Notable Nuggets and Meaningful Morsels
It’s been a busy week here at MiLB.com HQ, at least by February standards. We had a stadium groundbreaking on Tuesday, a logo unveiling on Wednesday, and today marked the appearance of my feature story chronicling the Potomac Nationals’ attempt to privately finance construction of their new ballpark.
Through it all, I was surrounded by wispy strands of Minor League Baseball ephemera. I always am. What follows is my attempt to compile these recently appearing items into something resembling coherence. Wish me luck.
Remember last April when I wrote an article detailing the various team-branded beers that can be found across the Minor League landscape? No? Doesn’t matter. What matters is that the Kane County Cougars are the latest team to throw their stein into the brewing game:
Fans we need your help in choosing our new @TwoBrothersBeer Cougars beer! More info here: http://t.co/AyiM0TKND1pic.twitter.com/XmYawqINUj
— Kane County Cougars (@KCCougars) February 19, 2015
So, yeah, fans can vote on what the beer should be named. Two of the choices are rather generic and more or less interchangeable; the other choice is not. If that option wins, then expect plenty of jokes like this to follow:
@bensbiz@MiLB@KCCougars Save the “Raging Cougar” label for the discounted white wine promotion.
— D.J. Eaton (@deeej15) February 19, 2015
I’ve written several times in the past about the Holiday League, a theoretical professional baseball circuit featuring, yes, holiday-themed teams. The project, overseen by designer John Hartwell of Hartwell Studio Works, unveiled its latest entity this week: The Bourbonville Krewe.
This entity, unbeknownst to most, has been in existence for 40 years. From the press release:
In a carnival atmosphere full of masked performers and festooned floats at Flambeaux Field, the Bourbonville Krewe unveiled a special fortieth anniversary logo and announced plans to celebrate the milestone throughout the coming season. “We’re gonna have ourselves one season-long party,” Owner Rex Proteus proclaimed. “Laissez les bons temps rouler!”
A parade of former players was on hand for the kick-off event, including the legendary Balthazar “Babycakes” Gateaux. The Krewe’s all-time home run leader, Gateaux entertained the throng of gathered fans with a wild reenactment of the day in 1983 when he walloped three round-trippers, then wrestled a gator that had crawled into right field.
There are 160 affiliated Minor League teams, only two of which have crossed threshold of 100,000 Facebook likes. Those teams are the Toledo Mud Hens and El Paso Chihuahuas, and now the San Jose Giants are gunning to be the third:
[W]e are hosting a 100,000 Likes Promotion. Share photos with us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat showing your favorite memories and orange and black pride, using #SJG100K to enter. One lucky fan will walk away with the biggest prize in the organization’s history[.]
I’m hoping that it is, literally, the biggest prize in the organization’s history. Like, a topiary maze in the shape of the team’s logo or something of that nature.
Last season, I visited the Midland RockHounds home of Security Bank Ballpark. One of the highlights of that visit was seeing the team’s concourse train take laps around the stadium. In 2015, the team is adding another concourse attraction.
New addition to the ballpark this year! #Rockhounds @bensbiz pic.twitter.com/RUK2NZn3oo
— Joe Peters (@ShoelessJoe12) February 19, 2015
Peters later informed me, that, due to “safety reasons,” the concourse train would not drive straight through the fountains. Oh, well. A man can dream.
Speaking of dreams, one of mine has finally come true. Enigmatic Wisconsin Timber Rattlers announcer Chris Mehring has appeared as a guest on the latest episode of “Between Two Berms.” Mehring can out-deadpan anyone, even host Sam Merle.
And that’s all I’ve got. Thank you for your support, be it continued, sporadic, or barely discernible.
Guest Post: Beer Running in Bowie
Back in April of 2013, a Ben’s Biz Blog reader by the name of Mike Bryan sent me an email that read, in part:
As someone who loves Minor League Baseball and collecting autographs as well as road trips I look forward to your posts. However, I’m disappointed that you are missing out on a great promotion not too far from your NYC location. If you do not have any Memorial Day plans I think you should schedule a trip to Bowie, Maryland and write about about the 1K beer run that [the Baysox] do.
I was unable to make it Bowie for the 2013 1K Beer Run, but invited Michael to write a guest blog post about it if he so desired. He took me up on this offer…eventually. This past May, 13 months after he first got in touch, he sent me a detailed recap of the 2014 version of the event. By this time I was on the road, neck deep in my own ballpark endeavors, and thus unable to find the time to run it here on the blog. But now here we are, in January of 2015, the depths of the offseason, and I finally find myself with the opportunity to post Mike’s Bowie Baysox 1k Beer Run recap.
So here it is, some eight months after he sent it to me and 21 months after he first got in touch. Ben’s Biz Blog — The Pace is Glacial!
May 4th was the first of two Bowie Baysox 1K Beer Runs for the 2014 season. It also happened to be the date for my fiancée’s bridal shower. Since the bridal shower was an all-girls event, I was able to head to Bowie with a couple of friends and my dad to participate in the wonderful 1K Beer Run.
The Baysox began this tradition last year; participants start by the first-base dugout and run, jog or walk around the entire baseball field. After completing the first lap you receive a beer to enjoy on your second lap around the field. However, if you are trying to win the race — which my friends and I were — you do not really enjoy the beer. We are all out of shape from our glory days of high school, so sprinting around an entire baseball field and then chugging a beer is no easy task. After completing your beer and the second lap, you are then handed another beer to enjoy or chug before finishing your final lap around the field. Once you have finished the race you receive your final beer to “enjoy.”
Having already participated in this event in 2013, I decided to employ a different strategy to try and win the run. Since I am not the best beer chugger in the world, I decided to simply shotgun the beers after each lap. Although for about 4-5 seconds I felt terrible, I was able to quickly get back to the running part of the race.
It was a three-horse race throughout the run and my friend Andrew Renison and I were able to pass another participant by the left-field foul pole as we were heading in for the final turn. Once we passed him it was a two-horse race and I was able to edge out a victory right at the finish line. Some may say Andrew let up to let me win, but we will never know.
As the winner of the event I was able to throw out the first pitch. Unfortunately, that did not go so well as I tried to throw it as hard as I could. It landed right in the dirt, and, as Bob Uecker likes to say, it was “just a bit outside.”
Despite the horrific first pitch we were all able to still have a good time at the rest of the game. Bowie won, 8-5, behind home runs by Christian Walker and Dariel Alveraz, two of the Orioles’ better prospects.
During the game we were able to enjoy the wonderful food and beer selections that the Baysox had this season. Over the last couple of years the team has really expanded their craft beer selections, serving local beers such as Loose Cannon and Flying Dog. In addition to the great beer selection, they have a couple of unique food items that we tried out. We had a hot dog stuffed with macaroni cheese and Old Bay seasoning sprinkled on top as well as an Old Bay sausage, which were both phenomenal. Then again, anything with Old Bay on it tastes great.
After lunch and some more beers we moved on to dessert. For our last meal we tried out some S’mores, which were one of the best desserts I have ever had. The best way to describe them is “similar to a S’mores Pop Tart, but better.”
Unfortunately I was not able to defend my title for the next race, on June 21st, since I was on my honeymoon. But I’ll definitely participate again next year and look forward to you visiting Bowie on one of your next road trips as well!
A big thanks to Mike for taking the time to write this guest post. For the record, I did visit Bowie on a 2011 road trip; hopefully I can make it again in 2015.
Recapping A Confabulous Weekend in Myrtle Beach
As mentioned in the previous post on the blog, I spent this past weekend at the 2011 Minor League Baseball Promotional Seminar in Myrtle Beach.
The above photo encapsulates why it can be difficult to cover these sort of events: pictures of hotel conference rooms trade show mingling just aren’t very exciting. Nonetheless, it’s important for me to socialize with those in the industry, and to get a gauge on promotional techniques and concepts that may be popular in 2012 and beyond.
I wrote about the seminar in two MiLB stories, which can be found HERE and HERE. Unbiased third parties report that interesting information abounds in these fact-laden Myrtle Beach missives.
One of the topics touched upon is the Lake Elsinore Storm’s Grounds Crew Gorilla, winner of the 2011 “Golden Bobblehead” for “best in-game promotion.” The Gorilla made a cameo appearance at the seminar, attacking attendees with pool noodles and overturning the speaker’s table. My best attempt to document this chaotic moment:
Certainly, the Grounds Crew Gorilla was one of the highlights of my May visit to a Lake Elsinore Storm game.
Meanwhile, at the Trade Show, Trampolines USA was selling their “Pony Hops.” These things swept through the Minor League landscape last season, and I imagine that there will be even more teams using them in 2012.
The roster of the mighty Skillville Group was on display as well, bathed in beatific blue light.
But I think this mascot was my favorite part of the trade show, a costumed creature available to the highest bidder during Saturday night’s silent auction.
At the time I took this picture, the Danville Braves were the highest (and only) bidder. I’ll have to check to see if they won, because I’d love to see this dazed and confused character at an Appalachian League baseball game.
On Sunday night, there was an industry outing to Ripken Baseball’s Myrtle Beach Baseball complex. My lens was dirty in the following photo, but I like the effect.
This marks the second time this month I was at a Ripken Baseball youth complex, with my first outing taking place in conjunction with an Aberdeen IronBirds game.
According to my hastily-scribbled notes (the only kind of notes I’ve ever made), the Myrtle Beach complex is a 10-month a year operation and devoted almost exclusively to youth, high school and collegiate baseball tournaments. There are three regulation-sized diamonds and five youth size, all on synthetic turf.
Here’s Griffith Field, where an estimated 2500 games have been played over the past six years.
All synthetic everything, even the “dirt.”
A few more shots of the surroundings, some of them taken from the back of a moving golf cart.
From there the festivities moved on to Myrtle Beach’s BB&T Coastal Ballpark, home of the Myrtle Beach Pelicans. I had visited there in late July, but was happy to be back.
Upon entering, we were greeted with some very welcome sights.
1. Popcorn and boiled peanuts!
2. Beer, as poured through the Bottoms Up beer dispenser (yes, they fill from the bottom. Magnets are key). Needless to say this was good marketing, using this product in full view of curious (and endlessly thirsty) industry decision-makers.
You may recall that when I was in Myrtle Beach I interviewed noted groundskeeper Chris “Butter” Ball, during which he observed that he keeps “extreme banker’s hours” in the offseason.
Well, this offseason might be a little different:
A buffet-style meal was set up in the right field picnic area, while down the left field line attendees could play corn hole and test their arms at the speed pitch.
As is too often the case, the demands of attending and covering an event such as the seminar leaves little time for exploring the area. But I’d like to close with this shot, as it features a business that has found a way to carry on amidst Myrtle Beach’s proliferation of neon-hued dining palaces and soul-destroying theme bars.
Harry’s Breakfast Pancakes — RIP Harry!
Next time I got to Myrtle Beach, this will be first on my list of places to check out.
A New First-Round Draft Pick
I was on Twitter yesterday, minding my own business, when I came across the following 140-character missive from Iowa Cubs’ director of logistics Scott Sailor:
Coming to Principal Park: Bottoms Up Beer Dispensers. Fills #beer from the bottom of the cup — in one second!
The tweet contained a link to the home page of GrinOn Industries, makers of the “Bottoms Up” beer dispenser. Said page contains a video of one man filling up 44 pints over the course of a minute. Meanwhile, on YouTube, this video of “Bottoms Up” in action has garnered over three million views:
My interest piqued, I re-tweeted Sailor’s tweet and that in turn was picked up by CNBC sports business (and Twitter) guru Darren Rovell. As a result, I gained quite a few new followers as well as the knowledge that people are very interested in bottom-filling beer cups.
But the I-Cubs are the first Minor League team I’ve come across who will utilize this amazing technology (which, for the record, is heavily dependent on magnets). Are there any others out there? I’d like to hear some bottom-filling beer cup anecdotes.
It’s a non-sequitur kind of day, so I’m going to transition without comment to the funniest Minor League video I’ve seen in at least 22 hours. If you’ve ever wanted to know what a baseball zamboni is, or even if you haven’t, the Gwinnett Braves are here to fill you in.
I really am a fan of the above video, as it so ably utilizes the classic “set-up/punchline” format. That’s all that’s ever needed.
Seeking to zig where others zag, I’ll close today’s post with information about a toothbrush bobblehead. Bet you didn’t see this one coming:
The individual seen above is “Bristles”, an up-and-comer within the Lowell Spinners’ ever-expanding pantheon of ballpark characters. The team is distributing just 200 Bristles bobbleheads, available only to “Grand Slam” members of the “Thread Sox Nation” fan club.
Talk about a brush with greatness!
Bottoms-up beer dispensing? Check. Zamboni-themed team produced video? Check. Oral hygiene giveaway item? Check. Puns that inspire anger in the reader and self-loathing in the writer? Check.
Okay, my work here is done.
Raise A Toast to Tulsa
When I tell people what it is that I do professionally, the most common follow-up question I receive is “So, is your eventual goal to write about the Major Leagues?”
To that query, the answer is a most emphatic “NO!”. If I was writing about the Major Leagues, then I’d be required to be today’s 4,872nd talking head to weigh in about Manny Ramirez. I’d have to have an opinion on pitch-tipping. And, most depressingly, I’d be just one more dude in a locker room of (mostly) dudes, decked out in business casual attire and getting cliche responses to my cliche questions. No thanks! If I wanted to have the joy sucked out of something I love, I’d just get married (again).
It’s a Minor League life for me. I’m glad to be writing this stuff, and happy to have my niche. The occupational hazards, as many as there have been, have thus far been worth it (but for how long? NYC’s not cheap!).
I’m not sure what prompted the above soliloquy. Perhaps I’m feeling a little introspective upon realizing that this is Ben’s Biz Blog post #300. At any rate, I am, as usual, feeling the need for a drink. For that, let’s take a trip to Texas.
The Tulsa Drillers have announced something that, so far as I know, is one of a kind: The $1 Beer Bullpen Ticket Plan. Take it away, press release:
The ticket package gives you a discounted ticket to all 10 Thirsty Thursdays during the 2009 season. For $45 you get 10 general admission tickets (a $60 value) and membership in the $1 Beer Bullpen! That’s right — $1 off every ticket and your own VIP drink line! You’ll never have to wait in line again!
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I don’t know about you, but nothing makes me feel like more like a VIP than not waiting in line for a plastic cup of domestic draft beer (I’m not being sarcastic). And that’s a pretty phenomenal deal — $4.50 a ticket, and cheap, speedy beer all evening long.
The Drillers’ first “Thirsty Thursday” of the season was a week ago today. Let’s go to the visual evidence (thanks to Drillers promotions manager Michael Taranto for the pictures):
First, a shot that conveys the general atmosphere in the Beer Bullpen (I wonder if they call it that because there are so many people in there who need to relieve themselves):
The gentleman in the middle of the following shot apparently feels it is necessary to carry around 15 cups at a time. What is he, an equipment manager?
I wish there was a blonde woman in this next photo, because then I could title it “Goldilocks and the Three Bros”:
At any rate, this is the closest I can get to enjoying a drink at work, so thanks to the Drillers for that.
If you have any info for me, domestic draft-related or otherwise, then you know the drill:
Just Another Footrace Between Alcoholic Beverages
Long-time readers of this blog (they exist!) are aware that I am a big fan of nightly races that take place in Minor League ballparks. More specifically, races that involve recurring costumed characters sprinting through foul territory as if their lives depended on it.
A shining example of this would be the Spiedie Races that took place in Binghamton last season. The drama and intrigue surrounding these battles gradually reached a fever pitch, but a Sopranos-esque anti-climax resulted in far more questions than it answered.
But that was last season. Let’s talk about 2009, because the Asheville Tourists have something interesting going on. I will now defer to an email I received from Tourists broadcaster Ben Levine:
I’m not sure if you’re familiar with
the city of Asheville, but it’s pretty unique and it is known for a few things
in particular. Among them is its reputation for being one of the nation’s hubs
for independent breweries. There are a bunch of local and regional breweries in
and around the area.
This season, [lead broadcaster] Jay [Burnham]
got five of the local breweries to sign on to sell their beers on our concourse
at a ‘Local Beers of Asheville’ stand, and he also got them to sponsor what
we’re calling ‘The Great Asheville Beer Race.’ It’s basically comparable to the
Hot Dog race in Milwaukee and the Presidents racing in Nationals Stadium. We
ordered five different beer costumes and distributed them to each sponsor for
decoration. We will run the races for Thursday-Saturday games, and we use fans
to run the race, offering a brewery T-shirt to the winner.
This sounds awesome. All I need now is some good ol’ photographic evidence.
Thanks! Now, I would like to see a picture featuring the gentleman on the far right. Make it happen, computer.
I just came to the realization that the above picture features a man with a head on his head.
Until next time, I remain,
A Great Moment in American History, Revisited
Are you tired of the seemingly endless battle between Hilary and Obama, and how the fight for the Democrat presidential nomination has been reduced to a parade of meaningless snippets and soundbites? Do you long for the days when politics were covered with substance and style?
Well, the Brevard County Manatees have just the thing that you are looking for. On Thursday, they will take fans on a trip back in time — all the way to that golden era of 2004. It’s “I Have A Scream Night” at Space Coast Stadium, during which the club will pay tribute to Howard Dean’s legendary presidential campaign. The details regarding this tribute are quite sparse, but the press release does go out of its way to reference Dean’s epochal “scream” speech:
“Not only are the Manatees going to Daytona, they’re going to Palm Beach
and Jupiter and Vero Beach and St. Lucie. They’re going to Clearwater
and Tampa and Dunedin. Then they’re going to Fort Myers and Sarasota
and Lakeland, and they’re coming back to Space Coast Stadium to take
back the FSL championship… BYAH!”
If this promo caused you to do nothing more than utter a disinterested “byah”, then perhaps what the club has in store the next evening is more up your alley. It’s “Salute to Local Beers Night”, and “of-age” fans will have the opportunity to sample beer, Brevard County style, over the course of the evening. Just don’t drink too much, as this will cause you to go “BYAH!”
Okay, I’ve gotta go now. Until tomorrow, folks…
A Raging Keg Party in Fort Myers
In last Tuesday’s “Promotion Preview” column, I highlighted the following event:
Fort Myers Miracle (Florida State League)
“Mighty Gonzalez” Keg Lift Record, May 1
By day, David Gonzalez is an unassuming Taco Bell employee. But in the
evening, he often morphs into his “Mighty Gonzalez” alter-ego. When
channeling “Mighty,” Gonzalez performs amazing feats of strength
throughout the Fort Myers area, where he has gained notoriety for his
ability to walk on glass and crush cinder blocks on his torso (don’t
try this at home, kids). At the Miracle’s Hammond Stadium, Mighty
Gonzalez will feed off the energy of an enthusiastic “Thirsty Thursday”
crowd as he attempts to break the Guinness Book of World Record for
full keg lifts. The current mark is 900 over a six-hour period, but
Gonzalez is seeking to accomplish the feat over the course of just nine
innings. I’ll be rooting for you, Mighty. You can do it.
So, the big question at this point is “Did Mighty set the record?” And the answer is…YES! Gary Sharp, the Miracle’s Promotions Director, was kind enough to provide me with the following information:
“[Gonzalez] did the full keg lift of 145 pounds 983 times. He dislocated his shoulder on lift 942 so the final 40+ were difficult. We had a great crowd watching him and I had him save the record breaker of 973 during a between-innings contest. Guinness Book of World Records has to go through the confirmation process, but according to us and him it’s a world record.”
Here’s a photo of Mighty in action:
Mighty’s the man! According to my calculations, he lifted a total of 142,535 pounds over the course of the evening. That’s over 15,000 gallons of beer!