Tagged: Champ

That Time That a Minor League Baseball Mascot Crashed My Brother’s Wedding Reception

Last month my brother, Andy, and his fiance, Jen, got married.

File photo of my brother, the groom

File photo of my brother, the groom

As you can see, my brother is a real catch and Jen is a lucky woman. The two lovebirds got married at the Radisson Station Hotel in Scranton, Pennsylvania, located just minutes away from the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders’ home of PNC Field. The proximity of these two locales gave me a half-formed idea and, like many not-totally-thought-out endeavors, it all started on Twitter. I had just posted my detailed recap of the RailRiders’ stadium experience on this blog, and Scranton was on the brain:

And that’s all it took. The RailRiders accepted the invite, on behalf of CHAMP, and the following Saturday he did indeed appear at the reception. Really, you couldn’t miss him. (All photos by Two Sticks Studios, except the one not marked with the studio URL.)

Hill_410-LCHAMP is a species of indeterminate origin whose name is indeed written in all caps. Perhaps, like CHUD, his name is an acronym. Crazy Happy Amazing Mascot Party? At any rate, that’s what commenced once CHAMP walked into the room. He appeared at the perfect time — all of the requisite speeches, glass clinking, food eating and awkward “I can’t remember the last time I saw you”/”I’m going to pretend that I know who you are” wedding conversationalizing had already taken place; all that was left to do was hit the dance floor.

twosticksIn the above photo, you can see me in the background rubbing my hands together with a worried expression on my face. I look like a sad old man, which is a role that I’ve been training for my entire life. This is because I told very few people about CHAMP’s appearance, and was worried that, somehow, it wouldn’t go over well and that I’d ruin the whole wedding and thus bring shame and disgrace upon my family name for generations to come. Fortunately, these concerns were unfounded. In this photo, Jen is in the background giving me a hug. The bride’s approval means that everything is okay! The groom’s opinion means nothing.


So party on, CHAMP. Everyone loves you.





CHAMP was great, a true pro. He circulated freely around the room, taking the time to engage with anyone interested in engaging with him. In this picture, four-year-old Elle expresses reservations toward meeting a heretofore un-encountered creature.

Hill_451-M Success!

Hill_454-MBye CHAMP, thanks for stopping by. I give your appearance two horns up.

twosticks7A huge thanks to CHAMP and the RailRiders for making this happen. Also, a big thanks to Scranton-based Two Sticks Studios, who did a phenomenal job in documenting not just CHAMP’s appearance but the entire wedding. If I was to ever get married in Scranton (hey, you never know), then I would totally hire those guys. Their own post on the evening’s mascot cameo can be read HERE.

And that’ll do it for my 2014 blogging year. Thanks, as always, to those who took the time to read it. My hope for 2015, as with every year, is that the material on this blog is better than that which came before and that its audience continues to grow. Enjoy your holidays — that’s an order — and see you on the flip side.






On Location In: Vermont

Thumbnail image for vml.jpgLast week, I was able to (finally) share some video and images of my trip to Lowell, MA. Today, my sluggishly-paced travelogue continues — this time in the idyllic counter-cultural confines of Burlington, VT.

I (along with my cousin and her family) attended July 10’s Vermont Lake Monsters game at Centennial Field. This summer has been anything but kind when it comes to the elements, but on this particular evening the weather was just about perfect. A Friday night in July at an old ballpark in New England — what could be better than that? The following video, while lacking in picture quality, really helps to convey what the Lake Monsters experience is like. Enjoy the ambience:

While there may be issues with ancient Centennial Field from the player development side of the equation, it remains an excellent place for the fan. A raucous small town atmosphere prevails, part county fair and part high school football game. A little background on the stadium, explained in plaque form:

centennial info.JPG 

The stadium itself is set back from the street, and one first walks past the visitor’s locker rooms (this is a long way from the bigs) and the University of Vermont soccer field in order to get there.

visitor's clubhouse.JPG

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The inside of the ballpark is no frills — there are seats and a baseball field, and that’s about it. Therefore, things that would be located on the concourse in other stadiums — souvenirs, concessions, information booths, etc — are located on the outside of the ballpark.

pregame atmosphere.JPG 

volks bug.JPG


Lake Monster pitchers Graham Hicks and Jose Pinales manned the pre-game autograph booth:

Graham Hicks and Jose Pinales.JPG

Players from the visiting Lowell Spinners making their way from the locker rooms to the playing field:

pregame left field line.JPG

It was “Summer of Love” night at the ballpark, a celebration of the ’60s sponsored by the mighty Ben and Jerry’s (for a subset of Vermont residents, EVERY night is a celebration of the ’60s sponsored by Ben and Jerry’s…but I digress).

The giveaway was a tie-dyed Vermont Lake Monsters baseball, which I unfortunately do not possess a picture of at the moment. The front office staff got into the theme as well, as evidenced by the mighty afro of community relations man/on-field mc Denny Madigan.


Of course, Champ the mascot got in on the act. The affable lake monster (he hails from Lake Champlain, hence the name) entered the field on the back of a Ben and Jerry’s truck as “Bad to the Bone” blasted over the PA:

champ entrance.JPG

In the above picture, an unusually contemplative Champ is looking at his feet with child-like wonder. 1960s-themed promotions will encourage that level of introspection, and I wouldn’t be surprised if after the game he spent seven hours staring at a candle and eating oranges.

Here was the view from my seat, directly behind home plate. To the right:

pregame in the seats.JPG

To the left:

pregame to the left.JPG

And, finally, straight ahead (okay, I cheated a little in order to not take a photo through the screen:


At the end of seventh inning, the crowd of 3,569 fans thinned considerably. This wasn’t due to the commanding lead enjoyed by the visiting Lowell Spinners. Rather, it was because the Ben and Jerry’s truck was giving away complimentary cups of their fine product. I went ahead and got in line myself:

bj truck.JPG

Ice cream runs aside, the vast majority of fans stayed still the final out had been recorded. The crowd remained enthusiastic and engaged despite the lop-sided final score (Spinners 10, Lake Monsters 3), and one really gets the sense that Lake Monster fans are true baseball fans. The relative lack of stadium amenities and supplemental entertainment is more than offset by the opportunity to watch nine innings of baseball in a charming and historic facility.

Centennial Field is located in a residential area, and upon making my way back to the sidewalk I came face-to-face with a quintessentially Vermont abode: a purple house with pink polka dots, emblazoned with the message: Cut Consumption, Not Foreskins. It was too dark for me to get a quality picture of this unique structure, but rest assured I am working on obtaining one.