The Frisco RoughRiders, fresh off of their internet-conquering announcement that they would open a Lazy River at Dr Pepper Ballpark, are once again in line for some nationwide accolades. Today, the team announced their 2016 theme nights, which were highlighted by the following Millennial and Gen X-friendly pop culture trifecta:
Let’s start with the theme jersey on the left, which will likely generate the most hyperbolic acclaim. Friday, July 8, is “Salute to 8-Bit and Arcades Night” and the RoughRiders will take the field in Game Boy uniforms. (Maybe if they lose the game the fans will receive a console-ation prize.)
Of course, it is now time to defer to the press release.
The uniforms feature the text “Riders” inside of the Game Boy “screen” on the front of the uniform top, above of a directional pad, “A,” “B,” “Select,” and “Start” buttons along with the classic Game Boy vent-style speaker on the lower right-hand side. On the back of the uniform, each player’s number will be represented with 8-bit digits and their name written on the top of an inserted “game cartridge.” The team will feature retro arcade games inside the ballpark and will be giving away both a next-gen and a retro gaming console that night. The fun continues as the Riders will be recreating classic video games as in-between innings contests.
Recreating classic video games as between-inning contests? I saw the Hudson Valley Renegades do that once.
July 29th is Ghostbusters Night. Ernie “Winston Zeddemore” Hudson will be on hand at Dr Pepper Ballpark for the festivities, as will the Ecto-1 automobile. Fans will have the slime of their lives.
The players will be introduced by their flight call signs as they come up the plate. Fans can participate in a “Lost that Loving Feeling” singing contest, and the first 30 fans that come dressed in the official Top Gun beach volleyball outfit (swimsuit and dog tags) can participate in sand volleyball match at the ballpark during the game on a genuine sand court!
Finally, Star Wars Night is August 20. While the RoughRiders have not yet released their jerseys it is worth noting that fans in the Lazy River will float that night on Star Wars rafts. This may be one of them.
Last month, the Frisco RoughRiders received a tidal wave of publicity after floating the idea that maybe, just maybe, they would construct a ballpark “lazy river.” This proposed aquatic paradise was to be located beyond the outfield of the team’s home of Dr. Pepper Ballpark, replacing a comparatively nondescript swimming pool.
Today, it was announced that the lazy river will indeed be a reality. In 2016, fans will be able to watch (or ignore) the ballgame while lounging in an inner tube amid a 3000-square foot aquatic wonderland. Talk about a liquid asset:
Officially, this is the “Choctaw Lazy River” (Choctaw being a local casino). It is 174 feet long — almost as long as a professional hockey rink and bigger than an Olympic-sized pool. Additionally, and this is per the press release:
Filled with 68,023 gallons of water, the Choctaw Lazy River will have nine times more swimming area than each of the end zone pools at EverBank Field in Jacksonville (home of the Jaguars), and will be eight times larger than the Arizona Diamondbacks’ famous outfield pool at Chase Field, which contains a mere 8,500 gallons by comparison. The RoughRiders’ water volume is so vast that it would take 1,267,973 baseballs and 1,088,368 cups of nacho cheese to fill.
Here, take a look:
In case you didn’t watch the video, here are some more key stats:
— A 113-foot front wall, featuring a waterfall dropping eight feet.
— Twin 23-foot color lit water curtain structures, with 20-foot waterfalls.
— Two cabanas with food and drink service.
The Lazy River is an “all-inclusive gameday experience”, available to groups of 200 or more. However, on Thursdays, a $39 “Thursday Night Pool Party” ticket is available, with “singles and millennials alike” being the key demographic. Construction is already underway; and a live construction stream can be found within the aforementioned press release. Here’s a screenshot, taken on Thursday afternoon at 12:15 ET.
The Choctaw Lazy River, which will cost over $1.5 million to build, is a privately funded endeavor. The RoughRiders note that “a portion of the cost [will] be reimbursed by the Frisco Community Development Corporation.”
In the meantime, the RoughRiders would like to remind you that Opening Day is imminent.
— Frisco RoughRiders (@RidersBaseball) February 25, 2016
Today is Groundhog Day. As a strong proponent of doing the same thing again and again, I thought I’d go ahead and write a blog post dedicated to how the world of Minor League Baseball is celebrating this most hallowed of rodent weather prediction holidays.
We’ll start in Pennsylvania, of course, as the Keystone State has long served as the spiritual center of Groundhog Day. In State College, located 75 miles east of Punxsutawney, the Spikes have announced the following initiative:
The offer of bonus vouchers on McDonald’s Flex Books are a superfluous tie-in; the justification is that they give “fans multiple ways to enjoy Groundhog Day over and over again.”
More relevant is the offer of free admission to people named “Phil” on August 2. The Spikes mention that this offer extends to “Phil Collins, Phil Mickelson, Phil Jackson, Phil Simms and Dr. Phil”, but that “no current or former members of the Philadelphia Phillies will be allowed in free that night.”
I think some former Phillies should question this policy. Like, if Desi Relaford showed up and was like “Hey, give me a free ticket” I bet the Spikes would oblige.
The Altoona Curve are located even closer to Punxsatawney than are the Spikes. Last season, they even gave away a Groundhog Day bobblehead and had Phil out to the ballpark.
— Altoona Curve (@AltoonaCurve) February 2, 2016
They also released a new commercial:
— Altoona Curve (@AltoonaCurve) February 2, 2016
Frisco RoughRiders vice-president Jason Dambach is a Punxsutawney native and former Curve and Spikes employee. So I’m going to go ahead and check in on the RoughRiders to see if they are celebrating the day in a notable way.
Well…this is notable, I suppose.
— Frisco RoughRiders (@RidersBaseball) February 2, 2016
Another team I think of when the search engine that is my brain conjures up “Groundhog Day Minor League Baseball” are the Charleston RiverDogs. Team co-owner Bill Murray was the star of Groundhog’s Day, as you may recall. Let’s see what they RiverDogs are doing.
Okay, so here’s a tweet.
— Charleston RiverDogs (@ChasRiverDogs) February 2, 2016
That’s all I’ve got, but in the interest of total thoroughness I’ll do a quick run through my Twitter feed to see if I missed anything….
Update: I didn’t really miss anything, save for this.
If any teams were omitted from this post, please know it is because I did so intentionally and in fact don’t like your team and will never visit.
In closing, here’s a scorching track from underrated ’70s rockers Groundhogs.
Situated as we are within the depths of the holiday season, I don’t get many opportunities to dash off timely posts about recently-announced pop culture-referencing Minor League Baseball promotions. So thanks, Frisco RoughRiders, for coming up with THIS:
As you may have already guessed (or read elsewhere, if I am somehow not your only source for Minor League Baseball news), this promo is in direct response to Sunday night’s Miss Universe debacle.
Oh, man. Every one was “Phillipian” out about this. Mistakes happen. I really don’t think Steve Harvey deserves the internet-fueled scorn that has been heaped upon him, but at the same time this is an all-time classic pop culture moment. It was inevitable that a Minor League team would respond, and kudos to the RoughRiders for being the first team to celebrate second-place.
In times like these, when there is only one set of footprints in the sand, it is because I have deferred to the press release:
The RoughRiders plan to formally invite Ariadna Gutiérrez Arevalo, “Miss Colombia,” as a VIP guest for the night. Gutiérrez will enjoy a suite for the night and an opportunity to throw out the first pitch. The RoughRiders are also inviting Steve Harvey to serve as the on-field host for the evening.
With the night celebrating famous second-place finishes, the Riders have also extended an invitation to Jim Kelly, Andre Reed, and Marv Levy the quarterback, a wide receiver, and the coach of the Buffalo Bills during their four-year stretch of runner-up finishes in the Super Bowl (1991-1994). The team will celebrate other second-place finishers including Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera (runner-up on Star Search); Adam Lambert and Clay Aiken (American Idol); Carrie Underwood and Michelle Obama (high school salutatorian); Al Gore and Mitt Romney (presidential elections); and Cowboys running back Darren McFadden (two-time Heisman Trophy runner-up).
Like all Riders home games, fans will have the chance to participate in on-field games, but on Runner-Up Night, prizes will be awarded to the second-place, not first-place, finishers. Other in-game promotions include a seat upgrade to the “Second-best seat in the house.”
During the game, RoughRiders players will be displayed on the video board with a sash, announcing each American player as “Mr. Texas” or whatever state they are from and international players honored with the name of their home country.
The RoughRiders plan to host an in-park beauty pageant throughout the game. Any fan that can prove a second-place finish in a beauty contest or pageant at any level will receive a free ticket to the game between the RoughRiders and the San Antonio Missions.
If I had had to guess which team would have been the first to announce such a promotion, I would have gone with the Myrtle Beach Pelicans. They have experience with this sort of thing. But, fittingly, my second guess would have been the Frisco RoughRiders. They share an ownership group with the Pelicans, as well as staff members (Hi, Nathan Barnett) who cut their promo brainstorming teeth while working in Myrtle Beach. And it’s certainly no surprise that, via Twitter, Pelicans prez Andy Milovich offered a suggestion regarding another “Runner-Up” that the Pelicans could honor.
And since I can do anyone’s job better than they can do it, I have a few suggestions of my own. Maybe the RoughRiders could honor Teddy Roosevelt — the inspiration for their team name and logo –and his second-place showing in the 1912 presidential election.
Or how about the 1986 Boston Red Sox, who were congratulated thusly on the Shea Stadium scoreboard?
I wish I could come up with more examples, but as longtime author of the greatest Minor League Baseball blog of all time so I don’t really know much about what it’s like to be a runner-up. If you have any suggestions, let me know via Twitter, email or that archaic, dust-filled sliver of internet real estate known as “the comments section.”
Oh, man. Today has been one of those days. Minor League promotions are being announced at a fast and furious clip, and I can barely keep up with it all. Let’s start with the Frisco RoughRiders (recently rebranded and under new ownership) who have announced a “Full House” theme night on June 12:
— Frisco RoughRiders (@RidersBaseball) March 16, 2015
A bit more info, from the RoughRiders:
“Full House” themed videos, skits and games will entertain fans throughout the night. Additionally, the Riders will hold a contest where one lucky fan will win a free trip to San Francisco. A spectacular fireworks show will follow the game, accompanied by classic music from the ’90s.
You Oughta Know, however, that the RoughRiders are not the only team to be hosting “Uncle Joey” at the ballpark this season. The Richmond Flying Squirrels are doing the same on April 14. There was originally another person included in the below image, but I cut it out:
It is also worth noting that the Flying Squirrels have a “Many Faces of Robin Williams” theme jersey on their promo schedule, but no images of that have yet been released. Stay tuned.
Another notable promo that needs accompanying pics — pronto! — is the Charleston RiverDogs “Bobble Boobs” giveaway during August 22’s “Breast Cancer Awareness Night.” This item, which really perks up the team’s schedule, was announced this morning. I immediately got excited:
— Benjamin Hill (@bensbiz) March 16, 2015
No one seemed to find this joke funny, either, but per usual I am undeterred:
— Benjamin Hill (@bensbiz) March 16, 2015
The RiverDogs also announced a “Bill Murray Tune Squad” jersey giveaway on April 25. Murray, of course, is the team’s co-owner and “Director of Fun.”
In case you need a “Tune Squad” reference point (full disclosure: I did):
Meanwhile, the Lowell Spinners unveiled this. Maybe the evening will also include a free Buffet, featuring “Cheeseburgers in Paradise” and “Insufferable Drunk Baby Boomers”:
— Lowell Spinners (@LowellSpinners) March 16, 2015
And, not to be missed, the Spinners have also announced that a “Balking Dead” zombie bobblehead will be part of the promo calendar as well:
Finally, ICYMI (I don’t have time to type “In Case You Missed It”), the Jackson General unveiled these a-Baum-inable Wizard of Oz theme jerseys on Friday:
— Jackson Generals (@jacksongenerals) March 13, 2015
Ben’s Biz Blog: Still the original, still the best, still inexorably encroaching upon middle age while writing about some of the most ridiculous stuff imaginable.
Yesterday was Opening Day, except when it wasn’t.
As is common at this time of year, there were a range of weather woes across the Minor League landscape. Seven of the 58 scheduled games were rained out, with the most dramatic example coming courtesy of the Frisco RoughRiders.
That will make you want to leave early.. Storm rolling through during the Frisco RoughRiders ballgame.. pic.twitter.com/unWADMJt1W
— FOX 4 NEWS (@FOX4) April 4, 2014
Today isn’t looking much better. The Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, who played in frigid conditions on Thursdays, have already announced a postponement. In Toledo, meanwhile, the visiting Louisville Bats are worried about the viability of their game against the Mud Hens…
— Louisville Bats (@LouisvilleBats) April 4, 2014
And — WHOA! — things are looking severe out by Sevierville. Click on THIS and then come back to me. I’ll be waiting….
Okay, cool, thanks for re-joining me. All of this meteorological mayhem got me thinking about a guest post that ran on this blog last year, in which Pete Golkin advocated for the creation of an industry-wide Universal Rain Check. The idea is simple: when a game gets rained out, the team in question issues a rain check that can be redeemed at any Minor League ballpark. Wrote Golkin at the time:
Remember, we’re talking about Minor League Baseball tickets. They’re not supposed to break the bank or become scarce–which is why you’ll never see a scalper in the parking lots at Danville, Greensboro or Richmond.
To work out the details, I suggest calling in the same accountants who said my old sliced cheese wrapper meant two-for-one admission anywhere on a Tuesday. And if I have to prove I’m an out-of-towner to get a rain check with “range,” I’ll gladly show a driver’s license. Simple stuff.
So on behalf of baseball pilgrims everywhere—at least the ones not bound for Fenway in an SUV limo–give the Universal Rain Check a shot, MiLB. It can only mean more fans up and down the road.
That post was met with one of the most robust comment sections in Ben’s Biz Blog history. But, alas, it was met with silence from those in a position to actually implement the program.
On Tuesday, the Dunedin Blue Jays issued a press release, and the press release contained the following information:
The Dunedin Blue Jays…are proud to announce the Raincheck Baseball Initiative (R.B.I.) program for the 2014 Florida State League season.
This unique program will allow fans to redeem a ticket from any rained out game from another team in Minor League Baseball for a Dunedin Blue Jays game….The R.B.I. program is believed to be the first of its kind in professional baseball.
“Basically, it’s a universal rain check,” said Nate Kurant, the new Director of Marketing and Social Media for the D-Jays. “A friend and I did a baseball road trip across the Southeast last season and each day had at least a 70% chance of rain. If any of those days had been rained out, we never would have made use of a rain check.”
“I know a lot of people love Minor League Baseball and take trips throughout the season to visit different parks. Essentially, I wanted to develop something that would meet a need for MiLB fans and help set us apart in Dunedin,” said Kurant. “It’s a beautiful city and hopefully this will give baseball fans more incentive to visit us throughout the year.”
Fair-weather fans that present a ticket from a different MiLB team’s rained out game not only will receive admission to a D-Jays game, but also take home a “Rainy Day Blue Jays” pack including a Blue Jays rain poncho. They will also have the option to participate in one of the numerous in-game promotions.
“It’s a nationwide, international MiLB promotion that is open to everyone from our fellow Jays affiliate in Vancouver all the way to our Florida State League friends in Palm Beach County.”
One team down, 159 to go. Do YOU think the universal raincheck is a good/viable idea? Would you take advantage of such a program? Are you tired of me asking obscure questions, as you would rather see a picture of a giant hamburger?
Okay, fine, here you go:
— Omaha Storm Chasers (@OMAStormChasers) April 2, 2014
Last week I wrote a piece on Aaron Goldsmith, who, at the age of 29, has landed a job as the Mariners #2 radio announcer after just six seasons in the Minor and independent leagues. Here’s the “cover” art:
Of course I’d encourage you to read the story, but the reason I’m bringing it up here in this blog forum is because I’d like to share a notable “outtake” from my conversation with Goldsmith. When I asked him his thoughts on why the Mariners hired him (out of 160 applicants), he replied that “first and foremost I hope they liked the way I call a game.”
While this should go without saying, he then remarked about an aspect of his hiring that was perhaps more unexpected.
“I have experience doing things outside of the broadcast booth, social media, creating web content, podcasts and video interviews,” said Goldsmith. “[The Mariners] were very interested in my ideas and thoughts regarding what worked and what hadn’t worked within that realm.”
Major League organizations are far more fragmented and specific in their employee responsibilities than their Minor League counterparts, and Goldsmith won’t be expected to be a technological jack-of-all-trades like he was during his stints with the Frisco RoughRiders (2010-11) and Pawtucket Red Sox (2012). Nonetheless, these skills appeared to have played at least some role in his acquisition of a much-coveted big league job and as such I believe his example in this realm can and should be one to follow.
On a personal level — over the years I have become acquainted with dozens (hundreds?) of Minor League broadcasters and, certainly, Goldsmith was among those who stood out due to his proactive approach to online communication. He started Frisco’s “Riders Insider” blog in November 2010, which almost immediately established itself as one of the most informative and oft-updated blogs in Minor League Baseball. Upon getting hired with Pawtucket Goldsmith began “45 Miles From Fenway,” which in January 2013 was the highest-ranked MiLB team blog (coming in at #23 overall on MLBlogs monthly “Latest Leaders” list).
Success in such endeavors means nothing if you can’t call a baseball game, of course. But, nonetheless I believe that maintaining a strong presence in these supplementary areas (blogs, podcasts, Twitter, Facebook, etc) is a crucial way to increase your visibility and, therefore, your reputation within what is quite possibly the most cutthroat occupation in all of Minor League Baseball.
I’m getting a little uncomfortable up here on this soapbox, so now seems as good a time as any to beat a hasty retreat. But, before I do so, let me reiterate that I am course interested in your opinion on this and all MiLB-related matters.
Especially broadcasters: do you believe that the development of these secondary skills is now a prerequisite of your success? Or can one still rise to the top on game-calling prowess alone?
As this will be the last post of November, I may as well lead it off with the topic that always dominates this soon-to-be-expired stretch of the calendar: new logos. It was helpfully pointed out to me earlier this week that I had neglected this recent entry to the alternate logo canon. And what an entry it is:
This one’s courtesy of the Stockton Ports, who will sport this character on their cap during each and every Friday home game next season. The team explains thusly:
The Ports new logos honor Stockton’s heritage as the largest in-land port in California and the Asparagus Capital of the World. A new character, 5 O’clock Dock, is the centerpiece of the identity, brandishing his baseball tattoos and asparagus club.
My favorite line in the press release, however, is the one that notes that the Ports have become “the first professional sports team to use Asparagus green.” Congrats on that accomplishment, guys, but considering the team name and asparagus theme I am disappointed by the failure to incorporate an aromatic “P.”
In other California League headwear news, the Lake Elsinore Storm announced last month that they are now selling 20th anniversary throwback hats that commemorate the team’s original look.
The Storm’s current “eye” logo has long been one of the most popular marks in Minor League Baseball, and that logo can be traced back to designs such as the above. (The eyes used to be part of a larger “Storm” motif, see?) Perhaps that’s a lesson for other clubs — take a particularly striking element of your current logo, then isolate and amplify. Sometimes a minimalist approach can work wonders.
I’ve been posting less videos on this blog than I have in the past, partially because Twitter has become a good forum for that and partially because watching too many of them makes me feel as if my life is slipping away in slow motion right before my eyes.
But, that said, I wanted to single out this recent Fresno Grizzlies production because it is one of the best videos I have seen in quite some time. For one, it highlights a simple and memorable trick that should be part of every mascot playbook. For two, the production is great. (That is certainly not a given when it comes to team-released offseason videos.)
Was the fan who got his hat stolen planted there by the team? Almost certainly. Does it matter? Not at all.
And since I’m posting videos, how ’bout this? In Pensacola, the Blue Wahoos have transformed their ballpark into a so-called “Winter Wonderland.” That’s not easy to do in the Florida panhandle!
Skating rink, toboggan slide, jumbo board games, Santa Claus, and more:
Finally, I’ll close with the following: the basketball trick shot dudes of Dude Perfect visited Frisco’s Dr Pepper Ballpark because of course they did. All of human history has led us to this moment.
And that’s all I’ve got for today. I’ll see you in Nashville next week, should you be in Nashville next week.