Tagged: Montgomery Biscuits 2015

On the Road: Biscuits in Montgomery

To see all posts from my August 1, 2015 visit to the Montgomery Biscuits (this is Part Three) click HERE. To see all of the posts from my July/August 2015 trip through the Deep South, click HERE. To see ALL of my “On the Road” posts (going back to 2010), click HERE.

2015 “On the Road” landing page HERE!

First things first: The Montgomery Biscuits do indeed offer biscuits. Minor League Baseball is all about selling yourself.

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The Biscuits’ biscuit options include those topped with jam, chicken biscuits, biscuits with gravy, and biscuits served with locally beloved Alaga syrup.  These, and all of the team’s food offerings, are provided by PSC (Professional Sports Catering), a Minor League Baseball-specific concessions company owned by Biscuits co-owners Sherrie Myers and Tom Dickson.

On hand to try these offerings was Joe Marcus, my designated eater for the evening (you know, the individual who consumes the ballpark cuisine that my gluten-free diet prohibits). Through the years, Joe had left multiple comments on this blog imploring me to visit Montgomery. So, when I finally did schedule a visit, I figured I’d give him the first crack at being designated eater. He accepted the offer, and so here we were.

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Joe, a Montgomery native and radio business veteran, has long been a local baseball supporter. He said that one of his favorite memories is of seeing Knoxville Sox infielder Bucky Dent (yes, that Bucky Dent) hitting a game-winning home run in the 1972 playoffs against Montgomery. Upon further review, it appears that this home run was hit in the 1972 Southern League All-Star Game (played in Montgomery), but close enough.  43 years is a long time for a memory to stay completely accurate.

In more recent years (but still long ago), Joe served as the PA guy at the Montgomery Rebels’ home of Patterson Field. The Rebels played their last season in 1980, Montgomery then went without affiliated Minor League Baseball until the Biscuits arrived in 2004.

I met with Joe in the concourse-level Club Car Bar, where the Biscuits had prepared the following spread.

048 We started, of course, with the biscuits. These, specifically, were chicken biscuits.

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Prior to meeting with Joe, he had warned me in an email that he and his friends would most likely be in “good form” this evening. And, indeed, he was. In this case, his “good form” extended to completely dismantling the biscuits immediately upon laying hands on them.

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“I can see that Joe Marcus has been here,” said Joe’s friend, Mike, surveying the smashed pile of biscuits that Joe had instantaneously created.

Mike was flitting around the perimeter of the scene, barefoot, drinking a beer, completely uninterested in why his pal was being photographed with an array of food items. Joe, while molding the smashed biscuits into some sort of dough pyramid, made clear that he wished he’d been given a cheesesteak and now kinda seemed hesitant about this whole “designated eating” endeavor. Meanwhile, the Biscuits’ staffers involved with preparing and delivering the food receded far away from the action, giving off a vibe of “Uh, what’s going on here?”

But the show must go on, even if the energy’s off. Joe re-assembled the mess to the best of his mess re-assembling abilities, and the following Vine was created. I guess I thought it was all pretty funny at the time.

“It would have been better with Alaga Syrup,” said Joe, of what had once been a biscuit. “It’s good. It’d be better with some syrup.”

Next up was “The Gump,” a new offering for the 2015 season utilizing the Biscuits’ in-house barbecue. It consists of smoked pulled pork, cole slaw, cheese (pepper jack, I believe), onions and barbecue sauce. Apologies for the poor quality photo, as I was having trouble stage-managing the designated eating experience on this particular evening.
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Joe took a bite and then warily held it out for closer inspection.
053“It’s a little heavy for a hot night,” said Joe. “It’s kind of a hybrid of grilled cheese and barbecue. I wouldn’t turn it down.”

And, indeed, he didn’t.

Seeking to give Joe a brief respite from his designated eating duties, I sampled a fresh strawberry smoothie that had been made at the team’s new smoothie bar. The thumbs up was more than a reflexive photo pose, as this smoothie was sweet (but not too sweet), fresh and natural. Just like me.

059Also, for the record, the Biscuits are now serving Chloe’s fruit pops. Gluten free! It melted before I got the chance to try it, however, providing yet another example of the ephemeral nature of all earthly matter.

055But back to Joe. Joe still had some nachos to eat.

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These, specifically, are “Super Nachos.” Pork, chicken and beef were all part of the equation.

050 “This is my favorite,” said Joe. “As good as you’ll find at a mainstream Mexican restaurant, as opposed to the little places that are authentic.”

And that was about it for Joe, who was more than ready to abandon Ben’s Biz Blog in favor of the more familiar alliterative triumvirate that is ballgame, buddies and beer. When asked to sum up his designated eating experience, his answer was wistful and poetic.

“I’m glad someone remembered me,” he said. “I coulda been a contender.”

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

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On the Road: Miraculous Encounters and Unavoidable Delays in Montgomery

To see all posts from my August 1, 2015 visit to the Montgomery Biscuits (this is Part Two) click HERE. To see all of the posts from my July/August 2015 trip through the Deep South, click HERE. To see ALL of my “On the Road” posts (going back to 2010), click HERE.

2015 “On the Road” landing page HERE!

I ended Part One of this Biscuits blog series with a reference to the team’s theme song. Well, if you like team theme songs, then you’re in luck. The Biscuits’ have two of them! If “They’re Out of Sight” wasn’t your thing, then maybe “Bring on the Biscuits” will strike your fancy.

Let’s Cook!

And now, on to Part Two. The game was underway at this juncture of the evening, meaning that it was time for me to wander. It is never not time for me to wander, and it is never not time for a non sequitur.

Did you know that Montgomery is home to a Hyundai plant? In 2015, the three millionth vehicle rolled off of the assembly line and into our hearts. That vehicle was purchased by the city and installed on the Riverwalk Stadium concourse

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Meanwhile, upstairs in the owner’s suite, Miss Gravy, Duchess of Pork, was making the rounds. The leash-holder in the above photo is Biscuits co-owner Sherrie Myers, who was hosting a “Leadership Alabama” event that evening and did not have time to speak with me. Myers and her husband, Tom Dickson, also own the Lansing Lugnuts, as well as PSC (Professional Sports Catering).

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Big Mo, a biscuit loving beast if there ever was one, always has time to mingle with his constituency.

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Big Mo and I spent the better part of an hour just standing there, our arms around one another, gazing lovingly into the middle distance. It was a beautiful evening in which to do such things.

063But nothing lasts forever, not even intimate moments with Southern League mascots. I eventually made my way downstairs, visiting a team store in which one can actually find biscuits in the oven.

065Overseeing these biscuits, and many other pieces of paraphernalia, is merchandise director Steve Keller.

065 I wrote a feature about the Biscuits for MiLB.com, providing an overview of the operation, and that feature included my observation that Keller “is quite possibly the only native-born German in a Minor League front office.” When will I learn not to write such things? Because, hilariously and inevitably, I soon received an email from Pensacola Blue Wahoos merchandise manager Denise Richardson. The email read, in part:

“I just wanted to point out that [the Biscuits] merchandise manager is not the only native-born German working in a Minor League front office – he is not even the only one in the Southern League. I was also born in Germany. Lived there for several years and then visited my Oma every summer in Maroldsweisach (in Bavaria) until she was too elderly to entertain my brother and I. My mother was the first and only member of her family to come to America. So, while Steve Keller probably spent a larger portion of his life there, I just wanted to let you know that is he not, “quite possibly the only native-born German working in a Minor League front office.” 

May I suggest a new league motto?

The Southern League: Current Home to (At Least) Two German-born Merchandise Directors. 

download (1)While in the team store, I made the following Vine. I should have added a #YAM tag to this, which of course stands for “Yet Another Masterpiece”.

Upon leaving the team store, I had a chat with the one and only Dr. Miraculous, a man of spectacular facial hair and deep Montgomery baseball knowledge.

071Dr. Miraculous — real name, Shane — is a lifelong Montgomery baseball fan who has childhood memories of seeing Mark Fidyrich pitch for the Montgomery Rebels. He attends nearly every Biscuit game, and blogs about Montgomery baseball past and present via the Dr. Miraculous blog.

Dr. Miraculous told me that, through the years, Montgomery has fielded a lot of good teams. The ’40s and ’50s were a particularly fertile period, though he currently finds himself particularly interested in the ’09 team. As in, 1909.

Dr. Miraculous has already written about me on his blog, noting that “I met blogger-king Ben Hill and managed to not make a single reference to Yakkity Sax.”

Dr. Miraculous. This is the fourth straight paragraph that begins with Dr. Miraculous. And, also, the last. Time was running out on the evening, which meant that it was time to write, record and disseminate a groundbreaking and subversive ballpark joke.

Yes, there was a baseball game going on throughout all of this, as there always is. Without it, nothing else would have reason to exist. After the visiting Tennessee Smokies secured a 4-3 victory over the Biscuits, it was time for a post-game fireworks display.

Except no. No, it wasn’t yet time for a post-game fireworks display. A CSX freight train was making its way past the stadium, and the fireworks couldn’t commence until the team received permission from the yardmaster to do so.

081The delay was considerable, as this freight train was so long — How long was it? — It was so long that it ended up circling the entire globe and running in to its own caboose. While at the mercy of the whims of the mercurial yardmaster and his serpentine machinery, the team passed the time by showing a video of Muppets characters lip-syncing to “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

As the train snaked by, the yardmaster cackling dementedly in his lair, the folks in the production booth had to scramble to keep the crowd entertained. Over the next 15 minutes or so, they just about exhausted their crowd-pleasing absurdist viral video supply. In addition to Muppets’ paying homage to Queen, there was (of course) “Let It Go,” the Muppets doing “Don’t Stop Believing”, “Turn Down for What” mashed up with video from Frozen, “Happy” accompanied by video of dogs, the SpongeBob SquarePants theme (of course), something that my notes describe as “cats being manipulated to dubstep” and more. The zeitgeist was in full effect.

I was a freight it would never happen, but finally the team got permission to shoot off the fireworks. Could I have taken a worse picture than this? Probably not.

082And that, as they say, was that. As “Sweet Home Alabama” filtered over the PA, I Riverwalked my way out of the stadium. Another ballpark visit is now in the books.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

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On the Road: Sow Time in Montgomery

To see all posts from my August 1, 2015 visit to the Montgomery Biscuits (this is Part One) click HERE. To see all of the posts from my July/August 2015 trip through the Deep South, click HERE. To see ALL of my “On the Road” posts (going back to 2010), click HERE.

2015 “On the Road” landing page HERE!

Stop number #4 on my 2015 road trip through the Deep South was Montgomery, Alabama, home of the Biscuits. Though the team played its first season in 2004, the Biscuits remain a perennial source of amusement to individuals who’ve just found out that they exist. During the summer of 2015, one of those individuals was celebrity weather prognosticator Al Roker.

I visited Montgomery shortly after the Biscuits’ brief fling with Roker-mania, which included a follow-up segment in which Al and company wore team swag and ate biscuits on the air.

A visit from Ben’s Biz, niche blogger and third-person referrer, was nothing compared to the lavish attention of the Today Show. Still, the team rolled out the proverbial red carpet for me and I had a great time during my evening at Riverwalk Stadium. You butter believe it.

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Upon arriving in downtown  Montgomery, finding a parking spot was a burdensome task. But success was ultimately mine, as success always ultimately is. As I made the short walk from car to the ballpark, sights such as these were seen along the way.
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004In its previous incarnation, Riverwalk Stadium was a train shed. Much of the original exterior, extending along the first base line, has been preserved.

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“Max Fireworks” would be a great band name

Before Riverwalk Stadium was a train shed, it was the site of a Confederate military prison. The plaque explains that the majority of the 700 Union soldiers housed there were captured at Shiloh. “They were imprisoned in a foul, vermin-abounding cotton depot…without blankets and only the hard earth of wood planks as a bed.”

006Riverwalk Stadium’s front entrance is spacious and airy, as befits a building that used to house locomotives. (The river in question, for the record, is the Alabama.)
025The interior of the stadium: Also spacious.

011CSX freight trains regularly run past the stadium.

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This has led to at least one classic Minor League broadcasting moment.

The view from center field highlights the stadium’s unique architecture: Half re-purposed train shed, half original structure.

017The Club Car Bar, located on the far end of the first base side concourse, features a bar made from timbers taken from the train shed.

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There are 20 suites in the stadium, six of which are train shed-side “historical suites.”

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024An “historic” view:

027Wrapping around to the other side, one finds the Locomotive Loft. Can you spot the texting chef?

030The Biscuits’ front office, located in what used to be railroad offices, are truly a sight to behold.

038Original signage abounds.

037A live pig resides within this atmosphere of opulence. Seriously. She has her own cubicle and everything.

039The pig’s name is Miss Gravy, Duchess of Pork, a micro-mini potbelly pig whom I had the pleasure of feeding a baby carrot.

The Biscuits acquired Miss Gravy at the start of the 2014 season, after partnering with Alabama’s department of agriculture. Following her rookie campaign, Auburn University sent out a press release announcing that Miss Gravy had undergone a successful ovariohysterectomy. You can’t make this stuff up.

Biscuits marketing director Staci Wilkenson, gracious provider of my pre-game stadium tour, told me that Miss Gravy is “definitely a diva” and that her favorite activities include running and sunbathing.

My visit with Miss Gravy was all-too-brief, for the game was about to begin. Field was on the field to catch a first pitch thrown by a servicewoman (Maxwell Air Force Base is located a half mile away).

044And, soon enough, the ballgame began.

046This concludes part one of my Montgomery Biscuits blog series; stay tuned for more. To paraphrase the team theme song, “I made this post out of pure ambition, if you can’t stand the heat get out of my kitchen.”

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

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About Last Night: Montgomery Biscuits, August 1, 2015

This season, when I’m on the road, I’ll be writing an on-the-spot blog post about each Minor League ballpark that I visit. Then, upon my return home, I’ll provide the multifaceted blog coverage that you have come to know and, perhaps, even love. Let’s get to it, lest it get to us!

August 1, 2015: Riverwalk Stadium, home of the Montgomery Biscuits 

Opponent: Tennessee Smokies, 6:35 p.m. game time.

Riverwalk Stadium, from the outside: 

007Riverwalk Stadium, from within: 

013Culinary Creation: Biscuits (of course), blending into the woodwork

051Ballpark Character: Miss Gravy, Duchess of Pork — just a pig and her front office cubicle:

039At Random: Riverwalk Stadium used to be a train station, and much of the original architecture remains. These stairs lead to the team offices:

038Your Groundbreaking and Subversive Ballpark Joke of the Day: People are telling me this punchline is too subtle. There is no such thing as a too-subtle punchline.

Next Up: 

Mississippi Braves: 8/2

Jackson Generals: 8/3

Nashville Sounds: 8/5

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

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instagram.com/thebensbiz