Oh, boy. The inexorable passage of time has once again brought us face to face with a new Minor League Baseball season. I, for one, am psyched. I, for two, have also been remiss in updating this blog over the past week or so. I have various excuses for this, of varying degrees of legitimacy, but who cares? The drought is over. New content — the lifeblood of the internet, the lifeblood of my existence — begins now.
As the title makes clear, this post will be a full-to-bursting bouillabaisse of delectable Minor League morsels. I’d like to start by noting that, over on MiLB.com, my first “Promo Watch” column of the 2016 season is now live. “Promo Watch” is a tweak on the old “Promo Preview” format, encompassing not just the traditional previews but also reviews and larger promo trend analysis. In today’s column, I highlighted a few 2016 promos that I am looking forward to. They involve previous planet Pluto, President James Garfield and pork roll.
I’d like to think I’m writing the most consistently (and justifiably) weird stuff in the entire sports journalism ecosystem. But of a less weird variety is this Opening Day Guide, co-written with my colleague Sam “No, I’m not related to Lenny” Dykstra. Read and learn.
Everybody loves dogs, so everybody will love this: Former Greensboro Grasshoppers bat dog Miss Babe Ruth has accepted a new position with the team.
— Benjamin Hill (@bensbiz) April 6, 2016
In this capacity, Miss Babe Ruth (how is she not named “Babe Ruff”?) will “greet fans in the concourse during games and also advertise her new association” with a flea and tick prevention product named BRAVECTO.
Remember at the Winter Meetings when I wrote about the complex issues surrounding drone usage at Minor League Baseball games? Well, that’s because, like it or not, drones are here to stay (and not just in the broadcast booth). This season, the Reading Fightin Phils are using them in an official context. This is the “Drone Cam.”
During the offseason, the Lexington Legends partnered with a local school on “Stache Tank.” This “Shark Tank”-inspired competition asked students, working in teams as part of an economics unit, to pitch a promotional giveaway item as well as a ballpark improvement. Winning student presentations include a slap bracelet giveaway and the construction of a rock climbing wall in right field. Pretty cool idea.
The Durham Bulls have announced that, on June 9, they will wear “the first Bulls uniform created by a company outside of the sports industry.” It was designed by Durham-based RUNAWAY, which is weird because it seems their focus would be all-caps.
The jerseys are modeled after the flag of Durham, with “DURM” in the center. DURM is a “term coined by RUNAWAY as an ode to the city’s hard-nosed history.” If you’ve got a hard nose then you should probably go see the durmatologist.
In my previous blog bouillabaisse I mentioned that the Sacramento River Cats had installed 472 solar panels and five SMA inverters at their home of Raley Field. The team’s environmentally-friendly endeavors continue apace, with last week’s announcement of “River Cats Road Relief.“ This three-pronged initiative includes a carpool program, which enables cars with four or more passengers to receive free parking.
— River Cats (@RiverCats) April 6, 2016
New Jersey’s pro baseball scene has gone through some hard times, as three indy clubs have ceased operation. But their pain is the Trenton Thunder’s gain. On Wednesday, the team announced announced that Camden Riversharks, Newark Bears and Atlantic City Surf gear can be exchanged for a free ticket, food voucher and team store discount.
Trade in your @Riversharks gear for tickets, food, and 20% off at the company store!
— Trenton Thunder (@TrentonThunder) April 6, 2016
The Tri-City ValleyCats don’t start their season until June, but they’re still making good use of their time. On April 14, the team is staging its annual “4 in 24” initiative, in which four local youth fields are renovated within a 24-hour span. This is a great idea.
I began with dogs, so I’ll end with dogs: The Inland Empire 66ers have installed Minor League Baseball’s first-ever permanent dog park.
Here’s to the 2016 season! I promise I’ll be announcing my road trip schedules shortly.
— Benjamin Hill (@bensbiz) April 7, 2016
Opening Day is upon us! Long-time readers of this blog know that my sentiments regarding a new baseball season can be summed up in four words.
I’ve got plenty to share with you over the coming weeks — a couple of “Return to the Road” posts, a couple of “Why I Love…” guest posts, and, of course, the reveal of my 2014 road trip itinerary (I’m going on four trips in 2014, with the first one kicking off HERE on April 28).
But it’s Opening Day! What better way to start the season than with a good old fashioned full-to-bursting bouillabaisse post? Doesn’t the mere thought of that make you want to dance?
In Lansing, meanwhile, the Lugnuts are asking “Guess What Day It Is?” They do not mean Opening Day, however.
The Lugnuts, in their own words:
Every Wednesday home game at Cooley Law School Stadium is Hump Day, with half-off drinks from 7 to 8 p.m. and a special appearance from Humphrey, a live camel!
Humphrey’s night will begin by delivering the first pitch baseballs out to the field. Afterward, he’ll saunter over to the west gate for pictures and petting. Lugnuts fans will also have the opportunity to win a camel-ride.
Other activities include a Hump Day t-shirt toss and a special “On the Hump” trivia segment featuring Lugs pitchers.
Limited-edition Lugnuts Hump Day merchandise is currently available at the Nuts and Bolts store.
I just hope that Humphrey the camel toes the line when he’s on the field. Any untoward protrusions could be embarrassing.
Prior to first pitch deliveries, be they camel-related or otherwise, the playing field will be bustling with batting practice activity. When such activity concludes, time is of the essence. Think any Minor League teams will be able to operate at a greater speed than that displayed by the University of Tennessee?
But, of course, there are going to be times when no games are going on and the playing field is entirely deserted. During these occasions, unwanted nocturnal guests may see fit to make a visit. But not in Fort Wayne, who have a coyote on the case.
— Fort Wayne TinCaps (@TinCaps) March 11, 2014
Another way to ward of unwanted guests: continuous on-field aerial surveillance!
Ballpark opponents aren’t necessarily unwanted guests, as their presence is a necessary component of the competitive experience. Last season I wrote about the Harrisburg Senators, who allow male fans to express their disdain for the visiting team via the time-honored act of urinating on the logo. I happy to report that, in 2014, the Senators have combined all of their Eastern League opponents, putting them all on blast via one urinal cake.
Pee on them all indiscriminately!
— Benjamin Hill (@bensbiz) April 1, 2014
As we embark on yet another Minor League Baseball season, please remember: I remain the greatest of all time.
It’s Opening Day 2012, and my reaction regarding the start of a new baseball season is the same as it is every year. Four words says it all, and then some.
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. I’m serious.
And what better way to commemorate Opening Day than by reading the first “Promo Preview” column of the year? Let me know what you think of the new format (the jokes are still old). Featured in said column are new MiLB innovations such as this, straight outta Asheville:
The team reports, you decide:
Beginning on Opening Day, the Asheville Tourists, in conjunction with Wildwater ‘s Asheville Zipline Canopy Adventures, will deliver the game ball via zipline. Beginning nearly 500 feet from home plate, a guide from the Asheville-based zipline company and one lucky fan will fly 30 feet above the field, from the grounds of Memorial Stadium to the heart of McCormick Field, just prior to the announcement of “Play ball!”
“Coming to the ballpark is centered on entertainment and having fun,” said Tourists president Brian DeWine. “We felt there was no better way to achieve that goal than to combine two of Asheville’s favorite activities in baseball and ziplining.”
As for what else has been going on, the answer is EVERYTHING. For starters, special postal deliveries have been arriving regularly here at MiLB.com HQ, courtesy of all sorts of folks. Two of the newer arrivals:
Memphis Redbirds Schedule Poster
This is, if not a game changer, then at least a game modifier (I’d also accept “alterer”). As you can see in the above photo, fans can place their SmartPhones over Shelby Miller’s mouth in order to watch a video highlighting upcoming promotions. I’d tell you about said video, excepting my phone is defiantly stupid. It doesn’t even have the number 5.
Believe it or not, I have yet to watch Eastbound and Down. (Most of my television time has been spent lobbying Sony to release the rest of Mary Hartman Mary Hartman on DVD.) But the shirt is pretty cool, is it not?
Let’s close this Opening Day missive with a pair of items from our high-flying friends in Lancaster, CA — the JetHawks. In the wake of last Friday’s mega-sized Mega Millions drawing, the team decided to make winners (of sorts) out of the losers.
Starting Saturday from 11am to 2pm, fans can bring losing lottery tickets to the Clear Channel Stadium box office and receive a $2 discount on any April 12 Opening Day ticket in any section. If you can’t make it on Saturday, the discount will be available April 2-6 from 9am to 5pm.
And once admission is gained to a JetHawks game, unique comestibles await. This year’s latest (and therefore greatest) item is called “The Hawk’s Nest.”
It is, quite simply, “a nest of crispy onion straws in a bowl, topped with juicy chicken strips, chili, and cheese.”
And with that, a cut and pasted food description, I conclude my first post of the 2012 season. There’ll be plenty more where that came from.
The silence that greeted my offseason round-up post could not have been any louder, so nothing to do now but dust myself off and stare boldly into the future.
Baseball is coming!
And if baseball is coming then new content is coming, both on the blog and over on MiLB.com. My Southern League preview and prospect guide runs tomorrow (not my bread and butter, but I do what I can), followed by Thursday’s Opening Day guide as well as 2012’s first edition of Promo Preview!
2012 marks Promo Preview’s seventh season of existence (what have I done with my life?) and this year the format will differ from what it has been in year’s past. As opposed to 10 capsule write-ups, there will be one lead promo featured each week and this portion will be followed by a more free-wheeling run-down of everything else of note that is going on. But the more things change the more I am obliged to resort to hoary cliches: much of the column will continue to rely on your input. Never, ever hesitate to get in touch with your promo related tips, leads, and scuttlebutt.
The resumption of Minor League action means the cessation of my Minoring in Business and Offseasoning columns, but joining Promo Preview on the weekly roster is Farm’s Almanac. This is, quite simply, a feature about nearly anything related to the Minor Leagues — player profiles, book reviews, historical explorations, on-location travelogues and so on and so forth. And, again, I am always amenable to your suggestions regarding what would make a good Minor League story.
And, of course, I’ll be hitting the road several times during the course of the season. (I’ll dedicate a post to Trip #1 early next week. It kicks off April 27). The plan, tentatively, is to embark on four week-long trips in addition to more incidental visits within the greater NYC area. And not to be a broken record or anything, but your suggestions/invitations are always appreciated.
And, finally, I’ll be tweeting as often as time and space constraints allow. Our weekly series of Twitter souvenir giveaways has gone well thus far, and will continue into the foreseeable future (every Friday at 2 p.m.). I’m currently sitting at 1899 followers (a number that, for me, always brings to mind the Cleveland Spiders), and would like to get to 2012 by Opening Day.
Teams, can you help me out with that? I’ve (most likely) scratched your back, and now I’ve got an itch that you can assist with. Tell your fans to follow @bensbiz!
Apologies for the excessive housekeeping here, but it is the time of year for such things. Stay tuned both here and MiLB.com for what will (hopefully) be another season of unprecedented Minor League coverage and, most importantly, thanks for your support!
Opening Day countdowns are a recurring feature of many teams’ Facebook and Twitter feeds, and for good reason. It’s a quick and easy way to keep baseball’s imminence in the collective consciousness.
One team that you can really count on when it comes to counting down are the Delmarva Shorebirds, who are in the homestretch of an ambitious and creative “30 Days of Opening Day” promotion.
Sez the press release:
Starting on March 14, which is 30 days removed from the home opener, the Shorebirds will have a new event, appearance or contest planned each day leading up to April 12.
This includes mascot tour stops, local TV appearances, a Fan Fest, a “Player’s Send-off Party” and recurring weekly promotions such as “Donut Monday,” “Talk to Me Tuesdays,” and “Weenie Wednesdays. ” It is my opinion that “Donut Mondays” should be adapted by every MiLB team. Each Monday morning, the team posts the following message on Facebook:
Post a picture of your office or place of business on our wall and your office could win a delivery of donuts from us tomorrow morning! The post with the most ‘likes’ by 5pm today wins!
It’s a hole lot of fun! (Hope your eyes didn’t glaze over at that last sentence. I dough my best).
Another innovative endeavor comes courtesy of those very same RiverDogs who were featured in Monday’s post. Late last week, the team announced the latest component of their “Be Your Own Fan” marketing campaign.
Another press release, another excerpt. This is how we roll:
Fans will have the opportunity….to register for “Be Your Own Fan” campaign. Upon registering, fans will receive a free colored coded bracelet, plus emails, offers and incentives that cater to their interests and to the reason they come to the ballpark.
There are nine unique fan groups from which to choose:
- The Networker: Comes to the ballpark to meet and connect with people and utilize the facility’s atmosphere to create business relationships;
- The Foodie: Someone who loves the various food offerings at The Joe;
- The Family: Comes to games because they know that a RiverDogs game can always be counted on to provide an evening of quality, wholesome family entertainment;
- The Socializer: Comes to The Joe to because they know that it is THE place to be seen;
- Promo-Sapian: Always into the wacky between innings promotions and awesome giveaways;
- The Traveler: Visits the ballpark for a taste of true Charleston hospitality;
- The Pyro: Loves the many postgame fireworks shows at The Joe;
- The River Pup: The younger fans at the park that have a blast as members Charlie’s Kids Club;
- The Super Fan: Knows the RiverDogs’ roster by heart and wears that heart on his/her sleeve.
The Goldklang Group’s “Be Your Own Fan” campaign has been running for a few years now and, while a good slogan, I often found it to be a bit vague in execution. The above initiative is a real step forward, then, as it clearly details all the ways in which the RiverDogs (and, by extension, Minor League Baseball) can appeal to diverse groups of people.
Minor League Baseball’s appeal can extend to aspiring foul line guardians of advanced age, and the Mobile BayBears are reaching out to exactly this demographic with their “Golden Glovers” program.
Taking a cue from the San Francisco Giants’ long-running “Ball Dudes” promotion, the BayBears are offering the following opportunity to those over the age of 60:
[E]ach BayBears home game, two “Golden Glovers” will report to the field and sign a one-day contract with the BayBears. Responsibilities will be to suit up in uniform and protest the foul lines. BayBears manager Turner Ward will provide key strategies in stopping foul balls down the lines and making sure the “Golden Glover” provide the foul balls to the kids in the stands.
So there you have it, folks. Another blog post, another array of creative and adaptable ideas from the world of MiLB. Thanks for your support; I’ll be here all week.
The final wave of Minor League home openers are taking place throughout the country today and tomorrow, with many of them qualifying as bona-fide galas.
The Reading Phillies certainly had a lot going on. The club rang in a new era yesterday, as fans finally got a chance to check out the many improvements made to 60-year-old FirstEnergy Stadium as part of a $10 million renovation project. Churgers were chomped, the mascot band rocked, and the first 3500 entrants received a “Ryan Howard Garden Gnome” figurine. But one fan got to take home a 550-pound life-size version. Behold:
And behold some more:
Meanwhile, the Omaha Storm Chasers play their first game ever at Werner Park
Update: In a disappointing but perhaps fitting bit of irony, the Storm Chasers had to postpone their home opener due to inclement weather.
The first 2500 fans receive welcome mats emblazoned with the stadium logo, and one of the guests of honor is none other than part-owner Warren Buffet. The Opening Day festivities started early this morning, with the Weather Channel broadcasting live from the stadium between 6 and 9 a.m. Say what you will about the new team name, but suffice to say that no national broadcasts would be taking place at the home opener of a Minor League team named the Royals (save for Will and Kate-obsessed British tabloid television, but they’ll broadcast from just about anywhere).
Another Pacific Coast League opener of especial significance is going down in Tucson, as the Padres play their first game at Kino Stadium after re-locating from Portland. The evening will begin on an emotional note, as the team is staging a stirring tribute to local heroes:
With Opening Night falling just three months after the tragic events of January 8th, the Tucson Padres will honor many people associated with the shooting. The following five people will throw ceremonial first pitches:
Colonel Bill Badger: Retired Army Colonel who helped tackle the shooter on January 8th
Daniel Hernandez: The intern who helped save the life of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords
Patricia Maisch: Tucson resident who helped contain the shooter after he was tackled
Roger Salzgeber: Tucson resident who helped tackle the shooter on January 8th
Joe Zamudio: Tucson resident who jumped on the shooter to contain him
In a similarly community-minded move, the San Jose Giants have dedicated the month of April to critically-injured fan Bryan Stow. Stow, who was attacked at the Los Angeles Dodgers home opener and suffered serious injuries, has been a familiar presence at San Jose’s Municipal Stadium.
Reports the team:
The San Jose Giants will collect donations throughout the month of April to benefit the fund established to support Bryan and his family with a special tribute planned for Opening Day, April 14th at Municipal Stadium.
“Bryan has contributed so much to the safe operation of Municipal Stadium. He has been the first person to respond to any injuries in our ballpark and has provided outstanding medical assistance to all of our fans.” said Jim Weyermann, President and CEO of the San Jose Giants. “He is a member of our family and needs our help and prayers. We intend to be there for him in the same way he has been there for our fans, hand in hand, working together to make sure that he and his family don’t have to go through this alone.”
One of the beautiful things about attending a Minor League Baseball game is that there is equal room for wacky and the somber. But when it comes to blogging about it all, I often struggle to find an appropriate tone when dealing with such disparate subject matter in the same post.
That said, I’d like to close the blogging week by bringing your attention to one of my favorite press releases of the year. In Tuesday’s post I wrote about the Lancaster JetHawks’ “Sweet Po-Tater Tots”, and the very next day this appeared.
Benjamin Hill, a national reporter/blogger for MILB.com, the official website of Minor League Baseball, recently included the JetHawks Sweet Po-tater Tots in a blog entry on premier new food items throughout Minor League Baseball.
That’s me all right — a national reporter/blogger who will now spend the weekend showing skeptical club doormen a crumpled print-out of the JetHawks press release.
“Of course I’m on the list. Don’t you know who I am?”
Opening Day in the Minors is here at last, and I think we can all raise a glass to that.
anxiety-reducing celebratory libations can wait until later, for right now there’s business to attend to. For starters, the first “Promotion Preview” column of the season premiered today. Here’s how it looks on the home page of MiLB.com:
As I hope you are aware, “Promotion Preview” is a weekly in-season column that highlights the 10 “best” promotions of the upcoming week. I started writing it in 2006, quite by accident, and it is what has led to this niche that I now call my own. Of course, I implore everyone to get in touch with their best and most creative promotions, so that I may (possibly) include it in the column.
This week includes 3D scoreboards, snowman destruction, DIY bobbleheads, weather-related contests, pigs ON a blanket, and a lot more. Get in touch with what I’ve missed/what you don’t want me to miss.
But with the season starting today, it is even more imperative that once again I draw your attention to “Crooked Numbers.” — a monthly column highlighting the most absurd and unlikely on-field, in-game happenings.
For this I rely greatly on broadcasters and other close observers. Did you see a pitcher notch four strikeouts in consecutive innings? A lumbering catcher hit two triples in a game after not hitting any in his entire career? A journeyman infielder switch teams between games of a doubleheader?
That’s the kind of stuff I’m looking for, the stranger the better but I want it all. I’m looking forward to hearing from you.
— And since games are now being played on a nightly basis, it’s worth bringing up a point that I raised on Twitter yesterday. Namely, that teams should have a separate Twitter account for in-game updates and news! This is because there are a lot of fans who are not interested in such minutiae, and will quickly become alienated and agitated by dozens upon dozens of tweets over a short amount of time (I know I am).
This is not just my opinion — I received a lot of feedback on this issue yesterday, with comments ranging from “Even in only 140 characters, you can usually tell it’s different people with different writing styles; there’s no consistency” to “in-game updates become clutter” to simply “with you 100% on that one.”
— I might as well keep this blog’s auto-didacticism feature on for a little while longer. Apologies in advance, but here goes nothing:
I probably spend more time reading Minor League Baseball tweets, Facebook posts, blogs, and press releases than anyone on the planet. Here are a few other recommendations/observations as we begin the 2011 season; sorry if I sound like a jerk.
2. Again for Twitter: Explain what you are linking to, and then link to it with a shortened URL. A tweet consisting simply of a massive URL is unclear, unprofessional and a waste of the precious little space one has on Twitter to communicate.
3. If you are posting on behalf of a team, speak for the entire organization. First-person is confusing and, again, unprofessional (ie TimbuktuTarantulas: I’m hungry good thing our GM buying us pizza 2day!!)
5. Speaking for myself: I’m MUCH more likely to read a press release in which the release is contained in the body of the email itself. Having to open a word document or PDF simply isn’t worth the effort sometimes, especially if its unclear what is contained therein.
6. And use BCC (as opposed to “CC”)! A press release that starts out by displaying 400+ email contacts looks unwieldy and compromises privacy.
The bottom line is that I’m really looking forward to what will transpire this season, and consider it a tremendous privilege to cover such an interesting, creative, and often brazenly ridiculous industry on a daily basis.
Show me what you’ve got!
Ah, Opening Day. A yearly ritual of re-birth and renewal, as the oppressive shackles of winter are cast aside in favor of the comforting rhythms and sun-drenched atmosphere of the professional baseball ballpark.