Tagged: Pulaski Yankees 2016

On the Road: Funnel Fries and Chicken Fingers in Pulaski

To see all posts from my July 2 visit to the Pulaski Yankees, click HERE. To see all my posts from my June/July 2016 Appalachian League Road Trip, click HERE. To see all my “On the Road” posts, click HERE. If interested in seeing posts covering a visit to a particular team, search for that team’s name in the blog search bar (it’s to your right).

This man’s name is Thomas Panek. But you don’t need to call him by his full first name.

“Tom is fine,” he told me.

img_0091Tom was more than fine on this Saturday evening at Pulaski’s Calfee Park, as he had the duty and privilege of being my designated eater (the individual recruited to eat the ballpark cuisine that my gluten-free diet prohibits).

His ballpark dinner was obtained from this concession stand, where one’s chances of getting hit by a foul ball are decidedly slim.

img_0071This is what was obtained. (Not shown: a bag of peanuts with an accompanying brown paper bag for the shells).

img_0080There’s nothing too out-of-the-ordinary in the above photo, though it is an impressive array for a Rookie-level team operating out of an 81-year-old ballpark (albeit an 81-year-old ballpark that has been extensively renovated in recent years).

Before moving to an individual rundown of the items in question, let’s get to know Tom. Originally from Toledo, he now lives in Christiansburg, Virginia and works at Tetra, the Blacksburg, Virginia-based fish food and supply company. At Tetra, Tom makes algae-controlling pond blocks.

“I’m the only one making them, so if you see a Tetra pond block, that’s me,” he said. “I make them in a room, by myself. I love it. We sell a ton of them. I know I make a lot of them.”


Made by Tom Panek

Tom moved to Virginia after meeting his wife, Beth, via an online backgammon game.

“We became friends, I visited her, we dated a little bit and the next thing you know we got married,” he said.


Tom and Beth

“I was a Navy brat,” said Beth, who works in a domestic violence center. “So I said, ‘I’m not moving. If you’re interested in being with me, then come to me.'”

So here we are. All caught up and with Tom about to dig into some funnel cake fries.

img_0081Have at it, Tom.

“They’re good, but not as crunchy as I thought they’d be,” said Tom. “They’re different.”

We then moved on to the nachos.

img_0084“What can you say about nachos?” asked Tom, before proceeding to say something about them. “They’re basic and good. I like when the chips get soggy because the cheese inundates them completely.”

Beth was a big fan of the chicken fingers, saying that they were “really crunchy, with a thick crust and hot, tender chicken. All white meat. They didn’t need sauce. They were flavorful on their own.”

img_0082These, I believe, were called Yankee Fries. They differ from normal fries in that they have a potato chip-like shape as well as eternal dignity and honor of the “Yankees” name.

img_0083I can’t confirm that these Yankee fries were gluten-free, so I shouldn’t have eaten one. I just got caught up in the moment and, hey, we’ve all gotta die eventually.


I would also like to note that I snapped a photo of the team’s collectible cups. This one’s for you, #cupdate aficionados.


Finally, there was dessert. From the following array of ice cream flavors, Tom and Beth selected English Toffee and Classic Cherry.

img_0097Soon enough, check marks on a piece of paper became reality.

img_0096Tom declared the ice cream to be “very tasty, but kind of plain.” Beth said that she was surprised that the English toffee was “a syrup base rather than a topping, but it tastes good.”

Thanks, Tom and Beth, for surveying the Calfee Park culinary scene.






On the Road: A Hit and Run and Hits and Runs in Pulaski

To see all posts from my July 2 visit to the Pulaski Yankees, click HERE. To see all my posts from my June/July 2016 Appalachian League Road Trip, click HERE. To see all my “On the Road” posts, click HERE. If interested in seeing posts covering a visit to a particular team, search for that team’s name in the blog search bar (it’s to your right).

We have now reached the second post in this Pulaski blog series; the ballgame is underway at Calfee Park. But don’t take my word for it, take it from the 1000-word equivalent that is this picture.

img_0101And here’s another picture, for good measure.

img_0104At one point, fairly early in the ballgame, I overheard a snippet of staff member conversation: “Somebody hit the visitor’s bus and drove off, so the police are down there.”

I went “down there” to investigate.

I don’t know if the parking lot bus-smasher was ever apprehended, but I do know that the Pirates were peeved.

I had seen the Bristol Pirates the previous week at their home ballpark of Boyce Cox Field. That game was an error and wild pitch-laden comeback victory over the Greeneville Astros. This game, however, was even wilder. At the end of five innings, the Yanks and the Pirates were knotted 10-10.

img_0105The above is a photo of the Calfee Park videoboard, which I believe is the first videoboard in the history of the Appalachian League. Kevin Cornelius, the man batting at the time, only played 13 games for Pulaski. He compiled a 1.326 OPS and was summarily promoted to Class A Advanced Tampa.

A recurring theme of my Appy League trip was being corrected on my various mispronunciations. It’s “Appa-Latch-in League”, not “Appa-lay-shin League”, for example. And when referring to the “Elizabethton Twins,” make sure to put the emphasis on “Beth.” “Pulaski” is another name I butchered, as I was pronouncing it “Pull-aski.”

Fortunately, Cole the batboy was there to set me straight. Watch and learn:

While the weather earlier in the day had been mediocre at best, it turned out to be a beautiful night for baseball in Pulaski.

img_1839Eventually, I made my way to the “Left VIP Tower.”


While there, I interviewed David Hagan. Hagan and his partner, Larry Shelor, bought the team and the ballpark after the 2014 season. My article about the subsequent turnaround in the team’s fortunes can be found HERE.

img_1846I spoke with David for the better part of an hour, and still there was baseball left to be played. Bristol scored two in the sixth inning to take a 12-10 lead, but the Yankees countered with one in the seventh and two more in the eighth to go up 13-12.

Bristol answered back in the ninth. A sacrifice fly tied it up 13-13 and then Victor Fernandez hit a two-run double to open up a 15-13 lead for the visitors.

The Yankees were not about to go quietly. Isiah Gilliam hit a two-out double, and Cornelius followed with an RBI single. Then, this happened:

A line out to third to end the ballgame.

The 15-14 score conjured memories of the most painful baseball game I ever watched in my life. A tip of the cap to Pulaski media relations intern Jarah Wright, who kept a coherent scorecard throughout the madness.

img_1853After the game I paid a visit to the wall cat, a lawn ornament that has long resided just to the right of the right field foul pole. General manager Blair Hoke told me that the wall cat was removed during stadium renovations and, when it wasn’t immediately restored to its longtime home, “we got more hate mail about that than we did about anything else.”

img_1855Before making a feline for the exits, I wrote and disseminated a Groundbreaking and Subversive Ballpark Joke of the Day.

Good night from a Calfee Park bathroom.





On the Road: Old Becomes New in Pulaski

To see all posts from my July 2 visit to the Pulaski Yankees, click HERE. To see all my posts from my June/July 2016 Appalachian League Road Trip, click HERE. To see all my “On the Road” posts, click HERE. If interested in seeing posts covering a visit to a particular team, search for that team’s name in the blog search bar (it’s to your right).

After the 2014 season, Pulaski’s Appalachian League franchise was in dire straits, and I don’t mean Mark Knopfler’s best known musical project. The franchise had money for nothin’, including much-needed stadium improvements for 80-year-old Calfee Park. The Mariners severed their affiliation when their season ended, and the future looked bleak. Perhaps Pulaski, a longtime Appy League market, would no longer serve as a breeding ground for future sultans of swat.

A dramatic turnaround soon occurred, however, when two local businessmen bought the team and ballpark and spent over $4 million on stadium improvements (and opened a new team hotel, the Jackson Park Inn, in close proximity to the ballpark). The Yankees hopped on board as a new affiliate, and in each of the last two seasons Pulaski has led the league in attendance. For much more on this impressive revitalization, read my MiLB.com article.

I’m a VIP no matter what I do, so of course I had a VIP parking pass. While this pass netted me a good — nay, great — parking space, it also led me to enter the ballpark via this nondescript entrance.

img_0060Really, you’re better off entering via the fortress-like outfield entrance, which gives a much better sense of Calfee Park’s WPA-era roots. This ballpark, built in 1935, is one of the oldest in Minor League Baseball.


Calfee Park is located in a residential area, so parking really is scarce. It also makes fireworks shows an impossibility. The team has its own trolley — originally the Lady Rebecca, rechristened the Yankee Express — which transports fans who had to park in more far-flung locations.


Upon entering the stadium, I was greeted by mascot Calf-E.

img_0062I also ran into dedicated Minor League ballpark traveler Dean Packer, who I last crossed paths with at a West Virginia Black Bears game. He may not look it, but check out his wristband. Dean is over 21.

img_0063I also crossed paths with J.W. Gravely, who covers the Pulaski Yankees (and more) for 27outs.com.


I also said hello to two of the Calfee Girls, a new addition to the ballpark’s entertainment landscape.

Meeting the above individuals, combined with the hospitality of general manager Blair Hoke, immediately made Calfee Park seem like a welcoming place. Persistently rainy weather most certainly put a damper on the walk-up sales, but a decent crowd was filing in for some Saturday evening Appy League baseball.


This Wall of Fame illustrates Calfee Park’s long baseball history, and also illustrates how often I am driven to distraction while putting these blog posts together. Did you know? Everett Fagan, the first player who competed at Calfee Park to make the Major Leagues, went 2-7 over 38 appearances with the Philadelphia Athletics. He’s no longer among the living.

img_0070The concession stand, one of many new additions to the ballpark, is located behind home plate. You will not get hit by a foul ball while waiting for your food.

img_0071David Hagan, the main man behind the Pulaski baseball rebirth, also owns the Shelor Motor Mile automobile dealership complex. That explains why the team store looks like this.

img_0072 Out on the field, the players were practicing their dance routines.

img_0073But who needs a ticket to the game when you can watch it from your front porch?

img_1836I have become accustomed to throwing out a first pitch before a game, but on this occasion I was asked to be the “Play Ball Kid.” Or, rather, “Play Ball Man.”

“Okay, Ben, what are the two magic words?” I was asked.

“Free beer!” yelled a fan, before I could respond.

I should have taken a cue from that fan, and repeated his answer into the microphone. Instead, I stuck to the script and yelled “Play Ball!” The next post will detail that which occurred while ball was being played.





About Last Night: Pulaski Yankees, July 2, 2016

This season, when I’m on the road, I’ll write a quick blog post about each Minor League ballpark that I visit. Then, upon my presumed return home, I’ll provide the multifaceted blog coverage that you have come to know and perhaps even love. Last night I visited Pulaski, Virginia, the eighth stop on my 10-team Appy League road trip.

July 2: Calfee Park, home of the Pulaski Yankees (Rookie-level affiliate of the New York Yankees) 

Opponent: Bristol Pirates, 7 p.m. start time

Calfee Park, from the outside: 

IMG_0065Calfee Park, from within: 

IMG_0101Culinary Creation: Funnel Fries ($4)


Ballpark Character: The Calfee Cat


At Random: One, Calfee Park is the only Appy League stadium I’ve visited that has a videoboard (installed in 2015). Two, it was a wild ballgame. The Pirates scored six runs in the second inning on one hit, lost the lead three times and still went on to win by a score of 15-14. Time of game: 3:40.


Your Groundbreaking and Subversive Ballpark Joke of the Day: 

My Appy League articles on MiLB.com thus far: 

Fellowship in Greeneville

An Emotional Kingsport Debut

Up Next: 

7/3: Danville Braves

7/4: Burlington Royals