Results tagged ‘ Spokane Indians 2016 ’

On the Road: Here, There and Everywhere in Spokane

To see all posts from my August 12 visit to the Spokane Indians, 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).

Spokane’s Avista Stadium was my 27th and final ballpark stop of the season, bringing my lifetime total to…well, I really don’t know at the moment, but something like 150. Sometimes all these ballparks start to blur together, forming a monolithic facility of the mind. Other times, like during this particular Friday evening night in Spokane, every moment stands out as distinct.

It was gorgeous night in a gorgeous ballpark, inside and out.

img_2737Especially on the inside.

img_2738As mentioned in the previous post, the right field foul line is a scant 296 feet away from home plate. I hope these fans brought their gloves, or are at least prepared to catch some dingers in their beer cups.

img_2739Further back from the field (but still in “catch a dinger” territory), two young fans were playing a giant game of checkers. Note that the kid in black shoes is moving a black checker, while his opponent took off his shoes and is representing his side of the board via white socks. I am convinced this was intentional.
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Heading toward center field, one finds “The Depot.” This replica train car used to be part of a restaurant, and was placed in the ballpark by a crane. It’s appropriate to the area, too, as there are railroad tracks approximately 200 years from the ballpark.

img_0417I found it hard to take photos in The Depot, as it’s very narrow.

img_0418The view, however, is incredible.

img_0419I was still wandering about with Indians senior vice president Otto Klein at this juncture of the evening. He told me the team overstaffs the ballpark, so that “customer service standards go way beyond anything anyone would expect at a game.”

“We want you to spill your beer, so you see how fast we clean it up and replace it,” he said. “You could eat off the floor, though I wouldn’t recommend it. Every day is someone’s Opening Day.”

Being chronically overstaffed allows the Indians to do things like host Baseball Bingo on an evening with over 6000 fans in the ballpark (in my experience, I’ve founf that most teams reserve Baseball Bingo for quiet weekday evenings). And if they want to check their bingo cards, fans know just where to go. There are referees positioned at the aisles.
img_2743Behind home plate, there is a candy-striped box reserved for doctors. The doctor sitting in the box is at the ready to deal with injuries from foul balls or any other fan emergency. Klein said that the box is generally occupied by an internist who receives practicum hours for his or her attendance. It never sits MD.

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Those in the doctor box get a view that, approximately, looks like this.

img_0423All Spokane Indians games are broadcast on the radio. A select few are broadcast on local TV station SWX — Right Now Sports and Weather — and this was one of them. Sam Adams and color man Bob Castle were in the Bob Robertson press box calling the game, and reporter Lindsay Joy was doing live spots from the stands. One of these live spots was an interview with me, as the game was going on, as we stood hard up against the home dugout.

I promised Lindsay I would save her from any foul balls that came her way as she faced away from the field, and fortunately we never found out if I could keep that promise (my guess is “probably not.”) The interview went well, just breezed right along, and it was fun being able to talk about who I am and what I do in such an uniquely immediate fashion.

“Down in front!” says man wearing tie-dyed shirt.

img_2764Afterward I stopped by the production truck, parked just outside the ballpark. I’m paraphrasing, but they told me that my interview with Lindsay was “the greatest moment in the history of live television.” Or at least that’s what I choose to believe.

img_2770Searching for even more “van”tage points, I traversed to the upper level.

img_0427Here’s the view from the Bob Robertson press box.

img_0429Duty called once again, however, as I was recruited to participate in an on-field paint can stacking competition. I easily could have won this thing. But, as you can see, I got greedy and greediness led to defeat. I was like a walking Aesop’s fable out there.

Despite my defeat, Doris the Spokane-asaurus was happy to see me afterwards.

img_2771As was Otto, named after real person who works for the team Otto Klein. Otto gave me his…actually, I’m going to save that joke for later.

img_2774This ballgame, against the eventual Northwest League champion Eugene Emeralds, was zipping right along. I barely had time to admire the detail and complexity of the videoboard headshots.

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I was once again in the Bob Robertson press box because I was once again taking part in an SWX televised endeavor. Sam Adams and Bob Castle, TV announcers both, had agreed to serve as designated eaters while they were broadcasting the game. This, too, was a Ben’s Biz Blog first. And since it integrated so quickly and seamlessly into the evening as a whole I’m not going to document it in a separate post. I’m just gonna keep right on rolling.

A small array of items had been assembled just for Sam and Bob.

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On the left, in the front, is deep-fried PB&J. Next to that are the Bacon Blue Cheese Fries — beer-coated fries with blue cheese dressing, mixed with cheese and bacon crumbles. And, finally, we had a Walking Taco. As the game was going on, Sam and Bob tried these items and offered their opinions while (nominally) calling the game in progress. It was a bit chaotic.

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img_2785Okay, switch.

img_2787Just another day on the job for Bob and Sam.

img_2789It was all on TV and now, of course, it’s on the internet:

Thanks to Indians public relations director Bud Bareither for helping to make what transpired above a reality.

Bud!

img_2790The ballgame was nearing its assumed conclusion, but there was still more to do. Bidding adieu to Bud and crew, I headed back to the front office. See that circle in the middle of the floor?

img_2794That’s a vintage safe, unearthed during renovations and, yet, never opened. Read all about it, and savor the mystery.

img_2792Meanwhile, on the field, the Emeralds had locked up a 1-0 victory over the hometown team.

img_0440Of course, the combination of baseball and Friday night equals fireworks. But first, the fans all sang along to “Sweet Caroline.” If there’s one thing I learned this season, it’s that “Sweet Caroline” is played at ballparks all over the country with no regard to affiliation. So, sure, a Rangers farm team in Washington state? Have at it.

I’d share my fireworks photos, but per usual they were awful. Pyro-terrible. But what wasn’t (isn’t?) awful is/was my nightly Groundbreaking and Subversive Ballpark Joke of the Day, which I wrote and disseminated as fans were filing out of the ballpark.

Among the individuals filing out of the ballpark was broadcaster Sam Adams, happily toting all the leftovers from his previous on-air eating spree.

img_2799And that did it for my time in Spokane. I loved it there.

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And that didn’t just do it for my time in Spokane, it did it for my road trip out west as well as my entire 2016 traveling season. This is always a bittersweet feeling and, per usual, a fortuitous selection on a local rock radio station helped provide the proper soundtrack to my mood.

Thanks to everyone I’ve met along the way, as well as to everyone who has followed along with me as I attempt to chronicle my experiences. This marks the end of a blogging era, with a new one soon to begin.

***

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

instagram.com/thebensbiz

On the Road: Soaking it in, in Spokane

To see all posts from my August 12 visit to the Spokane Indians, 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).

As I walked into Avista Stadium, the longtime home of the Spokane Indians, a team employee greeted me with the following announcement.

“Free raffle tonight! Don’t do anything. Just be present.”

I knew it was gonna be a good night.

img_0392Truth be told, I knew it was gonna be a good night before I even walked inside. Outside the ballpark, the all-female band “Too Many Men” was kicking out some minimalist rock jams. It all seemed so very “Pacific Northwest,” aligned with my ’90s-era indie rock stereotypes of the region, like if this band started writing original songs they’d probably get signed to K Records.

As I entered the ballpark, director of public relations Bud Bareither came down to greet me. Earlier in the season, Bud had alerted me to the presence of the Indians’ late ’80s “team photos taken at the local mall” baseball card sets. So, I was already a fan of Bud.

Bud!

img_0393Bud quickly passed me off to Indians senior vice president Otto Klein, who was very generous with his time despite it being a busy Friday night. Otto had a lot to tell me because, when it comes to the Indians, there’s a lot to talk about. Avista Stadium opened in 1958, and professional baseball in the region dates back to the 19th century. The Indians, currently a Rangers affiliate, have been members of the Class A Short Season Northwest League since 1983; prior to that they were a Pacific Coast League entity.

In 1958, corporate naming rights were an unheard-of phenomenon. The ballpark was then known as the “Interstate Fairgrounds.”

img_0396The Indians’ front office is decorated with photos, paintings and collages detailing the team’s long history. This tri-panel shows Tommy Lasorda (manager of the 1970 Indians, considered by some to be the greatest Minor League team of all time), Tommy Davis (who hit .345 for the Indians in 1959 at the age of 20, just prior to the start of an 18-season MLB career) and Levi McCormack (whose father was a chief in the Nez Perce tribe).

img_0398The Hall of Fame Plaza sits outside the ballpark, honoring Cooperstown-enshrined individuals with Spokane connections. Lasorda, Don Sutton and George Brett are three such individuals.

img_0402“We’ve got a lot of stories to tell, and we do our best to celebrate them,” said Klein.

The “Indians” name is, of course, a potentially problematic aspect of the team’s rich history. There are distinctions that need to be made between celebration and exploitation, between paying tribute and racist caricature. Klein told me that, in the ’90s, new ownership was sensitive to these concerns and erred on the side of caution. While the Indians name remained, the team presented itself without any overt references to Native Americans. The result was non-controversial (“respect through exclusion,” was once how I heard it referred to), but resulted in a profound disconnect.

In 2006, the Indians partnered with the local Spokane tribe and rebranded themselves with the full support of the tribe. Uniforms and ballpark signage are in the tribe’s Salish language (despite the fact that Salish has never been a written language). I wrote a story on this relationship in 2014, and was grateful for the opportunity to finally see it in person.

This sign provides a good overview. Please excuse the glare.

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img_2734Otto had to take a break from our pregame tour so that he could do a radio interview with Spokane broadcaster Mike Doyle.

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As you’ll recall, I met Mike at the previous evening’s Tri-City Dust Devils game (Spokane was the visiting club). At that ballgame, Mike was joined in the booth by 87-year-old local broadcasting legend Bob Robertson. Bob wasn’t in attendance this evening, but his presence is always felt.

img_2724In fact, Mike calls the games from Avista Stadium’s “Bob Robertson Press Box.” It’s easy to tell which booth is Mike’s. On a brader level,  I feel that any Minor League broadcaster who’s with the same team for three or more years should get his own logo.

img_0428The Avista Stadium concourse underwent an extensive renovation in 2014, and this centralized concession ares was one of the improvements.

img_0406And, jeez, it sure took long enough. This post has thus far been comprised of 13 photos, one Vine and over 700 words, and we’re just now making it to the playing field.

img_2725The ballpark offers views of rolling hills giving way to the mountains of Idaho. Note, also, that there is a converted train car in right field — The Depot — that serves as a group hospitality area. Oh, and while you’re noting things, also also please note that it’s just 296 feet down the right field line. I feel like, given an aluminum bat, I might even be able to hit a baseball 296 feet. (At least if it’s a golf ball I’m hitting with the aluminum bat.)

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Just another day in the life of the Spokane Indians.

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And a particularly beautiful one at that.

img_2744Of course, there’ll be more where this came from. Please stand by.

***

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

instagram.com/thebensbiz

About Friday Night: Spokane Indians, August 12, 2016

On Friday night I visited Spokane, Washington, the final stop on my sprawling 10-team California-Nevada-Idaho-Washington road trip. After a not-so-brief travel and sleep delay, I now provide the following brief recap. There will be far more to come on the blog regarding this trip, as well as my previous Appalachian League excursion. 

August 12: Spokane Indians (Class A Short-Season affiliate of the Texas Rangers)

Opponent: Eugene Emeralds, 6:30 p.m.

Avista Stadium, from the outside: 

IMG_0392Avista Stadium, from within: 

IMG_0424Culinary Creation: Bacon Blue Fries (beer-battered fries with blue cheese dressing, blue cheese crumbles and bacon crumbles)

IMG_2777Ballpark Character: Doris the Spokanosaurus

IMG_2771At Random: The Indians are long-time partners of the Spokane Indian tribe; signage throughout the ballpark is in the tribe’s native Salish language.

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Your Groundbreaking and Subversive Ballpark Joke of the Day: 

Up Next: 

This trip is over!

***

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

instagram.com/thebensbiz