The previous post to have been published right here on this little slice of the internet that I call my professional home featured a bevy of ostensibly quality videos from the 2013 campaign.
[cue sound of a needle scratching across a record]
What a needlessly convoluted sentence that was! What I meant to say is: let’s start this post with some more videos.
Specifically, I’d like to highlight this A+ effort out of Daytona. The weather in that city can be quite intense, to say the least, turning tarp pulls into a harrowing battle with the elements. This preview is rated MM for “meteorological mayhem:”
The intro to the above video shows clips of several notable “tarpocalypse” videos from seasons past (at least one of which was featured on this blog). Well, this one outta Ogden can now be added to the ranks:
Oh. but calamity can befall ballpark denizens in a multitude of ways. This season Lansing Lugnuts broadcaster Jesse Goldberg-Strassler emerged as the nation’s pre-eminent chronicler of press box laptop foul ball casualties. To wit:
— Benjamin Hill (@bensbiz) August 2, 2013
Let’s take a closer look. First up is L. Tyler Murray of the Dunedin Blue Jays.
— L. Tyler Murray (@LTylerMurray) August 2, 2013
Next, we have a MUST-READ ACCOUNT of foul ball laptop terror (complete with an absolutely uncanny audio clip), courtesy of Winston-Salem’s Brian Boesch.
For the record, Winston-Salem’s aforementioned “The Dash Board Blog” is easily among the best team blogs in all of Minor League Baseball. Broadcasters looking to raise their writing game would do well to scroll through its ample archives.
And then there’s Goldberg-Strassler’s 2013 broadcast partner, the inimitable and on-the-rise Slavko Bekovic.
— Slavko Bekovic (@SBekovic) May 11, 2013
And wait, what’s this? Yet another example of foul ball lap top destruction? Yes, it’s true, and this one is live and direct from Great Lakes.
— Great Lakes Loons (@greatlakesloons) August 31, 2013
Speaking of Mr. Goldberg-Strassler, during the season he anchored a weekly podcast called “Around the Nest.” In this podcast he talked to every broadcaster within the Blue Jays farm system (himself and Bekovic included), so that they could share their expertise regarding that particular team. The end result was a thorough farm system overview, all in the course of a single broadcast.
A replicable idea, no?
This has been Ben’s Biz Blog post #992. Ben’s Biz over and out.
Last month’s Florida road trip was, all in all, an overwhelmingly positive experience. But one of the minor disappointments was the relative dearth of local seafood options at the ballparks — for whatever reason, the crab shacks and grouper sandwich spots that were prevalent in the area didn’t cross over into the stadium experience.
So kudos to the Daytona Cubs for taking a step toward rectifying this situation. On select nights through the remainder of the season, employees from nearby Riptides Bar and Grill will be shucking and serving oysters on the half shell!
This past Thursday was the debut of the D-Cubs oyster bar, and as you can tell from the pictures the weather was ominous and therefore the crowds sparse. But he introduction of oysters to the Minor League concession scene is a very positive development, in my opinion, and I am hoping that this idea is a success in Daytona and then spreads to all applicable markets with considerable haste!
I’m not sure of the proper way to dispose of oyster shells, but if this was in Durham I wouldn’t be surprised if the Bulls found a way to recycle them into t-shirt material. The team recently partnered with local collegiate clothing company Spring House to create a line of “Bull City” t-shirts made from 100% recyclable materials (including water bottles, plastic beer bottles and x-ray film).
From the press release:
The entire line is manufactured in Durham’s one and only garment factory, less than three miles away from the Durham Bulls Athletic Park. School House, which designed and manufactured the line, sees the Bull City collection as an example of the power of “Made in USA” products and local manufacturing.
At this point you’ve all surely thoroughly dissected my most recent Promotion Preview column over at MiLB.com, which leads with approximately 400 words on the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers “Salute to Cows” (yes, I’m just the only person these days who manages to consistently write about Wisconsin in an apolitical context).
The team sent along some photos to run with the piece, and I’d like to share a couple of them here. These are just fantastic, these images, especially because they remind me of a VHS video produced by a Wisconsin-based band that I watched approximately 1500 times in college.
And, finally, I draw your attention to THIS. It’s the State College Spikes’ take on the “Call Me Maybe” video, and they totally nail it. Watch it, definitely.
I won’t be content until I’ve posted all of my content, so here we go with another post full of Florida road trip odds and ends. The previous dispatch ended in Lakeland, and from there I drove northeast to beautiful Daytona Beach.
Drawbridge delays added a few minutes to my travel time, but I didn’t mind:
I was in town to see the Daytona Cubs, whose team hotel is the Acapulco. I’m going to go ahead and declare this to be the best view from a team hotel in all of Minor League Baseball.
I rarely relax on these trips (or in life, come to think of it) but I did go for a swim shortly after checking in. How could I not? I did so with a full stomach, however, as on the way to the hotel I stopped for lunch at The Daytona Brickyard. It was recommended to me via a blog post comment: In Daytona you have to eat at a hole in the wall NASCAR Bar called The Brickyard. It’s right across the street from Bethune Cookman College. They have the best burgers you will ever eat in your life.
Well, okay then. Off to 747 w. International Speedway Boulevard I went:
The menu didn’t make any particular claim to burger supremacy, but when I asked the waitress she just said “We have the best burgers, that’s what we’re known for.”
So, of course, I got the burger. The photo doesn’t really do it justice, but it really was good. Maybe not “greatest of all time,” but far above average. Char-grilled and nicely seasoned is all I can think to say, once again I’m coming up blank in the food adjective department. (The fries were great too, but I made the mistake of sprinkling some salt on them before tasting. They were already very, very salty.)
I attended that evening’s Daytona Cubs game (read all about it), but there was still a little bit more to come from Jackie Robinson Stadium. An “Education Day” game was scheduled for the following morning, so I stopped by before heading on my way toward Pensacola.
I neglected to feature this in my previous post on Daytona, but outside of the stadium there is a statue of Jackie Robinson. (Daytona hosted Jackie and his Montreal Royals during 1946 Spring Training, one year before his debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers.)
Inside the stadium, there were a lot of screaming kids. This is the defining characteristic of any “Education Day” ballgame.
Elsewhere in the stadium, things were pretty sedate.
After the ballgame, I stopped by the Florida State League headquarters (located just beyond right field).
I had met league president Chuck Murphy the night before, and he told me that the offices were full of interesting (and idiosyncratic) baseball memorabilia. But, alas, no one was there. I’ll have to put a stop at FSL HQ on my to-do list for the next time I’m in Daytona.
And there will be a next time! But the rest of this day was budgeted for travel, as the next (and last) stop on my itinerary was faraway Pensacola. The drive started on 95, but brightly colored billboards advertising fresh citrus, pecans and fireworks soon caused me to make a slight detour. I absolutely love places like this:
I ended up buying a bag of honey roasted pecans, boiled peanuts, and two grapefruit. Everything was awesome, but I was absolutely floored by how good the grapefruit was (as were as the oranges, of which free samples were provided). The guy working there explained that most grapefruits are picked before they are ripe so that they will not spoil. Therefore, they are not as flavorful as they otherwise could be.
I probably already knew this, but finally having a taste of the real thing hammered the point home. I will never eat a grapefruit here in the Northeast without thinking of how much better they are in Florida — so fresh, and tart, and juicy. The sort of thing that, yes, makes you grateful to be alive.
Alligator jerky didn’t necessarily make me glad to be alive, but it wasn’t so bad that I wished I was dead. It was thoroughly mediocre.
Did you guys hear the one about Shrek-brand jerky? The taste was thoroughly meaty ogre!
[Thanks, I’ll be in this deserted office all night. (Please, someone, give me a reason to leave).]
Several hours and several listens to the new Spiritualized album later, I noticed a decrepit billboard touting the fact that Greenville, Florida (population 837) is the birthplace of Ray Charles. Therefore, I decided to stop in Greenville. It was sleepy in the way that only the South seems to be sleepy; blanketed in soporific haze, the metronome moving in slow motion as the ghosts look on disinterestedly.
I think something was off with my camera.
And, yes, there in the center of Haffye Hays Park (no relation to Soporific) was the Ray Charles Memorial. Again, I apologize for whatever snafu resulted in such low lighting.
That’s about it when it comes to interesting detours I made en route to Pensacola, but I do want to take this opportunity to express my admiration for Florida rest stops. They were clean, informative, well-designed, and the vending machines were stocked with regional potato chip brands. This one was my favorite:
The gas stations were all in order too, thanks to a department of agriculture and consumer services commissioner who won’t take guff from anyone.
I didn’t quite make it to Pensacola that evening, opting instead to spend the night in the DeFuniak Springs Super 8. There wasn’t much to do there, so I passed the time trying (and failing) to take poignant photographs of a nearby Waffle House.
I swear that I’ll eventually run out of content from this trip. But it hasn’t happened yet!
I really and truly enjoy every single place that I get to visit on these road trips. There is always something to recommend. But every once in a while I chance upon a location that resonates on a deeper level, one that makes me wish I could just relax and stay for a while.
Daytona was one of those places. I just flat-out felt comfortable here, both in the town itself as well as, more specifically, Jackie Robinson Stadium (the home of the Daytona Cubs). Perhaps I was too comfortable, in that once again I seem to have neglected my duties and failed to take exterior shots of the stadium. But here are a few shots of the interior, before the madding crowd was permitted to disrupt my photo-taking solitude.
Jackie Robinson Stadium is an iconic facility with charm to spare, and an anomaly in the Florida State League in that it does not host Major League Spring Training. This, to me, is to its infinite benefit — as opposed to an oversized and sterile Spring Training environment, Jackie Robinson evokes nothing less and nothing more than the quintessential charm of Minor League Baseball — intimate, no-frills, and eminently accessible.
But it’s also ironic, to a degree, in that the stadium got its name due to its Major League Spring Training history. In 1946, Daytona became the first city to allow Jackie Robinson to participate in a Spring Training game (he was then gearing up for a season with the International League’s Montreal Royals, one year prior to his groundbreaking campaign with the Dodgers). There’s a statue out front that commemorates this history.
The full name of the facility is now “Jackie Robinson Ballpark and Museum,” with the latter part of the equation being a self–guided tour within the concourse area. There are informational plaques galore, many of which are supplemented by displays that bring to life Robinson’s myriad athletic accomplishments.
Jackie was known for stealing home. This display (above and below) puts it in perspective.
It’s all about perspective. Jackie’s vertical leaping abilities are displayed here…
while this area pays homage to the horizontal.
At this point in the evening, the stadium gates were thrown open and the hoi polloi streamed forth. The hoi polloi, in this case, were blue-shirt wearing members of the team’s “Silver Sluggers” fan club.
The backs of their shirts should have said “apostles of baseball bingo,” because that’s what they were here for.
Jackie Robinson Ballpark is old (its first iteration dates back to 1914), and as such there isn’t much room for the staff to operate. The front offices were painfully, ludicrously cramped (I should have taken a picture), and the team store wasn’t much more than a kiosk.
That detached head on the counter is, perhaps, a homage to the club’s old logo. It featured the severed head of a too-cool-for-school bear, a bear whose origins appeared Arctic despite the Floridan environs:
But this was my favorite piece of apparel — a t-shirt commemorating outfielder Matt Sczcur and the proper pronunciation of his confounding last name.
I interviewed Sczcur before the game, and that can be found HERE. He was a real nice guy, as ballplayers — and, by extension, all humans — almost always are, and spoke with pride about the above item.
As alluded to above, the fans were streaming in at this point in the evening. And Daytona, if nothing else, has VERY committed fans. I wrote an MiLB.com story about this very subject (please read it HERE), and it featured characters such as Pat Drosten (right) and Faye Haas:
Drosten is one of 17 fans who, in 2000, got a D-Cubs tattoo in exchange for lifetime season tickets.
So did “FRJ,” otherwise known as Front Row Joe:
Front Row Joe is a ballpark celebrity, as he’s attended every D-Cubs game dating back to June of 1995. I wrote a story on him when he hit 1000 straight, and this particular evening was number 1147. It’s easy to keep track, since there’s a billboard in left-center field that does just this. Part of Joe’s pre-game routine is to walk out 20 minutes before game time and change the number. He extended the invite to accompany him, and I was more than happy to oblige.
Like Andre the Giant before him, Front Row Joe has a posse:
(Daytona really is great. I can’t wait to go back).
And, well, jeez — Joe had done his thing, the Silver Sluggers were in their seats, and it was time for the game to begin!
As this game script makes clear, the team had plans for me.
“Singing For My Supper” involved listening to the first verse of “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling” and then belting out the chorus as soon as the music was cut off.
Waiting for my moment:
Belting it out:
Posing victoriously with my new best friend, his head thankfully not severed.
A few innings later, I spent some time in what is a disappearing stadium phenomenon: the rooftop pressbox.
That’s media relations director Robbie Aaron on the right, who invited me to do an inning with him on the radio. (I always enjoy being on the radio, as it hearkens me back to my days with WPTS 92.1 Pittsburgh.) Afterwards, I snapped a photo of the rooftop view:
All that talking works up an appetite (not to mention the fact that I had already sang for my supper). Concession wise, Jackie Robinson Ballpark is probably more notable for its extensive drink options than the food. Beer options were measured by the dozens, and, while not photographed, I’m pretty sure that this is the only park I’ve been to that has served Jagr.
The food options were pretty standard, but this is more a result of space considerations than any sort of creative defect. I ordered pork nachos, but they were pretty lackluster. Pork and nacho cheese over chips, three quarters of which were untouched by toppings:
After eating, I went back to the second row and watched the concluding innings of the Cubs’ loss with frustrated fan FRJ.
But, win or lose, there’s always launch-a-ball. And thank goodness for that.
And thank goodness for you, whoever you may be, for reading.
As everyone is well aware, today is 11/11/11. This marks the only time in our lifetimes that the date will be represented with six ones across the board, and — of course! — anomalous occurrences should be celebrated.
Within Minor League Baseball there is an established precedent for numerically-inclined (and often absurdly intricate) date-related promotions, so this morning I monitored my Twitter and Facebook feeds with an unwavering sense of purpose. And Minor League Baseball, once again, did not disappoint. Some highlights of my searching:
— The South Bend Silver Hawks offered fans a package, in which 11 tickets could be obtained for $11 between 11 and 11:11 a.m. Later, the team reported to me via Twitter that 24 of these packages (a total of 264 tickets) were sold.
— Perhaps inspired by the Silver Hawks, the Gwinnett Braves made the exact same offer at the last minute. “FANS- this just in- 11 tickets for $11!! You have until 11:11 AM to call in!” read the post on the team’s Facebook page.
— In Asheville, the Tourists offered a deal that was good for all of one minute. At 11:11, all hats and t-shirts were available for $11.11 at the team’s “Tourist Trap” store (five hardy but certainly not tardy souls took them up on it).
— Somewhat similarly, the Daytona Cubs offered a 2011 team hat for $11 all day. And with the purchase of said hat, fans received a coupon good for $5 off a new 2012 logo hat. (As you may recall, the D-Cubs recently unveiled a new logo).
Finally, in State College (where nothing else of note is going on), the Spikes amply demonstrated their Facebook power. At 11:11, the team posted the following:
’LIKE’ THIS POST FOR A CHANCE TO WIN! We need 111 people to LIKE this post!
If our goal is reached by 5 p.m. then we will randomly select one of the participants as the winner of TWO FREE SPIKES TICKETS and a MICHAEL ROBINSON SIGNED BALL (former Penn State QB and current NFL player). Happy 11/11/11!
As of this writing (2:30 EST), a whopping 164 people have already clicked the like button on the above missive. Impressive!
As I am writing this, 11:11 has yet to arrive on the West Coast. However, I have not come across any PST teams doing anything similar. Is this time zone disdainful of detail-oriented numerical promotions? Say it ain’t so!
And look at that! It ain’t so! At 11:11, the Fresno Grizzlies announced the following: For one day only, on Friday November 11, fans can get 11 Field Box vouchers for just $11 each (normally $16), as well as $11 in Grizzlies Bucks for FREE – that’s a $187 value for just $121!
Clearly, Minor League Baseball is #1.
In news of a non-sequitur nature, did you know that mascots have the power to create earthquakes?
What a load of bull.
“New logo season”, that robust time of year in which fresh Minor League team emblems are unveiled to a salivating public, generally gets going in October and peaks in November.
But I know that there is a certain segment of Biz Blog readers who just can’t wait that long, as they seek new logos with a rapacious intensity that can never be satiated. I’ll aim for temporary placation, then, by sharing three new marks that I have recently come across in my seemingly endless sedentary internet travels.
First, and most extensive, is this Studio Simon effort on behalf of the Daytona Cubs. In 2012, the team will take the field in uniforms bearing these logos:
The timing of this might give one paws, as the logo was unveiled at the tail end of the season and with little accompanying publicity (not even a press release). But the early, albeit low-key, unveiling has led to a truly anomalous happenstance:
The D-Cubs went on to win this year’s Florida State League Championship, and the merchandise features the new logo despite the fact that the championship team in question never wore it.
At any rate, it’s time to say a fond farewell to the club’s old bear. This particular shades-wearing cub cultivated an air of studied detachment, and I loved him for it.
Meanwhile, the following news has emanated from far reaches of northern Michigan: the Great Lakes Loons will be celebrating their 5th Anniversary throughout the 2012 campaign, and a series of commemorative logos are most definitely part of the festivities. These quinquennial marks will be featured on “limited-edition merchandise, stadium signage, and other team-related items.”
Finally, let it be known that there is just one Minor League Baseball game left in the entire 2011 season — tomorrow’s Triple-A National Championship Game between the Columbus Clippers and Omaha Storm Chasers. That contest takes place in Albuquerque, but the 2012 version will be held in the impressive confines of Durham Baseball Athletic Park. The logo for said contest has been revealed and, quite frankly, it’s a load of Bull:
That’s all I’ve got for the time being, but in a few months you can bet your bottom (as well as your top and/or middle) dollar that we’ll be awash in new logos. It is the way of things.
Tomorrow, as it’s been said, is only a day away. And tomorrow’s tomorrow, when it becomes the present, presents a bountiful array of enticing presents to fans gracing Minor League ballparks with their presence.
Wishing to continue my reign as a preeminent prescient promotional prognosticator, I now present this truncated list of just what, exactly, is taking place tomorrow. Taken in toto, it serves to illuminate the the voluminous vitality of the Minor League landscape.
I know many of you would like to punch me in the face after reading the above two paragraphs, but you can’t. I’m light years away, and ensconced in bubble wrap.
To the list!
Hank Conger Bobblehead Giveaway (Arkansas Travelers) — In honor of the switch-hitting backstop who suited up for the team in ’08 and ’09.
William Seward Bobblehead Giveaway (Auburn Doubledays) — In honor of New Yorkstate’s 12tgh governor, who suited up for the commonwealth from 1839-1842. He later served as Secretary of State under Abraham Lincoln. Now he’s a bobblehead.
Three World Record Attempts (Bowie Baysox) — As detailed in this week’s “Promotion Preview” column, the Baysox are attempting to reach new heights in the categories of “Most People Sitting on a Whoopee Cushion”, “Most People Doing ‘The Twist'”, and “Most People Engaged in Simultaneous Air Guitar.”
Farmer Axle Bobblehead (Bowling Green Hot Rods) — It’s “Agriculture Night” in Bowling Green, hence a giveaway featuring a tractor-driving mascot.
Lumberstock (Clinton LumberKings) — An all-day festival featuring live music, cornhole tournaments, and plenty of food and drink. “Wood”n’t you like to go?
Retro Jersey Giveaway (Corpus Christi Hooks) — An inimitable item mimicking the ’80s incarnation of parent club the Houston Astros.
Ryan Dempster Theme Jersey Auction (Daytona Cubs) — Proceeds benefit the Ryan and Jenny Dempster Family Foundation.
Buster Posey Bobblehead (Fresno Grizzlies) — If you want one of these then you better Buster move to Chukchansi Park.
Jimmy Hart Appearance (Lexington Legends) — The “Mouth of the South” attempts to devour Applebee’s Park.
Ladies Night w/ Rafe Hernandez (Mahoning Valley Scrappers) — The “Days of Our Lives” star visits Eastman Field, delighting fans with hourglass figures.
Jacoby Ellsbury Bobblehead (Pawtucket Red Sox) — Free to the first 4000 fans age 14 and under. Or at least those, like Ellsbury, who can pass for 14.
Hacksaw Jim Duggan and Jerry Lawler Appearance (Richmond Flying Squirrels) — Because two legendary grapplers are always better than one, unless they gang up on you.
A few odds and ends before closing up shop:
— A new “Farm’s Almanac” feature is up now, about the Frederick Keys’ “Volt Night” and executive chefs in Minor League Baseball. “Volt Night”, in which Top Chef’s Bryan Voltaggio manned a concession stand, was a huge hit in Frederick (attracting a near-sellout crowd on a Tuesday night). The Baltimore Sun ran an excellent recap and photo gallery of the event.
— For sheer wordplay lunacy, it will be hard to top the Huntsville Stars’ September 6 promotion. The game will be preceded by the “Okra Win-Free Labor Day Marathon”. 103 people will split the duties of running the race (no one will “win”, see?) and okra will be a side dish in the steak dinner following the race. Plus, an invitation has been extended to Oprah Winfrey, who once ran a marathon. The entire event should be soundtracked by THIS.
— Finally, from the “Why Didn’t I Think of That” department, the Lancaster JetHawks have passed along word that they’re planning a “90210 Night” promotion for September 2. Get it? 9/02/10. It’s been right there in front of us, all along.