Oh, boy. The inexorable passage of time has once again brought us face to face with a new Minor League Baseball season. I, for one, am psyched. I, for two, have also been remiss in updating this blog over the past week or so. I have various excuses for this, of varying degrees of legitimacy, but who cares? The drought is over. New content — the lifeblood of the internet, the lifeblood of my existence — begins now.
As the title makes clear, this post will be a full-to-bursting bouillabaisse of delectable Minor League morsels. I’d like to start by noting that, over on MiLB.com, my first “Promo Watch” column of the 2016 season is now live. “Promo Watch” is a tweak on the old “Promo Preview” format, encompassing not just the traditional previews but also reviews and larger promo trend analysis. In today’s column, I highlighted a few 2016 promos that I am looking forward to. They involve previous planet Pluto, President James Garfield and pork roll.
I’d like to think I’m writing the most consistently (and justifiably) weird stuff in the entire sports journalism ecosystem. But of a less weird variety is this Opening Day Guide, co-written with my colleague Sam “No, I’m not related to Lenny” Dykstra. Read and learn.
Everybody loves dogs, so everybody will love this: Former Greensboro Grasshoppers bat dog Miss Babe Ruth has accepted a new position with the team.
— Benjamin Hill (@bensbiz) April 6, 2016
In this capacity, Miss Babe Ruth (how is she not named “Babe Ruff”?) will “greet fans in the concourse during games and also advertise her new association” with a flea and tick prevention product named BRAVECTO.
Remember at the Winter Meetings when I wrote about the complex issues surrounding drone usage at Minor League Baseball games? Well, that’s because, like it or not, drones are here to stay (and not just in the broadcast booth). This season, the Reading Fightin Phils are using them in an official context. This is the “Drone Cam.”
During the offseason, the Lexington Legends partnered with a local school on “Stache Tank.” This “Shark Tank”-inspired competition asked students, working in teams as part of an economics unit, to pitch a promotional giveaway item as well as a ballpark improvement. Winning student presentations include a slap bracelet giveaway and the construction of a rock climbing wall in right field. Pretty cool idea.
The Durham Bulls have announced that, on June 9, they will wear “the first Bulls uniform created by a company outside of the sports industry.” It was designed by Durham-based RUNAWAY, which is weird because it seems their focus would be all-caps.
The jerseys are modeled after the flag of Durham, with “DURM” in the center. DURM is a “term coined by RUNAWAY as an ode to the city’s hard-nosed history.” If you’ve got a hard nose then you should probably go see the durmatologist.
In my previous blog bouillabaisse I mentioned that the Sacramento River Cats had installed 472 solar panels and five SMA inverters at their home of Raley Field. The team’s environmentally-friendly endeavors continue apace, with last week’s announcement of “River Cats Road Relief.“ This three-pronged initiative includes a carpool program, which enables cars with four or more passengers to receive free parking.
— River Cats (@RiverCats) April 6, 2016
New Jersey’s pro baseball scene has gone through some hard times, as three indy clubs have ceased operation. But their pain is the Trenton Thunder’s gain. On Wednesday, the team announced announced that Camden Riversharks, Newark Bears and Atlantic City Surf gear can be exchanged for a free ticket, food voucher and team store discount.
Trade in your @Riversharks gear for tickets, food, and 20% off at the company store!
— Trenton Thunder (@TrentonThunder) April 6, 2016
The Tri-City ValleyCats don’t start their season until June, but they’re still making good use of their time. On April 14, the team is staging its annual “4 in 24” initiative, in which four local youth fields are renovated within a 24-hour span. This is a great idea.
I began with dogs, so I’ll end with dogs: The Inland Empire 66ers have installed Minor League Baseball’s first-ever permanent dog park.
Here’s to the 2016 season! I promise I’ll be announcing my road trip schedules shortly.
— Benjamin Hill (@bensbiz) April 7, 2016
In 2009, the Wilmington Blue Rocks became the first team to book Team Ghost Riders — better known as Cowboy Monkey Rodeo — at a Minor League ballpark. The thrilling spectacle of a monkey riding a dog herding sheep soon became an industry-wide phenomenon.
In 2016, the Blue Rocks have once again made Cowboy Monkey Rodeo history.
“Dir of Mktg Joe” is more coherently known as Blue Rocks director of marketing Joe Valenti, a longtime Cowboy Monkey Rodeo supporter. Valenti serves as the point man when the rodeo rolls into Wilmington, and in that capacity had gotten to know ringleader Tim Lepard.
“[Lepard] will retire the dogs at a certain age so they can live a dog’s life, not doing the grind,” said Valenti. “Last year he was in town in August. I mentioned to him, that if he was retiring a dog my wife and I would definitely be interested. He said, ‘We’ll look into it.’ But that night at the end of the show, as he was standing at home introducing the dogs and monkeys, unbeknownst to me he called me up there and gave me Shot. I had no idea that it was coming, we hadn’t discussed it or anything. It was crazy…He said when you’re ready, we’ll make the tradeoff.”
This past Saturday Valenti, his wife and young daughter, Rose, met with Lepard in Virginia and officially adopted the 5-year-old Border Collie.
“He was confused and tentative at first, not sure what to think about having a new family and a new home,” said Valenti. “One reason that Tim was ready to retire him is because he’s so docile. Just an affectionate, laid-back kind of dog, who was over doing the chasing rams kind of thing. Tim thought he would be a good fit with the family. So it’s been an adjustment to get his bearings and figure out who we are, but it’s gone really well….It’s cool to see him slide into the family role.”
While Shot will spend the bulk of his time at home, Valenti plans to bring him out to Frawley Stadium on a regular basis.
“He loves people. I do the onfield, hosting, so I can have him come down with me,” said Valenti. “It’ll be cool leading up to the games [with Cowboy Monkey Rodeo], a little teaser, to have the dog here. And I’ll definitely bring him when the monkeys are here, to reunite him.”
Valenti won’t consider adopting a monkey, however.
“The dog is enough. Monkeys are cool, and it’s always fun when they’re around,” he said. “They run around and scare the players. But I’ll stick to the dog.”
Apologies for the lack of blog posts as of late. Not surprisingly, my benevolent overseers kept me busy with a wide array of Opening Day content. Some of this content was perfunctory and forgettable, while some was near and dear to my heart.
But now I can return to my one true love —
internet dating blogging. Today, let us travel to the Pacific Northwest, so that I can highlight one of the most intriguing promotions of the ’09 season: the Portland Beavers‘ “Bark in the Park” night on August 1.
For those who are unaware, “Bark in the Park” has become a popular Minor (and, occasionally, Major) League promotion over the past several seasons. The premise is simple: fans are allowed to bring their dogs to the stadium on these special evenings, resulting in nine innings of canine-related merriment. But the Beavers’ “Bark in the Park” features two unique innovations that are well-worth commenting on.
2. In a pre-game ceremony, the Beavers will attempt to set the Guinness World Record for Largest Dog Wedding.
Over the last three seasons, the Beavers have generated national attention with their Rodney McCray Bobblefence (2006), Bob L. Head bobblehead (2007), and Jerry Mathers bobblehead (2008). Now, they’re going to the dogs.
“Every year, we like to have a signature bobblehead, and this is the one that rose to the top,” said Chris Metz, the Beavers vice president of operations and communications. “Everybody loves their dogs, and Portland is no different in that respect. We’re already accepting submissions from people who want their dog to be immortalized.”
Those who want their dog to be considered for this honor should click here. Simply send a photo of your dog along with a 200-word essay on why he or she should be considered. The deadline is June 1.
Now, as for the dog marriage world record…the existing mark is recorded in the Guinness Book of World Records thusly:
“On February 12, 2006, in Hilversum, the Netherlands, 27 pairs of dogs were married in a ceremony organized by Nestle Purina PetCare Nederland B.V. The dogs had all met during a speed-dating session prior to the mass wedding and were issued certificates to celebrate the happy day.”
Metz says that the Beavers “feel very strongly” that they will be able to shatter the existing record. Even if they forgo the process of pre-nuptial speed-dating.
“I imagine that these will all be pre-existing dog relationships,” he remarked. “Ours is a family product.”