Last Friday, just two days after visiting the quiet confines of Staten Island’s Richmond County Bank Ballpark, I once again hit the subway in order to visit a New York City-based Minor League Baseball team. In fact, let me recycle the same photo I used in the last post:
But whereas the route to Staten Island begins with the 1 train, the journey to Coney Island — home of the Brooklyn Cyclones — begins (and ends) with the F. The above is where it starts, and here, some 27 (!) stops later, is where it terminates.
Coney Island, baby! Smell that ocean breeze.
But you know what? 27 stops or not, Cyclones game or not, Coney Island is always worth the trip. Always. The neighborhood has had dramatic ups and downs through the years — and is currently in a state of flux — but its status as New York City’s summertime playground remains intact. As soon as one leaves the subway, you just feel it. This is Coney Island, and Coney Island is like no place else.
The mural below is courtesy of the controversial Thor Equities, who have initiated many development projects in the neighborhood. While it’s hard to argue with progress, to what extent will it obliterate Coney Island’s idiosyncratic charm?
One place that’s not going anywhere is the flagship location of Nathan’s Hot Dogs. 96 years as a neighborhood anchor and still going strong!
The not-so-charmingly named MCU Park is located just down the street on Surf Avenue. Along the way, one walks by this scrappy Nathan’s competitor. From an aesthetic standpoint, this might be my favorite storefront in all of NYC.
This a busy time of year for all involved, and my communication with the team in the week leading up this ballgame was minimal. So, as had also been the case with Staten Island, I decided to attend this game more or less as a civilian. I picked up my tickets at will call, and received my ego boost of the evening when, after looking at my ID, Cyclones account executive Josh Hernandez said “I read your blog!” (I spend way too much time by myself in front of a computer. That kind of thing goes a long way).
Around the corner is the main entrance and — hey — what do you know? There were two people I knew standing there. The woman in the grey skirt, looking at the camera, is my cousin Jane. And the gentleman in the basketball jersey walking toward her is her boyfriend Jesse (who, rumor has it, once won a “best biceps in Brooklyn” competition). Those two will make a more substantial appearance in the “narrative” in just a moment.
Our seats were behind home plate, and when we mistakenly sat in the wrong section a friendly but aggressive usher immediately moved us over. He was just doing his job, but it was annoying to be stuck in the middle of row, disrupting people on both sides, when there was room elsewhere.
“Do you know who I am?” I felt like saying. “I’m a guy who spends most of his waking hours alone and in front of a computer screen!”
But they were good seats.
Soon after sitting down, Jane spotted a squadron of pom-pom wielding young ladies atop the first base dugout and incredulously asked me “Baseball has cheerleaders?!”
Usually, that answer is an emphatic “no.” But, Brooklyn being Brooklyn, Brooklyn has the Beach Bums. Here they are performing between innings.
But we weren’t there just to watch baseball. Or Beach Bums. Upon hearing of my “designated eater” concept (in which others eat the ballpark food that I, with celiac disease, can not) Jane had expressed prodigious interest. Jesse was on board as well.
The Cyclones lean heavily on Nathan’s iconic appeal, as nearly all of the concession stands put the focus on hot dogs and crinkle-cut fries.
My gluten-free options were limited, but certainly not non-existent. But as I was placing my order, Jane and Jesse decided that this was not the concession stand for them. The hot dogs didn’t have toppings!
They re-located to this nearby stand, whose line was far more manageable anyway.
I bade my time by watching this fan enthusiastically join in on another Beach Bums dance routine.
It was a beautiful atmosphere all around.
Finally, Jane and Jesse were ready to go: Nathan’s Dog’s with all of the fixings, with baseball in Brooklyn as the backdrop. It doesn’t get any more American than that!
These two made exceedingly quick work of their delicious frankfurters. And looked beautiful doing it.
Now it was my turn. Celiac disease might have me down when it comes to ballpark food options, but I’m never out! At first I kept things close to the vest.
But soon it was time for the big reveal. I had ordered my first-ever hot dog, sans bun! (An email to Nathan’s HQ had confirmed that the dogs themselves are gluten-free.)
A hot dog by its lonesome is an admittedly pathetic sight, and you don’t get any sort of discount for ordering one without the bun (but it certainly wasn’t a problem, as the friendly woman at the counter simply asked one of her colleagues to pluck a fresh one right off of the grill). But, here’s the thing — it tasted really, really good. I felt like I was eating a premium piece of beef jerky — crispy, salty, and well-spiced.
This led to a realization — the bun only gets in the way, and should one wish to be a true frankfurter connoisseur then it needs to be consumed in its naked state. Just as it would be pure folly to drink a fine single-malt scotch on the rocks, it is an unnecessary dilution of the gustatory experience to ensconce a lovingly crafted tubular meat product within a poorly defined lump of dough.
Am I on to something here, or are these merely the ravings of a poorly defined man ensconced in front of a keyboard? Please let me know!
After dinner, we decided to sit in some seats that allowed more room to move. We ensconced ourselves down the third base line, just in time to see a dance-off between Sandy the Seagull, a random fan, a Beach Bum, and on-field MC King Henry.
The fan won, of course, but it is King Henry that captured my attention.
The King has been a Cyclones staple since 2003, and on the team’s web site one learns that his real name is Guy Zoda and that he “has been a professional entertainer since 1989 specializing in family entertainment, business promotion and marketing.” He keeps things family-friendly, but nonetheless has an abrasive New York edge and always seems like he’s on the verge of going blue. (I could definitely envision King Henry as a cast member on Get A Life, hanging out with chain-smoking cop-turned-landlord Brian Doyle Murray, but that’s an obscure cultural reference for another day.)
The Cyclones do a great job of creating a colorful, anything goes environment (even though the pink gorilla I spotted on previous occasions was nowhere to be found). Here, mascot Sandy throws t-shirts off of the stadium’s second level.
Next up was the “Dime Big Deal” (not to be confused with the dime bag deal one can find outside on the boardwalk), in which a fan guesses which one of the four letters in “DIME” contains $500 in cash.
The fan was wrong.
And oh, wait, what? Pretty soon the game was over! How did that happen?
The Cyclones victory was followed by fireworks…
…which can be viewed both in and outside of the ballpark.
I soon bade farewell to the voracious hot dog eaters whose company had I enjoyed, but not before taking a picture in a most apropos location.
I meanwhile, lingered around a bit longer. For this was an atmosphere worth recording: Coney Island at 9:30 on a Friday night in the heart of the summer. There’s nothing like it.
Sideshows by the Seashore, located on Surf Avenue and West 12th and run by the eminently worthwhile organization Coney Island USA, is an absolute must-see diversion.
Especially if this guy is working the door.
Out of focus fireworks aftermath, taken with a fisheye lens effect. Photojournalism at its finest!
And, finally, there’s a reason that this team is called the Cyclones. Here it is, in all its neck-breaking glory.
It’s a new month, and you know what that means: time for the Akron Aeros to release a new hot dog into the world.
Well, two new hot dogs this time: the “Eighth Wonder” and the “Wonderdog.” And considering that there are 40 topping options to choose from, the possibilities are virtually infinite.
The above trifecta, from top to bottom: 1 — Chocolate Chips 2 — Okra, Cole Slaw and Spicy Mustard 3 — Peanut Butter and Jelly
As for the dogs themselves, both are made from Black Angus Beef. The “Eighth Wonder” is 16 inches long and weighs in at a pound, while the “Wonder Dog” is a more manageable 1/2 pound and 14 inches.
“I probably went through 75 or 80 different toppings, and narrowed it down from there,” he said. “I stand by all 40, everything we’re offering is going to taste good on a hot dog.”
This includes such unlikely candidates such as chocolate chips and Kerton’s personal favorite — peanut butter and jelly.
There are no limits to the amount of toppings that fans can choose, a policy that could result in some truly bizarre combinations. How about wasabi, sprinkles, baked beans, pineapples, and pepperoni?
“Everyone’s taste buds are different, so I say ‘Have at it,'” said Kerton.
[T]he “Kiss Orbit, He’s Irish?” St. Patrick’s Day ticket package is now available and will be specially delivered to homes and office by Aeros mascot, Orbit.
Funny, I’ve never really thought of a mascot having a specific nationality before. I always just viewed them as global citizens of ambiguous origin. Regardless, the $100 ticket package consists of the following:
Two tickets to Irish Heritage Night at Canal Park (Thursday, April 28, 7:05 p.m.)
• Eight flexible ticket vouchers good for any Saturday through Thursday home game
• One Aeros “Irish” baseball cap
• Special Delivery from Orbit to home or office (Delivery based on availability)
The following sentence was not included in the press release, although I wish it was: “This offer is not a sham. It rocks!”
Hate mail can be sent to:
Ever since the invention of the Turducken, mankind has wondered “When will we see a similar product in hot dog form?”
That day has arrived.
The finished product:
“This is a food item that’s going to generate a lot of fan interest and a lot of full stomachs,” said Aeros assistant GM Dan Foust. “We’re planning a healthy choice concession stand in 2011, but the Three Dog Night isn’t going to come anywhere near that stand.”
Foust notes that the team is offering a ticket plan based around this triumvirate of meat. Fans can select 10 games on the schedule, and for each game they will receive a voucher good for a “Three Dog Night.”
“So, it’s conceivable that we’ll have fans who eat at least 10 of these next season,” said Fouts. “And if they want to eat more, then more power to them.”
Just think, this could be you:
Followers of the Minor League frankfurter scene won’t be surprised to learn that the mastermind behind the Three Dog Night is Jason Kerton, who previously performed food and beverage duties for the Charleston RiverDogs.
While in Charleston, Kerton teamed up with Goldklang Group concession guru John Schumacher on items such as the
“I’m a culinary school graduate, and a huge fan of Turducken,” explained Kerton. “As I was driving [to Akron] in the middle of the night, I started to wonder if I could do the same thing with sausage.”
This mental breakthrough led to a process of trial and error, as Kerton experimented with a variety of combinations.
“I tried it with a one pound hot dog as the main part, but that was just too salty,” he said. “The kielbasa has a smoky flavor and a really snappy casing, so from there I just needed something that was a little softer….I wanted to use a brat because of the German influence in the Cleveland area, and the hot dog is a ballpark staple.”
The Aeros will be releasing a new food item every month leading up to Opening Day, making them a team to watch on the creative concessions front. And, with the Three Dog Night, they are doing nothing less than staking a claim for Minor League hot dog supremacy.
“We’re competing with the RiverDogs on the national level, and I’m sure you’ll be hearing from them soon,” said Kerton. “It’s time for a head-to-head hot dog battle.”
The Aeros have already fired three shots.
Remaining your number one news source for concessions-based signs of the apocalypse,
I am a big fan of late night TV in general and Conan O’Brien in particular, and as this Tonight Show imbroglio has steamrolled into a bigger and bigger story one thought kept lodging itself into my brain: When is a Minor League team going to offer Conan a job?
This sort of publicity stunt is certainly not without precedent. In recent years the Huntsville Stars courted Roger Clemens, the Augusta GreenJackets went after Brett Favre, and the Toledo Mud Hens set their sights on A-Rod. Granted, Conan is not from the world of sports, but on multiple occasions he has mentioned the tongue-in-cheek job offers he has received. On national TV! Look! If a morning radio show in Fargo, ND could get a mention, then why not a Minor League team?
Well, I am glad to report that the Round Rock Express have come through. In a video posted on their website and Facebook page, the team tries to convince Conan that he would excel at a wide variety of game-day positions. Here’s hoping it catches on.
In other news, the slow but steady release of 2010 promotional schedules has been a most heartening development. The Bowling Green Hot Rods announced theirs yesterday, eager to defend their 2009 MiLB.com Promotion of the Year title. I am happy to report that What Could’ve Been Night will return, and this year’s version includes a Cave Shrimp bobbletail giveaway. Check it out.
Likewise, the Lehigh Valley IronPigs unveiled their promo slate. As has become the club’s habit, the press release features a ridiculous, pun-heavy quote from GM Kurt Landes.
“We’re the IronPigs — and no team exhibits more zeal to make their fans squeal,” he said.
This quote is excellent, and I’d encourage more GMs to talk in such a manner. Am I naive in assuming that all quotes had to have actually been spoken aloud in order to make it into a press release?
I’d also like to mention an excellent contest being staged by the indomitable Brooklyn Cyclones — The “You”niform. Here’s a summary:
“The Brooklyn Cyclones are inviting young fans to participate in a
unique art contest, with the winning jersey design to be worn by the
team as a special, limited-edition YOUniform, and auctioned off after the game to support Camp Brooklyn.”
Finally, how can a week go by without a mention of the Lakewood BlueClaws? Answer, it can’t. Today, the team announced that seven types of hot dogs have been added to the concession menu, each one named after a Hall of Famer.
This leads to a fun comedy-writing exercise: what hot dogs would YOU like to see named after a Hall of Famer, and why?
Once upon a time, affiliated professional baseball in Canada was fairly common. The likes of Ottawa, Calgary, and (my favorite) Medicine Hat were all part of the Minor League scene, but now that scene is down to just one team: the Vancouver Canadians.
As has been mentioned on this blog in the past, Canadians GM Andrew Seymour has always been conscientious about sending me photos from the team’s events and promotions. This is much appreciated, because photos=content and content is king. Without it, this blog is nothing but a vortex of eternal nothingness. I’m not sure that the previous sentence made sense, but this cursor, much like time itself, can only move forward. So forward we shall go…
To pictures! Over the past several months, Seymour sent me a multitude of pictures that for reasons of varying validity I neglected to post on this blog. This situation will now be rectified.
First, let’s take a look at the Hot Dog Eating Contest that the team staged. The following photos serve as ample proof that Canadians are sometimes more American than Americans.
Here’s where the magic happened:
Such a tranquil scene was soon disrupted by the ravenous actions of individuals such as these:
Mitch Berger, that is. The punter for the Super Bowl champion Steelers (and Vancouver native) paid a visit to the ballpark in order to sign autographs, pose for pictures, and flash expensive jewelry:
More often than not, “More is More” is a superior promotional philosophy. That was certainly the angle taken by the Trenton Thunder during last month’s “Weird Contest Week”, as the club staged off-kilter competitions over three consecutive ballgames and marketed it as a 72-hour exercise in absurdity.
Tuesday, August 18 was “Mustache Night”, featuring free admission for those with upper lip hair. The facial hair of prominent New York Yankees was celebrated throughout the ballgame, and a “best mustache” contest was staged as well.
The winner of what must have been a heated competition was Mr. Andy Aupperle, who sported an angular look of style and precision:
Is it just me, or does Aupperle look like a better-groomed version of Phillies pitcher Joe Blanton?
It’s okay…you can say it’s just me.
Meanwhile, other fans extended the definition of mustache to include both “pasted-on words” and “discarded dreadlock”. And by “other fans” I mean “this particular family”:
The Thunder have 44 photos from this evening posted on their webpage. While this one doesn’t have anything to do with mustaches, I still feel compelled to share it:
I believe that the top and bottom layers of that sandwich contain pork roll. I am a fan of pork roll, on levels both edible and anthropomorphic.
At any rate, the above fan would have been more at home during part II of “Weird Contest Week”, as the team staged a hot-dog eating contest. Observe this well-crafted short film:
Congratulations to winner Chad Heidel, who is employed by the team as a group sales account representative. As one can see from the video, Heidel’s victory resulted in instant celebrity status. Currently, “Chad Heidel” is surpassed only by “Kanye West”, “Patrick Swayze”, and “Tom Brady Sux” when it comes to the most common internet search engine queries.
Meanwhile, I find the nonchalance of this hot dog disturbing. He is overseeing the massacre of his own kind:
The third and final “Weird Contest” was August 20th’s “Rock, Paper, Scissors” competition.
It was the gentleman above who emerged triumphant, a gentleman who goes by the name of Tim Ukaj (I’m going to go ahead and assume that his theme song is “We Will ‘Rock’ You”). Here, Mr. Ukaj basks in the glow of victory:
That trophy doesn’t appear to have anything to do with “Rock, Paper, Scissors”, but there may be some subtle details that my all-too-human eyes are unable to discern.
Either way, I like that the Thunder took three common Minor League promos and bundled them together in order to create a whole greater than the sum of its parts. Hopefully other teams will build on this concept, so that one day we may be blessed with “Weird Contest Month”, “Weird Contest Year”, and, finally, “Weird Contest Entirety of Existence.”
More is more.
Happy Fourth of July! I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the holiday than by getting this venerable blog back on track after a week in which other obligations left it sad and lonely. All other potential uses of my time seem frivolous in comparison.
Let’s look at a couple of notable Holiday happenings that are taking place in the world of the Minor Leagues. Yes, lets:
Augusta, Georgia, is located some 800 miles away from Coney Island, home of the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest. In an attempt to bring the fame and glamour that surrounds this event to their hometown, the GreenJackets are staging their very own frankfurter consumption competition.
Over each of the past six Thursday home games, the club has staged a hot dog-eating contest. And tonight, the winners of each of those six contests will battle to become Augusta’s undisputed hot dog champion.
The Championship event will take place upon the conclusion of tonight’s ballgame against the Charleston RiverDogs, and will be immediately followed by a fireworks display. Now here’s where things get really good: the winner will be able to choose between $200 cash or a trip for two to Weiner, AR. I sincerely hope that this latter option is chosen.
As a service to my readers, I have spent the last three hours (give or take two hours and 55 minutes) researching the town of Wiener, Arkansas. According to Wikipedia, this quaint little burgh has a population of just 760 people. It has located in close proximity to many other hilariously-named towns, such as Birdeye, Bono, Cash, Cord, Egypt, and Strawberry. Those Northwest Arkansasians sure know how to give their communities interesting monikers!
Now, of course, hot dog eating may not be the sort of thing you’re into. Perhaps numerical-based promotions are more up your alley. Let’s travel 300 miles away from Wiener, all the way to Pearl, Mississippi. There, the M-Braves have put together the following contest:
If the fourth batter in the Braves’ lineup goes 4-4 (four base hits)
in the game on July 4th, one lucky fan will receive $4,444.00.
If the M-Braves score five runs in the fifth inning on July 5th, one lucky fan will receive $5,555.00.
Finally, if the Braves score six runs in the sixth inning on July 6th, one lucky fan will receive $6,666.00.
That’s a total of $16,665, just waiting to be won by a triumvirate of lucky fans. Here’s hoping that the M-Braves pull off all three of these statistically improbable events over the course of the weekend.