As everyone is well aware, today is 11/11/11. This marks the only time in our lifetimes that the date will be represented with six ones across the board, and — of course! — anomalous occurrences should be celebrated.
Within Minor League Baseball there is an established precedent for numerically-inclined (and often absurdly intricate) date-related promotions, so this morning I monitored my Twitter and Facebook feeds with an unwavering sense of purpose. And Minor League Baseball, once again, did not disappoint. Some highlights of my searching:
— The South Bend Silver Hawks offered fans a package, in which 11 tickets could be obtained for $11 between 11 and 11:11 a.m. Later, the team reported to me via Twitter that 24 of these packages (a total of 264 tickets) were sold.
— Perhaps inspired by the Silver Hawks, the Gwinnett Braves made the exact same offer at the last minute. “FANS- this just in- 11 tickets for $11!! You have until 11:11 AM to call in!” read the post on the team’s Facebook page.
— In Asheville, the Tourists offered a deal that was good for all of one minute. At 11:11, all hats and t-shirts were available for $11.11 at the team’s “Tourist Trap” store (five hardy but certainly not tardy souls took them up on it).
— Somewhat similarly, the Daytona Cubs offered a 2011 team hat for $11 all day. And with the purchase of said hat, fans received a coupon good for $5 off a new 2012 logo hat. (As you may recall, the D-Cubs recently unveiled a new logo).
Finally, in State College (where nothing else of note is going on), the Spikes amply demonstrated their Facebook power. At 11:11, the team posted the following:
’LIKE’ THIS POST FOR A CHANCE TO WIN! We need 111 people to LIKE this post!
If our goal is reached by 5 p.m. then we will randomly select one of the participants as the winner of TWO FREE SPIKES TICKETS and a MICHAEL ROBINSON SIGNED BALL (former Penn State QB and current NFL player). Happy 11/11/11!
As of this writing (2:30 EST), a whopping 164 people have already clicked the like button on the above missive. Impressive!
As I am writing this, 11:11 has yet to arrive on the West Coast. However, I have not come across any PST teams doing anything similar. Is this time zone disdainful of detail-oriented numerical promotions? Say it ain’t so!
And look at that! It ain’t so! At 11:11, the Fresno Grizzlies announced the following: For one day only, on Friday November 11, fans can get 11 Field Box vouchers for just $11 each (normally $16), as well as $11 in Grizzlies Bucks for FREE – that’s a $187 value for just $121!
Clearly, Minor League Baseball is #1.
In news of a non-sequitur nature, did you know that mascots have the power to create earthquakes?
What a load of bull.
Yesterday’s post served as this year’s Halloween content clearinghouse, but as usual a few things slipped through the cracks. And when something falls through the cracks, it’s best to save it from such a nefarious fate by belatedly bringing it back into the light.
That’s a convoluted way of saying that I stumbled across a ridiculous photo I wanted to share. It was taken at the State College Spikes Spookfest and features mascot Ike the Spike idly observing a werewolf being wheeled on a stretcher by a witch who appears to have Frankenstein in a headlock.
Just another day in the Minor Leagues.
Further PA-based Halloween content has emerged from Reading, as the R-Phils have announced the winners of this year’s pumpkin carving contest. This is a seriously impressive triumvirate of illuminated gourds:
But would you expect anything less from the Reading faithful? This is a fan base that has proven carving abilities.
At any rate, November is probably the slowest month when it comes to Minor League Baseball news. (December has the Winter Meetings, at least, and once the new year hits there is an abundance of info related to the upcoming season.) But we all get through it together, and there are many productive ways to pass the time.
For starters, Visalia Rawhide broadcaster Donny Baarns has launched a new podcast called “Candid Voices,” in which he “chats with the best sports broadcasters about their careers, their stories, and anything else they feel like talking about.” The first episode’s guest is Mariners broadcaster/veteran TV writer Ken Levine, and can be heard HERE.
Meanwhile, the always exemplary Great Lakes Loons blog “From the Nest” has a post called “25 Ways to Keep Baseball In-Season This Offseason.”
Lots of great stuff is contained therein, and the post follows a template that can (and should) be copied by other Minor League teams. Check it out.
A more “inside baseball” (so to speak) offseason perspective can be found over at gameops.com, as always astute industry veteran Scott Carter’s has filed a column featuring a veritable treasure trove of ways that teams can engage with fans when there are no games being played. This is required reading for those seeking to understand how and why teams need to function as interactive year-round entities.
And then, of course, there are videos. Always, there are videos. Some of them have malevolent undertones….
while others mine humor out of mascot misfortune.
And finally there’s our old pal Ike the Spike, who apparently snapped out of his werewolf-observing reverie long enough to lead a “Thriller” flash mob. Check it out HERE.
As always, thanks for checking this blog out. Your patronage helps to validate my professional existence.
Those words, spoken so hauntingly by the Twin Peaks Giant (click the link!), have been echoing through my mind recently. Several seemingly unique events that have taken place this week that in fact have precedent in the not-too-distant past. Let’s take a look:
A rather amusing story came out of Toledo today, involving the almost-but-not-quite theft of one of the bronze statues located behind the Fifth Third Field scoreboard. Here are the statues in question, photographed during my trip to Toledo this past June.
But, as the Toledo Blade reports, on Sunday night the girl in pigtails on the far left was reported stolen:
Mud Hens employee Ken Westenkirchner called the police and filed a theft report. The Arts Commission of Greater Toledo, which manages the city’s public art, prepared for a media blitz to publicize the heist and bring the perpetrators to justice….
What Mud Hens officials and the arts commission did not know, however, was that the little girl in pigtails was safely stowed in a police property room. In the early morning hours of Saturday, two Toledo police officers discovered the statue about 20 yards from its original location. They booked it into a property room for safekeeping, according to their report…..
Apparently, nobody bothered to tell the Mud Hens or the art commission.
Later in the article, Toledo police speculate why the statue was removed in the first place.
Detective Tonya Rider said the bolts that anchored the statue to the sidewalk had been damaged. “I don’t know if it was a prank, if it got too heavy to carry,” she said. “I don’t know what the circumstances were. Maybe it was a case of buyer’s remorse.”
This saga comes on the heels of the near-tragedy that befell the Greensboro Grasshoppers last month, when the statue of iconic dog mascot Miss Babe Ruth went missing. Here’s a picture of the statue, in happier times.
Three days after the theft, Greensboro police caught the culprit and returned the statue (damaged paws and all) to NewBridge Bank Park. Seeking to make lemonade out of this thoroughly sour situation, the team then auctioned off the returned statue on eBay. The winning bid was $1025, with the proceeds donated to the Greensboro Police Department’s Canine Unit.
Moving on the inanimate to that which is imbued with life, it is also worth noting that this has been a fertile week for player performances of the National Anthem. A YouTube of Charlotte catcher Adam Ricks playing the anthem on his guitar was featured in Tuesday’s post, and yesterday Altoona pitcher Phil Irwin belted it out at at Blair County Ballpark. Check it out on the team’s Facebook page.
A more random and unexpected instance of history repeating itself can be found in State College, which recently had its second comical base-stealing managerial ejection in as many years. It would be near impossible to top the original, when Spikes manager Gary Robinson autographed first base and awarded it to a young fan.
Fast forward nearly one year later — to yesterday. This time the ejected manager was Leo Gomez of the visiting Aberdeen IronBirds, who uprooted third base and walked across the diamond with it before unceremoniously tossing it aside. Spikes first baseman Alex Dickerson then played groundskeeper, jovially returning the base to its intended location. Check it out HERE.
Finally, there’s Jerry “The King” Lawler, a wrestling icon who has become a regular on the Minor League Baseball appearance circuit. When he last appeared on this blog he was knocking out a cauliflower, but his current adversary seems to be anyone with the gall to steal a crown from a perpetually smiling fast food mascot. This one comes courtesy of the Frederick Keys:
Thank goodness for conveniently placed concourse folding chairs. I don’t know what Jerry would do without them.
“Bark in the Park” nights — in which fans are invited to bring their dogs to the stadium — have long been a promotional staple in Minor League Baseball. The State College Spikes are one of many teams to have staged such an endeavor, with next month’s version expected to draw over 400 canines.
This success led the team to ask themselves a truly daring, and seemingly absurd, question: “What if we did ‘Bark in the Park’, but for cats?”
What resulted was “Purr in the Park,” an evening-long celebration of felines.
Given their innate anti-social tendencies and general aloofness, the Spikes knew going in that “Purr in the Park” was not going to reach the proportions of its barking counterpart. The final cat attendance total was a modest, but still respectable, 12.The cats were granted entry so long as they were on a leash or in a carrier, and were welcome throughout the concourse as well as the right field seating area.
Cats were the focal point of the in-game entertainment, of course. The scoreboard graphics all had a feline theme:
Another apropos “Simpsons” character would have been the “Crazy Cat Lady,” who surely would have enjoyed the team’s meow-centric version of the “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”
The night also included the “Nine Lives Challenge”, in which two hearty combatants participated in challenges such as the “Warm Milk Chug” and the “Kitty Litter Dig.” I particularly enjoyed watching the “Warm Milk Chug,” as the loser in the contest is escorted off the field by a sympathetic gorilla.
But as the Spikes pointed out in their press release, not even “Purr in the Park” could keep canines out of the ballpark: Not only are the Batavia MuckDOGS the Spikes’ opponent on the field, but fans can feast on $1 hot dogs all game long as part of Dollar Dog Monday.
But the Spikes weren’t about to let the Muckdogs steal the spotlight — not on this night! The Spikes scored two in the seventh and three in the eighth before Justin Bencsko homered in the ninth, propelling the home team to a thrilling 7-6 victory.
It was victory by a whisker; anything less would have been cat-astrophic.
Road Trip content has dominated these virtual pages over the past week and a half, and I’ve still got a few odds and sods to share from my Ohio excursion.
But that can wait. A formidable blog backlog has been brewing in my content cauldron, which is now threatening to boil over. Time to start ladling out the info before it’s too late!
Let’s start with some significant news out of the Pacific Northwest. The Eugene Emeralds opened up the season last week, and highlighting the Opening Day roster was Domingo Ayala. This ageless superstar is proprietor of the Domingo Baseball Academy and a YouTube sensation, and received a call-up before even playing a game. Still, he made a mark during his brief time in Eugene.
Says the team:
Domingo Ayala’s visit was short and sweet for the Eugene Emeralds. After suiting up for the Emeralds opening night at PK Park, Ayala put on a hitting clinic in batting practice, showing fans why he is the 5-time homerun champion. This guy can literally do it all. Not only did he throw out the first pitch, but he also had time to sign autographs mid game, take pictures with fans, and even announce the Boise Hawks lineup.
Domingo was very laid back when he heard the news from Ems Manager Pat Murphy that he would be moved up from Rookie Ball. “I thought it maybe be a week or maybe two, but it no surprise me that it happen sooner,” Ayala said.
Ayala’s brief appearance captivated the attention of the local media, as evidenced by this story that ran on KEZI News. And with good reason, as this guy is one of the most outsized characters to ever (almost) play in the Northwest League.
And speaking of characters, or in this case the limited use of them, the Lehigh Valley IronPigs paid tribute to Twitter as part of their recent “Social Media Night.” Players wore Twitter-themed jerseys, one of which was signed by the team and auctioned off through the micro-blogging website. Fan tweets were displayed on the videoboard throughout the game, and the elusive “Twitter Bird” was even in attendance.
In the next picture #PIGSAFE would have been a more appropriate hashtag.
Jerseys were auctioned off after the game, with the winning bidders getting to meet the player who had worn it.
And, finally, the elusive Twitter bird.
I”ll close the blogging week by mentioning that the State College Spikes asked fans to submit “Weiner Pics” during Monday’s game.
And, wouldn’t you know it? One fan was brave enough to do so. That’s new frankfurter mascot “Colonel Mustard,” barely visible through the fuzz.
And despite my constant focus on such lowbrow material, I’d like to reiterate once again that I remain committed producing quality articles as well. Please check out this piece on baseball’s longest game, and let me know what you think.
Motivated by wanderlust and an unbeatable rental car deal, I’ll be checking out the new-for-2011 Tucson Padres before moving on to a quartet of California League teams. The itinerary:
May 11-12: Tucson Padres
May 13: Writing/Travel Day (although who knows? Maybe I’ll be able to get to a ballpark by nightfall).
May 15: High Desert Mavericks
May 16: Inland Empire 66ers
May 17: Lake Elsinore Storm
I’m psyched to be making my first California sojourn as a so-called professional, and to once again get behind the wheel of a car after yet another prolonged stint of NYC public transit emasculation. Now comes the part of the post where I earnestly implore YOU to please get in touch with suggestions as to who to talk to, where to visit, what foods to try, etc. I of course have some ideas of what to write about, but as usual much is to be determined. Your feedback is much appreciated.
In particular, let me know if you have any interesting California League stories/memories. It seems like surreal things happen out there on a regular basis.
And driving a car again will no doubt lead to profound sticker shock at the pumps, something I mercifully don’t have to deal with on a daily basis here in NYC. But two teams are doing their part to ease the burden: the State College Spikes and Charlotte Stone Crabs. From the former:
From May 9th through May 20th, the Spikes will provide fans a chance to save at the pump when they take advantage of any one of seven ticket offerings. Highlighting the “Spikes Fuel Perks” ticket promotion, any fan that purchases new season tickets will earn a $100 gas card per seat bought!
Throughout the Stone Crabs season, fans will have the opportunity to purchase two reserved seats to any Stone Crabs game, along with two hot dogs, and two sodas for only $26. In addition to the ticket package, fans will receive a complimentary $5 gas card from RaceTrac convenience stores, while supplies last.
In completely unrelated news, I received the following email yesterday from Lowell Spinners groundskeeper Jeff Paolino:
I am reaching out to you to see if there is any way to find out if there are any other Military members who are currently Active or Reserve other than myself working in Minor League Baseball? Reason being, I would like to get a group initiative together throughout MILB as representatives of both baseball and the Military.
This seems like a worthwhile endeavor, but I was unable to assist. So if you fit the above criteria (or know someone who does) then contact Jeff at firstname.lastname@example.org And spread the word!
Enjoy your weekend! For the next two days, it’ll be all we’ve got!
Okay, it’s the season now. I have the same feeling as when I returned my favorite Pixar film to the video store: I can’t keep Up!
But I’m going to try my best, disregarding any adverse consequences to mental, physical, and spiritual health. I mean, who needs those things anyway?
Mrs. Violet Smith serves as an appropriate counterbalance to this sort of fatalistic sentiment. Last night, she celebrated her 109th birthday by throwing out a first pitch for the Great Lakes Loons.
According to my records, this is the first centenarian first pitch in Minor League Baseball since the Round Rock Express welcomed 102-year-old Chris Nocera in April of 2009.
And while we’re on the topic of Golden Girls, it is well-worth pointing out that the Bowie Baysox are staging a Tribute to Betty White on April 16 (complete with Florence Dusty’s Muffin Eating Contest in honor of her recent appearance on Saturday Night Live).
The Baysox players are in complete and total support of this promotion, especially Betty White “spitting image” Xavier Avery.
Another team that is truly on top of its game when it comes to videos are the State College Spikes, who have just released a truly excellent preview of their 2011 promotions. This is the very definition of taking pride in your product — if you’re not excited then who else is going to be?
The Spikes have also recently produced one of the funniest mascot videos I’ve ever seen (“You have not done one push-up yet!”).
Another humorous video of recent vintage comes courtesy of the Inland Empire 66ers, who are proud to able to “Teach Fans How To Snuggie.” Or, more accurately, “Teaching Them How To Fleece Blanket With Sleeves.” Click HERE to check it out on Facebook.
I keep delaying a quite-substantial food post that I’ve been planning, but in honor of the weekend here’s a pic of the Lake Elsinore Storm’s new “Filthy McNasty.”
The team explains that This unbelievably big burger, which could feed four comfortably, is a two-pound burger stuffed with two hot dogs, bacon and cheese. It is then smothered in chili and topped with crispy onion straws.
But for now, the Storm have more pressing matters to attend to. Just hitting the wires is news regarding their upcoming “Sheen-Co De Mayo” night. According to the Associated Press, The promotion upset the Inland Empire Council of the League of United Latin American Citizens. Its president, Joe Olague, tells the Riverside Press-Enterprise it diminishes a significant day in Hispanic history.
The news never stops, I tell you. Never.
So you might as well get in touch with more. I don’t plan on living until 109 anyway.
“News” of dubious validity has been making the rounds today, not a surprise given that it is the first day of April. But what I am about to present to you is gloriously, hilariously real:
On July 11, the State College Spikes will be holding the first-ever “Purr In the Park” promotion.
“Purr in the Park” is, of course, a new twist on the canine-friendly “Bark in the Park” promotions that have spread like wildfire throughout the Minors. But dogs are generally obedient and social creatures. Cats, on the other hand…not so much. How this all turns out of course remains to be seen, but Spikes GM Jason Dambach seems confident that it’ll go off without a hitch. Or, more accurately, with one. He writes that all cats will need to be “leashed or in a portable carrier” and that there will be “cat-related promotions throughout the night” as well as tributes to the likes of Morris, Garfield, Heathcliff, and the black cat from Sabrina, the Teenage Witch (“Salem!”, as I was just reminded via email).
I’m hoping that Will Feral will also be moved to make an appearance. Regardless, I will make it my duty to follow this phenomenal feline story as it evolves.
— But for now, a personal anecdote: I’ve had some friends from Sweden staying with me this week, and this morning they shared a popular April Fool’s mantra from their country. It goes “April April Din Dumma Sill, Jag Kan Lura Dig Vart Jag Vill.”
This translates to “April April You Stupid Herring. I Can Fool You Whenever I Want.”
Less than five minutes after learning this hilarious couplet, the following bit of news appeared out of Memphis:
This morning a 7’2″ pitcher from Sweden, Sloof Lirpa, signed a season-long contract with the Memphis Redbirds.
The 24-year-old pitched four perfect games while playing in the Sverige Baseball League, leading the league in strikeouts, innings pitched and maintaining an ERA under 1.00 all of last year.
Loek Van Mil was unavailable for comment.
Another team guilty of a suspiciously-timed announcement are the suddenly ubiquitous Akron Aeros, who unveiled the news that “Homer the Polka-Dotted Pigeon” will be their new mascot:
This one might actually be true, as the Aeros had fans vote on the bird’s name throughout the week via an online fan poll. And this is an industry that has created Rally Pickles, Anthropomorphic Biscuits, and a DeerBanana, so is a polka-dot pigeon really that much of a stretch?
Minor League Baseball: Making stupid herrings of us all.
It’s early Friday afternoon as I type this, a time in which my readership is likely to be particularly wary of too many words. Who wants to be burdened with the onerous task of reading when the weekend is so near?
So let’s go to the videos! I’ve come across quite a few over the past several days, and would love nothing more than to share them with you, the world-weary word-wary reader:
The State College Spikes have been innovators in the field of mystery-themed promotions, making GM Jason Dambach’s total lack of deductive reasoning skills all the more surprising.
I love videos like that: set-up, punchline, and done in under a minute. Or done in under 30 seconds, in the case of the Tennessee Smokies. This one features a guy who really knows how to make an impression.
And the brevity continues, this time courtesy of the Charleston RiverDogs. Yesterday, the team released their own version of “Cannibal, the Movie”. This one is not for the faint of heart:
The mascot angst continues in Omaha, where Stormy the would-be Storm Chaser has suffered yet another indignity.
Similar feelings of rejection have recently been felt by Wilmington’s Rocky the Blue Moose, who has had difficulty updating his look:
I’ll close things out with what is only a somewhat gratuitous video. The Baseball Project’s excellent second album was released last week, and I highly recommend picking it up. The combination of accomplished rock n roll chops and literate, passionate baseball writing is truly something to behold. Here’s the band playing on Letterman around the time their first album was released:
In the previous post on this blog, I mentioned my willingness to feature new logos. But like any good internet survivalist, I can make do with less than that.
Today, my biggest piece of news involves a team’s intent to soon unveil a new logo. That team would be the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, who will be releasing three new marks to the public on November 12.
In order to whip said public into an anticipatory frenzy, the Rattlers are releasing a series of countdown videos. Rarely has the inexorable passage of time been so exciting:
In tandem with the above video, T-Rats broadcaster Chris Mehring has written a column detailing the last time the team changed their identity. The year was 1994, and this name and logo was apparently in the running.
The Fox River Phantoms, represented by what appears to be a homicidal umpire:
At the very least, the insensate arbiter depicted above would make for a good horror movie character. His dispassionate but unstoppable pursuit of his victims would culminate in a coldhearted bat bludgeoning, one bringing new meaning to the phrase “Three strikes and you’re out.”
Sticking with the horror theme, the Trenton Thunder have dusted off a video that purports to reveal a ghostly presence emanating from the innards of Waterfront Park:
In considerably less horrifying news, the State College Spikes will soon be announcing the winner to their inaugural “Ike’s Wacky Weekly What Are They Saying Moment?” The fan who provides the funniest caption to this photograph wins a team-autographed baseball.
Finally, it’s time for another installment of Gratuitous Video Friday, the least anticipated feature of the internet’s least-commented upon blog.
This video features the rap stylings of one of the most deeply eccentric sports broadcasters of all time. “Sister Sledge can fall off a ledge!”