Tagged: Reading Philllies

Behind the Beef: Bozied and Rizzotti Speak

arefills.JPGLast week I posted “Roast Beef Initiation”, a four-and-a-half minute comedy video written by and starring Phillies farmhands Tagg Bozied and Matt Rizzotti. The film illuminates an overlooked aspect of the Reading baseball experience: the unique pressures of being the “Arby’s RBI Guy”.

The premise behind the “Arby’s RBI Guy” is simple — if the #4 hitter in the R-Phils’ line-up knocks in a run, fans in attendance can redeem their ticket stubs for a complimentary Roast Beef Sandwich.

Bozied began the season as the regular “Arby’s RBI Guy”, but after getting hurt he was replaced by Rizzotti. Bozied is currently back in his familiar “RBI Guy” role, as Rizzotti received a call-up to Triple-A Lehigh Valley earlier this month.

But regardless who has been tasked with the “RBI Guy” duties, this is a promotion that has been embraced with great enthusiasm by the Reading faithful — perhaps too much enthusiasm, as it turns out.

tagg.jpgBozied and Rizzotti took the time to explain this, and more, during a phone conversation on Friday afternoon. What follows are some of the highlights:

On The Motivation For the Film:

Tagg Bozied: In Reading, you have to walk through the fans [in the concourse] to get from the dugout to the locker room. And one day shortly before the All-Star Break, Matt told me this story, like “You’re not going to believe what this fan just told me.”

Matt Rizzotti: This guy comes up to me and says “Thanks for not getting an RBI, now I’m not eating tonight!’ Then he walked away. He was seriously mad!

TB: It really is funny, especially if you know anything about playing in Reading. One time werizzotti.jpg participated in a kid’s [baseball] clinic, and when we were introduced as the RBI Guys 200 kids immediately started chanting “Roast Beef….Roast Beef.” If you’re part of that culture, you can’t help but embrace it. Both of us did, it changes up the routine from normal everyday life.

MR: It’s funny to think that the whole thing bloomed from a guy telling me how much I sucked….It was just perfect, we took the idea and ran with it.

On the Creative Process

ch.jpgMR: Coming back from the [Eastern League] All-Star Game, we had the whole bus to ourselves. We’re just sitting in the back, and the idea came about that we should make a video. And Tagg was like, “Hold on!” The notepad immediately came out, and we started rattling off ideas. You obviously have to know a bit about Reading to best appreciate things like the Crazy Hot Dog Vendor throwing sandwiches off of my face, or the usher singing the seventh-inning stretch on a two-person bicycle.

TB: We both enjoy movies, and really pay attention to delivery. We wanted it to be funny, and dramatic, and worked real hard on the timing and the body language.

On the Movie’s Most Memorable Scene (aka: “Roast Beef to the Face”)

MR: [Crazy Hot Dog Vendor] Matt Jackson is a really nice guy, so he was hesitant, like,rb2.jpg “Dude, I don’t want to throw sandwiches at your face.” We were like “You will get angry, and you will launch roast beef sandwiches off of my face!” That was the only way it was going to look good. It took a few takes because he kept missing, but the first hit really started an onslaught.

TB: I couldn’t stop laughing, it was one of the funniest things I’d ever seen.

MR: Yeah, it’s not every day that you get roast beef sandwiches launched off of your face.

kk2.jpgTB: I’m just glad we were able to document this. Playing in the Minor Leagues, you end up doing a lot of stupid stuff to keep entertained, and just have to celebrate it for what it is. This kind of thing, it’s what you do to keep your mind relaxed.

On Their Filmmaking Future

TB: We had a good time doing this, but if we do anything else it might not be as good. Like Karate Kid II.

MR: Or Back to the Future III….Next year, if me and Tagg are on the same team, then maybe we could do one or two more videos. But, I don’t know, it would be tough to beat this one. It just had a…

TB: Mystique.

MR: Yeah, mystique! See, that’s Tagg. He’s always there for me.

And now, an encore presentation of “Roast Beef Initiative,” written, directed, and starring Tagg Bozied and Matt Rizzotti. Andy Kauffman, the Reading Phillies video director, handled production duties.


On the Road: A Frank Look at Reading's Wizard of Ostrich

Like an extra-marital liaison between Howie and Shelley, today’s stint at Reading’s FirstEnergy Stadium was a very Long affair (so long that you are left with sentences like the preceding). But sleep cannot come until this post is done, so let’s get to it.

The R-Phils staged a tribute to the inimitable Crazy Hot Dog Vendor this evening, and I was more than happy to get in on the act:

Thumbnail image for Reading_CHDV_meandCHDV.JPG
(photo credit: Ralph Trout)

I was just one of many Crazy Hot Dog Vendor imitators at the ballpark, however, as Reading has gone mad for this ostrich-riding aerial distributor of encased meats. The CHDV is the alter-ego of long-time front office employee Matt Jackson, who was very much in demand throughout Sunday’s extravaganza. Here he is getting ready to meat the masses, with and without the help of his personal trainer:



The first item on the itinerary was a pre-game Question and Answer session with the team’s thriving “Kid’s Club.”


The kids were out in force, a full 90 minutes before the game:


The CHDV fielded a wide range of questions from the assembled youth, who were endlessly curious regarding his relationship with Rodrigo the ostrich, the number of hot dogs he has thrown during his career, and how he stays in shape.


You’ll notice, of course, that many of these kids were proudly wearing that day’s “Crazy Hot Dog Vendor T-Shirt” giveaway. Soon after the Q and A, an assemblage of the CHDV’s most die-hard fans got to go onto the field and perform with their hero. Thanks to the fortuitous existence of a spare ostrich, I was able to join them:




These kids were great. Notice how many of them BROUGHT THEIR OWN OSTRICH TO THE BALLPARK!


One enthusiastic youngster explained his hot dog-throwing strategy as follows (I’m paraphrasing here, you can’t ride an ostrich and take notes at the same time): “You’ve got to find the people who aren’t going crazy, and then pretend you’re going to throw it to them. Then find someone who is going crazy.”

As for me, my performance was lackluster. I lamely identified myself as “The Apprentice (awkward pause) of the Crazy Hot Dog Vendor” on the mic, and then all my spare hot dogs fell out of my breast pocket after my first throw. Also, I think I hurt my right knee somehow.

But anyway, after these misadventures I finally had the chance to limp around the premises. FirstEnergy Stadium (not to be confused with FirstEnergy Park) is nearly 60 years old, but the R-Phils have maximized seemingly every inch of available space. There is a lot going on, everywhere, and an old-time carnival aesthetic prevails:







The R-Phils players were decked out in these quite-spectacular CHDV jerseys (next two photos credited to Ralph Trout/Reading Phillies):



Meanwhile, the CHDV was basking in the adulation under the third base stands:



Screwball also has his share of loyal fans, who lined up for pictures and autographs as if he was Santa Claus:


Meanwhile, gm Scott Hunsicker (dressed for the occasion) was leading an ALS charity auction, selling off autographed memorabilia to the highest bidder:


But as for the R-Phils, not even the fist-pumping dance moves of super-fan “Disco Briscoe” (a rising star in the team’s pantheon of characters) could save them from defeat:


Only in Reading would you see a post-game interview that looks like this:


And only at 4:21 a.m. would you see a blog post ending like this.


Mr. Belding Karaokes The Day in Reading

Thumbnail image for readingblue classic.jpgDennis “Mr. Belding” Haskins was the guest of honor at last year’s “Mad Tight ’90s” promotion in Fresno, and ever since he’s been leaving a jovial trail of destruction across the Minor League landscape.

The “Saved By the Bell” principal’s most recent stop was Reading, PA, where he did just about everything a celebrity guest can possibly do. In addition to the obligatory autograph signing, picture posing, and ceremonial first pitch throwing, he also went ahead and sang the seventh-inning stretch, made impromptu appearances in nose-breaking post-game player interviews, and enthusiastically praised the state of Pennsylvania before delivering his “What Is Going On Here?” catchphrase.

And, of course, there was the karaoke. Haskins is a karaoke professional of sorts, having released a sing-a-long cd last year. Let’s go to the pictures.



I’m not sure who the bigger Screwball is here:

Reading_BeldingFirst Pitch.JPG

R-Phils players were delighted to meet America’s pre-eminent principal:

Reading_Belding and player.JPG


The grand finale, in which Mr. Belding rides a carrot:


And speaking of Carrot Top…


The legendary comedian was honored with his own bobblehead at yesterday’s Las Vegas 51s game.

Somebody get me a crown and a two-wheeled scooter, because I am the king of segues.


Bringing It To You Straight, No Taser

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Altoona_Curve.gifOn-field fan incidents have been a big topic of conversation ever since the controversial tasering of a fan at a Phillies game earlier this month.

Perhaps this explains why the Altoona Curve have made national headlines today, after a bizarre incident at Blair County Ballpark last night. After sneaking into the stadium via a parking garage, an intoxicated homeless man wandered across the outfield during the bottom of the ninth inning of a contest between the Curve and Akron Aeros.

The man, who lacked identification but gave his name as “Tyrone R. Squires”, was detained by Curve security without incident and then turned over to Altoona police. A detailed write-up of Squires’ misadventures appeared in today’s edition of The Altoona Mirror, and this account served as the basis of an Associated Press article that has been picked up by The New York Times among other outlets.

Curve media relations director Dan Zangrilli said the team was a bit perplexed over the national attention.

“It wasn’t that big a deal, quite honestly. It was just a guy who decided to take a little cruise along the warning track,” he said. “The whole thing was uneventful, and posed no threat to players or fans. That said, we do take this kind of thing seriously. Trespassing is a serious offense, and we turned him over to the authorities.”

But right now the team has bigger issues on its mind: preserved meat products. Tonight’sBraunschweiger.jpg Wacky Wednesday promotion at Blair County Ballpark is “Livin La Vida Lunch Meat”, a comprehensive salute to all things meaty that received a write-up in the most recent edition of “Promotion Preview.”

“It’s all about the Braunschweiger, baby,” said Zangrilli.

— I hope to continue yesterday’s classification-based post in the near future, but for now I’ll dispense with such formalities in order to share a couple of most-interesting Minor League developments.

The Brooklyn Cyclones have released a sketch of what is sure to be one of 2010’s most-sought after bobbleheads: Mets rookie sensation (and former Cyclone) Ike Davis in the midst of one of his now trademark dugout-tumbling snags:


The giveaway is on August 2, distributed to the first 2500 fans — get your tickets now and arrive early.

In other intriguing bobblehead news, the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers have announced the finalists for September’s “Fan’s Choice” bobble.

In my mind, the choice that stands out above the rest is “Scooter Vs. the Snowman”, commemorating a particularly memorable moment that occurred during the club’s whitewashed Opening Day.

Thumbnail image for wisconsin snow 3.jpg

Finally, I wanted to share this video I received from the Memphis Redbirds, featuring a Baby T-Rex throwing out the first pitch. It’s going to be a long time before I tire of watching this:

The Baby T-Rex is scheduled to make its next appearance in Reading on May 25, once again throwing out the first pitch and then spending the remainder of the game ambling through the stadium. This will allow fans plenty of time to contemplate the genetic links between dinosaurs and the Crazy Hot Dog Vendor’s loyal ostrich:



Canned Meat Artisans Shine Once More

Friday’s Will Ferrell post was linked widely en route to penetrating the national consciousness, meaning that a whole new audience impatiently scanned my writing in search of entertaining pictures and videos.

What a thrill.

Things have finally returned to normal, signifying that I can once again pander to my base of regular readers. And if there’s one thing I know that base enjoys, it’s this:   

Reading -- Spam2010_3.JPG

Spam Carving.

The above masterpiece (and that’s not a word I use lightly) emerged as the winner in the Reading Phillies’ third annual Spam Carving Contest. “Screwball’s Spamtastic Opportunity House” was sculpted by emerging artisans Angie O’Hara and Emily McGranahan, who took home a $250 prize for their efforts.

The sculpture’s title references both the R-Phils primary mascot (Screwball) and the charity that benefited from the Spam carving (Opportunity House). The entry fee was $5 per person, with the top entries displayed on the field later in the evening.

The following pictures dramatically illustrate how exposure to the elements will quickly transform Spam’s appealing pink-tinged luster to a distressingly monochrome shade of brown.

 The Talent and Their Creations

update: Sue, the mastermind behind the blog “Rants, Raves and Random Thoughts”, wrote in to say that the following pic features her and her daughter (center). Read all about it HERE, as part of an excellent blog post that also advocates for DeWayne Wise neck reduction.

Reading -- Spam2010_5.JPG  

Making Concessions

Reading -- Spam2010_4.JPG

Fade to Brown

Reading -- Spam2010_1.jpg

credit for the above three photographs: Jessica Kovalcin

Congratulations to all of those skilled in the art of Spam carving, whether they plied their trade on Saturday or in years past. For the record, my all-time favorite Spam sculpture to emanate from Reading is 2009’s “Demon Dog”.

Thumbnail image for Reading -- Spam -- Demon Dog!.JPG


(Not A) Permanent Vacation

Aerosmith_-_Rocks.JPGCue up the Aerosmith, because I’m Back in the Saddle Again!

And then keep playing the Aerosmith, because I’m a Dude Looks Like A Lady as a result of nine months without a haircut. But enough about me, let’s Keep This Train A Rolling by returning to The Same Old Song and Dance.

Minor League “Business” News!

I sure picked a good week to take off, because not all that much happened in this lil corner of the world. I was expecting to be inundated with material but was instead merely nudged.Still, I have enough to comprise yet another “omnibus” post, although this particular vehicle is of the single-decker variety.

— The Bradenton Marauders unveiled their logo several months ago, but last week they took the next step by showing off their team uniforms at a pep rally. The press release is HERE, and the uniforms can be viewed HERE.

In other late-breaking logo news, the Syracuse Chiefs are commemorating 50 years of community ownership in 2010. This is the only logo I have ever seen that features a number wearing a headdress (usually numbers wear berets or visors):

— Hey, have you ever wanted to see a giant gliding rodent affixed to the top of a scoreboard? Me neither! Yet, duty compels me to post this latest image out of Richmond, if only because I am now aware that there are Wawas in Virginia:


— The Spokane Indians won’t be powered by gliding rodents next season, but they will be fueled by just about everything else. The club announced yesterday that they will be using renewable energy in 2010, including but not limited to wind, geothermal, and biomass. Read all about it HERE. In addition to being good for the environment, this news is a godsend for environmentally conscious hecklers who can now sarcastically thank batters every time there is a swing and miss (because that’s wind power, see?)

— Team promo schedules are being announced at a fast and furious rate, and today’s highlight is a bobblehead that details the growing relationship between Timber Rattlers mascot Fang and Brewers mascot Bernie. Last season, the costumed characters came together as a result of the affiliation agreement between the two clubs:

Thumbnail image for fangbernie.jpg 

In the ensuing year, these two unlikely comrades apparently developed a comfortable rapport. Witness the Timber Rattlers 2010 Opening Day bobblehead, which commemorates the new beach seating area at the Rattlers’ Time Warner Cable Field:


Yes, Fang is a snake, and, yes, he possesses arms and legs. Far be it for me to reconcile this cognitive disconnect.

— Meanwhile, the Reading Phillies will be hearing from my lawyer. Today the team put out a press release listing their “Top 10 Promotions for 2010“, apparently unaware that the words “top”, “10”, or “promotions” cannot appear in the same sentence without the express written consent of Ben’s Biz Enterprises (a subsidiary of Monsanto, fyi).

But I’ll let my legal team handle that breach of protocol, and simply report that one of the aforementioned “Top 10” is a Tribute to the Crazy Hot Dog Vendor! Behold:

Thumbnail image for reading 3.jpgThe first 2,000 kids who enter the ballpark
for the 6:05 p.m. game will receive a Crazy Hot Dog Vendor look-a-like
t-shirt. Think “tuxedo t-shirt”, but instead each child that wears it
will look just like the beloved Crazy Hot Dog Vendor. In addition, all
Redner’s R-Phils Kids Club members will have the chance to perform on
the field with the Crazy Hot Dog Vendor during a special pre-game
celebration. And to top the tribute off, R-Phils players will actually
wear Crazy Hot Dog Vendor look-a-like team jerseys when they take the
field against the Harrisburg Senators for the game
(ed note: !!!!!!!!)

The next “Ed” note I receive will most likely be from Mr. Begley, in protest of my ill-informed take on renewable energy. Look, man, I’m doing my best.


Mascot Love We Deliver

I stand before you today in order to deliver Minor League mascot Valentine’s Day photos.

The public has demanded them, and I am certainly not one to ignore the pleas of the populace. Therefore, that is precisely what this post shall be dedicated to. But first, a quick request…

Thumbnail image for please-stand-by.jpg

Inspired by the copious snow that has been deposited all over the country as of late, I have decided to do a story on extreme weather and the groundskeeping challenges it presents. In addition to teams that have recently been hit with snow, I’d be interested in speaking with anyone who has had to deal with drought, flooding, hurricanes, and, of course, locust plagues. I’ll most likely have to contact teams individually today and tomorrow, but that’s a hit-or-miss proposition. Consider this post an invitation to get in touch — benjamin.hill@mlb.com

Okay, we now return to regularly-scheduled programming: Minor League mascot Valentine’s Day photos.

Because, as you surely know, there was a lot going on. And how can I lead off with anyone but Boomer, who is surely the suavest mascot in Minor Leage Baseball? Here, Boomer spreads some joy to the youth of Williamsport:

Williamsport -- Boomer V-Day.jpg

Boomer’s not the only mascot named Boomer. There’s also Boomer of the Trenton Thunder, who is not at all terrifying, not the least little bit:


In Lowell, the Spinners sent out a star-studded caravan to a local elementary school, where Valentine’s Day cards were made. These cards were then delivered to a VA hospital (apparently, Canaligator and crew got hungry along the way):



In Portland (ME), Slugger made the rounds on behalf of the Sea Dogs:


The Gwinnett Braves sent out the ever-seductive Chopper, who never fails to impress the ladies:

Gwinnett -- ChopperVDay3.JPG

Buster “rose” to the occasion in Lakewood:

Thumbnail image for bustervday.jpg
Sandy the Seagull swooped into a Brooklyn elementary school:


A very endearing video of Sandy’s delivery can be viewed HERE.

But how could I close anywhere other than in Reading? As usual, Screwball did his thing:


But this year, fans had options. For the Crazy Hot Dog Vendor was also pressed into service. Here’s how it went down:

Now if that wasn’t romantic, then I don’t know what is. I mean, seriously, I don’t. Can anyone help me out here?


Parodies Don't Come Cheap

return.jpgLook who’s back
back again
Ben’s Biz back
Tell a friend

Forgive me the above transgression against all that is clever. Since Eminem’s new album “dropped” today, I figured I should use the opportunity to make a hackneyed reference to one of his previous hits. Carpe Diem and all that.

And, it’s true: I am, indeed, “back”. I’ll have some stunning tales (and pictures and video) from my trip to Huntsville up later in the week. But for now, let me ease back into the blogging game with this:

More player headshots from Fresno’s “Mad Tight 90s Night”!

First, Ryan Sadowski re-imagined as an alt-rock nerd:

90s Night- Sadowski.JPG

And here we have a shot of one Adam “LL” Witters. Don’t call it a comeback!

90s Night -- Witter.JPG

Finally, Eli Whiteside takes things “to the extreme”:

90s Night -- whiteside.JPG

But don’t think the Grizzlies are the only team that engages in the nefarious practice of album cover art doctoring. In Reading, the Phillies advertise upcoming mascot band performances thusly:

nevermind mascot band.JPG

But for all you youngsters out there — let me remind you that the first person to parody the Nevermind cover art was also the greatest. All hail my hero, Mr. Alfred Yankovic:


If you have any doctored ’90s cover art to share, please send it to:


I look forward to hearing from you.

The Second Deadly Sin At An Affordable Price

Ourfills.pngLast week was a memorable one for this blog, as the powerful left-right jab of the Fifth Third Burger and Subtle Butt drew attention from media outlets all over the country.

But, as I have mentioned many times before, I always seek to do things in threes. It is simply the proper way to operate. And the final piece of the puzzle is this:

On Tuesday, May 19, the Reading Phillies will be holding “Gluttony Night“.

“All-You-Can-Eat-Nights” have become commonplace around the Minor Leagues in recenthotdogs.jpg years, and one could certainly argue that these promotions are gluttonous in their own right. But “All-You-Can-Eat-Nights” are usually limited to a special section of the ballpark, and often involve a restricted menu.

“Gluttony Night” is something else entirely. Tell ’em, press release:

For just $12.00 fans can eat as much as they
want from the time the gates open at 5:30 PM until the 7th Inning
Stretch. Hot dogs, French fries, pizza, funnel cake, ice cream and
fountain drinks are all included in a Gluttony Night ticket. 


“Who knows if we’ll ever be able to do this
again,” a somewhat nervous Scott Hunsicker, R-Phils General Manager,
said. “I’m trying to encourage my family and friends to attend this
game. Just in case I get fired over this promotion, I don’t want them to
miss my last game.”


Rob Hackash, the R-Phils’ media relations director, said that “Gluttony Night” was an idea that the team had been kicking around for quite some time now.

“We’re just going to turn people lose; we really don’t know what to expect,” he said. “It could be mayhem, but we feel that are concession stands are well equipped, as is our staff.”

While fans are not limited to how much they can eat, a key provision is this: one item at a time, per person. This will both keep the lines moving and insure against those whose eyes are bigger than their stomachs.

“One person cannot get in line and ask for 100 hot dogs, but they can get in line as much as they want, and eat as much as they want,” said Hackash.

recordbroken.jpgWhen it comes to documenting the history of their 42-year-old franchise, the R-Phils front office staff is nothing if not thorough. The current record for hot dogs consumed in one game is 4,278, but that number could very well be eclipsed on “Gluttony Night.”

“We think that record is going down — as long as the fans don’t fill up on pizza, funnel cake, and french fries,” said Hackash.

‘Gluttony Night’ will most certainly be a taxing night for all ballpark employees, but no one will have to work harder than Andy Bortz, the team’s director of stadium concessions. Unfortunately, however, this key figure has so far been unwilling to discuss the issue publicly. Again, from the press release:

When asked about Gluttony Night, Andy Bortz
, Director of Stadium Concessions, offered a series of grunts and groans that
we’ll take to mean “no comment”.