Minor League staffing changes don’t necessarily make for the most compelling content, but in recent weeks there have been some notable proclamations which are deserving of wider dissemination.
In Lakewood, it was recently announced that the BlueClaws will be losing the only general manager they’ve ever known. Geoff Brown had served in that role since November of 1999 (17 months before the team played their first game), but he’ll soon be taking a new position within the Rutgers University athletic department.
For those who like their news in simplified visual form:
Per the team:
“This is a bittersweet day for me,” said Brown. “For 13 years, this has been my home and my second family. Leaving Lakewood and the BlueClaws was certainly a difficult decision, but the opportunity to work for Tim Pernetti [Rutgers Director of Intercollegiate Athletics] in this new position as they join the Big Ten was something that I could not pass up.”
Under Brown’s stewardship, the BlueClaws have led the South Atlantic League in attendance in all 12 years of their existence. He has won the league’s General Manager of the Year Award on four occasions and the BlueClaws have received the league’s Club Merit Award for excellence in overall operations three times.
And — bam! — right before this post went to “press” the news broke that the BlueClaws have named Brown’s replacement: former assistant GM Brandon Marano. A relative BlueClaws newbie — he was hired “only” seven months before the team played its first game — Marano is a graduate of Rutgers. See how everything comes full circle?
Welcome to the GM clique, Mr. Marano. You will be receiving a key to the executive washroom shortly.
And speaking of the BlueClaws, you may recall that I featured their “Restore the Shore” initiative in a recent post. Well, now that initiative has a notable new component in the form of “Sandy Ovations.”
The BlueClaws, at all 70 home games in 2013, will honor one company, individual, or charitable organization that contributed to Hurricane Sandy relief efforts, the team announced, unveiling a new 70 Sandy Ovations program.
Organizations will be randomly selected among those that apply or are nominated by others.
“There are so many people that deserve an ovation for their efforts in the aftermath of Sandy, and recognizing them will make for an ovation-worthy moment at every one of our games this year,” said Brown.
Each honoree will receive tickets to that night’s BlueClaws game, a ceremonial first pitch for one representative, recognition on the field between innings, a table on the concourse, a photo with a BlueClaws player, and an interview on the BlueClaws radio broadcast.
But getting back to the topic at hand — Geoff isn’t the only GM with the last name of Brown to be vacating his or her position. Three hours before the BlueClaws made their announcement, the Quad Cities River Bandits let loose with the unfortunate news that Stefanie Brown would be stepping down from her position due to “urgent family responsibilities.”
2012 marked Brown’s fifth year with the River Bandits and first as GM, and ownership made it clear that she will have a role with the team as long as she desires one:
“Stefanie Brown is an incredibly valuable part of the River Bandits and the Quad Cities community, and one of my favorite people,” said team owner Dave Heller. “She is immensely talented and will have as much of a role with the River Bandits organization as she wants, for as long as she wants.”
Meanwhile, the River Bandits are in the midst of searching for Brown’s replacement.
Finally, the Hagerstown Suns have made a unique hire in the form of ex-city mayor Robert Bruchey. The politician, who had been in support of building a new downtown stadium for the team while he was in office, will serve as the Suns’ director of sales, marketing and community affairs. You can read more in this Herald-Mail article, which also includes this file photo of hizzoner.
It goes without saying that Bruchey is an anomalous hire in the world of Minor League Baseball. Given his municipal connections and prior team support, it seems like he might be a beneficial guy to have in the front office…
And on that needlessly elliptical note, I’ll sign off for today. But since this was a pretty sober-minded, let me try to briefly rectify that by posting this awesome action shot that the Trenton Thunder shared on Facebook last month (along with the caption of “Yeah, this kid nailed it!”)
Karate Kid is officially the second-coolest youngster to ever attend a Thunder game. For those who may have forgotten, the number one spot is forever held down by the Confident Kid:
Maybe it’s an example of my sticktuitiveness, maybe an example of stagnancy. Probably both. But, at any rate, I am able to begin today’s Leap Year post by looking at what I wrote about 2/29 the last time it rolled around.
So let’s leap to it!
The year was 2008. While most Americans were busy listening to the 10th anniversary edition of the Baha Men’s epochal Doong Spank LP, the Lancaster JetHawks made their presence felt by staging a Leap Year promo. Most notably, all fans with a leap year birthday received a box seat season ticket!
Not to be outdone, the Altoona Curve soon announced a season-long “Leip Year” celebration, all in honor of skipper Tim Leiper.
This one had the Rainmain-like fixation on numbers that is a hallmark of any good Minor League promotion, including the provision that if any Curve player was batting .366 after April 29’s ballgame, he (or she, you never know) would be awarded $366.
Maybe I’m just jaded, but I don’t think we’ve reached that level of inspiration in 2012. But a lot is going on. Here is a thorough (but by no means authoritative) rundown of who’s doing what how. Said rundown is in alphabetical order, but starting with “N” and then continuing back around through “M.”
Most notably, the above deal includes a $29 Citgo gas card.
$17 all-you-can-eat seats, to any game. I’m just not sure who would want to eat seats in the first place, though.
More bang for the buck than a bringing an exploding dollar bill along on a deer hunt! $29 gets four tickets to exhibition game vs. Triple-A Sacramento, four ticket vouchers to opening weekend, and two souvenir caps.
Interesting twist to this one, in that the $29 ticket packages includes admission to all games falling on the 29th of the month.
This offer comes with a $29 concession stand credit. Beet eggs included?
Two extra games included with the purchase of a five or 10-game pack!
A $95 savings!
Buy a six or 12-game ticket pack, get an additional game free.
Lake Elsinore Storm
This concludes THE MOST COMPREHENSIVE RECAP OF MINOR LEAGUE BASEBALL LEAP DAY PROMOTIONS EVER ASSEMBLED. And yet I still don’t have my own Wikipedia page.
Today, I want look to the future. Teams across the country have begun the arduous process of putting together their promotional schedules, which leads to the following question:
What would YOU like to see take place at a Minor League ballpark in 2012? Dare to dream! We can worry about budget and sponsorship constraints later; now is the time to simply put it all out there.
I posed this question on Twitter yesterday, and in doing so provided three dream promos that I’d like to see (in addition to “Weird Al Night,” which goes without saying).
Neil Young Night: Thirsty Thursday theme night with Rust Never Sleeps theme jerseys, Crazy Horse drink specials, vacation giveaways to Buffalo (NY) and Springfield (TX), Neil Young karaoke between-innings (use your best falsetto).
Salute to 3rd Party Candidates: An evening in honor of those who made a political impact outside of the traditional two-party parameters. Fans wearing a whig get in free, food and drink specials in the third inning (including Bull Moose Burgers), Ross Perot look-a-like contest, special “seatbelt seating” area in honor of Ralph Nader, representatives from local third parties manning informational booths on the concourse.
Spibute to the Troonerism: Named in honor of notable malapropist Reverend William Archibald Spooner, a Spoonerism is defined on Wikipedia “as an error in speech or deliberate play on words in which corresponding consonants, vowels, or morphemes are switched.”
So what better way to celebrate Spooner’s legacy than with an evening of intentional tongue-twisters: Rome Huns, Piled Witches, a spirited rendition of “Bake Me Out to the Tallgame” and maybe even a Clench Beering Brawl! Spoonerisms all evening over the PA and on the videoboard, team-logo spoons to the first 500 fans in attendance, and free admission to all fans who can successfully define ‘morpheme” at the box office.
And, of course, there are a nearly infinite number of regionally specific promotions that could potentially be staged, honoring people, places, and things indigenous to a specific market. A prime example of this would be a suggestion I received last month from intrepid Minor League traveler Rex Doane, who asked that I lobby the Hagerstown Suns front office to stage “Rondo Hatton Night” in honor of the legendary horror film actor (and Hagerstown native).
What d’ya say, Suns?
Please hit me up with some of your own suggestions, via comments, email, and Twitter. No idea too small, no idea too absurd. Let’s get creative and have some fun with this, because why not? Opening Day is still 4000 hours away, and that’s a whole lot of eternal present to get through.
Yesterday’s culinary compendium included copious coverage of ballpark food and regional cuisine, focusing on trips I made to Arizona, California, Ohio and Indiana.
The journey continues today, with a heavy emphasis on what may have been my favorite road trip of 2011: the Carolinas. It all started at Joseph P. Riley ballpark, the home of the Charleston RiverDogs. This is a team that has provided me with plenty of food-based news items through the years (Homewreckers! Pickle Dogs! Pig On A Stick!), and I was excited to finally make my first visit.
The team was ready for me.
Not the best photo, I know, but hopefully indicative of the RiverDogs’ bountiful array of creative food options. Oh, and a Philly Cheesesteak Brat eventually made an appearance.
Here’s a better view of the top-loaded “Kitchen Sink Nachos,” which are served in a pizza box.
But I focused my efforts primarily on the Pickle Dog, making sure to grip the pickle firmly from the rear so that the hot dog would not slip out.
The next day I drove to Myrtle Beach (home of both the Pelicans and the Mermen), and en route I stopped for lunch at “Hog Heaven BBQ.” Apparently, what passes for heaven in the mind of a pig is an afterlife of eternal cannibalization.
Dismayed and confused by this concept, I instead opted for some crab.
I was admonished by various quarters for ordering seafood at a BBQ joint, and I understand those criticisms. But here in NYC a platter such as the above is (relatively) hard to come by, and I have no regrets. None!
I stayed with the seafood theme at that night’s Pelicans game, ordering up some fried clams.
The following afternoon, en route to Kinston, I went to a BBQ joint and actually ordered some BBQ. Bart’s was the name.
At Grainger Stadium that evening, I followed the recommendation of GM Ben Jones and ordered a Philly Cheese Steak, North Carolina style. “Magnifique!” is what I imagine a French fan of Carolina League baseball would say upon biting into the following:
Are there any French fans of Minor League Baseball out there? What a rare subset of fans that must be.
Much less rare is the sight of a Bojangles fried chicken joint in the state of North Carolina. As I was making my way from Kinston to Durham, I patronized the following establishment.
Being a man of perpetual movement, at that night’s Durham Bulls game I ordered a Doritos-brand “Walking Taco.”
That’s nacho typical taco, but it provided all the sustenance I needed until the following morning’s stop at Biscuitville.
Less than two hours later, I patronized another regional fast food chain: Cookout. I’ve since heard from many Cookout aficionados, all of whom insisted that milkshakes should be purchased. Duly noted, but this time around I ended up with a Cheerwine float.
One of the highlights of the following day’s travels was lunch at Zack’s Hot Dogs, a Burlington, N.C. institution.
Since I’m always a proponent of a balanced and healthy diet, the hot dog lunch was followed by a bologna burger at that evening’s Danville Braves game.
The last stop on the Carolina excursion was Winston-Salem. A pre-game meal was obtained a Bibb’s BBQ, located a proverbial hop, skip, and jump away from BB&T Ballpark (domicile of the Dash). And what a meal it was:
That’s about all she wrote from the Carolinas; but fortunately I was able to squeeze one more trip into the 2011 campaign: Maryland, home of the crab pretzel!
More specifically, the home of the cheese and crustacean-laden snack seen above was Aberdeen’s Ripken Stadium. But perhaps an even more anomalous ballpark treat is that which can be found at Hagerstown’s Municipal Stadium: pickled beet eggs!
The Hagerstown Suns experienced some drama this past season, when a light pole fell onto the field during a storm. This is where the light pole used to stand…or is it? Maybe this mark was made by a huge pickled egg!
Or maybe a huge Krumpe’s donut used to lie on that spot! After the game I went to nearby Krumpe’s Do-Nuts (open 8 p.m. to 2 a.m.) and picked up a few.
My trip, as well as my season of traveling, ended the next day in Delmarva. Needless to say, I did not leave Arthur W. Perdue Stadium on an empty stomach.
That was dinner, consisting of a “Chessie Dog” (half-pound frank with cheese, onions, peppers), Crab Dip (with three bread dipping sticks), and a Scrapple sandwich. But there’s always room for dessert, especially when it’s as appealing as the concoction known as “Sherman’s Gelati.”
And that, as they say, was that. I hope you enjoyed, or at least tolerated, this trip down recent memory lane. It provided me yet another opportunity to revive a season which is in actuality dead as the proverbial doornail, and for that I am grateful.
This season I went on four road trips, and from this quartet of excursions I was able to generate 32 blog posts.
My latest trip, Maryland-centric in nature, unfortunately yielded very little time in which to explore the area. For whatever reason, I was forever playing catch-up. But after attending the Hagerstown Suns game on September 1, I did get the chance to check out a spot recommended by reader Bruce Voge: Krumpe’s Do-Nuts.
This out-of-the-way little spot is only open from 7 p.m. to 2 a.m., and is located right off of this most appropriately-named side street.
Inside, there is barely room for more than four customers at a time. The majority of the space is dedicated to donut-making (or do-nut-making, as it were).
And excellent donuts they were, serving as holesome late-night blog and article-writing fuel.
The next day, while driving out of Hagerstown and towards yet another hotel room (this one in Annapolis), I spotted the following establishment.
Being a Pennsylvania native who grew up relatively close to Dutch country, I couldn’t help but stop in. The place was filled with sights such as the following:
In addition to bread there was a fine assortment of cheeses, meats, pickles, and hand-crafted what-have-yous; it would truly be an asset to live near such an establishment. But I have been spoiled in the past by multiple visits to Philadelphia’s Reading Terminal as well as Allentown’s Farmer’s Market, so my standards for this sort of thing are very high. The strip-mall location and anodyne atmosphere were enough to make this visit a short one, so I picked up some hot garlic pickles and sour cream and onion pretzels and went on my way.
About an hour later, after vigilantly scouring every road sign for establishments that looked independent in nature, I ended up here.
The Barbara Fritchie Restaurant, a most aesthetically appealing eatery named after a Civil War heroine who was immortalized in a rousing poem by John Greenleaf Whittier. The iconic candy stick sign references a bygone confectioner who used to operate in the area, under the name of Barbara Fritchie Chocolates.
My photos of the inside are, unfortunately, not blog quality (and that’s really saying something). But click HERE for more on this establishment.
My 2011 travels ended in Delmarva, and I already wrote a fairly epic blog post about that experience. But before visiting the stadium I was treated to lunch at the unassuming and eminently tasty Back Street Grill.
If you’re ever in Salisbury, MD and are a fan of big sandwiches and excellently-cooked french fries, then by all means stop by. And on your way home, don’t forget to take in the idyllic campus of Salisbury University…
located a proverbial stone’s throw from the #1 team-branded water tower in all of Minor League Baseball.
When it comes to road trip content, that is really and truly all she wrote. Except for some swag pics, of course. There are always swag pics.
But I’ll save those for another day. For it is officially the offseason now, and I need all the content I can get. Please send some my way.
One of the things I love most about Minor League Baseball — stop me if you’ve heard this one before — is how much the atmosphere can vary from location to location. No matter the league or level of play, you never quite know what you’re going to get.
I spent Wednesday evening within the vast crustacean-crushing expanse of Aberdeen’s Cal Ripken Stadium, but Thursday was a far different story — a jump up in the level of play, but a step back in time in terms of the stadium environment.
Welcome to Municipal Stadium, the 80-year-old home of the Hagerstown Suns.
I was immediately reminded of Kinston’s Grainger Stadium — covered grandstand seating, bleachers down the right and left field lines, and a concourse located directly between the ticket booth and the stadium itself.
And see that grandiloquent spiral staircase up there? That is how one gains access to the rooftop press box.
From this vantage point, I was able to get a prime view of the pre-game dance team performance…
as well as the ballpark’s rustic surroundings.
Just don’t look down, as vertigo is the result.
The pressbox itself is decorated with a beautiful baseball-emblazoned carpet…
as well as holes in the ceiling made by actual baseballs.
It’s a pleasant albeit dilapidated environment, one certainly not built to accommodate the hordes of media who descended upon Hagerstown earlier this season to cover the likes of super-teen Bryce Harper and 20-something extraordinaire Stephen Strasburg. For more on that check out my piece on MiLB.com.
Before the game I did my usual array of Flipcam interviews, conducting these riveting conversations just outside of the home clubhouse.
And while it’s not visible in the shot, that red circle amidst the retired numbers reads “Adenhart” in honor of Hagerstown native Nick Adenhart. The team recently held “Nick Adenhart Night” at the stadium, featuring a memorabilia auction to benefit the charitable foundation established in his memory.
It was September 1, and even baseball players thoughts were turning to football.
While visiting Aberdeen caused me wax rhapsodic about endless expanses, the Hagerstown experience is all about the intimacy.
The dugouts here are indeed unique, the closest to home plate that I have ever seen. On the home side (first base), fans can plop down their concessions on the roof and watch from there (an area generally occupied by host families and booster club members). On the third base side there is the row of dugout seating seen above.
While the videoboard was on the fritz, the manually-operated scoreboard worked just fine.
And further along the wall is the visitor’s bullpen, looking for all the world like a piece of outfield signage.
It really is close quarters all around. The following picture shows the aftermath of a between-inning promotion, with the contestants sidestepping fans and their concessions as they leave the top of the dugout.
This has led the Suns’ front office to get creative with some of their promotions — in one memorable instance, rubber chickens were thrown off of the roof to contestants down on the field.
My camera’s number one adversary is movement of any kind, but I nonetheless did my best to document this most unique between-inning endeavor.
While back up on the roof I took in the view from the so-called “best seat in the house,” a wooden bench just to the right of the press box entrance.
It wasn’t quite as relaxing as I would have liked. As I was trying to prop my feet up in a pose of exaggerated comfort, a foul ball was hit in my direction and slammed off the press box facade with a disconcerting smack. Suns broadcaster Bryan Holland, a veteran of such ball-istic missiles, seemed to be unfazed.
So back down to the concourse I went, the land of vague PSAs and emotionally absent vending machines.
There were discounted hot dogs to be had at the main concession stand…
but duty compelled me to visit Hartle’s Fry Tent.
It was wing night (six for $3), so I opted for an order of those — with a side of beet eggs!
The wings weren’t very good. But beet eggs — hardboiled, peeled and pickled — were a definitely worthwhile $2 purchase. And, like a committed proponent of a classless egalitarian society, they are red all the way through.
The light meal left me feeling like I had to visit the leftfield light pole, which was knocked down during a harrowing July thunderstorm (only one game had to be canceled, remarkably enough).
Here’s the new light pole location, with the old clearly visible.
Meanwhile, Thirsty Thursday was in full swing. It was definitely a bit of a rougher crowd down there — bald heads and tattoos amidst a thick crowd of cigarette smoke.
While hanging out amidst the Thirsty Thursday crew, I happened to overhear the most obscene conversation I’ve ever been privy to at a Minor League ballpark. Details are confidential.
Not confidential is the ballgame’s final score — 10-1 in favor of the visiting Lakewood BlueClaws. Here’s the winning team engaging in ritualistic post-game celebrations, a fitting final image from an evening largely devoted to taking things in from an elevated vantage point.