Tagged: Iowa Cubs

On the Road: En Route to Omaha, a Pit Stop in Des Moines

To see all of the posts from my May 2015 trip through the Midwest, click HERE. To see ALL of my “On the Road” posts (going back to 2010), click HERE.

On Wednesday, May 27th, I attended a Cedar Rapids Kernels game. The next morning, I checked out of my hotel and began the westward drive toward my next destination of Omaha. More or less midway between these two locales sits Iowa’s capitol city of Des Moines, the home of the Iowa Cubs. And, wouldn’t you know it? The Cubs were playing an afternoon game. I decided that it was my moral duty to attend.

Welcome to Principal Park, the home of the Iowa Cubs. (As you may recall, I visited here in 2010.)

002After making my way to ballpark’s upper level, I snapped this shot of downtown Des Moines in the distance.

003By the time I had arrived at Principal Park, the game was already in the fourth inning. My time in Des Moines was destined to be a mere cameo, as opposed to the leading roles I had become accustomed to elsewhere on this trip. Shortly after arriving I rendezvoused with I-Cubs “director of consumer experience” Scott Sailor, a gracious guy who, true to his nature, graciously led me around the ballpark through the remainder of the ballgame.

We began on the ballpark’s upper levels.


A cadre of interns were working the new videoboard.


I spent some time gazing upon the graphic scorecard art of former video intern Sam Thompson.


Principal Park was just the second ballpark I’ve visited this year to have a pitch clock; the first was the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville. In Jacksonville the pitch clock was operated by the PA announcer via a tablet computer. Here in Iowa, media relations intern Brock Borgeson (a relief pitcher at nearby Simpson College) ran the clock through this Daktronics console.

009Borgeson said that the pitch clock is a work in progress, as it is for all teams at this particular juncture.

“We kind of have to respond to what the umps want,” he said. “Do we stop the clock on balls in the dirt? Some say to start the clock when the pitcher gets the ball [back from the catcher], others want it to start once [the pitcher’s] on the rubber.”

Borgeson also said that the umpires often exercise discretion as to when, exactly, to start the between-inning pitch clock.

“Sometimes they’ll wave me off, to give players more time,” he said. “Like if the pitcher was in the on-deck circle, or the catcher was on base.”

After speaking with Borgeson, it was off to to the radio booth to do an inning on the air with Deene Ehlis (left) and Randy Wehofer. Friends of this blog are of course familiar with Wehofer, who is a movie star.

008Scott and I then headed down to the main seating area. The ballgame, between the I-Cubs and Tacoma Rainiers, began at 1:08 p.m. and had been cruising along ever since.

011Since the last time I visited, the Cubs have increased their craft beer selection by a considerable margin. 28 craft brews were available; Peace Tree “Blonde Fatale” had the highest ABV (8.5%).

012We then paid a visit to director of stadium operations Jeff Tilley, who was hard at work within his ballpark lair.

014Tilley coordinates travel arrangements for the team, and in the Pacific Coast League this can be a fraught process. While he’s smiling in the above photo, he probably wasn’t by the end of the day. The I-Cubs post-game journey to El Paso most definitely did not go as planned — read all about it in this MiLB.com article.

Did I mention that this game was flying right along? After emerging from Tilley’s lair, Scott and I found that it was already the top of the ninth inning. Brian Schlitter was coming in to pitch for the Cubs, who were losing by a score of 2-0.

016Schlitter has one of the most extreme beards in Minor League Baseball. It’s luxurious and silky.

024Scott and I soon moved to first row seats behind the third base dugout. I kept trying, and failing, to secure a shot of a rotating graphic which, apropos of nothing, wished me a happy birthday. Oh, well. It’s a new scoreboard, and it’s very nice to look at anyway.

I also had missed this fourth inning graphic, in which a plug for this blog was incorporated into a between-inning contest.

IMG_1339Anyhow, yeah, there was a ballgame going on and this ballgame was in its waning stages. I’m not exactly sure what it was that provoked him, but at some point during the top of the ninth Cubs manager Marty Pevey came out and gave the home plate umpire a piece of his mind. He went from “perturbed” to “apoplectic” in approximately 15 seconds.

023Pevey’s intensely stated objections eventually led to his ejection.

In the bottom of the ninth inning, Arismendy Alcantara and Adron Chambers both singled to start the frame. A light rain had just begun, and Scott suggested that we move to a dry location.

“Let’s go up and get out of the rain,” he said. “Unless you want to see this walk-off from down here.”

We hustled up the stairs, resolving to watch the game from a protected concourse location.

026And wouldn’t you know it? The very first pitch that we witnessed from this location was a three-run walk-off home run off of the bat of Matt Szczur. Scott Sailor’s words had proven prophetic.

The I-Cubs won, 3-2, in a game that took a crisp two hours and 15 minutes to complete. After waiting out a brief traffic jam in the parking lot, it was on to Omaha.


Life on the road, you’ve gotta love it.




Turn the Page, Part One

Have you ever tried to monitor the actions of 160 entities on a daily basis? That’s basically what my job is here at MiLB.com, and please believe me when I say that it can be overwhelming! Keeping track of a such a vast industry exacerbates my already quite pronounced OCD-tendencies, and leads to notebook pages such as the following:


All of this is to say — it’s time to turn the page! But before doing so, please enjoy this bouillabaisse blog post consisting entirely of news items seen on the above notebook page. Y’know, topics that I’ve kept meaning to get around to but never did (or at least never did outside of the Twitter realm).

So here you go — no segues, just news news news!

Would you believe that the Hudson Valley Renegades have not one but TWO former MLB pitchers on their front office staff? Joe Ausiano (1994-95 Yankees) has long been with the team, and he has now been joined by Rob Bell (who played for four teams over seven big league seasons). Bell, now 36, will serve as a sales account executive.

Hudson Valley: home of Minor League Baseball’s best front office softball team?

The Iowa Cubs have long prided themselves on conducting the most irreverent website polls in MiLB, but decided not to continue with the practice after their site underwent an extensive re-design (as nearly all  team sites have done of late, courtesy of the tech wizards here at MLBAM).

But, rest assured, they went out on top of their poll game!


It’s always about Battle Creek

You may recall my recent post on Minor League Front Office Cliches, in which one of the cliches mentioned was “We wear a lot of hats.” This prompted @Interstate19Cap to reply, via Twitter: “I wear a lot of hats. Haha! I should work in MiLB.”

He also attached a picture of his formidable hat wall. Not quite at a St. Pete level, but close!


You may or may not be aware of my most recent “Ben’s Bookshelf” column, which had a Black History Month angle.

bhmbookshelfI recommend all six of the titles shown above (read the article, linked to above), but there’s far more where that came from. Check out this bookshelf pic, sent to me via Twitter by @BeesGal_SLC, and marvel at its thoroughness.

That reminds me — I really should read Curt Flood’s book!


On the promotion front —  this, from the Altoona Curve, is worthy of attention. April 11 will be BOpening Night, a tribute to batboy Bo Forney who passed away earlier this month at the age of 21.

Bo Forney, with the Dubble Bubble

Bo Forney, with the Dubble Bubble

From the team:

Bo has been an inspiration to many with the way he lived,” said Curve General Manager Rob Egan.  “He had the rare ability to make anybody who came in contact with him feel better.  Bo was such a positive person, loved life, and truly enjoyed people.  We miss him deeply and look forward to celebrating his life on ‘BOpening Night’ and throughout the season.”

A silent auction will take place during BOpening Night with all proceeds from the auction benefitting the American Heart Association.  The auction will consist of game-used items from the Pirates-Curve Exhibition game and will include, in addition to other items, 14-game used jerseys that have been signed by former Curve players /current Pirates players.    

To commemorate the life of Forney, a patch with Bo’s cartoon likeness will be affixed to all bat boys uniforms throughout the 2013 season.  The Forney family will also be in attendance for BOpening Night and will throw out ceremonial first pitches prior to the game.  A moment of silence will be held in Bo’s honor prior to the game as well. 

This reminds me of the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, who last season held a ballpark service for vendor Brock Calmes. Events like these help to illustrate the deep bonds that form within Minor League Baseball ballparks, and just how meaningful the presence of Minor League Baseball within a community can be.

Last week, the Tacoma Rainiers let it be known that anyone willing to purchase 350 Opening Weekend ticket deals would receive this pyramid of Dustin Ackley bobbleheads. I don’t think that anyone took them up on it.


Next I’d like to give a shoutout to Spikes, intrepid mascot for your (or at least someone’s) Rochester Red Wings. He joins Rocky of the Wilmington Blue Rocks as the only mascots (that I am aware of) to take part in a Polar Plunge for charity.


During all 10 of their Friday night home games this season, the Charlotte Knights will be wearing 1990 throwback uniforms. Luxuriate in this image!


This initiative was inspired by the fact that 2013 will be the team’s last at Knights Stadium. 1990 was the first. Sez the team:

The jerseys, which were worn by the inaugural Knights Stadium Team in 1990, will now be worn by the current Knights team during the new “Flashback Fridays” series, which is set to commemorate 24 years of history at Knights Stadium.

To return to philanthropic endeavors, the Erie SeaWolves are now at the tail end of their “Drive to Five” initiative. 


The most pertinent of the details:

Through February 28, the Erie SeaWolves will donate $25 to United Way for each new full-season ticket package purchased. If 100 new season ticket packages are purchased, the SeaWolves will double the contribution – raising $5,000 to help United Way achieve its goal to reduce poverty in our region.

If you’re the kind of person who enjoys detailed analysis of industry-wide attendance figures, then you’re going to love the Number Tamer. Nobody does it better! (Or, if someone does, I’m certainly not aware of it).

As you may be aware, one of this year’s most ill-fated sporting ventures occurred in Williamsport, PA. The Federal Hockey League’s Outlaw franchise set up shop at outdoor Bowman Field (longtime home of the Crosscutters), an idea that may sound cool in theory but turned out to be a unmitigated financial disaster. The team pulled the plug on the season mid-way through, leaving everyone in the lurch, and once this happened the Crosscutters offered a quick response via this local newspaper ad:


This seems like a disaster waiting to happen, but nonetheless I encourage you like Lancaster JetHawks mascot KaBoom on Facebook. Here’s why:


Speaking of inadvisable mascot feats, here’s a picture of Lake County’s Skipper, immediately after “Tackling the Tower.”


“Tackling the Tower” isn’t some sort of euphemism, but an annual stair-climbing event with (of course) philanthropic intent. Good work, Skipper!

And, my goodness, this notebook page still has a lot of stuff on it. This post is gonna be a two-parter.

Everything I do, I do it for you.



Lonely in Love, Learning to Like, and, of course, Logos

We are born alone, and die alone. And often, as the case may be, we spend Valentine’s Day alone. Fortunately, at least two Minor League teams expanded their traditional Valentine’s Day offers to include those unencumbered by an actual relationship.

The Charleston RiverDogs’ “Lonely Hearts Package” is a mere $18, and includes an upper reserve ticket, frozen dinner, and pint of ice cream. It will be delivered by this sympathetic soul.

Or, perhaps a flying groundhog would be more to your liking? If so, then get thee to Gwinnett, interested singles:

The G-Braves’ identically-named “Lonely Hearts” package includes a ticket to May 14’s “Singles Mingle” night, as well “as vouchers for a box of Nestlé Drumstick® Ice-cream courtesy of Edy’s and a frozen TV Dinner.”

I wondered what kind of “reception” these TV dinner offers had been getting, and if teams had been dealing in the “volume” expected. In response to a Twitter inquiry, the RiverDogs reported that There were a decent amount of Lonely Hearts. @ThePigglyWiggly got a lot of business in the Hungry Man frozen dinner area from us.

As for what “decent” entails, I have no idea. I’m going to guess somewhere between eight and 4,400.

In keeping with the contrarian Valentine’s Day theme, let’s now move on to the world of logos. This is, after all, a word that in Jungian psychology means “the principal of reason and judgement.” Not very love-like at all!

Today’s logo of choice comes courtesy of the Lake County Captains. But perhaps the club should change it’s name to the “CapTens”:

If you think anniversary logos are for the birds, that’s cool. But you know who else should be for the ‘Birds? You. Here’s why:

The Delmarva Shorebirds, class “A” affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles, are excited to announce the launch of a brand new campaign leading up to the home opener on April 12 designed to raise money for Big Brothers Big Sisters. The Shorebirds will donate one dollar per new Facebook ‘Like’ from now through April 11 to Big Brothers Big Sisters.

The goal of the initiative is to donate a maximum of $1,400 to Big Brothers Big Sisters by growing the Shorebirds Facebook fan page to over 10,000 likes.

So go ahead and give ’em a like. Right HERE.

And speaking (again) of being for the birds, how about this visual out of Des Moines? The Iowa Cubs sure know how to play to their audience:

Also playing to their audience: the Fort Wayne TinCaps. The team launched it’s “All About You” sweepstakes last week, and it’s chock-a-block with great prizes. But one prize, in particular, towers above the rest.

Yes, a life-size bobblehead! Forget mummification, taxidermy, cryogenics and afterlife-based belief systems. Grotesquely-sized ceramic statues featuring crazily disproportionate bodily dimensions are how one achieves true immortality.

This has been post #768 of the greatest Minor League Baseball blog of all time.



Something For Everyone

Lots of flotsam and jetsam has piled up on the shores of Ben’s Biz Blog remote island headquarters, and the only way to deal with such excess detritus is by accumulating it into a tidy pile.

Nice to get a belabored analogy out of the way so early. Let’s go to the info!

First of all, a pair of Pacific Coast League announcers are on the cusp of celebrating significant milestones. Tonight in Des Moines, Deene Ehlis will call his 3000th game for the Iowa Cubs. The broadcast will also be notable in that it’ll include an interview with Indianapolis Colts receiver (and University of Iowa alum) Dallas Clark, who has been immortalized by the I-Cubs in bobblehead form.

Then on Tuesday, Steve Klauke of the Salt Lake Bees call his 2500th contest:

Reports the team:

Klauke joins legendary Utah Jazz broadcaster Hot Rod Hundley (2,645) as the only two play-by-play broadcasters to call 2,500 games with one Utah team. He also becomes just the fourth current Pacific Coast League team broadcaster to reach the 2,500 games-called mark with one PCL team. Currently in his 18th season with the Bees, Klauke can be heard live on 1320 KFAN and at slbees.com.

Klauke will be recognized during a pregame presentation on Tuesday, April 26, while audio highlights of his more notable calls will be played throughout the game.

Trivia Question! Who are the other two current PCL broadcasters to have called at least 2500 games? The first person to email me with the correct response will get to contribute 150 words to a future blog post on whatever topic they choose (must be family friendly, of course). benjamin.hill@mlb.com

Since we’re on the topic of the PCL , it is well worth pointing out that the Fresno Grizzlies are staging a Saturday night tribute to severely (and senselessly) injured San Francisco Giants fan Bryan Stow.

In the words of the team:

Fans can purchase a Super View ticket and special Bryan Stow bracelet for $15, with $10 going directly to The Bryan Stow Fund, established to support Bryan and his family. Stow is a paramedic with American Medical Response and works games for the San Francisco’s Single-A affiliate, the San Jose Giants, at Municipal Stadium.

As you’ll recall, the aforementioned San Jose ballclub is dedicating the month of April to Stow.

I might as well stay with the PCL, as yesterday Sacramento and Reno upped the stakes of their rivalry via a bet between each city’s classic car museum. Typical, right?

Pertinent details:

The annual season series between the Reno Aces and the Sacramento River Cats will take on new significance in 2011, as the two host cities’ auto museums will face off in a high profile wager based on the overall winner of the season series. Reno’s very own National Automobile Museum will put up the 1949 Mercury that James Dean drove in “Rebel Without a Cause,” while Sacramento’s California Auto Museum will put up a 1932 Ford raced by driving legend AJ Foyt.

The RiverCats have owned the Aces as of late. Reno’s win on 4/19 snapped a 12-game losing streak against Sacramento, with their previous victory having come exactly a year previous. (My knowledge truly knows no boundaries, a fact that I’ll tell myself many times over tonight while sitting in an easy chair and drinking whiskey in a darkened living room.)

But anyway, can you believe that I’ve made it this far before featuring a new food item that laughs in the face of death? What follows is the Lancaster JetHawks’ new “Heart-Stopper” a limited time only delicacy consisting of a hot dog on biscuits, smothered in sausage gravy, cheese, and bacon.

I actually think this one looks pretty good! If only concession items could safely and sensibly be sent via the United States post office…

Until that day arrives, I’ll be amusing myself with humorous videos. This one, featuring the clumsy ball-handling skills of Durham Bulls hurler Mike Ekstrom, is a must-see instant classic.

That’s going to close out the week for me. But before I go, may I direct your attention to my latest “Farm’s Almanac” piece on MiLB.com? Professor Joe Price is singing the National Anthem at over 100+ ballparks this summer, and he’s truly a man on a mission. From the story:

“I always love for people to join in, and for the anthem to be sung together regardless of political orientation,” said Price. “This can, potentially, be everyone’s national anthem. And as a result it can bridge the gap between the Tea Party and liberals, between hawks and doves. Because, even though it is a wartime song, it was written as a celebration of freedom. The preservation of our freedoms is what lies at the heart of it.”



Nouns of Multitude, Video Edition

pride.jpgOne of the more curious aspects of the English language is the number of collective nouns devoted to identifying groups of specific bird and animal species.

You know — a pride of lions, a clan of hyenas, a colony of bats, etc. Unfortunately, however, there is no collective noun that describes a group of YouTube videos that are all embedded within the same blog post.

So I’m going to make one up.

Today’s post, then, features a flapdoodle of videos. Enjoy!

Let’s start with this celebrity-filled promo video recently unveiled by the Iowa Cubs, entitled “The I-Cubs Are My Cubs.” None other than the President of The United States makes an appearance!

Update: I-Cubs director of logistics Scott Sailor explains how the team landed Obama’s less-than-unequivocal endorsement:

We filmed Obama here in 2007 when he was a candidate — the Iowa Caucuses were inicubsmycubs.gif January 2008 — and many of them made stops at the ballpark. Sam Brownback! Chris Dodd!

Obama was the only one we thought to film — and remember, at this time he was a long shot.

We pounced on him in the radio booth after he was on the air for an inning and asked him to say “The I-Cubs Are My Cubs” like everyone else…but he wouldn’t…he’s a Sox fan…but he did compromise and give us the footage we have.

Meanwhile, a fresh triumvirate of mascot-themed videos have been unleashed upon an unsuspecting public.

Moving from Obama to Omaha, it has become apparent that Casey’s offseason life is no longer average. The slugging Storm Chaser was at the Kansas City Royals Fan Fest last weekend in order to take part in the hallowed tradition that is the Mascot Home Run Derby.

Meanwhile, in Akron, Orbit has overcome his malaise and is earnestly preparing himself for next month’s “Tackle the Tower” challenge. 

Finally, the Fort Myers Miracle have released the first installment of what may shape up to be an epic serialized mystery. Sparky the Hamster has gone missing!

And — hey! — it’s Gratuitous Video Friday. Or, in this case, Even More Gratuitous Video Friday. I’ll end this blogging week with my new answer to the eternal question “What would be your at-bat walk-up music?”

We’ll all be back on Monday for the punchline of the joke.


A New First-Round Draft Pick

twitbird.pngI was on Twitter yesterday, minding my own business, when I came across the following 140-character missive from Iowa Cubs’ director of logistics Scott Sailor:

Coming to Principal Park: Bottoms Up Beer Dispensers. Fills #beer from the bottom of the cup — in one second!

The tweet contained a link to the home page of GrinOn Industries, makers of the “Bottoms Up” beer dispenser. Said page contains a video of one man filling up 44 pints over the course of a minute. Meanwhile, on YouTube, this video of “Bottoms Up” in action has garnered over three million views:

My interest piqued, I re-tweeted Sailor’s tweet and that in turn was picked up by CNBC sports business (and Twitter) guru Darren Rovell. As a result, I gained quite a few new followers as well as the knowledge that people are very interested in bottom-filling beer cups.

But the I-Cubs are the first Minor League team I’ve come across who will utilize this amazing technology (which, for the record, is heavily dependent on magnets). Are there any others out there? I’d like to hear some bottom-filling beer cup anecdotes.

It’s a non-sequitur kind of day, so I’m going to transition without comment to the funniest Minor League video I’ve seen in at least 22 hours. If you’ve ever wanted to know what a baseball zamboni is, or even if you haven’t, the Gwinnett Braves are here to fill you in.

I really am a fan of the above video, as it so ably utilizes the classic “set-up/punchline” format. That’s all that’s ever needed.

Seeking to zig where others zag, I’ll close today’s post with information about a toothbrush bobblehead. Bet you didn’t see this one coming:


The individual seen above is “Bristles”, an up-and-comer within the Lowell Spinners’ ever-expanding pantheon of ballpark characters. The team is distributing just 200 Bristles bobbleheads, available only to “Grand Slam” members of the “Thread Sox Nation” fan club.

Talk about a brush with greatness!

Bottoms-up beer dispensing? Check. Zamboni-themed team produced video? Check. Oral hygiene giveaway item? Check. Puns that inspire anger in the reader and self-loathing in the writer? Check. 

Okay, my work here is done.


Promo Year In Review Part One: The Giveaways


Throughout the season, I wrote over 100 blog posts, 22 “Promotion Preview” columns, and sundry articles commemorating notable promotions taking place across Minor League Baseball.

Now it’s time to make sense of all that madness, and I need your help.

Starting today (Tuesday), and continuing on throughout the remainder of the week, I’ll be providing my top six promotions of the year in each of four categories: Giveaways, Theme Nights, Celebrity Appearances, and Miscellaneous Events.

The point of sharing these lists is not just to reminisce on the season that was, but for YOU to let me know what I’m missing. Yes, YOU. Whether you’re a fan, team employee, or covert operative existing in a shady nether region between the two entities, I want to hear from YOU.

Two promotions will be added to each list based on your input, setting the stage for next week’s series of “Promotion of the Year” polls on MiLB.com. Apathy is tantamount to treason, so rack your brain and get in touch today.  


Today we’ll take a brief look at some of the season’s top giveaways, with links to how the items were originally covered in this blog and MiLB.com. My six nominees, in alphabetical order:

Brooklyn Cyclones — Ike Davis Bobble Legs


Charleston RiverDogs Chia Head of groundskeeper Mike Williams


Iowa Cubs — Player To Be Named Later Bobblehead


Lake County Captains — Skipper Leg Lamp


Orem Owlz — Torii Hunter Bobble Arm


Portland Beavers — Viewmaster (with 10 slides featuring Beavers baseball and local military units)


So what am I missing? Let me know YOUR favorite Minor League Giveaway item of the year. I’ll be soliciting emails, tweets, comments, and telegrams throughout the remainder of the week. Silence is deadly, so speak up. 


On the Road: First Pitches, Ferocious Franks, and Freedom of Speech in Iowa

Thumbnail image for i-cubslogo.gifLast night my blogging efforts were felled by a staggeringly slow internet connection at the otherwise amenity-laden Embassy Suites in downtown Des Moines. Adam Lambert had performed in the city that evening, so my theory is that the small army of fans staying at the hotel were hogging the bandwidth in their attempts to exhaustively document the performance of this American Idol superstar.

This is just a theory.

But here’s to new beginnings! Live and direct from the palatial confines of the West Burlington AmericInn, I now bring you a full recap of my night at Principal Park (for the MiLB.com story, click HERE).


The above picture was taken during a brief tour of the facility provided by uber-hospitable Scott Sailor, the I-Cubs’ director of logistics. He extolled the beautiful views that Principal Park offers, which include the waterfront scenery of the Des Moines and Raccoon Rivers as well as the gleaming Iowa State Capitol Building.




But already I’m getting ahead of myself. After the tour I wandered over to what has been dubbed “Sandberg’s Alley”, where I-Cubs manager Ryne Sandberg signs autographs for 10-15 minutes prior to each ballgame. The line for his John Hancock went up the stairs and snaked far down the concourse:


Shortly after 6:30, Sandberg dutifully emerged:


At this point, I was on the field in order to engage in a task I had never done before: the ceremonial first pitch! I hadn’t had time to practice, and simply hoped that whatever skills were left over from my long-ago playing days (ages 5-16) would once again manifest themselves.

They did, to a degree. While the pitch was a bit off the plate, it didn’t bounce and that was really my only goal. It wasn’t exactly a pretty sight:




I think I heard the PA announcer refer to me as an “award-winning” writer, although in reality my awards mantle remains as barren as the day I bought it (I really put the cart before the horse with that purchase). Still, I appreciate the sentiment!

I didn’t have time to rest, on my laurels or otherwise, as the evening’s next task was to suit up as “Hot Dog” in the nightly mascot race. My competitors were a pair of affable I-Cubs interns: Austin Strawhacker (chef) and Greg Mullen (Taquito).

The Chef and I:


“Feel free to push, kick, hurt us, whatever,” Strawhacker told me as we were suiting up, and indeed it turned out to be a very physical race. 

We started out with a dizzy bat race:


And then it was to get sprintin’. The force of our on-field impact was so great that it damaged the following photos:



I’m not exactly sure what led to what, but Hot Dog ended up finishing last. Regardless, the race was very well-received by the fans. Even having had the experience of attending mascot camp, I was still caught off guard by the number of high fives and hugs I was asked to dole out afterwards (in addition to one autograph request, which was extremely difficult given the padded four-finger gloves).

One supportive kid yelled “You tried your best, Hot Dog!” as I walked past. “And you failed!” quickly added another.

My final on-field appearance came in the fifth inning, throwing t-shirts out of the passenger seat of a golf cart while stadium operations manager Jeff Tilley manned the attached t-shirt gun.

No pictures exist of this half-inning adventure, but here’s a shot of Tilley doing what he does best (from the I-Cubs’ photostream):


It was now the bottom of the fifth inning, and the sun had long disappeared. Still, I felt obligated to take a photographically-minded walk around the outside of the stadium:


This boy and his dog were located beyond the outfield, but more statues could be found at the front entrance.



This statue is in honor of former I-Cubs owner Ken Grandquist, and reads “Like the seams of a baseball which never ends, Ken Grandquist’s lover for the game was neverending.”


Principal Park was built in 1992 and still feels fresh, so I was struck by how rustic this portion of the fence looked from the back.


Back inside the stadium, I decided it was time to hit up the concession stand. The lure of a Chicago Hot Dog was too great to ignore…


Featuring the most day-glo relish known to man!


I would never drink on the job, of course, but I still visited the “Beer Box” — a walk-in cooler featuring 20 different kinds of beer.



Fans can contemplate a crucial American right while enjoying their hot dog and beer.


This sign is courtesy of I-Cubs owner Michael Gartner, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist who told me “I’d be in jail without the First Amendment.”

In addition to free speech, Principal Park fans take advantage of the freedom of assembly. Here are some shots from the stadium, where 9106 fans gathered on this slightly chilly Friday night:







The Iowa Cubs won this all-important game, 4-2, to open up a one-game lead over the visiting Memphis Redbirds with just three to play. It wasn’t easy, though, as the Redbirds brought the go-ahead run to the plate in the ninth inning. In such a tough situation, you need a man on the mound with nerves of steel and unhittable stuff.

Anyone but this guy, in other words.



Here I Go Again On My Own

neb.jpgThe season is coming to a close, and I’m happy to report that I’ll be closing it out in style. For in a matter of hours I’ll be traveling to Omaha, the first stop in a five-day Midwestern road trip.

To the itinerary!

9/2 — Omaha Royals (their last-ever game in Rosenblatt Stadium!)
9/3 — Iowa Cubs
9/4 — Burlington Bees
9/5 — Quad Cities River Bandits
9/6 — Kane County Cougars

Feel free to get in touch with any content suggestions or inside tips regarding the teams/cities in question. And if you’ll be at any of these games, please say hello. As always, I’ll be the guy in the shirt.

And not only will tomorrow be the Omaha Royals’ last game at Rosenblatt Stadium — it mayoroyals.jpg be their last home game as the “Omaha Royals.” In conjunction with their 2011 move to nearby Sarpy County, the organization is currently staging a “Name the Team” contest. Over 400 names have been suggested thus far, let’s go to the press release:

Names relating to the weather and to the military have been leading the way so far. Some of those suggestions include Storm, Hail, Heat, Blizzard, Twisters, Bombers and Commanders. Some fans have just tweaked the name to vary slightly from Royals, suggesting Monarchs and Kings. Other fans, no doubt sad to see the demise of Rosenblatt Stadium following the 2010 season, have submitted the team name Blatts for

I would like to suggest a return to the moniker employed by the city’s long-defunct Western Association franchise: the Omahogs.

And while I am excited to be visiting the Iowa Cubs on September 3, I’m disappointed that I will not be in attendance for September 5’s giveaway: the Player to Be Named Later Bobblehead.

Finally, one of the sport’s most unsung characters gets his due:

later.JPGMy “potential blog topics” notebook page is overflowing at the moment, and I apologize to all who have sent me material that I have not yet been able to feature. I’ll get to it, just like I am getting to this:

A parody video in which a G-Funk classic is repurposed as a celebration of a California League baseball team. It’s Bo’z N Da Hood with “Nothin But A Storm Thang”:

The lyrics to “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” are incorporated into one of the verses in the above video, but for a truly unique interpretation check out this adorable dispatch from Lansing.

It’s a good thing that Ryan was in Lansing and not West Michigan, because he would probably have been terrified by first pitch honoree Ronald McDonald:


(photo credit: Emily Jones)

Sweet dreams! I’ll be sending out dispatches from the Midwest as soon as I can.


Ten In One (And Five More For the Road)

swiss.jpgSo, my original plan for today was to feature all of the head shots that were submitted to me over the past two weeks. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, click HERE.

But here’s the thing: I’m going to be on vacation all next week, and I have more pressing stuff to write about. So the head shots can wait. In fact, keep sending ’em. In the meantime, here is enough random info to hold you over until my demoralizing triumphant return on March 1.

In the interest of not prioritizing one item of information above the other, the following collection of newsworthy items is presented in reverse alphabetical order.

Wisconsin Timber Rattlers — If there’s one thing that everyone can agree on, it’s ice cream. But if there’s one thing everyone can’t agree on, it’s what ice cream should be named. The Timber Rattlers will be serving a new flavor at the ballpark next season, described as “a mixture of caramel, peanuts, and chocolate”, and they are asking YOU to name it. Well, not YOU specifically. They are asking YOU as well as every other person who uses the internet. Vote HERE.   

The Timber Rattlers also recently announced the creation of a senior citizens club called “The Silver Foxes.” Not quite as sexy as “Silver Pigs“, but it’s a start.

SABR (Society for American Baseball Research) —  How’s this for an unbeatable deal:sabr.gif




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The Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) is giving away The Emerald Guide to Baseball 2010 to the world baseball community. Developed in the spirit of the classic guides published by the Sporting News, Spalding, and Reach, The Emerald Guide
includes all pitching, hitting, and fielding statistics for every
player active in the major and minor leagues during 2009. Other
features include team histories, up-to-date team contact information
and schedules, an extensive Year in Review essay, team day-by-day game
logs, All-Star Game box score and play-by play, post-season box scores
and play-by-play, transactions, debuts, first-year player draft, and
major and minor league necrology.

Yes, that’s right — FREE. Download it HERE, and tell your friends.

Thumbnail image for PeoriaChiefs.pngPeoria Chiefs —  Dudes are gonna like this. On March 27 and April 1, the Chiefs will host fantasy baseball drafts at O’Brien Field. Here’s the deal:

For just $35 per person, your league will get private use of one our
luxury suites, an all-you-can-eat buffet, draft beer, wireless internet
access and a ticket to the Chiefs May 27 game against the Cedar Rapids

The press release does not mention the greatest benefit of such an offer, which is that it enables men to escape from their curler-wearing, rolling pin-carrying wives. Yes, my knowledge of marriage is limited solely to Andy Capp cartoons.   

Omaha Royals — The 2009-10 logo unveiling season is rapidly fading into a sepia-tinged memory, but before it goes gently into that good night I have this to report: The Omaha Royals have unveiled a patch which commemorates their final season at venerable Rosenblatt Stadium (full disclosure: I use the word “venerable” whenever I want to refer euphemistically to something that is old).


Northwest Arkansas Naturals — Remember all the way back in May when I wrote about how the reality show “18 Kids and Counting” would be visiting a Northwest Arkansas Naturals game? That’s okay, I don’t either.

Regardless, video of the episode is now available, and the Naturals must be very pleased with how they are portrayed. The mammoth Duggar family genuinely seemed to have a good time, and there were highlights aplenty (including the most chaotic first pitch since THIS). But my favorite moment occurred when one young Duggar said the following to mascot Strike:

“Take off your head, and let me see your smaller head.”





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Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs — You mean to tell me that the team is now offering free downloadable ring tones? Why yes. Yes I do.

Lexington Legends — Another fantasy fulfilled: a video of a video featuring a mustachioed mascot doing “the John Wall Dance.”

Iowa Cubs — The I-Cubs are now offering a “Promotion Pass” to season ticket holders, entitling them to every giveaway item on the 2010 schedule. Those who purchase said pass will never again be thwarted by age restrictions and limited quantities, those twin demons of the season ticket holder existence.   

Gwinnett Braves — As you may have heard, the G-Braves announced Wednesday that Gwinnett Stadium will henceforth be known as Coolray Field. I am allegedly a business reporter, but my most pressing concern has nothing to do with the conditions of the team’s agreement with the excellently-named heating and cooling company. All I want to know is how Chopper the mascot spent his time leading up to the announcement. And thanks to this, I do:

Durham Bulls — All active duty military personnel receive FREE admission to every 2010 Bulls game.

That’s the sort of deal that speaks for itself.

As for me, I’m done speaking for myself. I’ll be off the internet until next month, but in the interim feel free to bombard my inbox with messages regarding matters consequential and otherwise. And, just like Tupac, new material will continue to emerge even in my absence. Four of my articles will appear on MiLB.com next week, so please remain vigilant.

Update — Here are five more worthy inclusions, once again listed in reverse alphabetical order. Why not, right? It’s not like I have anything better to do on a Friday night in NYC. This town is boring. But these towns are not:

Syracuse Chiefs — Hey hey, my my. Logo news will never die. The Chiefs have unveiled a new home uniform for 2010: 


Read all about it HERE.

Gwinnett Braves (again): Maybe it’s the presence of new GM North Johnson, or maybe it’s because the team has some confidence after successfully navigating its 2009 inaugural season, or maybe it’s a combination of the two. Either way, things are getting downright goofy down there in Gwinnett County. Goofy and paranoid, in this case, which is generally a very entertaining combination.

A zebra got loose in downtown Atlanta, see, and that can apparently only mean one thing: said Zebra was attempting to travel to a nearby Triple-A team in order to steal the job of a groundhog mascot. I’ll let the team explain things from here on in. CLICK THIS.

dcubs.gifDaytona Cubs — In what just might be the most impressive feat of endurance ever accomplished by a Minor League gm, Daytona’s Brady Ballard ran over 40(!) miles during the course of a one-man, 12-hour charity run. More information can be found HERE, and a local news report on Ballard’s run can be seen HERE.

Charleston RiverDogs — Well, here’s something you don’t see any day: bidding for the opportunity to appear in an advertisement for a Minor League Baseball team.

I like the thinking here. Why pay someone to star in a commercial when there are people out there who will pay you? Along those lines, please send me $175 if you would like to see your writing featured on Ben’s Biz Blog.

Altoona Curve — The Curve were among many teams to be buried in snow earlier this month, and they decided to use that as the motivation for a ticket deal. In order to promote said deal, they made a video that is fast-paced, funny, and more than a bit ridiculous:

I much prefer this alternate ending, in which a gruesome and unprovoked mascot attack is juxtaposed with the Benny Hill theme song:

And speaking of Benny Hill — that’s me! And I’m out of here!

For real this time.