Tagged: Pinball

Pin City


While I was glad to attend last week’s Minor League Baseball Promotional Seminar, I can’t say I’m too crazy about the city where the event was held: Las Vegas.

Specifically, I don’t like the Las Vegas Strip. It’s a place that willfully obliterates its past and any trace of the authentic in deference to a gleefully immoral plastic hedonism, stunning its cash-hemorrhaging visitors into submission with faux-opulence and naked appeals to our worst instincts.  
But less than a mile from the strip is The Pinball Hall of Fame, a place I’ve come to regard as a welcome and much-needed antidote to Vegas overload. Inside are over 150 fully functional machines representing all eras of pinball history, as well as a variety of other impeccably-maintained coin-op entertainment.

The place is run as a non-profit (with extra proceeds benefiting the Salvation Army), and the no-frills aesthetic is immediately apparent:



The lighting wasn’t great, nor are my photo skills in general, so I’ll go easy on the pics. But inside is wall-to-wall pinball:


Medieval Madness, a game I was literally obsessed with throughout the entirety of college (as an aside, a nice bit of trivia is that Tina Fey voices one of the game’s princess characters).


And see that sticker on the bottom right hand corner? Those with internet-enabled smart phones can scan the stickers, instantly receiving information about the game in question.

25-cent dinner (not included in my Promo Seminar expense report):


What video games looked like in 1973:


A claw machine, circa 1938:


This variation on skee-ball featured an alien hurling non-stop insults. I played it three times and failed to dunk him even once (you had to hit a moving circular target, seen here on the left).


And, finally, a machine selling totally awesome “Gross Out Key Chains.”


If anyone reading this blog would like one of these keychains, send me an email with your address (friends and family excluded). My supplies are ultra-limited, so please act quickly and specify whether your preference would be to receive “pooping cow”, “booger nose”, or “rubber chicken.” 

I hope you’ll forgive this brief foray into non-baseball content, but this is all in line with my larger goal of highlighting unique places located within Minor League markets. Minor League Baseball is a great way in which to plan and contextualize American explorations, which to me is one of its most appealing and enduring characteristics.


Back On Track In the Big Apple

I have returned from Vegas, slightly damaged but fundamentally intact, and ready to resume blogging duties on a regular basis.

As you’ll no doubt recall, I was in the Sin City in order to attend the annual Minor League Baseball Promotional Seminar. How it works is simple. Attendees file into a big room in order to hear speeches and discussions regarding innovative promotional ideas. Then, in the evenings, they mingle.





As luck would have it, I filed a pair of stories from Vegas.

ray.gifThe first piece laid out a simple and exciting new equation: Mascot Legend Dave Raymond + Vero Beach Sports Village = Mascot Boot Camp, specifically for costumed characters within Minor League Baseball.

The second article focused on Justine Siegal, head of the organization Baseball for All. Siegal was attending the seminar in order to pitch “Girl’s Baseball Day” promotions to Minor League teams.

And, of course, both articles were packed with the requisite “News and Notes” you’ve come to know and love (or, more accurately, that you’ve come to be vaguely aware of, and barely tolerate).

I would have produced more content from Vegas, but on Thursday afternoon I ended up getting very sick (my theory is food poisoning). The less said about that, the better, but suffice to say it occurred to me that the 11th floor of the Paradise Tower in the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino would be a very sad and spiritually deficient place in which to shuffle off this mortal coil.


Tomb of the Unknown Blogger

Sickness prevented me from attending Day Three of the Seminar, during which various promotional awards were handed out.

The winners, determined via attendee voting.

Best Theme Night/Overall Promotion: Brooklyn Cyclones — Jersey? Sure! Night

Best Non-Game Day Promotion: Clearwater Threshers — Hops For Hospice
Best In-Game Promotion: Lehigh Valley IronPigs — Battlefield Challenge
Best Green Promotion: New Britain Rock Cats — Green Team

But more importantly, only 16 hours remain to vote for MiLB.com’s “Promotion of the Year” semi-finals! Choose your favorite in each of four categories, or simply follow the example of “HappyB” and complain about “rediculous” omissions in the comments section.

And, finally, please note that new content has kept on coming regardless. Check out the offseason’s first “Minoring in Business” column, which takes a look at high-profile PDC changes throughout the Minors.

Or, even better, read through 2010’s final edition of”Crooked Numbers”. It details many of the strange and absurd events that occurred on the playing field throughout the month of September, and I really appreciate those who take the time to read it.


On the Road: A Walking Sundae Matinee in State College

StateCollege_PSUrecycling.JPGAfter a long night of cross dressing and speed dating, it was very difficult for me to get out of bed on Tuesday morning. But a blaring bedside radio eventually aroused me from my slumber, the “open phone” portion of a local talk show. An elderly female caller was informing listeners of a wayward rooster who lived independently on the streets of Williamsport, celebrating the bird’s ability to survive sans welfare or any other untoward government handouts.

I very much enjoyed this idiosyncratic late-morning discourse, the vitality of which propelled me out of bed, into the shower, and out the doors of Williamsport’s historic (and recommended) Genetti Hotel. My next destination awaited: Medlar Field at Lumbrano Park, home of the State College Spikes (from now on I’m going to call the ballpark MF@LP, for brevity’s sake and also because it looks cool).

Fortunately State College is only an hour away, and I arrived just in time for Tuesday’s anomalous noon start. The facility is on the Penn State campus, and owned by the University. In addition to the Spikes, it also hosts the PSU baseball team.

From the outside:

State College_Exterior.JPG

State College_Exterior2.JPG

Parked just outside the stadium, down the third base line, was a fire truck.

State College_FireTruckOutside.JPG

I was hoping the fire truck was there as a precautionary measure, anticipating conflagrations that might be caused by a preponderance of blazing hot coeds. This was not the case, however, as the truck was in fact providing a cooling mist for the many youngsters who had gathered to enjoy the “Super Splash Day” promotion.


Young Polamalu acolytes were among those partaking in the aquatic festivities:


My close proximity to these future safeties was not conducive to the present safety of my non-waterproof camera, so I wandered past to other parts of this sprawling facility.


The best name in Minor League Baseball? (it’s pronounced “N-Go-Pay”):


State College_DownFirst.JPG

MF@LP is located in the shadow of massive Beaver Stadium:


Emphasizing the Big 10/New York-Penn League synergy:


Not too many Minor League ballparks feature outfield seating, especially at this level, but MF@LP isn’t just any ballpark. Here’s a view from the top, taken with Mount Nittany at my back and a song in my heart:


A Spike is an adolescent deer, one whom should not be taken lightly:


But if one tires of fearing the deer, he or she can go shoot a few at the arcade (Big Buck Hunter, far right)


The arcade also featured a pinball machine! Long live pinball!


State College_DownThird.JPG


I eventually retreated to the press box, in order to sample a pair of MF@LP’s finest concession items in air-conditioned splendor (thanks to Spikes gm Jason Dambach for procuring these delicacies).

The Deep-Fried PB&J, topped with powdered sugar:


This innovation is known as a “Walking Sundae.” A bag of mini-Oreos is crushed, opened sideways, and topped with vanilla ice cream, chocolate syrup, whipped cream, rainbow sprinkles, and two cherries:


Both of the above items can be found at “Coaly’s Cones and Treats”, a concession area named in honor of PSU’s donkey mascot:


I walked off my double dessert as the game was winding down, witnessing a ninth-inning flare-up between Spikes skipper Gary Robinson and both umpires:



Ike the Mascot turns his back on such shenanigans:


But neither Robinson’s theatrics or Ike’s all-business demeanor could inspire the Spikes to victory, as they fell to Vermont by a score of 3-1.

At this point, all that was left to do was to deposit my garbage in the proper receptacles. At MF@LP, conscientious refuse-tossing is a breeze. The environmentally-friendly facility was the first professional ballpark to earn a LEED certification, and recycling opportunities abound.


Unfortunately there wasn’t a hole marked “jokes”, because those are my favorite things to recycle. I’d tell you the one about the blind doe, except I have no eye deer what the punchline is.


On A Clear Day They Can See 398th Place

doubledays.gifAuburn, NY has many claims to fame, from the Harriet Tubman Home to the Case Research Lab Museum to the fact that America’s Most Wanted host John Walsh was born there.

But one of Auburn’s most recent claims to fame is a distinct negative, an ignominious anti-accomplishment that the city hopes to shed faster than a moulting snake on steroids: in its list of America’s best sports cities, the Sporting News ranked Auburn #399 out of a possible #399.

Dead last.

The New York-Penn League’s Auburn Doubledays aren’t going to take this lack of respect lying down. They’ve stood tall to their nationally distributed oppressor by announcing an essay contest, asking fans to explain (in 500 words or less) why Auburn deserves a higher ranking. The winner of this contest will receive general admission season tickets as well as official recognition during the “399 Classic”.

“What’s the 399 Classic?” I just heard a voice behind me whisper. Well, my reliable companion Press Release has the answer to that:


The Doubledays will face off against Tri City (representing Troy, NY
which was rated #398 on the same list) in a three game series from July
14 – 16 which the Doubledays have dubbed The 399 Classic!

Events surrounding The 399 Classic include a special reward to the 399th
fan through the gates every night, a surprise giveaway of the 399th
best possible giveaway item and a contest to win a “Mad About You:Season
4” DVD set (399th on Amazon.com’s most popular DVD list).

Anyone have any other ideas how the number “399” could be celebrated? I’m thinking Al Kaline has to be a part of it somehow, seeing as how he retired with 399 home runs. Or how about inviting members of Local 399: the International Union of Operating Engineers? Finally, why not celebrate the works of Chinese poet and historian Yuan Shansong, who died in the year 399 while defending Hudu during the rebellion of Sun En?

— In other news, the Cyclones have announced the winner of their “YOUniform Contest“. Click HERE to check it out.

Minor League Baseball has announced that the 2010 Promotional Seminar will be held in Las Vegas from September 28-October 1. This means that I get to make a return trip to the Pinball Hall of Fame! Who’s going with me? We can ride the bus together.

Thumbnail image for Kannapolis_Intimidators.PNG— Finally, I wanted to note that the Kannapolis Intimidators are offering free admission to all active-duty military personnel throughout the 2010 campaign. As the press release notes:

“Anyone that shows any form of Military ID, active, retired or a family
member ID at the Intimidators Will Call Window will receive two free
tickets to the game. This offer is valid for all 70 home games in the
2010 season.”


Cow's About That?

Many apologies for how quiet this blog has been over the past five days. I was in Pittsburgh for a long weekend in order to attend the World Pinball Championships. This event features over 400 machines in one location and is therefore not to be missed under any circumstances. I’ll post a few pictures from my time in the Steel City at some point, simply because I’ll use any opportunity to proselytize in the name of pinball. It is a recreational activity that rivals baseball in its sheer “American-ness”.

But now it’s back to the grind. I am waist-deep in other endeavors at the moment, but nonetheless wanted to get something up on this blog. Something…anything…but what?

How about this?

Elizabethton -- Cow Milk.JPG

The above shot is from the Elizabethton Twins’ annual cow-milking contest (this year’s event was held on August 8). From the press release:





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The Elizabethton Twins defeated the Bluefield
Orioles in the 2009 Chick-Fil-A Cow Town Celebration Milk-Off recently held at
Joe O’Brien Field. The two teams battled each other and two very large Jersey
Cows prior to Saturday Night’s game. The Twins used a very solid milking attack
led by Reggie Williams of Bellflower, California and Roman Acosta of Villia
Vaquez, Dominican Republic to win this year’s title.


This was the eleventh season for this unique
promotional event. During that time there was just one occasion when the team
that won the milk-off did not win the ballgame to follow. The Twins kept the
streak going as they defeated Bluefield 7-3. 

I don’t know what else to add, except that I think this promotion is “udderly” fantastic. For more on the E-Twins, check out last week’s Farm’s Almanac feature story HERE.

And, please — If you have come up with a pun superior to “udderly” fantastic then do not hesitate to get in touch. I could use some assistance.


Now It Can Be Revealed

vegas.jpgFor confidential reasons related to my health and safety, I was forced to remain coy about where I spent my time from Sunday-Thursday. But now that I am back within the warm and comforting embrace of New York City, I can tell you that I was in Las Vegas in order to attend the Baseball Winter Meetings.

While the Winter Meetings of the popular imagination revolve around wheeling and dealing at the Major League level, in reality this is just a small portion of everything that goes on. The Minor Leagues are very well represented as well, and of course it is the Minors that are of interest to me.

Last year, I wrote a comprehensive Winter Meetings journal. This year, in the interest of brevity and also in the interest of retaining my readership, I will condense this coverage into capsule form.

Monday — Spent the majority of the day at the annual Bob Freitas Business Seminar, invegas2.jpg which select Minor League front office members and other industry luminaries shared their expertise. For my money (if I had in fact paid to attend), the highlight of the seminar was the afternoon roundtable discussions. The roundtables were divided into three 1/2 hour sessions, but there were 14 presenters overall. Therefore, it was imperative to choose wisely.

First, I watched Rob Hackash of the Reading Phillies speak about “Sparking Media Coverage From the Dead of Winter On”. The focus of this was largely on the R-Phils’ Valentines Day promotion, in which mascot Screwball delivers flowers and game tickets to lucky ladies throughout the region. This was followed by Casey and Jason of Plan B Branding, who enthusiastically delivered an idea round-up entitled “So a shark, a groundskeeper, and a used car salesman walk into bar…” I can’t recall the punchline to this set-up, but in my mind it involved the shark needing CPR from the used car salesman. Either way, the title effectively conveyed Plan B’s knack at utilizing orchestrated chaos for fun and profit at the Minor League level. Finally, I watched Scott Carter (accomplished marketer and dancer for the Fresno Grizzlies) speak about “Repeat Customers: The Cheap and Easy Success Strategy.” Essentially, Carter laid out a series of objectives geared toward transforming the casual ballpark visitor into a bona-fide super fan. (step one: book Billy Zabka).

Monday evening was filled with the usual Vegas hi-jinx, such as watching “Cash Cab” in the hotel room and going to bed early.

trade.jpgTuesday: On the professional level, most of my day was spent traversing the labrynthian corridors of the mammoth Baseball Trade Show. As someone who writes about promotions year-round, I always enjoying seeing what new giveaway items are being peddled by the various vendors in attendance. My favorite this year was the flipbooks being offered by Coyote Promotions, in which teams can have their memorable moments immortalized through the magic of self-propelled fast-moving still photography.

But, the trade show is exhausting. In addition to constantly being on one’s feet, there is the nagging feeling of being eyed up by vendors as they decide whether or not to launch into a sales pitch. I’m probably not worth talking to, unless someone is interested in getting a plug on one of the internet’s finest Minor League business blogs. On second thought, this definitely makes me worth talking to. I wield influence like a caveman wields a club. 

Tuesday night I took a bus three miles east on Tropicana to the Pinball Hall of Fame. 220pinball.jpg machines from all eras of pinball history, and all in excellent condition. This place is a labor of love, and an absolute must for anyone who enjoys pinball. I, obviously, love pinball. In fact, email me at any time in order to talk about pinball.


Wednesday — Early in the afternoon I spoke with Minor League President Pat O’Conner on his plans for 2009. This conversation was then deftly combined with select quotes from O’Conner’s Opening Session speech on Monday, and turned into this journalistic masterwork. On Wednesday evening, I had the pleasure of attending the Minor League gala at the Pure Nightclub. The invitation called for “upscale club attire”, and it was quite a spectacle indeed to see each attendee’s interpretation of these dress specifications (khakis and an untucked and wrinkled collared shirt seemed to be the general consensus). This event, which likely resulted in the most disparate male to female ratio in the history of Pure Nightclub, was nonetheless a good time and a great networking opportunity.

Acting on a tip from someone who knows about such things, I ended the evening at the Peppermill Lounge. This place was great, especially in contrast to the faux-opulence and barely disguised customer contempt that characterizes so many other businesses on the Las Vegas strip. Enjoying a cigar and a double bloody mary while sitting around a flaming pool (!) was the perfect ending to the Vegas experience.

slots.JPGSo, in summary, when in Vegas visit the Pinball Hall of Fame and the Peppermill Lounge. Oh, and “Slots A Fun” has $2 blackjack at all times. That’s about all I can help you out with.

Addendum: I must say that, throughout the week, I was surprised by the number of people who referenced this blog as the primary reason they know who I am. So, if you know me, get in contact with me. Or, if you don’t know me, still get in contact. This blog is a two-way street, and the more anecdotes, photos, and news items that get sent my way, then the better the content. Upwards and onwards toward world domination!

Incidentally, this blog ranked #49 among MLB Pro Blogs in the number of visitors from Opening Day to the present. While it means a lot to me have beaten my long-time blogging nemesis Torii Hunter, there is still a long ways to go. Please, keep spreading the word…

Toothy Whistlepigs in Suburban Atlanta

image001-2.jpgThe Richmond Braves are re-locating to Gwinnett County, GA for the 2009 season. And with the new location comes a new team identity. And with a new team identity comes — you guessed it — a new mascot.

I am now pleased to present the first Ben’s Biz Blog mascot post of the 2008-09 offseason. There will certainly be more where this came from.

The G-Braves mascot is a woodchuck. This choice is a nod to one of the Gwinnett County area’s most famous rodent residents. From the press release:



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“The mascot is inspired by General
Beauregard Lee, Ph.D., star of the Yellow

River Game Ranch in Lilburn. “Beau” is Georgia‘s
Official Weather Prognosticator


and internationally recognized furry forecaster that like the
Braves mascot, will

signal the dawn of spring.”

Following pre-established new mascot protocol, the club held a vote in order to determine what this prognosticating rodent should be named. The three finalists were Chopper, Pop-Up, and Shadow, and after much deliberation and debate by the voting public it was the decided that the mascot’s name would be…


So, there you go. The G-Braves’ new mascot is a woodchuck, and his name is Chopper. He made his public debut at a local elementary school last week, where he recieved a most rapturous reception:


(photo credit: The Gwinnett Daily Post)

In Other News…It took 11 months, one week, and four days, but this esteemed blog has finally reached 200 posts. I believe that this remarkable achievement needs to be celebrated, and thus I will spend the evening playing pinball by myself at a neighborhood bar. Stop by and challenge me to a two-player game.