Tagged: Connecticut Tigers 2015

An Eponymous Burger and Whiz Wit Everything in Connecticut

To see all posts from my August 29, 2015 visit to the Connecticut Tigers (this is Part Three) click HERE. To see all of the posts from my August/September 2015 trip through New England, click HERE. To see ALL of my “On the Road” posts (going back to 2010), click HERE.

2015 “On the Road” landing page HERE!

This guy, his name is Paul Woodin. He’s standing on the concourse of Dodd Stadium, home of the Connecticut Tigers, waiting for the Burger Barn to cook him a couple of burgers.

042While he waits, let’s get to know Paul a little bit. He lives in Norwich and works for a local submarine designer and manufacturer — a major employer in the area — doing pipe drafting, design and development.

“It’s just drawing on a computer,” he said, modestly.

Paul is also a big fan of the Connecticut Tigers. He estimates that he attends 25 of the team’s games each season often accompanied by his wife, Sarah, and daughter, Rayne. Paul and Sarah had their first date at a nearby New Britain Rock Cats game, and he later proposed to her atop the dugout at Dodd Stadium. They tied the knot at Dodd as well.

“We got married at home plate,” he said. “We played on the field that morning, and then I showered in the clubhouse.”

Paul was waiting for burgers at the Burger Barn because he was the evening’s designated eater (you know, the individual who consumes the ballpark cuisine that my gluten-free diet prohibits). The Burger Barn, which. predictably, sells burgers, was our first stop.

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An array of burgers are available at the Burger Barn. Most of them are self-explanatory. Some aren’t. If you don’t know, you better ask somebody.

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There was also a one-night only special, named in honor of — wait for it — me.

031The Ben’s Biz Burger consisted of bacon, habanero jack cheese and an onion ring atop a cinnamon bun.

043Now, some might consider this a form of cruelty — to name a burger after someone who has a medical condition that renders burgers (or at least burger buns) off-limits. Cinnamon buns are decidedly not gluten-free.

But I didn’t look at it like that. At my current level of initiative and accomplishment, nothing of substance is ever going to be named for me. There will never be a Ben’s Biz Bridge or a Ben’s Biz Ballpark, though one day I may undergo a Ben’s Biz Bypass. So I looked at the Ben’s Biz Burger as an honor, perhaps the pinnacle of my professional career.

046And this is why I have a designated eater in the first place, for crying out loud. So take it away, Paul.

“Oh my God! It’s so good! It’s the cinnamon bun!” exclaimed Paul. “The cinnamon bun and the onion both make it sweet.”

“The savory and the sweet work well together,” added Sarah, Paul’s wife, who couldn’t resist taking a bite.

“The frosting of the cinnamon bun, you can taste it more than the burger,” said Paul. “Maybe it needs ketchup.”

“No way,” replied Sarah, correctly.

Next up from the Burger Barn was “The Rabelo”, named after Connecticut Tigers manager Mike Rabelo. It’s a burger topped with American cheese and a split Italian sausage. And, unlike the Ben’s Biz Burger, its namesake can actually eat it!

045Extreme close-up.

048“I’m eating the manager,” said Paul as he directed the burger toward his maw.

049“It’s a meat lovers dream,” said Paul, after taking a bite of the manager. “It all flows really well, and the hot Italian sausage really gives it a kick. It sneaks up on you.”

The Burger Barn is located far down the first base line. Its third base counterpart is “Philly’s”, a ballpark outpost of a beloved Norwich cheesesteak purveyor.

This picture was taken earlier in the day, but it looked pretty much the same when we got there.

012Here’s a glimpse at the menu. I’ll tell you what — Philly cheesesteaks are one of the things I miss most now that I’m gluten-free. I also miss Reubens, fried chicken and not having to justify my food choices to people who shouldn’t care one way or the other.

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Paul had just eaten two burgers, but no matter. He went for the Broad Street Bully aka “The Works.” As you can see from the above menu, the Broad Street Bully consists of rib eye steak, provolone, fried onions, mushrooms, sweet and hot peppers, pickles and Cheez Whiz. Oh, and extra rib eye steak.

I WISH I COULD EAT THIS.

052A closer look.

053If you’ve made a choice to eat The Broad Street Bully, then you’ve made a choice to get messy. Paul wisely positioned the sandwich container below him so that it would catch the inevitable spillage. This wasn’t his first rodeo.

055“It’s fantastic, really spicy. I can taste everything,” said Paul. “It was freshly made right in front of me, and now it’s falling apart everywhere. It’s nice to scoop up. It’s absolutely phenomenal and I pity you for not being able to eat this.”

Sarah soon joined in on the other end of the Broad Street Bully. This is true love right here, another chapter in a storied ballpark romance.

056Paul had had (more than) enough food at this point, so now it was time for an aperitif at the Tigers’ Retro Beer Bar. This is a haven for those who have eschewed the craft beer “revolution” and still prefer easy drinking domestics. Paul had Pabst Blue Ribbon, Ballantine Ale, Schaefer’s and Schlitz to choose from. He went with a PBR, which, if you drink enough of them, often leads to “blue ribbin'” at a baseball game. As in, an increased propensity to heckle the umpires.

Ah, nevermind. Have a beer, Paul.

058“It’s a nice refreshing drink on a little bit of a hot night,” said Paul.

And what else more could there be to say?

“I’m really full.”

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

instagram.com/thebensbiz

On the Road: Perfect Strikes and Sub-tacular Views in Connecticut

To see all posts from my August 29, 2015 visit to the Connecticut Tigers (this is Part Two) click HERE. To see all of the posts from my August/September 2015 trip through New England, click HERE. To see ALL of my “On the Road” posts (going back to 2010), click HERE.

2015 “On the Road” landing page HERE!

Part One of this Connecticut Tigers blog series left us in the home dugout, as a “Happy” dance party came to a premature conclusion. But there was no reason for disappointment, as the highlight of the evening was soon to come.

I am talking, of course, about me throwing out the game’s ceremonial first pitch. I displayed perfect form, as always, and threw a perfect strike.

As always.

pitch 2 The pregame festivities then continued apace, as my security detail rushed me out of the ballpark and into this “General Dynamics Electric Boat.”

IMG_0292General Dynamics is a massive global aerospace and defense company whose electric boat division (or sub division, if you will) is headquartered in nearby Groton. The United States Coast Guard Academy, meanwhile, is located in New London. This thriving sub culture motivated the names of the Tigers’ predecessors at Dodd Stadium: The Norwich Navigators (1995-2005) and Connecticut Defenders (2006-09).

The electric boat seen in the photo above is a Class A Short Season-sized approximation of the Major League aquatic war machines made by General Dynamics. The Tigers’ version is attached to a trailer, used on land and accommodates just one person. This person is tasked with throwing t-shirts to the crowd, and on this evening that person was me.

Getting into the electric boat is no easy task, as it involves crawling underneath it and then climbing up within. Once ensconced, I snapped this photo of my chauffeurs (one of whom was snapping a photo of me).

IMG_0294But it wasn’t yet t-shirt time. First, the electric boat was parked in the outfield during the singing of our National Anthem. This was the view.

IMG_0295While parked in the outfield, I had this unfortunate Tiger in my crosshairs.

IMG_0296And now, a sub tweet.

Finally, it was time to display my sub dominance.

sub 2

A Me-Boat, not a U-Boat.

sub 4Once the sub was off of the field, the game began. I spent the remainder of the evening’s daylight hours gallivanting about with my designated eater (you know, the individual who consumes the ballpark cuisine that my gluten-free diet prohibits). Following standard operating procedure, that will be documented in the next post.

I then spent a couple of innings with Glenn Carberry, the man for whom the concourse is named.

059So why is the concourse named after Carberry? It’s an interesting story. 

Finally, it was wanderin’ time. Berm to the left of me.

063Bushes to the right.

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Here I am, making my Groundbreaking and Subversive Ballpark Joke of the Day.

I then became enamored and maybe a little obsessed with the name of this business. Paquette Electric. It’s just fun to say. It rolls right off the tongue.

065I took it upon myself to write Paquette Electric a slogan:

FullSizeRender Translated:

Oh, right. There was a game going on. It was now in the 10th inning.

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The Spinners had scored three runs in the top of the 10th inning to take a 4-1 lead, but the Tigers weren’t about to go gently into that Norwich night. They scored two runs in the bottom of the 10th, at which point they had runners at the corners and one out. You won’t believe what happened next:

Capture

6-4-3 double play. Game over. Lowell wins.

070In what was certainly a rarity, especially on a Saturday night, there were no post-game activities. No fireworks. No launch-a-ball. No kids-run-the-bases. No scout campover. No live band on the party deck. No nothing. I found it kind of refreshing.

Therefore my evening at Dodd Stadium was complete. I had followed these simple rules, and everything worked out just fine.

Words to live by:

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benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

instagram.com/thebensbiz

On the Road: Norwich the Way to Go in Connecticut

To see all posts from my August 29, 2015 visit to the Connecticut Tigers (this is Part One) click HERE. To see all of the posts from my August/September 2015 trip through New England, click HERE. To see ALL of my “On the Road” posts (going back to 2010), click HERE.

2015 “On the Road” landing page HERE!

Okay, we’re in the homestretch now! Today’s post marks the first installment of substance in my “New England 2015” blog series, covering my final ballpark trip of the year.  The journey began on August 29 in Connecticut and ended on September 4 in Portland, at which point my season of ballpark travel was finally, mercifully, complete.

We’ll  begin at the beginning: Norwich, home of the New York-Penn League’s Connecticut Tigers (Class A Short Season affiliate of the Detroit Tigers). This visit completed the New York-Penn League for me, as I have now visited all 14 active teams in the circuit (as well as the now-defunct Jamestown Jammers).

The Tigers, perhaps aware of the historical significance of my visit, laid down the social media welcome mat for me.

Dodd Stadium is located in a Norwich business park, a rather unusual location for a professional stadium. It’s also an unusual location for a family-run diner with an attached batting cage. That diner is Stott’s At-Bat; I stopped by while en route to the ballpark.

006Stott’s At-Bat, as it looked immediately after I parked my rental car (a Dodge Charger) in front of it.

005I stopped by Stott’s because, prior to my visit, I had been informed by the Tigers front office that proprietor Jean Stott is “like a second mother” to the team.

003That story checked out and, thus, I wrote a feature story of my own about Jean, her business, and her relationship to the Tigers. Check it out HERE.

Stott’s At-Bat is located just down the road from Senator Thomas J. Dodd Memorial Stadium, henceforth referred to as Dodd Stadium, which opened in 1995 as the home of the Double-A Norwich Navigators. The team changed its name to the “Connecticut Defenders” prior to the 2006 season, and after the 2009 campaign that franchise relocated to Richmond, Virginia and became the Flying Squirrels. The Connecticut Tigers took up occupancy in Dodd in 2010, after relocating from Oneonta, New York.

You got all that? There will be a test.

008In the above photo, please note that the Detroit Tigers logo on the right-hand side has been inverted into a “C” to represent Connecticut. The statue, meanwhile, is of original Norwich Navigators mascot Tater the Gator. His toes are also inverted.

041My Dodd Stadium tour guide was assistant general manager Dave Schermerhorn, which I believe he pronounced “Shermer-horn”. (Here in New York City, Schermerhorn Street is pronounced “Skimmer-horn”.) Dave is an atypical Minor League front office executive, in that he grew up in Norwich and was a diehard Navigators fan from the jump. He attended the first-ever game at Dodd Stadium:

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Here, Dave poses with a picture of himself as a kid posing with a quartet of mid-’90s Navigators. I believe that one of the players in the picture is Tyrone Horne, the only man in professional baseball history to hit for the home run cycle.

072Dodd Stadium from the inside.

022A pleasant walk along the concourse soon ensued. Here, we have the “Retro Beer Bar,” which specializes in cans of cheap domestics. I found this to be an appealing counterpoint to the craft beer-mania that has swept through the Minors over the past several seasons. The menu consists of Pabst, Schlitz, Schaefer’s and Ballantine Ale. Next season, they should up the old man quotient and offer complimentary pickled eggs. (And who cares what the Board of Health has to say about it.)

034Out in left field is a ballpark offshoot of Norwich’s beloved “Philly’s” cheesesteak joint. It looks like some players and/or coaches were in the mood for a pregame meal. Or perhaps the guy on the right was attempting to dissuade his counterpart on the left.
012To the right of Philly’s is a BBQ Pavilion with a hard-to-pronounce but regionally appropriate name.

013Several cable spool tables dot the concourse, which the team obtained free of charge from Norwich Public Utility. This is an idea that originated with the Vermont Lake Monsters.

“We just sand ’em, lacquer ’em and put ’em up,” said Dave.

014Upstairs we visited the Yard Bar and Grill, comprising an area that used to consist of seven separate suites.

015There is an excellent array of artwork throughout the suites, much of it done by Dennis Lavorato. This, depicting players from the first Navigators team, is a work in progress as Lavorato changes the players so that they now represent the Connecticut Tigers.

017This painting is of Jake Robbins, who went on to pitch 1.2 innings over two appearances with the 2004 Cleveland Indians. In one of those appearances, he surrendered a home run to Jacque Jones.

026Suites are better from the outside, especially on a beautiful Saturday evening in late August.

023Back on the concourse, we strolled past the Burger Barn in right field.

030The evening’s special was named for me!

Oh, no, wait. This sounds more like a “Roethlis-burger.”

028Take Two:

031I’ll have more on the Ben’s Biz Burger, and the Burger Barn, and Philly’s, in a future post in this series.

For now, our concourse tour continues back down the first base line. This is the “Hole in the Wall Bar,” built prior to the 2011 season. Dave explained that the bar was built by a former groundskeeper as a form of therapy, as he was “pulling his hair out” after witnessing the damage done to the field during an offseason Relay for Life-style charitable race.

This bar’s name is literal, as the kegs are tapped through holes in the wall.

032At this juncture, the gates had opened.

033Some of the early arrivals were perusing the offerings in the team store. Note the netting. It’s a nice touch.

035I had no time to shop, however, as C.T. the Tiger was waiting for me down in the dugout.

036C’mon, everybody. Get “Happy”.

It’s always good to close on a note of disappointment. So thus concludes Part One of this CT Tigers saga.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

instagram.com/thebensbiz

About Last Night: Connecticut Tigers, August 29, 2015

This season, when I’m on the road, I’ll be writing an on-the-spot blog post about each Minor League ballpark that I visit. Then, upon my return home, I’ll provide the multifaceted blog coverage that you have come to know and, perhaps, love. Let’s get to it, lest it get to us!

2015 “On the Road” landing page — including complete itinerary — HERE! 

August 29, 2015:  Dodd Stadium, home of the Connecticut Tigers

Opponent: Lowell Spinners, 7:05 p.m. game time

Dodd Stadium, from the outside:

008Dodd Stadium, from within: 

022Culinary Creation: The $11 Broad Street Bully Cheesesteak, from Philly’s cheesesteak stand — “Extra ribeye steak, provolone, fried onions, mushrooms, sweet and hot peppers, pickles, Cheese Whiz.”

052Ballpark Character — A pregame visit with Jean Stott, proprietor of”Stott’s At-Bat” restaurant (and batting cages). Located just down the road from the ballpark, “Stott’s At-Bat” is a favorite spot for players, coaches and staff alike.

003 At Random: Before the game started, I got to throw T-shirts out of this submarine.

IMG_0292Your groundbreaking and subversive ballpark joke of the day: Long night, long season

Next Up: 

8/30: New Britain Rock Cats

8/31: Lowell Spinners

9/1: Pawtucket Red Sox

9/2: New Hampshire Fisher Cats

9/4: Portland Sea Dogs

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