To see all posts from my July 3 visit to the Danville Braves, click HERE. To see all my posts from my June/July 2016 Appalachian League Road Trip, click HERE. To see all my “On the Road” posts, click HERE. If interested in seeing posts covering a visit to a particular team, search for that team’s name in the blog search bar (it’s to your right).
The penultimate stop on my Appalachian League trip was Danville, Virginia, the land of the free and the home of the Rookie-level Braves. The Braves play at American Legion Post 325 Field, often referred to as “Legion Field” because who has time for a 12-syllable ballpark name?
Not me. I barely had time to take a photo before I crossed the street.
For this was not just any Sunday evening. It was Independence Day Eve. David Cross, longtime D-Braves general manager, was dressed for the occasion.
Jordan interviewed me on the field prior to the game, which led to this story (and accompanying video). When we were done talking, I turned around and took a poorly composed photo.
I also took note of that which was occurring atop the dugout.
Mascot Blooper! was decked in his patriotic best, and joined by special guest Captain America. A 5′ 6″, 145-pound Captain America.
“Whoo-ee!” he then added, leading me to believe that $301 was a lot to have in the kitty before the game had even begun.
I spent several minutes pondering the slogan on this team bus, which was parked just outside the ballpark. “Experience!” and “Excellence!” are presented as separate positive traits, but I initially read it as a command to “Experience Excellence!”
The ballpark was packed, the front office staff was busy, and I didn’t really know what to do with myself. I just wandered around, taking in the various views while trying not to obscure the views of others.
As the evening wore on, the bleachers got fuller and fuller. The bleachers got fuller because fireworks were to follow.
Tonight’s winning lottery numbers?
Many of the Braves players were gracious in defeat, high-fiving fans and signing autographs en route to the home clubhouse.
Goodnight from Danville, Virginia.
Before we get into the meat of this post — and there is a lot of meat product in it — a brief update: Over the last several weeks, my Appalachian League articles have proceeded apace on MiLB.com. The most recent article, on the Burlington Royals, can be found HERE. Check the dropdown bar within the piece to see all of my articles from the trip. The only Appy League team I have yet to cover in any capacity is the Danville Braves. Thus, I will jump ahead in the blogging narrative in order to provide this post, on my D-Braves designated eaters.
I’ve been recruiting designated eaters since the 2012 season, and in that time the overwhelming majority of them have been male. Not to stereotype, but men seem to comprise the majority of my readers, and men seem to be more willing to pose for ridiculous photos featuring themselves and Minor League foodstuffs. So let’s hear it for Brooke Robinson and Mary DeFriest, 2016’s first female designated eaters!
In the below photo, Brooke and Mary were photobombed by Blooper!, whose name includes a built-in exclamation mark.
Brooke and Mary are both currently employed by the Greensboro Grasshoppers, who operate approximately 45 miles southwest of the Danville Braves. Brooke is the team’s coordinator of promotions and community relations; last season she was a promotions assistant for the Corpus Christi Hooks. Originally from Fort Worth, Texas, Brooke said she knew she wanted to work in baseball after attending a Chicago Cubs game at age 5.
“I just loved the atmosphere and wanted to be a part of it,” she said. “I eventually want Bill Murray status. I want to be a team’s director of fun.”
And, yes, Brooke Robinson is named after Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson. She said her dad wrote the third baseman a letter telling him he was going to name his daughter after him, and that Robinson sent back an autograph.
Mary, originally from Great Falls, Virginia, graduated from Indiana University this spring. She then relocated to Greensboro, where she works for Brooke as a promotions and community relations intern. This is her second Minor League Baseball internship as she spent last season with the Tri-City ValleyCats. Mary said she enjoys working in Minor League Baseball because “it’s a creative atmosphere and I’m a creative person, so I thrive in that atmosphere.”
Brooke and Mary were excited to do their part to alleviate the extreme designated eating gender disparity that has existed thus far.
“First of all, it’s all guys all the time,” said Brooke. “And we’re in the business. We do the YMCA every day. We have no shame.”
OK, time to eat! The concession stand lines were very long on this July 3 evening, but fortunately we had a man on the inside. The following spread was presented to Brooke and Mary, and they were psyched to do some designated eating.
Well, then have at it!
Designated eaters check in, Danville Braves. https://t.co/R7LHWIWUKK
— Benjamin Hill (@bensbiz) July 4, 2016
The “Kitzmiller” is a fried bologna sandwich, named for longtime D-Braves assistant general manager Bob Kitzmiller. Kitzmiller, who retired from the team in March, passed away the morning after this ballgame took place. (I learned of his death via a moment of silence prior to July 4’s Burlington Royals game.) Kitzmiller was well-loved at the ballpark and the community; click HERE to read a local newspaper tribute. Far beyond being a bologna sandwich namesake, Kitzmiller made a large impact in Danville’s sports community and the Appalachian League in general.
Brooke and Mary enjoyed their Kitzmillers.
“I’ve never had bologna cooked this way before, but it tastes pretty good,” said Mary. “I like grilled onions.”
“I’d have been scared to try it, but now that I have I’d definitely get it again,” said Brooke.
Brooke and Mary then cleansed the palate with a beer, which was not a Coors Light despite the usage of a Coors Light cup. My notes say it was a “local orange IPA,” so perhaps it was something from Danville’s 2 Witches Winery and Brewery.
At any rate, the brew got exceedingly high marks. Mary gave it a “10 out of 10” because it didn’t “have a crazy bite to it” and was “smooth.” Brooke declared that a better beer could not be found outside of her native Texas.
Next up was a Blooper! Dog, featuring mustard, chili and a fried pickle. Extreme close-up!
Mary: There’s a lot of mustard.
Brooke: The mustard’s on everything.
Mary: The pickle’s so good. Pickle is the key. I kind of want to eat the pickle by itself.
Brooke: My pickle slid out, so I ate the pickle already.
Mary: They should sell pickle fries like this.
Before moving on to the BBQ Dog, Brooke and Mary sent me on an important errand.
Evan help us. https://t.co/YlENXxBNKG
— Benjamin Hill (@bensbiz) July 4, 2016
Once you’re done laughing at the above (if you’re ever done laughing), then you can move on to this extreme close-up of the BBQ Dog. Topped with pulled pork and slaw, it is more photogenic than it’s Blooper! Dog counterpart.
Once again, a brief conversation ensued.
Mary: I like that it’s not drenched in sauce. Sometimes there’s too much sauce and the bun gets really soggy.
Brooke: And it’s vinegar-based. I would get this.
Mary: I would definitely get this. It’s the perfect combo.
Mary then declared the BBQ Dog to be her favorite item of the night. Brooke went with the Kitzmiller.
And me? I’m just here for the popcorn.
Brooke and Mary’s work was done for the evening, meaning they were now free to hang out with old pal Blooper! and new pal Captain America.
“This was awesome,” said Brooke of the designated eating experience. “I assumed at a smaller ballpark they just had hot dogs. But people should come and try the food here.”
“I’m really thankful for this opportunity and wish it could continue,” said Mary. “I just love food and wish I didn’t have to stop eating.”
I, in turn, thank Brooke and Mary for their designated eating service. It was indeed a great night at the ballpark.
— brooke robinson (@brookebaseball) July 4, 2016
This will be the only Appy League post I’ll have time for before embarking on my next trip, which kicks off Aug. 1 in Sacramento. Please accept my apologies for the blogging backlog –it’s been a very busy couple of weeks for me professionally as well as personally. In a nutshell, I’ve had to find a new apartment in NYC and will be moving in on Friday. I leave for my next road trip two days later. Crazy times!
This season, when I’m on the road, I’ll write a quick blog post about each Minor League ballpark that I visit. Then, upon my presumed return home, I’ll provide the multifaceted blog coverage that you have come to know and perhaps even love. Last night I visited Danville, Virginia, the ninth stop on my 10-team Appy League road trip.
July 3: Legion Field, home of the Danville Braves (Rookie-level affiliate of the Atlanta Braves)
Opponent: Burlington Royals, 7 p.m. start time
Legion Field, from the outside:
Legion Field, from within: Fireworks on the day before the Fourth of July; the place was packed.
Culinary Creation: BBQ Dog
Ballpark Character: Mascot Blooper and Captain
Five O’Clock Shadow America, celebrating our nation’s independence on this July 4th Eve.
At Random: Evan Gattis, condiment lord
Your Groundbreaking and Subversive Ballpark Joke of the Day:
Your groundbreaking and subversive ballpark joke of the day, Danville Braves. https://t.co/ShBT9Uaodz
— Benjamin Hill (@bensbiz) July 4, 2016
My Appy League articles on MiLB.com thus far:
7/4: Burlington Royals