Results tagged ‘ Reno Aces ’

On the Road: Max Effort, Jacked-Up Results in Reno

To see all posts from my August 8 visit to the Reno Aces, click HERE. To see all my posts from my August 2016 “Out West” 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).

Soon after arriving at Reno’s Greater Nevada Field, I traveled to one of the ballpark’s onsite restaurants. This restaurant is called Bugsy’s, and it would be the site of that evening’s designated eater experience. There was just one problem, however — the evening before, my designated eater had regretfully backed out of his designated eating commitments because he wasn’t able to get off from work. I told the Aces about my predicament, and they went in-house to find a solution.

This is Max Margulies, a corporate partnerships account executive for both the Aces as well as the Reno 1868 FC soccer club (which will play its inaugural season at Greater Nevada Field in 2017). Max was my new designated eater, tasked with consuming the ballpark food that my gluten-free diet prohibits.

img_2492Max, 23, hails from San Diego and went to college at the University of Oregon. He’s now working in baseball and soccer, but says that his ultimate goal is to work for an NBA team. His favorite pastimes are body surfing and going kayaking in Lake Tahoe. His biggest fear? Spiders.

As you can see, Max had a formidable array of food laid out in front of him.

img_0276 Okay, let’s do this one at a time. We started with that massive hot dog on the left, which is, in fact, a “Versus Dog.”

img_0280In the above photo, the left-hand side of the dog is the Reno side. Reno is represented via pulled pork and apple cider vinegar slaw. On the right is a portion of the hot dog representing Salt Lake, that evening’s opponent. The Salt Lake side had roasted corn, bell peppers, cilantro crema and queso fresco.

Max went for the Reno side first.

Max called this a “filling bite” and praised the taste of the slaw. However, he did have one criticism.

“It was tough to hold,” he said. “It kind of felt like a wet diaper.”

With this appealing imagery still in mind, Max switched to the Salt Lake side of the Versus Dog.

img_0279“The peppers stand out immediately,” said Max. “I like this. Sweet and spicy.”

Next up was the Bambino Fries, which are topped with pulled pork, chicken, chicken and apple slaw. This was not one of my better food photography efforts.

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“I like the tangy barbecue sauce,” said Max. “I’m a loaded fries kind of guy so these were right up my alley.”

I did not get any photos of Max eating the fries, which is a shame as these photos would have surely been a great benefit to humanity. But I did not make this mistake when it came to the next item: the Caliente Burger.

img_0282The Caliente Burger consists of a half-pound Wagyu beef patty topped with lettuce, tomato, fried “bottlecaps” (jalapenos) and a “Firecracker” aioli made of lemon, mayo and Sriacha sauce. It’s a mouthful, as Max soon learned. To get this thing down, he had to do his best impression of a snake eating a goat.

img_2506“The jalapenos give it a nice kick, along with the sauce,” said Max. “And it’s got a nice crunch.”

Finally, there was a Verde Meatball Sub. It is topped with verde chili sauce, queso fresco and cilantro sprigs on a sourdough roll.

img_2508Max was beginning to show signs of fatigue, but he gamely carried on.

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“I’d never had verde sauce on a meatball before,” said Max. “But it works, and sourdough is a good choice.”

We could’ve have stopped there, of course. But no, we were taking it to the Max! Now it was time for dessert.

img_2519This dessert platter included funnel cake, red velvet funnel cake and, there in the back, a deep-fried Snickers. Max started with the Snickers.

img_2521“It’s awesome,” said Max. “But I don’t have much to say.”

Clearly, Max was running out of steam. He’d been through so much already, in such a short amount of time. It was getting increasingly hard for him to go on.

But never fear — Jack Reinheimer is here!

img_2526This was an historic first! Jack is the Aces shortstop, and never before had a first player spent time as one of my designated eaters. Aces marketing manager Audrery Hill had recruited him from the clubhouse, and even though he had reportedly just “crushed” some barbecue, he was happy to travel to the upper level to eat some more. It helped, of course, that Jack wasn’t in the starting line-up on this particular evening. Otherwise he probably wouldn’t have been able to continue his pregame food crushing spree.

“All I do is eat and play baseball,” said Jack, summing up his existence in a mere seven words.

You’d think someone who loves “crushing” food wouldn’t even bother with utensils, but Jack took a polite — some would say dainty — approach to the dessert plate.

img_2528Jack said that the deep-fried Snickers was “amazing” and that the red velvet funnel cake was “even better.” He then moved on to Max’s leftovers because, let’s face it, Max had a lot of leftovers.

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img_2535Jack was a man of few words, preferring to let his food crushing actions speak for themselves. He described the various items he tasted as “good”, “pretty good” and “amazing.”

“I’ll eat anything,” he said.

At one point, Jack got distracted by the view from the upper level.

“It looks pretty easy to get hits from up here,” he said.

Jack got plenty of hits in 2016. He had 144, tied with teammate Kyle Jensen for fifth-most in the Pacific Coast League.

img_2524Thus concluded the designated eating adventures of Jack and Max.

img_2537“I’ll definitely have to try more ballpark food,” said Max.

Jack agreed, and then turned his thoughts to the Aces’ next road trip.

“If there’s ever a Chipotle in the airport, it’s getting hit up,” he said. “The guys’ll just crush it.”

***

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

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On the Road: Whale Rides and Ball Views in Reno

To see all posts from my August 8 visit to the Reno Aces, click HERE. To see all my posts from my August 2016 “Out West” 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).

August 8 (Part Two) — Once the ballgame was underway in Reno, I began my nightly bout of wandering. At Greater Nevada Field, the city is situated behind the ballpark and, therefore, visible from the outfield.

img_0296This is the view from beyond right field. The Truckee River keeps right on rolling.

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Joining the Truckee River and city skyline in Greater Nevada Field’s pantheon of ballpark views are these railroad tracks. Freight trains pass by throughout the ballgame, headed to parts known by some but not by me.

My circular journey brought me back to the area behind home plate. Archie was there. I really enjoy seeing Archie.

img_0302When I visited the Aces in 2013, Archie could talk. Archie no longer talks. It’s just one of those things.

This home plate concourse location was a designated meeting place, as I had been recruited to compete in the Schofferhofer “Race to the Beach” contest. You know the drill — you put on an orange t-shirt representing the presenting sponsor, and then you ride an inflatable killer whale toward articles of beach-themed clothing that placed along the grass on the third base side of the field. Upon reaching these articles of clothing, you must put them on before once again mounting the whale and heading to the finish line. You do this against an enthusiastic, friendly and somewhat profane native of North London named Tom, who now works in Tahoe as a ski and paddleboard instructor. Tom immediately becomes your best friend, despite the fact that you must compete against him.

img_2563Tom and I and the Aces personnel assigned to tending to us made our way to the front row, so that we’d be ready to leap into action as soon as the inning ended. Archie, owner of the most scuffed-up pair of size 24 Chuck Taylors that the world has ever seen, was waiting for us.

img_2565Finally, our moment arrived.

Clearly, I was no match for Tom. But even after this heated competition, we remained the best of friends.

img_2582My next stop was the outfield concourse, as I had been invited to spend some time inside the giant inflatable baseball that sings “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” every night from its perch beyond the outfield wall.

I guess this is the sort of thing that needs to be placed in a larger contect. Here’s a video example:

And a picture:

ballyboyboyIn the top of the seventh, myself and an Aces employee whose name I cannot recall at the moment (the back of his jersey said “Button”) entered the yet-to-be inflated baseball. While standing on a platform in the middle, it took shape around us.

In the midst of all this, I took a selfie.

img_2592When it came time to “sing” during the seventh inning stretch, the platform was raised (via a switch located outside of the ball itself) and the ball became visible over the outfield wall. As the sounds of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” came through over a walkie-talkie (it was too loud in the ball to hear the PA system), the ball’s “lips” were moved via these metal handles so that it would look like the ball was singing the song.

img_2595Here’s a video of what the “singing” looks like from the inside.

And that, my friends, is how that particular piece of sausage is made.

Thus concluded the “programmed” portion of my evening, which otherwise consisted of — you guessed it — wandering.

Neon ball…

img_0307…meet neon batter.

img_0309Between the ball and the batter lies the Freight House District, a year-round entertainment complex attached to the ballpark.

img_0308It was here where I wrote and disseminated my Groundbreaking and Subversive Ballpark Joke of the Day. Most of the feedback I got on this one was along the lines of “Huh?” and then, “Okay, got it now. Took me a minute.”

As the Aces came to bat in the bottom of the 8th, trailing 4-2, the “Rally Llama” appeared on the videoboard. I tried to get a photo of the llama, but all I ended up with was Archie.

img_0313Archie is alright, though. Archie is, in fact, great.

The Rally Llama, or whatever it was, failed in its mission. The Aces lost, defeated by Bees. It was still a very enjoyable evening at Greater Nevada Field. The greatest, even.

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***

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

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instagram.com/thebensbiz

On the Road: The Biggest Little Ballpark in Reno

To see all posts from my August 8 visit to the Reno Aces, click HERE. To see all my posts from my August 2016 “Out West” 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).

I visited 10 teams on my 2016 “Out West” road trip, four of which I had visited before. The Reno Aces fell into this category, but with an asterisk: When I stopped by Reno in 2013, the game was rained out. This meteorological misfortune led to one of the weirdest posts in the history of this blog, which presented an alternate (and startlingly convincing) account of my allegedly rained out night in Reno.

This time around, here in the year of our Lord 2016, I wanted normalcy. I wanted nine innings of baseball, played on a Monday, because everybody knows that Minor League teams are at their best on Mondays. That’s what I wanted, and that’s what I got.

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The Aces’ ballpark, originally known as Aces Ballpark, is now known as Greater Nevada Field. (There is no “Great Nevada Field,” in the state, but if there ever is, Greater Nevada Field will clearly have a leg up on it.) The Freight House District, seen on the left in the above photo, is an amalgam of bars and restaurants. It’s accessible to fans during the game but also open year-round as an all-purpose entertainment complex.

Immediately upon setting foot in the facility, I was greeted by Aces communications manager Cheyne Reiter. He ushered me onto the field.

img_0273Once on the field, I was introduced to pitcher Matt Capps. We had an interview scheduled.

Capps turned out to be a great interview, speaking with honesty and humor about his current, improbable comeback attempt (he hasn’t pitched in the Major Leagues since 2012). You can read my story about him HERE.

Shortly after speaking with Capps, I pivoted to an interview of a different sort.

img_2541That’s Princess,  a 10-year-old rescue pit bull who was adopted by Aces executive VP Andrew Daugherty prior to the season. She is now a ballpark celebrity, helping to dispel the stereotypes associated with her breed simply by existing. I wrote a story on Princess, and what she means to the team and community, HERE.

Princess is an absolute sweetheart.

img_2551An absolute sweetheart, I tell you.

After (reluctantly) taking my leave of Princess, myself and Aces director of marketing Audrey Hill walked around the ballpark for a bit. Taking a page out of the El Paso Chihuahuas playbook, the upper level hallways and suite interiors are decorated with the work of local artists. All of these pieces of art are for sale. Support local artists.
img_0287Artwork also enlivens the walls outside of the main entrance. The mural below, by Erik Burke, depicts Theodore Judah. Judah was the mastermind behind the Trans-Continental Railroad, which led to the creation of the city of Reno in 1868 after a railroad station was established there.

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The spray paint used for Judah’s eyes reflects through the windows, causing them to change color. Check the reflection:
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Judah’s steely, subtly shifting and not-at-all crazy gaze is fixated on a mural located directly across from him. This one is by Bryce “ABC Art Attack” Chisolm. I believe that’s Princess, there in the bottom left corner. Princess is absolute sweetheart.

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And speaking of art, this is one of the most fantastic pieces of restroom signage I saw all season.

img_2558Meanwhille, the sun was setting…

img_2560…and the ballgame was underway. The Aces were hosting the Salt Lake Bees, one of two teams in the Pacific Coast League I have yet to visit. (The other being the Colorado Springs Sky Sox.)

img_0292But, for now, I can only focus on the visits that have occurred. There’ll be much more from Reno in my next post (and the one after that).

***

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

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About Last Night: Reno Aces, August 8, 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, when I return home, I’ll provide the multifaceted blog coverage that you have come to know and perhaps even love. On Monday night I visited Reno, Nevada, the seventh stop on my sprawling 10-team California-Nevada-Idaho-Washington road trip.

August 8: Reno Aces (Triple-A affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks)

Opponent: Salt Lake Bees, 7:05 p.m.

Greater Nevada Field, from the outside: 

IMG_0272Greater Nevada Field, from within: 

IMG_0292Culinary Creation: Funnel cake, red velvet funnel cake and a deep-fried Snickers bar lurking in the back.

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Ballpark Character: Princess, a 10-year-old pit bull rescue dog, has become a ballpark celebrity. She shares an office with her owner, Aces executive vice president Andrew Daugherty.

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At Random: Aces shortstop Jack Reinheimer made a cameo as designated eater, becoming the first-ever active player to act in this capacity. A truly historic moment.

IMG_2526Your Groundbreaking and Subversive Ballpark Joke of the Day: 

Up Next: 

August 10: Boise Hawks (vs. Hillsboro, 7:15 p.m.)

August 11: Tri-City Dust Devils (vs. Spokane, 7:15 p.m.)

August 12: Spokane Indians (vs. Eugene, 6:30 p.m.)

***

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

instagram.com/thebensbiz

Return to the Road: Stockton to Reno to Klamath Falls…

Early next week, come hell or high water (but preferably neither), I will reveal my 2014 road trip itineraries. In the meantime I will continue to dip into my seemingly inexhaustible reserve of 2013 road trip content.

Today’s “Return to the Road” segment, fourth in a series, picks up in “Magnificent” Stockton, CA.

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My time in Stockton, at the ballpark or otherwise, has been amply chronicled in previous posts and articles. But before heading on my way to Reno, Nev., I made a stop at Rasputin Music. This is the sort of one-size-fits-all music and movie superstore that weas once quite prevalent around the country, but now going extinct as our media consumption habits move from the physical to the virtual. (In my home of New York City, for example, the Virgin Megastore at Union Square is now a bank, and the iconic E. 4th street Tower Records now houses the MLB Fan Cave. The only establishment of this ilk still holding it down in the Big Apple is J&R Music World.)

I don’t know if Rasputin is still going strong, but it’s still going, and God bless ’em for it. Perhaps I’m somewhat motivated by nostalgia, but I can’t help spend a little money when I visit establishments such as this.

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My core musical tastes, circa 1989:

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My core musical tastes, circa 1999:

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Cassettes for a quarter:

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Buyer Beware:

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Finally, a gluten-free pop artist:

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All of this is to say: If you still find joy in the act of going to a record store, and find yourself in the Bay Area or Central Valley, then keep an eye out for Rasputin. It’s the kind of place where you can buy Guns N Roses “Spaghetti Incident” for $5 because, hey, why not, it may be a cover album but it’s still Guns N Roses!

(Or at least that was my line of reasoning).

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Soon after leaving Rasputin I spotted this establishment. I should have pulled over and taken a proper picture, but, regardless, old-fashioned bowling alley signage should always be celebrated. (I would have plenty of opportunity to do that the next day, as it turned out.)

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Finally, a brief stop at Stockton’s “Miracle Mile” shopping district.

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From “Magnificent” Stockton it was on to Reno, where I had the misfortune to witness one of the only rainouts in Aces team history. Or did I?

Regardless, I had some time to poke around Reno the next day before showing out for points northwest. The bus station was fairly easy to spot.

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But that wasn’t the only over-sized and out-of-place vehicle in the immediate vicinity. The annual Hot August Nights car show happened to be taking place during the weekend I visited Reno, and this was one of the more notable entities on display.

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Beyond Bigfoot:

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In the midst of all this automotive action, I happened to  notice a most welcome sight.

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Delicious, filling, and (often) gluten-free, Vietnamese is one of my all-time favorite cuisines.

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One of downtown Reno’s more notable (non-gambling related) attractions is the National Bowling Stadium/International Bowling Museum Hall of Fame.

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In case you’ve never ventured to the upper deck of a bowling stadium before…

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The Hall of Fame featured plaques for male bowlers, while women were celebrated via paintings honoring their “superior performance.”

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Also featured: archaic equipment and pop culture detritus.

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Speaking of pop culture detritus, I made one more stop in Reno before leaving town for good. Stop me if you’ve heard this before.

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Randy Newman signage on a building’s exterior is always a positive in my book.

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The interior of Recycled Records included vinyl, cds, and even eight tracks.

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My next, and last, stop on this road trip was Hillsboro, Ore., home of the Hops. I didn’t have to be in Hillsboro until the following evening, however, so I made a plan to drive to Klamath Falls, Ore. so that I could then drive to (relatively) nearby Crater Lake in the morning before heading on to Hillsboro.

I hope that makes sense.

Upon getting out of Reno proper, the landscape changed considerably.

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I can’t tell you where I was, but a stop at this gas station yielded both a Big Hunk and a Pop Shoppe cane sugar root beer.

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Again, I chose Klamath Falls as my destination because of its close proximity to Crater Lake. I had no baseball plans for this particular evening, but while checking into the Days Inn, the clerk asked me what had brought me to this neck of the woods. I replied that I was a baseball writer, and planning to visit Crater Lake in the morning before before driving on to Hillsboro.

“That’s funny,” he replied. “I figured you’d be hear to see the Gems. I think they’re playing right now.”

What?!

Unbeknownst to me, Klamath Falls is home to the collegiate wood bat league Gems, who play at 65-year-old Kiger Stadium. And would you believe that Kiger Stadium was located a five-minute walk from the hotel in which I had elected to spend the night? And that the Gems were indeed playing at that very moment?

I had thought that Klamath Falls would be the one town on this trip in which I didn’t see a baseball game, but, as is so often the case, I thought wrong.

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The next — and last! — post in this series will detail my time in Klamath Falls and Crater Lake. That will really and truly conclude my 2013 road trip content, leading to the unveiling of my 2014 road trip itineraries.

In the meantime, please know that I am aware that the season is underway!

A new Promo Preview appeared today (Tuesday), and will run weekly through the remainder of the season.

— A special ‘Opening Weekend” edition of Crooked Numbers appeared yesterday (Monday), and will run monthly for the remainder of the season.

— And, what’s this? A bold new form of Ben’s Biz “On the Road” content? I’ll have more on this shortly…

There’s a lot going on.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Information Regarding the Online Insult Prowess of Aquatically-Inclined Felines

In yesterday’s post on the West Michigan Whitecaps, I speculated that their Facebook update in the aftermath of Friday’s stadium fire was the most liked and shared Facebook update in the history of Minor League Baseball. Continuing on this speculative line of social media-centric thought, it is also likely that the most popular tweet in the history of Minor League Baseball occurred just last month.

It all began on Tuesday, December 3, when the Sacramento River Cats sought to fill some offseason down time by engaging fans in an “ask us anything” discussion. This prompted their Pacific Coast League rivals the Reno Aces to posit a somewhat snarky question, and within a quarter hour the River Cats responded in devastating fashion:

Oooh, burn! And, as burns are wont to do, it soon spread like wildfire throughout the Twittersphere and then the internet in general. Retweet upon retweet soon inspired a number of regional and national blog posts, amusing innumerable individuals along the way. I expected the Aces, egos bruised, to retort in kind but instead they took a “you’ve won the battle, but not the war” stance and humbly retreated into the background.

The background is where this feud remained, until the River Cats decided to end 2013 by gloating anew.

This time, the Aces couldn’t stay silent.

And on and on it went, a tit for tat diss battle in which no clear winner emerged. Click HERE to read the whole back and forth, but please know that it ended with the Aces’ referencing the “worst bobblehead of all time.”

As mentioned, the above Twitter battle gained some notoriety not just within Minor League Baseball but within the sports universe at large. But the River Cats take on all comers, as evidenced by this far-less publicized battle that took place with the Fresno Grizzlies on December 19. This one was started by Parker, the Grizzlies mascot, in response to an innocuous question from a local radio station.

Oh, Parker, why did you do that? Did you really think you’d get away it? Cue debilitating River Cats comeback in 3…2…1…

Parker’s ensuing retort wasn’t much to speak of (Sorry Parker, just keepin’ it real), but the Grizzlies jumped in with a parting shot. The lesson here is: when beefing with the Sacramento River Cats on Twitter, and at a loss for words, simply mention “the worst bobblehead of all time.”

At the end of the day, Twitter wars are stupid. But aren’t most things? And Twitter wars are not only stupid, they’re entertaining as well. So I guess what I’m saying is this: if you’re a Minor League Baseball team, go ahead and tweet something insulting at one of your league rivals. I’ll be glad you did.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

On the Road: Two Sides to Every Story in Reno

My “On the Road” posts are perhaps best described as impressionistic fever dreams, in which I try to piece the fragmented memories of my ballpark evenings into something resembling an objective reality. In doing so I strive to reach a fertile middle ground in which a small “t” truth can blossom into infallibility, but sometimes the discrepancy between my account of an evening and that of the team in question becomes too great to ignore. This is certainly what has occurred when it comes to my recent visit with the Reno Aces, as I documented a rather lackluster night at the ballyard that ended prematurely due to a rainout.

When the Aces read this post, they were incredulous. “It goes without saying that Ben is the greatest baseball writer of all time, but not even the greats are unimpeachable,” went the presumed front office sentiment. “And, like Loutallica or Chinese Democracy, Ben’s post on this alleged “Reno Rainout” represents greatness at its most deeply flawed.”

The Aces, led by marketing director Brett McGinness, took it upon themselves to compose a thorough corrective to my Reno rainout missive, which I will now reprint in full. In doing so I am not admitting to any errors in my previous account; rather, I am simply acknowledging that truth is a malleable construction, perhaps nothing more than a coping mechanism designed to create some semblance of order within an existence that requires daily navigation through the chaos of infinite conflicting realities.

RENO’S RESPONSE

We’re not sure what your recent column was, about the rainout at Aces Ballpark. Here’s how we remember it (with photographic proof):

It was a perfect August evening at Aces Ballpark. 75 at first pitch, not a drop of rain for miles.

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The Aces and Redbirds took the field right on schedule, and you got the full Aceball experience. You seemed a bit road-weary.

The second-inning trike race against Archie went well. You pulled out to a huge lead, but seemed pretty blasé about the victory.

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Next up: Dancing Grounds Crew. Surely this would shake you out of your stupor.

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Nope.

Guest-starring as Roof-Man, perhaps?

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No dice.

Same deal when you were in the wiener dog race (although you came in third, so it’s understandable why you might have been bummed out).

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That was when we accidentally offered you a Triple Play Sandwich, chock-full of glutens. Cryptically, you told us, “Don’t offer me glutens. You wouldn’t like me on glutens.”

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You took one bite of that sandwich and went a little nuts.

You proposed to some woman on the field. We’re still not sure if you knew who it was, or if you had met her before, or what.

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We tried to tell you that “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” wasn’t a duet, but we couldn’t talk you down from the wall.

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We didn’t really know what to do, so we had to call the cops.

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Long story short, Nevada requires no residency for marriage certificates, so the marriage is binding. You should really head back here when you get a chance, your bride keeps stopping by the ballpark and asking about you, and we’re running out of excuses.

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I’ve got to admit, the above account does explain a lot. Namely, why a woman with a 775 area code who is listed in my phone as “Betrothed” keeps calling me. I keep telling this lady that she’s got the wrong number, and that I remain Minor League Baseball’s most desirable bachelor, but who knows? Perhaps it’s time to own up to my gluten-fueled indiscretions and settle down in Reno.

Or perhaps not. I’ll spend the remainder of the week pondering my options, and in the meantime stay tuned for dispatches from one more “On the Road” locale: Hillsboro, home of the Hops. Hopefully my account will jibe with the team’s, but who really does know?

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

On the Road: Rain Delays and Triple Plays in Reno

I’ve traveled quite a bit over the past four seasons, and in that time I’ve kept meteorological misfortune to a minimum. The only time whilst “On the Road” in which I experienced a rainout was in 2010, when a vicious Chattanooga thunderstorm put a halt to any and all Southern League activities that had been scheduled for that evening at AT&T Field (or, as I like to call it, “Orphan Initialism Field”)

When I arrived at Reno Aces Ballpark on a recent Thursday it was decidedly overcast, hardly the sort of day that sets hearts to fluttering.

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“But, still,” I thought to myself,” “This is Reno. I don’t think that there are ever rainouts here. It’s, like, near a desert or something.”

This was an exact thought-quote.

Upon entering the ballpark (which, as you may be able to infer from the above pictures, is located in downtown proper) I met with Aces marketing director Brett McGinness and we embarked on a tour of the facility. For some reason, the very first picture that I took is of a deserted (for the time being) cornhole bago area.

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“This started as a bocce court, but bocce didn’t fit the Reno aesthetic,” Brett told me. “Bago has been much more popular.”

Also representative of the Reno aesthetic are huge meat smokers in the shape of a train.

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Aces Ballpark is the centerpiece of Reno’s entertainment-centric “Freight District” and the city is a major trucking and transit hub in general, so the train motif makes sense. There are train tracks located directly beyond left field, for goodness sake.

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The scene is different in right field, as there one finds the Truckee River.

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To the right of right field, out in the distance, on the horizon, there are mountains.

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But as for the more immediate surroundings? Take a look:

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Refreshment options abounded, actually.

Outside there were food trucks, or, as nobody calls them: vehicular comestible purveyors.

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Upstairs, this was the scene at “Bugsy’s.

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“Bugsy’s” is so named because “Bugsy” is the nickname of Aces manager Brett Butler. Butler got that name during his playing days, when his snazzy sartorial sense inspired teammate Mike Krukow to remark that he dressed like mobster Bugsy Siegel, and the name stuck.

Keep in mind that I was walking around the ballpark with a guy named Brett [McGinness], who told me that “Growing up Brett Butler was my favorite player, because there were no other Bretts playing baseball. Now when I’m walking around the ballpark Brett [Butler] will see me and say ‘How’s it going, Brett’ and I’m like ‘Wow, dream come true!’ Brett Butler knows my name!”

Such interaction is par for the Brett Butler course, actually, as prior to the season he requests short bios of the Aces front office so that he can competently make small talk with them when the need arises. That’s just the kind of guy Brett Butler is!

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There are plenty of food and drink options at Aces Ballpark — especially if you DON’T want to watch the game. There’s an entire attached entertainment district that is collectively referred to as “The Freight House.”

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Bago can be found up here as well,  beneath the upper torso of a glowering neon baseball player.

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It is rumored, but not confirmed, that this player was modeled after veteran infielder Cody Ransom.

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Meanwhile, game time was almost upon us. In the following Vine, the PA announcer’s exhortation to “Play Ball” occurs about half a second after a jagged bolt of lighting cuts across the sky. Baseball and lightning are, generally speaking, incompatible.

But the game had begun and there was nothing to do but keep on keeping on, despite the less-than-ideal conditions. The evening’s originally scheduled “designated eater” (you know, the individual who consumes the ballpark delicacies that my gluten-free diet prohibits) was a local DJ/Aces superfan/Reno man-about-town named Chris Payne.

Payne was recently voted Reno’s “best public figure to fantasize about,” so have at it:

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Unfortunately, Payne’s own recent set of dietary restrictions — he had given up red meat– rendered him unable to adequately perform designated eating duties.  All I could do was admire his tattoos and footwear and move on.

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“I take what I do as a fan to the next level,” said Chris. “I’m always thinking eight steps ahead of everyone else.”

Desperate times call for desperate measures, so Into the designated eating void stepped Brett McGinness himself. And first up for Brett was the $15 Triple Play sandwich, which consists of 18-hour smoked brisket and pork shoulder, BBQ-glazed meatballs, cole slaw, three pieces of Texas toast, pickles, and peperoncinis. After you order it, you are given the following sign so that an Aces food service worker can come out and hand deliver it.

(In the below photo, senior sous chef Brad Radack is holding the sign. We’ll meet Brad in just a bit.)

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What a beauty this thing is!

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Have at it, Brett!

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As Brett methodically consumed the above item with grace and aplomb, the situation on the field went from bad to worse.

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Say what you will about radar, it is incapable of untruths. And, sure enough, about 10 minutes after the first pitch, the skies opened up. It was a veritable deluge, and Brett abandoned the Triple Play sandwich in favor of tarp duty.

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The concourse, in which elbow room had once been so plentiful, quickly became a mob scene.

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Two brave — or would that be insane? — souls stuck it out in the stands.

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The Aces’ tarp work was exemplary, and after the situation was under control Brett returned. (His sandwich, however, did not. I have no idea where that thing went.)

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The Aces had prepared a rather ambitious schedule for me, involving many aspects of the game day experience, but the rains rendered this schedule moot. (At the time the rain hit I was preparing to take part in a trike race, because, as Brett said, “We figured we’d put you on a metal object in a thunderstorm.”)

Okay, fine. Plan B: watched Brett eat more food. What a life. This time we headed up to Duffy’s, a member in good standing of the Freight House conglomerate:

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Brett, still soaking wet, soon had before him Duffy’s version of a reuben: corned beef, french fries and dressing on rye, cooked in a woodstone pizza oven.

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Chef Radack reported that this is a new item, and it has been popular as a late night selection (Duffy’s opens 90 minutes before the game and then stays open until midnight or so). Brett, he enjoyed it.

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It’s not on the menu, unfortunately, but Chef Radack and his crew were kind enough to prepare me some gluten-free pizza. On the left is pepperoni, on the right is the veggie-centric “Farmer’s Market” (onions, zucchini, peppers, pomodoro sauce).

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Radack and crew, awaiting my reaction:

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Thumbs-up, guys! (Seriously, please don’t kill me.)

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It really was good — I’m not sure what type of flour was used, but it resulted in a crisp thin crust and that’s all I ever ask for. (Well, that and fresh ingredients. And impeccable presentation. And affordability. And a complete and total obsequiousness to my every passing whim.)

Meanwhile, outdoors, the rains had subsided. That was the good news. The bad news was that so much rain had fallen in so little time that the field remained sodden and certainly would remain sodden for some time.

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Well, okay, then. In order to pass the time I resumed my new favorite activity: watching Brett McGinness eat. Here’s a Caesar wrap on a spinach tortilla, Brett. Do with it what you will.

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“I’m like the Homer Simpson of food critics,” said Brett, commenting on his perhaps-less-than-discerning taste. “This is awesome, too. I love it!”

Well, then, you may as well keep right on eating. Here’s a Frito Pie Dog, in which a 10-inch hot dog is topped with chili, cheese, and Fritos.

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Previous Homer Simpson-esque proclamations notwithstanding, Brett was starting to get a little burned out.

“This, it tasted like a Frito Pie Dog,” he said. “Whatever you imagine it tastes like, that’s what it tastes like.”

This would prove to be Brett’s first and final tautological culinary observation of the evening, as word soon came over the PA that there would no more Pacific Coast League baseball on this rain-besmirched Reno evening.

My sentiments exactly, videoboard. My sentiments exactly.

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2013 marks the Aces’ fifth season, and this was just their third-ever rainout. What a disappointment for such an anomaly to occur on the lone night that I was in Reno, as there is so much of the Aces experience left to be seen!

Perhaps, through a combination of technological chicanery and good old fashioned elbow grease, I’ll be able to find a way to show you some of these things. Who really does know?

Stay tuned…

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

2013 Promotions: 10 Alliterative Bobblehead Giveaways

There are few, if any, things that I like more in this world than the sound repetition device that is alliteration. Examples of it abound here on (ahem) Ben’s Biz Blog, perhaps my favorite being a post titled “Charlie Crist Cancellation Causes Costumed Crustacean Candidacy.” I should have retired immediately after writing that.

But, no, here I remain. My personal predilection for alliteration has led me to peruse 2013 promo schedules for examples of it in bobblehead form, because what better way could an able-bodied 34-year-old man possibly make use of his time?

1. Bowie Baysox — Jim Johnson, July 22

The Bowie Baysox have the honor of leading this post, for they are the only alliteratively-named team giving away an alliterative bobblehead. Their honoree is Bowie-turned-Baltimore pitcher Jim Johnson, who was born in June in the town of Johnson City.

And would you believe in that in addition to the Jim Johnson bobblehead, July 22nd is also “Mutt Monday” at the ballpark? And that the Baysox are playing the Akron Aeros? It’s almost too much too take.

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The Gwinnett Braves also get a very special mention in this post, as they are the only team with TWO alliterative bobbleheads on the promo calendar.

2. Gwinnett Braves — Brandon Beachy (April 6) and Freddie Freeman (May 18)

Yes, a Brandon Beachy Braves Bobblehead! It boggles the brain!

And now the rest!

3. Richmond Flying Squirrels — Brandons Bobblehead (Belt and Crawford), April 5

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This bobblehead is doubly alliterative in that not only is it a Brandon Bobblehead, but one of the Brandons is Brandon Belt. A Brandon Beachy Braves Bobblehead followed by Brandon Belt, right here on Ben’s Biz Blog. My life’s work is nearly complete.

4. Rome Braves — Henry the Hot Dog, April 20

Will Henry come covered in condiments?

5. Frederick Keys — Manny Machado, May 11

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This May a multitude of Manny fans, many men and maybe many more women, will flock to Frederick in order celebrate Monsieur Machado’s manifold splendor.

6. Reno Aces — Brett Butler, May 25

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A bounteous booty of Brett Butler bobbleheads bestowed upon Reno’s resplendent residents as a means of creative championship commemoration.

7. Sacramento RiverCats —  Chris Carter, June 23

Chris Carter, a Californian, consecrated by the ‘Cats. Cool.

8. Harrisburg Senators —  Stephen Strasburg, July 15

It’s Military Monday and the bobblehead is mini. Stephen Strasburg’s scintillating skill set stays sky-high.

9. Clinton LumberKings — Mitch Moreland, August 3

Mitch Moreland matriculated at Mississippi.

10. Memphis Rebirds — BBQ Bobblehead, August 16

Memphis is mum regarding the scintillating specifics of this “BBQ Bobblehead,” but what we do know is that it is taking place during a “Fred’s Family Friday” promotion.

My work here is done.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

On Innovations and Litigation

I don’t particularly feel like writing about hamburgers today and, hopefully, you’re not in the mood to read about them. Instead, let’s turn our collective attention to an unprecedented-in-MiLB social media innovation. The Reno Aces, otherwise known as the biggest little team in the PCL, have launched “The Club.”

Just for you, only the choicest of press release excerpts:

The Reno Aces Baseball Club today will launch The Club, a new program that rewards fans for game attendance and social media posts about the ballclub….

Participating fans will be able to earn points for checking in at the ballpark on Foursquare, liking the Aces’ posts on Facebook, and re-tweeting the Aces or using special hashtags on Twitter. Fans will also earn points for posting photos from Aces Ballpark to the photo-sharing site CrowdCameo…..

At the end of each homestand, one lucky fan will win a game-worn Aces jersey. At the All-Star Break, one fan will win tickets to the 2013 Triple-A All-Star Game and the 2013 Triple-A Home Run Derby, to be held in Reno next summer. At the end of the season, one lucky fan will win four Infield Reserved season tickets for the 2013 season, including tickets to the All-Star festivities. Fans will also have the chance to win seat upgrades, player-autographed items and other prizes throughout the season.

Archie is totally on board with all of this (photo: David Calvert/Reno Aces)

Points can be accumulated in a number of ways, and at varying levels (10 points for inviting friends to play, 100 for tweeting with a Reno Aces hashtag, 250 for checking in at a game on FourSquare, and so forth and so on). Read the FAQs HERE.

And congrats to current leader Dwayne Jones, who as of this writing has accumulated 38,490 points. That’s a lot of Minor League Baseball-related social media engagement! I can relate.

In other news of an anomalous variety, a press release landed in my inbox last week announcing the following: “Zooperstars! Successfully Defends Its Intellectual Property Rights”

Chances are that if you’re reading this blog then you’re familiar with the Zooperstars! (exclamation mark theirs, not mine). They are a traveling crew of pun-happy inflatable characters, who over the years have become one of the best known touring acts in the Minors. Here’s a shot of Harry Canary, taken last season while I was visiting the Tucson Padres.

Here’s what went down:

ZOOperstars! Inc. today announced that it has successfully defended its intellectual property rights against Inflatamaniacs LLC, a company which was created by a former ZOOperstars! employee. ZOOperstars! is an entertainment company that performs comedic choreographed routines at sporting and other special events around the world.

In April 2011, ZOOperstars! filed a lawsuit against Inflatamaniacs in federal court in Louisville, Kentucky, alleging that Inflatamaniacs created a knock-off act to unfairly compete with ZOOperstars!, infringed on ZOOperstars!’ intellectual property, and used both its website and You Tube to deliberately attempt to confuse and mislead customers and fans about the company’s relationship to ZOOperstars!.  In the agreement finalized last month, Inflatamaniacs agreed to make monetary payment to ZOOperstars! and agreed to stop using ZOOperstars!’ trademarks on its website, on You Tube, and during its public performances.  In addition, Inflatamaniacs agreed to stop performing several of ZOOperstars!’ signature routines which ZOOperstars! alleged were nearly exact replicas of its routines.  In exchange, ZOOperstars! agreed to dismiss its lawsuit, though it fully intended to pursue the lawsuit to final judgment.

Interesting stuff. I was thinking of tracking down one of the Zooperstars! for an exclusive interview, but then thought better of it.

There but for the grace of God go I.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz