Over on MiLB.com you can read my round-up of the 2014-15 Minor League re-branding season, featuring 11 new team names and/or logos. In conjunction with this, my latest journalistic masterwork, I decided to take a look around the Minor League landscape in order to subjectively determine the team from each league that is most in need of a makeover.
We’ll start at the top of the Minor League ladder and work our way down. Perhaps, come this time next year, some of these clubs will have opted to update their iconography. Whether you agree, disagree or couldn’t care less, feel free to tell me so in the comments or on Twitter (@bensbiz).
International League: Louisville Bats (current logo in use since 2002)
This logo is a little too reminiscent of Batman, so maybe it’s time that Louisville Gotham selves another one.
Pacific Coast League: Fresno Grizzlies (current logo in use since 2008)
The Grizzlies are actively embracing their post-San Francisco identity, but the orange and black color scheme still screams “Giants affiliation!”
Eastern League: Portland Sea Dogs (current logo in use since 2003)
Southern League: Mississippi Braves (current logo in use since 2005)
Texas League: Midland RockHounds (current logo in use since 1999)
California League: High Desert Mavericks (current logo in use since 1991)
Carolina League: Carolina Mudcats (current logo in use since 1991)
Florida State League: Tampa Yankees (current logo in use since 1994)
Midwest League: Lansing Lugnuts (current logo in use since 1996)
As was pointed out to me when I visited Lansing: That’s not a lugnut. It’s a bolt.
South Atlantic League: Kannapolis Intimidators (current logo in use since 2001)
New York-Penn League: Brooklyn Cyclones (current logo in use since 2001)
The Cyclones seem to do everything right, so I may as well give them a hard time for not updating the logo they came into existence with.
Northwest League: Salem-Keizer Volcanoes (current logo in use since 1997)
Appalachian League: Johnson City Cardinals (current logo in use since 1995)
Pioneer League: Helena Brewers (current logo in use since 2011)
In closing, I’d like to offer a tip of the cap to Chris Creamer’s SportsLogos.net. It’s a great source of info.
Food content has been enjoying a bit of a renaissance on the blog as of late, and who I am to curtail a renaissance?
The latest comestible tidbit to come down the pike involves a team that could reasonably make a claim to having the best concessions in all of Minor League Baseball: The Charleston RiverDogs.
John Schumacher, Food and Beverage Director extraordinaire, reports that during the offseason “an alternative tubular meat search” was conducted and that “fortunately (or unfortunately) we were successful.” RiverDogs fans, already spoiled when it comes to the variety of traditional tubular meat on offer, will now be able to choose from the following:
That big fella on the far right would be alligator. Duck is at the top of the plate, with venison down below. These alternative tubular meats come courtesy of a boutique butcher that goes by the name of Fossil Farms, and will be part of a new “Sausage World” food stand. The menu:
Sausage World – featuring Brats, Kielbasa, Duck Sausage with plum sauce, Venison Sausage with chipotle BBQ sauce (named the Byrdog after a close friend) & Alligator Sausage with a remoulade.
In another Minor League rarity, the RiverDogs are adding a wine garden to the mix in 2012. It’s still in the maturation process.
I’ve been racking my brain (and you know how painful that can be), but thus far I’ve been unable to think of any other teams that offer a wine garden. Are any out there?
And are there any other teams that market themselves specifically to “foodies”?
If any other teams would like to tout their new food and beverage selections, then you know where to find me (or, at least I hope you do. Check the bottom of this post, as well as every other post I’ve ever written).
And this doesn’t just go for food, of course. If you’re involved or interested in Minor League Baseball in any way, shape, or form, then please don’t hesitate to let me know what’s going on.
For instance, reader Matt Musk recently pointed me to his self-published book “Dream On” (available as an e-book and on paperback). It’s a quick and informative read about his journey from failed youth baseball player to Midwest League champion (of sorts). Lots of good anecdotes are contained therein, dealing with the absurdity of Minor League front office life.
And then there’s Mr. Rex Doane, who checked in last week in order to report that “Today I am the only man in NYC to wear the new High Desert Mavericks cap…it is a responsibility I am willing to shoulder.”
New York City: the epicenter of global fashion trends.
“If it bleeds it leads” is a well-known journalism trope, and those of us who make a living in the cutthroat world of Minor League baseball blogging ascribe to a similar saying: if it’s a logo then it’s a go-go.
Therefore, I have no choice but to begin today’s missive with the latest and greatest images to emanate from the world of MiLB. On Saturday, the High Desert Mavericks unveiled a pair of high-definition alternate logos:
Sez the team:
“After 21 seasons in the Victor Valley, we felt it was a great time to introduce new logos which reflected both the Mavericks team identity and our strong connections to the High Desert community,” general manager Eric Jensen said. “Our new ‘HD’ logo allows the whole High Desert to feel represented when they’re wearing Mavericks apparel and incorporates the unique physical attributes of this region.
“Likewise, the new cowboy logo represents the rugged resilience of those who reside in the desert while providing a historical tie to the Maverick name.”
I was fortunate enough to be able to visit a Mavericks game last season, but somehow I neglected to notice physical attributes such as a green sun. I did, however, notice the ruggedness.
Another team I visited on that trip were the Lake Elsinore Storm, who have recently announced a very good reason to make a return visit. Following April 22’s ballgame, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts will perform a free show.
This has to be one of the best deals of the season — where else can $9 buy entry to both a professional baseball game and a rock n roll spectacle?
Sez the team:
The concert, set to begin approximately 30 minutes after the game ends, will be held in celebration of Storm owner Gary Jacobs’ birthday. Jett, known for “I Love Rock N Roll,” is scheduled to perform a 90 minute set with her band on a stage placed behind second base.
Hey, Lake Elsinore, please do me a favor and offer Rocky Road ice cream during the ballgame. It would mean a lot.
But now let us return, one more time, to the world of logos. On Monday the Reading Phillies announced a great new idea, one that sees them teaming up with Brandiose in order to teach the art and science of logo design to a new generation.
It’s called ‘9 to the Nines.’
And since it’s been a press release quoting kind of morning, let’s do it one more time:
As a kid, did you ever dream of wearing uniforms like the pros? Jason Klein and Casey White of Brandiose are the guys who design the official logos and uniforms for Major League Baseball teams. The duo will be coming to Reading, PA to give the kids of the Olivet Boys and Girls Club a firsthand look at how baseball logos come to life. Brandiose will also be collaborating with the kids to design their very own logos for the Baseballtown RBI League.
Jason and Casey will take the kids through the same creative process they take teams of Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball through by discussing the parts of the community the kids cherish the most. They will then work with the kids to bring those ideas to life in logo form. Kids will sketch their ideas at the event, with Klein and White compiling the ideas into a major league look for each Baseballtown RBI League team. The kids’ logos will be unveiled in time for the Baseballtown RBI League’s 2012 Opening Day.
And — hey! — if any kids want to submit a Ben’s Biz logo that could be used for 2012 and beyond then you know where to find me. That’s right, alone and in front of a computer.
The one-hour drive from Lancaster (home of the JetHawks) to Adelanto, CA is an appealing one. The Pearl Blossom Highway is surrounded by vast desert expanse, and towns like Little Rock feature vibrantly-hued emporiums of Americana such as Charlie Brown’s Farms as well as shack-sized stores selling both cell phone accessories and beef jerky.
I would have liked to take pictures of all these things, but I was in a rush. My personal itinerary featured a day game after a night game, and I had to make it to Stater Bros Stadium for Sunday’s Class A Advanced matinee between the hometown High Desert Mavericks and visiting Rancho Cucamonga Quakes.
The above sign, located on the right field outfield wall, epitomizes the Stater Bros experience — charming, but past its prime. In some ways being past its prime is part of the charm, such as this trailer parked outside the stadium.
But in other ways, the stadium is screaming for a face lift and some TLC. For example, just to the right of the main entrance sits an abandoned box office:
And immediately to the right of this is a bulletin board displaying flyers for a pair of concerts that took place in 2002 (!), helping to solidify the impression that this is the land that time forgot. The stadium, a city-owned facility that cost $6.5 million to build, has housed the Mavs since their inaugural 1991 season (the team relocated from Riverside,CA). Attendance was excellent in the early going, with the Mavs regularly leading the league en route to shattering the million fan milestone in 1996.
But attendance took a significant hit with the closing of a nearby Air Force Base, and further commercial development around the area never materialized. Original owners Brett Baseball sold the team to Main Street Baseball this past offseason, and the Mavericks long-term future is very much in question.
But I”ll save this kind of info for an upcoming MiLB.com piece. While Stater Bros. Stadium may be lacking in bells and whistles (literal and otherwise), it still offers a considerably charming small-town Minor League Baseball experience.
The long view:
The National Anthem provided a cute moment, as the young girl singing it (on the far left) paused at the word “ramparts”, looked up at the team employee standing nearby and said “Uh, I forgot.” After a quick prompt she finished strong, to rousing applause.
My trusty camera, while compact and easy to use, is not the best when it comes to the zoom feature. But one can get so close to the action at Stater Bros that I was able to get shots such as the following. This is the first swing of the ballgame, in which Rancho’s Ramon Jean blasted a ground-rule double to left-center.
Also close to the action are the visiting relief pitchers, who have no escape from kids playing on the first base-line berm.
I was especially impressed with mascot Wooly Bully, a committed performer with excellent improv and physical comedy abilities. The skill of those wearing the suits varies wildly around the Minors, but this one was a winner.
And he’s a fearless bull, too, repeatedly getting the fans to yell “charge!”
At one point later in the game, the following announcement came over the PA: “Your attention, please. Wooly Bully, would you get off the field, please?”
I’m not sure exactly what Wooly was doing that caused this reprimand, but I do know he was preparing for a dash across the diamond with hundreds of kids in hot pursuit.
Up on the concourse, the scene was pretty sedate. I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out the team’s “Sky Boxes”, which seem influenced by 1970s Eastern Bloc architecture (Bull-shevik architecture, perhaps).
The Sky Boxes allow for nice views of the no-frills scoreboard:
I was almost offended by the fact that James Jones didn’t have something by Jim Jones as his walk-up music. “Everybody Jones” would have been an especially apropos choice. Make it happen, James!
But to return to more relevant matters…
Pillars on the concourse showcase each season’s Opening Day line-up (through 2000). Was 1991 really this long ago? If so, then maybe it’s time for me to finally take The Simpsons Sing the Blues out of my Discman.
Main Street Baseball took control of the team at too late a date to implement major changes for 2011, but concessions were switched from in-house to outside vendor PSC. General Manager Eric Jensen (a former Mavericks clubbie) told me that this has resulted in increased quality and profit.
I asked the (not at all friendly) guy working the stand what a “McOwen’s Masterpiece” was, and the answer had something to do with two hot dogs, chili, cheese, cole slaw, and who knows what else. I was still digesting last night’s “Stealth Burger,” at the time, so this was all too much for me to process.
Also available on the concourse: kettle corn and shaved ice with a DIY flavor station.
One of the most charming aspects of the Mavericks experience is that the team “passes the hat” after each home run. A comically oversized cowboy hat, as it were.
Vincent Catricala and Daniel Carroll both homered as part of the Mavs’ 10-4 win. The former earned $50.68 for his efforts, the latter $53. In the world of Minor League Baseball, that’s a nice chunk of change — a couple of steak dinners in place of another dire set of choices at the combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell. (Meanwhile, I’m dealing with the culinary options of Adelanto’s Hawthorne Suites — sunflower seeds and Dr. Pepper is what’s for dinner.)
To sum it all up, High Desert is a situation worth following. It will be interesting to see what changes Main Street Baseball has in store for the team in 2012, as this is the same group that has found success in Quad Cities. But without a significant re-investment in this ballpark, it seems unlikely that there is a long-term professional baseball future in Adelanto (but, again, I’ll save such pontificating for my MiLB.com persona).
Instead, I’ll leave you with one last glimpse from the lap of luxury.