The quest to determine the top Minor League promotion certainly was an arduous process. A series of blog posts led to a field of 32 semi-finalists which, in turn, led to the selection of four finalists.
And of those four finalists, the one that received the most votes was…
The Rickwood Classic!
Looking back on it, it appears that my coverage of the event turned out pretty well. It is very rare that I ever feel this way about my own writing, but why fight it? Riding this wave of self-confidence, I’ll re-attempt a joke that totally bombed when I tweeted it this morning.
Chili in Minors is today’s number one news story! Click HERE for exclusive info.
Why doesn’t anyone else think this is funny? I’m drowning in virtual flop sweat. And when that’s the case, time to resort to the tried and true: New Logos.
The Delmarva Shorebirds will be hosting the 2011 South Atlantic League All-Star Game, and today they revealed the logo.
This bird, his bearing upright and exclamations stentorian, was designed by Plan B Branding (who, by the way, maintain an excellent blog). As the logo implies, the game is sponsored by Perdue’s “Strike Out Hunger” campaign. More info can be found HERE.
Finally, in honor of Wednesday the 13th, a scary video courtesy of the Bowie Baysox.
The above video was rated “horror.”
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:
While I wait for my endorsement check from Microtel to arrive, I figured I may as well update this blog with the goings-on of what has been an unfathomably long day. What I’d like to do is regale you with anecdotes regarding my inability to comprehend the dashboard of my Mercedes Benz rental car (which I got at an economy price!), but that’s probably not why you’ve typed this particular URL into your browser of choice.
I’ll be attending the Rickwood Classic on Wednesday, an annual contest held in the oldest professional baseball stadium in America. So upon arriving in Birmingham early Tuesday afternoon, I drove over to the stadium for a self-guided tour (these are available to everyone during standard business hours, and something I highly recommend doing if you’re ever in Birmingham).
An article on my self-guided adventure tour can be located HERE. Consider this to be supplemental visual content.
Spanish Mission-style Ballpark Exterior:
The “Breezeway”, featuring pictures of Rickwood heroes as well as the faded starting line-up from the 2009 Classic:
Wear and Tear:
Tellin’ It Like It Is:
Rooftop Gazebo Press Box:
Right Field Grandstand (a later addition to the stadium, modeled after Forbes Field in Pittsburgh):
Scoreboard (from before the days of “ARI”, “FLA”, “TB”, and other such affronts to the natural order of things):
After touring Rickwood, I made the ill-fated decision to “guess” my way to the Microtel. Many wrong turns later, I arrived there in the midst of a violent downpour. This mini-monsoon subsided quickly, however, and therefore did not effect the day’s next chapter: Regions Park, current home of the Barons.
While 23-year-old Regions Park is no spring chicken, it sure felt like one compared to Rickwood. Although it boasts a Birmingham mailing address, the stadium is more accurately located in the nearby suburb of Hoover (a far different environment than Rickwood’s economically depressed surroundings).
The first impression I had of Regions was that it was spacious — although lacking an open concourse, there is a wide passageway that wraps around the stadium. This provides easy access to a wide range of vantage points.
And the press box is very impressive, a multi-level palace that has been the beneficiary of extensive renovations (as a result of Regions hosting the SEC college tournament). A full spread of food was provided as well, making me regret my desultory meal at a suburban “road house” that featured buckets of peanuts on every table.
Let’s go to the pictures, for the second and last time this evening.
View from the press box:
Inside the press box (palatial, by Double-A standards):
Seriously, the press box is huge:
Left Field Bleachers:
Plenty of Room to Move:
And, Finally, A Concessions Menu:
Can I get a round of applause for Cajun Roasted Peanuts?
At any rate, I was so preoccupied with various Rickwood-related conversations and copious picture-taking that I barely noticed the strong outing of Smokies’ pitcher Austin Bibens-Dirkx. Fortunately, my MiLB.com colleagues were there to pick up the slack.
Signing off from the Microtel,