Tagged: San Jose Giants 2016

On the Road: Turkey Mike’s in San Jose

To see all posts from my August 4 visit to the San Jose Giants, 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).

Never before in the history of this blog have I split a designated eater post into two parts…UNTIL NOW! The San Jose Giants have brought me to this historic moment, simply by offering too much food to coherently document in one post. After previously highlighting the offerings found along Gigante’s Alley, we now move on to the main event: Turkey Mike’s barbecue.

Turkey Mike’s, located on the third base side of the ballpark, has long been a staple of the San Jose Giants experience. The lines are generally long, as one can see from the zig-zagging rows of chain-linked stanchions that guide patrons to their barbecue hopes and dreams.

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Turkey Mike’s is named after turn-of-the-20th century outfielder “Turkey” Mike Donlin, who logged time in San Jose during a long and generally illustrious baseball career. He was named “Turkey Mike” because of what Wikipedia refers to as his “unique strut” (not because he was an actual turkey).

Turkey Mike’s has a sprawling menu, which fans have plenty of time to contemplate as they pass stanchion after stanchion after stanchion.

img_0196Turkey Mike’s is overseen by food and beverage coordinator Ramiro Mijares.
img_0197After taking that picture of Ramiro, I said “Ramiro, can I take another one? You weren’t looking at the camera.” Ramiro obliged, but then once again didn’t look at the camera (though one of his employees picked up the slack).
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I think Ramiro was messing with me. But Ramiro wasn’t there to make friends. He had a barbecue plate to assemble:

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First row: Chicken Apple Sausage, Ribs, Chicken

Second row: Tri-Tip, Big Filthy, The Heater

(The Kansas City-style barbecue sauce is made for the team by San Jose’s Oso Pepper Company.)

Two of the above six items need a bit of explanation. In addition to being Donald Trump’s Secret Service code name, the “Big Filthy” is a double cheeseburger topped with pulled pork. The “Heater” is a hot sausage link topped with pulled pork and jalapenos.

In lieu of close-up photos of the above items, please view this Vine. The man at the end of it is John Lambert, who was the evening’s designated eater.

Mike, his wife, Kristen and their friends Julia and Mike quickly dug into this barbecue feast. I was not able to document their thoughts and reactions to the extent I did in the previous post, as I kept having to leave the scene to observe (or compete in) between-inning contests.

Mike and Kristen certainly seemed to be enjoying themselves, however.

img_0200“The chicken sausage was delicious, but the ribs weren’t very good,” said John. “The chicken was great, because it had a good rub to it.”

“My favorite was the Heater,” added Kristen. “It as phenomenal, but not burn-your-mouth spicy.”

Those in the know know that no visit to the San Jose Giants is complete without a visit from Paul “Super Churros Man” Cerda. He’s a ballpark icon, to the extent that the Giants sell “I’m Just Here for the Churros” t-shirts in the team store (Kristen wore one to the game, in fact). For more on Paul, check out my MiLB.com story HERE.

churrosPaul, Mike and Kristen are the stars of this not-at-all awkward Vine video.

When you’re in love, this is the only way to eat a churro.

img_0204Oh, and we also got some ice cream in a helmet. This is Willow Glen Creamery’s famous “Dole Whip.” 

img_0206And…that’s it. I’m done. Between this and my previous San Jose Giants posts and articles, I’ve written over 4000 words about my night at Municipal Stadium. This is insane.

John, please accept this “Designated Eater” t-shirt as a token of appreciation for your food consumption efforts.

img_2366And thanks, everyone. It was my pleasure.

***

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

instagram.com/thebensbiz

On the Road: A Trip Down Gigante’s Alley in San Jose

To see all posts from my August 4 visit to the San Jose Giants, 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).

If there’s one thing you might know about me, it’s that I have a designated eater at nearly every ballpark I visit. That individual is tasked with consuming the ballpark cuisine that my gluten-free diet prohibits. At San Jose’s Municipal Stadium, home of the California League Giants, that individual was John Lambert.

img_0183John, a resident of San Francisco’s Noe Valley neighborhood, grew up in Los Angeles. He went to college at Santa Barbara University, where he met his wife, Kristen. She finished school there, but John left before graduating and joined the Navy. He served in Iraq and southeast Asia as a Hospital Corpsman, spending time with the Marines because, as he explained, “Marines don’t have medical personnel so you get attached to their units.”

Upon leaving the military, John enrolled at USC business school and is planning on finishing next year. He now works for Kaiser Permanente, and hopes to remain in the healthcare field after finishing school.

On this evening, John wasn’t just a designated eater. He was a credentialed designated eater. The Giants do things the right way.

img_0207He also would not be eating alone. John was accompanied by Kristen as well as their friends Julia and Matt Messinger, who happened to be visiting from out of town to attend the Outside Lands music festival.

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Clockwise, from top: John, Kristen, Julia, Matt

The designated eating crew was certainly rolling deep on this evening. In addition to the above foursome, my friend Jon was along for the ride and taking pictures all the while.

dsc00034Meanwhile, the six of us were accompanied by Giants CMO Juliana Paoli, marketing coordinator Sarah “Queen I’m A Balla” Acosta and food and beverage supervisor Tara Tallman. Phew! Let’s begin at the beginning. Where we began was the row of food carts stationed along “Gigante’s Alley.”

img_0144First up was the “Frickle” — a grilled cheese with fried pickles, served on garlic-buttered bread. It’s available at the Lagunitas stand. Tara, who would know about such things, said it’s been a “huge hit” at the ballpark.

img_0182Have at it, John.

“It’s buttery, crispy and not too salty,” said John. “I’d get it again.”

So would Kristen and Julia.

img_0184The Giants sell Hard Frescos at the ballpark, at a new Gigantes Alley cart. Hard Frescos are 5% ABV Mexican fruit ciders, using all-natural ingredients. They are gluten-free, so I indulged.

dsc09981 I spoke briefly with Hard Frescos co-founder Peter Sterns, who explained that the product was inspired by the aguas frescas (fruit-flavored water) he’d often enjoyed on trips to Mexico. They use real fruit and cane sugar, and aim for an authentic taste. (“It’s not a Senor Frogs, Cancun, Bud Light kind of thing,” he said). There are four flavors — Citrico, Cola Buena, Juicy Jamaica and Tangy Tamarindo — and while I can’t remember which one I had I do remember enjoying it. So there you go.

Here’s Peter, flanked by his wife and in-laws.

img_0189As you can see in the above picture, the Hard Frescos cart also sells Noodle Bowls.

img_0185John got some help from Julia on this one.

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“They have a good texture, and I like that you can hold it and eat it during the game,” said John. “If it falls, it goes right back inside.”

(Unless, you know, someone is feeding it to you from three feet away.)

We then moved on to a Barbecue Chicken Pizza, courtesy of Willow Street Pizza.

img_0190“This is good. The barbecue is definitely the most pronounced taste,” said John. “Chicken’s good. Cilantro’s good. And there’s a good, crispy crust. I’m a big fan of flat crusts.”

img_2337And, hey, look! We had French fries! Garlic fries, even. I don’t know where these fries came from (my notes are distressingly silent on the matter), but that they existed is indisputable.

img_2338And then there were tacos, from the Coors Light Taco Truck. On the left we have pollo asado, on the right is beef barbacoa.

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These were gluten-free, as tacos often are (and always should be). So John and I enjoyed our tacos in tandem.

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I’ve had plenty of experience through the years when it comes to posing with food. Note that the item should always be held so that it is visible to the camera. I’m not faulting John for not doing so. These things take years of practice.

“Good!” said John, regarding his taco. My notes tell me that these were “solid street style tacos, gone in two bites.”

I’m not sure what inspired this particular reaction on my part.

img_2348Believe it or not, the items documented above only constituted the appetizer portion of the evening. The main event was still to come. In what will be a designated eating first, I’m going to split this into two posts. Let’s just take a step back, digest, and reconvene in a couple of hours.

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***

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

instagram.com/thebensbiz

On the Road: A Smashing Evening in San Jose

To see all posts from my August 4 visit to the San Jose Giants, 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 4 (part two) — San Jose’s Municipal Stadium has hosted a lot of ballgames throughout its 74-year history. I’ve only attended one of them. It was a beautiful evening in August 2016, the Giants were hosting the Stockton Ports, and the game time temperature was 69 degrees.

dsc00060Per usual, I kept me eye out for interesting characters. There had to be some around here somewhere.

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Okay, found one. Gigante spent the early innings mingling with his friends and admirers, who, truth be told, didn’t seem all that excited by his presence.

img_0180Also in attendance was California League president Charlie Blaney, whom I had never crossed paths with before. Charlie was decked out in a California League blazer and a tie featuring the San Jose Giants color scheme (he said that he has a tie for each team in the league). I hereby declare that Charlie Blaney is the best-dressed league president in all of Minor League Baseball. If you’re a league president and disagree with me, then get in touch and make your case. Send photos.
img_2333It wasn’t intentional, but it’s pretty cool that the logos of all the California League teams are visible just above Charlie’s head. He said that, as president, his job was to “keep the small problems small.”

I met with my designated eater shortly after the ballgame started, and these culinary endeavors took place throughout a large chunk of the ballgame. That, of course, will be documented in the next post. As that was going on, and after it ended, I did my best to document and make note of between-inning endeavors.

Among the most ridiculous such endeavor was the nightly “Horse Race,” which was difficult to document properly. In a nutshell, horses (and at least one zebra) pop their heads out from behind the outfield wall and race from left field toward center. In the below photo, the horses can be seen just above the sign reading “Go Horseback Riding.”

How appropriate.

dsc00064An easier concept to convey is the nightly “Beer Batter,” a tradition that is ingrained in Municipal Stadium. The evening’s Beer Batter was the Ports’ Richie Martin, who tripled in the second and popped out in the fourth before coming up to bat in the sixth. Despite the fans’ persistent chant of “BEER! BEER! BEER!” he drew a walk. No free beer would be forthcoming. Thanks for nothing, Richie.

(Someone could build a hip-hop beat over the audio in this Vine.)

The Giants’ “Smash for Cash” promo is one of the coolest I’ve seen, anywhere. A repurposed bread delivery truck is driven out onto the field and parked just beyond first base.

dsc00083Giants players then attempt to smash one of the headlights by throwing a baseball at it. If successful, a cash prize is split with a fan. Usually three players take part (receiving two throws apiece), but on this evening it was two players…and me.

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In the below video, my introduction to the crowd occurs amid a wave of intense booing. I wish I could say that that’s just the sort of reaction I elicit in people, but what happened was that the player who went before me hit one of the headlights. The headlight didn’t shatter, however, it just popped out of its hole like an eye out of a socket. The judges ruled that this didn’t count. For a prize to be awarded, the light had to be shattered.

I didn’t shatter it, either.

I was close, though, on that first throw. I was real, real close.

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“Shucks!”

I’d like to take a moment and acknowledge my friend Jon Fischer, a fellow Wissahickon Class of ’97 alumnus who now lives in San Francisco. He had met me in San Jose earlier in the day, and went on to travel with me to Visalia and then Vegas. He also took a whole bunch of photos while visiting Municipal Stadium, including the ones shown above. He’s a good photographer, and if he’s a good photographer that means he’s a better photographer than me.

img_0179Jon also took this photo, of a fan patiently awaiting to take the field for a between-inning contest. It’s one of my favorite photos of the 2016 season.

dsc00104Might as well stretch out those muscles while for waiting for the action to begin.

dsc00106In the top of the ninth, “Beer Batter” Richie Martin struck out. Since beer sales had concluded, the fans had to settle for free apple juice.

At the time that Martin struck out, the Giants were nursing a 4-3 lead. I went over to the third base side of the ballpark, where I hung out with Giants CMO Juliana Paoli and marketing director Sarah “Queen I’m A Balla” Acosta. We were planning to throw orange balls into the crowd after the Giants won.

img_2375Those orange balls would have to wait. The Ports tied the game, 4-4, in the ninth and the game went into extra innings. I suddenly had time on my hands, and passed it by wandering around and taking random photos. Photos like this one, of Municipal Stadium’s spectacular concourse decorations.

img_2379Who’s up for a marginally clever observation? Anyone? Anyone?

Those orange balls never left the bag. The Ports scored four runs in the top of the 11th, with the go-ahead run driven in by Richie “Beer Batter” Martin. Revenge is sweet.

And thus concluded my time at Municipal Stadium, a facility that is, truly, one of my favorites in all of Minor League Baseball. It is the place where dreams come true.

img_2361Of course, an obsessive-compulsive blogger’s work is never really done. Even though the ballgame had lasted 11 innings, I never came up with a Groundbreaking and Subversive Ballpark Joke of the Day. This led to a good half-hour of parking lot angst until, finally, this emerged.

I didn’t say it was a good joke. Only that it emerged. Good night from San Jose.

***

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

instagram.com/thebensbiz

On the Road: Signs of San Jose

To see all posts from my August 4 visit to the San Jose Giants, 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).

Generally speaking, almost all Minor League Baseball stadiums could be described as a “riot of sound and color.” But very few stadiums have these traits as hardwired into its DNA as does San Jose’s Municipal Stadium. I was immediately enamored with the place, even before stepping inside.

img_2311Municipal Stadium, a Works Progress Administration (WPA) project, first opened in 1942. 2017 will mark the stadium’s 75th anniversary as well as the 30th consecutive season in which the team has been a Giants affiliate. There is a lot of history here, and history goes hand-in-hand with personality.

Upon entering the stadium and taking in the cramped, colorful, chaotic concourse, I was reminded of Reading’s FirstEnergy Park (home of the Reading Fightin Phils). Municipal Stadium is the West Coast equivalent — an old stadium that presents many operating challenges, but which has been well-supported by fans and kept vital and vibrant by the dedication of the front office.

img_0141Perhaps no man was more responsible for Municipal Stadium’s aesthetic than Tony Lima, the Giants’ sign and mural painter. Lima — whom the local Mercury News once called “the Michelangelo of Municipal Stadium” — passed away in 2012 at the age of 70.

dsc09948This window is popular.

dsc09950Painted pennants from Minor League teams past and present adorn the concourse walls.

img_0162 This mural pays tribute to 3′ 7″ Eddie Gaedel and his lone Major League appearance.

img_0166San Jose alumni, of which there are many, are celebrated in myriad ways.

img_2314Please excuse the glare: In this bit of restroom signage, Tommy Lasorda is quoted as saying “If Mike Scioscia raced his pregnant wife he’d finish third.”

img_2318A pay phone used to be behind this door, thus this Superman-themed mural. This room is now an office, and I am unsure if Clark Kent still uses it as a changing area.

img_0140It was a lot to take in then, and it’s a lot to make sense of as I write this now. My friend Jon Fischer, a resident of (relatively) nearby San Francisco, joined me for this leg of the trip and took many photos of his own. Some of these photos depicted me in action, such as this one of me alongside media relations coordinator Matt Alongi (because you can’t spell “alongside” without “Alongi”). I’m sure that whatever it was that I was writing was very important.

dsc09936In the above photo, you’ll notice a door. This door opens into the office of Giants CMO Juliana Paoli.

You might think that an office located within a cramped concourse of a 70-something year-old stadium would leave something to be desired, but if you thought that then you thought wrong. Juliana has made the most of her surroundings.
img_2313You might be able to see that Juliana is wearing a very large ring on her right hand. That’s a 2014 Giants World Series ring, which the organization distributed to individuals throughout the farm system. She let me try it on.

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Juliana said that the San Jose Giants’ are walking a fine line, in that they “need to stay up-to-date while keeping the historical charm.” Evidence of this effort is everywhere, as the team tries to utilize every inch of available space while appealing to longtime fans as well as the influx of new residents working tech-related jobs in Silicon Valley. (On the night I was in attendance, the Giants were hosting large group outings for both eBay and Yahoo.)

“Gigante’s Alley,” named for the Giants’ mascot, is on the third base side of the ballpark. We’ll return here in a future post.

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The Dugout Store is also located along this pathway. The pig, named “Pigante,” previously resided with the San Francisco Giants.

img_0157 The Giants had a lot of success this season with their team-logo San Jose Fire Department hats. The fire fighters wear them frequently, but not when fighting fires.

img_0148It has been speculated that the “Beer Batter” phenomenon originated in San Jose. You’re probably familiar with the concept — a hitter in the visiting team’s starting line-up is declared before the game to be the “Beer Batter,” and if he strikes out then fans can get a free beer. In San Jose, if the Beer Batter strikes out after the seventh inning, then fans get a complimentary Martinelli’s apple juice. The fans are known to chant “Juice! Juice! Juice!” in anticipation of this scenario.

img_0150Some fans are here for the Beer Batter. Others are here for the churros. There will be more churro documentation in an upcoming post.

img_0149I had never seen these New Era “reflective technology” hats before.

In the dark:

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In the light:

img_2316But the biggest Municipal Stadium attraction is Turkey Mike’s BBQ. That will also be covered in detail in a forthcoming post. In the meantime please enjoy the (not very) reassuring statistical comparison noted in the sign below.

dsc09965After all this time, I still hadn’t seen the field. And then I saw it.

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img_2321The field, as it turns out, is a beautiful place to be.

img_2325We had already spent time wandering Gigante’s Alley, but here was Gigante himself.

img_2323I threw out a ceremonial first pitch, as I am wont to do. The ball crossed the plate on the fly — I circled it in red — and you know what that is in my book? A perfect strike!

strike

I didn’t act like it, though. As is often the case with me, life events in retrospect seem far more positive than they did in the moment.

img_0173I posed for a lot of post-ceremonial first pitch pictures this season, and never did I look like more of a weirdo than in this one.

img_0174Through my travels, I have often seen young fans recruited to clean the plate before a game. The Giants have gone a different direction, partnering with a local exterminator. The plate is bug-free now. This girl killed all the bugs.

img_0170 Next, a local radio DJ (and surely the coolest man in San Jose) played a great Hendrix-style rendition of the National Anthem.

img_0176What is there to do now but…well, you know.

See you on the flip side.

***

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

instagram.com/thebensbiz

About Last Night: San Jose Giants, August 4, 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 Wednesday night I visited San Jose, California, the fourth stop on my sprawling 10-team California-Nevada-Idaho-Washington road trip.

August 4: San Jose Giants (Class A Advanced affiliate of the San Francisco Giants)

Opponent: Stockton Ports, 7:00 p.m.

Municipal Stadium, from the outside: 

IMG_0137Municipal Stadium, from within: 

IMG_0169Culinary Creations: Barbecue spread from Turkey Mike’s

IMG_2352Ballpark Character: Paul, beloved churros vendor

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At Random: One of many pieces of concourse art, which combine to make Municipal Stadium one of the most unique and aesthetically pleasing ballparks I have ever been to. The door below used to house a phone booth, hence the Clark Kent/Superman theme.

IMG_0140 Your Groundbreaking and Subversive Ballpark Joke of the Day: 

Up Next: 

August 5: Visalia Rawhide (vs. Inland Empire, 7:00 p.m.)

August 6: Las Vegas 51s (vs. Fresno, 7:05 p.m.)

August 8: Reno Aces (vs. Salt Lake, 7:05 p.m.)

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

August 11: Tri-City Dust Devils (vs. Spokane, TBD)

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

***

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

instagram.com/thebensbiz