Over on MiLB.com you can read my round-up of the 2014-15 Minor League re-branding season, featuring 11 new team names and/or logos. In conjunction with this, my latest journalistic masterwork, I decided to take a look around the Minor League landscape in order to subjectively determine the team from each league that is most in need of a makeover.
We’ll start at the top of the Minor League ladder and work our way down. Perhaps, come this time next year, some of these clubs will have opted to update their iconography. Whether you agree, disagree or couldn’t care less, feel free to tell me so in the comments or on Twitter (@bensbiz).
International League: Louisville Bats (current logo in use since 2002)
This logo is a little too reminiscent of Batman, so maybe it’s time that Louisville Gotham selves another one.
Pacific Coast League: Fresno Grizzlies (current logo in use since 2008)
The Grizzlies are actively embracing their post-San Francisco identity, but the orange and black color scheme still screams “Giants affiliation!”
Eastern League: Portland Sea Dogs (current logo in use since 2003)
Southern League: Mississippi Braves (current logo in use since 2005)
Texas League: Midland RockHounds (current logo in use since 1999)
California League: High Desert Mavericks (current logo in use since 1991)
Carolina League: Carolina Mudcats (current logo in use since 1991)
Florida State League: Tampa Yankees (current logo in use since 1994)
Midwest League: Lansing Lugnuts (current logo in use since 1996)
As was pointed out to me when I visited Lansing: That’s not a lugnut. It’s a bolt.
South Atlantic League: Kannapolis Intimidators (current logo in use since 2001)
New York-Penn League: Brooklyn Cyclones (current logo in use since 2001)
The Cyclones seem to do everything right, so I may as well give them a hard time for not updating the logo they came into existence with.
Northwest League: Salem-Keizer Volcanoes (current logo in use since 1997)
Appalachian League: Johnson City Cardinals (current logo in use since 1995)
Pioneer League: Helena Brewers (current logo in use since 2011)
In closing, I’d like to offer a tip of the cap to Chris Creamer’s SportsLogos.net. It’s a great source of info.
Today’s dispatch finds us in Louisville, the home of the International League’s Louisville Bats (Triple-A affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds). This marked the second time I’d been in Louisville over the span of one year, as I visited this past October in order to attend the Minor League Baseball Promotional Seminar. I wrote quite a bit about that visit, from the ballpark and otherwise; all of those posts are cataloged HERE.
So when I arrived at Louisville’s Galt Hotel, the same establishment that hosted the Promo Seminar, it was with a not inconsiderable sense of deja vu. I checked in, leaving my bags in the car, and immediately began the short walk to the Bats’ home of Louisville Slugger Field.
Or at least it should have been a quick walk to the ballpark. A combination of haste and misplaced confidence regarding my knowledge of downtown Louisville led to me walking right past E. Main Street, where the ballpark is located, and into parts unknown. Pro tip: if you’re walking to Louisville Slugger Field from the Galt Hotel, and you see the Ahrens Vocational School. then something has gone horribly wrong.
Pee-Wee Reese, Louisville native, is there to greet all comers.
Pee-Wee played shortstop. Here’s the view from the hot corner.
If Louisville Slugger Field looks like it has a unique ballpark exterior, that’s because it does. This building, in its previous incarnation, was a rail depot. Hence, an enclosed entrance way so wide that one could drive a train through it.
This, also taken during the Promo Seminar, illustrates how the converted depot area can be used as an offseason event Also, fans of foreshadowing should take note of this image. Depicted therein is an individual who will soon play a prominent role in this post…
Here’s one final photo from the Promo Seminar, taken from the suite level. Louisville Slugger Field is located on the banks of the Ohio River.
Upon arriving at the stadium and making my way to the press box, I learned that the Bats’ approach to my visit was of the hands-off variety. While there’s no right or wrong way to handle a Ben’s Biz intrusion, this caught me off-guard simply because my previous four ballpark visits had included participation in a World Record attempt, a karaoke battle against wrestling royalty, in-depth history-minded ballpark tours, two ceremonial first pitches and stints as a racing cow, hot dog, and bearded Sun King brewer. Full-to-bursting ballpark agendas had begun to feel like the new normal.
The cool reception was kind of a relief, as it was nice to know that I could take a break and set my own pace. So goodbye, Bats press box, I hardly knew ye. It was time to wander.
One of Stevo’s ballpark rituals is to purchase “mystery cards” from a concourse souvenir stand, for $2 a piece. One was enshrouded in pink, the other enshrouded in blue. “Which one do you want?” asked Stevo.
Receiving a Nick Adenhart card was bittersweet, to say the least, as he was killed in a car accident on April 9, 2009 at the age of 22. I wrote a news story about this tragedy later that day; speaking to his teammates just hours after they had heard the news was one of the most difficult things I’ve done as a professional journalist.
Stevo had a good vantage point for that evening’s game against Columbus. This was the scene as we rose for our National Anthem.
Later in the evening I interviewed Stevo about his scorekeeping history, techniques and tips. I’d highly recommend reading it, which you can do so by clicking HERE.
Of course, one of the joys of scorekeeping is that its practitioners can indulge their idiosyncratic whims. In the below photo, the parenthetical “FLS” in the box next to Lindor’s name indicates a “Flying Louisville Slugger.” (As in, Lindor had lost control of his bat at some point during his at-bat against the Bats.)
— GeöSpringerDethPünch (@yoshiki89) July 22, 2014
That accomplished, I took a lap around the ballpark. The shark fin-looking thing sticking out above the stadium is…a building. I forget what building it is, but it’s distinctive.
This isn’t just some random corporate sponsorship. KFC is based in Louisville, and Louisville is home to the first, and thus far only, KFC Eleven.
That’s Stephanie Fish, on the left, and Shannon Siders, on the right. These women, independently of one another, contacted me about being the evening’s designated eater (you know, the individual recruited to eat the ballpark food that my gluten-free diet prohibits). That’s not the only thing that Stephanie and Shannon have in common with one another, however, as they are both former Minor League Baseball front office employees who now work for a Louisville-based sports entity.
Stephanie, formerly of the Lexington Legends, now works in an administrative role with the SkillVille Group. The SkillVille Group’s roster of touring ballpark and arena performers is highlighted by the Zooperstars!, meaning that a big part of Stephanie’s job is keeping the likes of Harry Canary in line. Shannon, formerly of the Reno Aces, now works in marketing and communications for Louisville Slugger. She does not have to deal with anthropomorphic inflatables on a daily basis.
Our tour guide for this portion of the evening was Jason Betts, concessions manager for Centerplate food service. Betts can be seen in the below photo, looking pensive while ordering pork chop sandwiches from this center field kiosk.
Have at it, ladies.
.Louisville Bats designated eating time. Pork chop sandwiches. https://t.co/angfFidoYW
— Benjamin Hill (@bensbiz) July 22, 2014
“That’s a big piece of meat,” declared Stephanie, after careful deliberation.
“I don’t think I can follow that comment,” said Shannon. “It’s delicious. Better than salad.”
Next up was a visit to the “Nacho Cantina,” a concession stand so popular that it even has its own Facebook page.
“The nachos are all a la carte, so the lines can get pretty long,” said Jason. “People get up there like ‘Uhhhhhh…..'”
.Louisville Bats visit to the nacho stand. Like the nacho stand on Facebook. The nacho stand is a quality n… https://t.co/32iQqWr8lW
— Benjamin Hill (@bensbiz) August 19, 2014
As opposed to tortilla chips, Shannon opted for the house-made potato chips. But, regardless, this dish is very much a nacho dish and this photo is suitable for framing.
“Aside from $1 beer night, this is the happiest that I’ve ever been at Louisville Slugger Field,” said Shannon. “Does that make me an alcoholic?”
— Shannon Siders (@ShannonSiders) July 23, 2014
“I wish I had a napkin,” added Stephanie.
“This is a salad in a wrap,” said Stephanie. “That’s my quote. That’ll work.”
Betts said that the team sells 150 cheesesteaks per ballgame, a number which can increase to 300 on weekends.
“I’m not sure why it’s on a bun, because you can’t pick it up,” he said. “There’s too much stuff on it.”
Stephanie and Shannon eventually came to the conclusion that this Vine video should be called “Two Girls, One Cheesesteak.”
Cheesesteak love Louisville Bats https://t.co/gw2RKxIygR
— Benjamin Hill (@bensbiz) July 23, 2014
Finally, mercifully, we have reached the dessert phase of the evening. Blue Bell brand ice cream — cake batter for Shannon and strawberry for Stephanie.
Stephanie really liked the strawberry.
Upon parting ways with Stephanie and Shannon, I made a brief pit stop at an eerily desolate relief station.
Number one radio broadcast in the country. https://t.co/yCcP1fpSF8
— Benjamin Hill (@bensbiz) July 23, 2014
Throughout all of this, there was a game going on. There always is.
“I’m a Cubs and Royals fan, and to see an ex-Cub (Donnie Murphy) hit a home run off of an ex-Royal (Kyle Davies), that’s amazing,” said Stevo. “You never know when you’re going to see something like that.”
The Columbus Clippers defeated the home nine, by a score of 8-5.
Meanwhile, my next trip begins in two days. Here’s the itinerary (an asterisk next to the name means that a designated eater is still needed at that location). Get in touch.
August 22 — Batavia Muckdogs
August 23 — Rochester Red Wings*
August 24 — Jamestown Jammers*
August 25 — Erie SeaWolves*
August 26 — Buffalo Bisons
August 27 — Syracuse Chiefs
August 28 — Auburn Doubledays*
August 29 — Tri-City ValleyCats
August 30 — Hudson Valley Renegades*
August 31 — Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders
Yesterday was Opening Day, except when it wasn’t.
As is common at this time of year, there were a range of weather woes across the Minor League landscape. Seven of the 58 scheduled games were rained out, with the most dramatic example coming courtesy of the Frisco RoughRiders.
That will make you want to leave early.. Storm rolling through during the Frisco RoughRiders ballgame.. pic.twitter.com/unWADMJt1W
— FOX 4 NEWS (@FOX4) April 4, 2014
Today isn’t looking much better. The Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, who played in frigid conditions on Thursdays, have already announced a postponement. In Toledo, meanwhile, the visiting Louisville Bats are worried about the viability of their game against the Mud Hens…
— Louisville Bats (@LouisvilleBats) April 4, 2014
And — WHOA! — things are looking severe out by Sevierville. Click on THIS and then come back to me. I’ll be waiting….
Okay, cool, thanks for re-joining me. All of this meteorological mayhem got me thinking about a guest post that ran on this blog last year, in which Pete Golkin advocated for the creation of an industry-wide Universal Rain Check. The idea is simple: when a game gets rained out, the team in question issues a rain check that can be redeemed at any Minor League ballpark. Wrote Golkin at the time:
Remember, we’re talking about Minor League Baseball tickets. They’re not supposed to break the bank or become scarce–which is why you’ll never see a scalper in the parking lots at Danville, Greensboro or Richmond.
To work out the details, I suggest calling in the same accountants who said my old sliced cheese wrapper meant two-for-one admission anywhere on a Tuesday. And if I have to prove I’m an out-of-towner to get a rain check with “range,” I’ll gladly show a driver’s license. Simple stuff.
So on behalf of baseball pilgrims everywhere—at least the ones not bound for Fenway in an SUV limo–give the Universal Rain Check a shot, MiLB. It can only mean more fans up and down the road.
That post was met with one of the most robust comment sections in Ben’s Biz Blog history. But, alas, it was met with silence from those in a position to actually implement the program.
On Tuesday, the Dunedin Blue Jays issued a press release, and the press release contained the following information:
The Dunedin Blue Jays…are proud to announce the Raincheck Baseball Initiative (R.B.I.) program for the 2014 Florida State League season.
This unique program will allow fans to redeem a ticket from any rained out game from another team in Minor League Baseball for a Dunedin Blue Jays game….The R.B.I. program is believed to be the first of its kind in professional baseball.
“Basically, it’s a universal rain check,” said Nate Kurant, the new Director of Marketing and Social Media for the D-Jays. “A friend and I did a baseball road trip across the Southeast last season and each day had at least a 70% chance of rain. If any of those days had been rained out, we never would have made use of a rain check.”
“I know a lot of people love Minor League Baseball and take trips throughout the season to visit different parks. Essentially, I wanted to develop something that would meet a need for MiLB fans and help set us apart in Dunedin,” said Kurant. “It’s a beautiful city and hopefully this will give baseball fans more incentive to visit us throughout the year.”
Fair-weather fans that present a ticket from a different MiLB team’s rained out game not only will receive admission to a D-Jays game, but also take home a “Rainy Day Blue Jays” pack including a Blue Jays rain poncho. They will also have the option to participate in one of the numerous in-game promotions.
“It’s a nationwide, international MiLB promotion that is open to everyone from our fellow Jays affiliate in Vancouver all the way to our Florida State League friends in Palm Beach County.”
One team down, 159 to go. Do YOU think the universal raincheck is a good/viable idea? Would you take advantage of such a program? Are you tired of me asking obscure questions, as you would rather see a picture of a giant hamburger?
Okay, fine, here you go:
— Omaha Storm Chasers (@OMAStormChasers) April 2, 2014
Introductory paragraphs within this blog forum can sometimes be needlessly circuitous, steeped as they are in obscure references and acute self-consciousness. But not today. Today, we cut to the chase:
What follows is a comprehensive round-up of Harlem Shake videos produced by Minor League teams.
Yes, you’re probably sick of the Harlem Shake at this point. I am too. But let’s take the long view, as historians with an interest in baseball history, viral fads and the intersection of the two will no doubt delight in stumbling upon this post at some at some unknown moment in the distant future. I am doing this for you, future historians! I always am. For it is you who will ensure my legacy.
Plus, you’ve gotta admit — Minor League teams, with their easy access to supply closets full of banana suits and inflatable ponies, make better Harlem Shake videos than most. So here we go! In no particular order, here are two dozen Harlem Shake videos produced by professional baseball teams in possession of a formal affiliation with a Major League club.
Frederick Keys — Apparently a big-headed reincarnation of Francis Scott Key regularly sits in on front office meetings:
Columbus Clippers — Warning! Includes bear-on-frankfurter violence that may be unsettling to younger viewers:
Bowie Baysox — A toothbrush can’t dance? I bristle at such a notion:
Lexington Legends — Mister would you please stop punching that pony? WATCH ON FACEBOOK.
Vancouver Canadians — As if any proof was needed that this was an international phenomenon:
Fort Wayne Tincaps — A solitary pothead gives way to a banana who loves the queen of hearts.
Lake Elsinore Storm — Yes that is an upside-down squirrel hanging from the dugout, and yes he is happy to see you:
Corpus Christi Hooks — Can’t a man bike through the office in peace? WATCH ON MILB.COM
Tulsa Drillers — Hey, no dogs in the swimming pool!
Gwinnett Braves — Team store? More like surreal fever dream store!
New Hampshire Fisher Cats — Fungo and friends “rose” to the occasion:
Lehigh Valley IronPigs — Give peas a chance. WATCH ON MILB.COM
Buffalo Bisons — Vest-wearing gentleman on the right is my favorite individual to appear in any Harlem Shake video:
Charlotte Stone Crabs — What’s to stop the Incredible Hulk from wearing a sombrero?
Fresno Grizzlies — Forget this faddish viral bastardization. Parker knows how to do the REAL Harlem Shake. WATCH ON VINE.
Louisville Bats — This takes place in multiple dimensions simultaneously. It will blow your mind.
Bowling Green Hot Rods — I guess you could say that Axle rose to the occasion.
Delmarva Shorebirds — The Shake so nice they did it twice.
Springfield Cardinals — You know what? This is probably the best one out of all of ’em.
Round Rock Express — All bobblehead version!
Connecticut Tigers — Shout it from the rooftop!
And, finally, there are the State College Spikes. The first Minor League team to post a Harlem Shake video, and the last to be featured in this post:
Two latecomers have entered the fray!
Orem Owlz — Holly, the Owlz pregnant mascot, wisely sat this one out.
Myrtle Beach Pelicans — Fans of multi-colored crustacean triumvirates rejoice!
And that’s all she wrote, folks. “She” being me, of course. I am a man. A 34-year-old man. A man who is perhaps too old to be providing you with diversions such as the above. But yet I do, and yet I did.
Do not forsake me, future historians! I do not want to believe that this has all been in vain.
It had to happen eventually: not only is the (regular) season over, but I am all out of “On the Road” content. I hope that you enjoyed this year’s crop of road trip posts and articles — this sort of material is something that continues to grow and evolve from season to season, and I’m always looking to improve and expand upon that which I’ve done before. There is still a long way to go.
So, what now?
A lot of things, really. I’ve got a ton of “Return to the Road” material left to share (aka “non-baseball road trip content)”, some guest posts to assemble and disseminate, and I’m currently in the midst of the mentally exhausting task of compiling 2012’s “Promotion of the Year” MiLBY nominees. (Please, get in touch if you have any opinions to share on that front.)
But, for now, let me return to the full-to-bursting “potential blog topics” folder that resides deep within my Outlook account. Oh, yeah — we’re going to do this post “Bouillabaisse” style. There will be plenty more where this came from.
Let’s begin by taking a look at one of the best theme jerseys of the season, worn by the Colorado Springs Sky Sox on July 28th:
These jerseys were worn to commemorate the heroic efforts of the Colorado Springs police and firefighters who risked life and limb to combat the Waldo Canyon fire that raged through the region in early July.
From the press release:
These game worn jerseys will be auctioned off during and after the game with 100% of the proceeds benefiting local fire and
police designated charities. The Colorado Springs Fire Protective Association will receive 50% of the proceeds and the other 50% will support the Police Foundation of Colorado Springs.
Let’s proceed to a considerably smaller scale and quirkier charitable effort that was detailed on this blog a few months back: Northwestern University’s “Schedule Cards for Kevin.” Click on the link to read more about it, but the premise is simply that the university was collecting schedule cards for a developmentally disabled Northwestern super-fan. I asked Minor League teams and fans to join the cause, and many did so. But worthy of special note is Albuquerque-based Biz Blog reader Dave H., who sent along the following array of schedules to Kevin. How cool is this?
In an email, Halliday shared the circumstances that led to his having so many pocket schedules. His anecdote is a reminder of just how much has changed with the advent of the internet. In the old days, collecting Minor League memorabilia took serious effort:
In the early 70s I just had to have a fitted Yankees cap just like the players wear. Found a store in downtown LA that had one. Fast forward a few years and I had a players cap for every MLB team. All I had to look forward to each year were the small number of changes teams made to their uniforms. Then I discovered Minor League teams had much cooler caps, colors, and nicknames. But availability at that time was certainly local. A worker at our local minor league team noticed my Denver Bears cap and commented that he just saw Denver play in Oklahoma City. When I asked him how I might get an Oklahoma City cap, he showed me his copy of Baseball America’s Directory. I got my own copy and sent requests to over 100 teams for a mail order souvenir list. It was amazing what teams sent to me. Full color brochures, type-written product lists, phone numbers of employees that might be willing to take time to throw something in a box if my check cleared. Of course marketing has changed the last 25 years, as has my collection. I still look forward to the ever changing name/logo/color changes that make Minor League Baseball unique.
So, among the stuff sent to me 20 some years ago were schedule cards. I just kept them stored away. And I would casually pick some up wherever I went. Attached is a photo of over 30 duplicate schedule cards that I am more than willing to send to Kevin, along with some ticket stubs I’ve kept. Hopefully there are some he doesn’t have and maybe a few teams he has never heard of.
Reader correspondence is one of my favorite aspects of this job — keep sending the emails, and I will keep answering them!
Recently the scorekeeping savant known as Stevo got in touch with some anecdotes from the Louisville Bats’ “Halloween Night” promotion. Among the evening’s special features were videoboard headshots in which the players were “disguised” as someone (or something) else. This one, of Corky Miller, was particularly apropos.
Of this there can be no doubt: International League icon Corky Miller is the Yosemite Sam of our time.
For example, at least once a year the Fort Myers Miracle will attract national media attention by staging satirical sports promotion. Some recent highlights:
2007: Billy Donovan Night (MiLB.com’s “Promotion of the Year”)
And let’s not forget “Mike Tyson Ear Night”, “The World According to Sir Charles”, and “Don’t Be A Bengal, Be A Good Citizen Night.”
And then there was what took place last night — “Rest the Vest,” poking fun at the signature sartorial stylings of scandal-soaked Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel.
The new coach of the Buckeyes presumably will not wear sweater vests on the sidelines; so it’s time to retire them. Fans are encouraged to bring their sweater vest and place it in the retirement bin near the front gate of Hammond Stadium.
The Miracle want everyone to enjoy the “Rest the Vest” Night and even though you might not have a favorite sweater vest, if you have a tattoo then you also benefit.
Some pictures from the evening:
This all leads me to a bigger question — are topical but not necessarily locally-connected promotions worth doing? The Miracle obviously think so — after all, it put them in the national spotlight yet again. Google “Fort Myers Miracle Jim Tressel” and see for yourself.
But I’ve spoken to quite a few Minor League employees who don’t see the point in staging a promotion that lacks a local connection. If it doesn’t energize and engage the hometown fans, then why bother? National attention is all well and good, but not at the expense of alienating or exasperating the fans showing up at the ballpark on a regular basis.
It’s not all so cut and dry, of course, and this is perhaps an issue worth exploring in further depth. But, for now, thrill to the sight of a costumed Bat getting hit with a ball.
As far as I can tell, the ball went into Buddy’s mouth and stayed there. The pitcher and the catcher were wholly unconcerned, however, retrieving a new ball without so much as a second glance.
But you may want to give this photo gallery a second glance, seeing as it features images from the West Michigan Whitecaps’ “Led Zeppelin Night.”
Moving on from a uninspired segue to no segue at all, I recently came across the between-inning innovation that is the Team Trax logo race.I have yet to see one of these in action, but definitely seems like something that could catch on.
Let’s hear it for teamwork!