neyland Stadium instead.
This, perhaps, was not my finest moment. But I was nonetheless in good spirits when I arrived at the Hampton Inn. You can see the ballpark from the stadium!
I wrote all about my visit with the Smokies, HERE and HERE and HERE. The next morning I posted Road Trip Hotel Room Review #3, and then embarked upon the long and winding mountain drive to Asheville. Upon arriving I found myself with about two hours of free time, and I decided to make the most of it by doing what I do best: wandering the downtown area in search of independent record stores. In Asheville, a city that prides itself on its cultural eclecticism and general open-mindedness, it didn’t take long to find one.
Static Age was a bit dungeon-esque, but it didn’t make me crabby. They had a bunch of Record Store Day stuff that had long become unavailable in New York City, and I was glad to snag Mercury Rev’s “Deserted Songs” as well as a free Sub Pop sampler (they also still had limited edition Bardo Pond and Mugstar releases and in my head I was like “Yo, Asheville heavy psych bros, you gotta get on that.”)
After leaving Static Age I soon came across Voltage Records.
While combing through the stacks at Voltage, I looked up and saw a most familiar site. I had this poster hanging in my bedroom, circa 1996.
Downtown Asheville was bustling on this Saturday afternoon, and despite what some of these pictures may convey it was truly a vibrant and spirited atmosphere.
Downtown also boasts this iconic art deco beauty, the S & W Cafeteria.
S & W was a chain restaurant that served inexpensive (but presumably delicious) Southern cooking. The Asheville location was open from 1929-74, and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1977. For better or for worse, it is currently being renovated into condominiums.
Interior-wise, the most physically impressive establishment that I visited was the Battery Park Book Exchange and Champagne Bar. This multi-level book store is well organized and offers plenty of comfortable nooks and crannies to sit and drink coffee, wine, and yes, champagne. It’d be a great place to hang out for an hour or two, but, as is often the case on these trips, I just didn’t have the time. And, as is also so often the case, my pictures do not do it justice.
Back outside and once again wandering about, I soon noticed that one of these things is indeed not like the other.
I was not in the market for a red, white, and blue bandanna, but I was in the market to visit another bookstore. I always am. Here’s some interior shots of the plainly named and plainly awesome Downtown News.
Perhaps the best thing about Downtown News was their exemplary (maga)zine selection.
Arthur is currently my favorite magazine and if over the course of reading this blog you’ve found that your sensibilities are similar to mine then please take the time to check it out (I also copped that Mojo with Sabbath on the cover).
I of course realize that there is far more to Asheville than its book and record stores, but given a limited amount of time that’s what I chose to focus on and I hope you were able to pick up on at least a little bit of what I was putting down.
I’ll end with a total non-sequitur, as I have one other photo in this particular road trip folder that is totally out of context. I imagine that this is something that I stumbled upon at a gas station somewhere between the Smoky Mountains and Asheville, but certainly it is not something that I have seen before or since. The object of this game was to use a joystick to control a pair of scissors that could then cut the string holding one of two prizes: a Nikon camera and a wad of money. I don’t remember operating this ridiculous contraption, but if I did I failed.
And with that, I have no more outside-of-the-ballpark detritus to share from what were my third and fourth days of 2013’s “Southern Swing.” Thanks, as always, for sticking with me.
Part one of this Asheville Tourists saga included ziplining onto the field from a hill overlooking the stadium, so I suppose you could say that it was a real cliffhanger. Today that cliffhanger concludes in stunning fashion, so long as your definition of “stunning” is more along the lines of “exactly what you would expect.”
Let’s get to it! When we last left off, the skies were clearing and this Saturday evening ballgame was finally ready to begin.
But as the ballgame was beginning, I was not in the seating area. Instead, I had taken advantage of the delay and met up with one Kelly Noble. Mrs. Noble, a mother of two boys who lives in nearby Hendersonville, had been chosen as the evening’s “designated eater” (for those new to the blog, the “designated eater,” or DE, consumes the ballpark delicacies which my gluten-free diet prohibits).
The team held a Facebook contest prior to my arrival to choose the designated eater, and she earned this honor by responding thusly:
Because I am a mom of 2 teenage boys who love baseball and so I usually end up with the last chip, fry, an empty cup. Plus I work full time and today’s lunch was a bagel I found in the fridge from last week. I would love a fresh hot dog and nachos I don’t have to share!!
Most of the available seating options were a bit damp after the recent rain storm, so Kelly and I sat on a circular brick wall in the concourse area. Tyler Holt, an intern with Professional Sports Catering (the Tourists’ food and beverage company), soon arrived bearing gifts.
Contained underneath was an order of pork nachos and, in keeping with the Asheville Tourists’ lunar theme, a deep-fried Moon Pie!
My designated eater was all for a dessert-first approach. Ladies and gentlemen, Kelly Noble!
I am always hesitant to take pictures that seem like they were simply meant to embarrass, but Kelly had a great attitude about the whole thing.
“I just want my boys to be able to laugh at me,” she said with a smile, while posing for a series of pictures such as the above. Kelly grew up with brothers and now has sons, and was clearly used to being in the minority, gender wise. I appreciated her great sense of humor and could relate somewhat — I am the oldest of three boys , and growing up my own mother took a similarly light-hearted and tolerant approach to our relentless competitions and bodily function-based comedic approach.
And you know what? Since this game actually occurred during Mother’s Day weekend I’d like to belatedly wish Kelly, my own mother Elaine Cooper and, well, all moms a belated “Happy Mother’s Day!”
But we were on the subject of Moon Pies.
“I’m trying to think of the best adjective to describe it. Wow…yeah…I don’t know! You’re the writer!” said Kelly, before finding the words. “It was delicious and filling!”
The Moon Pie was part of a smorgasbord that included the pork nachos, a “Wee-Heavyer” ale from Asheville’s French Broad brewing company and a gluten-free option in the form of chips and hummus (!)
But this being Asheville, it wasn’t just any hummus.
I hope you think this is funny, boys.
Speaking of, they soon showed up to check out what was going on.
Kelly’s sons are the two in the middle, 12-year-old Cole and 14-year-old Taylor. The friend on the right was turning his head because he was on a quest for phone numbers from young female fans and one must have been walking by. Even though he was 14 he seemed to think he had a shot with anyone up through age 20 or so. I admired the confidence.
And then, because too much is never enough, more food arrived. Pulled Pork Dog!
“The key is if the BBQ is good, and this is. It’s BBQ central down here,” said Kelly. “This is a great combination of flavors and…I don’t know. You’re the writer!”
Despite Kelly’s best efforts there was quite bit of food left over. “Time to use Mom skills,” she said, and within two minutes the entire smorgasbord had somehow been reduced to a neat stack that was easily taken back to the seats by her and the boys. And with that, Designated Eater #4 of the 2013 season had concluded her duties.
I’ve written about 1900 words over the course of these two Asheville-based blog posts, and yet still haven’t arrived at a point of time in which actual professional baseball was being played on an actual professional baseball field. Let’s rectify by taking a trip out there.
I loved this general admission seating area located down the first base line, which features plenty of room in which to spread out. Some fans bring their own chairs, and I was told that on hot days sunbathers are a common sight.
McCormick Field is 89 years old, and as such the amenities are sometimes in short supply. This converted office building located down the first base line is the only suite available.
In talking about McCormick, Tourists president Brian DeWine told me that “we’re as landlocked as landlocked can be.” This concourse photo gives an indication of just how constrained the team is in their operations.
Despite my previous concessions-based coverage, I never showed any pictures of the concession stands themselves. Again with the rectification:
Back in the seating area, I noticed that Mr. Moon’s attention was directed skyward.
He was checking out the rainbow!
Okay, Vine Time! Six seconds of brilliance, guaranteed.
And, finally, Mr. Moon was out there for more than just rainbow observance purposes. Would it surprise you to know that he can do the moonwalk, and is a great dancer in general?
As night fell, the already picturesque surroundings became even more picturesque. I will illustrate this with pictures.
Action in the home bullpen:
But for an even closer view of the action, try the dugout suites. $30 buys a catered meal from the fried chicken and biscuits juggernaut that is Bojangles (the seating area’s sponsor) and one of the closest views of the action one can find in professional baseball.
While sitting in this area, I made the following Vine. It is, truly, six seconds of brilliance.
I then retreated to the area behind home plate, in an attempt to document the perfect example of a 90 degree leg kick. I certainly took this picture at the right angle!
That young man on the mound, whoever he was, soon closed out the victory for Asheville. Good game, good game.
And good night from McCormick Field! I’ve been to a lot of ballparks over the last four seasons, but this one was an all-time favorite.
I arrived at McCormick Field at about 6 o’clock on a rainy Friday evening, and I must have been in a rush as it appears I didn’t take any shots of the stadium before entering. The saga begins, photographically, with this:
That’s none other than Mr. Moon, who was introduced as part of the Tourists’ re-branding campaign prior to the 2011 season. I wrote an article about it at the time, which included the following quote from (then) new president/ownership group member Brian DeWine.
“We had the desire to change and wanted something fun and exciting that told the history of baseball in Asheville,” said Tourists president Brian DeWine. “The original [professional] team in Asheville was called the Moonshiners, and that got us thinking about the moon and how many people have watched Tourists baseball under the moon through the years….Plus, we always joke that the moon is the ultimate Tourist destination.”
Good to know, but that begs the question: Why is this team called the “Tourists” in the first place? DeWine explained that one to me shortly after I arrived at the stadium:
“The name was first used in 1915….Everyone on the team was from out of town, so the locals said ‘Well, we’ll call them the Tourists, then.”
And here we are, 98 years later, and the team is STILL the Tourists. Meanwhile, they’re playing in a stadium that’s almost as old as the team name. McCormick opened in 1924, with Ty Cobb playing the outfield on Opening Day. By my reckoning that makes it the second-oldest Minor League stadium, behind only Vermont’s Centennial Field.
But anyway — I fear that this early influx of words has caused me to lose a sizable portion of my readership. Here’s a picture:
The above photo is by no means a good one, but it illustrates three things:
1) It was a pennant giveaway night, which is what Mr. Moon was brandishing in that first picture.
2) The main entrance is on a residential street. (Depending on one’s perspective, it would be either really cool or deeply annoying to live so close to a stadium.) This is indicative of the extent to which the field is tucked into its surroundings, with no room whatsoever to expand.
3. As a result of some long-ago architectural misfire, the ticket window is located inside the stadium. That leads to the rather awkward entrance set-up, in which fans pass under the archway, advance to the ticket window, and then proceed through a small opening in the improvised barricade.
The view on this overcast evening, immediately after passing through said barricade:
I soon made it on to the field and, uh, what’s this?
To answer a question I already knew the answer to: That is a zipline, extending from the backstop some 300+ feet all the way up to a hill overlooking left field. Before every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday contest the game ball is delivered by a fan via the zipline.
This endeavor is sponsored by Asheville Zipline and Canopy Adventures, one of the region’s many providers of outdoor entertainment. The company’s employees are on hand to set up and take down the zipline (DeWine boasts that it can be done in six minutes flat), and also accompany the chosen fan on the 300-foot journey homeward.
“The first year we did [the zipline] 70 times, but found that it got a little repetitive, so now we save it for the bigger games,” said DeWine. “On Boy Scout night, the kids will do it until midnight, when we finally have to curfew them.”
I went up there to check it out.
Soon enough, I was invited by the friendly zipline guides to give it a try for myself. All I had to do in exchange was sign my life away.
It was fun, although our combined weight was a little above optimal and we didn’t quite make it to the designated target laid out just to the right of home plate. (I am, as I type this, the fattest I’ve ever been in my life). Upon landing my guide and I looped back up to the top of the hill, and I am including this picture of our walk partially as a means to convey just how verdant McCormick’s surroundings are.
Upon arrival, I handed off the zipline reins to the fan who had been chosen (via a concourse raffle) to deliver the game ball. She was psyched. (I apologize that I do not have her name, nor the name of my zipline guide. My excuse was that it had started to rain by this time, and I didn’t want to get my notebook soaked.)
Want to see the zipline in action? Here’s my Vine video, which, like all Vine videos, is six seconds long.
Usually the game ball delivery signifies the start of the game, but the rain was coming down hard enough that its start was delayed. So, more pre-game wandering was destined to occur.
It may be a bit difficult to see, but here there are two things I’d like to point out.
1). The right field fence is only 297 feet away. This is certainly tempting for left-handed batters, but home runs are harder than they appear because what the fence lacks in distance it makes up for in height. At 36 feet, it is just a foot shorter than Fenway’s iconic Green Monster.
2). The scoreboard reads “Visitors” and “Tourists.” Never not funny.
This shot of the visitor’s dugout also provides a good view of the roof, which is held up with imposing concrete slabs that convey a sturdy masculinity.
McCormick was originally a largely wooden edifice, but has taken on a more concrete form after renovations in 1959 and (especially) 1992. Its old-time charm is completely intact, however, as I hope these pictures have shown and will continue to show.
This picnic area, located down the third base line, was pretty sedate on this drizzly evening.
If I had been at McCormick Field just one day earlier, however, it would have been a far different scene. For Asheville is the original home of the Thirsty Thursday promotion, and it remains the most popular night of the week. I wrote all about this in my aforementioned MiLB.com article; click HERE to read it.
Next to the picnic area is the visitor’s dugout, where coaches and players (and what appears to be a cop) were waiting out the rain delay.
That mural may look familiar, as it is featured in the movie Bull Durham. Crash Davis ends his career as a member of the Tourists, and a scene was shot at McCormick. WATCH!
Want an idea of just how long McCormick Field has been around? This photo hangs in DeWine’s office, taken during the 1924 season. As was standard practice in the South at the time, the seating areas were segregated. Behind home plate was for whites while black fans had to watch from down the third base line.
Meanwhile, here on a Friday evening in 2013, the skies had begun to clear.
Get out to the grandstand, Mr. Moon. It’s almost game time!
As you may have been able to guess, this post is going to be a two-parter. If Mr. Moon could talk, he’d surely tell you to check back soon for the riveting conclusion of this McCormick Field saga.
As everyone is well aware, today is 11/11/11. This marks the only time in our lifetimes that the date will be represented with six ones across the board, and — of course! — anomalous occurrences should be celebrated.
Within Minor League Baseball there is an established precedent for numerically-inclined (and often absurdly intricate) date-related promotions, so this morning I monitored my Twitter and Facebook feeds with an unwavering sense of purpose. And Minor League Baseball, once again, did not disappoint. Some highlights of my searching:
— The South Bend Silver Hawks offered fans a package, in which 11 tickets could be obtained for $11 between 11 and 11:11 a.m. Later, the team reported to me via Twitter that 24 of these packages (a total of 264 tickets) were sold.
— Perhaps inspired by the Silver Hawks, the Gwinnett Braves made the exact same offer at the last minute. “FANS- this just in- 11 tickets for $11!! You have until 11:11 AM to call in!” read the post on the team’s Facebook page.
— In Asheville, the Tourists offered a deal that was good for all of one minute. At 11:11, all hats and t-shirts were available for $11.11 at the team’s “Tourist Trap” store (five hardy but certainly not tardy souls took them up on it).
— Somewhat similarly, the Daytona Cubs offered a 2011 team hat for $11 all day. And with the purchase of said hat, fans received a coupon good for $5 off a new 2012 logo hat. (As you may recall, the D-Cubs recently unveiled a new logo).
Finally, in State College (where nothing else of note is going on), the Spikes amply demonstrated their Facebook power. At 11:11, the team posted the following:
’LIKE’ THIS POST FOR A CHANCE TO WIN! We need 111 people to LIKE this post!
If our goal is reached by 5 p.m. then we will randomly select one of the participants as the winner of TWO FREE SPIKES TICKETS and a MICHAEL ROBINSON SIGNED BALL (former Penn State QB and current NFL player). Happy 11/11/11!
As of this writing (2:30 EST), a whopping 164 people have already clicked the like button on the above missive. Impressive!
As I am writing this, 11:11 has yet to arrive on the West Coast. However, I have not come across any PST teams doing anything similar. Is this time zone disdainful of detail-oriented numerical promotions? Say it ain’t so!
And look at that! It ain’t so! At 11:11, the Fresno Grizzlies announced the following: For one day only, on Friday November 11, fans can get 11 Field Box vouchers for just $11 each (normally $16), as well as $11 in Grizzlies Bucks for FREE – that’s a $187 value for just $121!
Clearly, Minor League Baseball is #1.
In news of a non-sequitur nature, did you know that mascots have the power to create earthquakes?
What a load of bull.
At this time of year I feel like I’m manning the laser cannon in Space Invaders, blasting away at the relentless Minor League news stories falling methodically from the sky like so much alien detritus. No matter how adept my aim, however, I am always destroyed in the end.
But enough with the life metaphors, as Opening Day is approaching and there is simply no room for existentialist fatalism. There’s a new mascot to write about!
The costumed character in question is a relative rarity on the Minor League scene, as he is based on a Key historical figure, one whose martial maritime (mis)adventures inspired our National Anthem. Meet Frank Key of the Frederick Keys, based on Francis Scott Key and sponsored by the Tourism Council of Frederick County:
Frank Key, who joins long-time mascot Keyote at Harry Grove Stadium, will have his own adult fan club. Those who join “Frank Key’s Army” receive perks such as discounted merchandise and concessions, exclusive Q and A’s with staff and players, and the always enticing prospect of “unique fan experiences.”
In other mascot news, Tucson’s recently-unveiled Friar character now has a name: The Kino Bambino.
The team explains this Ruthian character thusly:
The long lost brother of the San Diego Padres’ Swinging Friar roamed the desert and arrived in Tucson for the March 25th Spring Training game. He dazzled the 11,000 fans that day, dancing and waving to screaming fans. The Tucson Padres front office marveled at their luck – the brother of the Swinging Friar showing up just weeks before the season!
Then the only question was – what to call him? After sorting through the hundreds of suggested names, one stood above the rest, the Kino Bambino. His name has a strong connection to the Tucson region, while also honoring the most famous baseball player of all time. The Kino Bambino, and Kino Stadium, are named after Father Eusebio Kino, the man who established 24 missions in the southwestern United States in the late 1600’s.
Quite fitting that a mascot with a religious background would come to the team after wandering in the desert. Kino Bambino is both on and from a mission.
From Keys to Kino to…uniforms? Sure, why not?
The Asheville Tourists unveiled their lunar-based logo some time ago, but it wasn’t until last week that the world got a look at the unis.
Click HERE for more pics, but I’ve got no time for such finger-activated endeavors. For the Reno Aces have unveiled some new gear, time to switch to ALL-CAPS:
For all road games, Reno will wear a gray and navy cap, which includes a new logo that features the Reno “R.” The team will debut this new cap during the April 5 exhibition game against the University of Nevada at Aces Ballpark.
Also, the Aces will wear an alternate white cap for select home games this season.
But before you can talk about logos, you have to have a name. Pensacola’s Southern League entry will begin play in 2012 (having re-located from Zebulon, NC), and the team is now accepting submissions in a “Name the Team” contest.
The only thing I can come up with is the “Pensacola Wars” and that’s not even funny. But what else is new?
I’ve learned never to say never in this crazy game called life, but I can say with a strong degree of certainty that THIS will be the last new logo unveiled this offseason:
Yes, the Tucson Padres now have an identity. It is indebted to the San Diego Padres duds of yore (1978-84, specifically), and also incorporates Tucsonian elements via the mountains and cacti. In a 2010 first (save for the Kannapolis Intimidators alternate mark), the logo was NOT designed by either Plan B Branding or Studio Simon. Rather, it was the work of the San Diego Padres Creative Services Department.
T-Pads merch won’t be available for several more weeks, due to the fact that the logo just received official approval. For more on the logo and recent Tucson developments, click HERE. For some background on why a Pacific Coast League is back in Tucson in the first place, click HERE.
In a nutshell, the team will play in Tucson for at least two seasons after moving from Portland. The plan is to then move to Escondido, CA. Stay tuned.
And since I’m on the topic of logos, surely one of the most memorable marks to have been unveiled this offseason is the Asheville Tourists’ “Mr. Moon”.
Well, now Mr. Moon needs a name.The Tourists want suggestions, with entries judged based on creativity, regional relevance and family-friendliness. The first thing that comes to my mind is “Keith”, and your response to that should be “Who?”
Ah, nevermind. I’m out of here.
After two weeks of sustained internet hype, the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers have finally unveiled their new logos to an eager and waiting fan base. Or should I say uncoiled their new logos:
“We were looking to freshen up our look as well as bring in new elements,” said Rob Zerjav, Timber Rattlers team president. “The jersey logo is a little edgier than the past logo and we now have an alternate logo that does not incorporate the snake, which gives us some additional branding opportunities. We are also pleased to keep our very familiar ‘W with the snake wrap’ logo as this logo is what Timber Rattlers fans identify with and it continues to be one
of the most popular logos in all of Minor League Baseball.”
While the aforementioned alternate logo doesn’t incorporate Fang the snake, it is rather fang-like. I’d like to think that Teddy Roosevelt would have chosen this logo to adorn his cuff links:
Continues the press release: The new Timber Rattlers home jerseys will feature a silver ‘TIMBER’ placed on top of a maroon ‘RATTLERS’. The outer stems of the ‘A’ and the second ‘R’ in RATTLERS have been extended and curved to resemble the fangs of a snake.
Visual representation of the above text, featuring uniforms worn by eye-less, four-armed robo-men.
And, lest we forget, these new duds would make great Christmas gifts for all the reptile-loving Minor League Baseball aficionados in your household.
The Rattlers’ updated look was designed by Studio Simon, who seem to be one of only two logo design companies that Minor League teams will work with.
It’s certainly been a big week for logo news, and I’d be remiss in my duties if I didn’t share the following link. Dave Levy over at SportsGrid blog thinks he may have discovered the motivation for the Asheville Tourists’ ribs-eating moon logo.
Writes Levy: I’ve watched the SNL Best of Will Ferrell more times in my life than I can count, so there is only one possible thing in the world I think this could be a tip of the cap toward: Ferrell’s brilliant Harry Caray impression. As he asks, “It’s a simple question, doctor, would you eat the moon if it were made of ribs?
Plan B Branding designed the logo, and I emailed co-founder Jason Klein for comment on this most important issue. He played it coy, however, writing that he could “neither confirm or deny” Levy’s speculation.
Jeez, I’m exhausted after so much investigative reporting. Time to go take a nap.