Today is Groundhog Day. As a strong proponent of doing the same thing again and again, I thought I’d go ahead and write a blog post dedicated to how the world of Minor League Baseball is celebrating this most hallowed of rodent weather prediction holidays.
We’ll start in Pennsylvania, of course, as the Keystone State has long served as the spiritual center of Groundhog Day. In State College, located 75 miles east of Punxsutawney, the Spikes have announced the following initiative:
The offer of bonus vouchers on McDonald’s Flex Books are a superfluous tie-in; the justification is that they give “fans multiple ways to enjoy Groundhog Day over and over again.”
More relevant is the offer of free admission to people named “Phil” on August 2. The Spikes mention that this offer extends to “Phil Collins, Phil Mickelson, Phil Jackson, Phil Simms and Dr. Phil”, but that “no current or former members of the Philadelphia Phillies will be allowed in free that night.”
I think some former Phillies should question this policy. Like, if Desi Relaford showed up and was like “Hey, give me a free ticket” I bet the Spikes would oblige.
The Altoona Curve are located even closer to Punxsatawney than are the Spikes. Last season, they even gave away a Groundhog Day bobblehead and had Phil out to the ballpark.
— Altoona Curve (@AltoonaCurve) February 2, 2016
They also released a new commercial:
— Altoona Curve (@AltoonaCurve) February 2, 2016
Frisco RoughRiders vice-president Jason Dambach is a Punxsutawney native and former Curve and Spikes employee. So I’m going to go ahead and check in on the RoughRiders to see if they are celebrating the day in a notable way.
Well…this is notable, I suppose.
— Frisco RoughRiders (@RidersBaseball) February 2, 2016
Another team I think of when the search engine that is my brain conjures up “Groundhog Day Minor League Baseball” are the Charleston RiverDogs. Team co-owner Bill Murray was the star of Groundhog’s Day, as you may recall. Let’s see what they RiverDogs are doing.
Okay, so here’s a tweet.
— Charleston RiverDogs (@ChasRiverDogs) February 2, 2016
That’s all I’ve got, but in the interest of total thoroughness I’ll do a quick run through my Twitter feed to see if I missed anything….
Update: I didn’t really miss anything, save for this.
If any teams were omitted from this post, please know it is because I did so intentionally and in fact don’t like your team and will never visit.
In closing, here’s a scorching track from underrated ’70s rockers Groundhogs.
These were the winning numbers in yesterday’s largest-ever Powerball drawing, which was won by three (currently anonymous) individuals. This supremely lucky triumvirate will now split an estimated $1.5 billion dollar jackpot, a windfall that will be accompanied by a new, unexpected perk:
The State College Spikes — Class A Short Season affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals — have invited the three winners (who bought tickets in Chino Hills, California, Munford, Tennessee and Melbourne Beach, Florida) to attend July 3’s “Billionaire’s Ball.”
As part of the festivities, all three winners are invited to come to Medlar Field at Lubrano Park and pick the promotions of their choice for that night.
The Spikes will make every effort to fulfill any choice each winner makes while adhering to applicable laws and regulations.
“All of our fans would love to have the chance to share a billion-dollar jackpot, but it’s not too often can you have that and do whatever you want at a ballpark,” said Spikes General Manager Scott Walker. “If they want to bring out giraffes, or have the Spikes wear all-plaid uniforms, we’ll do everything we can to try and make that happen. We’re excited to find out what the Powerball jackpot winners want to do at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.”
I’m not sure if having carte blanche at the ballpark would lead me to create an evening of giraffes and plaid, but to each his own. Maybe the Spikes could get this kids clothing store to sponsor it.
Anyhow, the Spikes’ “Billionaire’s Ball” will also feature fanfare for the common man. The team reports that “Fans can also participate in an array of fun giveaways that night based on the winning numbers, including:
- 4 first pitches
- 8 Bullpen Box tickets
- 19 T-shirts
- 27 boxes of popcorn
- 34 hot dogs
- 10 special “Spikes Power Packs.”
Finally, the night will feature an appearance by David Smith, the Human
Powerball Cannonball. There’s never not a good time to post a Human Cannonball video.
The Spikes are encouraging the three “newly minted tycoons” to call them at 814-272-1711 to get the “Ball” rolling on this promotional endeavor. What are the odds that one of them picks up the phone? I’d put it at something like one in 292 million, but, hey, ya never know.
* * *
While the Spikes were looking for the Powerball winners today, the Charleston Riverdogs engaged in the far more manageable task of identifying the losers.
See? It pays to play.
The viciously cold temperatures that accompanied this week’s much-ballyhooed “Polar Vortex” aren’t exactly compatible with ideal Minor League Baseball conditions, but that didn’t stop the Potomac Nationals from having a little frigid fun at the ballpark. On Tuesday and Wednesday the team held its first-ever “Polar Plunge.”
The P-Nats described the event thusly, while also noting that EMT personnel and warming blankets would be on hand (in my opinion, it’s not a true promo unless EMT are on the premises):
While temperatures plummet in Northern Virginia and around the country, the Potomac Nationals encourage fans to participate in the first annual two-day P-Nats Polar Plunge at Pfitzner Stadium on Tuesday, January 7th and Wednesday, January 8th from 1:00pm to 3:00pm each day.
Nationals fans will have the opportunity to win full general admission season tickets to the upcoming 2014 season if they stay submerged for a total of five seconds inside the home clubhouse ice bath tub which will be wheeled into the first base dugout.
The first 20 people to arrive for the P-Nats Polar Plunge will be eligible to enter the frosty ice bath.
Northern Virginians with hardy souls, including team vice-president Josh Olerud, took the plunge.
Among the photographic highlights were these. My only question is “Where you at, ladies?”
Via email, P-Nats media relations director Bryan Holland offered his thoughts on his team’s sub-freezing shenanigans:
The first annual P-Nats Polar Plunge allowed us to bring some levity to the sweeping arctic temperatures, and also connect with our fan base in a fun way amidst the winter season while reminding them that baseball is right around the corner.
After a terrific turnout for the inaugural plunge, we intend on hosting this event annually and perhaps we will up the ante next year on the prize, but also the length of submersion.
And please disregard my previous “Where the ladies at?” comment. As I was putting this post together Holland sent over this video, which proves that ladies plunged into the icy abyss with equal levels of enthusiasm.
For the record, I am a longtime participant in Coney Island’s annual Polar Bear Plunge. In order to finally put an end to the deluge of requests I receive via email and Twitter to “please post a topless photo of yourself,” here’s a picture of me welcoming 2014 in style.
That photo is sure to result in a spike in traffic. Speaking of which, the State College Spikes also capitalized on this week’s spate of cold weather. On Monday, an email including the text excerpted below landed in my inbox:
If you can’t beat the Arctic Blast predicted for Central Pennsylvania, then why not embrace it?
That’s the attitude the State College Spikes and local partner DQ Grill & Chill are bringing to area residents who will be dealing with some of the coldest weather to visit the region in decades on Tuesday.
With high temperatures predicted to be in the low single digits and wind chills forecast to be as low as 32 degrees below zero, the Spikes have announced that the club will be handing out complimentary slices of DQ’s famously-refreshing ice cream cake between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Tuesday at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.
Those brave enough to endure the elements for a cool treat on Tuesday can claim their free slice of DQ ice cream cake by visiting the front door of the “Off the Rack Outfitters” Team Store….anyone who visits will receive 30-percent off any one Spikes merchandise item.
A healthy smattering of fans did indeed endure the elements, as the tweet ably proves.
— State College Spikes (@SCSpikes) January 7, 2014
In non-cold weather news, I believe that a lot of this blog’s regular readers will enjoy my most recent feature on 2013 Minor League attendance. Within the article one can find a link to David Kronheim’s annual report, a cornucopia of ballpark facts and figures worthy of some serious study. Read it over the weekend, and get back to me.
Oh! And for what it’s worth: let it be known that the P-Nats, in addition to staging this offseason’s best cold-weather promotion, also possess Minor League Baseball’s best-named manager.
Hey, remember that thing I did yesterday? Where I wrote a bouillabaisse blog post that included a bunch of Minor League items thrown together in haphazard fashion? Well, that’s happening again, so buckle up the brain belt and drive right in!
After an extended liaison with the Pittsburgh Pirates, 2013 marks the State College Spikes’ return to being a Cardinals affiliate. And, wouldn’t you know it? The team now has a resident cardinal. (They’ve named him Ozzie, as in Smith.)
Minor League team stadium visitation by a species representing said team’s Major League affiliate are rare, though who among us can forget that time a crusty sailor took up residency at Clinton’s Ashford University Field after the LumberKings became a Mariners affiliate?
I’ll be visiting the West Michigan Whitecaps later this month — June 27th! — and if the ultra-spicy Squeeling Pig is available in gluten-free form then I’m definitely going to give it a try. Either way, it’s the only concession item I am aware of that requires a waiver.
In this video, some intrepid members of the team give it a try. No trips to the disabled list resulted.
I’ll also be visiting the Wisconsin Timber Rattler later this month — June 21 and 22! Think they’ll give me a ride in this sweet bullpen car?
I’ve written about Daytona super-fan Front Row Joe on several occasions, but little did I know that there is a Front Row Joe equivalent in good ol’ Curve PA. This Altoona Mirror article profiles Susan Mielnik, who has attended every Altoona Curve game since the franchise’s 1996 inception. Hats off to her!
I wrote about the Fort Wayne TinCaps rather brilliant Social Media Night jerseys in this week’s Promo Preview, which of course you read already. But that’s indicative of the team’s larger approach, as the TinCaps have been taking theme jerseys to new levels of transcendence all season. Just check out these 50’s Night duds:
TinCaps creative director Tony DesPlaines writes:
Designed in-house and produced by Wilson, these jerseys featured a beautiful green argyle design with a jukebox on one sleeve and the TinCaps logo on the opposite sleeve. The team thought they looked like golfers, but from the stands they looked great.
Speaking of theme jerseys, check out what the Omaha Storm Chasers wore during their Star Wars promo.
There’s more to this than meets the eye. Storm Chasers director of marketing and promotions Ben Hemmen explains:
May the FORCE be with you… The Omaha Force that is! It’s the second annual “What If… Night” presented by Autism Action Partnership featuring a unique Jersey auction…. Plus, it’s “Star Wars Night”! Dress up like your favorite Star Wars characters, help us find “Yoda” around the ballpark, hear Princess Leia sing the National Anthem, and meet Darth Vader. The force, Omaha & Jedi will definitely be strong at Werner Park Saturday night so it should not take a Jedi mind trick to tell you not to miss out on this special evening. What If… the Storm Chasers had been renamed the Omaha Force three years ago? Head out to Werner Park to find out!
More where all of this came from? Oh, you better believe it.
Introductory paragraphs within this blog forum can sometimes be needlessly circuitous, steeped as they are in obscure references and acute self-consciousness. But not today. Today, we cut to the chase:
What follows is a comprehensive round-up of Harlem Shake videos produced by Minor League teams.
Yes, you’re probably sick of the Harlem Shake at this point. I am too. But let’s take the long view, as historians with an interest in baseball history, viral fads and the intersection of the two will no doubt delight in stumbling upon this post at some at some unknown moment in the distant future. I am doing this for you, future historians! I always am. For it is you who will ensure my legacy.
Plus, you’ve gotta admit — Minor League teams, with their easy access to supply closets full of banana suits and inflatable ponies, make better Harlem Shake videos than most. So here we go! In no particular order, here are two dozen Harlem Shake videos produced by professional baseball teams in possession of a formal affiliation with a Major League club.
Frederick Keys — Apparently a big-headed reincarnation of Francis Scott Key regularly sits in on front office meetings:
Columbus Clippers — Warning! Includes bear-on-frankfurter violence that may be unsettling to younger viewers:
Bowie Baysox — A toothbrush can’t dance? I bristle at such a notion:
Lexington Legends — Mister would you please stop punching that pony? WATCH ON FACEBOOK.
Vancouver Canadians — As if any proof was needed that this was an international phenomenon:
Fort Wayne Tincaps — A solitary pothead gives way to a banana who loves the queen of hearts.
Lake Elsinore Storm — Yes that is an upside-down squirrel hanging from the dugout, and yes he is happy to see you:
Corpus Christi Hooks — Can’t a man bike through the office in peace? WATCH ON MILB.COM
Tulsa Drillers — Hey, no dogs in the swimming pool!
Gwinnett Braves — Team store? More like surreal fever dream store!
New Hampshire Fisher Cats — Fungo and friends “rose” to the occasion:
Lehigh Valley IronPigs — Give peas a chance. WATCH ON MILB.COM
Buffalo Bisons — Vest-wearing gentleman on the right is my favorite individual to appear in any Harlem Shake video:
Charlotte Stone Crabs — What’s to stop the Incredible Hulk from wearing a sombrero?
Fresno Grizzlies — Forget this faddish viral bastardization. Parker knows how to do the REAL Harlem Shake. WATCH ON VINE.
Louisville Bats — This takes place in multiple dimensions simultaneously. It will blow your mind.
Bowling Green Hot Rods — I guess you could say that Axle rose to the occasion.
Delmarva Shorebirds — The Shake so nice they did it twice.
Springfield Cardinals — You know what? This is probably the best one out of all of ’em.
Round Rock Express — All bobblehead version!
Connecticut Tigers — Shout it from the rooftop!
And, finally, there are the State College Spikes. The first Minor League team to post a Harlem Shake video, and the last to be featured in this post:
Two latecomers have entered the fray!
Orem Owlz — Holly, the Owlz pregnant mascot, wisely sat this one out.
Myrtle Beach Pelicans — Fans of multi-colored crustacean triumvirates rejoice!
And that’s all she wrote, folks. “She” being me, of course. I am a man. A 34-year-old man. A man who is perhaps too old to be providing you with diversions such as the above. But yet I do, and yet I did.
Do not forsake me, future historians! I do not want to believe that this has all been in vain.
I have already thoroughly documented my own Winter Meetings experience, and played a role in documenting the experiences of quite a few others. But as our old friend Ron Popeil was so fond of saying: “But wait — there’s more!”
On both December 2 and December 3 the touring performance crew known as Fur Circus made goodwill appearances at the Nashville Ronald McDonald House and Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital (prior to setting up shop as Trade Show exhibitors). This was a win-win mix of altruism and self-promotion — Fur Circus, relative newcomers on the MiLB touring circuit, were able to spread some good cheer while also spreading the word about themselves.
Fur Circus put out a press release prior to their visit, and later wrapped it up with this:
But, of course, all of that happened in the long-ago year of 2012. Here in 2013, we have new things to occupy our time — like New Year’s-themed ticket packs! The Miracle have been doing this for a couple of years now, and I’m always surprised that it hasn’t inspired other teams to do something similar.
Speaking of ticket packs, you may remember that the Durham Bulls are offering the creatively conceived and executed “Wil He or Won’t He” package. Per the squadron:
The Durham Bulls have unveiled a new ticket package in response to the blockbuster trade which sent Minor League Player of the Year Wil Myers and other Kansas City Royals prospects to the Tampa Bay Rays in exchange for former Bulls pitchers James Shields and Wade Davis. The “Wil He, Won’t He?” Pack consists of three big Bulls games, including Opening Day on April 8th and July 4th, and an added incentive for fans should Myers skip Durham and make the Major League roster out of Spring Training. If he does not start the season with the Bulls, ticket package buyers will receive an additional game for free.
Well, now said package has been endorsed by Mr. Myers himself!
Finally, in the all-important category of “Minor League team page staff bios,” both the State College Spikes and Lake County Captains have modeled theirs after retro baseball card designs. An example of each:
Oh, and speaking of retro baseball cards — last year around this time I put together a series of “then and now” blog posts detailing those featured in the classic 1987 Topps set who are currently coaching in the Minor Leagues. Why don’t you give it another look? It was a lot of fun to put together and got a great response, but Lord knows it’s too much work for me to re-do each year. I’m only one man.
Last month’s Florida road trip was, all in all, an overwhelmingly positive experience. But one of the minor disappointments was the relative dearth of local seafood options at the ballparks — for whatever reason, the crab shacks and grouper sandwich spots that were prevalent in the area didn’t cross over into the stadium experience.
So kudos to the Daytona Cubs for taking a step toward rectifying this situation. On select nights through the remainder of the season, employees from nearby Riptides Bar and Grill will be shucking and serving oysters on the half shell!
This past Thursday was the debut of the D-Cubs oyster bar, and as you can tell from the pictures the weather was ominous and therefore the crowds sparse. But he introduction of oysters to the Minor League concession scene is a very positive development, in my opinion, and I am hoping that this idea is a success in Daytona and then spreads to all applicable markets with considerable haste!
I’m not sure of the proper way to dispose of oyster shells, but if this was in Durham I wouldn’t be surprised if the Bulls found a way to recycle them into t-shirt material. The team recently partnered with local collegiate clothing company Spring House to create a line of “Bull City” t-shirts made from 100% recyclable materials (including water bottles, plastic beer bottles and x-ray film).
From the press release:
The entire line is manufactured in Durham’s one and only garment factory, less than three miles away from the Durham Bulls Athletic Park. School House, which designed and manufactured the line, sees the Bull City collection as an example of the power of “Made in USA” products and local manufacturing.
At this point you’ve all surely thoroughly dissected my most recent Promotion Preview column over at MiLB.com, which leads with approximately 400 words on the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers “Salute to Cows” (yes, I’m just the only person these days who manages to consistently write about Wisconsin in an apolitical context).
The team sent along some photos to run with the piece, and I’d like to share a couple of them here. These are just fantastic, these images, especially because they remind me of a VHS video produced by a Wisconsin-based band that I watched approximately 1500 times in college.
And, finally, I draw your attention to THIS. It’s the State College Spikes’ take on the “Call Me Maybe” video, and they totally nail it. Watch it, definitely.
As a hardened veteran of the anthropomorphic pork beat, I’m rarely phased by any of the news which emanates from this durable sub-genre of the Minor League Baseball experience.
But the Lehigh Valley IronPigs are really taking things to the next level. First came the announcement that “Barbie Q” had been added to the team’s stable of meat racers:
Barbie-Q will be racing against Hambone, Chris P. Bacon, and Diggity this season, and despite her newness on the scene she has already been granted a rare form of immortality:
This mammoth installation is called — what else? — Mt. Porkmore. On Tuesday the team asked fans to come up with a caption for the above image, and while many of the respondents didn’t quite seem to grasp the concept of “making a joke”, there sure were some good ones.
I think my favorite was “Do you smell what the rock is cooking?”, but one Dave Johnson deserves special mention for his submission of “We should give Dave Johnson from Bethlehem, PA some free Iron Pigs tickets.”
UPDATE: The team has since chosen a winning caption. One that is, in my mind, thoroughly “meaty”-ocre:
“Don’t take them for granite.”
But Pork isn’t the only thing cooking in the Keystone State. On Tuesday, the State College Spikes announced that Ted Batchelor would be making a Friday (July) the 13th appearance at the inimitably named “Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.” I’ve written about Ted Batchelor quite a bit on these virtual pages, but in case you need a visual refresher:
I have always been and always will be an advocate of the quixotic endeavor, and greatly appreciate that Minor League Baseball as an industry supports them as well. Batchelor’s goal is to be lit on fire in all 50 states — why not help him out?
Moving on to that which is only metaphorically incendiary, the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers have released the first in a series of videos promoting their Opening Day bobbleheads. I believe this is the first time that “Kill Bill” has been parodied within the Minor League landscape:
I also believe that, with this, the Omaha Storm Chasers have become the first team to make an online video stylistically inspired by the classic film era.
I’ll close with this random bit of uber-impressive information:
You may recall that way back in April I wrote about a post which mentioned the four Pacific Coast League announcers that had called at least 2500 games. Eight months after the fact, Toledo Mud Hens director of public relations/broadcaster Jason Griffin wrote in with this:
Jim Weber has been calling Mud Hens games since 1975…he has called 4,720 Toledo games in a row without missing a SINGLE broadcast…if you assume a game of 2:40 that is 45,312,000 seconds of play-by-play.
Whoa! Has any active Minor League broadcaster been able to log that many seconds? Please write to me in September with your answers!
My current “making do with what I’ve got” logo stance continues unabated with today’s post, as the lead item is this:
For those who need things spelled out for them — this is the logo for the 2013 Triple-A All-Star Game, an annual contest which pits two historically rich but misleadingly-named leagues against one another (International vs. Pacific Coast). As you can see, the 2013 edition will be taking place in Reno. The “biggest little city in the world” is home to the Aces, who played their inaugural season in 2009.
The lines orbiting the baseball in the above logo directly reference the sculpture that greets fans upon arriving at Aces ballpark:
The logo was designed by Brandiose, who once upon a time in a faraway and distant land were known as Plan B Branding. Those looking for more insight into the company’s philosophy and history would do well to read this supremely simile-laden interview with co-founder Jason Klein on apennysworth.com
Q: Logo designers sometimes fight disparaging perceptions ranging from proverbial snake oil salesmen to glorified finger painters. How do you persuade clients of the tangible benefits of identity design?
Let’s move away from eloquent analogy and distant 2013 talk and back toward the present. Or, more accurately, the recent past. Whatever. Writing 500+ segues a year is exhausting.
Have you ever wanted an expedient tour of a Major League team’s offseason publicity event? The Frederick Keys have you covered, and then some:
And how about something that could be happening in the near future. On Monday, the Tri-City ValleyCats put out the following on Facebook:
We are thinking about a Jimmy Fallon bobblehead this year at “The Joe!” He has ties to the area attending the College of Saint Rose and is a huge hit on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon Would you come for a Fallon bobblehead?
“Artists” rendering of said bobblehead:
As I remarked on Twitter: “Hopefully this idea doesn’t Fallon deaf ears!”
See, there’s a reason I get paid the big bucks. But if it’s small bucks you’re into, let it be known that the State College Spikes are desirous of a new Ike!
Guess that gives new meaning to the term “deer hunting season.”
I didn’t do a blog post yesterday because I was lacking a proper lead story to give it that necessary “oomph” right on out of the gate.
I’m still lacking one. But since silence equals death in the blogging game, carry on I must. So how about a late-arriving introspective mascot pic to start things off? This one features Rascal of the Harrisburg Senators, sharing a heartfelt moment with the team’s director of stadium operations.
The offseason is a particularly good time in which to engage in such idle contemplation, but not if you’re a sentient piece of commemorative bronze. As documented in a two-part blog post, “Millsy” the Carolina League Championship Trophy has been feverishly taking in the sights of Frederick (home of the Keys, 2011 Carolina League victors).
“Although I have come back to the town that I have enjoyed so much, it has been lonely sitting in the office since September 16th, when the Keys won the title,” writes Millsy, perhaps the world’s only literate trophy. “I took it upon myself to escape the inner sanctums of the Keys front office to go on adventures of my own around Frederick and now you get the chance to see them!”
Thus far, the highlight of Millsy’s adventures has been a pilgrimage to the final resting place of Francis Scott Key.
A more traditional way to pass the time during the offseason is to create an Office-influenced offseason video series called — wait for it — The Offseason. The Wisconsin Timber Rattlers were the first to launch such an endeavor, and the most recent to follow suit are the State College Spikes. Episode One, commence!
While the aforementioned Timber Rattlers have retired their version of The Offseason, the team continues to break ground in the lucrative field of recurring Minor League offseason videos. As previously noted, this year’s initiative is a series of “Spot the Difference” videos. On this, the latest installment, I was able to spot exactly one difference. A truly pathetic showing.
Meanwhile, we are just a few short hours away from the unveiling of the Pensacola Blue Wahoos logo — what will almost certainly be the most notable and attention getting mark of the offseason. While awaiting this momentous occasion, may I suggest that you pass the time with a bit of “Mascot Donkey Basketball?”
I’ll see you on Monday, the first weekday of the “Wahoo Cool” era of Minor League Baseball.