Tagged: Burlington Bees

The Marking of Momentous Milestones

Every day is the anniversary of something. For example, one year from today will mark the anniversary of this post, which is, not coincidentally, about anniversary logos. You all love anniversary logos, right? I don’t — “mildly enjoy” would better describe my feelings — but a job’s a job so here we go.

2104 marks the Everett’s 20th season as a Mariners affiliate as well as their 31st season in the Northwest League. The latter of the two accomplishments is the focus of this logo, designed by the renegade maverick firebrand rebel iconoclasts that are Brandiose.


The press release says:

The new emblem incorporates the AquaSox current color scheme along with a hint of orange in recognition of the team’s previous affiliation with the San Francisco Giants. The franchise was known as the Everett Giants for 11 seasons (1984-1994) before becoming the Everett AquaSox prior to the 1995 season.

Later, the press release was compelled to report this non-essential but rather interesting bit of information:

Nearly 30 years ago, on June 19, 1984 at Everett Memorial Stadium, the Everett Giants took the field for the first time led by manager Rocky Bridges. Before an overflow crowd of 3,527 – Bellingham defeated Everett 10-5. Since then, nearly 2.7 million fans have come to Everett.

And did you know? Pitcher Terry Mulholland made his professional debut as a member of that 1984 Everett team, marking the first of what would be 23 professional seasons. Mulholland is the only player in baseball history to have pitched for the 1984 Everett Giants and the 2006 Tucson Sidewinders, a fact that will get you everywhere in life.

And while I haven’t been everywhere, I have been to Everett. Click HERE and HERE for a good chunk of the coverage I provided while visiting the AquaSox.

18 hours and 53 minutes after receiving information regarding the AquaSox, I was hit with the following:

Lake Elsinore, CA – On April 15, 1994 the Lake Elsinore Storm opened its gates to the community and Southern California. This season on Opening Night, April 10, the organization will commence a 20th Anniversary celebration at The Diamond that promises to be special.

The 20th Anniversary Logo commemorates two decades of baseball in Lake Elsinore and will be displayed on game jerseys, team hats and the infield grass, as well as throughout the community with a 20th Anniversary poster.

20thAnniversaryLogo3b3 FINAL

I can’t wait for the 30th anniversary logo…

Unlike the AquaSox, the Storm press release did not include any information on the first game in franchise history. While I do not have access to that information, I can tell you that among the members of the 1994 storm was one Kevin Flora. The very next season, Flora became one of five players named “Kevin” to play for the Philadelphia Phillies (Elster,  Jordan, Sefcik, and Stocker) were the others.  Jim Fregosi managed that team — RIP.

While I don’t know anyone named Kevin personally, I did visit the Lake Elsinore Storm in 2011. Read all about that HERE, and then read this piece on the origins of the team’s logo (among the top-sellers in all of Minor League Baseball).

Earlier this week I duly tweeted out both of the above logos, and soon enough I was hipped to the existence of other, quite similar, entities.

I have seen no further information regarding the Bees’ 20th anniversary plans, but let it be known that the team was called the Salt Lake Buzz from 1994-2000 and then the Stingers from 2001-05 before, perhaps inevitably, transitioning to the Bees moniker. The 1994 Buzz club included a 21-year-old LaTroy Hawkins, who returned to Salt Lake in 2012 on a rehab assignment.

I have never been to Salt Lake, but I have visited a team called the “Bees.” Click HERE to read about it.

Twitter is good at generating buzz, and the Tampa Bay Yankees soon chimed in with the following:

That 1994 Tampa Yankees squad featured Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter, but more importantly, there’s this: One year prior to playing for a Major League team that included four other players with the same first name, Kevin Elster appeared in three games as a member of the Tampa Yankees.

It’s a beautiful place, this world.



I Blog in the East, I Blog in the West

…And I come to give you more, and I never give you less….Let’s go!

If you “Look At Me Now” you’ll find me in NYC, but at this time tomorrow I’ll be flying the friendly skies, airbound toward the arid. Look for “on location” blog posts, articles, and interviews the rest of this week into next, as I spend time in Tucson, Lancaster, High Desert, Inland Empire, and Lake Elsinore (and maybe more, logistics permitting).

But before all that, a good old-fashioned blog bouillabaisse of relevant Minor League biz-ness news (and, for the record, never have I spelled “bouillabaisse” correctly on the first try).

This week’s “Farm’s Almanac” is on the Minor League response to the Alabama tornadoes, and can be read HERE. Mentioned briefly in the story, and something I’d like to emphasize here, is that the Burlington Bees are raising money for the family of grounds crew intern Cody Wales, whose home was leveled by the tornado.

The team has been raising money at the ballpark, and checks to benefit the Cody Wales Family can be sent to the Bees front office at 2712 Mt. Pleasant Street, P.O. Box 824, Burlington, IA 52601.


It’s Tuesday, meaning a new “Promotion Preview” column is up on MiLB.com. It was an admittedly slow week for promos, and I am heartened by the fact that next week’s column gives me more than twice as much notable stuff to choose from. I  once again implore you to keep in touch, with info on upcoming promos as well as recaps of those past. I cannot stress this enough! The current soporific state of my inbox leaves much to be desired.

Highlighted in a previous column was the Richmond Flying Squirrels “High Five World Record Attempt,” in which mascot Nutzy attempted to set a new standard for “most high fives by an individual in an hour.” And indeed he did (though yet to be verified by Guinness), slapping palms with 1620 fans.

Featured in last week’s column — and happening TONIGHT — is the Memphis Redbirds’ 30th Anniversary Salute to Charlie Lea’s No-Hitter (Lea now works as a color commentator for the club). The Redbirds are pulling out all the stops with this one, going so far as to tweak an immensely popular viral video.

An event that should have been included, but was instead egregiously overlooked, was the Durham Bulls’ return to iconic Durham Athletic Park yesterday. This video sums up the evening very well:

The Crazy Hot Dog Vendor wasn’t overlooked, but perhaps should have been. As this video points out, the use of the word “vendor” in his job title is blatantly misleading.

But in the end, Minor League Baseball is more about the overall experience than any specific promotion. The Fort Myers Miracle have put together an ad campaign that emphasizes this point very well. My embedding capabilities are lacking in this case, but they can be viewed HERE. And while you’re at it, check out this local newspaper story about the Miracle Bullpen and its trusty Justin Beiber backpack.

And, yes, the story features a photo of Bruce Pugh heading to the bullpen while wearing the backpack — a triumvirate of BPs, and possibly a foursome if he happened to be heading there after batting practice.

I’m now less than 24 hours from saying goodbye to the East Coast.  The next time you’ll hear from me I’ll be writing in an agitated late-night state from some hotel room, binging on Mello Yello and wondering what’s it all for.



More From the Road: Slithering Through Burlington's Reptilian Roadways

I was fortunate enough to go on a series of road trips this season, all of which featured jam-packed itineraries. One unfortunate side effect of a busy schedule is that I found it difficult to explore the areas I was visiting outside of the confines of the ballpark.

Difficult, but not entirely impossible. On Sunday, September 5th, I was was able to make a brief stop at “Snake Alley” in Burlington, IA (home of the Bees, of course).

Snake Alley_entrance sign.JPG

Located in Burlington’s idyllic, sprawling, and somewhat ramshackle “Heritage Hill” neighborhood, Snake Alley is billed as nothing less than “the Crookedest Street in the World”.

A brief history, from the official Snake Alley website:

Snake Alley was constructed in 1894 as an experimental street design. The intention was to provide a more direct link between the downtown business district and the neighborhood shopping area located on North Sixth Street.

Working together, three public-spirited German immigrants conceived and carried out the idea of a winding hillside street, reminiscent of vineyard paths in France and Germany.

But unlike most vineyard paths, you are allowed to drive down this one. So, I did. The view from the top:

Snake Alley_from car.JPG

People actually live on this road. One of the houses:

Snake Alley_House on the Hill.JPG

The view, upon reaching the bottom:

Snake Alley_at bottom, toward water.JPG
I then drove back up to the top (not on Snake Alley, it’s one-way) and explored a bit more. The entrance as it looks from across the street, giving a good indication of Heritage Hill’s undulating topography:
Snake Alley_the steeple.JPG
Just down the street from Snake Alley, I found a less-striking but still-scenic roadway. The Burlington Police Department has clearly gone to great lengths to restrict access:
Snake Alley_closedalley.JPG
I then strolled through a nearby park, located approximately 2/11ths of a mile away.

And, really, that’s about all I had time for. But that’s what’s great about Minor League Baseball — it can bring you to small towns, such as Burlington, that might otherwise be overlooked. And an afternoon at Heritage Hill combined with a Bees game at Community Field that evening would make for a truly excellent day of leisure.


A long-term goal of mine is to be able to combine the ballpark experience with additional content from the town where said ballpark resides. I still have a ways to go toward truly accomplishing this, but Snake Alley was a start.

And I truly appreciate that a pair of readers took the time to email me with suggestions regarding things to check out while I was in the Midwest. In addition to recommending Snake Alley, former Bees employee Adam Small mentioned that the Old Thresher’s Reunion was well worth checking out. Over 100,000 people flood the town of Mount Pleasant, IA (population 10,000) over Labor Day weekend as part of an extensive tribute to vintage agricultural equipment, and country music shows and live theater take place nightly. Here’s a shot from the official Midwest Old Threshers web page, which conveys what a truly American experience this must be:


Small also suggested stopping at Ross’ Restaurant in Bettendorf, IA (one of the Quad Cities). A 24-hour diner, the restaurant is best known as the home of the Magic Mountain. According to a local newspaper article, the Magic Mountain “starts off with grilled Texas toast covered with Ross’ special hamburger meat, then is piled high with a choice of either French fries or hash browns and smothered with cheese sauce. A diner can request his or her mountain be capped with snow — an option of chopped onion.”

Unfortunately, I cannot find images of this mammoth concoction online. Use your imagination, or, better yet, visit the restaurant and send me a picture.

Also providing some Midwestern food recommendations was Iowa native Shaun Northrup (now VP of tickets for the Fresno Grizzlies). He wrote:

If you stop at any restaurant/gas station and you see a “tenderloin” on the menu — ORDER IT!! It is a fried pork sandwich.

As you may recall, I did get a chance to order a Tenderloin while taking in at the game at Burlington’s Community Field.


I was a bit intimidated by the Tenderloin, and didn’t quite know how to approach it from a condiment perspective, so I contacted Northrup for advice. His reply:

“‘With Everything’ — ketchup, mustard, pickles, onion, salt, and pepper.”

sterzings.jpgGood to know!

Another food recommendation I was able to enjoy was Sterzing’s Potato Chips, a company based out of Burlington. They were crisp, tasty, and refreshingly simple: potatoes, oil, and salt. Native Iowans who go on to live elsewhere are known to suffer Sterzing’s withdrawal, or so I’ve heard.

A final recommendation, and one I passed the exit for but did not have time to check out, was the Bob Feller Museum in Van Meter, IA. I’ll definitely work it into my plans the next time I’m in the area. A visit there would almost certainly have resulted in an interesting experience, perhaps along the lines of Greenville’s Shoeless Joe Jackson Museum.

Well, that’ll most likely do it for my 2010 “On the Road” content. Thanks for reading, and feel free to get in touch anytime regarding anything in this blog post, anything in Minor League Baseball, anything in America, or anything at all.


On the Road: Back to the Basics in Burlington

beez.jpgIf all Minor League teams were like the Burlington Bees, then I’d be out of a job.

The Bees play at Community Field, a no-frills bleacher-centric facility. There is no videoboard, vendors, wacky theme nights, or architectural quirks, and the mascot presence is minimal at best.

Such Minor League accoutrements are what fuel the Ben’s Biz Blog engine, and in Burlington they are decidedly lacking.

But guess what? I loved it there.


The Bees are a labor of love, a small-market community-owned team whose idea of game presentation is to simply present a game. A timeless feeling prevails and there is charm to spare.

After navigating my way through Burlington’s poorly-marked maze of street detours, the abundant greenery of Community Field’s parking lot was a welcome sight indeed.


After doing a pre-game interview with Bees radio announcer Nick Devlin, I was set loose to explore the stadium grounds. Community Field was built in 1947, but the grandstand burned down in a 1971 fire. It was re-built by volunteers and re-opened in 1973, and in 2004 came further renovations and additions (info on this, and much more, can be found in my MiLB.com story).





By my estimate, there are at least two dozen teams that claim to have “the biggest videoboard in Minor League Baseball”. Therefore, it was refreshing to visit a stadium that doesn’t even have a videoboard.


One of the old-fashioned light towers, pretentiously shot:


Down the first base line, stadium regular “Dancin’ Bobby” lives up to his name by enthusiastically dancing to each and every song that comes over the PA.


The Lip Land Kid’s Area (I believe it is sponsored by a chicken-centric local restaurant, but I’ll have to get back to you on that).


But, really, the whole park was a kid’s area.



The visitor’s bullpen is located far down the right field, next to an isolated equipment storage area.


Their home counterparts are in a better location, naturally. A stoic mannequin stands guard over a bunch of goofballs.



A contingent of long-time season ticket holders hold court alongside the the third base line. They’ve got personalized nameplates and everything.


Fans can get plenty close to the third base dugout, including kids who slap gloves with the players as they make their way back from the field.



Of course, I was intrigued by what the concession stand might offer.


Let’s take a look!


I was told that the Bees Rite was “like a sloppy Joe”. This didn’t sound very exciting, so I opted for the Lippy Dog.

I know what you’re thinking — In a literal sense, isn’t every hot dog a “Lippy Dog”? Well, this wasn’t a hot dog. It was crispy chicken smothered in buffalo wing sauce and ranch dressing.


The Lippy Dog was really good, actually, and I devoured it. I then went back to the concession stand for that Midwest specialty — “The Tenderloin” (ie fried pork). These things are just comical.


The food might not have been healthy, but at least my appetite was. Usually when I’m on the road, anxiety and time constraints limit me to a diet of ranch Corn Nuts and Mello Yello. This worries me.

But this was not a night to be worried. Burlington’s relaxed, baseball-first environment helps to settle the mind.





The Bees won, 6-1, at which point all fans were invited to come onto the field and run the bases. My pictures of this portion of the evening didn’t come out, but I did get a mediocre picture of the press box.


And that’s the Bee-all end-all of this particular post. Sorry that the ending was such a Buzz kill, but I’m pollen another all-nighter here and just about out of stings to say.


Here I Go Again On My Own

neb.jpgThe season is coming to a close, and I’m happy to report that I’ll be closing it out in style. For in a matter of hours I’ll be traveling to Omaha, the first stop in a five-day Midwestern road trip.

To the itinerary!

9/2 — Omaha Royals (their last-ever game in Rosenblatt Stadium!)
9/3 — Iowa Cubs
9/4 — Burlington Bees
9/5 — Quad Cities River Bandits
9/6 — Kane County Cougars

Feel free to get in touch with any content suggestions or inside tips regarding the teams/cities in question. And if you’ll be at any of these games, please say hello. As always, I’ll be the guy in the shirt.

And not only will tomorrow be the Omaha Royals’ last game at Rosenblatt Stadium — it mayoroyals.jpg be their last home game as the “Omaha Royals.” In conjunction with their 2011 move to nearby Sarpy County, the organization is currently staging a “Name the Team” contest. Over 400 names have been suggested thus far, let’s go to the press release:

Names relating to the weather and to the military have been leading the way so far. Some of those suggestions include Storm, Hail, Heat, Blizzard, Twisters, Bombers and Commanders. Some fans have just tweaked the name to vary slightly from Royals, suggesting Monarchs and Kings. Other fans, no doubt sad to see the demise of Rosenblatt Stadium following the 2010 season, have submitted the team name Blatts for

I would like to suggest a return to the moniker employed by the city’s long-defunct Western Association franchise: the Omahogs.

And while I am excited to be visiting the Iowa Cubs on September 3, I’m disappointed that I will not be in attendance for September 5’s giveaway: the Player to Be Named Later Bobblehead.

Finally, one of the sport’s most unsung characters gets his due:

later.JPGMy “potential blog topics” notebook page is overflowing at the moment, and I apologize to all who have sent me material that I have not yet been able to feature. I’ll get to it, just like I am getting to this:

A parody video in which a G-Funk classic is repurposed as a celebration of a California League baseball team. It’s Bo’z N Da Hood with “Nothin But A Storm Thang”:

The lyrics to “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” are incorporated into one of the verses in the above video, but for a truly unique interpretation check out this adorable dispatch from Lansing.

It’s a good thing that Ryan was in Lansing and not West Michigan, because he would probably have been terrified by first pitch honoree Ronald McDonald:


(photo credit: Emily Jones)

Sweet dreams! I’ll be sending out dispatches from the Midwest as soon as I can.


Inside the Announcer’s Booth With Randy Wehofer

randy.JPGIf you’re not familiar with the name “Randy Wehofer”, then you will be soon. The aspiring thespian plays baseball announcer Jack Jeffries in the upcoming movie “Sugar”, and gives a startlingly realistic performance (for much more on “Sugar”, including a movie trailer, see today’s article in MiLB.com).

Wehofer’s dedication to his role was so extreme that he spent the last decade preparing for it. He logged nine seasons as the broadcaster for the Midwest League’s Burlington Bees before moving on to the Iowa Cubs prior to the 2008 campaign. In perhaps the greatest coup in Ben’s Biz Blog history, I was able to land an exclusive interview with Wehofer.

So, without further ado, a glimpse into the mind of one of Iowa’s most buzzed-about actors:

Ben’s Biz: You bring a method actor’s intensity to your role as play-by-play announcer Jack Jeffries. Did this make you difficult to deal with on the set? Any Christian Bale-style freakouts?

Randy Wehofer: Working in minor league baseball for 10 years, I’ve grown very accustomed to a specialized and pampered lifestyle and while on set, I demanded that things worked exactly like a real game. I was especially pleased when the guy who played the visiting manager changed his lineup five minutes before shooting the scene and didn’t tell anyone so we could scramble in the press box to figure out who was coming to the plate. When we shot the road scenes, they were sure to bring me a cold hot dog in the fourth inning when I couldn’t possibly have time to eat it or enjoy it. I really appreciated the way the crew went out of its way to keep me in my comfort zone.

BB: The pressures of fame and fortune can be hard to deal with. Now that you are a celebrity, what steps are you taking to insure that you keep a level head?

RW: I don’t want to make other people jealous, but since word has spread about the movie, I’ve noticed that my wife Joanie and I get better tables at restaurants and the other day I even got a card that says my 14th haircut is going to be FREE. I try to take all of this in stride, though, and remember how hard it must be for all of those guys that work in the big leagues, but haven’t been in a movie.

BB: Do you think players will be jealous of you this season, because fans will be asking you for autographs instead of them?

RW: I’m actually hoping that one of the veteran players might take me under his wing and teach me the ropes when it comes to signing autographs. I’ll need to know what kind of pens to use for glossy photos as opposed to baseballs and how to avoid cramping up on hot days. If all goes well, I’m hoping this experience could put me in the running for a future spot as a roving autograph instructor for a Major League organization.

BB: What will be the next step for you as an actor? Will you be accepting additional roles as a baseball broadcaster, or are you looking to go against type?

RW: In the future, I do want to show my range as an actor so I’m actively seeking roles as a public address announcer, the guy who takes your order in a drive thru, or do a guest spot in a kids show as the guy who reads the morning announcements in a school.  I don’t know if I’m ready for it yet, but someday I’d really love to play a baseball broadcaster in an animated feature. I think it would be awesome to be a cartoon.

BB: You are listed in the movie’s credits as “Randolph Wehofer”, as opposed to “Randy”. Is this a bid to be taken more seriously, comparable to when Mark Wahlberg stopped using the name “Marky Mark”?

RW: It was really a ploy to try to have my name take up as much room on the screen as possible during the credits.  When I was filling out the form to be in the movie, I actually listed my middle name and a phonetic pronunciation guide for my name as what I wanted included, but they edited it down to just my full first and last name.


BB: Early buzz is that you are a front-runner for a “Best Supporting Actor” Oscar in 2010. Have you started working on your acceptance speech?

RW: I hate to correct you on your own blog, Ben, but I’ve actually been told that my performance is so noteworthy that they’ve created a new category for “Best Athletic Supporting Actor” – and I’ve been told that I will be the only one nominated in that category, so I like my chances. I’d like to thank all the people that made this possible and hope everyone really likes “Sugar.”

(See Randy Wehofer in “Sugar”! The film opens in NYC and Los Angeles this Friday, and nationwide on April 24)