News is scarce these days, but by using the foraging skills accumulated over a half decade in the Minor League wilderness I’m able to scavenge enough to get by.
Let’s start with a new logo, although “new” might be an overstatement. “Modified” is more like it, and the modifiers in question are the Pioneer League champion Helena Brewers. They went from this:
To, well, THIS. I’m working on obtaining a picture of the logo that can be posted here, but as for now none are to be found. But what you’ll notice, of course, is that the “B” has been eliminated. The wheat has been given a more functional task as well, transitioning from a decorative swath to the horizontal bridge between the vertical pillars of the “H”.
The Brewers aren’t going against the grain, in other words.
Writing as a means to stave off loneliness, I carry on — to trick or treating mascots! Last week I wrote about Boomer! being available for this crucial October 31st duty, but also up to the task is Buster of the Lakewood BlueClaws and Durham’s Wool E. Bull.
Buster’s Halloween services are being auctioned off via eBay, with the current high bid being $119.50. Seven days are left to bid, however, and I’m guessing that this will reach high six figures by the time it’s all over.
The Bulls are taking a different approach, as Wool E. Bull will “surprise” one lucky family on Halloween. To qualify, this family must subscribe to the Bulls e-newletter and have registered for the opportunity.
Finally, it is very much the season for stadium renovations. Two major projects are now occurring on opposite sides of the country, dealing with ballparks that are more than halfway to centenarian status.
Much more info can be found in broadcaster Mike Curto’s latest blog post, where he reveals that his planned “press box destruction tail gate party” was curtailed by the Rainiers’ PCL championship run.
And then there’s Reading’s FirstEnergy Stadium, currently undergoing a $10 million dollar renovation. The latest video progress report, accompanied by a jaunty tune, can be viewed HERE.
Meanwhile, I’m currently soliciting funds for a $10 desk renovation project here at MiLB.com HQ. I need a Scotch tape dispenser and a new pair of scissors.
If you thought I was done recapping the 2010 season, then you thought sensibly.
You also thought wrong.
In reviewing the year that was, I came to the realization that my favorite videos of the season had the following three things in common: They featured players, they were short (under two minutes) and they were funny.
No team was better at combining the following three criteria than the Peoria Chiefs, who put out videos featuring boy bands, models, and karaoke superstars. But my personal favorite paid homage to the sweet sounds of Motown.
The Tulsa Drillers were able to provide great insight into the culture of the bullpen, whose denizens are free to focus on matters follicles.
In Everett, meanwhile, the players were more concerned with that which resided above the upper lip.
And since we’re talking about players, I would be remiss if I didn’t include the masterwork of Reading Phillies sluggers Tagg Bozied and Matt Rizzotti.
The Charlotte Stone Crabs also used players to great effect throughout the season, as part of their “This Is Stone Crabs Baseball” ad series. This one, starring Isaias Velazquez, was my favorite.
Velazquez has good reason to be upset, and as this video amply illustrates it is not wise to mess with Minor League Baseball players. Behold, the “aqua-palypse” that took place in Gwinnett County.
Of course, a good Minor League video doesn’t necessarily need to feature the players at all. Lakewood BlueClaws intern “D-Bo” made a name for himself this season with a series of videos designed to highlight upcoming promotions. Here’s a sample, with sight gags a-plenty:
Amazingly, I’ve gotten this far without posting a parody video. Let’s rectify that immediately, by checking out the Binghamton Mets unique take on “Twilight”.
But nothing inspires parody more than early ’90s West Coast gangsta rap, as evidenced by these two works of art.
The above video was produced by the Peoria Chiefs, bringing this post full circle. But before closing this one out, I have just one more thing to announce:
Boy oh boy is it ever.
Those who work in the game of baseball quickly become accustomed to the following question: “So, what do you do during the offseason?”
The short answer, and one that seems contrary to popular belief, is “A lot.” While it’s easy to assume that the offseason immediately kicks off a months-long vacation for those who work in Minor League Baseball front offices, the reality is that baseball is a year-round business.
So, what are you doing during the offseason? Let me know, because I’m planning an MiLB.com article that will answer this question, from the perspective a variety of Minor League folks. This article might make it easier for you to justify your offseason existence to friends and family, so please get in touch via the usual channels and we’ll set something up.
As for me, what I’m doing these days is compiling blog posts with the last of my stray in-season material. For example, did you know that the Trenton Thunder front office defeated the Lakewood BlueClaws front office in their annual “Battle For 195” softball game? It’s true! They got a trophy and everything.
Pictures related to inter-office softball matches usually cause my blog traffic to skyrocket, but to be on the safe side I’ll pack this post with even more scintillating content.
Remember when I visited the Iowa Cubs, and noted the long lines that would form at “Sandberg Alley” prior to every home game? Well, Ryne Sandberg managed the Double-A Tennessee Smokies before advancing to Iowa, and there was a “Sandberg Alley” there as well.
The team officially re-named the aisle leading to the home dugout “Sandberg Alley”, and had a ribbon cutting to memorialize the event:
Some addresses cannot be found via your GPS:
Eager Smokies fans awaiting their brush with greatness:
Birmingham Barons — 100th Anniversary of Rickwood Field: 37%
Arkansas Travelers — Jose Canseco vs. Gary Hogan: 34%
Lancaster JetHawks — Robert “Hoot” Gibson Bobblehead: 22%
Fresno Grizzlies — Twilight Night: 5%
Minor League ballparks are hospitable places, rolling out the red carpet for sitcom stars, sexagenarian wrestlers and eccentric hurlers alike.
Today’s edition of “Promo Year in Review” features my top six celebrity appearances of the year, highlighting a half-dozen bold-faced names who graced the ballpark with their presence. But, as always, I need YOU to tell me who I’ve missed. Get in touch via email or Twitter and let me know, as suggestions for this and previous categories will be accepted through 10 a.m. Monday.
My six nominees, in ever-so-sensible alphabetical order. Click on each individual’s name to see how his ballpark visit was originally covered (and, yes, they are all men. Don’t shoot the messenger).
Fresno Grizzlies — Alfonso “Carlton” Ribiero (as part of “Mad Tight ’90s Night”)
Lakewood BlueClaws — Jeff “Chunk” Cohen (as part of “Goonies Night”)
Oklahoma City RedHawks — Peter Mayhew (aka “Chewbacca”)
Reading Phillies — Dennis “Mr. Belding” Haskins
Round Rock Express — Rojo Johnson (aka Will Ferrell)
Vermont Lake Monsters — Bill “Spaceman” Lee/Dennis “Oil Can” Boyd (on the same night!)
I don’t have a picture from this picture, but here are their respective Wikipedia photos:
Duty compels me to once again mention that I need your input. What celebrities caused a sensation at YOUR Minor League ballpark this year. And — hey! — I know you’re reading. There’s no escape. Get in touch. Are you going to let my complete neglect of sexagenarian wrestlers go uncriticized?
The baseball season is a grind, even if you’re just writing about it. Here’s some more grist for the mill, so that things don’t come to a grinding halt.
Let’s start with the Lakewood BlueClaws, whose quest to retire Ryan Howard’s number has had more twists and turns than a Chubby Checker concert on Lombard Street.
The team had planned to retire the number of this prominent 2002 alumnus on September
2nd, with Howard himself in attendance. A Phillies make-up game was
added to the schedule on this date, however, rendering the guest of honor unavailable.
But Howard went on the disabled list with a sprained ankle earlier this month, and he’ll be playing in
Lakewood TONIGHT as part of his rehab assignment. So the number
retirement ceremony is now back on, honoring a player who will in fact be in the
And consider this:
Howard previously rehabbed with Lakewood in 2007, knocking in four runs over two games. This gave him 91 RBIs as a BlueClaw, tying him for the all-time franchise record. He’ll have a chance to break the tie on Friday, leading to the following question: Has any player in the history of the game ever broken a prominent franchise record while on a rehab assignment with a team that is also retiring his number?
My guess would be “no.”
And since we’re on the topic of New Jersey Minor League Baseball, I’d like to bring your attention to the extravaganza that occurred in Trenton on Tuesday.
The Thunder staged “Football Kickoff Night”, featuring Philadelphia Eagles cheerleaders and team mascot Swoop.
A jewelry-wearing eight-year-old autographing a baseball for a triumvirate of cheerleaders would have made a great Norman Rockwell painting.
But instead of lamenting this fact, Minor League Baseball teams are having fun with it.
On Thursday, the Hickory Crawdads are staging the “Haynesworth Conditioning Challenge” in honor of the fitness test that Redskins defensive lineman Albert Haynesworth has been unable to pass.
From the press release:
All participants will have to complete the same conditioning test
that Haynesworth has failed multiple times, which is as follows:
1. Twelve consecutive 25-yard dashes (300 total yards) in less than 70 seconds
2. Rest period of 3.5 minutes
3. Twelve more consecutive 25-yard dashes in less than 73 seconds
All participants that successfully complete the challenge in the
allotted time will win two season tickets for the rest of the 2010
season, including all potential playoff games. All participants that
attempt the challenge will receive a free ticket to a future game this
season (excluding Aug. 14). Since Albert’s had multiple shots at it,
any fans that attempt and fail the challenge on Thursday can come back
to L.P. Frans Stadium any time between 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. this Friday and
While this promotion is definitely happening, the same can’t be said for the Fort Myers Miracle’s “Brett Favre Night.” The team may or may not stage a tribute to the Vikings QB on Monday, and their maddeningly indecisive and contradictory press release provides no clear insight whatsoever.
But who needs football anyways? Those enamored with the out-of-breath exertions of larger-than-average men got more than their fill in Lakewood last week. As part of the BlueClaws’ “Goonies Night” celebration, Jeff “Chunk” Cohen judged a “Truffle Shuffle” contest:
Think that that guy could pass the Haynesworth Conditioning Challenge?
That’s certainly how I felt soon after arriving at Lakewood’s FirstEnergy Ballpark on Friday. Upon securing a parking space, I meticulously made sure I had everything I needed for the evening. Notebook? Check. Pen? Check. Camera? Check. Business cards? Check. Press pass? Check.
With all the necessary supplies accounted for, I began my walk to the stadium. Unfortunately, there was one crucial thing I had neglected to do: TURN OFF THE CAR. The doors were locked, the keys were in the ignition, and it was still idling.
Buster the BlueClaws mascot sez: Dude, you’re an idiot.
To make a long story short, I spent the next 75 minutes trying to figure out a way to resolve this self-inflicted conundrum. I was eventually bailed out by Verizon Wireless Roadside Assistance (who knew?), who had been dispatched to the stadium by my Mom (thanks, Mom).
Being stranded in the FirstEnergy Park-ing lot is like being marooned in the desert.
If anyone is aware of a bigger parking lot in all of the Minor Leagues,
then please send photos. I will happily devote an entire post to baseball’s biggest parking lots.
At least while I was waiting I got to see a rainbow. Trust me, it was there, you can see it if you squint and concentrate on the space between the light poles:
Finally, at approximately 7:37, I made it to the ballpark (crawling, wearing tattered rags, and suffering from heat-induced hallucinations):
It was “BruceClaws” night, in which the team changes its name in order to celebrate the rock ‘n roll legacy of notable New Jerseyan Bruce Springsteen. My parking fiasco caused me to miss the pre-game concert by cover band E Street Shuffle, who were, by all accounts, awesome. Several hundred fans turned out early to see them.
The team was wearing special “BruceClaws” jerseys, which fans were able to bid on:
Cheese won in a photo finish:
And he literally towers over the opposition:
As is often the case, FirstEnergy gets more beautiful as the night wears on:
The night ended well for the BruceClaws, who pulled out a 3-2 victory in 10 innings. Upon the conclusion of the contest, I drove all the way to my current undisclosed location and this time made sure to remove the keys from the ignition.
What do you have to say about that, Buster?
Yeah, you’re right. I’m still an idiot.
This past Wednesday, the inaugural “Heath Evans Charity Softball Game” was held at Zephyrs Field in New Orleans (home of the New Orleans Zephyrs, natch).
The event featured Evans and a whole slew of his New Orleans Saints teammates, but it was Super Bowl MVP Drew Brees who stole the show. The multi-talented QB hit home runs from both sides of the plate during the home run derby portion of the evening, and then bashed another one during the game itself.
Somewhat inexplicably, no professional-grade video seems to exist of Brees’ batting barrage. But a few amateur cinematographers documented it to the best of their abilities, as seen here:
From the right:
And during the game:
Moving on from baffling under-documentation to copious over-documentation, the Modesto Nuts recently released a video that details just how maddening (and interminable) rain delays can be. Absurdity levels are off the charts on this one:
And speaking of absurdity, the Lakewood BlueClaws have been releasing videos that are jam-packed with groan-inducing puns and shameless sight gags (meaning that inclusion on this blog is guaranteed). Meet “D-Bo”, who provides a joke-filled tour through the ins and outs of the team’s upcoming homestand:
Finally, the Tulsa Drillers are one of many teams to stage a local variation of “American Idol”. This recently released video illustrates a dramatic disparity among the talent levels of the various contestants:
It might be hard to say goodbye to yesterday, but it sure is easy to say goodbye to today.
Until we meet again, I remain:
Could there possibly be a better way to get psyched for the season than by watching a commercial produced by a Double-A team that features a fast-talking, alliteratively-named pitchman?
The answer, my friends, is yes. But I’m going to lead with this anyway:
I’m not sure I like the thought of getting rained on by 22-ounce sodas and “cheeseburgers without cheese”, but I nonetheless must give this commercial an enthusiastic thumbs-up (although THIS remains my favorite food-related Eastern League ad). Two days of free ballpark food really is a tremendous deal, and Bobby conveys his message with a zeal bordering on the messianic.
The BlueClaws are auctioning off the opportunity to raise the 2009 South Atlantic League championship flag prior to April 16’s game at FirstEnergy Park. Bidding starts at $200, with proceeds benefiting the team’s charitable foundation. This is an excellent idea, though I’d like to see Phillies organizational stalwart (and current BlueClaws hitting coach) Greg Legg do the honors.
Another good idea worth pointing out as we steamroll toward Opening Day comes from down south, as the Gwinnett Braves are asking fans to “change their Facebook, Twitter and MySpace profile pictures to shots
of their favorite G-Braves memories. From shots at Coolray Field to
pictures with Chopper in the community, the team wants fans to show
their G-Braves pride.”
Many of these photos will be utilized as part of an Opening Night slideshow, a multi-media presentation which, in my own mind, will be set to Billy Joel’s “The Time to Remember”. Either that or the Chicken Dance.
It is now time for this post to conclude, and with it the month of March. Opening Day is now so close I can smell it, an aroma best described as a mix of domestic beer and magnetic schedule paint fumes.
I stand before you today in order to deliver Minor League mascot Valentine’s Day photos.
The public has demanded them, and I am certainly not one to ignore the pleas of the populace. Therefore, that is precisely what this post shall be dedicated to. But first, a quick request…
Inspired by the copious snow that has been deposited all over the country as of late, I have decided to do a story on extreme weather and the groundskeeping challenges it presents. In addition to teams that have recently been hit with snow, I’d be interested in speaking with anyone who has had to deal with drought, flooding, hurricanes, and, of course, locust plagues. I’ll most likely have to contact teams individually today and tomorrow, but that’s a hit-or-miss proposition. Consider this post an invitation to get in touch — email@example.com
Okay, we now return to regularly-scheduled programming: Minor League mascot Valentine’s Day photos.
Because, as you surely know, there was a lot going on. And how can I lead off with anyone but Boomer, who is surely the suavest mascot in Minor Leage Baseball? Here, Boomer spreads some joy to the youth of Williamsport:
Boomer’s not the only mascot named Boomer. There’s also Boomer of the Trenton Thunder, who is not at all terrifying, not the least little bit:
In Lowell, the Spinners sent out a star-studded caravan to a local elementary school, where Valentine’s Day cards were made. These cards were then delivered to a VA hospital (apparently, Canaligator and crew got hungry along the way):
Buster “rose” to the occasion in Lakewood:
But how could I close anywhere other than in Reading? As usual, Screwball did his thing:
Now if that wasn’t romantic, then I don’t know what is. I mean, seriously, I don’t. Can anyone help me out here?