We’re still in the midst of Opening Week, during which Minor League teams pull out all of the stops: Blue Angel flyovers, operatic National Anthems, special guests from seasons past, that sort of thing.
But there’s always room for the weirdness. Always. And one of the prime purveyors of the surreal ballpark spectacle are the Lake Elsinore Storm, whose Opening Night festivities included the following dance routine.
Ah, Grounds Crew Gorilla, I missed you, buddy. Planks for being you.
The Grounds Crew Gorilla may be a unique character, but he’s hardly alone when it comes to animalian ballpark denizens. One of the most recent on the scene is the Great Lakes Loons’ “Rall E. Camel“, a new companion to Lou E. Loon:
Rall E. was the denizen of the much-hyped mysterious box that arrived at Dow Diamond this winter, but apparently he’s none the worse for wear after his long confinement. (No word yet on whether his theme song will be “My Humps.”)
Amidst a spirited discussion on the team’s Facebook page, the Loons offered the following explanation for Rall E.’s existence:
It all dates back to one game in 2009, having exhausted all means of sparking a Loons rally, there was still one last video clip in the production vault. The following ‘Rally Camel’ clip was played on the video board and lo and behold the team rallied. Throughout the year the clip was played in late-game situations and every time the team would rally for the win. Rall E was born.
But sometimes it’s better, or at least more fun, to present things out of context. For example, the following image was recently attached to a press release put out by the Charleston RiverDogs.
Just stare at that for a few minutes, and it will provide entry into new realms of consciousness.
Finally, you may recall that in a post last week I linked to my favorite YouTube video as a means to express my thoughts on the start of a new season. After doing this, I wrote that I would GREATLY appreciate it if someone could take the audio from the clip linked to above and lay it over an array of upbeat Minor League images, ending with the Opening Day 2012 logo.
The very next day there was an email in my inbox, subject line “Ask and ye shall receive.” So, yes, now this exists:
Big thanks to Anita Tsuchiya for taking the time to create what is surely one of the more obscure videos floating around the internet!
And with that, today’s blogging goals have now been realized. Until next time, I remain:
As we all know, Minor League Baseball employees have no control over the product on the field (that aspect of the operation is strictly the domain of the parent club). Ironic, then, that one of the most surefire ways for a Minor League club to receive some free publicity is to make a completely ludicrous offer for a high-profile athlete.
You know, like A-Rod to the Mud Hens.
There is nothing to lose, and fleeting media attention to gain! The latest (and therefore greatest) example of this phenomenon came courtesy of veteran buzz-creators the Lake Elsinore Storm. The Storm already have a Tim Tebow promotion on their 2012 calendar, and now they want Tebow himself.
We know that Tim was the cause for late-game comebacks in Denver and we have our own leader of rallies, the Rally Cop. We would like to offer the Broncos the Rally Cop as well as the Grounds Crew Gorilla, winner of an MiLB Golden Bobble head last season, in exchange for Tebow,” said Jones.
The Storm will also be willing to rename the stadium Elway Stadium if the Broncos are willing to accept the offer.
All of this was a theoretical exercise to begin with, of course, and made even more moot (mooter?) by yesterday’s trade that brought Tebow to the New York Jets. But, for unnecessary detail’s sake, let’s take a look at the two individuals deemed expendable by the Storm. You may have come across them before on this blog.
Grounds Crew Gorilla
The above characters — and, by extension, the Storm — received a bevy of nationwide publicity as a result of this latest-round of press release hi-jinx. Most notably, SportsCenter gave it some play. While video has proven elusive, the Storm provided the following recap:
[SportsCenter] called the Rally Cop a “gem of a guy” as well as an “Eric Estrada lookalike who trots around the field and screams,” while classifying the Grounds Crew Gorilla as “the team’s other resident weirdo.” 🙂 And as for SportsCenter’s take on our trade proposal, they think our offer is the best out there for the Broncos. Thanks, guys. And spread the word: #TebowToTheStorm.
These sort of promotions always lead back to the same question, however: Is it worth it? Do frivolous internet-based pop culture stunts generate the sort of attention that leads to increased revenue? Do the fans that matter (ie the ones buying tickets) even care?
I’m spoken to industry folk on both sides of the issue, and, really, there is no wrong answer. It all depends on organizational philosophy as well as the sensibilities of the market in question. My take could be summed up in three words: Go for it. All it took for the Storm to land in the spotlight was a clever press release and a photoshopped image of a buzz-generating quarterback.
Even if not much was gained, there was, quite literally, nothing to lose.
“If it bleeds it leads” is a well-known journalism trope, and those of us who make a living in the cutthroat world of Minor League baseball blogging ascribe to a similar saying: if it’s a logo then it’s a go-go.
Therefore, I have no choice but to begin today’s missive with the latest and greatest images to emanate from the world of MiLB. On Saturday, the High Desert Mavericks unveiled a pair of high-definition alternate logos:
Sez the team:
“After 21 seasons in the Victor Valley, we felt it was a great time to introduce new logos which reflected both the Mavericks team identity and our strong connections to the High Desert community,” general manager Eric Jensen said. “Our new ‘HD’ logo allows the whole High Desert to feel represented when they’re wearing Mavericks apparel and incorporates the unique physical attributes of this region.
“Likewise, the new cowboy logo represents the rugged resilience of those who reside in the desert while providing a historical tie to the Maverick name.”
I was fortunate enough to be able to visit a Mavericks game last season, but somehow I neglected to notice physical attributes such as a green sun. I did, however, notice the ruggedness.
Another team I visited on that trip were the Lake Elsinore Storm, who have recently announced a very good reason to make a return visit. Following April 22’s ballgame, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts will perform a free show.
This has to be one of the best deals of the season — where else can $9 buy entry to both a professional baseball game and a rock n roll spectacle?
Sez the team:
The concert, set to begin approximately 30 minutes after the game ends, will be held in celebration of Storm owner Gary Jacobs’ birthday. Jett, known for “I Love Rock N Roll,” is scheduled to perform a 90 minute set with her band on a stage placed behind second base.
Hey, Lake Elsinore, please do me a favor and offer Rocky Road ice cream during the ballgame. It would mean a lot.
But now let us return, one more time, to the world of logos. On Monday the Reading Phillies announced a great new idea, one that sees them teaming up with Brandiose in order to teach the art and science of logo design to a new generation.
It’s called ‘9 to the Nines.’
And since it’s been a press release quoting kind of morning, let’s do it one more time:
As a kid, did you ever dream of wearing uniforms like the pros? Jason Klein and Casey White of Brandiose are the guys who design the official logos and uniforms for Major League Baseball teams. The duo will be coming to Reading, PA to give the kids of the Olivet Boys and Girls Club a firsthand look at how baseball logos come to life. Brandiose will also be collaborating with the kids to design their very own logos for the Baseballtown RBI League.
Jason and Casey will take the kids through the same creative process they take teams of Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball through by discussing the parts of the community the kids cherish the most. They will then work with the kids to bring those ideas to life in logo form. Kids will sketch their ideas at the event, with Klein and White compiling the ideas into a major league look for each Baseballtown RBI League team. The kids’ logos will be unveiled in time for the Baseballtown RBI League’s 2012 Opening Day.
And — hey! — if any kids want to submit a Ben’s Biz logo that could be used for 2012 and beyond then you know where to find me. That’s right, alone and in front of a computer.
Tuesday’s post began with the Erie SeaWolves and their quest to name a nine-foot tall inflatable fish. But exercises in the assignation of aquatic monikers are certainly not exclusive to remote corners of the Keystone State.
In Pensacola, the fledgling Blue Wahoos are currently staging a “Name the Mascot” contest. I’m not sure if this mascot is himself a fish, but at the very least his silhouette looks a tad platypus-ian.
The six finalists are as follows: The six finalists are: Blu, Capt. Catch, Salty, Sinker, Ono (Hawaiian for Wahoo), Kazoo.
I’d advise against the name Ono, because then the mascot will immediately be blamed if the team stops functioning well as a group. (Although, the team could give away “Plastic Ono” figurines).
Moving on to another news item with aquatic undertones — Did you know that season 3 of the HBO show Eastbound and Down was filmed in Myrtle Beach, with baseball scenes taking place at Pelicans stadium? It’s true, and the Pelicans are capitalizing by selling “Myrtle Beach Mermen” merchandise (or “Mermerch,” as I like to call it).
Officially licensed “Mermerch” is also available at myrtlebeachmermenjerseys.com, a site that gets extra alliteration points for referring to Mr. Powers as “mercurial.” Visitors to the site are greeted with the following image, which looks like a hallucinating sailor’s interpretation of a ’70s era Seattle Mariners logo:
The show wrapped up filming for the third season just last month, and Pelicans broadcaster Joel Godett spent some time on the set as an extra:
Godett thoroughly recapped the experience on his blog, which can be seen HERE.
As you can see, the crowd was really into it:
While MB Mermen gear is all well and good, it’s another piece of MB clothing that really has caught my attention.
The Montgomery Biscuits are now offering this spiffy little number in adult sizes.
People are giving Bill Simmons flak because he didn’t wear a tie when he interviewed Obama, but it is my promise to you that if I ever snag a POTUS exclusive I will show up at the White House wearing the above item (also: a fanny pack, flip flops, Akron Aeros gym shorts, and a Reading Phillies’ Richie Ashburn-style fedora. I’ve got this all planned out).
And since I’m on the “MB” theme (I didn’t plan on this theme, it’s just that my mind cannot be stopped and is in fact threatening to eat me alive as if I was some sort of anthropomorphic biscuit), my latest Minoring in Business article appeared today on MiLB.com.
It’s on the Florida State League and Spring Training, and can be seen HERE.
Next week I plan to get a bit more substantive on the blog — as it’s 2012 planning time! As always, I look forward to your suggestions as to where I should go and why.
But, for now, I’ll close this blogging week by providing an happy update on a tragic situation from a few weeks back.
Reports the team:
Lake Elsinore Storm mascot Thunder is happy to have his quad back but it looks like it will need a little bit of help before he can come roaring out for game day festivities.
Last Wednesday, the team filed a police report with the local sheriff’s department that the mascot’s quad had been stolen.
After Director of Mascot Operations Patrick Gardenier retrieved the quad from the Riverside Sheriff’s station on Sunday it was found to be a bit more damaged than expected.
“They painted it all black and walked away with the ignition, the tail light, and the wheels are not aligned properly,” said Gardenier. “I hope we can get it fixed in time for the Major League exhibition game.”
In honor of this positive development, I would suggest that the Storm offer a special four-game “Quad Ticket Pack.” A portion of each sales will go to Thunder’s quad refurbishment.
And with that, another Minor League promo idea disappears into the Biz Blog vortex. Never to be spoken of again.
Maybe it’s an example of my sticktuitiveness, maybe an example of stagnancy. Probably both. But, at any rate, I am able to begin today’s Leap Year post by looking at what I wrote about 2/29 the last time it rolled around.
So let’s leap to it!
The year was 2008. While most Americans were busy listening to the 10th anniversary edition of the Baha Men’s epochal Doong Spank LP, the Lancaster JetHawks made their presence felt by staging a Leap Year promo. Most notably, all fans with a leap year birthday received a box seat season ticket!
Not to be outdone, the Altoona Curve soon announced a season-long “Leip Year” celebration, all in honor of skipper Tim Leiper.
This one had the Rainmain-like fixation on numbers that is a hallmark of any good Minor League promotion, including the provision that if any Curve player was batting .366 after April 29’s ballgame, he (or she, you never know) would be awarded $366.
Maybe I’m just jaded, but I don’t think we’ve reached that level of inspiration in 2012. But a lot is going on. Here is a thorough (but by no means authoritative) rundown of who’s doing what how. Said rundown is in alphabetical order, but starting with “N” and then continuing back around through “M.”
Most notably, the above deal includes a $29 Citgo gas card.
$17 all-you-can-eat seats, to any game. I’m just not sure who would want to eat seats in the first place, though.
More bang for the buck than a bringing an exploding dollar bill along on a deer hunt! $29 gets four tickets to exhibition game vs. Triple-A Sacramento, four ticket vouchers to opening weekend, and two souvenir caps.
Interesting twist to this one, in that the $29 ticket packages includes admission to all games falling on the 29th of the month.
This offer comes with a $29 concession stand credit. Beet eggs included?
Two extra games included with the purchase of a five or 10-game pack!
A $95 savings!
Buy a six or 12-game ticket pack, get an additional game free.
Lake Elsinore Storm
This concludes THE MOST COMPREHENSIVE RECAP OF MINOR LEAGUE BASEBALL LEAP DAY PROMOTIONS EVER ASSEMBLED. And yet I still don’t have my own Wikipedia page.
The unveiling of 2012 promotions has not yet reached a deluge, but it has far surpassed a trickle. And within this intermediate zone in which we currently reside, one of the most exciting (and sure-to-be-copied) new promotions is this:
But the above photo, while helpful, doesn’t really do the promotion justice. Per the team:
The River Bandits are proud to announce, for the first time ever in professional sports in the U.S., a photo jersey auction to benefit local cancer organizations. Small squares in the Bandits players’ numbers are available for purchase, $25 each, to feature a photograph of yourself or a loved one who has been affected by cancer. The jerseys, which will be worn during the game on Friday, August 10th, will be auctioned off during the game.
I’m sure I’ll be covering this one as it develops, but for now let’s stick with the “Quad” theme and check in on a most distressing development in Lake Elsinore.
Thunder, the mascot for the Lake Elsinore Storm, had his trusty quad stolen from a stadium storage shed! This sounds like it could be a joke, save for the legitimacy bestowed upon the situation by a local ABC news team.
The video is well worth viewing — check it out HERE.
My extensive reporting on the above topic led me to the Storm website, where I discovered the existence of the “Thunder Across Time” web series. How had I not known? This may turn out to be one of the greatest MiLB team video series of all time!
More creative use of video from the West Coast comes courtesy of the Fresno Grizzlies, who are conducting their annual National Anthem auditions in a most unique fashion.
If you think you have what it takes to sing in front of the best fans in Minor League Baseball at a 2012 Grizzlies home game, then upload your audition video to the Youtube between Wednesday, February 8th and Wednesday, March 14th. Winners will be chosen by the Grizzlies front office with the input of the number of video likes on YouTube.
We’re still a ways away from having a mascot sing the National Anthem, but boy oh boy can they ever dance. The latest (and therefore greatest) example of mascot rump shaking comes courtesy of Tulsa’s Hornsby. Or, as I like to call him, “Bull-yonce.”
Funny that the video is called “All the Single Hornsbys,” as in actuality there appear to be duplicates. But at least Hornsby is a known commodity. Up there in Michigan, the Great Lakes Loons are dealing with an extremely mysterious situation.
So who really does know what’s in the box? It could be anything. Or, maybe, there’s nothing at all. There would be some precedent for that, you know.
I never set out to be a food blogger, and, really, I’m not. Nonetheless, food is a important component of the Minor League experience, and throughout my travels this past season I did my best to document ballpark comestibles in particular as well as regional cuisine in general.
Today’s missive (which went live at lunchtime for a reason) is the first of what will be a two-part compendium of the 2011 season’s food-based posts and photos. As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section and via email: What are your favorite Minor League ballpark foods, and why?
What follow are some of mine, presented in the order in which they were consumed.
My first 2011 road trip began in Tucson, home of the T-Padres. And what better way to enjoy Kino Stadium’s sunset views than with a plate of nachos from ballpark vendor El Charro? Nothing too fancy, but the freshest of ingredients combined with from-the-oven homemade tortilla chips helped to distinguish this particular platter.
The following afternoon, a reader recommendation led me to local institution El Guero Canelo. The specialty there is the “Sonoran Dog,” which I described as a “hot dog is wrapped in bacon and topped with cheese, salsa, onions, tomatoes, beans, mayonnaise and who knows what else. All of this was safely ensconced in the specially-crafted (and delicious) roll and served with a roasted pepper on the side.”
After a fleeting highway encounter with the still-elusive Biz Girl, I made my west to territories occupied by the California League’s South Division entities. One of the highlights of this leg of the journey came in Lancaster, where I was able to enjoy a non-photo shopped encounter with the JetHawks’ delectable “Sweet Po-Tater Tots.”
The Sweet Po-Taters were a mere appetizer, for then came the so-called “Stealth Burger:” a hamburger topped with pulled pork and onion rings. It was a formidable affair:
The Stealth Burger looked downright microscopic in comparison to the Brobdingnagian creation that was served to me in Lake Elsinore. Behold the Storm’s “Homewrecker,” perhaps best explained in t-shirt form.
The following month I traversed the great state of Ohio (with a detour in Fort Wayne, IN). The first stop on this particular Minor League journey was Toledo, where appropriately-named concessions manager Corey Pleasant laid out a stunning pre-game feast.
Here we have Greek Nachos (gyro meat and pita chips), Pulled Pork Nachos, and “Bases-Loaded Fries.”
But that, of course, was not all. Here’s the “Muddy Dog,” topped with chili, cheese, and onions.
And this artisanal creation is the “Bloomin’ Bacon Burger,” a 1/3 lb. grilled Black Angus beef burger topped with crispy strips of bacon, deep fried onion rings, American cheese, and bistro sauce on a fresh Kaiser bun.
And, of course, no visit to Toledo is complete without a stop at the legendary Tony Packo’s. I visited the Birmingham location before heading west to Fort Wayne, ordering a hot dog with chili, Paprika Dumplings, and a side of “Pickles and Peppers.”
After Toledo, I attended two ballgames at the Fort Wayne TinCaps’ Parkview Field. The majority of the second evening was spent with culinary director Scott Kammerer, who gave me a thorough tour of the team’s concession offerings. The tour resulted in an MiLB.com article, as well as this stunning image:
and a hot dog with “Cincinnati Chili” (the TinCaps’ best attempt to emulate the famous Skyline recipe).
The TinCaps are named after Johnny Appleseed’s iconic headwear, so this Apple Dumpling dessert was a fitting (and inspired) addition to the menu.
From Fort Wayne, I made my way back to the Buckeye State in order to visit the Lake County Captains. Food took a back seat to on-field participation during this jam-packed visit, but this was where I first became aware of the Cleveland-area phenomenon that is “Bertman Ballpark Mustard.”
Bertman’s Mustard: Responsible for the most delectable condiment globules around.
From Lake County it’s a veritable hop, skip and a jump to Mahoning Valley. It was Opening Day for the short-season Scrappers, and I celebrated the return of New York-Penn League baseball with the one-of-a-kind “Warsaw Wings.”
Deep-fried pierogies smothered in hot sauce!
A necessary cool-down soon came in the form of Handel’s Ice Cream. The flavor was called “Scrappy’s Favorite” — caramel ice-cream with bone-shaped chocolate-covered pretzels.
The Ohio excursion ended in Akron’s Canal Park, a location not lacking in death-taunting culinary options. After an exhausting evening that included a pie in the face and a stint in a dunk tank, I had both the following items placed before me.
On the left is the “Nice 2 Meat U Burger,” two 1/3rd pound patties, two hot dogs, bacon, cheese, and onions.
The sauerkraut-covered creation on the right is the “Three Dog Night,” a hot dog stuffed inside a brat stuffed inside a kielbasa.
And, let’s not forget: Bertman Mustard on top of it all!
Stay tuned tomorrow for Part 2 of this food-based season retrospective, featuring a bevy of offerings from South and North Carolina as well as the doom metal capital of the world (the state of Maryland, in other words).
Until then, send me your photos and anecdotes related to your favorite ballpark foods and regional creations. I’ll be right here waiting for you.
My recent post on the Lake Elsinore Storm experience included many photos, including shots of the team kitchen as well as the easily-angered Grounds Crew Gorilla. But never did it occur to me that I’d soon be posting a photo of the Gorilla in the team kitchen.
And yet here we are:
For reasons unknown and perhaps best left unexplained, the Grounds Crew Gorilla has gotten into the international youth fad known as “planking.” The Storm have posted a photo set on Facebook entitled “Gorilla Planks the Diamond.” Here’s a few more:
The word plank brings to mind nautical discipline which brings to mind John Paul Jones, the “father of the American Navy” but also the name of the bass player in Led Zeppelin.
And here we are. Yesterday was the West Michigan Whitecaps’ second annual “Led Zeppelin Night”, Led Zeppelin II as it were.
And when it came to theme jerseys, the song remained the same. Once again, the team took the field in these:
The Whitecaps have also done “Pink Floyd Night”, and other bands that have been celebrated in such a fashion around the Minors include the Grateful Dead, Beatles, and Rolling Stones.
This leads me to make the following demand, which like all my demands will be aggressively ignored.
Nonetheless: Do a Creedence Clearwater Revival Night! CCR are easily one of the greatest rock bands of all time and deserve Minor League Ballpark immortalization.
Abbreviations such as “CCR” are prevalent on Twitter, a mode of communication that encourages extreme brevity. And as part of the Lehigh Valley IronPigs “Social Media Night”, the team will be wearing the first Twitter-themed jerseys in Minor League Baseball history.
As part of the promotion, the team is asking fans to change their Twitter and/or Facebook profile pics to the following image:
Those who do so will be eligible to win game tickets and an autographed Ryne Sandberg baseball.
Let me close with a final demand — Read Crooked Numbers!!!
It would mean a lot to me if you did so. I spend way too much time on that column, but it’s a labor of love.
The final team on my “Hill in the Desert” road trip itinerary was the Lake Elsinore Storm, that irreverent crew of Cal League contrarians and trendsetters. My day started not at the ballpark, however, but “Annie’s” — a popular local breakfast and lunch spot. I had been invited there by George and Ryan Bethell, loyal members of the Storm booster club and readers of this blog ever since the latter was featured in a post on fish tossing.
Upon being introduced as a first-time Annie’s patron, I was greeted with a handshake from waitress Wendy. “Ladies and gentlemen, we have a newbie!”, she yelled, and the entire restaurant broke out in applause. Then a lobster hat was placed atop my head. Standard operating procedure.
That gentleman in the background is Storm manager Carlos Lezcano. George and Ryan introduced him to me, a gesture that helped to facilitate my clubhouse interview attempts later that afternoon.
I then booked into the Storm’s team hotel, a refreshing change of pace from the generic string of interchangeable lodging houses I’d become accustomed to.
This place doesn’t have the greatest reputation among Cal League players and personnel (pitcher Dirk Hayhurst issued some strong condemnations in his “Bullpen Gospels” memoir), but it has been recently renovated and I found it to be completely acceptable (the excellent internet connection sure helped). But I wasn’t on the road to write about hotels (or to gamble) — I was there for baseball!
The Diamond sure is a great place to watch some.
Like all of the ballparks I visited on this trip, there was plenty of room to move on the inside and out.
Once inside, there is the feeling of being watched.
Those eyes are everywhere!
Even between elevator buttons
And lording over the restroom
The bathroom features induction lighting and waterless urinals, two of many eco-friendly elements to be found around the ballpark. The Storm have been leaders in this area, and are the originators of the “Going Green” promotional nights that have since become common around Minor League Baseball.
Green is one of many clothing colors available in the team store. The Storm have one of the best-selling logos in all of Minor League Baseball (read about it in my MiLB.com piece), and offer a dizzying number of eye-centric clothing choices.
Out of the store and into the open air, some shots from around the ballpark while waiting for the gates to open.
Concessions, where are concessions? Where do you need to be, if you want to eat? (sung to the tune of “Obsession” by Animotion).
Oh, here they are!
The Storm have a fully-operational restaurant on the premises — the Diamond Club. It was closed on on the day I was there due to the team’s “All-You-Can- Eat” Fat Tuesday promotion, but it’s a pretty swanky joint.
I was particularly interested in trying “The Homewrecker,” best explained via t-shirt.
Here’s concessions general manager Arjun Suresh pulling it out of the oven.
Team president Dave Oster, Suresh, and executive chef Steve Bearse marvel at their creation.
The four of us went to the vacant owner’s suite to give it a try. It was delicious! And since it can be easily shared, it’s a bit more justifiable than other recent over-sized items unveiled throughout the Minors.
But my homewrecking companions soon departed (to, you know, do their jobs). After an inning of solitary luxury in the owner’s suite, I went downstairs to watch a couple of innings with the Bethells. They sit just to the left of the screen behind home plate, providing fantastic views.
I had a tough time getting a good shot of it, but the Storm did indeed retire Wild Thing’s #99 as part of their recent “Sheen-Co De Mayo” promotion.
While with the Bethells, I witnessed two top-notch elements of the Storm game entertainment experience. First up was a skit featuring Thunder the mascot. He took the field in order to play fetch with the batboy, who decided to have a laugh at Thunder’s expense by faking a throw. This enraged Thunder, who stole the batboy’s shoe and ran into the dugout. The action then switched to the videoboard, where Thunder was seen abusing the shoe in a number of ways (slamming it in a locker, cooking it in a pot, attempting to flush it down the toilet, etc). Finally, the shoe was thrown out onto the playing field with the humbled batboy limping to get it.
I detailed all of the above because it was an excellent example of a team going above and beyond with their game operations. Even on a cold Tuesday night in a front of a sparse crowd, an effort was made to do something thoughtful, fun, and original. The little things go a long way.
My pictures of Thunder came out very poorly. Thankfully, George Bethell sent over this one. It is of Thunder and his Mom Thunderella:
Also courtesy of Bethell, here’s the Grounds Crew Gorilla.
On Tuesday, the Gorilla was upstaged in a dance contest by a younger, more nimble female gorilla (once again, my pictures were horrible). This enraged him, so he darted into the visiting dugout and then up the hilly berm area. At the top of the hill, he picked up a portion of the fence separating the berm from the concourse and threw it with all his might. The aftermath:
At this point I was thoroughly frozen (note to anyone visiting southern California in May: bring a jacket!), so I decided to visit announcer Sean McCall in his well-appointed play-by-play palace.
Most announcers don’t like to be bothered during games (and I can’t say I blame them), but McCall is uber-hospitable. “Soda, water, beer?” he’ll ask, gesturing to his fully-stocked refrigerator. “Make yourself at home.”
Two unexpected guests in the booth were the mother and aunt of pitcher Hayden Beard, watching him play in person for the first time since a disastrous outing in 2006.
Beard breezed through the eighth inning, to the relief of his extremely nervous family members. Afterwards, mom Vicki spoke with me about how she works as an official scorer in Australia. This is not uncommon, as women make up the majority of scorers in her country. “Men do the on-field stuff, women keep score,” she told me.
McCall is the dean of Cal League broadcasters, and extremely entertaining to listen to. He combines a polished and professional technique with deadpan, absurdist humor — the Harry Nilsson of Minor League broadcasters, perhaps. Sample banter, after a bit in which he shared notable sports moments that had occurred on May 17: “This day in history brought to you by me, reminding you to say please and thank you (pause) Thank you.”
The title of this post is also a McCall quote, uttered upon the conclusion of the ballgame (a 12-1 win over the no-longer voodoo-enhanced Inland Empire 66ers). It was indeed two hours and 43 minutes of bliss.
As for me, my time out west was approximately 190 hours of sleep deprivation and anxiety. But no complaints! It was an honor and a privilege and I thank everyone involved for their hospitality. I’m already plotting the next one.
But, for now, I am ecstatic to be back within NYC’s comforting embrace. And since my return, one of my cats has made a new friend.
Please get in touch, at any time and for any reason. Any reason at all.
But instead of leading with yet another heart-stopping meat-strosity, today’s post will begin by highlighting a food and beverage innovation that deserves to catch on throughout the land. The Richmond Flying Squirrels are offering a “Tastes of the Eastern League” special this season, in which they offer a concession item inspired by the home city of their opponent.
Here’s the list, with my only complaint being the absence of “Spiedies” when the Binghamton Mets are in town:
Akron, Ohio: Galley Boy – Two cheese burgers topped with a slice of onion and BBQ sauce
Altoona, Pennsylvania: The Pittsburgher – Roast beef, slaw, cheese, and fries on a hamburger bun
Binghamton, New York: Meatball sub
Bowie, Maryland: Crab cake Sandwich
Erie, Pennsylvania: Pierogies
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Chicken Cheesesteak Sandwich
New Britain, Connecticut: Funnel Cake with marinara sauce
Manchester, New Hampshire: Fried Fish sandwich
Portland, Maine: Lobster Cake Sandwich
Reading, Pennsylvania: Philly Cheese Steak sub
Trenton, New Jersey: Taylor Pork roll sandwich
Blogger-ly intuition tells me that the Flying Squirrels aren’t the only team promoting league-wide culinary adventures. Are you?
Of course, the Flying Squirrels are offering suitably obscene “Extreme” menu items as well. This is Minor League Baseball we’re talking about, after all.
From left to right we have the Giant Burger (two 6 oz. Certified Black Angus patties topped with a mound of Squirrelly fries covered in BBQ sauce, drenched in cheese, served on a Crustini bun), Trolley Dog (giant hot dog covered with chili and cheese, nestled on top of two fried pickles), and the Golden Gate Burger (Two 6 oz. Certified Black Angus patties topped with a mound of Squirrelly fries covered in BBQ sauce, drenched in cheese, served on a Crustini bun). Thanks to Richmond director of broadcasting Jon Laaser for the copious food info.
Meanwhile, out west, the Lancaster JetHawks are making waves with their “Sweet Po-Tater Tots” (with a side of syrup). Now this is how teams should photographically depict premier concession items! Take note:
The Sweet Po-Taters recently caught the eye of CNBC sports biz reporter Darren Rovell, who tweeted the above pic to his legions of followers. This, in turn, inspired the JetHawks to put out a press release bragging about said Tweet. If only I were influential enough to inspire photo-shopped images such as this:
Remaining in the California League, you may recall this recent picture of the Lake Elsinore Storm’s “Filthy McNasty,” a two-pound burger stuffed with two hot dogs, bacon and cheese….smothered in chili and topped with crispy onion straws.
Well, there’s more where that came from. In a distressingly (or perhaps mercifully) photo-free press release, the team also relays the following info:
Another attraction is the “Home Wrecker”….three half-pound chili dogs topped with one-and-a- half pounds of French Fries, two pounds of chili and three-quarters-of-a-pound of cheese and diced onions….If one person can finish this monster dog in less than 20 minutes, it’s free!
Other new items added to the 2011 Diamond Club menu include: a one-and-a-half pound baked pretzel with dipping sauces named the “Belly Twister”, cheeseburger sliders with soft pretzel buns called “Pretzel Sliders”, a bleu cheese stuffed cheeseburger aptly named the “Juicy Bleusy”, a jalapeno stuffed cheeseburger called the “Cajun Lucy”, a burrito filled with shrimp, fries, guacamole, pico de gallo and cheese named “The Pipeline” and a make-your-own burrito called the “Cardiac Roll.”
Update! Here are up-close-and-personal pics of the “Homewrecker” and “Pretzel Sliders”:
And here’s the Filthy McNasty, about to be devoured:
The Toledo Mud Hens aren’t lacking for pictures either, as the team recently released a captivating online menu featuring their new concession items.
Highlights include Deep-Fried Pickle Spears as well as the “Texas Twist” a 24-oz soft pretzel, measuring one full square foot! Served with honey dijon, spicy & fancy yellow mustards.
Sorry, that’s going to have to do. Knot bad. They can’t all be weiners.