The need to sync up blog and MiLB.com content has caused me to take chronological liberties with this most recent road trip, which actually started on Tuesday evening in Williamsport before heading to already-written about Aberdeen.
And even though I visited Williamsport last season, this year’s trip had a different purpose: to serve as a promo intern for a day. My place of employment was to be Bowman Stadium, the second-oldest facility in all of Minor League Baseball.
Before punching in, I took a few shots of the surroundings.
Upon arriving, Cutters VP of marketing Gabe Sinicropi handed me an oversized Cutters jersey (my uniform) and put me to work. My first task was to join intern Erik Tuomisto for a most important task: wrangling up fans for the evening’s wide array of games and contests.
I wrote all about this in today’s MiLB.com piece, but it was a bit of an anxiety-inducing experience. Sizing up and approaching people is hard work (which, come to think of it, may explain why I’m single).
Being overly analytical as opposed to a man of action, I spent a lot of time documenting instead of doing.
And soon enough I had to desert my post. I was the evening’s guest on “Cutters Pre-Game Live”, an an onfield-show hosted by Sinicropi.
Knowing my affinity for pinball, Gabe asked me what my favorite machine of all time is. I enthusiastically extolled the virtues of Medieval Madness, thereby fulfilling my long time desire to talk about pinball in the presence of a New York-Penn League stadium audience.
The next question was “If you could change one thing about Minor League Baseball, what would it be?”
I drew a blank, and finally said “I love you just the way you are, Minor League Baseball” (note: not entirely true).
After the interview, Cutters coach Jorge Velandia emerged from the dugout and introduced himself. He wanted to say thank you for an article I had written about him, which I appreciated. With this job, it’s very easy to get into the (false) mindset that no one is reading, and reminders to the contrary really go a long way.
I also enjoyed meeting Cutters manager Mickey Morandini, who I was a big fan of during his playing days with the Phillies. Here’s Mickey and his old friend the Phillie Phanatic, a special ballpark guest who entertained the fans throughout the evening.
Cutters mascot Boomer, a Phanatic disciple, was on hand as well.
I spent the majority of the game “helping” to facilitate the various between-inning games and contests, though I have the sneaking suspicion that my myriad contributions were less than crucial.
This was “59 Seconds To Win It,” in which the contestant had to flip a cup from the edge of a table onto a water bottle.
The base of operations for the promo crew is a little alcove down the first base line, between the grandstand seating and the bleachers. It is here that the props for upcoming games are stashed, and where the various contestants hang out before getting their moment of on-field glory.
Boomer shuffled back and forth throughout, as his “Bungalow” is located just behind this area (underneath the grandstand).
And what an inviting house of respite it is!
I enjoyed interacting with the various folks who hung out at our promo base of operations. Here, intern Katie shows off a most unusual fashion accessory.
This little girl was waiting to dance with the Phanatic and Boomer in a between-inning skit. To pass the time, we made faces at one another.
This was one of the “Innings Kids”, who had the all-important job of informing fans of each new inning by parading the number around the field. He took his job very seriously.
And — hey! — here’s my old pal Mickey Morandini.
The Crosscutters defeated the Scrappers, a key victory in the midst of a heated New York-Penn League pennant race.
I was out on the field post-game because the final endeavor of the evening was a $10,ooo challenge, in which contestants had to roll a baseball from behind second base and onto home plate. A very difficult task, and while some valiant attempts were made in the end no one succeeded.
My recommended consolation prize would be this shirt, easily one of my favorite pieces of apparel in Minor League Baseball.
It’s hard to be in a bad mood about anything when you’ve got Boomer emblazoned across the chest.
Those who work for Minor League Baseball teams have no say whatsoever when it comes to trades, free agency, and player development. Nonetheless, the flame of the industry’s hot stove is just as scorching as that which emanates from the Majors. It’s just heating up a different pot is all.
One big piece of news was made official yesterday, with the announcement that the franchise formerly known as the Portland Beavers will be playing in Tucson in 2011 (and, perhaps, beyond). More on that can be found HERE, and rest assured I’ll be providing updates on that situation as it progresses.
And as an aside — when I first started this blog a man by the name of Benny Hill would periodically email me his thoughts on the Tucson Sidewinders. You still out there, Benny? Your name is my name too, and I’d like to hear what you think about yesterday’s announcement.
Far more prevalent than franchise re-location are identity overhauls, featuring new logos and, in some cases, new team names. The Lake County Captains released their new marks on Wednesday, and the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers continue to churn out numerically-obsessed promotional videos in anticipation of November 12’s grand unveiling.
On an even greater scale is the Omaha Royals, who will be announcing the results of their “Name the Team” contest on November 15.
I will say once again that my choice is “Omahogs.”
As for that which has already happened, the newly re-christened Jackson Generals have unveiled the logo for the 2011 Southern League All-Star Game. As with the Lake Captains logo, this is a Studio Simon effort:
Moving from logos to stadium renovations, the South Bend Silver Hawks have announced that Coveleski Stadium will be getting a $10 million facelift.
Speaking of improvements, the Toledo Mud Hens are making available a customized Firefox add-on browser.
Sez the team: The add-on is complete with a scrolling Hens’ news ticker, video and image updates, Hens’ downloads, and much, much more!
Are any other teams doing this? The Mud Hens are the first I’ve seen.
Finally, while I do my best to ignore Christmas-related endeavors until after Thanksgiving, the first item of the Williamsport Crosscutters’ “Eight Weeks of Cutters” gift guide caught my eye (and you know how painful that can be).
It’s the Boomer plush doll!
And — hey! — I almost forgot: It’s Gratuitous Video Friday! Today’s selection is an old promo for “Mary Hartman! Mary Hartman!”, one of the most funny, subversive, and ahead of its time TV shows ever made.
Hey Sony! Release more “Mary Hartman! Mary Hartman!” on DVD!
It’s early Friday afternoon here at Ben’s Biz Blog HQ — time to finish the work week off strong and head into the weekend with verve, moxie, pep, and, above all, swagger.
Those who need a boost in any of the above categories will soon get it, as I am proud to announce the triumphant return of one of 2010’s most inspiring characters: The Confident Kid of Trenton, NJ!
The above photo, featuring the Confident Kid and a trio of Philadelphia Eagles cheerleaders, was taken during the Trenton Thunder’s “NFL Kickoff Night” promotion. I thought it was the only such photo that existed, but I was wrong.
This week a proactive reader alerted me to the fact that additional photos of the Confident Kid do in fact exist, taken by Suzette Lucas of mercerspace.com.
(the above three photos: Suzette Lucas, mercermag.com)
In other news, the offseason continues unabated. A new Minoring in Business column went up today, an in-depth look at how teams operate while no baseball is being played. It includes the perspective of GMs, stadium ops, food and beverage, broadcasters, and more. It also answers the question of what I do in the offseason, which is ask other people what they are doing in theirs.
And, of course, Halloween’s rapid encroachment upon the national consciousness is being reflected in the Minor Leagues. In a bit of distressing news, the Connecticut Tigers announced yesterday that three Tigers scarecrows had been stolen from the front yard of the nearby Leffingwell House Museum.
From the press release:
The Tigers are asking that the scarecrows (and more importantly the jerseys and pants) be returned with no questions asked. They can be dropped off at Dodd Stadium or at the Leffingwell House Museum. “This really is a shame, talent wise these were some of the best scarecrows we have seen in years,” said GM Andrew Weber. “They could also really fill-out a uniform.”
In further New York-Penn League Halloween News (second only to “chilean miners” as a Google search term), the Williamsport Crosscutters are offering fans the chance to go trick-or-treating with the inimitable Boomer! (apparently, the exclamation mark is now part of Boomer!’s name, making him the mascot equivalent of the Roots’ ?uestlove).
[Boomer!’s] costume won’t be a mystery as he stated, “I really wanted to dress up as Lady Gaga, but I’ve been told I won’t really need a costume so I guess I’m just going as BOOMER!.”
Jeez…In addition to the exclamation mark, it looks like Boomer!’s name needs to be written in bold-face as well. Now that’s confidence.
Bowman Field, the home of the Williamsport Crosscutters, opened its doors in 1926. The 84-year-old facility is second only to Vermont’s Centennial Field in the category of “oldest Minor League Baseball stadium”, and it remains an excellent place in which to wile away one’s leisure hours.
Or one’s professional hours, as was the case for me on Monday. I arrived at Bowman about an hour before game time, after braving a hellacious thunderstorm en route. From the outside, the Stadium looks like a place that Bowser might call home.
Sorry, Mario, but the Princess is in another castle:
The entrance leads into a concourse of sorts, featuring a concession area, the team store, and the Kid’s Zone:
When I arrived, ‘Cutters director of marketing Gabe Sinicropi was just about to begin his nightly on-field pre-game show. The guest on this evening was Kelly Mazzante, a WNBA veteran from the Williamsport area:
As a prominent local female, Mazzante was an appropriate guest given that the evening’s promotion was “Girl’s Night Out at the Ballpark.” The next pregame activity was a “Belle of the Ballpark” contest, in which five local ladies competed to win a $500 gift certificate from a local jeweler. The judges included 2009’s “Belle of the Ballpark”, a local DJ, and Crosscutters pitcher Bryan Morgado. These were the contestants, shown through the netting because they were all great catches:
Meanwhile, ‘Cutters players took their final warm-up swings in the batting cage located beyond the third base bleachers. As the rules make clear, State College players are not allowed in this area.
The dugouts at Bowman are located far down the base lines, next to (as opposed to in front of) the box seats.
Boomer the mascot has long been one of my favorite costumed characters, and the first time I spied him was when he was leading the belles off of the field:
I tried to work up the nerve to introduce myself, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. What if he didn’t like me? Instead I just gazed at him from afar:
That man in the yellow shirt is Rhashan West-Bey, the Crosscutters “Director of Smiles.” He is perhaps the most well-known figure in the ballpark, an ebullient individual who greets the fans, leads them in cheers, and serves as an all-around fountain of positive energy.
The “Girls Night Out” theme continued throughout the evening. All participants in between-inning games and contests were female, player headshots featured conspicuous lipstick marks, and Beyonce was heard over the PA on many, many occasions.
(And speaking of that which was heard over the PA, at one point Fergie’s “London Bridge (Oh Snap)” blasted through the loudspeakers. Except for one problem — it wasn’t the “Oh Snap” version, and instead another four-letter s-word was heard repeatedly. That was an unfortunate mistake, but to me the most offensive aspect of the song is the extent to which Fergie is ripping off the far superior Missy Elliot.)
But inadvertent ballpark profanity paled in comparison to the evening’s considerable charms, such as the cross-dressing ways of “Lynette” the peanut vendor:
Watching a ballgame, 1926 style:
The home team won, 3-2, and celebration ensued:
This carpet mascot approved of the outcome:
And with everyone in a good mood, it was time for some romance! “Girls Night Out” continued with a post-game party at the ‘Cutters Cove, highlighted by speed dating with the players:
The sparks didn’t seem to be flying on this Monday evening, however, with the exception of pitcher David Buchanan and this young lady. They talked for at least 30 seconds beyond their allotted one minute together:
As those two lovebirds got lost in each other’s eyes, the Director of Smiles took it upon himself to start a dance party:
The Macarena followed shortly thereafter:
Soon all the ladies had disappeared from the floor, and the night ended with Rhashan and the players two-steppin’ the night away. I got the feeling that this was a common occurrence.
From here on out, everything was a blur:
I stand before you today in order to deliver Minor League mascot Valentine’s Day photos.
The public has demanded them, and I am certainly not one to ignore the pleas of the populace. Therefore, that is precisely what this post shall be dedicated to. But first, a quick request…
Inspired by the copious snow that has been deposited all over the country as of late, I have decided to do a story on extreme weather and the groundskeeping challenges it presents. In addition to teams that have recently been hit with snow, I’d be interested in speaking with anyone who has had to deal with drought, flooding, hurricanes, and, of course, locust plagues. I’ll most likely have to contact teams individually today and tomorrow, but that’s a hit-or-miss proposition. Consider this post an invitation to get in touch — firstname.lastname@example.org
Okay, we now return to regularly-scheduled programming: Minor League mascot Valentine’s Day photos.
Because, as you surely know, there was a lot going on. And how can I lead off with anyone but Boomer, who is surely the suavest mascot in Minor Leage Baseball? Here, Boomer spreads some joy to the youth of Williamsport:
Boomer’s not the only mascot named Boomer. There’s also Boomer of the Trenton Thunder, who is not at all terrifying, not the least little bit:
In Lowell, the Spinners sent out a star-studded caravan to a local elementary school, where Valentine’s Day cards were made. These cards were then delivered to a VA hospital (apparently, Canaligator and crew got hungry along the way):
Buster “rose” to the occasion in Lakewood:
But how could I close anywhere other than in Reading? As usual, Screwball did his thing:
Now if that wasn’t romantic, then I don’t know what is. I mean, seriously, I don’t. Can anyone help me out here?
But this is not the case at all. I am working on new editions of Road Trip and Path of the Pros, in addition to a news piece about an upcoming logo and team name unveiling. Plus, I’ve got a backlog of blog topics to write about, not to mention lots more to share from the Baseball Winter Meetings.
And on top of all that, the ol’ inbox is getting lit up worse than AJ Burnett on three days rest. Jeez, if I had known that this little niche of mine required actual work I would have stuck to temp jobs and organ donation.
But this blog requires new and exciting content no matter what, and insufferable soliloquies on the state of my professional life just don’t cut it. That’s why I am pleased to present you with a new offseason video series!
Let us all give a hearty welcome to the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, who recently debuted an “Office” parody entitled “The Offseason”. Take it away, embedded video:
It’s tough to pull off the deadpan pseudo-documentary style of “The Office”, but the Timber Rattlers are off to a good start. And because I appear to be the only person who keeps track of such things, I would like to note that this marks the second time in a week that an offseason video series has featured a scene in which an unfortunate Minor League front office member has attempted to use the bathroom immediately after the mascot (click HERE for the other instance of this emerging trend).
Oh, you want more, do you? Well, all I can provide right now are these pictures of the inimitable Boomer stopping traffic on the streets of Williamsport in order to raise money for the United Way.
In closing, don’t listen to my complaining about how much work I have to do. Send me an email. I will respond.
My recent headfirst dive into the treacherous waters of social networking has yielded a virtual treasure trove of blog-worthy material. Specifically, I am now privy to a seemingly endless cavalcade of team-produced videos.
What follows are two videos that I would like to share with loyal readers of this sputtering, but never completely stalled, blog. Like the Fresno Grizzlies’ “I Hate the Offseason” and the Omaha Royals’ “My Offseason Life is Average”, these videos portray the pervasive sense of boredom and unease that accompanies the cessation of on-field play.
First up: The West Virginia Power front office does their best to re-create the game-day experience, with less-than-optimal results.
Also suffering from a mild-to-moderate case of mental illness is Grover, on-field MC for the Lake County Captains:
The above two videos make it abundantly clear that times are tough right now for those who make their livings in baseball. Thankfully, I have just come across an image that is sure to provide at least a momentary uplift to the mentally downtrodden. Boomer! Arrested for some reason!
Obviously, this picture results in more questions than it does answers. I’ll go check the Williamsport police blotter in order to see what Boomer’s offense was, and report back in the near future with my findings.
In the meantime, if you have stories pertaining to offseason existentalist angst and/or mascot run-ins with the law, then please get in touch immediately:
Normally I would not try to cram so much information into one post, but desperate times call for desperate measures.
See, I will be out of town for the next week (partially related to an on-site Minor League adventure), and therefore severely compromised in my ability to post new content on this blog. Therefore, I better use the prime material I’ve got, before it goes stale.
First, let’s check in with the good ol’ Fresno Grizzlies, who staged “Nerd Night” last week. While I unfortunately do not have a picture of the epic battle between Obi Wan SkyParker and Darth Hot Dog, I do have a picture of some of the evening’s nerdiest nerds (in timeless black and white, no less):
The Grizzlies’ next big ticket promotion is “Mad Tight 90s Night”, with special guest Dennis “Mr. Belding” Haskins (of “Saved By the Bell” fame). On this most enchanted evening, the Grizzlies will be doctoring player head shots to look like the cover art of iconic 1990s album. Lo and behold, Kevin “Nevermind” Frandsen:
And here, he pummels the ivory:
But you, the reader, need more. I am here for you.
Next, click here in order to marvel at the Lake Elsinore Storm’s response to the Manny Ramirez situation.
Finally, check out my latest “Farm’s Almanac” feature story — an interview with Minor League blogging sensation Chris Hayes. Not only is this guy a great pitcher; he’s a great writer too. And while you’re out in the MiLB.com wilderness, check out my piece on what’s currently playing in Peoria — stadium naming rights are available on a per-game basis.
Jeez…you still need something else to do? How about checking out MiLB.com on Facebook. Do me a favor and bombard that thing with proclamations of love for the writing of one Benjamin Hill.
That would be me: email@example.com
Have a great week. I will be back soon enough, as anxious and mentally overloaded as when I left. That’s my personal guarantee, from me to you.
Solution: Take a cue from inspiration-starved writers everywhere, and simply cobble together a piece detailing the things I am thankful for.
So without further ado, here are some things that occurred within the the Ben’s Biz Blog universe over the past year for which I am grateful:
Attending the Winter Meetings in Nashville and the Promotional Seminar in Austin — I may cover an industry that encompasses the entire country, but I nonetheless spend the majority of my professional life cooped up in the dank recesses of MLB Advanced Media headquarters. This is most frustrating.
But my overlords displayed a benevolent streak this year, in that I was permitted to attend both the Baseball Winter Meetings and the Minor League Baseball Promotional Seminar. These experiences were invaluable, primarily because they gave me an opportunity to meet so many of the people who work in this great industry. So, if we met in Nashville or Austin over the past year — the pleasure was all mine.
Sweet, Sweet Freedom — By necessity, the articles I write for MiLB.com are straightforward and relatively humorless. But this blog gives me the opportunity to make any joke I want, no matter how unfunny or obscure. And there is a certain joy in being able to frequently drop subtle references to song lyrics and tv show quotes. The likes of Ween, the Frogs, the Fugs, Weird Al and many others were referred to within posts over the past year, and whenever a reader picks up on this sort of thing I am most grateful. At the same time, however, I never want to be alienating or overly reliant on in-jokes. Like so many other things in this life, it’s a fine balance.
Boomer — Boomer was introduced to the world this past March, and quickly became my favorite mascot in the Minors. There are no other costumed characters who pull off the “disshelved woods creature” look so well, and the Williamsport CrossCutters are lucky to have him.
Swag — Sometimes, teams and companies feel compelled to send me samplings of their fine promotional items. Keep it coming! The most aesthetically-pleasing such items (such as a bobblehead doll of the aforementioned Boomer) recieve prime real estate within the cramped and cluttered confines of my workspace.
Mascot Races — Whether it’s Pork Roll vs. Egg vs. Cheese in Lakewood, or Vancouver’s nightly Sushi Race, Mascot races are one of the most entertaining between-innings spectacles around. A special nod goes out to the Binghamton Mets, whose took things to a higher level with their nightly “Spiedie Race.”
The Frequency With Which Teams Sent Me Promo Recaps — As mentioned before, I am rarely present at the Minor League promotions that I write about it. One day, this will change. But, until it does, it is crucial that I am able to supplement my own speculations with actual eyewitness accounts. And last season, this blog became a place for teams to get the word out about successful/crazy/memorable promotions that they held. Thanks to the Stockton Ports, Vero Beach Devil Rays, Lancaster JetHawks, Fresno Grizzlies, Everett AquaSox, Tulsa Drillers, Auburn Doubledays, Jamestown Jammers and the many other teams that got in touch.
Videos — It’s still a struggle, but I finally learned how to post videos on this fine blog. So far, just one of the 200+ total posts have contained video, but it’s a start. After all, the journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step.
And, finally, let me conclude this post by highlighting the one thing I am thankful for above all else:
Case in point: The Williamsport CrossCutters. The team’s name is a reference to Williamsport’s history as “The Lumber Capital of the World”, and their logo features a bat and log-wielding lumberjack. Recently, the club celebrated this heritage with a “Pre-game Wood Cutting Demo”, which I imagine was the only pre-game wood cutting demo to occur in the Minor Leagues this season (please correct me if I’m wrong).
Crosscutters VP of Marketing Gabe Sinicropi sent along the following photo, featuring himself (in the jersey) and GM Doug Estes displaying their formidable sawing skills. These skills were not formidable enough, however, as they were defeated in this sawing contest by (horror) two members of the local media.