We’re still in the midst of Opening Week, during which Minor League teams pull out all of the stops: Blue Angel flyovers, operatic National Anthems, special guests from seasons past, that sort of thing.
But there’s always room for the weirdness. Always. And one of the prime purveyors of the surreal ballpark spectacle are the Lake Elsinore Storm, whose Opening Night festivities included the following dance routine.
Ah, Grounds Crew Gorilla, I missed you, buddy. Planks for being you.
The Grounds Crew Gorilla may be a unique character, but he’s hardly alone when it comes to animalian ballpark denizens. One of the most recent on the scene is the Great Lakes Loons’ “Rall E. Camel“, a new companion to Lou E. Loon:
Rall E. was the denizen of the much-hyped mysterious box that arrived at Dow Diamond this winter, but apparently he’s none the worse for wear after his long confinement. (No word yet on whether his theme song will be “My Humps.”)
Amidst a spirited discussion on the team’s Facebook page, the Loons offered the following explanation for Rall E.’s existence:
It all dates back to one game in 2009, having exhausted all means of sparking a Loons rally, there was still one last video clip in the production vault. The following ‘Rally Camel’ clip was played on the video board and lo and behold the team rallied. Throughout the year the clip was played in late-game situations and every time the team would rally for the win. Rall E was born.
But sometimes it’s better, or at least more fun, to present things out of context. For example, the following image was recently attached to a press release put out by the Charleston RiverDogs.
Just stare at that for a few minutes, and it will provide entry into new realms of consciousness.
Finally, you may recall that in a post last week I linked to my favorite YouTube video as a means to express my thoughts on the start of a new season. After doing this, I wrote that I would GREATLY appreciate it if someone could take the audio from the clip linked to above and lay it over an array of upbeat Minor League images, ending with the Opening Day 2012 logo.
The very next day there was an email in my inbox, subject line “Ask and ye shall receive.” So, yes, now this exists:
Big thanks to Anita Tsuchiya for taking the time to create what is surely one of the more obscure videos floating around the internet!
And with that, today’s blogging goals have now been realized. Until next time, I remain:
As we all know, Minor League Baseball employees have no control over the product on the field (that aspect of the operation is strictly the domain of the parent club). Ironic, then, that one of the most surefire ways for a Minor League club to receive some free publicity is to make a completely ludicrous offer for a high-profile athlete.
You know, like A-Rod to the Mud Hens.
There is nothing to lose, and fleeting media attention to gain! The latest (and therefore greatest) example of this phenomenon came courtesy of veteran buzz-creators the Lake Elsinore Storm. The Storm already have a Tim Tebow promotion on their 2012 calendar, and now they want Tebow himself.
We know that Tim was the cause for late-game comebacks in Denver and we have our own leader of rallies, the Rally Cop. We would like to offer the Broncos the Rally Cop as well as the Grounds Crew Gorilla, winner of an MiLB Golden Bobble head last season, in exchange for Tebow,” said Jones.
The Storm will also be willing to rename the stadium Elway Stadium if the Broncos are willing to accept the offer.
All of this was a theoretical exercise to begin with, of course, and made even more moot (mooter?) by yesterday’s trade that brought Tebow to the New York Jets. But, for unnecessary detail’s sake, let’s take a look at the two individuals deemed expendable by the Storm. You may have come across them before on this blog.
Grounds Crew Gorilla
The above characters — and, by extension, the Storm — received a bevy of nationwide publicity as a result of this latest-round of press release hi-jinx. Most notably, SportsCenter gave it some play. While video has proven elusive, the Storm provided the following recap:
[SportsCenter] called the Rally Cop a “gem of a guy” as well as an “Eric Estrada lookalike who trots around the field and screams,” while classifying the Grounds Crew Gorilla as “the team’s other resident weirdo.” 🙂 And as for SportsCenter’s take on our trade proposal, they think our offer is the best out there for the Broncos. Thanks, guys. And spread the word: #TebowToTheStorm.
These sort of promotions always lead back to the same question, however: Is it worth it? Do frivolous internet-based pop culture stunts generate the sort of attention that leads to increased revenue? Do the fans that matter (ie the ones buying tickets) even care?
I’m spoken to industry folk on both sides of the issue, and, really, there is no wrong answer. It all depends on organizational philosophy as well as the sensibilities of the market in question. My take could be summed up in three words: Go for it. All it took for the Storm to land in the spotlight was a clever press release and a photoshopped image of a buzz-generating quarterback.
Even if not much was gained, there was, quite literally, nothing to lose.
I’m as forward-looking as the next guy (whoever that may be), but nonetheless a longing backward gaze never hurt anyone. Right? RIGHT?
I sure hope so, because recent retrospective tendencies are continuing unabated with this: a look at some of the funniest/strangest/most evocative photos to have appeared on this blog during the 2011 season. It’s a feast for the eyes, so lather up those retinas and dive right in to the unparalleled visual extravaganza that is this post.
And we’ll start with one of my favorite recurring topics: Centenarian Ceremonial First Pitches! On April 7, Violet Smith celebrated her 109th birthday with the Great Lakes Loons. 109! I still can’t get over it. This woman was in high school when the U.S. entered WWI, and has lived long enough to see Franz Ferdinand re-incarnated as a British rock group.
Take Me Out…to the Ballgame!
Segueing once again from centenarians to sky-diving bulls, this picture of the Tulsa Drillers’ Hornsby remains my favorite mascot picture of all time.
The month of May provided what was probably the most famous picture to emanate from the Minor League landscape all year. Mark Gormus of the Richmond-Times Dispatch should be commended for this one, a thrilling snapshot of “Supermom” in action at a Flying Squirrels game.
He’s not on the same level of heroism as “Supermom,” but who can forget Michael Restovich’s stint as “Cupman”?
Meanwhile, in Visalia, the Rawhide established themselves as the Cal League’s preeminent practitioners of age-based beauty contests. The winner of their “Belle of the Ballpark” competition was 96 years young, and very happy to have emerged victorious.
The Rawhide’s Cal League cohorts in Lake Elsinore capitalized on the planking craze in memorable fashion. Here, the inimitable Grounds Crew Gorilla lays it all out atop an oven.
I don’t mean to pry, mate, but how’d you get up there?
Similar posture was utilized by David “The Human Cannonball” Smith when he was shot over the outfield fence at a Lowell Spinners game.
While it would be inconceivable for a player to be shot out of a cannon (at least in affiliated ball), sometimes they do find a way to participate in the promotions. One of the most enthusiastic was Frank Pfister of the Bakersfield Blaze, who gamely chugged away after losing a pre-game “Milk-Off” to members of the aforementioned Visalia Rawhide.
But humor can be milked from any situation. After the Boise Hawks misplaced their helmets prior to a late August ballgame, the team’s hitters were forced to borrow from the opposing Spokane Indians.
I’ll close this post with what may very well be the best photo ever taken of me, the world’s
most self-loathing GREATEST Minor League blogger/itinerant solo traveler. Getting pied in the face atop a dugout while Mexican wrestling-enamored interns look on was a definite career highlight. The experience made me glad to be alive; thanks to the Akron Aeros for making it happen.
Minor League Baseball can be a beautiful thing sometimes.
My recent post on the Lake Elsinore Storm experience included many photos, including shots of the team kitchen as well as the easily-angered Grounds Crew Gorilla. But never did it occur to me that I’d soon be posting a photo of the Gorilla in the team kitchen.
And yet here we are:
For reasons unknown and perhaps best left unexplained, the Grounds Crew Gorilla has gotten into the international youth fad known as “planking.” The Storm have posted a photo set on Facebook entitled “Gorilla Planks the Diamond.” Here’s a few more:
The word plank brings to mind nautical discipline which brings to mind John Paul Jones, the “father of the American Navy” but also the name of the bass player in Led Zeppelin.
And here we are. Yesterday was the West Michigan Whitecaps’ second annual “Led Zeppelin Night”, Led Zeppelin II as it were.
And when it came to theme jerseys, the song remained the same. Once again, the team took the field in these:
The Whitecaps have also done “Pink Floyd Night”, and other bands that have been celebrated in such a fashion around the Minors include the Grateful Dead, Beatles, and Rolling Stones.
This leads me to make the following demand, which like all my demands will be aggressively ignored.
Nonetheless: Do a Creedence Clearwater Revival Night! CCR are easily one of the greatest rock bands of all time and deserve Minor League Ballpark immortalization.
Abbreviations such as “CCR” are prevalent on Twitter, a mode of communication that encourages extreme brevity. And as part of the Lehigh Valley IronPigs “Social Media Night”, the team will be wearing the first Twitter-themed jerseys in Minor League Baseball history.
As part of the promotion, the team is asking fans to change their Twitter and/or Facebook profile pics to the following image:
Those who do so will be eligible to win game tickets and an autographed Ryne Sandberg baseball.
Let me close with a final demand — Read Crooked Numbers!!!
It would mean a lot to me if you did so. I spend way too much time on that column, but it’s a labor of love.