Tagged: Kids Eat Free

On the Road: A Frank Look at Reading's Wizard of Ostrich

Like an extra-marital liaison between Howie and Shelley, today’s stint at Reading’s FirstEnergy Stadium was a very Long affair (so long that you are left with sentences like the preceding). But sleep cannot come until this post is done, so let’s get to it.

The R-Phils staged a tribute to the inimitable Crazy Hot Dog Vendor this evening, and I was more than happy to get in on the act:

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(photo credit: Ralph Trout)

I was just one of many Crazy Hot Dog Vendor imitators at the ballpark, however, as Reading has gone mad for this ostrich-riding aerial distributor of encased meats. The CHDV is the alter-ego of long-time front office employee Matt Jackson, who was very much in demand throughout Sunday’s extravaganza. Here he is getting ready to meat the masses, with and without the help of his personal trainer:



The first item on the itinerary was a pre-game Question and Answer session with the team’s thriving “Kid’s Club.”


The kids were out in force, a full 90 minutes before the game:


The CHDV fielded a wide range of questions from the assembled youth, who were endlessly curious regarding his relationship with Rodrigo the ostrich, the number of hot dogs he has thrown during his career, and how he stays in shape.


You’ll notice, of course, that many of these kids were proudly wearing that day’s “Crazy Hot Dog Vendor T-Shirt” giveaway. Soon after the Q and A, an assemblage of the CHDV’s most die-hard fans got to go onto the field and perform with their hero. Thanks to the fortuitous existence of a spare ostrich, I was able to join them:




These kids were great. Notice how many of them BROUGHT THEIR OWN OSTRICH TO THE BALLPARK!


One enthusiastic youngster explained his hot dog-throwing strategy as follows (I’m paraphrasing here, you can’t ride an ostrich and take notes at the same time): “You’ve got to find the people who aren’t going crazy, and then pretend you’re going to throw it to them. Then find someone who is going crazy.”

As for me, my performance was lackluster. I lamely identified myself as “The Apprentice (awkward pause) of the Crazy Hot Dog Vendor” on the mic, and then all my spare hot dogs fell out of my breast pocket after my first throw. Also, I think I hurt my right knee somehow.

But anyway, after these misadventures I finally had the chance to limp around the premises. FirstEnergy Stadium (not to be confused with FirstEnergy Park) is nearly 60 years old, but the R-Phils have maximized seemingly every inch of available space. There is a lot going on, everywhere, and an old-time carnival aesthetic prevails:







The R-Phils players were decked out in these quite-spectacular CHDV jerseys (next two photos credited to Ralph Trout/Reading Phillies):



Meanwhile, the CHDV was basking in the adulation under the third base stands:



Screwball also has his share of loyal fans, who lined up for pictures and autographs as if he was Santa Claus:


Meanwhile, gm Scott Hunsicker (dressed for the occasion) was leading an ALS charity auction, selling off autographed memorabilia to the highest bidder:


But as for the R-Phils, not even the fist-pumping dance moves of super-fan “Disco Briscoe” (a rising star in the team’s pantheon of characters) could save them from defeat:


Only in Reading would you see a post-game interview that looks like this:


And only at 4:21 a.m. would you see a blog post ending like this.


Eat Free Or Die(t)

new-jersey.gifThe Minor Leagues are a good value. We all know this.

Nonetheless, I occasionally feel compelled to write about teams that have gone beyond the call of duty when it comes to providing the ol’ “bang for the buck”. Two such teams are the Trenton Thunder and the Lakewood BlueClaws, who announced yesterday that kids would eat free at the ballpark, all year long (in this case, “free” means recieving a voucher for a hot dog, soda, and bag of chips).

At the risk of composing something that read like a reconstituted press release, I wrote an article on this season-long promotion. It can be found here.

Now, I’m no economist, but “Kids Eat Free” seems like a risky proposition. The big question is this: Will the teams gain in increased ticket sales and positive PR what they are losing in concession stand revenue?

My numbers are probably way off here, but just go along with me: A hot dog, bag of chips, and a 12 oz. soda would cost approximately $6 otherwise. And if there are an average of 1,000 kids per game, and 70 home dates a year, that’s $420,000 of edible foodstuff that is going to be given away, gratis. Up in smoke, as it were.

Nonetheless, I am in support of these two brave New Jersey entities, as they are unequivocally sending out this message to their respective fanbases: “When it comes to affordable family entertainment, Minor League Baseball is unbeatable.” In these tough times, it is absolutely crucial that this sentiment is spread far and wide, and backed up by cold, hard fact.Thumbnail image for splash.jpg

It will be interesting to see if any other teams jump on board the “Kids Eat Free” ship. Will this be a nearly undetectable ripple in the Minor League ocean, or the beginning of a very large splash? Either way, I need to work on my metaphors.