Yesterday’s post served as this year’s Halloween content clearinghouse, but as usual a few things slipped through the cracks. And when something falls through the cracks, it’s best to save it from such a nefarious fate by belatedly bringing it back into the light.
That’s a convoluted way of saying that I stumbled across a ridiculous photo I wanted to share. It was taken at the State College Spikes Spookfest and features mascot Ike the Spike idly observing a werewolf being wheeled on a stretcher by a witch who appears to have Frankenstein in a headlock.
Just another day in the Minor Leagues.
Further PA-based Halloween content has emerged from Reading, as the R-Phils have announced the winners of this year’s pumpkin carving contest. This is a seriously impressive triumvirate of illuminated gourds:
But would you expect anything less from the Reading faithful? This is a fan base that has proven carving abilities.
At any rate, November is probably the slowest month when it comes to Minor League Baseball news. (December has the Winter Meetings, at least, and once the new year hits there is an abundance of info related to the upcoming season.) But we all get through it together, and there are many productive ways to pass the time.
For starters, Visalia Rawhide broadcaster Donny Baarns has launched a new podcast called “Candid Voices,” in which he “chats with the best sports broadcasters about their careers, their stories, and anything else they feel like talking about.” The first episode’s guest is Mariners broadcaster/veteran TV writer Ken Levine, and can be heard HERE.
Meanwhile, the always exemplary Great Lakes Loons blog “From the Nest” has a post called “25 Ways to Keep Baseball In-Season This Offseason.”
Lots of great stuff is contained therein, and the post follows a template that can (and should) be copied by other Minor League teams. Check it out.
A more “inside baseball” (so to speak) offseason perspective can be found over at gameops.com, as always astute industry veteran Scott Carter’s has filed a column featuring a veritable treasure trove of ways that teams can engage with fans when there are no games being played. This is required reading for those seeking to understand how and why teams need to function as interactive year-round entities.
And then, of course, there are videos. Always, there are videos. Some of them have malevolent undertones….
while others mine humor out of mascot misfortune.
And finally there’s our old pal Ike the Spike, who apparently snapped out of his werewolf-observing reverie long enough to lead a “Thriller” flash mob. Check it out HERE.
As always, thanks for checking this blog out. Your patronage helps to validate my professional existence.
I suppose it should be fairly evident by now (especially after the Fort Wayne post), but when I’m on the road I say “Yes” to anything that the teams might ask me to do. I call it the “participatory approach”, mainly because I like how those words sound together.
And in Lake County, I most definitely took the participatory approach. The team was uber-hospitable to me from the get-go, a welcoming attitude perhaps best embodied by this ego-stroking media credential.
I needed the boost, honestly, as it rained heavily throughout the four-hour drive from Fort Wayne to Lake County (just outside of Cleveland). In fact, this was the scene as I pulled into the stadium.
But this was the last hurrah for inclement conditions, as almost immediately the sun started to shine and the birds began to chirp One of my first acts of the evening was to “assist” with the tarp pull.
Let me note the following: tarp pulls are hard work! Similar to when I put on a mascot suit last season, I immediately was hit with a newfound respect for how difficult it must be to do on a daily basis.
With the tarp removed, the following realization finally hit home: It’s going to be a great night for baseball, after all.
And do you know what makes a great night for baseball even better?
It was “Thirsty Thursday,” and the Captains offer one of the best (and most creative) Minor League drinking bargains around. For one hour prior to game time, the team offers 10-cent beers. These dime brews (Budweisers, all) are sold in five ounce cups and available at Castaways Bar (in left field). Fans may buy up to 10 beer tickets, but may only redeem two at a time.
The 10-cent price is a tongue-in-cheek tribute to one of the most infamous promotions in baseball history: the Cleveland Indians’ “10 Cent Beer Night” in 1974. My favorite sentence from the well-worth-reading Wikipedia entry on the fiasco: A large number of intoxicated fans – some armed with knives, chains, and portions of stadium seats that they had torn apart – surged onto the field, and others hurled bottles from the stands.
But unsettling indicators of pervasive post-industrial societal decay were nowhere to be found on this particular evening.
Serenity ruled, so I stepped behind the counter and spent a half-hour pouring beers for early-arriving imbibers.
It was a pretty simple operation. Bud was poured from kegs into pitchers, and from pitchers into the 5 ounce cups. From there it was a matter of repeating the simple mantra of “drop two, take two” (drop two beer tickets in the bucket, take two beers).
And, novelty aside, this is still a tremendous bargain — the equivalent of a 20 ounce beer for 40 cents!
I was soon instructed to put down my pitcher so that I could become one. Yes, for the second time on this trip (and fourth overall) I had the honor of throwing out the first pitch. But once arriving on the field there was some time to kill, so groundskeeper Dan Stricko put me to work watering the infield.
I believe that I’m displaying improper technique in the above photo, as the hose should in fact be wrapped around my back. And speaking of improper technique — time for the first pitch.
In this photo, I am patiently waiting for ebullient on-field host Andrew Grover to finish introducing me to the crowd.
It was a strike, I tell you. A strike.
And it was now time to get the game underway.
The evening’s “Play Ball” kid went dead silent when it became time to perform his assigned task of yelling “Play Ball!” After about 15 seconds of silence, Grover adopted a falsetto voice and uttered the game-starting phrase himself.
Number #45 in the above picture is hitting coach Jim Rickon, who I interviewed prior to the game. Rickon is an aspiring inventor, with his latest creation being the Bat Jack. Check it out HERE, and tell them Ben’s Biz Blog sent ya.
Update! Check out this MiLB.com article about Rickon and the soon-to-be mentioned Cole Cook.
A grip trainer would perhaps have been helpful for my next endeavor — participating in a between-inning “Minute To Win It” contest. My task was to extricate every tissue from a box of Kleenex, one at a time and using one hand.
In 60 seconds.
And I did it! With just one second to spare! This was the most challenging and dramatic between-inning contest I’ve ever been a part of, and I’ve been basking in the memory of it ever since. Update! And now I can re-live it again and again! Here’s the video:
This led to a far less successful endeavor, in which me and three 20-someting male fans (some might call them “bros”) participated in the Team Trax race against a team of interns.
We dubbed ourselves “Team Dime Beer”, then ran like a group that had far too many of them. The guy in the back (not visible in the above pic) immediately steamrolled into the guy in front of him and we went down like dominoes as the interns methodically made their way to an easy victory.
Team Trax are one of the newer offerings from the excellent Gameops.com, and more info on can be found HERE. Company founder Jon Cudo happened to be in attendance at the game; it must have been painful for him to see his creation utilized so poorly. But it’s always good to see Cudo — he contacted me for an interview back in 2007, a key step in my slow realization that I might be able to write about this kind of thing for a living.
Quote from the interview: [B]eing based in NYC I rarely get to see what I’m writing about, which is frustrating and something I hope to change as the years go on.
And now I’m actually getting to participate in what I’m writing about — thank goodness for the inexorable passage of time! Which, on the particular evening, soon brought us to the “Sheetz Hop-A-Long Poniez” race. The team has put the video up on YouTube:
In retrospect, I should have continued with the “sideways hop” strategy. But congrats to the winner, who taunted me repeatedly about it for the rest of the evening. I think he said his name was Jay Milo.
In the middle of the fourth inning I ascended atop the third base dugout, and once again felt the unique agony that comes with not being able to aim a t-shirt throw properly. I hammed it up, delayed my throws, picked my target, and…missed. Both times. I’m sorry I let you down, fans I was aiming for.
No pictures of this failed effort exist. Immediately afterward, I was ushered up to the broadcast booth for an inning on the air with announcer Craig Deas. I had already done a pre-game interview with Deas for the “Captains Warm-Up Show”, so this time around I simply provided “color commentary” about a game I hadn’t watched at all up until that point.
A highlight of the conversation centered around pitcher Cole Cook, who I had interviewed earlier in the day. Cook’s father Peter MacKenzie is a well-known character actor, and among his many credits is the sitcom Herman’s Head (Cook used to visit his father on set, and during downtime would actually play inside Herman’s head. This is the greatest thing I have ever learned about any ballplayer ever).
To any Fox executives who may be listening, PLEASE release Get A Life on dvd!
Between that and my Weird Al plug in Fort Wayne, I was very pleased with my on-air performance during this trip (and please email me if you’d like to discuss anything at all related to Get A Life).
The commercial break in the broadcast booth provided a chance for some between-inning sustenance in the form of a hot dog slathered in world-famous Bertman’s Ballpark Mustard. Clevelanders are crazy about this stuff — and for good reason.
And — jeez — during the inning break there was a marriage proposal on the dugout! I would have loved to cover that as well but one thing I’ve learned on these road trips is that you can’t do it all. The days are stuffed to the gills.
And speaking of being stuffed to the gills (yeah, I’m just gonna play this segue off like it was an accident), it was soon time for the nightly Fish Race!
I was the blue fish, and eked out a victory over green and red (not pictured) that may or may not have been pre-arranged. Also, the photo above might not be to “scale.”
After changing out of my fish costume, I stuck around the right field area and snapped what I may believe may be the most introspective mascot photo of all time.
But Skipper soon snapped out of his mental reveries. For it was his duty to lead a gaggle of youths across the field as part of a nightly “Fun Run.” I tagged along, but as it turned out the whole thing was a blur.
With the game winding down, I ducked into the team store in order to pick up a Captains shirt.
The change of clothes was necessary, as I was slated to be a special guest in a post-game high school home run derby. Assistant general manager Neil Stein threw me batting practice in the cages located beyond right field, and it’s fortunate no footage exists of this because I started out by whiffing on five straight pitches.
I shagged balls in the outfield while waiting for my turn, watching kids about half my age pummel it out of the park. When it came time for me to bat I performed better than I had in the cage, in that I least made contact with all 10 swings. But it generally wasn’t very solid contact, and the best of the bunch was an opposite field “shot” that traveled an estimated 265 feet.
Maybe I needed a Bat Jack?
So, yeah, all this (and more) happened in the span of a little more than three hours. Huge thanks to the entire Captains staff for such an enjoyable and action-packed experience — I only wish that I had had more time to spend there.
But there’s still more to come from “the road.” Stay tuned, and thank you for reading. Please continue to do so, while spreading the Ben’s Biz gospel to any and all interested parties.
Derek Jeter’s more-contentious-than-expected contract negotiations have led some to wonder if the unthinkable could happen, with the iconic Bronx superstar signing with another team.
But what if Jeter really wanted to defy conventional wisdom? What if he decided to suit up for a Class A Short Season Astros affiliate?
Well, that would look like this:
The above visual was created by the Tri-City ValleyCats, and inspired by a tongue-in-cheek article in the Albany Times Union.
Why not, right? Stranger things have happened, although at the moment I’m unable to come up with one. What I am able to come up with is information on a completely unrelated topic.
A week after unveiling their new logos, the Altoona Curve have done a further bit of unveiling. This time, the uniforms:
More info, and links to more uniform visuals, can be found HERE.
Meanwhile, I’d like to note that the Great Lakes Loons have produced the offseason’s first “snow-covered field” photo. Over the coming months, there is going to be PLENTY where this came from.
But if it’s plenty you want, it’s plenty I’ve got. Click HERE to listen to Gameops.com’s “Best of 2010” audio roundtable, with myself as one of the distinguished panelists. Joining me in discussion was sports entertainment guru Pat Walker and Minor League front office free agent Scott Carter (the Cliff Lee of this year’s crop).
And thanks to Gameops founder Jon Cudo, who put the whole thing together.
That’ll do it for me today, but I’ve got big plans for tonight: Ozzy at Madison Square Garden!
For today I would like to draw attention to the “Around the Horn” ticket package, which is being offered by the Cleveland Indians and four of their Minor League affiliates. Here’s how it works:
The Around the Horn Ticket Package has been created to allow local fans the opportunity to enjoy a baseball game at each of the Cleveland Indians affiliated professional baseball venues in the region at a discounted price and with exclusive benefits.
Packages will be sold by the Cleveland Indians and their Northeast Ohio Minor League Affiliates, Akron Aeros, Lake County Captains and Mahoning Valley Scrappers as well as the Columbus Clippers in Central Ohio.
The Indians are one of several big league clubs who in recent years have taken steps to consolidate their Minor League operations, so that affiliates are located as close as possible to the Major League facility. This practice, sometimes called “clustering”, is beneficial for several reasons. It provides the parent club with an increased ability to monitor the farm system, while prospects have much fewer travel hassles after receiving promotions or demotions. And, most importantly for the purposes of this conversation, it gives fans the opportunity to actively root for the entire farm system.
In this particular case, it means that those who live in Ohio’s northeast quadrant can easily experience five levels of Indians baseball (out of six overall, with the lone exception being Class A Advanced Kinston). The “Around the Horn” offer is the first attempt I’ve seen to explicitly make clear the fan benefits of “clustering”, and I hope it’s not the last.
A few other obvious candidates include Philadelphia, Baltimore, New York (both Mets and Yankees), Boston, and Pittsburgh. Click HERE for a list of Minor League teams grouped by MLB affiliation, and start plotting your own organization-specific 2010 itinerary.
In other news…Over the past week, we here at MiLB.com have been continually updating our story on how Minor League teams have been pitching in to help with the Haitian relief efforts. Today, reports have come in from both Albuquerque and Everett on how their efforts fared. Check it out HERE and HERE.
Finally, today’s Gameops.com blog post raises an interesting possibility for Minor League teams: fan-created ad campaigns. Click HERE for more info.
And, apropos of nothing, I’ll close with this excellent Conan O’Brien quote from Friday’s farewell show. Words to live by, in 2010 and beyond:
Please do not be cynical…Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard, and you’re kind, amazing things will happen.
Today is going to be one of those days where I throw a lot of stuff against the wall, just to see what sticks. So if you like to stare at walls that have stuff stuck to them (with even more stuff in a pile on the floor below), then keep reading.
We’ll start with — what else? — videos.
Videos such as the most recent edition of Omaha’s “My Offseason Life Is Average“. This is, in a word, funny (extra bonus points for the extreme brevity):
Meanwhile, some intense turtle-tracking is going on in Beloit. Better luck next time, guys.
Recently, the Gameops.com Blog did a post on Improv Everywhere, a group that stages live, public pranks. In the post, Gameops’ Jon Cudo says that he “is interested to see if any team or event operator is using any similar theatrics to amuse and confuse.” I, too, am interested in such a thing. Here’s an example of an Improv Everywhere stunt, one that could certainly be adapted to a Minor League game.
And for something completely different, check out the Lakewood
BlueClaws’ latest podcast. A suspiciously adult-sounding group of
children are treated to a dramatic story, one which explains how the
new mascot’s name came about.
Meanwhile, the New Hampshire Fisher Cats have become the latest team to stage a “Golden Bobblehead” competition. The gist of it is that each week, the golden bobblehead will be hidden at an area business. Fans are given clues as to its location, and the person who finds it receives a 2010 VIP Experience Prize Pack. More details are HERE.
I’ll close with a ridiculous barroom idea, which came courtesy of a friend of mine. He asked me if a team has ever attempted a group rendition of the National Anthem, in which each singer was responsible for a single word of the song. That would take 81 singers and a substantial amount of coordination, but if done well it could be a very memorable publicity stunt.
Please, someone, make this happen. For I am a lowly blogger, destined to comment rather than create.
Yet, I keep putting it off. My heart is not into it. It’s sort of like when you listen to the same album over and over, to the point where you get sick of it. Some distance is then needed, so that the album’s pleasures may reveal themselves yet again.
Yes, that’s how I feel about logos right now. Distance is needed. Therefore, I shall instead bring you up to speed on a variety of other important matters. Such as these:
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The Wranglers will unveil special new vintage prison uniforms, complete
with horizontal black and white stripes. Each player will also have his
own prison number assigned to him, and as if all that wasn’t enough, now for
the piece de resistance.
There will be an open seat between the player’s benches that will be
auctioned off to the highest bidder, a la Obama’s vacant seat in the
Congratulations to the Wranglers for coming up with this, but it always pains me when such promotion-worthy scandals occur in the dead of winter. In order to establish their dominance over the rest of the sporting world, baseball teams should stage “ripped-from-the-headlines” promotions in the offseason as well. When it comes to such gimmickry, the idea results in far more publicity than the execution.
— My MiLB.com colleague Lisa Winston has an article on the site today that is well worth reading. Entitled “Trying Times”, it hammers home the point that Minor League ballplayers often have to deal with precarious financial situations. Many of the people reading this blog are already aware of this, but its always good to be reminded that the majority of people who play sports for a living are far from wealthy.
Somewhat on topic, I’d highly recommend reading Steve Fireovid’s “The 26th Man” It provides a lot of insight into the day-to-day hardships associated with simultaneously being a Minor Leaguer and a family man. And, please, never hesitate to get in touch with Minor League Baseball book recommendations:
— Finally, many of you may remember this post of just two days ago, in which I went up on my soapbox in order to tout the innovation and resiliency of the Minor Leagues in tough economic times. Well, today this press release caught my eye*, in which the Missoula Osprey mentioned that all season ticket holders will receive a free “popcorn and a pop” at each game. Now, this in and of itself is a very small news item. But, it is indicative of the sort of promotion that will become more and more “pop”ular as teams seek to lure fans through the turnstiles during these tough economic times.
*you know how painful that can be
Each year, the indispensable Gameops.com announces its “Best of Awards”, which recognize the year’s highest-performing teams when it comes to game operations, promotions, and entertainment (my post on last year’s awards can be found here).
The winners (all of whom were awarded the coveted “Golden Steagle”) hail from throughout the world of sports, but the affiliated Minor Leagues are particularly well-represented. That shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who follows this industry, as there are many teams that walk that fine, beautiful line between genius and insanity.
The full awards listing is well worth checking out. However, due to my unquenchable compulsion to distill, condense, and summarize, I will now highlight the Minor League teams and personalities that were recognized.
Myron Noodleman recieved an “honorable mention” in the “Best Act” category. I have a lot of respect for this clown prince uber-nerd, as he bases a large part of his routine on improvisational antics from the crowd. It’s tough to stay “on” and focused throughout the duration of a ballgame, but he has found a way to pull it off.
Moving on, the Kane County Cougars were co-winners in the “Best Promotion” category for their “World Record Pillow Fight Night”. This promo was also nominated as one of my 10 best of the year, and was covered in this post as well. Here’s the video:
Those who have been following the Minor League “scene” this season will not be surprised to learn that the Fresno Grizzlies were named co-winners of the best team operations award. If you were somehow surprised by this, then click here, here, or here to get at least somewhat up to speed.
Finally, the indomitable Reading Phillies received an honorable mention in the “Best Team Operations” category as well. The R-Phils are a fantastic franchise in many ways, but gameops.com chose to highlight the mascot band. Far from just being a gimmick, these costumed characters are genuinely good at playing rock and roll. The following video contains performances of “Sunshine of Your Love” and “Rocking in the Free World”, but it got me thinking about other songs I’d like to see them cover. Such as:
Black Sabbath — “Hole in the Sky”
Creedence Clearwater Revival — “Born on the Bayou”
Neil Young and Crazy Horse — “Hey Hey My My”
Guns ‘N Roses — “Night Train”
Deep Purple — “Speed King” (or anything off of the masterpiece that is “In Rock”)
Make it happen, mascots!
So, there you have it, folks. Congratulations to all the clubs that were honored by that illustrious online vessel of industry info which is gameops.com.
In other, more narcissistic news, this fine blog has once again cracked the Top 30 on MLBlogs most-viewed “Pro” blogs. Keep spreading the word about Ben’s Biz, because I’m gunnin’ for that number one spot.
That would show them. That would show them all!
CNBC’s Darren Rovell maintains a consistently interesting sports business blog, and yesterday he caught up with former track star Carl Lewis in Beijing. Most of Rovell’s conversation with Lewis revolved around his infamous rendition of the National Anthem at a Nets-Bulls game in 1993 (which can be listened to, in all its glory, here).
Rovell wraps up his post with the following exchange between himself and Lewis:
Me: Will you ever sing the National Anthem again?
I don’t know. It may happen again one day. Trust me, there’s a lot of
things in life I said
I’d never do and somehow people convince me to do
Me: But don’t you think you have to sing it again to prove you can, you know, start on the right key?
People know me know my past, what I stood for, what I did for the
sport. As far as the Anthem goes, people know where to find me. They
know how to get me to do it again. (Lewis rubs his fingers together as
if to say it would take money.)
Minor league teams… start the bidding! Carl Lewis Anthem Night would be a sure sellout.
Carl Lewis Anthem Night is an excellent idea, and it would generate a ton of publicity for the team that makes it happen. Any concerns over the evening’s possible lack of respect for the National Anthem could be mitigated by including a bevy of overtly patriotic elements as well. Just make sure Roseanne doesn’t show up.
And speaking of patriotism…the Gameops.com Editor’s Blog has a great post today, featuring video of an incredible event that took place at a Dayton Dragons game. As part of a “Hometown Heroes Celebration” of local members of the military, the club helped orchestrate a very touching reunion between a deployed serviceman and his family.
I don’t want to give anything anyway, but Dragons’ are to be commended for staging such a well-orchestrated stunt. It would be hard to top this one.
Hopefully George Clooney will see this and it will inspire him to stop talking trash.
I am currently multi-tasking. With my left hand, I am typing the sentence that you are in the midst of reading. With my right, I am shaking a hat that is filled with small pieces of paper. On each of these pieces of paper, a potential Ben’s Biz Blog topic is written.
It is now time to choose.
Okay, here we go:
USA! USA! — From the “Promotions That I Missed” department comes this one staged by the Hudson Valley Renegades. On July 1st, the club held “Born in the USA Night”, in which four pre-selected immigrant fans competed to have their neutralization process paid for by the Renegades. Said the Renegades in the press release:
Tuesday night the Renegades will do something that has never been done before by
starting one fan on the process of becoming a U.S.
citizen. What goes better than baseball, fireworks and America?
Nothing…that is why the Renegades are going to complete the trio for one
Okay, time to reach into the hat once again…
Apropos of Nothing — I am on the email list of many Minor League teams, but the missives of one club in particular have recently caught my eye. That club is the Charleston RiverDogs, whose game recap headlines utilize verbs that are rarely used in the world of sports journalism. Let’s take a look at the headlines from the recent series against the Lexington Legends:
RiverDogs Forget Legends, 2-0 (July 7)
Legends Loom Large Over RiverDogs, 3-1 (July 8)
RiverDogs Discredit Legends, 5-4 (July 9)
So, to summarize, on Monday the RiverDogs defeated the Legends by effectively erasing them from memory. The Legends overcame the RiverDogs’ amnesia the next day by developing a temporary size advantage that allowed them to tower above their opponents. But the momentum from that triumph did not last, as the RiverDogs won the following afternoon by using their powers of logic and oratorical skill to effectively dismantle the cunning but ultimately empty sophistry of the Legends.
Kudos to the RiverDogs’ Media Relations Department for tapping into the unlimited potential of the English language. And now I proceed to the hat for the third and final time.
Recommended Link! Several times in the past, I have referred my loyal cadre of readers to the excellent gameops.com. Recently, the site featured a “Pro Panel”, in which five sports industry executives gave their two cents on how they would respond to the following scenario:
You are in this position: Your shipment of 20,000
bobbleheads arrives on Friday for your game on Saturday. You take them
out of the box and notice that the player seems to be giving you the
finger. You have 36 hours until game time, a sponsor is attached to the
promotion, and tickets have been selling briskly in anticipation of the
What do you do?
It goes without saying that the resulting responses make for some excellent reading. It’s like an episode of 24 for sports industry professionals. And, of course, this scenario was inspired by a recent real-life situation.