For the past two decades, the Kane County Cougars have played at Elfstrom Stadium. The facility was named in honor of Philip B. Elfstrom, a former Kane County Forest Preserve president who played a key role in bringing Minor League Baseball to the region.
Sound familiar? It should. For Kane County is the fourth Fifth Third Ballpark (or Field) in Minor League Baseball. (The others are located in Toledo, Dayton, and West Michigan.) Clearly, a naming-rights juggernaut is forming.
Fifth Third Bank is headquartered in Cincinnati, Ohio. It’s unusual name is described on Wikipedia as [T]he result of the June 1, 1908 merger of Third National Bank and Fifth National Bank, to become the Fifth Third National Bank of Cincinnati. While Third National was the senior partner, the merger took place during a period when prohibitionist ideas were gaining popularity, it was believed that “Fifth Third” was better than “Third Fifth,” which could be construed as a reference to three “fifths” of alcohol.
At the time, no one could have imagined that the name would go on to inspire the most attention-getting Minor League concession item of the 21st century: West Michigan’s “Fifth Third Burger.”
Here’s hoping that the Cougars pick up on this trend, and offer a Fifth Third Brat at the ballpark in 2012 (washed down with 5/3rds of a pint of Leinenkugel).
But regardless of potential new food items, this news out of Kane County means that there are a total of 20/3 Fifth Third ballparks in the Minors (approximately 6.66, for you conspiracy theorists). How do you feel about this? Is it an example of the increasing homogenization of a traditionally diverse industry? Or a reflection of strength and resiliency during tough economic times?
— A topic that provokes far less ambivalence is blogging, which is obviously one of the greatest things one can do with his or her time. And for an example of a Minor League team blog at its most impressive, take a look at the “2011 Year In Review” post over at “From the Nest” (the official blog of the Great Lakes Loons).
Contained therein are everything from “Top 10 Games” to “Best Nicknames” to “Fashion Stats” to “Notable First Pitches” to “Goofy Head Shots.
I’ll be honest — Minor League team blogs usually make me grumpy, as they are often well-intentioned but amateurishly done and eventually abandoned. So when teams go above and beyond I take notice. The Loons’ “Year in Review” is more than a blog post. It’s a statement of purpose, one that could be incorporated into sponsorship proposals and season-ticket renewal letters as an example of just how much the team has to offer.
— And speaking of going above and beyond — the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers have made a tradition of offering highly collectible Opening Night bobbleheads, and 2012 is no exception. As part of a year-long 50th Anniversary of Midwest League Baseball celebration, the team is offering no less than five bobbleheads as part of an Opening Night “All-Fan” giveaway.
These wide-eyed fellas are united in their ability to arouse distinct feelings of unease, but diverse when it comes to what they represent. Sez the team:
Each bobblehead is decorated with the jersey and cap from one of the following years:
- 1953 Appleton Papermakers
- 1960 Fox Cities Foxes
- 1983 Appleton Foxes
- 1995 Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (Original home jersey)
- 2011 Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (Updated home jersey)
All fans attending the game between the Timber Rattlers and the Cedar Rapids Kernels on Thursday, April 5, 2012 will receive one of the bobbleheads at random. There will be equal numbers of four models of bobbleheads. However, only 250 of the 1953 Appleton Papermakers bobbleheads will be available as part of the giveaway.
Finally, congratulations to Durham Bulls broadcaster Neil Solondz, who recently got the call-up to the parent Tampa Bay Rays. As you may recall, Solondz was one of three broadcasters profiled in my recent MiLB.com article on broadcasters on the cusp.
I’d like to think that I’m a blogger on the cusp. But the question remains: the cusp of what?
A typical pattern is this: Minor League blog gets launched during the offseason, amidst a flurry of positive energy and redundant staff profile posts. Content then tapers off as it becomes unclear what, exactly, to write about, and soon everyone involved gets consumed with the season itself. The blog then is relegated to cyberspace purgatory, updated tri-monthly with posts apologizing to its non-existent audience for the lack of updates.
So how can this avoided? Well, I’m no expert, but to me it seems three things are necessary:
— Put one person in charge, someone who is enthusiastic, accountable, creative, and (of course) a good writer.
— Learn the program! It is amazing how many blogs fail to utilize picture and video, and include posts with inconsistent fonts and text sizes. The blog needs to reflect the professionalism of the team it is representing!
— Come up with a content plan, including as many recurring, easy-to-produce features as possible.
To this end, I’ll regularly highlight Minor League blogs that are doing just this. For example, the Fresno Grizzlies Yard Work blog recently introduced its “10 for 10” series, profiling 10 season ticket holders in honor of the team’s 10th anniversary. I have never seen this before, and it makes perfect sense: it’s easy to do, there are plenty of individuals to choose from, and, best of all, it pays tribute to loyal customers who deserve the thanks and recognition.
And since I’m on the topic of blogs, here are two Minor League-centric specimens worthy of being checked out:
The Greatest 21 Days — Really interesting premise here, as author Steve is systematically profiling each and every player included in the 1990 CMC baseball card set. In his own words: “Did they make the Majors? Did they not? And what interesting things happened along the way?” The name references the film Bull Durham, as Crash Davis once said that the greatest 21 days of his life was the time he was in the “The Show.”
Inside the Clubhouse — One of the most vital (yet easily overlooked) jobs in the baseball pantheon in the “clubbie”, that meal-arranging, laundry-toting jack-of-all-trades. In this blog, Birmingham Barons clubbie Jeff Perro shares tips and anecdotes related to this most demanding of clubhouse enterprises.
In other news, yesterday it was announced that the Boston Pops and Kenny Loggins will be embarking on a 10-city tour of Minor League ballparks. This is on the heels of last year’s successful trial gig in Pawtucket.
Finally, the moon will soon have a name. In addition to, you know, “moon.” Please make a note.
Yesterday’s post focused on Twitter and Facebook innovations, but today I’d like to write about that which is nearest to my heart.
No, not the pericardium. Stop taking things so literally. I am talking, of course, about blogs.
A concatenation of coincidences has led me to a variety of blogs that I’d like to share with you, the loyal reader. Perhaps you’ll be inspired to add them to your daily internet routine.
Anthems and Atleticos — While serving as the Fresno Grizzlies’ VP of marketing, Scott Carter made an indelible impression on the national promo landscape en route to establishing himself as one of the most creative minds in Minor League Baseball. He’s now a front office free agent, and until his inevitable re-entry into the industry this is the place to go for trenchant observations on everything from jock jams to his mother’s well-reasoned NFL playoff picks.
And We’re Marching — Another prominent former member of the Grizzlies’ staff is Bradley Collins, an accomplished mascot who turned Parker into one of the most respected and well-known characters in all of Minor League Baseball.”And We’re Marching…” is devoted strictly to the world of costumed characters,interesting to those who wear the suits as well as those looking to understand the ins and outs of an increasingly important Minor League Baseball profession.
Bus Leagues — Okay, this isn’t a blog. It’s a sprawling website dedicated to covering Minor League Baseball from the fan perspective. These guys are enthusiastic about the Minors, to the extent that they even interview niche writers with negligible followings.
Diary of an Umpire’s Wife — Now here’s a baseball perspective one doesn’t come across too often! This blog looks at the trials and travails of the umpiring life from the perspective of a supportive significant other. Recent posts have taken an interesting look at the world of Venezuelan Winter Ball.
Docking With the Ports — After lying dormant for nearly a year (approximately a decade in blog time), Stockton’s front office has re-launched “Docking With the Ports.” Recent posts include player and front office interviews as well as Winter Meetings journals from a variety of perspectives.
The Watson Files — Okay, this is a blog I’ve known about for a while now. But Fort Wayne TinCaps broadcaster Dan Watson is writing one of the most consistently enjoyable team-affiliated blogs out there, chock full of witty and concise observations on the TinCaps, Padres, Midwest League, and pop culture. The fact that he regularly refers to me as “legendary author” has nothing to do with this endorsement.
Or does it?
Regardless, I feel compelled to point out that I just spent 30 seconds trying to remove a wayward semi-colon from this post. It turned out to be an eyelash stuck to the screen. I also feel compelled to point out that, as always, I also write for MiLB.com. For proof, check out recent efforts such as “Tribe Ready For Poignant Anniversary In Kinston” and “Nobles Goes Deep in Durham Community.”
And while jury duty caused me to miss my annual visit to the Hall of Fame press conference, I am happy to report that my colleague Josh Jackson did an excellent job writing the now-obligatory “Inductees Reflect on Time in the Minors” story.
That’s going to conclude today’s blogging efforts. I look forward to your indignant emails regarding blogs that I have neglected to champion.