Tagged: Fresno Grizzlies
Opening Day 2016: New Ballpark Food!
Yesterday, I kicked off the 2016 season with a requisite bouillabaisse blog post. The “bouillabaisse” in such posts is metaphorical, but today all food references are literal. Let’s take a look at some new ballpark eats.
We’ll start with my old pals the Charleston RiverDogs. Longtime food and beverage boss John Schumaker has left the team in order to open his own restaurant, Harold’s Cabin, which is backed by team co-owners Mike Veeck and Bill “Yes, that Bill Murray” Murray. Nonetheless, the RiverDogs, led by food and beverage director Josh Shea, keep on keeping on with innovative ballpark cuisine.
This, for example, is no ordinary corn dog. It’s a “Shrimp-N-Grit Corn Dog.”
Also, there’s this: “Biscotti cookie dough with vanilla ice cream, caramel syrup, and Palmetto espresso porter brew.”
The Palmetto Biscotti Shake coming to The Joe! pic.twitter.com/tMv09LMe0v
— Charleston RiverDogs (@ChasRiverDogs) March 25, 2016
In Akron, my old pals the RubberDucks have unveiled this season’s “Extreme” menu items.
From left to right we have:
The Squealer: Half-pound foot-long hot dog stuffed with pulled pork and cheddar cheese, then wrapped in bacon and deep-fried, and drizzled with barbeque sauce.
The European Vacation: Foot-long bratwurst on a pierogi bun, topped with fiery feta cheese spread and roasted red peppers.
Meet Your Maker Quesadilla: Triple-decker quesadilla with three jam-packed layers-layer one has hot dogs, Texas jack chili, and cheddar cheese; layer two has hamburger and American cheese, and layer three has chicken tenders, poutine gravy, and cheddar cheese.
The Squealer, ready for its close-up:
Menu at @AkronRubberDuck Squealer and other meaty offerings unveiled: https://t.co/BejmNF5rExpic.twitter.com/oC64sAo59j
— Mary Kay Quinn (@ExchangeMaryKay) April 7, 2016
In Jacksonville, my old pals the Suns are now under the same ownership as the RubberDucks. Hence, the team’s “FUNdamentally Different” concession approach.
My best attempt to identify the following items begins now. Moving clockwise:
Buffalo Chicken Bites in a Waffle Cone, Chicken and Waffles, Chicken “Limp” Biscuit (as good as a Korn dog?), Pork and Slaw Dog, Philly Dog. The last item, bottom left, appears to be a plain ol’ hot dog.
Also of note: The Suns have renamed two of their concession stands in honor of local sports icons: Singh for Your Supper (golfer Vijay Singh) and Sweet Tea-bow.
My old pals the Lakewood BlueClaws have long held a “Pork Roll, Egg and Cheese” mascot race, and this season they’re honoring all three complementary food components in bobblehed form. Nonetheless, my old pals the Trenton Thunder have perhaps taken in the lead when it comes to the prominent category of “New Jersey baseball team most dedicated to the celebration of pork roll.”
This season, the Thunder have a “Pork Roll Paradise” food stand at the ballpark.
Moving clockwise yet again, we have:
Oink, Cluck and Moo — a classic pork roll, egg and cheese sandwich. Served, as all Ween fans know, on a kaiser bun.
Thunder Dog — A hot dog with pork roll slices and American cheese on a torpedo roll.
Pig Pen — Chopped pork roll, pulled pork and bacon bits atop mashed potatoes.
Hog Steak — Chopped pork roll with Cheez Whiz on a torpedo roll.
Perhaps inspired by the Thunder, the BlueClaws recently unveiled their own pork roll-inspired creation:
Pork Roll deep fried in funnel cake batter with whipped cream and chocolate syrup: https://t.co/v06LKx9m8X pic.twitter.com/SSZMrzq6pa
— Lakewood BlueClaws (@BlueClaws) April 7, 2016
My old pals the West Michigan Whitecaps are no strangers to attention-getting food items. This year’s Fan Food Vote winner hasn’t garnered the viral acclaim of the Baco or Fifth Third Burger, but nonetheless it exists. Existence is the most important thing.
This is the “Dutch Love” — turkey pot roast, cheese curds and fries in a pita wrap.
And here’s a weird one out of Fresno, where my old pals the Grizzlies are offering “Hot Cheetos Dusted Fries”.
What better place to end than with a weird one? I’ll follow up with an accompanying drinks post in the near future, so if you’ve got something to share on that front then please get in touch. Also, my 2016 road trip itineraries are coming soon. Promise.
On #TacoTuesday, Fresno Grizzlies Taco the Town
Earlier today I wrote a post about how one determined Canadian fan gave the Fresno Grizzlies poutine in exchange for Fresno Tacos paraphernalia. This paraphernalia was the result of 2015’s “Taco Truck Throwdown” promo, in which the Grizzlies (Triple-A affiliate of the Houston Astros) suited up as, yes, the “Tacos.”
Well, there’s more where that came from. This afternoon — #TacoTuesday for those keeping track at home — the Grizzlies announced that they would be suiting up as the Tacos during each and every Tuesday home game. These jerseys are described as having a “twist of lime.”
In an ultra-exclusive Twitter direct message, the Grizzlies divulged the following:
We’re wearing these babies for Tuesday home games. #TacoTuesday — $2 Tacos, $2 Churros & $2 Sodas, 2-for-1 tickets, and team will play as Fresno Tacos. New Tacos hats, jerseys and march will be available Opening Day. Rotation of local taco trucks at every Tuesday home game!
Grizzlies Tacos will have these custom foam “Tacos” hats available in the team store. (A Tacos mascot, Tito, will be unveiled at a later date).
Fresno taco culture has always been strong, and it keeps getting stronger. Click HERE to read (and see photos) of my visit to some of the city’s top taco trucks.
A Cross-Border Culinary Exchange: The Grizzly Details
Receiving email from readers is one of my favorite things about this job. These missives, sent from all over the globe (well, at least some parts of the globe) provide insight on what motivates the readership, help me determine what topics to focus on and, crucially, boost my fragile ego.
But, best of all, the unsolicited messages that land in my inbox occasionally provide me with inadvertent guest blog posts. This, from Canadian reader Damian Ford, covers all the bases.
And, yes, tacos play a key role. From this point on, until the italicized text reappears, all words in this post are Damian’s.
First off, great job on everything you do for Minor League Baseball. I greatly look forward to all your articles and appearances on the MiLB podcasts. I work for an entertainment group in charge of three sports teams here in Canada, and your articles are a wealth of information as I look for ideas to bring to my organization to increase the entertainment value to our fans at our games. I’m a huge Minor League nerd and appreciate all the exposure you bring to each and every team.
Speaking of promo ideas and teams being awesome, the Fresno Grizzlies and I have a good story for you.
Back in August, as I’m sure you remember, the Grizzlies did their Taco Truck Throwdown night (in which they changed their name to the Fresno Tacos). I loved the idea! (I neglected to mention that I am also a MiLB hat collector, but I think that’s pretty much a given since I said I was a MiLB nerd). I loved the hats and went online to try and buy one. However, I live in Canada. Like many Minor League teams, the Grizzlies don’t sell/ship to Canada. I thought to myself, “There has got to be another way to get a Taco hat!” So, I took to Twitter, basically harassing the Grizzlies with challenges that I could perform in exchange for a Tacos hat.
I finally got an answer to my tweet when I tweeted them “Okay…. @FresnoGrizzlies I’ll mail you a poutine and you mail me a #tacoshat.” They responded “Deal.” It was on!
The next day I went to the grocery store and picked up two potatoes, authentic St. Alberts Cheese Curds, and a packet of Swiss Chalet poutine gravy, put it in a box and sent it off to them. I then typed out very specific instruction on how to properly construct and prepare the poutine for consumption.
Some time passed and I did not receive my hat. I tweeted at the Grizzlies and wrote a letter to general manager Mr. Derek Franks. Finally, I received a direct message from the team apologizing for the oversight. They said that the poutine was delicious (I saw online what restaurants are trying to pass as poutine in California and it’s unrecognizable to me). They then asked me not only my hat size, but my jersey size! They ended up sending me a Tacos hat, Tacos jersey and a Grizzlies promotional item.
The Grizzlies more than held up their end of the deal, showing me why they are one of the top-run organizations in professional baseball. As a thank you, I tweeted out a photo of me in my Tacos gear eating a taco above Ottawa’s Rideau Canal.
And that’s all from Damian.
You’ve gotta love a story with a happy ending. Or, at least I think it’s a happy ending. Somebody should probably check in with the Grizzlies front office….
Nah, the Grizzlies are good. In fact, director of marketing Sam Hansen writes that Damian’s poutine package “inspired us to work on our own ‘Growlifornia Poutine Remix’ with queso Oaxaca and Fresno Chili-spiced gravy. Expect to see this make its debut at Chukchansi Park soon.”
Minor League Baseball: Bridging the cultural divide, one Tweetstorm at a time.
2015 Promo Schedule Highlights: Early Returns
I’ve been spending a lot of time recently looking at Minor League Baseball promotional schedules, as it is imperative that I know what’s going on once the season is underway. And if there’s one that I can say about Minor League Baseball promotional schedules, it’s this: They are not created equal. This post is dedicated to sharing the highlights off of some of the best 2015 promotional schedules I have perused thus far.
Fresno’s Pacific Coast League club, entering the first season of its “Growlifornia” marketing campaign, is calling this “the most comprehensive and diverse promotional schedule in the history of the club.” The Grizzly details:
Highlights include the Fresno Philharmonic Brass Quintet playing Star Wars music on Star Wars Night, the social experiment that is “Pay What You Want Night” and, most crucially, a Biz Markie “Sing-A-Long” during which the eccentric hip hop icon will lead the crowd in a stadium-wide rendition of “Just A Friend.” (Here’s hoping there will also be time for the Biz to do his version of “Bennie and the Jets.” Because I need to prove how cool I am, I’d like to note that I have a Biz Markie “Bennie and the Jets” flexi-disc 7″ that was included within the second issue of the Beastie Boys’ Grand Royal magazine.)
And as if all of the above wasn’t enough — and isn’t it? — on Monday the Grizzlies unveiled their March Madness-style “Fresno Famous” bobblehead tourney. This is a great initiative, and clearly a lot of work was involved in order to make this a “thing.”
After careful perusal of the bracket, I have decided to endorse the “Waving Lady on 41” as my choice for the Fresno Famous bobblehead. Read all about her.
Remember last season when Myrtle Beach Pelicans general manager Andy Milovich sang “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” while undergoing a prostate exam?
Milovich’s stunt garnered national attention and kickstarted an “Ice Bucket Challenge”-style in-game prostate exam trend within the industry. And now, on June 21st, the Pelicans are giving away this Father’s Day “Bobblefinger.” Note the sponsor:
Perhaps the Lehigh Valley IronPigs should be credited with an assist on this one, as the club has already established a tradition of giving away foam fingers on “Prostate Exam Awareness Night.”
Another highlight of the Pelicans’ promo schedule is July 26’s “Christmas Vacation in July.” The first 1000 fans receive a “Cousin Eddie-style alpine hat,” and the team will be wearing these Griswold-inspired jerseys.
Hey, Pelicans, you play in a tourism-centric town. As part of this promo, you should offer special discounts to fans visiting from Chevy Chase, Maryland.
Meanwhile, in Altoona, the always-innovative Curve have unleashed an array of superbly creative bobbleheads modeled after some of their most distinguished recent alumni.
Tony “Elementary” Watson:
Starling Marte brings the “Partay”:
And while no photos are available, this is worth noting as well:
.@AltoonaCurve promo sked also includes Punxatawney Phil bobblehead, complete w/ rare non-Groundhog’s Day appearance by the creature himself
— Benjamin Hill (@bensbiz) February 23, 2015
Yeah, yeah. I know:
I spelled “Punxsutawney” wrong in my last tweet. I seem to do that over and over again, as if trapped within an endlessly repeating reality.
— Benjamin Hill (@bensbiz) February 23, 2015
While individual visuals are not available, I would also like to nod in the general direction of the Potomac Nationals. Their promo schedule is spectacular:
The P-Nats’ exceedingly verbose press release includes this passage on bobbleheads:
[Giveaways include] a Steven Souza Jr. “The Catch” figurine commemorating his no-hitter clinching web gem behind Washington Nationals RHP Jordan Zimmermann on the final day of the 2014 regular season (Saturday, June 13th), a Michael Taylor “Flattop” Major League Debut bobblehead with faux hair (Saturday, June 20th), a Wilson Ramos hybrid half-man, half-buffalo “Buff-A-rine” (Sunday, July 5th), The Goonies 30th Anniversary “One-Eyed Willie” bobblehead (Saturday, August 1st).
That Goonies promo is sure to be one of the most ballyhooed theme nights of the year. As you can see in the top left corner of the above graphic, Corey Feldman (who has probably aged a bit since that photo was taken) will be in attendance. There will also be the aforementioned “One-Eyed Willie” bobblehead, as well as theme jerseys and a post-game screening of the film.
And, not to be lost in the (truffle) shuffle, there’s this:
The P-Nats will also be hosting tentative “body improvement” nights including Hair Removal Night, Tattoo Appreciation Night, and Skin Tag Removal Night.
I’ll end this post with a Trigger warning: On June 18, the Round Rock Express are giving away this awesome bobblehead featuring Willie Nelson and his guitar:
Time for a Do-Over?
Over on MiLB.com you can read my round-up of the 2014-15 Minor League re-branding season, featuring 11 new team names and/or logos. In conjunction with this, my latest journalistic masterwork, I decided to take a look around the Minor League landscape in order to subjectively determine the team from each league that is most in need of a makeover.
We’ll start at the top of the Minor League ladder and work our way down. Perhaps, come this time next year, some of these clubs will have opted to update their iconography. Whether you agree, disagree or couldn’t care less, feel free to tell me so in the comments or on Twitter (@bensbiz).
International League: Louisville Bats (current logo in use since 2002)
This logo is a little too reminiscent of Batman, so maybe it’s time that Louisville Gotham selves another one.
Pacific Coast League: Fresno Grizzlies (current logo in use since 2008)
The Grizzlies are actively embracing their post-San Francisco identity, but the orange and black color scheme still screams “Giants affiliation!”
Eastern League: Portland Sea Dogs (current logo in use since 2003)
The “Sea Dog” in question looks like a Puritan-era rulebreaker, locked in the stockades so that all may ridicule him for his misdeeds.
Southern League: Mississippi Braves (current logo in use since 2005)
I guess there’s not much that can be done when you share the name of the parent club. Atlanta affiliates are a pretty strait-laced bunch.
Texas League: Midland RockHounds (current logo in use since 1999)
This ‘Hound looks like he would have been pals with Canseco and McGwire during their “Bash Brothers” days.
California League: High Desert Mavericks (current logo in use since 1991)
You may not be able to set your watch to this logo, but at least you can hang your hat on it.
Carolina League: Carolina Mudcats (current logo in use since 1991)
This reminds me of the Sea Dogs’ logo. What did these poor creatures do to deserve permanent entrapment within a letter of the alphabet?
Florida State League: Tampa Yankees (current logo in use since 1994)
This is the Minor League logo equivalent of having a no-facial hair policy.
Midwest League: Lansing Lugnuts (current logo in use since 1996)
As was pointed out to me when I visited Lansing: That’s not a lugnut. It’s a bolt.
South Atlantic League: Kannapolis Intimidators (current logo in use since 2001)
When it comes to this logo, my mind says “No” but my heart says “Yes.” I (not-so) secretly love it, despite, or perhaps because, it is inherently insane.
New York-Penn League: Brooklyn Cyclones (current logo in use since 2001)
The Cyclones seem to do everything right, so I may as well give them a hard time for not updating the logo they came into existence with.
Northwest League: Salem-Keizer Volcanoes (current logo in use since 1997)
For my thoughts on this, see: Intimidators, Kannapolis
Appalachian League: Johnson City Cardinals (current logo in use since 1995)
Not sure where this one falls in the bird-logo pecking order.
Pioneer League: Helena Brewers (current logo in use since 2011)
As someone with celiac disease, I find this logo offensive.
In closing, I’d like to offer a tip of the cap to Chris Creamer’s SportsLogos.net. It’s a great source of info.
Growlin’ and Meowin’
As we approach the 2015 season, one thing that has been made abundantly clear is that there is no love lost between the Fresno Grizzlies and Sacramento River Cats.
The rivalry between the two Pacific Coast League Pacific Northern Division clubs took an interesting twist upon the conclusion of the 2014 season when the San Francisco Giants severed ties with Fresno, their long-time Triple-A affiliate, in favor of Sacramento. It’s the Minor League Baseball equivalent of getting jilted by a long-time lover in favor of an enticing seductress.
This turn of the events left Fresno scrambling for a new affiliate (the Houston Astros, as it turned out) as well as a new identity. After all, a Giants affiliation was all that the team had ever known. In November, I wrote a piece about the Grizzlies’ marketing strategy in the wake of San Francisco’s departure, which included this quote:
“We’ve started a “Growlifornia”-themed marketing campaign, revolving around our unique California vibe,” said Grizzlies marketing director Sam Hansen. “When California revolted against Mexico [in 1846] it was called the ‘Bear Flag Rebellion.’ That’s why the California state flag has a bear on it. We’re celebrating the Bear Flag Rebellion of 2015, because people here in Fresno feel that rebellious sort of pride. This is our own unique region, and our affiliation with Houston is going to help us get back to those roots.”
But then a funny thing happened. In December, the River Cats co-opted a key element of the Grizzlies’ “Growlifornia” campaign by announcing a California state flag theme jersey promotion of their very own. Sacramento is the capital of California, after all. That’s all the justification they needed.
This River Cats’ promotion did not sit well with the Grizzlies, and a feisty Twitter war between the two clubs ensued.
Re: @RiverCats California flag jersey… RT @FresnoGrizzlies: They still have time to name the game “Fresno Grizzlies Appreciation Night”
— Benjamin Hill (@bensbiz) December 2, 2014
@FresnoGrizzlies @bensbiz As the capital of California, we kind of have dibs on the state flag. — River Cats (@RiverCats) December 2, 2014
.@RiverCats It’s more of a symbol than a piece of ownership. If anyone calls dibs it’s the people that first raised the flag in 1846.
— Fresno Grizzlies (@FresnoGrizzlies) December 2, 2014
.@FresnoGrizzlies THEY’RE STILL ALIVE?!?!?!? Or is it a zombie thing? — River Cats (@RiverCats) December 2, 2014
.@RiverCats History never dies. Let us know if your capital ego wants to claim anything else.
— Fresno Grizzlies (@FresnoGrizzlies) December 2, 2014
.@FresnoGrizzlies How about the best attendance in the PCL? — River Cats (@RiverCats) December 3, 2014
The Grizzlies may have been bruised by that turn of events, but they were certainly not beaten. River Cats, Schmiver Cats. You want a California flag theme jersey? This is a California flag theme jersey. And, what’s more, it will be worn during the first home stand of the season. Consider the tone set.
Fresno: The state capital of #Growlifornia. More theme jersey announcements coming each day this week. #MiLBpic.twitter.com/BhFsEpBonQ — Fresno Grizzlies (@FresnoGrizzlies) February 2, 2015
The Grizzlies’ theme jersey unveiling came one day after the team posted an open letter from executive vice president Derek Franks, entitled “The Bear Flag Rebellion Begins Now.” A relevant excerpt:
There’s a shift happening around this organization and it’s brought the community together more than ever. No matter what you hear, this team is not a trend or a fad. Fresno Grizzlies baseball is a way of life and one that is unapologetically Central Californian. We’re going to flip the script of what you expect from a Minor League Baseball team this season. Don’t believe us? We’ll prove you otherwise.
And — BREAKING — just before this blog post went to “press” yet another war of the words broke out between these two distinguished entities. Theme jerseys sure are a contentious topic!
Only two weeks until pitchers and catchers report, so we’re showing off our awesome 2015 theme night jerseys: pic.twitter.com/W0a9518NED
— River Cats (@RiverCats) February 4, 2015
.@RiverCats A snow leopard jersey? Oh, because a River Cat doesn’t actually exist. #RealThings #ThingsThatAreNotReal #ThatsYou
— Fresno Grizzlies (@FresnoGrizzlies) February 4, 2015
.@FresnoGrizzlies You’re still mad that we released our California jerseys before you did, huh?
— River Cats (@RiverCats) February 4, 2015
.@RiverCats No, actually we’re flattered you’re paying tribute to us. #Wackramento
— Fresno Grizzlies (@FresnoGrizzlies) February 4, 2015
.@FresnoGrizzlies Really? Because the whole “Capital of Growlifornia” thing makes you come off a little jealous. #actualcapital #notafakeone
— River Cats (@RiverCats) February 4, 2015
.@RiverCats Fresnans have zero jealousy with #Wackramento. We look to raise the bar, not rest on it grumpy cat. pic.twitter.com/Q5SIcljfld
— Fresno Grizzlies (@FresnoGrizzlies) February 5, 2015
.@FresnoGrizzlies Well, we’re flattered that you obviously consider us to be the team to emulate. #imitationbestformofflattery
— River Cats (@RiverCats) February 5, 2015
Whew! This beef is hotter than a cattle ranch on Venus. Clearly, Fresno is going to remain on the offensive and, clearly, Sacramento aren’t going to back down from a challenge. And when it comes to the River Cats on Twitter, engage at your own risk. During the 2013-14 offseason, the Reno Aces learned this the hard way:
.@aces River Cats are aquatically inclined felines with extremely flexible necks, developed from looking down at Reno in the standings.
— River Cats (@RiverCats) December 4, 2013
Mysteries Revealed in “108 Stitches”
During the 2012 season, the Orem Owlz became the first Minor League team to welcome Larry “Soup Nazi” Thomas to the ballpark for a promotional appearance.
Then, the following season, the Owlz gave away 5000 pairs of team-logo sunglasses as part of a “most people wearing sunglasses at night” world record attempt. (The blue balls were part of a different promotion. Please ignore the blue balls).
These two promotional endeavors, different as they may seem, have one thing in common. This:
108 Stitches is a low-budget baseball comedy, executive produced by Owlz owner Jeff Katofsky and produced and co-written by his son, Jake. A raunchy and ramshackle underdog sports comedy (think Major League or Animal House), 108 Stitches involves the exploits of a fictional Orem-based collegiate baseball team. The players wear the uniforms of the real-life Orem Owlz (Class A Short Season affiliate of the Los Angeles Angels), and the baseball scenes are shot at the so-called “Home of the Owlz,” located on the campus of Utah Valley University.
The above fictional squad is coached by one Scott Deshields (esteemed character actor Bruce Davison); meanwhile, assistant coach Kassem Bosco is played by — wait for it — Larry “Soup Nazi” Thomas. So that’s why he was in Orem in the first place!
Then, later in the film, the Owlz’ “most people wearing sunglasses at night” record attempt is incorporated into the plot. It’s life meets art, or something like that.
The movie also features cameos from Owlz mascots Hootz and Holly, but unfortunately does not reference Holly’s 2012 pregnancy announcement.
Speaking of procreation, Roger Clemens has declared, somewhat incomprehensibly, that “If Animal House, Bull Durham and Major League had a threesome, 108 Stitches would be its kid.” Also, somewhat incomprehensibly, Clemens has a cameo late in the film. Here’s the trailer, which features Clemens, Hootz, Holly, the Soup Nazi, 3D Glasses and, of course, more:
If you’re interested in checking out the film, it it available for streaming via virtually every streaming platform known to man. Click HERE.
If you are desirous of even more Minor League “cinema,” then click HERE to see Lake Elsinore Storm mascot Thunder riding a dirtbike. Or, hey, how about this: Fresno Grizzlies mascot Parker provides the mascot perspective on a hot-button social issue.
Or if lip-syncing front-office members are more your thing, then how about this video courtesy of the Tulsa Drillers?
In the Academy Awards of my mind, which take place biannually for some reason, these are all statuette-worthy efforts.
Guest Post: Why I Love the Fresno Grizzlies
Greetings. I have returned from my first road trip of the 2014 season; articles from the trip have been running on MiLB.com throughout the past week and into next, and the corresponding blog posts will soon follow. (I promise!) But first, another edition of “Why I Love,” in which Minor League fans explain just what it is that they love about their favorite team. Today’s guest writer is Milana Lock, a verifiable Fresno Grizzlies super-fan who I wrote about during one of my 2013 road trips. If YOU would like to write a “Why I Love” post, email me firstname.lastname@example.org
But, for now, the floor is ceded to Milana:
Love of The Game, Crack of the Bat, Thump in the Glove
Stories from the world of Major League Baseball are filled with huge contracts, catchy nicknames, big endorsements, fan worship, scandals and gourmet menus; these are the topics that go along with the the sport at its highest level. But there’s a side to baseball that should be fully appreciated, as it’s one of the most important: the Road to “The Show”.
I’m a devout fan of those who play for the Fresno Grizzlies (Triple-A team for the San Francisco Giants), and there are several things that draw me to every home game: the amazing work ethic, a determination to excel, and a level of play that, hopefully, gets the players noticed by the parent club’s front office. With intense focus, these guys work out and play just as hard as their Major League counterparts; maybe with more heart, and definitely for much less money (a maximum of about $2,200 a month). In fact, it seems they play harder because they have more to prove.
The Minor Leagues are a place where fans have the closest access to players, some who are returning for another season and others who are entering a higher level for the first time. While our hope is for them to get a call-up, there’s a mixed yet very real joy in seeing favorite players again and renewing friendships that are based on unconditional support and encouragement. The fields are smaller, the stands are closer to the bullpen. The autograph line, filled with kids and adults alike, is the place where players take the time to sign autographs and pose for selfies.
Sitting only 75 feet from the field, we feel the vibe of 6-4-3-2 plays for a third out and actually see the pride on the players’ faces. I’ve been wowed by outfielders who refine their throw from medium-depth center field to get an out at home plate, and have launched myself out of my seat to unapologetically celebrate a 410-foot grand slam.
It’s this kind of up-close and personal experience that makes it important to be more supportive, to share in this love of the game and the players that develop within it. If they can play everyday in 105-degree heat, then I can go to every Grizzlies home game and cheer. If they get a percentage from the sale of their Spring Training batting jerseys, then I’ll buy one or two from the parent club’s team store. If I’m given a chance to meet them, then they’ll get a birthday shout-out on the big board. And if there’s heckling going on, I’ll be even louder in shouting words of encouragement. These may be little things but they seem to mean a lot; it’s a way for a fan to be a part of the game.
The phrase “you get what you put into it, and more” applies to the Minor League ballpark experience as well. If you look closely, you’ll watch top prospects refine their skills and be able to tell friends at the Major League park who are the up and comers, who’s dangerous with an opposite field bat, who delivers high heat, who’s got crazy-fast legs, who’s a thief on the basepaths, who brings that secret weapon, who’s got a cannon arm. In a way, I guess you could say that Minor League fans are unofficial scouts. In the spirit of Yogi Berra, “you get to see the future today”.
And where else but in these leagues can you strike a pose with prized baubles, and even wear them for a minute? These are lifetime memories!
You can find new things, almost weekly, at the Grizzlies’ team store while also supporting the community. New T-shirts and caps designed with this year’s logos or slogans, black and orange nail polish (team colors), foam fingers printed with the mascot’s paw, the Major League club’s caps and hoodies, and blingy summer tops are all on display. Also, it’s the place to buy something that contributes to the organization’s community programs, as a portion of the proceeds helps to fund school scholarships, special needs baseball games and equipment, and a reading program. What a great combination! We can improve the community while supporting our team in style.
Yes, I love watching the game, eating another hot dog, sitting for too long, buying another T-shirt, and cheering loudly at every accomplishment. Yes, getting to the Majors is the ultimate dream come true for a ball player. But the pursuit of that dream and the celebration of the heart of hopeful champions is what brings me back to the same seat, every season, every night. Play Ball!
Thanks, Milana. And, again, if you’d like to write a “Why I Love” blog post, about YOUR favorite team, then get in touch. I am very accessible and a pleasure to communicate with.
Pictures of Food
I’ve recently dedicated a post to showcasing new mascots that can be seen around the Minors; today’s post will focus on that other integral aspect of the Minor League Baseball experience: the food.
Let’s start with the El Paso Chihuahuas, who play their first-ever ballgame at brand-new Southwest University Park on April 28. Concessions at the new facility will be provided by Ovations, who unveiled the ballpark menu last month. Fairly thorough coverage of some of the more unique items can be found HERE and HERE among other places, including an awesome looking beef brisket “Salpicon Salad” that very well may be gluten-free (fingers crossed, I’ll be there on April 29 and 30 and will find out for sure). I contacted the team in the wake of their concessions unveiling, and Ovations’ Jeff Hanauer responded with the following pictures. And that is what you’re all here for, what you’re always here for: the pictures. Let’s proceed.
The Pico de Gallo will be included with many of the Chihuahuas’ Mexican-themed offerings. It looks outstanding, and this picture is suitable for framing.
Alligator bites with jalapeno cornbread (an El Paso specialty?)
The Chihua Dog, with bacon, beans, and jalapenos:
The Dudley Dog, a foot long and a half a pound, topped with chile con queso and pico de gallo:
A few of the many “Juarez Dogs” that will be available:
This sandwich is called, “From Philly, with Love”.
The Flamethrower, a half pound burger with ghost peppers, jack cheese, deep fried jalapenos, and chipotle ranch sauce:
Of course, no discussion of ballpark food is complete without the requisite White Michigan Whitecaps mention. Following in the footsteps of the Fifth Third Burger and the (gluten-free!) Baco, this year’s premier addition is the Auger Dogger. It is a deep-fried hot dog on a stick, surrounded by potato chips. Here’s hoping that this, too is gluten-free:
More notable concession additions, per the Whitecaps:
Pretzilla Bacon Cheeseburger (a pretzel bun with a one-third pound hamburger patty, bacon and cheese).
Coaches’ Sandwich – In honor of the three Whitecaps coaches, who hail from Australia (Andrew Graham), Texas (Mike Henneman) and Cuba (Nelson Santovenia), this sandwich includes two slices of ham, Hormel barbeque pulled pork, pickle shreddies, Swiss cheese and shrimp served on a sub bun.
Tony Gates Venison Burger – Named after the 97 WLAV local radio personality who is passionate about the outdoors and is an avid hunter, this venison burger on a bun and will be served at the Steak Cart behind home plate.
Over in Kannapolis, the Intimidators have unveiled some notable new additions. This one is self-explanatory, but I’ll explain: a 64 ounce serving of loaded nachos, served in a batting helmet.
Also of note is the Dale’s Mater sandwich, a favorite of Dale Earnhardt (for whom the Intimidators are named). It is, quite simply, a tomato sandwich with Duke’s mayonnaise.
The Trenton Thunder have unveiled a new signature item, one with a distinctly New Jersey flair. The Thunder Dog is “a jumbo sized Black Bear Franks hot dog wrapped in American cheese and famous Trenton pork roll and served on a torpedo roll.”
Also new in Trenton is the “Mega Nachos” stand, which can (and should!) be gluten-free. Sez the team:
Another new addition on the first base side is Mega Nachos, where fans can build-their-own nachos from a variety of toppings including: cheese, queso, chili, steak, chicken, pulled pork, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, jalapenos, salsa, guacamole, sour cream, and olives.
The Thunder have long had a Chickie and Pete’s stand at the ballpark, but these Philly-area purveyors of sandwiches and (gluten-free!) crab fries are now in Wilmington as well:
@ChickiesnPetes is ready to make its Delaware debut at tonight’s @WilmBlueRocks home opener! @bensbiz#netDEpic.twitter.com/v8EpPDFB4q
— Brian Radle (@BrianRadle7) April 8, 2014
And, hey, for those of you who consider gluttony to be a virtue: the Frederick Keys have recently announced a rather considerable eating challenge. Think you can do it? If so, what’s wrong with you?
Think you have what it takes to receive the Key to the City!? Check out our new eating challenge here at the Grove! pic.twitter.com/GL9xJPX2Re
— Frederick Keys (@FrederickKeys) April 16, 2014
Finally, in Fresno, the Grizzlies are now serving a “Grizzly Egg.” Per the Fresno Bee, it’s a “cream cheese-filled deviled egg, wrapped in bacon, baked and drizzled in buffalo sauce.” This thing better be gluten-free, because it looks awesome!
And that’s all of the food news I have to share with you, at least for the next couple of days. In the meantime, please know that I am writing up a storm over at MiLB.com:
— New Promo Preview leads with the Louisville Bats Corky Miller #FeartheStache t-shirt.
— New Farm’s Almanac takes a look at team-branded beer throughout the Minors.
And, as always, much more to come! There’s a reason that I say that I am the greatest of all time: because it’s true.
Return to the Road: Visalia, Modesto, and Fresno In-Between
Welcome to the latest installment of “Return to the Road,” in which I re-trace my steps during my third and final road trip of the 2013 campaign in order to bring you all of the non-ballpark content that’s fit to print. The previous post in the series began in amid the vast expanse of Bakersfield and ended at Visalia’s Lamp Liter Inn, surely one of the quaintest team-affiliated hotels in all of Minor League baseball.
The Lamp Liter still issues honest-to-God keys, and the room signage was a definite blast from the past.
The on-site diner was similarly retro:
Before leaving Visalia I headed downtown and took a stroll. Most of the Central Valley California towns I visited on this trip were rough-around-the-edges and possessed an air of general economic despair, but the core of Visalia I found to be surprisingly vibrant. A brief photo tour, starting with a record store that was, unfortunately, closed on Mondays (marking the second day in a row my attempts to visit a local record store were thwarted).
I was very taken with Visalia, but my momentary illusion that it was some sort of small town utopia quickly received a reality check.
Finally, a bit of history, delivered via the time honored method of plaque-on-boulder.
I didn’t get any lunch in Visalia. My next stop was Fresno, and in that city my first order of business was to go on a brief tour of notable area taco trucks. This tour, arranged by members of the Fresno Grizzlies front office, was covered extensively on MiLB.com. In brief, I had a really good time!
My time at that evening’s Fresno Grizzlies game has also been extensively documented. Among many highlights of my time at the ballpark was my encounter with this particularly committed “designated eater” (ie, the individual recruited at each ballpark to consume the gluten-free cuisine that my celiac disease prohibits).
The next day I made a pit stop at E. Olive Street in Fresno.
The motivation for this pit stop was the same as so many other pit stops that I make while on these road trips: I had been tipped to the existence of an independent record store.
This particular record store was called Spinners. Welcome!
I picked up a few moderately-priced used classic rock LPs (Michael Nesmith, Humble Pie, Black Oak Arkansas), bantered with the friendly clerks for a bit, and then was on my way out of Fresno.
Next stop: Modesto, home of the Nuts. As is my standard operating procedure on these trips, I entered the ballpark while waving to my fans while riding atop a ’59 Corvette.
You can read all about my evening with the Nuts HERE. Part three of this series will pick up with my wanderings the next day in Modesto. A visit to a record store may have been involved.