Receiving email from readers is one of my favorite things about this job. These missives, sent from all over the globe (well, at least some parts of the globe) provide insight on what motivates the readership, help me determine what topics to focus on and, crucially, boost my fragile ego.
But, best of all, the unsolicited messages that land in my inbox occasionally provide me with inadvertent guest blog posts. This, from Canadian reader Damian Ford, covers all the bases.
And, yes, tacos play a key role. From this point on, until the italicized text reappears, all words in this post are Damian’s.
First off, great job on everything you do for Minor League Baseball. I greatly look forward to all your articles and appearances on the MiLB podcasts. I work for an entertainment group in charge of three sports teams here in Canada, and your articles are a wealth of information as I look for ideas to bring to my organization to increase the entertainment value to our fans at our games. I’m a huge Minor League nerd and appreciate all the exposure you bring to each and every team.
Speaking of promo ideas and teams being awesome, the Fresno Grizzlies and I have a good story for you.
Back in August, as I’m sure you remember, the Grizzlies did their Taco Truck Throwdown night (in which they changed their name to the Fresno Tacos). I loved the idea! (I neglected to mention that I am also a MiLB hat collector, but I think that’s pretty much a given since I said I was a MiLB nerd). I loved the hats and went online to try and buy one. However, I live in Canada. Like many Minor League teams, the Grizzlies don’t sell/ship to Canada. I thought to myself, “There has got to be another way to get a Taco hat!” So, I took to Twitter, basically harassing the Grizzlies with challenges that I could perform in exchange for a Tacos hat.
The next day I went to the grocery store and picked up two potatoes, authentic St. Alberts Cheese Curds, and a packet of Swiss Chalet poutine gravy, put it in a box and sent it off to them. I then typed out very specific instruction on how to properly construct and prepare the poutine for consumption.
Some time passed and I did not receive my hat. I tweeted at the Grizzlies and wrote a letter to general manager Mr. Derek Franks. Finally, I received a direct message from the team apologizing for the oversight. They said that the poutine was delicious (I saw online what restaurants are trying to pass as poutine in California and it’s unrecognizable to me). They then asked me not only my hat size, but my jersey size! They ended up sending me a Tacos hat, Tacos jersey and a Grizzlies promotional item.
The Grizzlies more than held up their end of the deal, showing me why they are one of the top-run organizations in professional baseball. As a thank you, I tweeted out a photo of me in my Tacos gear eating a taco above Ottawa’s Rideau Canal.
And that’s all from Damian.
You’ve gotta love a story with a happy ending. Or, at least I think it’s a happy ending. Somebody should probably check in with the Grizzlies front office….
Nah, the Grizzlies are good. In fact, director of marketing Sam Hansen writes that Damian’s poutine package “inspired us to work on our own ‘Growlifornia Poutine Remix’ with queso Oaxaca and Fresno Chili-spiced gravy. Expect to see this make its debut at Chukchansi Park soon.”
Minor League Baseball: Bridging the cultural divide, one Tweetstorm at a time.
The 15th annual Rickwood Classic was played today, with the visiting Tennessee Smokies eking out an 8-7 win over the Birmingham Barons. You can read all about it HERE, and while you’re there be sure to click on my first-ever photo gallery (of which I am very proud).
My “Southern Swing” must soon continue, but before moving on to Huntsville in my rented Mercedes-Benz with Texas plates (this is true), I’d like to leave you with some odds, ends, scraps and sods from my Birmingham experience.
Let’s start with this photo, taken from the roof of Rickwood Field with my trusty spy-cam. Press box sources had informed me that Josh Vitters of the Smokies had left his pants in his hotel room, and this certainly did appear to be the case:
Take it from one who knows, Josh: nothing good can ever come from leaving your pants in a hotel room.
But my favorite photo from my Rickwood excursion is this one, for reasons that I will explain once you are done perusing it:
Fans of juxtaposition should take note of Barons starter Matt Long, quietly stewing in his own juices in the bowels of the dugout while the rest of his teammates loiter carelessly atop roof while waiting for the game to start. But even more hilarious is ol’ #10 there, showing off a beautiful hour-glass figure rarely seen amongst baseball professionals.
I’d also like to say thanks to the various individuals who have provided me with Rickwood information over the past several days. Noted sports scribe Allen Berra was kind enough to share several articles he has written about Rickwood, which informed my writing while whetting my appetite for his upcoming book on the iconic stadium. I’ll certainly be covering the release of this tome on MiLB.com, but get a head start by pre-ordering it on Amazon HERE.
Meanwhile, a reader by the name of Sam Hamm, a former Rickwood bat boy, sent me some inside info on the stadium:
While time was too short for me to obtain photos of ’80s Rickwood, I did make a point to drink two Mello Yellos at the Barons game on Tuesday evening (I also put in Donovan’s Greatest Hits on the car ride home).
I was able to take a photo of the oft-painted over dugout walls, however:
And here, once again, is a photo that shows the discrepancy between the original and “new” outfield walls:
This discrepancy was the subject of another reader email I recently received, this one from a woman by the name of Marcia Bullard:
I just read your story on Rickwood. I was fortunate to visit there a few years ago when my daughter worked for the Barons. On the day we visited there was a high school tournament. We watched a bit of the game and then my daughter showed me around a bit. We were even able to go between the walls and see the back of the scoreboard and the outer wall. I seem to remember that straight away center was over 500 feet! There is a two-track that runs between the walls and to get into the scoreboard (it operates like the one at Wrigley) you have to climb a ladder. We were cautioned to stay on the track because there are snakes living in the grass! If you haven’t already, try to go between the walls. It really is an experience!
And speaking of readers — I must give a shout-out to a man by the name of Larry Lefebvre. Not only did Larry recognize me at Rickwood despite not being a member of the industry (a professional first, to be identified by a baseball civilian!), he also recently sent me an email which warmed my heart to a considerable degree:
“For the past two weeks my daughter has been singing Weird Al’s eBay song non-stop. She went on YouTube and discovered that this is not Weird Al’s only song; he has hundreds of them! After watching his videos for at least 30 minutes I heard her say to herself, ‘This guy is a genius!'”
It goes without saying that if YOU have anecdotes regarding emerging Weird Al fandom in America’s youth, then please contact me immediately so that I may spread the good word.
I suppose I should close with something baseball related, so let me just mention that it was an honor to meet Harmon Killebrew at Rickwood this afternoon. He was very friendly, unassuming, and soft-spoken, immediately making everyone feel at ease around him. I of course don’t know Harmon in any real way, but I walked away from our conversation absolutely convinced that he’s a genuinely nice guy (this was in stark contrast to another member of the 500 Home Run Club I recently met, a condescending and belittling individual whose name either rhymes with or is Reggie Jackson).
So before I shut things down for the night here at the good ol’ Birmingham-Hoover Microtel, here’s a picture of Harmon and the Barons just before the start of today’s Rickwood Classic: