The unveiling of 2012 promotions has not yet reached a deluge, but it has far surpassed a trickle. And within this intermediate zone in which we currently reside, one of the most exciting (and sure-to-be-copied) new promotions is this:
But the above photo, while helpful, doesn’t really do the promotion justice. Per the team:
The River Bandits are proud to announce, for the first time ever in professional sports in the U.S., a photo jersey auction to benefit local cancer organizations. Small squares in the Bandits players’ numbers are available for purchase, $25 each, to feature a photograph of yourself or a loved one who has been affected by cancer. The jerseys, which will be worn during the game on Friday, August 10th, will be auctioned off during the game.
I’m sure I’ll be covering this one as it develops, but for now let’s stick with the “Quad” theme and check in on a most distressing development in Lake Elsinore.
Thunder, the mascot for the Lake Elsinore Storm, had his trusty quad stolen from a stadium storage shed! This sounds like it could be a joke, save for the legitimacy bestowed upon the situation by a local ABC news team.
The video is well worth viewing — check it out HERE.
My extensive reporting on the above topic led me to the Storm website, where I discovered the existence of the “Thunder Across Time” web series. How had I not known? This may turn out to be one of the greatest MiLB team video series of all time!
More creative use of video from the West Coast comes courtesy of the Fresno Grizzlies, who are conducting their annual National Anthem auditions in a most unique fashion.
If you think you have what it takes to sing in front of the best fans in Minor League Baseball at a 2012 Grizzlies home game, then upload your audition video to the Youtube between Wednesday, February 8th and Wednesday, March 14th. Winners will be chosen by the Grizzlies front office with the input of the number of video likes on YouTube.
We’re still a ways away from having a mascot sing the National Anthem, but boy oh boy can they ever dance. The latest (and therefore greatest) example of mascot rump shaking comes courtesy of Tulsa’s Hornsby. Or, as I like to call him, “Bull-yonce.”
Funny that the video is called “All the Single Hornsbys,” as in actuality there appear to be duplicates. But at least Hornsby is a known commodity. Up there in Michigan, the Great Lakes Loons are dealing with an extremely mysterious situation.
So who really does know what’s in the box? It could be anything. Or, maybe, there’s nothing at all. There would be some precedent for that, you know.
Me: Today I have a really big news item to share with all of you.
You: Well, how big is it?
Me: 3600 feet.
You: [Blinks incomprehendingly]
Look, I don’t know why you’re confused. I really do have a 3600-foot news story to share.
The above is a rendering of the scoreboard that, in March, is scheduled to be installed at AutoZone Park in Memphis. Per the team:
The scoreboard will be the largest HD board in minor league baseball at 3600 square feet (60’ X 60’). The current largest belongs to the Buffalo Bison, standing 80’ x 33’ (2640 square feet). The Redbirds video board also beats several of the NFL team boards installed by Daktronics. The board is made up of 1,440,000 pixels and weighs over 20 tons.
Indeed, it was just last season that the Bisons’ laid claim to the oft-contentious title of “biggest scoreboard in Minor League Baseball,” but it now appears that the Redbirds are wresting it from them. But for how long? There’s always someone out there lurking, just waiting for that opportunity to claim the throne. For now, however, pixellated supremacy belongs to Memphis.
Let’s move on from big news to old news. In fact, this is some of the oldest news I’ve ever had the pleasure of reporting. Regular readers of this blog are well aware that each of the past two Minor League seasons have included a centenarian first pitch.
In 2010, 102-year-old Chris Nocera fired a strike for the Round Rock Express.
Then, last season, 109-year-old Violet Smith threw one down the middle prior to a Great Lakes Loons game.
But 2012 will usher in a new age of elderly first pitches: that of the supercentenarian!
On March 31, Shelby Harris of Rock Island, IL will turn 111 years old. Five days later, he’ll throw out the first pitch at the Quad Cities River Bandits home opener! Harris is the oldest man in America, and it’s fantastic that the River Bandits have extended the invite and that he’s in good enough shape to do it.
—And now let’s move on to news from the department of “It was bound to happen eventually.”
The Lancaster JetHawks, a Houston Astros affiliate in the state of California, have put together a promotion inspired by the exploits of a Colorado quarterback who first made a name for himself in Florida.
After last weekend’s thrilling overtime victory against the heavily favored Pittsburgh Steelers, [JetHawks mascot] KaBoom has convinced the JetHawks Front Office to put together a special “Tebow Tuesday” Promotion that gives JetHawks fans the opportunity to buy 15 tickets for only $15.
The Tebow Tuesday Promotion will activate if the Denver Broncos can pull off another upset this weekend against the New England Patriots. The package will only be available next Tuesday, January 17, and includes 15 undated ticket vouchers for any JetHawks home game in April. In addition, any fan who wears their Tim Tebow Jersey to the Tuesday, April 17, game against the High Desert Mavericks will have the opportunity to throw out a ceremonial first pitch and take a picture “Tebowing” with KaBoom on the field prior to the game.
And now, apropos of nothing, let’s end with a photo. This shot depicts one of the perks of being a mascot: being on the receiving end of sensuous acts initiated by Miss America contestants.
Silver Swoop of South Bend is one lucky bird:
Like 3D Television, light beer, and marriage, Minor League Baseball home run derbies are often far better in theory than they are in practice. The thrill of seeing emerging baseball superstars belting balls out of the park often gives way to a monotonous string of foul balls and harmless outfield flies.
In order to avoid such an underwhelming spectacle, the Quad Cities River Bandits — hosts of the recent 2011 Midwest League All-Star Game — put an entirely new twist on this year’s Derby. One glance at the field should tell you just how different this particular contest was.
As River Bandits marketing and promotions manager Shelley Heward explained in an email:
What the home run derby became was a hitting contest with over 50 targets and prizes scattering the outfield, ranging from a River Bandits-themed van, sponsor banners, cutout beer bottles and even a dunk tank with Hooters girls ready to splash down…. We even gave away $2 beers when a batter hit the cardboard beer cutout which sent the crowd racing to the concession stands.
The team invited category leaders from each division, including home runs, batting average and stolen bases, and points ranging from one to 15 were awarded for various hits and points were deducted for foul balls and swinging strikes. Each player represented a fan and a charity. The fan received prizes as their player hit targets.
This culminated in a highly entertaining event with four on-field emcees, a charity receiving over $2,500 in donations and the event coming down to one final swing that had the fans on their feet. While the final hit did not result in a home run, it was still good enough for the player to win and get mobbed by his teammates.
Derby winner Travis Witherspoon and his designated fan.
In conclusion, Heward writes that:
The River Bandits redefined the home run derby with this event, involved local media, fans, charities and gave not only the All-Star players, but also thousands of fans, a memory that will not soon be duplicated.
Thanks to Heward for writing a detailed enough email that all I had to do was cut and paste. I’ll close today’s post by once again mentioning that, apropos of nothing, I am currently soliciting introspective mascot photos such as the one seen below.
I will not stop soliciting these until I have at least 10 (the current count is three), so please do your part and send ’em to me.
This past Thursday, the Tri-City ValleyCats embarked upon their “4 in 24” project. This ambitious and worthwhile involved the renovation of four local youth baseball fields over the span of 24 hours. Here’s a collage of “after” pictures, taken from an excellent blog post re-capping the event.
The project was spearheaded by the team, and done in coordination with an array of corporate sponsors and community volunteers. As the ValleyCats explain:
Part of our mission as the Capital Region’s professional baseball team is to act as a steward for the game. The 4 in 24 project was a great way to further this initiative by giving back to the community that has supported us since 2002…The biggest challenge that we faced was the sheer size of this project. The ValleyCats organization has renovated a number of fields over the years but completing four within twenty four hours required a well-coordinated effort and a lot of coffee. Each of the leagues and sponsors provided volunteers that were crucial in moving things along.
The field work included “cutting out the entire infield grass, raking and grading the dirt, leveling the playing surface, laying out brand new grass and rebuilding the entire pitchers mound and home plate areas.” The aforementioned blog post includes a plethora of “before and after” photos. Here are two:
An even more current example of MiLB altruism can be found in Durham, as the Bulls are collecting food and clothing for those victimized by the recent tornadoes in North Carolina. The team offered free tickets to Wednesday’s matinee contest for all fans donating five canned goods or a bag of clothing. Here’s the resultant scene on the concourse:
As is often the case in April, poor weather is wreaking havoc throughout the world of Minor League Baseball. Yesterday’s post included snow-filled photos and video from West Michigan, and today the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers have postponed their ballgame due to an excess of the white stuff.
This picture appeared on announcer Chris Mehring’s “Rattler Radio” blog today. It appears that the grounds crew workers may be preparing to pelt the broadcast booth with snowballs.
Meanwhile the Quad Cities River Bandits are currently playing a ballgame despite these conditions outside of the stadium (this photo originally appeared in the Peoria Chiefs “Playing in Peoria” blog).
Such is life when you play in a ballpark built on the banks of the Mississippi, but extensive renovations of recent vintage (including berm seating that doubles as a floodwall) have done much to mitigate the damage.
I’ve gotten through this post without a single joke attempt, a rarity in the world of Ben’s Biz Blog. It feels kind of good, actually, so I’ll end this before the urge to pun-tificate becomes unbearable. Thanks, as always, for reading.
Last week I made the observation that the Tucson Padres’ new logo would be the last unveiled this offseason.
What I meant to say was that it would be the last primary logo unveiled this offseason. Because, of course, new logos cannot and will not be stopped. Not now and not ever. The latest to be unleashed upon an unsuspecting public is this:
And — what’s this? — the logo is NOT I repeat NOT the work of either Studio Simon or Plan B Branding. According to the press release: The logo was designed by Francis Santiquilani of FS Design. Santiquilani also designed the new River Bandits logos in 2007.
While I recover from this shocking news (a logo not designed by Plan B or Studio Simon? Is this even possible?), let me divert your attention with my new favorite photo in the always-entertaining category of “Bobblehead Honoree Posing With His Or Her Bobblehead.”
Let’s hear it for pitcher Mike Zagurski and the Lakewood BlueClaws!
But I digress…
February is nearly upon us, and you know what that means — Valentine’s Day! I’ll do a comprehensive post on Minor League V-Day initiatives in the near future, but for now I’d just like to share the most romantic desktop wallpaper ever created.
If that won’t put your special someone in the mood then I’m afraid nothing will.
Today marked the penultimate game on the 2010 Minor League Baseball schedule, but I’m not about to let the imminent cessation of play cramp my style.
No, I’m going to keep on rolling — all the way to the banks of the Mississippi River. All the way to Modern Woodmen Park, home of the Quad Cities River Bandits.
Modern Woodmen Park, formerly known as John O’Donnell Stadium, was built in 1931. But thanks to extensive renovations and a proactive ownership group it has aged gracefully — think Helen Mirren as opposed to Joan Rivers.
But the stadium is located right next to one of the mightiest rivers of them all, the mighty Mississippi. The Centennial Bridge, which connects Davenport (Iowa) with Rock City (Illinois), serves as one of the best backdrops in all of Minor League Baseball.
The bridge, from the outside of the stadium.
While, to the left, one can see Davenport’s Wells-Fargo Building.
And once inside, I soon set my gaze upon the Centennial.
The above pic came out well, but in all honesty I didn’t have my “A” game tonight when it came to photography and the ability to craft the evening’s events into a coherent narrative (perhaps I did a better job in this MiLB.com story, which contains info not contained here).
My spirit remains indefatigable, however, so I’ll gamely “press” on:
As the above photo illustrates, the River Bandits logo is incorporated into nearly every aspect of the stadium signage. The suites, concession areas, restrooms (“Bandits” and “Banditas”), and even the janitor’s closet are all adorned with the silhouette of a partially-obscured raccoon.
The aggressive re-branding effort is courtesy of Main Street Baseball, who took over ownership of the River Bandits after the 2007 season. Led by Main Street president Dave Heller and River Bandits GM Kirk Goodman, they team has spruced up the ballpark experience in a variety of ways.
For starters, a gravel pit next to the the third base bleachers was converted into an honest-to-goodness cornfield.
The above photo was taken just before the starting line-ups. When the players are announced, they emerge from the cornfield and take their position.
During the game, the corn field serves as the home bullpen backdrop.
And see the seemingly random streaks of yellow on the bleachers to the left? When that section is empty, the words “Let’s Play Ball” can be seen by passing motorists on the Centennial Bridge.
This huge billboard, located behind the videoboard, is also for the benefit of bridge-crossing automobilians.
Much better pics of the Tiki Village can be found in this blog post, including this classic shot of two gentleman on the “Tiki Bed”.
The mattress has since been removed, however, so the bed is now more akin to a standard-issue gazebo.
Walking from right field toward left, the Tiki Village gives way to a recently-installed nine-foot berm that doubles as protection against a flooding Mississippi River.
Every Sunday is “Bark in the Park” at Modern Woodmen, so canines were a common sight.
The area also includes what Goodman called “Memorial Row”. This plaque commemorates Dorothy Wulf, a John O’ Donnell Stadium regular who was named Quad Cities’ “Fan of the Century” in 2000.
Wulf’s plaque is located next to a glass-encased boulder, signed by veterans who took part in the “Wounded Warrior” program across the river at Rock Island Arsenal.
Behind the berm area, one could see munitions experts of a different sort. These guys were in charge of the evening’s post-game fireworks.
They were going to have to wait. Quite unexpectedly, the stadium was hit by heavy rainfall.
The concourse quickly became a mob scene:
Although business remained slow at the Moline Market (the concourse concession stands are each named after one of the Quad Cities, others include the Bettendorf Bakery, Davenport Diner, and Rock Island Grill).
Some took refuge in the team store, others in the Mediacom Lounge:
While packed earlier in the game (with German dignitaries from Davenport’s sister city!), the surprisingly spacious events area was now deserted.
Maybe the visiting Germans and the local politicians and business leaders entertaining them were hip to the fact that action was about to resume.
For resume it did.
Despite the delay, the game still ended before 10, with the River Bandits eking out a 1-0 win.
And then came the fireworks, as promised. I am never able to capture satisfactory firework photos, however, so this portion of the evening will be left up to the imagination.
More like fire-don’t-works, am I right?
I’m still going to bed. Goodnight from Room 144 of the Clarion Inn.
To the itinerary!
9/2 — Omaha Royals (their last-ever game in Rosenblatt Stadium!)
9/3 — Iowa Cubs
9/4 — Burlington Bees
9/5 — Quad Cities River Bandits
9/6 — Kane County Cougars
Feel free to get in touch with any content suggestions or inside tips regarding the teams/cities in question. And if you’ll be at any of these games, please say hello. As always, I’ll be the guy in the shirt.
And not only will tomorrow be the Omaha Royals’ last game at Rosenblatt Stadium — it may be their last home game as the “Omaha Royals.” In conjunction with their 2011 move to nearby Sarpy County, the organization is currently staging a “Name the Team” contest. Over 400 names have been suggested thus far, let’s go to the press release:
Names relating to the weather and to the military have been leading the way so far. Some of those suggestions include Storm, Hail, Heat, Blizzard, Twisters, Bombers and Commanders. Some fans have just tweaked the name to vary slightly from Royals, suggesting Monarchs and Kings. Other fans, no doubt sad to see the demise of Rosenblatt Stadium following the 2010 season, have submitted the team name Blatts for
I would like to suggest a return to the moniker employed by the city’s long-defunct Western Association franchise: the Omahogs.
And while I am excited to be visiting the Iowa Cubs on September 3, I’m disappointed that I will not be in attendance for September 5’s giveaway: the Player to Be Named Later Bobblehead.
Finally, one of the sport’s most unsung characters gets his due:
A parody video in which a G-Funk classic is repurposed as a celebration of a California League baseball team. It’s Bo’z N Da Hood with “Nothin But A Storm Thang”:
The lyrics to “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” are incorporated into one of the verses in the above video, but for a truly unique interpretation check out this adorable dispatch from Lansing.
It’s a good thing that Ryan was in Lansing and not West Michigan, because he would probably have been terrified by first pitch honoree Ronald McDonald:
(photo credit: Emily Jones)
Sweet dreams! I’ll be sending out dispatches from the Midwest as soon as I can.
Today I perchanced to notice a most boastful Facebook update, courtesy of the San Antonio Missions.
“Check out the greatest Bat Race of all time!”, it read. My job being what it is, I checked it out immediately. And here is what I saw:
Now this is a great bat race, to be sure. Excellent, even. But as a responsible journalist, it is my job to temper the breathless hyperbole of blinkered partisans in favor of a more fact-based historical approach.
Because in 2008 the Quad Cities River Bandits unleashed a video entitled “Best Dizzy Bat Race EVER”:
Have San Antonio’s infield tumblers succeeded in their Mission to overtake Quad Cities’ crowd-endangering best bros? Or is the River Bandits’ claim of best EVER still valid?
America will be the judge.
‘Tis the season for promo schedule unveilings, a time of year that ranks very highly in the Ben’s Biz Blog Pantheon of Seasons (an authoritative list I wrote whilst bored during the sleepy winter of 2006).
According to my calculations, 72 of the 120 full-season affiliated clubs have released their promo schedules, with more being added to the list every day. A few heavy promotional hitters have weighed in over the last 24 hours, whom we shall now pay more attention to:
Stockton Ports — Like West Michigan before them, the Ports have jumped into the world of rock ‘n roll theme jerseys. On May 29th, the club will honor a mostly-forgotten act from across the pond who called themselves “The Beatles”. Other highlights include promotional appearances from Brady Bunch-er Christopher Knight (May 21) and legendary hurler Vida Blue (June 14), but what stood out for me the most was this: A Grant Desme bobblehead giveaway on “Faith Night” (as you probably know, Desme announced his retirement in order to join the priesthood. This despite a stellar 2009 campaign in which he was named the Ports Player of the Year).
My first impression was that the bobblehead might feature Desme in a priestly get-up, but Ports media relations manager Kristin Pratt quickly set me straight:
“Grant’s in his home Ports uniform…We had his bobblehead night originally scheduled on July 30th as a stand-alone promotion. However, things got shuffled around, he landed on Faith Night, and we think it’s pretty fitting.”
Quad Cities River Bandits — This promo schedule goes on for a long time, as close to eternity as one can get without becoming infinite…Salutes to Grilled Cheese, Conspiracy Theories and the ’85 Chicago Bears…Stan Musial and Bert Blyleven Bobbleheads…The return of Tattoo Night and the Mega-Candy Drop…etc, etc, ad nauseam.
But I have to give a special shout out to the “Circle of Life” long weekend, which the team describes accordingly:
For one long weekend, the Bandits will celebrate a quartet of momentous
life occasions…On Friday, May 7th, the River Bandits will
host “Maternity Night”, with all expectant mothers being welcomed with a
free lamaze class, craving stations on the concourse, and a grand prize
of a maternity package, including baby furniture and accessories. On
Saturday, the River Bandits, along with the Quad-City Times and the
Lucier Family, will award the inaugural Keith Lucier Memorial
Scholarship and award one deserving student a free year’s tuition at the
University of Iowa. On Sunday, the team will give away a Bandit
Wedding, with the winner announced on May 9th and the ceremony to be
held at the ballpark on August 20, and on Monday, the River Bandits will
complete the Circle of Life by giving away a free all-expense-paid
All of the above promotions have been done before, in one form or another, but this marks the first time I have seen a club make a journey from the cradle to the tomb over the course of four consecutive home games. Bravo, and hopefully an addition to next year’s schedule will be “Mid-Life Crisis Night.” All fans sporting a ponytail and/or driving a convertible get in free, and the individual with the largest age discrepancy between himself and his girlfriend/wife gets to sing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” while backed up by a Jimmy Buffet cover band (it goes without saying the night would be sponsored by a company within the pharmaceutical industry).
Omaha Royals — 2010 will mark the O-Royals 42nd and final season at Rosenblatt Stadium, and their promo schedule is anchored by three significant giveaways that commemorate this bittersweet event. Observe:
— Johnny Rosenblatt Bobblehead, honoring the former Omaha mayor for whom the facility is named (first 1,500 fans, May 22).
— Rosenblatt Stadium Canvas Painting (first 1500 fans, June 13)
— Final Game featuring Replica Wooden Seat Giveaway (first 2,500 fans, September 2).
I’ve got more. Boy do I ever got more. But more is something I want to leave them wanting, so the words are going to stop now.
Just like that.
This article was important for one simple reason: I wrote it. It dealt with how Minor League Baseball teams are making videos and posting them on the internet, and included a variety of examples. Read it HERE, I beg of you.
And now, just as I had suspected, I am being deluged with emails from teams who were excluded from the article (it is my understanding that any number greater than one represents a “deluge”).
First, I heard from the constantly overachieving Quad Cities River Bandits, who recently debuted a weekly video series entitled “There Is No Offseason” (for those keeping track at home, this joins Fresno’s “I Hate the Offseason” and Omaha’s “My Offseason Life Is Average” in the pantheon of vides with “offseason” in the title). Here’s the debut episode:
Quad Cities’ web site features a well-organized “Bandits: On Demand” Multimedia page in which the discerning browser can peruse a wide variety of team videos. I suggest that you go to there, which is HERE.
But first I must share “I’m On A Berm”, the River Bandits’ parody of Lonely Island’s “I’m On A Boat.”
This is one of two “I’m On A Boat” parodies from the Minor Leagues, with the other being Hudson Valley’s “I’m On A Field”. Which do you like better?
The second half of today’s email deluge arrived courtesy of the Greensboro Grasshoppers, who have a weekly offseason video series of their own entitled “It’s Always Hoppin’ Fun With the Grasshoppers”. Witness:
Those seeking more Grasshoppers videos can end their quest simply by clicking HERE. And while I’m on the topic, I’d like to point out that canine mascots Miss Babe Ruth and Master Yogi Berra have been entered in Hallmark’s “Cutest Dog of the Season” contest. I’m voting for Yogi, simply because of THIS.