Opening Day is upon us! Long-time readers of this blog know that my sentiments regarding a new baseball season can be summed up in four words.
I’ve got plenty to share with you over the coming weeks — a couple of “Return to the Road” posts, a couple of “Why I Love…” guest posts, and, of course, the reveal of my 2014 road trip itinerary (I’m going on four trips in 2014, with the first one kicking off HERE on April 28).
But it’s Opening Day! What better way to start the season than with a good old fashioned full-to-bursting bouillabaisse post? Doesn’t the mere thought of that make you want to dance?
In Lansing, meanwhile, the Lugnuts are asking “Guess What Day It Is?” They do not mean Opening Day, however.
The Lugnuts, in their own words:
Every Wednesday home game at Cooley Law School Stadium is Hump Day, with half-off drinks from 7 to 8 p.m. and a special appearance from Humphrey, a live camel!
Humphrey’s night will begin by delivering the first pitch baseballs out to the field. Afterward, he’ll saunter over to the west gate for pictures and petting. Lugnuts fans will also have the opportunity to win a camel-ride.
Other activities include a Hump Day t-shirt toss and a special “On the Hump” trivia segment featuring Lugs pitchers.
Limited-edition Lugnuts Hump Day merchandise is currently available at the Nuts and Bolts store.
I just hope that Humphrey the camel toes the line when he’s on the field. Any untoward protrusions could be embarrassing.
Prior to first pitch deliveries, be they camel-related or otherwise, the playing field will be bustling with batting practice activity. When such activity concludes, time is of the essence. Think any Minor League teams will be able to operate at a greater speed than that displayed by the University of Tennessee?
But, of course, there are going to be times when no games are going on and the playing field is entirely deserted. During these occasions, unwanted nocturnal guests may see fit to make a visit. But not in Fort Wayne, who have a coyote on the case.
— Fort Wayne TinCaps (@TinCaps) March 11, 2014
Another way to ward of unwanted guests: continuous on-field aerial surveillance!
Ballpark opponents aren’t necessarily unwanted guests, as their presence is a necessary component of the competitive experience. Last season I wrote about the Harrisburg Senators, who allow male fans to express their disdain for the visiting team via the time-honored act of urinating on the logo. I happy to report that, in 2014, the Senators have combined all of their Eastern League opponents, putting them all on blast via one urinal cake.
Pee on them all indiscriminately!
— Benjamin Hill (@bensbiz) April 1, 2014
As we embark on yet another Minor League Baseball season, please remember: I remain the greatest of all time.
My words are my words and they’ll always be my words, but, let’s face it, my words are best enjoyed when they are used sparingly and in the service of contextualizing pictorial or video content. Today, I’ll focus on doing just this: words minimal, video content ample.
And, in keeping with October’s blogging theme, this video content shall be comprised of that which I didn’t get a chance to cover during the season. We’ll begin with this riveting pre-game ceremony out of Tulsa, in which the Drillers honored the Coon family and their three generations of military service. The eldest member of the family is 94-year-old WWII veteran Phillip Coon (introduced at the 2:05 mark), the last Native American survivor of the Bataan Death March. His first pitch is a truly inspiring thing to behold, and the Drillers deserve a lot of credit for putting together such a moving piece of Independence Day pageantry.
Those in the mood for less poignancy but more parody would do well to check out this, a far different sort of Drillers video:
Moving from the Texas League to the Eastern League, the Akron Aeros produced many a worthwhile video this season. Teams looking to promote the ballpark appearances of dance world celebrities would do well to follow this comedic template:
And then there’s Cole Cook, who, in addition to pitching for the Aeros this season, took part in a series of videos highlighting his surrealist sensibilities. Cole’s father (actor Peter Mackenzie) had a starring role in the surrealist early ’90s Fox sitcom Herman’s Head, which perhaps helps to explain how he came to be involved in these sort of farcical enterprises:
And — hey! — look at this. In 2011 I turned the tables on Cole Cook by interviewing him. Yes, the interviewee became the interviewed:
Our downward descent of the Minor League ladder now brings us to Fort Wayne, home of Johnny Appleseed and, therefore, also the home of a Minor League Baseball team whose name references Johnny Appleseed. As part of the Tin Caps’ “’80s Night” promo, they produced this hilarious bit of performance art. Let it serve as proof positive that Minor League ballplayers are far less self-conscious than their big league counterparts:
Finally, you may recall that this past offseason I made productive use of my time by putting together a post featuring every “Harlem Shake” video produced by a Minor League team. That fad came and went, of course, but kudos to the Pensacola Blue Wahoos for being the only (so far as I know) to do the “Harlem Shake” IN-GAME.
Once again: Minor League ballplayers are less self-conscious than their big league counterparts.
Well, it had to happen eventually: As of that last Hillsboro post, I am officially done with “On the Road” content. This upsets me, as visiting ballparks take the guesswork out of doing this blog. All season long I never have to think about what I’m going to write, I simply write about where I’ve been.
But no more! I will eventually do a series of “Return to the Road” posts, highlighting that which was seen and experienced outside the confines of the Minor League ballparks in question, but today marks the first of what will surely be many catch as catch can bouillabaisse blog posts. These “everything but the kitchen sink”-style blog posts come about because all season long people send me worthy material, and I inevitably reply that I will “get it on the blog as soon as I get the chance.” That chance is finally getting got, right here and right now. So let’s dive into a stew of Minor League Baseball randomness.
Starting with this:
Yep, it’s the David Freese Kiss Cam, which got a lot of play when I featured it on Twitter a few months back. Freese played for the Redbirds in 2008 whilst in the final phases of his Minor League trajectory, and then returned to the club on a rehab assignment early this season. During his brief Memphis return he posed for the above photos, resulting in what had to be the most unique kiss cam in Minor League Baseball (it helps that the Redbirds possess the largest videoboard in the known universe).
I am always willing to lend my name to such endeavors, so if anyone wants to do a “Ben’s Biz Kiss Cam” in 2014 then I’m happy to oblige. Here’s the raw material.
While in Memphis, Freese also threw water balloons filled with paint at a canvas.
While I don’t have a picture of the resultant artistic masterpiece, let it be known that it was sold by the Redbirds for $810. This money went toward philanthropic endeavors, of course.
UPDATE! Now I DO have a picture of the resultant artistic masterpiece. Cue the J. Geils Band!
File the above two initiatives under “creative things to do when a rehabbing Major Leaguer is in town.” Our next topic is “creative ways to utilize the batter’s eye portion of a Minor League stadium.” This May, the Fort Wayne TinCaps opened “The 400 Club” group seating area and, yes, it is located in dead center field.
This area accommodates groups of between 20 and 150 people, at $40 per person (this includes a buffet food service with draft beer and wine). Here’s the view from the inside, courtesy of TinCaps’ broadcaster Mike Couzens’ exemplary “It’s All Relative” blog.
I was curious as to how the TinCaps were able to insure that the 400 Club would not interfere with the batter’s view, which led team intern/designated eater extraordinaire Keirsh Cochran to secure the following response from team president Mike Nutter:
We worked with Hok/Populus as our national architect, Design Collaborative as our local architect as well as the folks at MILB Baseball Operations and Gould-Evans to ensure the project was done correctly. We looked at SEVERAL glass samples including the same specs that are used in both New York major league ballparks. We ended up being very cautions with this and paid a lot of money to get anti-glare and tinted glass. We also angled the glass downward to ensure no glares would have a negative effect on the hitters in the batters box.
The batter’s eye is actually much bigger now than it was before and a much better hitters background.
Folks are visible through the glass, but the tinting and anti-glare really mutes it and there are no issues with distractions.
I wish that when it came to this job there were no issues with distractions, but nonetheless I will persevere. If you have any comments, complaints or suggestions regarding the kind of content that you’d like to see on this blog throughout the offseason then please, by all means, get in touch.
Hey, remember that thing I did yesterday? Where I wrote a bouillabaisse blog post that included a bunch of Minor League items thrown together in haphazard fashion? Well, that’s happening again, so buckle up the brain belt and drive right in!
After an extended liaison with the Pittsburgh Pirates, 2013 marks the State College Spikes’ return to being a Cardinals affiliate. And, wouldn’t you know it? The team now has a resident cardinal. (They’ve named him Ozzie, as in Smith.)
Minor League team stadium visitation by a species representing said team’s Major League affiliate are rare, though who among us can forget that time a crusty sailor took up residency at Clinton’s Ashford University Field after the LumberKings became a Mariners affiliate?
I’ll be visiting the West Michigan Whitecaps later this month — June 27th! — and if the ultra-spicy Squeeling Pig is available in gluten-free form then I’m definitely going to give it a try. Either way, it’s the only concession item I am aware of that requires a waiver.
In this video, some intrepid members of the team give it a try. No trips to the disabled list resulted.
I’ll also be visiting the Wisconsin Timber Rattler later this month — June 21 and 22! Think they’ll give me a ride in this sweet bullpen car?
I’ve written about Daytona super-fan Front Row Joe on several occasions, but little did I know that there is a Front Row Joe equivalent in good ol’ Curve PA. This Altoona Mirror article profiles Susan Mielnik, who has attended every Altoona Curve game since the franchise’s 1996 inception. Hats off to her!
I wrote about the Fort Wayne TinCaps rather brilliant Social Media Night jerseys in this week’s Promo Preview, which of course you read already. But that’s indicative of the team’s larger approach, as the TinCaps have been taking theme jerseys to new levels of transcendence all season. Just check out these 50’s Night duds:
TinCaps creative director Tony DesPlaines writes:
Designed in-house and produced by Wilson, these jerseys featured a beautiful green argyle design with a jukebox on one sleeve and the TinCaps logo on the opposite sleeve. The team thought they looked like golfers, but from the stands they looked great.
Speaking of theme jerseys, check out what the Omaha Storm Chasers wore during their Star Wars promo.
There’s more to this than meets the eye. Storm Chasers director of marketing and promotions Ben Hemmen explains:
May the FORCE be with you… The Omaha Force that is! It’s the second annual “What If… Night” presented by Autism Action Partnership featuring a unique Jersey auction…. Plus, it’s “Star Wars Night”! Dress up like your favorite Star Wars characters, help us find “Yoda” around the ballpark, hear Princess Leia sing the National Anthem, and meet Darth Vader. The force, Omaha & Jedi will definitely be strong at Werner Park Saturday night so it should not take a Jedi mind trick to tell you not to miss out on this special evening. What If… the Storm Chasers had been renamed the Omaha Force three years ago? Head out to Werner Park to find out!
More where all of this came from? Oh, you better believe it.
We haven’t yet hit the ides of March, but nonetheless all eyes in March are firmly gazing into the Opening Day distance. This post highlights just a few of the many, many season-starting initiatives that teams have up their sleeves.
Johnny, Cash: 2013 marks the Fort Wayne TinCaps’ fifth season, and to celebrate they are giving away $5000.
In a press release, the TinCaps explained how this is all going to go down.
As fans enter the ballpark on Thursday, April 11th, each will receive a scratch-off card as part of the qualification process. Certain cards will be designated as instant winners, with those fans receiving a TinCaps game-worn red jersey, which the team will be wearing that night. The TinCaps red jerseys are a part of history, as each player ever to play for the team since 2009 has worn these jerseys.
Once these select fans are determined, the final $5,000 winner will be selected from among the jersey winners. The final selection process will be announced at the game on Opening Night.
But, as with any promotional endeavor worth its salt: THAT IS NOT ALL. The TinCaps are currently staging a scavenger hunt, the weekly winners of which will pre-qualify for the $5,000 prize. Read all about that HERE.
And then there are the Indianapolis Indians, who are offering fans the chance to vote on the Opening Day field design. The choices are Cell Cut, Checkered Cut, Diamond Cut, and the Phillies Cut. They are all very attractive choices, so you can’t really go wrong, but I suppose I’d go with the Cell.
But Opening Day pomp and circumstance goes beyond the parameters of the playing field, of course. The Memphis Redbirds are currently running a contest on Facebook, with the grand prize being a swank VIP limo ride to the ballpark.
Meanwhile, in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, just about everything will new in 2013. Read all about it in my MiLB.com piece! But one aspect of the SWB re-invention I didn’t get around to in the piece is the mascot situation. Two new characters are all set to debut and, of course, they need a name.
For the record, the character on the left is a “nine-foot tall superhero” while on the right is a “furry porcupine.” I’d call the former “108-Inches Man” and the latter “Quill Rogers.”
If I make this sentence long enough, this one that you’re reading now, then I’ll have reached my self-imposed 400 word minimum.
Introductory paragraphs within this blog forum can sometimes be needlessly circuitous, steeped as they are in obscure references and acute self-consciousness. But not today. Today, we cut to the chase:
What follows is a comprehensive round-up of Harlem Shake videos produced by Minor League teams.
Yes, you’re probably sick of the Harlem Shake at this point. I am too. But let’s take the long view, as historians with an interest in baseball history, viral fads and the intersection of the two will no doubt delight in stumbling upon this post at some at some unknown moment in the distant future. I am doing this for you, future historians! I always am. For it is you who will ensure my legacy.
Plus, you’ve gotta admit — Minor League teams, with their easy access to supply closets full of banana suits and inflatable ponies, make better Harlem Shake videos than most. So here we go! In no particular order, here are two dozen Harlem Shake videos produced by professional baseball teams in possession of a formal affiliation with a Major League club.
Frederick Keys — Apparently a big-headed reincarnation of Francis Scott Key regularly sits in on front office meetings:
Columbus Clippers — Warning! Includes bear-on-frankfurter violence that may be unsettling to younger viewers:
Bowie Baysox — A toothbrush can’t dance? I bristle at such a notion:
Lexington Legends — Mister would you please stop punching that pony? WATCH ON FACEBOOK.
Vancouver Canadians — As if any proof was needed that this was an international phenomenon:
Fort Wayne Tincaps — A solitary pothead gives way to a banana who loves the queen of hearts.
Lake Elsinore Storm — Yes that is an upside-down squirrel hanging from the dugout, and yes he is happy to see you:
Corpus Christi Hooks — Can’t a man bike through the office in peace? WATCH ON MILB.COM
Tulsa Drillers — Hey, no dogs in the swimming pool!
Gwinnett Braves — Team store? More like surreal fever dream store!
New Hampshire Fisher Cats — Fungo and friends “rose” to the occasion:
Lehigh Valley IronPigs — Give peas a chance. WATCH ON MILB.COM
Buffalo Bisons — Vest-wearing gentleman on the right is my favorite individual to appear in any Harlem Shake video:
Charlotte Stone Crabs — What’s to stop the Incredible Hulk from wearing a sombrero?
Fresno Grizzlies — Forget this faddish viral bastardization. Parker knows how to do the REAL Harlem Shake. WATCH ON VINE.
Louisville Bats — This takes place in multiple dimensions simultaneously. It will blow your mind.
Bowling Green Hot Rods — I guess you could say that Axle rose to the occasion.
Delmarva Shorebirds — The Shake so nice they did it twice.
Springfield Cardinals — You know what? This is probably the best one out of all of ’em.
Round Rock Express — All bobblehead version!
Connecticut Tigers — Shout it from the rooftop!
And, finally, there are the State College Spikes. The first Minor League team to post a Harlem Shake video, and the last to be featured in this post:
Two latecomers have entered the fray!
Orem Owlz — Holly, the Owlz pregnant mascot, wisely sat this one out.
Myrtle Beach Pelicans — Fans of multi-colored crustacean triumvirates rejoice!
And that’s all she wrote, folks. “She” being me, of course. I am a man. A 34-year-old man. A man who is perhaps too old to be providing you with diversions such as the above. But yet I do, and yet I did.
Do not forsake me, future historians! I do not want to believe that this has all been in vain.
We are born alone, and die alone. And often, as the case may be, we spend Valentine’s Day alone. Fortunately, at least two Minor League teams expanded their traditional Valentine’s Day offers to include those unencumbered by an actual relationship.
The Charleston RiverDogs’ “Lonely Hearts Package” is a mere $18, and includes an upper reserve ticket, frozen dinner, and pint of ice cream. It will be delivered by this sympathetic soul.
Or, perhaps a flying groundhog would be more to your liking? If so, then get thee to Gwinnett, interested singles:
The G-Braves’ identically-named “Lonely Hearts” package includes a ticket to May 14’s “Singles Mingle” night, as well “as vouchers for a box of Nestlé Drumstick® Ice-cream courtesy of Edy’s and a frozen TV Dinner.”
I wondered what kind of “reception” these TV dinner offers had been getting, and if teams had been dealing in the “volume” expected. In response to a Twitter inquiry, the RiverDogs reported that There were a decent amount of Lonely Hearts. @ThePigglyWiggly got a lot of business in the Hungry Man frozen dinner area from us.
As for what “decent” entails, I have no idea. I’m going to guess somewhere between eight and 4,400.
In keeping with the contrarian Valentine’s Day theme, let’s now move on to the world of logos. This is, after all, a word that in Jungian psychology means “the principal of reason and judgement.” Not very love-like at all!
Today’s logo of choice comes courtesy of the Lake County Captains. But perhaps the club should change it’s name to the “CapTens”:
If you think anniversary logos are for the birds, that’s cool. But you know who else should be for the ‘Birds? You. Here’s why:
The Delmarva Shorebirds, class “A” affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles, are excited to announce the launch of a brand new campaign leading up to the home opener on April 12 designed to raise money for Big Brothers Big Sisters. The Shorebirds will donate one dollar per new Facebook ‘Like’ from now through April 11 to Big Brothers Big Sisters.
The goal of the initiative is to donate a maximum of $1,400 to Big Brothers Big Sisters by growing the Shorebirds Facebook fan page to over 10,000 likes.
So go ahead and give ’em a like. Right HERE.
And speaking (again) of being for the birds, how about this visual out of Des Moines? The Iowa Cubs sure know how to play to their audience:
Also playing to their audience: the Fort Wayne TinCaps. The team launched it’s “All About You” sweepstakes last week, and it’s chock-a-block with great prizes. But one prize, in particular, towers above the rest.
Yes, a life-size bobblehead! Forget mummification, taxidermy, cryogenics and afterlife-based belief systems. Grotesquely-sized ceramic statues featuring crazily disproportionate bodily dimensions are how one achieves true immortality.
This has been post #768 of the greatest Minor League Baseball blog of all time.
This time around, the “again” that is “happening” are two staples of the Minor League Baseball winter time news cycle: Valentine’s Day mascot delivery and snow-covered field photos.
My days of exhaustively documenting all mascot delivery offers throughout the Minors have long since passed, as I need to maintain a facade of professional growth and momentum. Nonetheless, it remains my duty to note some of the more intriguing developments in the field. For instance, the Lehigh Valley IronPigs remain the only team that offers “Pork-o-Grams” to their fan base.
Two Pork-O-Grams packages are offered, but I would opt for “Package B” as it includes both a dozen roses and a pair of pig noses. Also, I can’t help but wonder if Diggity (pictured above) is related to the self-cannibalizing fellow who has long served as the logo for Lehigh Valley-based Yocco’s Hot Dogs.
Meanwhile, I’ve got to give the proverbial head nod to the Trenton Thunder. So far as I can discern, they are the first club to include a charitable component along with their mascot Valentine’s Day delivery package.
The $150 package includes a dozen roses, a night in a luxury suite, and “as an added “heartfelt” bonus, a 25 ticket donation will be made in your name to the Trenton Thunder Charities Tickets For Kids Program.”
And now we must move on the snow-covered field photo, an enduring staple of the Minor League Baseball offseason experience. These pictures of vast white expanse are meant to convey a sense of longing, for what has been and, yes, what will be.
The current kings of this subgenre are the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, with announcer/media relations man Chris Mehring leading the charge. Last week, as Appleton WI was blanketed by snow, his Rattler Radio blog was updated by the hour with new snow-covered pics. Here’s a 4 p.m. specimen.
If there’s snow on the ground you can’t play ball, so alternate forms of recreation are needed. Fort Wayne TinCaps mascot Johnny overcame his feelings of cold-infused melancholy by dusting off the ol’ American Flyer.
And speaking of melancholy, this is certainly the feeling pervading the city of Denver after the Broncos lost to the Patriots this past weekend. The loss also scuttled the JetHawks’ planned “Tebow Tuesday” promotion, detailed in Friday’s post. That’s a disappointing turn of events, to be sure, but at least it’s the first Tebow promotion to NOT result in a cease-and-desist letter.
And that’s going to be it for today — stay tuned tomorrow for the eagerly anticipated (?) third installment of “A Quarter Century After the Cardboard.”
Writing a pre-Thanksgiving post on “what I am thankful for” has the whiff of an obligatory elementary school essay assignment, but I want to get something up on this slice of the internet before it all goes (mercifully) dark for the holidays.
And you know what I’m thankful for? That I have a job that puts me in absurd situations on a regular basis. Some highlights from the 2011 season.
The point of this unbridled exercise in Holiday week narcissism is…well…I guess there is no point. But I do want to issue a sincere THANK YOU to everyone who has supported these absurd endeavors of mine. And it’s never too early to start thinking about the 2012 season — please, get in touch if you have any suggestions regarding Minor League places to go and things to do. I really do try to say “yes” as much as possible.
Finally, two stories are up today that I’d really appreciate if you checked out. First up is my story on Greg Halman, who was stabbed to death earlier this week. I talked to people who knew him at all stops on his Minor League journey, and did the best I could to write something that went beyond “I’m shocked that his happened” quotes.
Elsewhere, I have a guest column up on Baseball Propectus. It’s a pretty through overview of the Minor League mindset, and I sincerely hope it brings a few new converts into the fold.
I didn’t do a blog post yesterday because I was lacking a proper lead story to give it that necessary “oomph” right on out of the gate.
I’m still lacking one. But since silence equals death in the blogging game, carry on I must. So how about a late-arriving introspective mascot pic to start things off? This one features Rascal of the Harrisburg Senators, sharing a heartfelt moment with the team’s director of stadium operations.
The offseason is a particularly good time in which to engage in such idle contemplation, but not if you’re a sentient piece of commemorative bronze. As documented in a two-part blog post, “Millsy” the Carolina League Championship Trophy has been feverishly taking in the sights of Frederick (home of the Keys, 2011 Carolina League victors).
“Although I have come back to the town that I have enjoyed so much, it has been lonely sitting in the office since September 16th, when the Keys won the title,” writes Millsy, perhaps the world’s only literate trophy. “I took it upon myself to escape the inner sanctums of the Keys front office to go on adventures of my own around Frederick and now you get the chance to see them!”
Thus far, the highlight of Millsy’s adventures has been a pilgrimage to the final resting place of Francis Scott Key.
A more traditional way to pass the time during the offseason is to create an Office-influenced offseason video series called — wait for it — The Offseason. The Wisconsin Timber Rattlers were the first to launch such an endeavor, and the most recent to follow suit are the State College Spikes. Episode One, commence!
While the aforementioned Timber Rattlers have retired their version of The Offseason, the team continues to break ground in the lucrative field of recurring Minor League offseason videos. As previously noted, this year’s initiative is a series of “Spot the Difference” videos. On this, the latest installment, I was able to spot exactly one difference. A truly pathetic showing.
Meanwhile, we are just a few short hours away from the unveiling of the Pensacola Blue Wahoos logo — what will almost certainly be the most notable and attention getting mark of the offseason. While awaiting this momentous occasion, may I suggest that you pass the time with a bit of “Mascot Donkey Basketball?”
I’ll see you on Monday, the first weekday of the “Wahoo Cool” era of Minor League Baseball.