Tagged: Greeneville Astros 2016

On the Road: Classics with a Twist in Greeneville

To see all posts from my June 25 visit to the Greeneville Astros, click HERE. To see all my posts from my June/July 2016 Appalachian League Road Trip, click HERE. To see all my “On the Road” posts, click HERE. If interested in seeing posts covering a visit to a particular team, search for that team’s name in the blog search bar (it’s to your right).

The man in the below photo, his name is Curt Collins.


Curt is a lawyer based in Greeneville, Tennessee. He has his own law firm, specializing in Family Law, Criminal Law and, as his website points out, “more.” But Curt is a man of many talents, not all of them relegated to the courtroom. During the evening I spent at the Greeneville Astros’ home of Pioneer Park, Curt served as my designated eater (you know, the individual recruited to consume the ballpark cuisine that my gluten-free diet prohibits).

You had probably already guessed that Curt was my designated eater, given that, in the above photo, he is posing in front of a formidable spread. He and I (and his wife, Aly, who will appear later) were in a Pioneer Park suite, and Curt is no stranger to such environs. He and Aly attend approximately half of the team’s games, and Curt advertises with the club via a recurring between-inning skit featuring the hapless “Convict Carl.” Fans are advised that if they, like Convict Carl, make a bad decision then Curt is the man to call for legal representation.

But anyway, let’s get back to that spread. The Astros’ concessions are handled by Sodexo, which also provides food service for Tusculum College (Pioneer Park is located on the Tusculum campus). In the below photo there are two (2) of each of the following items: The High Heat Burger, Astro Dog, Corn Dog, and Nachos Supreme (in a team-logo helmet).


We began with the High Heat Burger. Said heat is brought via Cajun seasoning, pepper jack cheese and the team’s “High Heat” sauce (it’s mayo-based, with some hot peppers in the mix).

IMG_0033Have at it, Curt.

Curt said that the High Heat “had a good flavor to it” but that “you have to like spicy.” Curt likes spicy. He gave it an eight, on what I assume was a 10-point scale.

Next up was the Astro Dog: a hot dog wrapped in brown sugar-crusted bacon and topped with chipotle mayo, tomato, fried onions and a dill pickle spear.

IMG_0034Curt’s love for the Astro Dog is as boundless as the great outdoors. He had to move out of the suite in order to fully appreciate it.

IMG_0035“This is my favorite,” said Curt. “It’s such a good mix of flavors. The fried onions make a difference, and you can’t go wrong with bacon on a hot dog. The brown sugar gives it a little sweetness, and the brown sugar mixed with the chipotle mayo is such a unique combination. That’s what really makes it. The weirdest part is the tomato. I don’t think I’d miss them.”

The next item on the docket was a corn dog.

IMG_0037“It’s a classic corn dog,” said Curt. “I don’t want to say anything negative, but I guess you need the truth: It’s not hand-dipped. It tastes like something I could make in a microwave.”

Another item to consume necessitated another location change. Here, Curt poses with his Nachos Supreme in front of the concession stand from which it can be obtained.

IMG_0043These nachos are made “supreme” via the addition of cheese, chili, sour cream, tomatoes and jalapenos. Curt said that while they were “loaded nachos, for sure,” they were “not loaded down with too much chili to where the chips get soggy. I’m getting to the bottom and they’re all still crispy.”

When we returned to the suite, Astros general manager David Lane was waiting for us with even more helmet-based cuisine.

IMG_0044These ice cream sundaes included both vanilla and chocolate ice cream and were topped with berries, nuts, chocolate syrup and whipped cream. For dessert, Curt was joined by his wife, Aly.

IMG_0049Kurt and Aly met on July 4th, 2012, but didn’t start dating until a year later. They were married this past May. Aly works for the local Boys and Girls Club, which regularly partners with the Astros on community-minded events.

The newlyweds enjoyed their sundaes.

IMG_0051Kurt declared dessert to be “fantastic,” and not just because he got to share it with his beautiful bride.

“It’s like the ultimate sundae,” he said.

And thus concluded this latest adventure in designated eating.

“I don’t want to keep using the word ‘classic’, but that’s exactly what they’ve got here,” said Curt. “Good, classic food.”





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On the Road: A Dedicated Fan Base in Greeneville

To see all posts from my June 25 visit to the Greeneville Astros, click HERE. To see all my posts from my June/July 2016 Appalachian League Road Trip, click HERE. To see all my “On the Road” posts, click HERE. If interested in seeing posts covering a visit to a particular team, search for that team’s name in the blog search bar (it’s to your right).

Pregame wanderings complete, it was now time to take in a ballgame. (For me, taking in a ballgame simply translates to “more wandering.”)

IMG_1540David Lane, the longtime general manager of the Astros, introduced me to some of the team’s most dedicated fans throughout the game. First I met Arthur and Edith Ricker, who just so happened to be celebrating their 69th wedding anniversary. Arthur delighted in sharing his World War II memories, with Edith often jumping in to steer the conversation back on course. As that impish gleam in her eyes amply illustrates, she was quick with a smile and had a great sense of humor.

“Want me to stick out my tongue?” said Edith, just before this picture was taken.
IMG_0028Later on I met Steve Alexander, part of Greenville’s most celebrated baseball family. Most prominent among them was Steve’s father, Dale, who won the 1932 American League batting title as a member of the Boston Red Sox.

IMG_0053 Finally, there were sisters Norma, Betty and Joyce of nearby Mosheim, Tennessee. The sisters agree that the best player they ever saw play for Greeneville was Jose Altuve, whom Betty called “a little fireball.”

IMG_0055For more on the individuals mentioned above, read my MiLB.com story.

Anyhow, there was still a ballgame going on. There always is.

IMG_0029It was “Olympic Night” at the ballpark, which manifested itself primarily via the staff — and the mascot — wearing over-the-top patriotic t-shirts (I guess all t-shirts are “over-the-top,” come to think of it). Gizmo, the cousin of Houston mascot Orbit, loves America.

IMG_0056If baseball doesn’t work out, maybe Garcia, Pal, Johnson, Castro, Franco, Fernandez and Sanbria (?) can form the country’s most awkwardly-named law firm.


Hitting coach Cesar Cedeno, on the left, was honored this season with a bobblehead/leg featuring his preferred dugout pose. Two undulating appendages for the price of one!

As the game wore on, I spent a couple of innings in the grassy area down the third base line that serves as a promo crew staging area.

IMG_0061Some of the things I saw back there can’t be unseen.

Nah, just kidding, all of the food is alive and well.

IMG_1548The Astros ended up losing the ballgame, 5-3, to the Johnson City Cardinals. My only note involving the game itself was that Greeneville shortstop Jonathan Arauz (who was born just before I entered my sophomore year of college) hit a home run over the right field fence and that a “retrieval effort ensued.” Fascinating stuff, as always.

After the game, I spent some time admiring Pioneer Park’s Greeneville baseball history exhibit.

IMG_0065Once I returned to the field of play, a rather desultory round of Launch-A-Ball was just wrapping up.

IMG_0067That meant it was time for me to wrap things up as well. All that was left to do was write and disseminate my nightly Groundbreaking and Subversive Ballpark Joke.





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On the Road: Kicking Things Off in Greeneville

To see all my posts from my June 25 visit to the Greeneville Astros, click HERE. To see all my posts from my June/July 2016 Appalachian League Road Trip, click HERE. To see all my “On the Road” posts, click HERE. If interested in seeing posts covering a visit to a particular team, search for that team’s name in the blog search bar (it’s to your right).

Okay. Here we go. Over the last two months I visited the entirety of the Appy League as well as 10 teams throughout California, Nevada, Idaho and Washington. I’ve written features and short blog posts from (nearly) all of these locations, with still more to come. On a personal level, I moved to a new apartment here in NYC and, one month later, have still not finished unpacking. Oh, and the Ben’s Biz T-shirt is now available! The cumulative effect of the above endeavors leads me to my favorite activity of all: excuse making! I just haven’t had the time (some might say the wherewithal) to return to the blog to write the in-depth ballpark recaps you have come to know and, surely, love.

But you know what? Now I’ve got the time. I’ve got it in spades. Today I’ll begin blogging about Appy clubs and their diamonds, with all the heart I muster. So let’s get to it, lest it get to us.


I flew into the city of Asheville, North Carolina, on the morning of June 25. I had no time to be a tourist, however, as I needed to get to neighboring Tennessee as soon as possible. So I hopped into a rental car, cranked up Complete Road Music Volume 1, shed a tear to some Red Sovine and hit the open road.

After checking into a hotel in Johnson City — my home base for the next five nights — I headed to Greeneville to see the Astros. I never quite made it to Greeneville, however, as the Astros actually operate in neighboring Tusculum. Their home of Pioneer Park, built in 2004 and funded via a sizable donation from local businessman/philanthropist Scott Niswonger, is located on the campus of Tusculum College. The Astros run the park between June 1 and September 15; otherwise it is under the control of the college.

IMG_0002Pioneer Park is the newest park in the Appy League. It has 2,500 seats, but can accommodate as many as 3,800 via berm seating. The Astros led the league in attendance from 2004-2014, but last year were dethroned by the Pulaski Yankees and their renovated Calfee Park. They are currently in fourth place in the 2016 attendance rankings, having been passed by the Burlington Royals and Johnson City Cardinals (two teams that have also made improvements to their facilities recently).

One of the first things I saw upon entering the ballpark was pitchers Diogenes Almengo and Patrick Sandoval signing pregame autographs.

IMG_0004Longtime season-ticket holders Bill and Don were not signing autographs, though they probably would if you asked nicely.

IMG_0005I spent an hour or so before the game with Astros general manager David Lane, who, when I arrived at the ballpark, was manning a ticket booth. (Such is life in the Appy League.) Among other locations, we stopped in one of Pioneer Park’s four suites.

IMG_0007This “Wheel of Fun” was donated by the parent Houston Astros. The primo prize, in my opinion, is “game-used item.”

IMG_0009 This Tusculum College athletic field is adjacent to the ballpark.

IMG_0011The clubhouses are located down the right-field line. In the below photo, I like to imagine that the player with the bat is actually carrying a bindle stick and that he has just decided to run away from home. His friend is bidding him goodbye and good luck.

IMG_0013The clubhouses are shared with the Tusculum baseball team, who once boasted a standout player by the name of Boo Morrow.


And wouldn’t you know it? Today (August 30), is Boo Morrow’s birthday.


If you think this closet looks cluttered now, just think about what it looks like after the season ends. Then, the Astros have to stuff it with just about everything they own since they do not have access to the rest of the facility.

IMG_0017Longtime readers of this blog, of which there are several, know that I never pass up the opportunity to take a picture of a trainer’s table.

IMG_0018Clustered in the corner of a hallway were the remnants of the previous night’s fireworks show. MAXX CALIBER! (Lane also spotted four broken bats in the general vicinity, and grabbed them so they could be used as Wheel of Fun “game-used items.”)

IMG_0022The Pioneer Park grounds crew works year-round, on behalf of both the college and the Astros. Their storage space is ample.

IMG_0023Our visit to the dugout was brief, as a game was about to break out.

IMG_0019But before a game begins, patriotic protocols must be followed.

IMG_0025I watched the National Anthem while standing behind these two longtime fans. We’ll meet them in the next post.






About Last Night: Greeneville Astros, June 25th, 2016

This season, when I’m on the road, I’ll write a quick blog post about each Minor League ballpark that I visit. Then, upon my presumed return home, I’ll provide the multifaceted blog coverage that you have come to know and perhaps even love. Last night I visited Greeneville, Tennessee, the first stop on my 10-team Appy League road trip. 

June 25: Pioneer Park, home of the Greeneville Astros (Rookie-level affiliate of the Houston Astros).

Opponent: Johnson City Cardinals, 6:00 p.m. start time

Pioneer Park, from the outside:

IMG_0002Pioneer Park, from within: 

IMG_0029Culinary Creation: Astro Dog (bacon-wrapped and brown sugar-crusted hot dog with pickle, tomato, fried onions and chipotle mayo sauce).

IMG_0034Ballpark Characters: Season ticket-holding sisters Norma, Betty and Joyce

IMG_0055At Random: Another ballpark, another encounter with anthropomorphic food racers.

IMG_1549Your Groundbreaking and Subversive Ballpark Joke of the Day: 

Up Next: 

6/26: Kingsport Mets

6/27: Johnson City Cardinals

6/28: Bristol Pirates

6/29: Elizabethton Twins

6/30: Princeton Rays

7/1: Bluefield Blue Jays

7/2: Pulaski Yankees

7/3: Danville Braves

7/4: Burlington Royals