Tagged: Offseason Events

In the Year 2013…

My current “making do with what I’ve got” logo stance continues unabated with today’s post, as the lead item is this:

For those who need things spelled out for them — this is the logo for the 2013 Triple-A All-Star Game, an annual contest which pits two historically rich but misleadingly-named leagues against one another (International vs. Pacific Coast). As you can see, the 2013 edition will be taking place in Reno. The “biggest little city in the world” is home to the Aces, who played their inaugural season in 2009.

The lines orbiting the baseball in the above logo directly reference the sculpture that greets fans upon arriving at Aces ballpark:


The logo was designed by Brandiose, who once upon a time in a faraway and distant land were known as Plan B Branding. Those looking for more insight into the company’s philosophy and history would do well to read this supremely simile-laden interview with co-founder Jason Klein on apennysworth.com

A sample:

Q: Logo designers sometimes fight disparaging perceptions ranging from proverbial snake oil salesmen to glorified finger painters. How do you persuade clients of the tangible benefits of identity design?

A: We measure brand success several ways: retail profit, how creatively empowered the staff becomes, staff productivity, attendance, loyalty to the brand, and fame and notoriety. Alex Bogusky once said, “If nobody’s talking about your brand, it’s dead.” This plays a very important role in our process and how we measure success.

Let’s move away from eloquent analogy and distant 2013 talk and back toward the present. Or, more accurately, the recent past. Whatever. Writing 500+ segues a year is exhausting.

Have you ever wanted an expedient tour of a Major League team’s offseason publicity event? The Frederick Keys have you covered, and then some:

And how about something that could be happening in the near future. On Monday, the Tri-City ValleyCats put out the following on Facebook:

We are thinking about a Jimmy Fallon bobblehead this year at “The Joe!” He has ties to the area attending the College of Saint Rose and is a huge hit on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon Would you come for a Fallon bobblehead?

“Artists” rendering of said bobblehead:

As I remarked on Twitter: “Hopefully this idea doesn’t Fallon deaf ears!”

See, there’s a reason I get paid the big bucks. But if it’s small bucks you’re into, let it be known that the State College Spikes are desirous of a new Ike!

Guess that gives new meaning to the term “deer hunting season.”




A Re-Volt Ink Development in Frederick

In 2010, the Frederick Keys staged “Volt Night” in honor of the acclaimed hometown restaurant owned and operated by celebrity chef Bryan Voltaggio.

Early-arriving fans received Bryan Voltaggio bobbleheads, but the real draw was the food. Voltaggio and his crew took over the concession stands for the evening, creating an improbable ballpark menu highlighted by items such as Dipping Dots Gazpacho (which would make for a great band name) and lamb hot dog with chow chow (which wouldn’t).

Volt Night made it’s return on Tuesday evening, this time as an offseason event celebrating the release of the new Volt Ink cookbook (penned by Bryan and his brother Mike). I posted the menu earlier this week, but since I live in a world free of restrictions here it is again:

I do not have any photos of Old Bay Popcorn, which is just as well since I’d probably make it my desktop background and then salivate over it in a daily display of craven covetousness. But here are a few of the items on offer.

The evening also included a cookbook signing, kickball game, and live music.

“Let us in!” demanded the assembled hordes!

Access granted!

The Voltaggio Bros were busy, of course. They had food to cook, questions to answer, books to sign and mascots to pose with.

Meanwhile, the hoi polloi sampled the concessions, took in some live music, and played (or watched) what had to have been a riveting game of kickball.

While most teams don’t have hometown celebrity chefs ready and willing to collaborate on ballpark promotions, I still think that this basic “Volt Night” concept should be applied to other markets. Reach out to the “top chefs” of your community, and have them put a new spin on ballpark concessions for an evening.

And, of course, if you have photos, videos, and anecdotes from offseason events then please send ’em along. I am not content without content; the content keeps me content because otherwise I must contend with the gaping maw of the offseason, therein which lies an eternal void.

Good thing there are plenty of Minor League team-logo Jack O’ Lantern stencils to focus on. Those things are awesome.



The Offseason is On

onoff.jpgPerceptive readers of this blog may have picked up on the fact that I have come down with a case of the “Offseason Blues.” This ailment is not recognized by the mainstream medical community, so it has been hard for obtain the treatment I deserve.

But soldier on I must, so soldier on I shall. Today, I seek to derive strength and inspiration by conveying the following smorgasbord of Minor League news to you, the reader.

Dare to Be Stupid — Teams across the country are currently taking advantage of October down time in order to plan their 2010 promotional schedule. At least two of these clubs are actively soliciting fan suggestions: the Great Lakes Loons and the Bowie Baysox.

In advance of last week’s “Think Tank” planning session, the Loons put out a press release asking that fans submit promotional ideas on the Facebook page of mascot Lou E. Loon.

The Baysox, meanwhile, are asking fans to send an email to info@bowiebaysox.comstraight.jpg with the subject line of “CRAZY IDEA.” The caps-lock enamored club takes pains to emphasize that NO IDEA IS TOO CRAZY, so don’t be afraid to really let loose. I just gave myself 30 seconds to brainstorm a crazy idea, and the best I could do was “hermit crab giveaway.” It’s been that kind of day.

A Trip Down Memory Lane — I am in the process of putting together a spreadsheet of offseason Minor League events, so that I can write an offseason version of my “Promotion Preview” column. In the process, I have come across several worthy events that, alas, have already occurred. Such as:

Legends of Baseball Vintage Showdown in San Jose — Former big leaguers — including Hall of Famers Gaylord Perry and Rollie Fingers — faced off against players from the California Vintage Baesball Association. The game was played according to the 1886 rulebook, meaning that Perry could finally throw a legal spitball.

Hall of Fame Fight Night in Corpus Christi — Featuring eight bouts and a local Hall of Fame induction ceremony. What more could you ask for on a Saturday night in October at a Double-A ballpark?

Stone Crabs Celebrate Themselves — In Charlotte (Florida), the Stone Crabs celebrated theflacrab.gif opening of stone crab season by offering fans a $50 gift card with the purchase of a season ticket plan.
Dave the Horn Guy Update — Every few months, I feel compelled to mention Minor League touring performer Dave the Horn Guy. Rather than question why this is, I instead direct you to THIS LINK. There, you can download Horn Guy ringtones. If you’ve never heard Usher’s “Yeah” played through a chromatically-tuned bulb horn, then you’ve never really lived.


Live and Direct from Breinigsville, PA

ironmanwarpigssabbathrules.JPGSo, as feared, this blog did indeed sputter to a halt for a few days. But now it is time to put the keys back in the ignition, get the engine revving, and see how long it takes to this thing back to cruising altitude.

First things first — Yesterday, I had the pleasure of attending the Lehigh Valley IronPigs annual Phillies Caravan. The sold-out event was held in the banquet room of a local Holiday Inn, and featured a bevy of Phillies-related guests and events. Some highlights:

— All in attendance had the opportunity to get their picture taken with the Phillies’ Worldworld-series-trophy.jpg Series trophy. The pictures were then placed in a commemorative cardboard frame that had been autographed by Phillies manager Charlie Manuel.

— A live charity auction, featuring items such as a Veterans Stadium seats, autographed Phillies and IronPigs memorabilia, and Spring Training getaways. The opportunity to be a “Reporter for a Day” at local station WFMZ 69 went for the shockingly low price of $125. Don’t people realize that this is a station that played a key role in bringing the art of Spam Carving to a national audience?

— The tenacious joke-telling of IronPigs media relations director Matt Provence, who MCed the event. Bad jokes are an art form in and of themselves, and Provence is clearly dedicated to the craft. 

madson.jpg— Off-the-cuff interviews with Phillies bullpen stalwarts Ryan Madson and Scott Eyre, conducted by announcer Tom McCarthy.

— Complimentary Budweiser

While off-season Caravan and Hot Stove events will never rival the enjoyment of spending an evening at the ballpark, they are still excellent ways to get the community thinking about baseball while raising money for charity. Also, the manner in which they are run inevitably say a lot about the commitment and competence of the front office staff, and the IronPigs obviously have a good thing going in Lehigh Valley. Special thanks goes out to director of community relations Sarah Marten, who extended the invitation for me to attend the Caravan, and also did a tremendous amount of work to make the event go off without a hitch.

Bottom line is that I am a fan of event attendance! I do my best to accept any and all invitations, so get in touch at benjamin.hill@mlb.com

Finally, here’s a photo from last night, featuring myself and longtime friend/former next-door neighbor Ted Arnold. I’m on the left, clearly in “offseason mode” when it comes to hair length:


More blog content tomorrow, for sure. For the first time in little while I’ve got a small backlog of material, which is a most encouraging development. Thanks to all who got in touch with topic suggestions. 


Bob Brown Bear on CBC.JPGFor those who don’t follow the world of Minor League Baseball very closely, a common misperception is that teams more or less go into hibernation during the offseason. Sure, someone might occasionally stop by the office to check the phone messages and pick up the mail, but that’s about it, right?

Wrong! In the Minor Leagues, not even bears go into hibernation during the offseason…even if said bear is employed by a short-season ballclub AND lives in a foreign country.

For proof, journey with me all the way to the exotic locale of Vancouver, Canada, the home of the sensibly-named Vancouver Canadians. The club’s mascot Bob Brown Bear has been working overtime in order to spread holiday cheer while simultaneously keeping the Canadians baseball club in the hearts and minds of the Vancouver citizenry.

Here, we see Bob Brown Bear (BBB, as he will henceforth be known) working the crowd at Vancouver’s annual Santa Claus parade:


BBB later made an appearance at Vancouver’s annual tree-lighting ceremony, once again while toting his trademark giant candy cane:


Then, back in the comfortable confines of Nat Bailey Stadium, BBB welcomed none other than Santa Claus himself. Mr. Claus was taking time out of his busy schedule in order to check out the fine items on display at the Canadians’ one-day only merchandise sale. Of course, he also patiently listened to the Christmas wish requests of Vancouver’s youngest generation:


So, there you have it folks. Just another quick glimpse into the YEAR-ROUND operation of a Minor League franchise.

(Thanks to Canadians GM Andrew Seymour for the pictures. And, please, by all means, don’t hesitate to send YOUR offseason pics to benjamin.hill@mlb.com)

An October of Terror in the Minor Leagues, 2008 Edition

countryterror.jpegBen’s Biz Blog moved into its second year of existence this past week. Practically speaking, this means that when I am bereft of blog-worthy material I can simply look back to what I was writing last year and repeat the process.   

And what I was writing about last year at this time was this: Haunted Houses in the Minor Leagues.

Sounds good to me! Here’s a look at two haunted houses that are currently being operated by Minor League ballclubs:

— In Bowie, the Baysox are running “Country Terror”. Given the relatively steep admission charge of $20, one can only assume that this 20-minute indoor adventure is of superb quality. In the Country Terror press release, general manager Brian Shallcross claims that “Country Terror” will “scare your Baysox off!”, which is certainly a claim that cannot be taken lightly. In a further display of the Baysox’s commitment to the Halloween cause, the club has also taken to calling their city of residence “Booooowie”.

But will the Baysox be able to top last year’s extravaganza? The club staged “Blackbeard’s Revenge: The Curse of the Severed Head” in 2007, and it sounded like a doozy:

“After coming face to face with the titular Severed
Head, attendees are invited to tour the Haunted Hospital and then get lost in
the Crazed Chain Maze.”
(source: this fine blog).

— Meanwhile, in Quad Cities, the re-vamped River Bandits are once again working to establish Modern Woodmen Park as a year-round entertainment destination. The theme of the club’sdude!.jpg annual “Field of Screams” spooktacular is “Shoeless Joe’s Revenge.” Seems like a press release quote is in order at this juncture:

“This year’s event is themed around Shoeless Joe Jackson, who was
alleged to have died in 1951. There are those that contend, however,
that he merely faked his own death to escape a life in which he was
known as the villain, returning to Davenport where he fondly recalled
his days of sneaking away from Chicago to enjoy Minor League Baseball
at Municipal Stadium. In a confrontation with an erstwhile young
reporter who caught on to the ruse, Jackson was murdered and buried in
what is now the corn field at Modern Woodmen Park. Every year around
the time of Jackson’s October 31 death, reports surface regarding
paranormal activity coming from the ballpark.”

sjj.jpgI consider myself to be an “erstwhile young reporter” (in fact, I am identified as such on my business card), so there’s no way I’m going anywhere near this one. Shoeless Joe would try to kill me — again! It’s a long story, and one I hope to explain in detail at some point in the near future.

In the meantime, any clubs who are running Haunted Houses of their own are invited to get in touch:


Digestible Digressions

journalist.gifGenerally, I do not like to write posts that contain bite-sized morsels of information on disparate topics. As someone who pretends on a daily basis to be a serious and influential journalist, I take great pains to insure that my unsolicited Minor League PR work is detailed and in-depth. How else can I justify to MLB.com that I am “special” to them?  

Not today, however. Not today. There are just too many things to write about, and little time in which to do it. So, without further ado, let’s go to the Bullet Points!

— Last week, I wrote a post on the Quad City River Bandits‘ innovative “You Pick the Improvement” contest. After soliciting suggestions over a three-week period, the club is now having fans vote on which of six improvements they would like to see made to Modern Woodmen Park. I voted for “Permanent Playground for Kids”, largely because the temporary play areas of my youth always resulted in heartbreak and disappointment.

— The Corpus Christi Hooks announced last week that they would be holding their own versionolympics.gif of the Olympics on November 15. The Games will feature 14 events, and scored 10-8-6-4-2 for first through fifth place in each event. Here’s more, from the press release: 

Companies may
enter the Games for a $500 fee and the cost per participant is $10, to
be paid by the company or individual. Each athlete receives a t-shirt,
wristband and coupon for a hot dog and Coke. Spectator admission is $2

Kudos to the Hooks for coming up with an innovative and charitable way to stay in the public eye during that baseball-deprived time of year.

— I need to give credit where credit where credit is due, as I found the following bit of information in Ballpark Digest: The Durham Bulls (Class AAA; International League)
opened the doors to
Bulls Athletic Park
to an event, Project
Homeless Contact, designed to bring social
services and the homeless together. Because of its
downtown location,
bull.jpgBulls Athletic Park was the perfect place to
hold the event, with over 400 homeless people
receiving counseling on a variety of services
meant to bring them to a higher level of
stability, including job counseling and housing
assistance. You probably can’t do this during the
season, but for a single event the ballpark worked
beautifully — and showed us all the power of
thinking outside the box in providing worthwhile
community service.

All that I can add to this is that I would love to see more teams follow the Bulls’ lead. After all, it is better to follow a Bull than have a Bull follow you.

— I have more Minor League news at the ready, but as a staunch proponent of the Rule of Threes I must conclude today’s post. I have to get my affairs in order here in NYC, as I will be spending the rest of the week in beautiful Austin, TX, at the Minor League Promotional Seminar. See you there, industry. Drinks are on you.  

Contempt For Offseason Expressed Comedically at Regular Intervals

frez.jpgI really and truly do my best to highlight as many teams as possible on this blog. I really do. The more the merrier, is what I always say. In fact, I just said it, as I typed the previous sentence.

But some teams are bound to receive more coverage than others, because some teams are always coming up with attention-grabbing stunts. One such team is — you guessed it — the Fresno Grizzlies. So here we go again with yet another Fresno Grizzlies’ post.

Yesterday, the club unveiled the premiere episode of “I Hate the Offseason”, a weekly web series that will run throughout this Minor League Baseball-deficient time of year. The show will deal with all aspects of front office life, but it is really about the American city, and about how we live together. It’s
about how institutions have an effect on individuals, and how whether you’re a player, a GM, an umpire, a seasonal employee, a scout or a fan, you are ultimately compromised and must contend with
whatever institution you’ve committed to.

Just kidding. In the above paragraph, I just appropriated a quote from David Simon in whichpark.jpg he talked about his show The Wire. But, if the first episode of “I Hate the Offseason” is any indication, then it will be better than The Wire. None of the characters in that show were mascots.

Watch the first episode at fresnogrizzlies.com — NOW!  And while you’re there, sign up for the club’s “Bear Bytes” newsletter so that future episodes are delivered straight to your inbox. And, now, without further ado, a few more facts I would like to convery:

— The Grizzlies are one of 10 teams who have been nominated for MiLB.com’s “Promotion of the Year.” Vote for your favorite now! Voting ends on Wednesday, at which point I hope at least 10,000 people have made their voices heard. As of Thursday afternoon at 3:47 p.m., the total stands at 2,327. 

— The “Promotion of the Year” article has resulted in a massive spike in traffic here at Ben’s Biz Blog. Yesterday, in fact, was the most successful day in the history of this blog. Thanks for visiting, and please check back each and every day for the rest of your life. Or mine, whichever ends first.  

— Readers, both new and old, are encouraged to get in touch with any and all Minor League news. Contact me at benjamin.hill@mlb.com

Gettin' Better All the Time

qcrb.jpgThe Quad Cities River Bandits are coming off a very successful 2008 campaign, in which they aggressively rebranded themselves after several lackluster seasons as the Swing of the Quad Cities. Attendance at Modern Woodmen Park increased by a remarkable 39% as fans flocked to see this new-look ballclub.

Innovations such as these served to increase the club’s profile even further, inspiring some fans to go to extreme lengths to express their devotion. But even though the River Bandits are riding high, they are aware that there is always room for improvement.

But what to improve? That’s for the fans to decide!

The River Bandits are in the midst of a their two-pronged “You Pick the Improvement” contest,showimprove.jpg in which fans will select the next addition to the Modern Woodmen Park experience. Through September 19, the club is asking fans to visit http://www.riverbandits.com and submit their suggestions. These suggestions will then be whittled down to six finalists, and the winner will be determined through an internet fan vote. The forward-thinking individual who makes the winning suggestion will recieve a pair of 2009 season tickets.

This “Pick the Improvement” concept is a novel one, and I expect other teams to follow suit as the offseason progresses. In fact, I will rip the idea off right now, and let my readers pick which improvement they would most like to see on this blog:

— No more references to this blog being “fine”, “esteemed”, or “up and coming”.
— Somehow, resolve that at least 25% of content is derived from something other than a press release.
— Come to the realization that no one appreciates subtle references to bands I liked in high school and college.
— Stop making pandering and increasing desperate attempts to get vast cadre of loyal readers to leave comments.
— Never again use the ridiculous phrase “vast cadre of loyal readers.”

Your feedback is greatly appreciated!

In Which Baseball is Replaced by Beer

beer.jpgWhen it comes to the this here Biz Blog, I am still having some trouble establishing an offseason groove. After five months of relentless activity, it is tough to adjust to the somewhat slackened pace.

But one club who is not having this trouble is the Charleston RiverDogs, who will be using their promotional savvy and impeccable facilities in order to put on a first-class event this Saturday.

Instead of sulking about the end of the season, the RiverDogs are instead devoting an evening to an activity that can be enjoyed year-round — beer drinking! Check out the following info, which, like so much other info contained on this blog, was obtained from a press release:

“On Saturday, September 20, more than 100 different types of beer will quench the
profriverdogs.jpg buds of every die-hard beer drinker.  From 7:00 – 10:00 pm patrons will
receive sampling tickets, each good for a taste of their favorite beer, and the
first 1,000 people will receive a commemorative sampling glass.
with great beer, the entertainment is sure to bring the house down with the
sounds of the band Spunjwurthi. Mellow Mushroom and Home Team BBQ will have
food for purchase as well as ballpark fare offered up at The Joe concession

And regular readers of this blog will remember that the concession stand offerings at Charleston’s Joseph P. Riley Stadium are anything but ordinary. Regular readers will also be aware that this is the first time that immortal rock gods Spunjwurthi have ever been mentioned.

recycling.JPGThe press release goes on to note that “kids, babies in strollers and anyone under the age of 21 will not be allowed
into the facility”. This allows me to borrow a line I used in a post last year, about a similar beer fest staged by the Fort Myers Miracle:

“So, please, don’t even attempt your usual scheme of dressing up like a baby in order to get free admission.”

In an attempt to be more environmentally friendly, Ben’s Biz Blog will rely more and more on recycled content throughout the offseason. Get used to it!

Also: Get in touch with your offseason news and notes — benjamin.hill@mlb.com