Tagged: Ryan Howard

Reading’s Gnome-Field Advantage

One of the 2010’s most memorable Minor League giveaway items was the Reading Phillies’ Ryan Howard Garden Gnome.

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This bearded base-stander garnered a lot of attention, not all of it positive, but it was a bona fide hit with the fanbase. And when something’s a hit, a sequel usually results.

“Ryan Howard Garden Gnome — Version #2,” will be given away as part of the R-Phils’ big Opening Night ceremonies on April 14. Here’s a glimpse:


The Howard gnome’s searching, soulful gaze will have a lot to take in on April 14, which will be the first game at Reading’s FirstEnergy Stadium after a a $10 million renovation project. But will anything going on that evening be able to top the gnome itself?

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The most spectacular gnome-related piece of news is this, from the press release: All fans that enter on Opening Night
will receive a free entry form, and one lucky fan will take home this one-of-a kind Life-Size Ryan Howard Garden Gnome estimated to be 550 pounds!

Pictures of this quarter-ton woodlands slugger are not yet available, but I promise that Ben’s Biz Blog will have them as soon as they are available. My livelihood depends on being able to make such promises.

It’s mightily hard to follow news of a 550-pound gnome giveaway, but something’s got to. Staying within the confines of the Keystone State, the Altoona Curve have finally bequeathed a name upon their new engineer mascot:

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This chiseled tracksman will henceforth be known as “Tenacious Casey” (aka Tenacious C), making him the first mascot with a name influenced by a comedic rock and roll duo. The Curve do not acknowledge Jack Black specifically, however. Sez the team:

The name pairs the adjective, tenacious, used to describe someone who ispersistent in maintaining, adhering to or seeking something valued or desired, with Casey. Casey pays homage to Casey Jones, who was legendarily one of the most tenacious engineers in American railroad history.

Either way, it seems that a “Family Guy” cameo is in Mr. C’s future:

Overalls, it’s a pretty good look.


Snowman Decimation Immortalized (and Other Seasonal Happenings)

If there’s one thing that we can all agree on, it’s that a lot of snow has fallen from the sky this week. For Minor League teams, it can be tough to capitalize on a weather phenomenon so antithetical to ideal baseball conditions. But that doesn’t mean they’re not going to try!

The Wisconsin Timber Rattlers are certainly capitalizing, as now is a most apropos time to unveil a snow-themed Opening Day bobblehead. 

It’s Scooter Vs. The Snowman!


This truly unique item was inspired by the Rattlers’ Opening Day snowout this past season. With no game to play, the players took to the snow-covered field in order to let off some steam. And during this unsupervised free time, Scooter Gennett unleashed a brutal attack upon a hapless snowman.

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And now, that moment has been immortalized for all time! The “Scooter Vs. The Snowman” bobblehead will be given away to all fans attending Opening Day at Fox Cities Stadium on April 7. Hopefully it will inspire a “player vs. inanimate object” bobblehead subgenre.

Gennett’s snowman attack took place more than nine months ago, but fans of the now will be gratified to know that there are plenty of more recent snow-covered ballpark photos floating around the internet. My colleague Danny Wild has done the world a tremendous service by compiling many of them in an MiLB.com photo album, but it’s the ones from Spokane that really stand out.

Avista Stadium will be hosting an outdoor junior hockey league game this weekend, resulting in a fairly stunning ballpark transformation. 



A far more informal winter sport conversion can be found at Joseph L. Bruno Stadium, as Tri-City ValleyCats assistant general manager Matt Callahan recently took to the outfield slopes. Do not try this at home (assuming your home is a Minor League Baseball stadium).  

And then there’s snow-covered FirstEnergy Stadium in Reading, a 60-year-old facility in the midst of an extensive $10 million renovation project.


The snow has temporarily slowed down the pace of the project, giving stadium denizen Ryan Howard Garden Gnome a rare opportunity for wintertime solace and reflection.


It’s like the old saying goes: There’s snow place like gnome!


Superstar Sluggers and the Scantily Clad in Jersey

The baseball season is a grind, even if you’re just writing about it. Here’s some more grist for the mill, so that things don’t come to a grinding halt.

Let’s start with the Lakewood BlueClaws, whose quest to retire Ryan Howard’s number has had more twists and turns than a Chubby Checker concert on Lombard Street.


The team had planned to retire the number of this prominent 2002 alumnus on September
2nd, with Howard himself in attendance. A Phillies make-up game was
added to the schedule on this date, however, rendering the guest of honor unavailable.

Thumbnail image for Lakewood_BusterBlur.JPGBut Howard went on the disabled list with a sprained ankle earlier this month, and he’ll be playing in
Lakewood TONIGHT as part of his rehab assignment. So the number
retirement ceremony is now back on
, honoring a player who will in fact be in the
starting line-up.

And consider this:

Howard previously rehabbed with Lakewood in 2007, knocking in four runs over two games. This gave him 91 RBIs as a BlueClaw, tying him for the all-time franchise record. He’ll have a chance to break the tie on Friday, leading to the following question: Has any player in the history of the game ever broken a prominent franchise record while on a rehab assignment with a team that is also retiring his number?

My guess would be “no.”

And since we’re on the topic of New Jersey Minor League Baseball, I’d like to bring your attention to the extravaganza that occurred in Trenton on Tuesday.

The Thunder staged “Football Kickoff Night”, featuring Philadelphia Eagles cheerleaders and team mascot Swoop. 


A jewelry-wearing eight-year-old autographing a baseball for a triumvirate of cheerleaders would have made a great Norman Rockwell painting.

Also on the agenda was the Thunder’s second annual “Rock, Paper, Scissors” tournament, won by Mr. Rob Prakriya of Pennington, NJ and presided over by a sneering referee:



Finally, last week’s post on Omaha’s Star Wars Night generated a tremendous amount of traffic to this woebegone corner of the blogosphere. I am nothing if not a pandering sycophant, so please enjoy two more “Star Wars Night” photos. These emanate from Lowell, home of the Spinners:

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That’s going to do it for me this week. I’ll be back in all my angst-ridden glory on Monday, ready to return to that which has swallowed me whole.


Tilling the Fertile Soil

“So many blog topics, so little time” is shaping up to be a pretty good tombstone epitaph for yours truly. But as long as I’m residing in the land of the living, Sisyphean struggles to mitigate the content glut will continue unabated. So here ya go: a random array of Minor League pictures and videos.

Let’s start with the scene in Reading this past Tuesday. Despite a bit of controversy, the R-Phils’ fan base proffered a heartily enthusiastic response to the evening’s “Ryan Howard Garden Gnome” giveaway.


The line outside of FirstEnergy Stadium, before the gates opened.


The gnomes, awaiting distribution:


What’s Up With Hat?


Moving on from beards to the mustache, the Everett Aquasox pitching staff recently dedicated themselves to the fervent cultivation of upper lip hair. The results, in extreme close-up:

Another recent event of note in the Pacific Northwest was the pitcher’s mound wedding of hurler Corey Davisson. Read all about it HERE. (warning:adorable photos contained therein).

Less adorable, but more hilarious, are Class A baseball players dancing with surprising sincerity to the Clinton era’s pre-eminent boy band. This masterpiece was the highlight of the Peoria Chiefs’ recent “90s Night” promotion:

While this was the lowlight:

A pop culture celebration of more recent vintage recently occurred in Lexington, as the Legends staged a “Jersey Shore Night” promotion. The beat got beat up:

But after the beat-up comes the beatdown. “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan visited Hickory recently, where he did all he could to make sure that Conrad didn’t win the mascot race. A truly brilliant snapshot, this is:


But even Hacksaw wouldn’t be able to stop the menagerie of characters that grace the cover of the Toledo Mud Hens upcoming comic book giveaway (scheduled for August 12). This is, truly, a work of art:

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Of special interest in the above image is the presence of Jamie Farrmadillo, Kitty Holmes, and Jim Flealand. There is no finer racing triumvirate in all of Minor League Baseball.

Or is there?


Reading About Ryan in Reading

devilution.pngIn order to cope with the seemingly endless void that is 21st-century American life “the offseason”, MiLB.com has launched a new recurring feature entitled “Evolution”. The premise is simple, as each article takes a look at the Minor League career of a current Major League star. The first article in the series focuses on Ryan Howard, and was written by Yours Truly (a pen name that I sometimes use in place of the stultifyingly commonplace “Benjamin Hill”).

The article provides readers with information that they may find shocking — namely, that before Ryan Howard was a really good Major League player, he was a really good Minor League player. In order to bolster this sensational and deeply contrarian argument, I included a quote from Reading Phillies’ media relations guru Rob Hackash, who dealt with Howard throughout his breakout 2004 campaign

That quote was pulled from a long and informative email that Hackash sent me, one that I think should be re-published in its entirety due to the fact that it provides a lot of insight into the kind of guy Howard is. So, here goes:





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While [Howard] was here, watching him on the field was something
to see but watching him


behind the scenes was just as impressive. Reading is 60 miles from Philadelphia. For a lot of players it’s
the stop along the way where the attention from media and fans really cranks
up.  I’m not saying that they don’t get any at the lower levels, but it becomes
greater here. Greater in the number of people that care and how much they
care because of our proximity to Philly, and the fact that once guys show they
can play at AA people start to think that they have a chance. Ryan handled a
ton of such attention exceptionally well – plus attention from chasing Reading
and Philadelphia legend Greg Luzinski’s home run record to all the “Jim Thome’s
blocking you” talk. 


I remember asking Ryan towards the end of a particularly busy media
week how he was holding up.  He smiled and said “Great”. 


Great? “Come on” I was skeptically thinking. 


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He was at a point where I thought answering the same questions
every day should have been getting to him and I was planning on building in a
break into his schedule. It wasn’t getting to him, though, and he was being
very sincere. He was going with the flow, taking it all in stride,
focusing on the right things at the right time, managing his time perfectly, and
enjoying his role. He was living it. 


You’ve got to remember, when you’re an up-and-coming prospect, most
of your interviews are features and the process can get redundant. Once
you’re established in the Majors, features are still done but a lot of your
media sessions are game stuff. Not so much here. Media focuses on
telling your story – what you do and what you could do down the road as you
develop, background stuff, etc.  Do you think Kyle Drabek was asked about
his dad everyday this year? Yes. Do you think he’ll still be asked
everyday five years from now? No. 


After Ryan said “great” that day, he followed it up with something
along the lines of, I don’t recall word-for-word, but that if he wasn’t doing what
he was doing, he’d be doing what I was doing. He told me he was a
communications (or some related) major in college and used to do interviews
with his teammates all the time. At that point I realized he understood the
24/7 nature of being a modern athlete. I’m not at all surprised today to
see him be such a fan favorite or a successful national pitch man on top of his
MVP caliber play. He has maximized every opportunity he’s had and you can’t do
that by only being a great baseball player. You have to be great,

If you are a Minor League media relations guru with tales to tell regarding your dealings with future MLB superstars, then by all means get in touch. Perhaps your correspondence will serve as the impetus for a future MiLB.com column by the one and only “Yours Truly.”