Yesterday, I kicked off the 2016 season with a requisite bouillabaisse blog post. The “bouillabaisse” in such posts is metaphorical, but today all food references are literal. Let’s take a look at some new ballpark eats.
We’ll start with my old pals the Charleston RiverDogs. Longtime food and beverage boss John Schumaker has left the team in order to open his own restaurant, Harold’s Cabin, which is backed by team co-owners Mike Veeck and Bill “Yes, that Bill Murray” Murray. Nonetheless, the RiverDogs, led by food and beverage director Josh Shea, keep on keeping on with innovative ballpark cuisine.
This, for example, is no ordinary corn dog. It’s a “Shrimp-N-Grit Corn Dog.”
The Palmetto Biscotti Shake coming to The Joe! pic.twitter.com/tMv09LMe0v
— Charleston RiverDogs (@ChasRiverDogs) March 25, 2016
From left to right we have:
The Squealer: Half-pound foot-long hot dog stuffed with pulled pork and cheddar cheese, then wrapped in bacon and deep-fried, and drizzled with barbeque sauce.
The European Vacation: Foot-long bratwurst on a pierogi bun, topped with fiery feta cheese spread and roasted red peppers.
Meet Your Maker Quesadilla: Triple-decker quesadilla with three jam-packed layers-layer one has hot dogs, Texas jack chili, and cheddar cheese; layer two has hamburger and American cheese, and layer three has chicken tenders, poutine gravy, and cheddar cheese.
The Squealer, ready for its close-up:
— Mary Kay Quinn (@ExchangeMaryKay) April 7, 2016
In Jacksonville, my old pals the Suns are now under the same ownership as the RubberDucks. Hence, the team’s “FUNdamentally Different” concession approach.
Buffalo Chicken Bites in a Waffle Cone, Chicken and Waffles, Chicken “Limp” Biscuit (as good as a Korn dog?), Pork and Slaw Dog, Philly Dog. The last item, bottom left, appears to be a plain ol’ hot dog.
Also of note: The Suns have renamed two of their concession stands in honor of local sports icons: Singh for Your Supper (golfer Vijay Singh) and Sweet Tea-bow.
My old pals the Lakewood BlueClaws have long held a “Pork Roll, Egg and Cheese” mascot race, and this season they’re honoring all three complementary food components in bobblehed form. Nonetheless, my old pals the Trenton Thunder have perhaps taken in the lead when it comes to the prominent category of “New Jersey baseball team most dedicated to the celebration of pork roll.”
This season, the Thunder have a “Pork Roll Paradise” food stand at the ballpark.
Oink, Cluck and Moo — a classic pork roll, egg and cheese sandwich. Served, as all Ween fans know, on a kaiser bun.
Thunder Dog — A hot dog with pork roll slices and American cheese on a torpedo roll.
Pig Pen — Chopped pork roll, pulled pork and bacon bits atop mashed potatoes.
Hog Steak — Chopped pork roll with Cheez Whiz on a torpedo roll.
Perhaps inspired by the Thunder, the BlueClaws recently unveiled their own pork roll-inspired creation:
— Lakewood BlueClaws (@BlueClaws) April 7, 2016
My old pals the West Michigan Whitecaps are no strangers to attention-getting food items. This year’s Fan Food Vote winner hasn’t garnered the viral acclaim of the Baco or Fifth Third Burger, but nonetheless it exists. Existence is the most important thing.
This is the “Dutch Love” — turkey pot roast, cheese curds and fries in a pita wrap.
And here’s a weird one out of Fresno, where my old pals the Grizzlies are offering “Hot Cheetos Dusted Fries”.
What better place to end than with a weird one? I’ll follow up with an accompanying drinks post in the near future, so if you’ve got something to share on that front then please get in touch. Also, my 2016 road trip itineraries are coming soon. Promise.
To see all of my posts from this visit to the Jacksonville Suns (this is Part Three) click HERE. To see all of the posts from my April 2015 Florida trip, click HERE. To see all of my “On the Road” posts (going back to 2010), click HERE.
This is the end! The last post from the last stop on my season-opening Florida ballpark road trip. I’m feeling a little loopy as I write this — it’s been a long day and I leave for my next trip tomorrow morning — but not as loopy as I felt while watching the Jacksonville Suns host the Montgomery Biscuits on this wet Saturday night in April.
Things always get weird when the Zooperstars! are in town. Even when! I’m writing about the Zooperstars! things get weird, as I start! putting exclamation marks in all the wrong! places.
Zooperstars Tim Tebull in action. https://t.co/cbQbOQgFO1
— Benjamin Hill (@bensbiz) April 19, 2015
Southpaw was like “Oh, man, how can I compete with those inflatable dancing weirdos?”
Upon re-emerging on the concourse, I paid a visit to Pedro Bragan’s concourse “Chairman’s Box.” Here, he poses with his “Victory Bell,” a locomotive bell presented to his father, Peter Bragan Sr., by CSX Transportation.
Considering that this game was preceded by a 102-minute rain delay, Pedro was satisfied with how many fans stuck around.
“That’s the power of the Zooperstars!,” he said. (The exclamation mark is part of the Zooperstars! name. Do not mistake its inclusion in the preceding quote for irrational exuberance on the part of Pedro.)
And when that Victory Bell rings, you can hear it everywhere. Even here, in the rain-soaked bleacher section.
While I was out here in the bleacher wilderness, I enjoyed the kind of ballpark snack you just can’t find where I’m from: Salt and Vinegar Pork Rinds and Sweet Tea from the Front Porch Kettle Corn kiosk.
One of the world’s best combinations. https://t.co/fkr0l6iCbk
— Benjamin Hill (@bensbiz) April 19, 2015
That’ll be it for Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville food coverage, as my designated eater (you know, the individual who eats the ballpark cuisine that my gluten-free diet prohibits) canceled. My attempts to get a new one failed. A lot of people showed interest on Twitter, but no one sent the email that I require. That’s all I ask for: an email. Courteous, conscientious communication. How hard is that?
Anyhow, here’s a photo of one of the concession stands. It’s the best I can do right now.
Here I am approaching the scoreboard. Repeat: Approaching the scoreboard.
The most exciting thing in all of sports https://t.co/ec5c2qUWro
— Benjamin Hill (@bensbiz) April 19, 2015
I believe that this interesting little left field protrusion is called “The Knuckle.”
(This is my most-watched Vine of all time.)
I think I’m hallucinating https://t.co/91XxdvGOjF
— Benjamin Hill (@bensbiz) April 19, 2015
Harry then sprayed me with silly string. This is just the sort of thing Harry does. I’m think I’m going to use this as my new online dating profile pic.
Thus concluded my time in Jacksonville and thus concluded my season-opening Florida road trip. I’m hitting the road again tomorrow.
See you soon, Midwest.
To see all of my posts from this visit to the Jacksonville Suns (this is Part Two) click HERE. To see all of the posts from my April 2015 Florida trip, click HERE. To see all of my “On the Road” posts (going back to 2010), click HERE.
I arrived at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville hours before that evening’s Suns game was supposed to be played. Therefore, I was able to snag a primo parking place. A very long home run to left field could smash the windshield, but, hey, whatever, it’s a rental car. YOLO.
To see all of my posts from this visit to the Jacksonville Suns (this is Part One) click HERE. To see all of the posts from my April 2015 Florida trip, click HERE. To see all of my “On the Road” posts (going back to 2010), click HERE.
On the eighth and final stop of my season-opening Florida ballpark road trip, I finally busted out of the confines of the Florida State League. Specifically, I headed north to Jacksonville to see the Suns. This was a significant stop for me. Not only was it the culmination of a fairly grueling road trip, but I have now visited every Minor League ballpark in Florida (the entirety of the 12-team Florida State League as well as Pensacola and Jacksonville).
Sunshine State, complete!
The Suns, Double-A affiliate of the Florida Marlins, have played at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville since 2003. But we’ll get to that facility over the next two posts of this series. My afternoon started with a (metaphorical) trip back in time, to a living relic from Jacksonville’s baseball history: J.P. Small Park.
This site had been the location of baseball and other sports for [over] 100 years.
The location has been known at different times as Barrs Field, the Myrtle Avenue Ball Park, Joseph H. Durkee Memorial Athletic Field, and since 1980, James P. Small Memorial Stadium.
The current steel and brick grandstand has basically the same appearance as it did when it was originally designed and constructed in 1935. For 20 years this structure served as the center of professional baseball until a new municipal stadium, the Gator Bowl, opened in 1955.
The ballpark is located in Jacksonville’s Durkeeville neighborhood. It was originally constructed in 1912, on land owned by neighborhood namesake Joseph H. Durkee. Between 1914 and 1922 it hosted Spring Training for a variety of Major League clubs (Brooklyn Dodgers, New York Yankees, Pittsburgh Pirates, Philadelphia Athletics). Minor League teams played there intermittently between 1921 and 1961, including the 1953 South Atlantic League Braves. This team, one of the South Atlantic League’s first integrated squads, included Hank Aaron on the roster. Negro League baseball was played here as well, in the form of the Jacksonville Red Caps.
I was driven to the stadium by Suns director of security Rob Schoonover (a 33-year law enforcement veteran) and his wife, Jeanne. The visit to J.P. Small Park was motivated by a desire to simply see the facility, but as luck would have it a game was being played there that afternoon. Trinity Baptist College was in the final stages of an 8-2 victory over Edward Waters.
There was game day entertainment and everything.
“Henry Aaron met his wife here,” he told me. “He and Felix Mantilla were coming out of the dressing room and he saw [future wife] Barbara Lucas walking down the sidewalk. It was just one of them things.”
The ballpark’s current dimensions are a quirky 341 to left, 371 to center and 285 to right, but Malpress remembered players “hitting the ball across the street, when there was a wooden fence all the way around. Hurricane Dora tore that fence down, yeah.”
Malpress has gone on to umpire countless high school and college games at J.P. Small Ballpark, and he attends nearly every Jacksonville Suns game held at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville. But baseball’s not the only sport he’s involved with, as a Google search of his name reveals that he’s spent two decades on the Jacksonville Jaguars “Chain Crew.” He’s a Jacksonville sports icon.
Okay, it’s time for me to move the chains. This post is is the first down; stay tuned for two more, live and direct from the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville.
This quick afternoon detour to J.P. Small Ballpark was an enjoyable one.
My latest (and therefore greatest) Minor League ballpark road trip wrapped up in Jacksonville on Saturday. Click here — and scroll down — to see a round-up of all the blogs and articles that have been produced so far; you can sleep well knowing that there’ll be plenty more where that came from.
That trip ended in Jacksonville, the home of the Suns, who are in the midst of a season-opening homestand that can only be described as “Brobdingnagian.”
This sustained stretch of home games came about because the Biloxi Shuckers’ MGM Park won’t be ready until (at least) early June. Therefore, the Suns are playing in Jacksonville as the “road” team during their current (April 20-24) series against the Shuckers, in addition to regularly scheduled homestands from April 9-19 and 25-29th.
It should go without saying that hosting a homestand of such magnitude is an extremely taxing experience for the front office staff, who will be working unremittingly long days at the ballpark with nary a break in sight. If there’s one team that feels their pain, who have been there and done that, it’s the Rochester Red Wings.
In 2012 the Red Wings’ Frontier Field served as the primary home ballpark of the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees, who were forced to spend the season on the road due to an extensive renovation to PNC Field. The Red Wings’ front office ended up hosting a whopping 109 games that season, with several stretches of a duration comparable to what the Suns are experiencing right now.
The Red Wings staff, a sympathetic lot, feel the Suns’ pain and have sought to help them in their time of need via this handy list. Suns staffers are advised to print it out and put it in their wallets (or purses, or fanny packs, or what have you):
Top 10 Survival Tips for a Really, Really Long Homestand
10. Nothing but day games!
9. On-site laundry service for all employees
8. Nightly anti-rain dance to prevent doubleheaders
7. For female employees with significant others, four letters: B-E-E-R
6. For male employees with significant others, three letters: F-T-D
5. Initiate a daily post-lunch siesta
4. Daily Red Bull happy hour for the staff
3. Give mascot “body optional, head required” days
2. Hire landscaping company to do staff lawns
1. Fans pull tarp after Day 10
Thanks to Dan Mason, Matt Cipro and the entire Red Wings front office for sharing these survival tips, and good luck to the Suns as they seek to survive. I’ll have much more material from my recent Jacksonville visit, hopefully before this current homestand finally, mercifully ends.
This season, when I’m on the road, I’ll be writing a short, on-the-spot blog post about each Minor League ballpark that I visit. Then, upon returning to New York City’s comforting embrace, I will provide the unimpeachable blog coverage that you have come to know and love. So let’s get to it, lest it get to us!
April 18, 2015 — Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville (Bragan Field), home of the Jacksonville Suns (Double-A affiliate of the Florida Marlins)
Opponent: Montgomery Biscuits, 8:47 p.m. ET start time (after a rain delay of one hour and 42 minutes)
Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville, from the outside:
The Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville, from within:
Culinary Delight: Salt and Vinegar Pork Rinds and Sweet Tea, from third party ballpark vendor Front Porch Kettle Corn:
Waiting for the Punch-Vine (my nightly attempt at telling an “original” ballpark joke in six seconds):
Does this count as a joke?
I think I’m hallucinating https://t.co/91XxdvGOjF
— Benjamin Hill (@bensbiz) April 19, 2015
At Random: Suns owner Peter “Pedro” Bragan Jr. in his office
Last Song Played Over the PA: Procol Harum, “A Whiter Shade of Pale”
Next Up: I AM HOME. Click HERE to see all of my 2015 trip itineraries.
With a few exceptions, I’ve dedicated the month of October to writing about in-season endeavors that I did not get around to writing about during the season itself. So I guess it’s fitting that here on All Hallow’s Eve, also known as the last day of October, I have finally exhausted my supply of in-season content. The only thing left in my “potential blog items” Excel spreadsheet involved Jacksonville Suns infielder Derek Dietrich and that time that he performed a post-game juggling exhibition. Seriously.
“Derek Dietrich Triples and Juggles Torches” — you know, just another day at the ol’ ballyard.
Dietrich, a 24-year-old infielder who logged 57 games with the Miami Marlins this season, pulled of the above feat during August 13’s game against Birmingham. But that wasn’t the only time he took the field in order to toss dangerous items about. Here he is throwing some knives around, potential trip to the disabled list be damned.
And that’s all folks! There is no more in-season content to be had from me (unless, you know, you want to send me some). Therefore, I suppose that now is as good a time as any to bring this to your attention:
The Trenton Thunder have won the 2013 “Promo of the Year” MiLBY Award, for their “Chase the Bat Dog Retirement Party.”
Read the article HERE, which will be my last piece of content recapping the 2013 campaign.
But since I’m on the topic of MiLB.com content — the final “Crooked Numbers” column of 2013 ran earlier this month, and can be read HERE. After the column ran, I was alerted to this exceedingly entertaining and exquisitely “crooked” article by Aberdeen IronBirds broadcaster Jacob Rasch, on “The Oddities of a Suspended Game.” The article details the head-spinning specifics of a game that took some 33 days to complete, and is a must-read for anyone who enjoys the deep wellspring of absurdity that is baseball. Among the many nuggets contained therein, my favorite is this:
The starting pitcher, Austin Urban, struggled in the first half of the game. In four innings, he had given up 8 runs on 8 hits, including the Calderon grand slam. But in the resumption of the game, Urban was given a chance to atone.
“The suspended game fell on my day to pitch, so I got to go back out there,” Urban explained. “In the month that it took to get that game restarted, I made some big adjustments, and I approached it as a completely different start.”
Urban, given the opportunity to keep his team in the game, shut down the same Yankee lineup he had struggled against the month before. In the four innings he pitched after the game was resumed, Urban gave up only 1 hit and 3 walks, striking out 4.
Urban’s final line is strange to say the least: 8 innings pitched, 9 hits, 8 runs (all earned), 6 walks, and 6 strikeouts. All told, he threw a staggering 156 pitches, a number that would seem impossible if there weren’t a 32-day break in between pitch number 72 and 73.
Stump your friends! In 2013, no professional pitcher threw more pitches in one outing than Austin Urban’s 156.
And this concludes Ben’s Biz Blog post #998.
When I’m on the road I always have so much to write about, both here on the blog and over at MiLB.com. This content overload is a good thing, but one negative aspect of it is that I can’t devote enough of my attention to that which is taking place outside of the places I visit.
C’est la vie, as the French say (when they’re giving examples of the cliched French terms that Americans actually know).
But right now? Right now I’m not on the road, nor do I have any more “On the Road” content. Therefore, today will be the first in a short series of bouillabaisse posts, in which I jump haphazardly from item to item with startling rapidity. Commence organized chaos and — warning! — some of this material is rather dated. I’m working my way through this backlog in chronological fashion.
Apropos of nothing — is R.A. Coon the best front office name in Minor League Baseball, or does Lexington’s Ty Cobb retain that honor?
— Beloit Snappers (@BeloitSnappers) March 20, 2013
(Regardless, THIS is the best blog post written by a Minor League broadcaster about someone named R.A.)
You may have seen my recent MiLB.com article about the Jacksonville Suns’ Casey Challenge, in which team president Peter “Pedro” Bragan challenges area school students to memorize the poem.
Well, speaking of the Bragans, did you know that the Suns gave away a “talking bobblehead” of Pete Bragan, Sr., the iconic team owner who passed away last season?
— Jacksonville Suns (@SunsBaseball) March 20, 2013
It really talks. Listen!
(And speaking, as I was, of “Casey at the Bat” — my favorite rendition, by far, is Tug McGraw narrating the poem while backed by Peter Nero and Philadelphia Pops Orchestra. I have it on record, and if anyone would like to assist with the LP-to-computer uploading process then let me know because I need to share it with the world at large.)
The Lehigh Valley IronPigs have long had an almost maniacal propensity for pig-related puns (the Pork Illustrated game program, for example, or a conference room for “Boar”d Meetings). These days, said puns are practically avant-garde.
The team has named its frozen yogurt bar the “Soo’eyte Spot.” You figure it out.
How sweet it is! The Soo’eeyte spot frozen yogurt bar is having its grand opening tonight at Coca-Cola Park! twitter.com/IronPigs/statu…
— IronPigs (@IronPigs) April 5, 2013
I have no idea how or why this happened (and it seems to have happened on multiple occasions), but the Erie SeaWolves are most likely the only team to have a Dr. Batboy.
I would like for there to be a band named “Dr. Batboy.”
— Eric Brookhouser (@ebrook24) April 12, 2013
Meanwhile, via Visalia broadcaster Donny Baarns, this photo of multi-generational intolerance:
— Donny Baarns (@DonnyBaarns) April 14, 2013
And, that’s it for now. Much more where this came from, as soon as time allows.
One of the biggest pieces of news from this past offseason was that the city of Pensacola will be hosting a Double-A Southern League team in 2012 (read all about it HERE).
And — surprise! — this team needs a name. Following standard Minor League Baseball operating procedure, a “Name the Team” contest has been devised and today the finalists were announced: Redbones, Loggerheads, Blue Wahoos, Mullets, Aviators, and Salty Dogs.
The Pensacola News Journal, a co-sponsor of the contest, explains: It’s a group of nicknames with ties to the U.S. Navy (Aviators), fishermen (Salty Dogs), Gulf species (Mullet, Blue Wahoo), endangered species (Loggerheads), and hunting dog (Redbone), also the name of a 1970s rock band.
The reference to Redbone being a ’70s rock band seems a little gratuitous, so I’m going to assume that writer Bill Vilona was already a fan. But beyond that this is pretty much par for the course, a consistently irreverent group of choices with ties to local wildlife and industry as well as the parent club (Redbone, natch).
Voting begins tomorrow at the newspaper’s website, and runs through the 15th. The new name will be announced on the 23rd, at which point “a logo, team colors and slogans will be created.”
Not at all surprisingly, Plan B Branding will be doing the creating. The well-established logo and ideas company has been through this identity-creation rigmarole before, with successful and highly-publicized entities such as the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, Richmond Flying Squirrels, and Omaha Storm Chasers.
And, apropos of nothing, Pensacola Rigmaroles is a pretty cool-sounding name.
Pensacola will become the Southern League’s second Floridian market, joining the Jacksonville Suns. Yesterday, the team sent out a press release drawing attention the exemplary way in which the team utilized its day off.
The Jacksonville Suns spent their travel day on Tuesday helping victims of last Wednesday’s tornados and severe thunderstorms in Pratt City, Ala., just north of Birmingham.
The Suns volunteered at the American Red Cross’ Pratt City Disaster Resource Center at the Scott School just blocks from where tornados damaged countless numbers of homes. Pratt City lost nearly 1,000 homes due to last Wednesday’s tornado damage.
Front Row: Jhan Marinez, Luke Montz, Kevin Mattison. Back row L-R: Joey O’Gara, Dan Jennings, Omar Poveda, Benjamin Todd Jealous of NAACP, Peter Andrelczyk, Corey Madden, and Ryan Curry.
Sometimes the segues come easy, and today is one such day. Check out Kevin Mattison in the bottom right hand corner of that picture — clearly he would be right at home at tonight’s “Mustache Mania” promotion. This celebration of upper lip follicle accumulation has been officially endorsed by the esteemed American Mustache Institute.
And speaking of promos, which I am almost always speaking of, we are fast approaching the time of year in which my inbox is inundated with YOUR promo recaps, pictures, and videos. My livelihood depends on just this.
Let’s take a look:
The Ghosts of Casper, WY recently announced that Mr. Boyd Erickson of Bozeman, MT has been named the winner of the team’s “10th Anniversary Logo Contest”. Mr. Erickson has recently launched Tumbleweed Graphics, a design company, so perhaps this win will net him some business.
The entire concept of a Ghost anniversary seems odd to me, as ghosts exist for eternity. There is no past or future, only an unending present of spiritual uncertainty within a hazily-defined netherworld.
The sun, meanwhile, is not eternal. Nonetheless, it possess a staying power that is largely unfathomable to those of us eking out fleeting human existences. Jacksonville’s Minor League team, which is named after this pulsating orb of life-giving warmth, recently unveiled a new color scheme. Let’s take a look at the old:
And the new:
If I had listed the Suns a bit later in this post I could have entitled their segment “Burn After Reading”. But that opportunity has been lost, so let me cut to the chase and list the four new items that Reading Phillies players will be wearing in 2010:
Classic Ballpark Game Cap:
As tempted as I am to go out on that high note, I still have one more logo to share. Earlier today, the Arkansas Travelers unveiled their new ballpark logo. The “DSP” stands for “Dickey-Stephens Park”, and none of the other virtually infinite things that DSP could potentially stand for (“Dee Snyder’s Parents”, for example):