Tagged: Guest Post

Guest Post: Tis the Season for the Holiday League

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and with Thanksgiving comes the official start of the holiday season. What better time, then, to turn this blog over to the Holiday League? 

Yes, the Holiday League — a theoretical three-team (and growing) circuit whose logos are entirely real. The “HL,” as I just decided to call it, is the brainchild of artist/designer/baseball fan John Hartwell, who established Hartwell Studio Works in 2006. In this post he talks about his professional background, how the Holiday League came to be, and, most importantly, shares his collection of HL primary and alternate marks. This should gave you logo fiends out there — you know who you are — a lot to talk about, but even casual fans should enjoy perusing an imagined sporting realm which has room for zombies, reindeer, and anthropomorphic evergreens. Get ready to read John’s words now, as this italicized intro has run its course. 

holidayleague-logo

I’ve been working as a creative professional for the past 20 years, first as an illustrator and cartoonist, adding graphic designer to my description for the past ten. I cut my sports teeth on the Nolan Ryan-era Texas Rangers and absolutely feel in love with minor league baseball in the mid-to late 90‘s with the San Antonio Missions. Games at the Wolff with Henry the Puffy Taco and Ballapeño are not to be missed.

When Hartwell Studio Works launched as in independent sports design shop in 2006, one of my very first clients was Jonathan Nelson and the Birmingham Barons, doing a variety of marks for the team, including a team rebrand in 2008. As the studio’s client list grew, I knew marketing and self-promotions needed to be part of the regular project mix.

The Holiday League started as last Christmas’ North Pole Reindeer studio promo. The Reindeer were, if nothing else, a clever idea that made me laugh. It could have fallen flat on its face, but at least I would have fun doing it.

reindeer-primary

reindeer-secondary

North Pole Reindeer secondary marks

The overwhelmingly positive response to the Reindeer, however, led to the idea that this “Holiday League” could have real legs as a studio promotional campaign. The “Holiday League” name was a throw-away line in the Reindeer promo, but through the Huggers and Creepers promos and the league website and store launches, the whole thing has taken on a life of its own. It’s proven to be a great creative exercise, giving me a chance to try out new ideas and stay fresh.

Arborville Huggers “traditional” logo option for fan voting. (Extra points to whomever can identify the Monty Python reference in the original email promo.)

huggers-traditional

The Arborville “hippie” option:

huggers-hippie

The Huggers logo option for “today’s modern hipster.”

huggers-hipster

The Amityville Creeper primary logo. I briefly considered hailing them from Crystal Lake, but thought that might be too obscure:

creepers-primary

Don and Doug the Doubleheader. The Creepers were an exercise in making bad baseball + Halloween jokes.

creepers-doubleheader

Credit for Bat Boy goes to a designer buddy of mine who, when I told him about the Creepers idea over lunch, blurted out “Bat Boy!” as a name for one of the mascots. I literally stopped in mid-chew, smacked my forehead, and realized it was a far better idea than the vampire character I originally had in mind. He was kind enough to let me use his much better idea!

creepers-batboy

I’m a big fan of The Walking Dead, so Wally the Walker was a no-brainer (get it?) for the Creepers. I laugh every time I look at him. 

creepers-wally

This year’s Christmas promo is already teed up with a return trip to the Reindeer. It will be a bit different from what has gone before, but I think folks will get a kick out of it. Next year’s holiday teams have already been determined, and I’m already looking forward to Christmas 2014.

Keep up with the latest from the Holiday League at www.holidayleague.com, or follow Hartwell Studio Works on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.

So there ya have it, folks: John Hartwell and the Holiday League. Thanks for reading, enjoy your Thanksgiving, and see you in December. Oh, and that reminds me: The Winter Meetings are almost upon us! Please get in touch if you’re going be there and/or have any Winter Meeting content suggestions or article and blog post pitches That’s what I’m here for. 

benjamin.hill

twitter.com/bensbiz

Guest Post: Go Ogle This Great Virtual Tour

Last week I received an email from Brad Lawrence of Fox Virtual Tours, “the leading provider of Google Business Photos 360 Virtual Tours in the [Illinois] Fox Valley.” Brad, a certified “Google trusted photographer,” had recently created one such tour for the Kane County Cougars and as such thought that I might be interested in the potential of this technology for Minor League Baseball teams in general. I was, which leads us to this: a guest post by Brad in which he extols the virtues of Google tours. Perhaps this technology, as utilized by Kane County, will soon be coming to a team near YOU.

I had worked for the Cougars during college, in the early years of the franchise. Typical of Minor League Baseball, I wore multiple hats—answering phones during the day, and manning the Customer Service booth during games.  (I was in my booth the night of OJ’s infamous slow-speed chase in 1994, and I’ll never forget the bizarre scene in the adjacent press box, as all the guys huddled around a TV.)  Little did I know that almost 20 years later, I’d be back at that very same spot shooting a virtual tour for this new company called “Google,” which in ’94 did not exist.

I presented the idea to the Cougars in late August, and they were enthusiastic. Their Google tour would be the first of its kind in Minor League Baseball. It would showcase the ballpark 365 days per year on Google properties, and it would be a valuable resource for both fans and team alike. When fans bought tickets, they could sample views from around the stadium—even the lawn area or the “Leinie Lodge” right field deck. The Cougars had added an impressive Upper Deck since my stint with the team, and we were excited to show it in the tour. We would include the Super Suite, both party decks, and two standard suites in the tour. Fans could see the spectacular views from the balconies. At field level, fans would be able to take a “virtual” trip around the bases on a picture-perfect day.

The Cougars gave me the green light and I began shooting just after the season ended. We had an ideal window where the weather was great and the ballpark still looked “game-ready,” but there were no games to work around. After a few trips to the ballpark, I had all the individual “panos” I needed to assemble the tour. I then began the final stage of connecting them all to create a seamless tour of the ballpark. It all came together nicely, and I was thrilled to publish it and see it live on Google. The Cougars were thrilled, too.

I enjoyed my rendezvous with the Cougars. I think the moment is right for Google’s virtual tours, which are offered in the Google Business Photos program. With fast Internet and widespread adoption of smartphones and tablets, the tours look great on a variety of devices. They engage fans with interactive content on Google, and can be embedded on the team’s website and Facebook page. Sales staff can keep a spreadsheet with links to various locations in the tour, and simply share a link to show a section, suite or party deck. It’s a tremendous marketing resource. And with some of the finest views in all of sports, a baseball park makes a wonderful subject for a Google tour.

And now, a brief addendum from Kane County director of public relations Shawn Touney: 

Just a couple of weeks in, this has been a great resource for us. I have personally used this for a couple of sponsorship meetings I’ve had. I actually spoke to a college class last week and they asked me about the tour before I had even mentioned it in my presentation. And our ticket sales team has used this as well to facilitate new business for company outings. For several of the group picnic areas at our ballpark, we have embedded code on their corresponding web pages. Here’s an example from our Party Suites web page.

And that, as they say, is that. Thanks to Brad (brad@foxvtours.com)  for writing this post (which, by the way, was #997 in Ben’s Biz Blog history). If you are interested in writing a guest post then, by all means, get in touch. I’m all ears, figuratively if not literally. 

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Guest Post: I Wanna be Cupdated

As you may be aware, I embark upon yet another Minor League road trip this Friday. While on the road I strive to have a set of established routines, so that my content remains consistent from location to location. Blog posts, MiLB.com stories, photo galleries, hotel room reviews, player interviews and Designated Eater Vine videos will be provided this next time around, but for one reader that’s not enough. This reader, he wants more.

And what does this reader want, specifically?

Cupdates —  as in, information regarding the specifics of each team’s collectible plastic drinkwear accompanied by corresponding visuals.

This cup-besotted reader is Peter Golkin, last seen on this blog advocating for the “Universal Rain Check” (a guest post that resulted in a series of very thoughtful comments, though “the powers that be” didn’t see fit to respond). This time Golkin’s agitating is directed at me specifically, however, and I may accede to his demands if it is demonstrated that they do not occur in a vacuum. I now give this virtual floor over to Golkin, so that he may make his case.

cup

With the new season well under way and Minor League Baseball still heatedly debating the concept of a transformational, good-at-any-park Universal Raincheck (OK, that idea was completely ignored), attention now shifts downward–under the seats amid the soggy post-game detritus.

What Minor League Baseball fans want to know is: Which teams will bring forth the great stadium soda cups of 2013?

Besides the potential jackpot from a killer cap, ballclubs have no more alluring canvas on which to paint their identities than the 16- or 24-ounce plastic vessel now given by architects its own seatside suspension system.

Beer cups tend to be clear and generic for the benefit of security. But an illustrated soda cup begs for a collectable’s afterlife. Perhaps a spot next to the backyard hammock or snug in the minivan’s console. Even as a dipper’s cuspidor, the ballpark cup suggests longevity like few souvenirs can.

So what is the state of the MiLB soda cup in 2013?

Are teams going with thin, delicate models with high centers of gravity and pastel logos like those from Churchill Container Co.? Or are they opting for the thick and litho-friendly Dynamic Drinkware tumbler, like Greensboro did last year with its memorable “Grasshopper Gone Big Time” series? (Yes, they still called Giancarlo Stanton “Mike” but that’s what his superimposed signature reads and the cup was a keeper nonetheless.)

And unlike with official team headwear, money does not have to be a factor in the preservation and study of stadium soda cups. All that’s needed are patience and a willingness to touch someone else’s moist refuse. That’s why ballparks have bathroom sinks and free napkins.

As Rougned Odor continues to make his way toward Arlington and Eastern League clubs keep adding rival logos to urinal strainers, let us also pay close attention to those graspable plastic works of sports art and history.

And who can give us regular “cupdates” while on his pixie-like travels across America? Ben Hill, with perhaps some crowdsourced assistance from his much-intelligent and much-attractive readership.

We want pictures and we want stats (capacity, price of cup with drink, manufacturer, ads/no ads, dishwasher-friendly? etc.) Perhaps this is why Twitter was invented.

Regardless of the ultimate format, a regular MiLB Cupdate is long overdue in this, our unprecedented Information Age.I’ll drink to that and to memories of the man once known as Mike Stanton, Big Grasshopper.

So what say YOU? Should “cupdates” become a regular part of my road trip coverage? If the people speak, I shall listen. 

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

On the Road Guest Post: IronPigs in Zen in Lehigh Valley

You may recall last month’s post from Lehigh Valley, in which I attended an IronPigs game with five friends (no media pass for me that evening, I stayed strictly in “fan mode”). One of the friends who took in this contest was Steve May, a Brooklyn-based English teacher with a penchant for photography, the works of Tyson Meade and, of course, the written word. In the following post, Mr. May provides an account of his inaugural IronPigs experience. All words and photos are his.

Finally, a Ben’s Biz Blog post free from the tyrannical perspective of the titular protagonist! Enjoy the brief respite:

A few Fridays ago, I attended a Lehigh Valley IronPigs game with my friend Ben, the man behind this fine Minor League Baseball business blog. The game was part of a yearly trip that Ben, me, and some other friends of ours make to the wilds of the northeastern fourth of Pennsylvania. The trip is part escape and part homecoming, as most of us are longtime New Yorkers originally from Pennsylvania; for summer to feel like summer, we need to get out on the road somewhere, go on roller coasters and dark rides, eat soft-serve and kettle corn, and be around baseball. What better place to achieve close proximity to the National Pastime than Coca-Cola Park in Allentown?

Yes, we had the best seats in the house. Don’t say there aren’t advantages to palling around with Ben of Ben’s Biz Blog. We could smell the grass.

Please forgive the fact that I didn’t really take any other photos for the first few innings. There were nachos grande and beer to be devoured and inhaled, respectively. Also I found myself roped into participating in a spirited between-inning round of Whack-an-Intern. Faced with wardrobe malfunctions, a partisan crowd, uncooperative intern heads, and formidable competition in the form of my good friend Beth, I came up a mere three whacks short of a tie. Afterwards, some interns alleged rough treatment on my part. (Ask yourself this question: If you were in my shoes, up against the considerable odds with which I was faced, would you tap softly or go hard? Yeah, that’s what I thought.)

Needless to say the critics, in the form of Andy Shal (hereafter “Shal”) and Ben, were not impressed.

Still reeling from my defeat, looking to put the sting behind me with the help of an adult beverage, I headed in the direction of the outfield Paradise. On the way, I was surprised to find one of the interns whose head I had too vigorously whacked charming the ladies with a blue puppet with baseball eyes. The intern attempted to charm me, too, but I turned the tables on him and tricked him/the puppet into posing for a face-in-hole photograph.

(ed. note: this whacked intern is none other than Ben “Utility Man” Youngerman, a talented and versatile touring ballpark performer who is no stranger to this blog.)

Intern and Puppet I: Put your hand inside the puppet head.

Intern and Puppet II: Duped into a Face-in-Hole Photo. (I love how the puppet head fits into the hole better.)

Following the arrows, I moved past the baseball-themed kiddie-land type situation on the concourse along the third-base line to left field, where Paradise awaited. As if taking in a game at a beautiful Minor League ballpark on a pleasant summer Friday evening following a day spent touring the Martin Guitar Factory for free, scoring ludicrously cheap 70’s-sleaze-era Rolling Stones albums at Double Decker Records, and bowling (!) were not enough.

Pushing the frozen drinks too hard, or just hard enough?

The foreboding sky, with nary a champagne supernova, did little to convince me I had stumbled onto an ocean (?) oasis.

Margarita or sangria? Should sangria come frozen? Does frozen sangria even count as sangria? Wouldn’t a mai tai be more appropriate? These were my concerns as I weighed the options at the Tiki Hut in Paradise. I eventually settled on sangria; it was the least fluorescent and what I think I secretly wanted in the first place (flip a coin and if you’re disappointed with the result…). The hut, with the obligatory faux-thatched roof, accented with fake palm trees and unlit torches, had all the standard tiki bases covered. Paradise? On a game night in summer, not too far off.

Duke’s Waikiki it is not, but there’s an off chance you’ll snag a home run ball.

The bartender threw in an orange peel to sweeten the deal.

Frozen cocktail in hand, I proceeded to the lawn overlooking center field, where I observed a large number of Boy/Cub Scouts/Webelos; evidently, it was Scout Sleepover Night. My anonymity compromised by my very public and still stingingly recent defeat in Whack-an-Intern, I was confronted by more than one well-meaning uniformed tween. I endured their chidings and constructive criticism with the humility of a man more accustomed to defeat than I am typically willing to accept I am.

Pack 76, present and accounted for.

Allentown? I could have sworn this is heaven.

At this point, from the field, the Human Bobblehead Game was announced. I looked up at the scoreboard behind me, and there, with pedometers strapped onto their heads, were the aforementioned Ben and Shal. That Ben, who last year logged a million steps on his pedometer [ed. note: the editor logged FOUR million steps on his pedometer], should now find himself in such a situation was completely appropriate; given this familiarity with the quirks of the ‘dometer, he was my pick to win. Shal, though, had an ace in the hole in his status as an unreformed head banger, and proved that he had the fire/desire to win.

Ben: Steps on the head?

Shal stands up and shouts.

What was there to do now but get something else to eat? Moving hurriedly past the speed pitching booth (I didn’t trust the tween hurlers when I was myself a tween), I made my way up the first base line to what has to be one of the most complete food courts in the Minor Leagues. Pretzels? Check. Pizza? Si. Both ice cream and Dippin’ Dots? All these are standard. Steel mill-themed Blast Furnace Grill? Gyros? German-themed beer garden? Truly, Coca-Cola Park has it all. For a New Yorker engaged in the self-conscious search for the lost Pennsylvania August of his youth, all roads necessarily led to “Aw Shucks” Roasted Corn. Four dollars later, I held in my hands a golden ear literally glistening with butter, parm, and spice. After posing with a nearby IronPig, I tore through the corn with the reckless abandon of a man in the grips of acute culinary nostalgia. It was sweet as summer.

Other shuckers for corn.

Unexpectedly Starbucks-like ordering etiquette.

Man, corn, IronPig.

Meanwhile, on the field, the ‘Pigs hit a three-run home.

Back in the best seats in the house, with the IronPigs holding a commanding 6-0 lead over the visiting Syracuse Chiefs, we were paid a visit by mischievous IronPigs co-mascot FeFe (named after the, you know, symbol for iron on the Periodic Table). In what could only be described as a three-minute thunder run through our section, FeFe sat on laps, climbed over seats, posed for photos, flirted with nonplussed spectators, and otherwise wreaked havoc as only a giant ponytailed anthropomorphic pig can.

The fan in the black shirt is like, “Oh, bleep.”

Ben reacts with shock and awe to FeFe’s fooling.

FeFe goes TMZ on an unsuspecting fan.

How else could such a front-to-back perfect evening have ended but with fireworks? Collectively, the pyrotechnic bursts of molten color served as a reminder that this had been, not just for my crew, a great night. In Allentown as in New York, summer is as fleeting as lights in the night sky over center field. A good idea then to take it in, savor it before it has passed. When, months from now, the wind is bitter cold and all the world seems to be covered with an inch and a half of snow, there will be preserved in the middle distance of our memories a time and place more temperate and pleasant, populated with tiki huts and mascots and surprisingly competitive mid-inning contests. A night at the ballpark.

Each says, “Remember.”

On behalf of Siri, I would like to thank the fan who volunteered to take this photo.

Scouts descend on outfield for Sleepover Night. In my head I hear the whistling scene from the 1961 version of The Parent Trap.

And thus concludes this guest post; thanks to Steve for taking the time to write it. I am generally amenable to handing this blog over to others, so if you would like to pen a guest post of your own then please get in touch and perhaps something can be arranged. Said post can cover a ballpark experience, share a specific Minor League memory, or advance ideas and initiatives that you’d like to see the industry take under consideration.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Rain Check, Please!

I have more “On the Road” content to come — from last month’s trip down South and last week’s jaunt to Lowell — but, for now, how about something completely different? Loyal reader Pete Golkin is a proponent of an idea that I had never heard of before and, for all that I know, he invented: a universal Minor League Baseball raincheck.

The impetus for the idea is simple. Golkin, like myself (and surely many of my readers) loves visiting Minor League ballparks throughout the country. But when attending games in this context, rain checks are useless. When, if ever, will the traveling fan be able to return to the stadium in question in order to redeem them? Golkin, therefore, wants teams to issue industry-wide rainchecks that are redeemable at any Minor League stadium. This would certainly take some bureaucratic finagling, and I’m really not sure how feasible it would be. But I like the idea, and in response to Golkin’s request that I promote the idea I did him one better. I simply asked him to write the post himself.

So here we go! A poignant plea for the Universal Rain Check, written by loyal Minor League Baseball fan Pete Golkin in the form of a humorous essay:

I finally used my Williamsport Crosscutters rain check. Actually the wife deserves credit. Heading out early a few Sundays ago, she plucked the humble scrap from a kitchen shelf and inscribed these words on the back: “Please use MANGO for bkfst.”

A forgettable detour on The Road to The Show but a victory for Vitamins A, C and B6.

And that’s the problem. If your summer travel includes Priceline, tolls, a dose of the local culture (battlefields, snacks on conveyor belts, robot tobacco farmers) and a nightly topping of Minor League Baseball, ol’ Mr. Rain Check will likely land in your wallet but only to die there.

In the case of Williamsport, who could complain?  We had already soaked up a day of the Norman Rockwellness that is the Little League World Series on the town’s south end. And a third ballgame in 7 hours, even one featuring post-pubescent pros, was testing the limits of an 11-year-old and an 8-year-old jonesing for motel Nickelodeon.

Still, we waited two hours in the heavy night drizzle. The Crosscutters and Muckdogs never got past their dugouts and we left “Historic Bowman Field” —4 hours from our old Virginia home—knowing we were done there for the season. Moosic and Harrisburg were calling, to be followed by a new school year.

Historic Bowman Field

But what if that rain check wasn’t limited to Williamsport? What if I could have used it the next night in the next park down the road? For that matter, how about anywhere in Minor League ball for the rest of the year?

Call it the “Universal Rain Check” and bask in the resulting goodwill, MiLB.

OK, maybe some accounting issues would need to be resolved.

But 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.

Oh, and while you’re at it, how about accepting MLB gift cards? I’ve got two I need to use before I lose them.

If you have any opinions on Mr. Golkin’s proposal, then, please, let them be known in the comments section. In the words of lifelong Minor League Baseball fan Mahatmas Gandhi: “Be the change you seek.”

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Guest Post! In Which Moneyball Gets Its Comeuppance…

spork.gifIt would be quite easy to forget, but way back on December 23 I launched the “Ben’s Biz Blog-ojevich” contest. The premise was simple — the first person to contact me with complimentary words about my blogging skill would “win” a free post.

That person turned out to be “BeesGal”, writer of “The Sporkball Journals“. Who is BeesGal? I’ll let her answer that in her own words:

Well, my day job is running a one-woman business that
provides writing and editing services for a diverse
Thumbnail image for beesgal.gif assortment of
audiences–commercial, journalistic and scholarly. My labors of love are split
into two seasons: fall/winter is spent pursuing a degree in Japanese language,
while spring/summer is spent immersed in the sights, sounds and smells of minor
league baseball. I’ve been a season-ticket holder with the Salt
Lake franchise since 1998 and
devoted fan of minor league baseball since 1994–except for a one-night stand
on October 2, 1995 when I
watched Randy Johnson pitch 6 innings of perfection in the ALDS tiebreaker
between the Mariners and Angels. I can be contacted via email: editor@chiburibird.net.

For her guest post, BeesGal has provided a thorough dissection of Michael Lewis’ “Moneyball”. In essence, it is a contrarian view of a contrarian book, and one of the most cutting critiques of the “Stats vs. Scouts” debate that I have ever read. So, without further ado, here it is:

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Legerdemain
(noun) The use of skillful
tricks and deceptions to produce entertainingly baffling effects:
conjuration, magic, prestidigitation,
sleight of hand
.
[source: Roget’s II: The New Thesaurus, Third Edition,  1995, www.bartleby.com/62/44/L0904400.html.]

$ball.jpg

As incredible as it may sound, I didn’t get around to reading Moneyball
until this fall of 2008. Not surprising to me, since I am a lousy stathead.
It’s not that I’m bad with numbers; I’m actually quite the nimble
digit-cruncher. It’s simply I don’t find statistics to be the most interesting
perspective from which to view baseball. I don’t own stock in a baseball team,
real or rotisserie. I don’t bet on sports. I don’t follow the draft.

But I digress. I finally read Moneyball on the recommendations of so many
people whose baseball experience and expertise far exceeds mine. And the
published reviews seemed to promise an enjoyable, entertaining read, regardless
of whether I care about the stats vs. scouts debate. (I don’t.) Hence my
disappointment to discover I didn’t care for it all that much. I didn’t dislike
it. I was, um, …underwhelmed.

So when the opportunity came to guest-write for Ben’s Biz Blog, this seemed
like the perfect opportunity give Moneyball another shot. Was my indifference
justified, or not? More importantly, where the h*ll did it come from?
Unfortunately, I must announce liking the book even less the second time, albeit
for an entirely different reason than I expected.

As everyone in the English-speaking world knows, this book investigates how
the

a.jpg

Oakland A’s were able to win so
many games with so few financial resources. I would say it uses primarily two
techniques to make its case: deductions based on statistical analyses and
detailed character profiles. One method appeals to reason and the other to
humanity. Obviously, you can’t use charisma as the basis for scientific proof.
On the other hand, you can use it to influence the way the information is
perceived. Here’s how Michael Lewis does it.

Chapter 2 is a mesmerizing recreation of the Oakland
A’s draft room on June 4, 2002.
It sets up the premise for the book and introduces the main characters. In the
second reading, I noticed something that annoyed me to no end. The scouts were
very difficult to identify except as a vague collective of nameless,
barely-humans–the “Greek chorus.”

radar.jpg

At first, it was unclear why some scouts were named and described, while
others remained literally faceless. For example, eight scouts were mentioned by
name in chapter 2: John Poloni [1], Ron Hopkins [2], Kelly Heath [2], Billy
Owens [3], Matt Keough [6], Chris Pittaro [16], Dick Bogard [20], Grady Fuson
[26] and Erik Kubota [30]. The numbers in brackets indicate how many times they
were referred to by their names. My favorite character reference was Hopkins,
who got introduced in four words, “Ron Hopkins is ‘Hoppy,'” after which we
never read of him again. Grady Fuson was the penultimate “bad guy” in this
chapter; singled out as the personification of all that is wrong with
traditional baseball thinking.

Aside from this handful of names, virtually every other scout was referred
to by job title, “scout” or “scouts.” What is particularly odd is these
nameless entities spoke or acted about 149 times without us knowing who is
doing what. When the scouts were somewhat more identifiable, it was by physical
attribute. Old/older [31] tops the list, followed by fat [5], vocal [5], folded
arms [2], lean [1], pleading [1]. Notice how many of these generic attributes
were also rather unappealing. Also notable was how the physical descriptions
seem to have been selected for their power to metaphorically reinforce the
philosophical differences between the two sides of the room–the forces of
ignorance resisting enlightenment.

There were a few scout descriptions offering greater detail, none were
flattering. For example, here is one that seems particularly negative and
conjectural: “This old scout is pushing fifty-five but still has a lean
quickness about him, as if he hadn’t completely abandoned the hope that he
might one day play the game.” Out of all the possible explanations for this
nameless man’s low percentage of body fat, I’m supposed to presume it’s an
unwillingness to accept old age? Weird.

As chapter 2 came to a close, I felt as though I’d been handed a media guide
with the information for L.O.O.S.R.S.(Luddites On Other Side of Room, Spitting)
consisting of a handful of names, four bios, couple of anecdotes and little
else. They’re wearing road grays, no numbers or names.

The media guide for Team Beane, on the other hand, is filled photos
(in home

bbeane.jpg

whites, of course), names, positions, biography, career stats and
uniform numbers. Among the scouts, Chris Pittaro is someone “Billy had long ago
identified as a person willing to rethink everything he learned, or thought he
had learned, playing baseball.” Dick Bogard was characterized as “the oldest
scout of all,” Erik’s “baseball father;” a supporter of statistics; the one
scout to admit “Billy made us take Zito;” having “vast experience to which he
had no visceral attachment;” and having scouted Billy Beane the ballplayer.
Erik Kubota [30] is Beane’s hand-picked scouting director [3], hired to replace
Grady Fuson. And of course there was Billy Beane [92], general manager [3], and
Paul DePodesta [61], assistant general manager [2].

borg.jpg

Seems as though purpose of chapter 2 is to create an sense of emotional
detachment from a certain group of people, namely the scouts. If you can render
the opposition less than human, good; if you can demonize it, even better. For
centuries, this effective psychological technique has been used in sci-fi 
(such as the “Borg” of Star Trek: Next Generation), advertising, politics and
war.

I’m not sure if this was kept nagging at me the first time. Once my “covert
ops” alerts were triggered during the second read, however, it was impossible
for me to shake the feeling I was being played. In the end, I cannot help but wonder
why Lewis did it? Since I’m not Lewis, I haven’t a clue. All I can offer is my
opinion; namely, I would have preferred the chance to decide whether Beane is a
great GM or just lucky, or sabermetrics is superior to scouting without the
B-movie caricatures. Certainly I would have enjoyed the book considerably more
without the syntactical sleight of hand.

——————————————————————————————

Well, that’s it. I suspect my 15 minutes of glory was used up about 400
words ago. In closing, I’d like to thank Ben for letting me crash his blogspace,
not to mention handling the crush of email he’ll undoubtedly be getting in
coming days. 

;-)Bye for now!
.  .  . BeesGal