It’s Opening Day 2012, and my reaction regarding the start of a new baseball season is the same as it is every year. Four words says it all, and then some.
I would GREATLY appreciate it if someone could take the audio from the clip linked to above and lay it over an array of upbeat Minor League images, ending with the Opening Day 2012 logo. I’m serious.
And what better way to commemorate Opening Day than by reading the first “Promo Preview” column of the year? Let me know what you think of the new format (the jokes are still old). Featured in said column are new MiLB innovations such as this, straight outta Asheville:
The team reports, you decide:
Beginning on Opening Day, the Asheville Tourists, in conjunction with Wildwater ‘s Asheville Zipline Canopy Adventures, will deliver the game ball via zipline. Beginning nearly 500 feet from home plate, a guide from the Asheville-based zipline company and one lucky fan will fly 30 feet above the field, from the grounds of Memorial Stadium to the heart of McCormick Field, just prior to the announcement of “Play ball!”
“Coming to the ballpark is centered on entertainment and having fun,” said Tourists president Brian DeWine. “We felt there was no better way to achieve that goal than to combine two of Asheville’s favorite activities in baseball and ziplining.”
As for what else has been going on, the answer is EVERYTHING. For starters, special postal deliveries have been arriving regularly here at MiLB.com HQ, courtesy of all sorts of folks. Two of the newer arrivals:
Memphis Redbirds Schedule Poster
This is, if not a game changer, then at least a game modifier (I’d also accept “alterer”). As you can see in the above photo, fans can place their SmartPhones over Shelby Miller’s mouth in order to watch a video highlighting upcoming promotions. I’d tell you about said video, excepting my phone is defiantly stupid. It doesn’t even have the number 5.
Believe it or not, I have yet to watch Eastbound and Down. (Most of my television time has been spent lobbying Sony to release the rest of Mary Hartman Mary Hartman on DVD.) But the shirt is pretty cool, is it not?
Let’s close this Opening Day missive with a pair of items from our high-flying friends in Lancaster, CA — the JetHawks. In the wake of last Friday’s mega-sized Mega Millions drawing, the team decided to make winners (of sorts) out of the losers.
Starting Saturday from 11am to 2pm, fans can bring losing lottery tickets to the Clear Channel Stadium box office and receive a $2 discount on any April 12 Opening Day ticket in any section. If you can’t make it on Saturday, the discount will be available April 2-6 from 9am to 5pm.
And once admission is gained to a JetHawks game, unique comestibles await. This year’s latest (and therefore greatest) item is called “The Hawk’s Nest.”
It is, quite simply, “a nest of crispy onion straws in a bowl, topped with juicy chicken strips, chili, and cheese.”
And with that, a cut and pasted food description, I conclude my first post of the 2012 season. There’ll be plenty more where that came from.
As of this exact moment in time, I am being on followed on Twitter by 1652 hardy souls (and the occasional hardy spambot). I am grateful for each and every one of these individuals — especially the ones that possess sentience — but more are wanted and needed.
After all, I’m doing my best to document the best and brightest (not to mention the surrealest and strangest) that Minor League Baseball has to offer. This meticulous chronicling of a nationwide network of 160 distinct sporting entities is of interest to more than 1652 people. Of this I am sure.
Here’s one way to increase the ranks: give away Minor League memorabilia! As a result of my extensive travels (and more are coming soon!), I am awash in the stuff:
And now it’s time to give it away! Over the next month,@MinorLeagues (the official Twitter account of Minor League Baseball) and @BensBiz (yours truly) will be distributing this accumulated souvenir bounty to our loyal followers. It will start next Friday (March 16th), and run each Friday thereafter. Here’s how it will work.
1. Follow @MinorLeagues and @BensBiz on Twitter
2. Look for the following tweet, which will be posted each day of the contest at 2 p.m. ET: “It’s MiLB giveaway time! Must be following @MinorLeagues and @BensBiz to win! Click here for official rules.”
3. This tweet will be followed by another tweet, posing a question along the lines of the following: “What is your favorite Minor League logo and why? Respond to @BensBiz and @MinorLeagues to be eligible to win a prize.”
4. Those who respond to the question posed in the tweet (and are following both accounts) will be then entered into a drawing to win that day’s prize. As to what that could be — well, who knows? An Inland Empire 66ers Snuggie? An Iowa Cubs t-shirt? A Charleston RiverDogs knit cap? These are the sort of things that most people only dream of owning, and we are here to make your dreams come true.
So that’s the gist of it — a simple way to systematically distribute Minor League swag across the land, while gaining followers at the same time. What’s not to like?
And, teams — going forward @BenzBiz and @MinorLeagues would be delighted to promote your unique giveaway items and merchandise. Simply send a sample to MiLB.com HQ (address provided upon request). I’ll take pictures of it (maybe even make it my Twitter avatar pic for a few days), and then we’ll give it away in an manner similar to the one outlined above.
And while all of this is going on, I’ll be busy plotting my 2012 Minor League road trips. Rest assured that these travels will quickly replenish my MiLB souvenir supply, so that the entire process can begin again.
It’s a beautiful thing.
It’s been a week of -spection on this blog, of both the intro and retro varieties. Come Monday I’ll return to reporting on current Minor League events, but today we’ll keep with the theme and take one final look back at the season that was.
Specifically, my season that was. And even more specifically, the swag I accumulated. Whether through the mail or at the ballpark, people gave me a lot of stuff . By the end of the season I had no where to put it, save for in overstuffed bags beneath my overstuffed desk.
Enough is enough! Clearly, the time for Fall cleaning had arrived. First, I meticulously took stock of what I had.
And in doing so, I realized that I’d neglected to highlight the haul from my road trip to the Carolinas. This haul was dominated by the ever-generous Charleston RiverDogs, who had provided me with a full-to-overflowing bag of goodies.
The Big Lebowski-themed “Dog Abides” shirt had been briefly featured before, as I wore it while attending a game in Winston-Salem. But right above it there is a notable giveaway item — a Charleston Rainbows jersey (yes, this actually used to be the name of Charleston’s Minor League team).
I also obtained what I believe may have been a giveaway first — mascot-themed salt and pepper shakers, in which the spice-dispensing characters in question are flanked by a friendly tree.
One of the most notable members of the RiverDogs’ ownership group is Mike Veeck, who happened to be the guest of honor at the Kane County Cougars gala “Night of 100 Promotions.” And, wouldn’t you know it, I happened to obtain two shirts commemorating this event.
And, finally, a picture of some random stuff on a table. That’s when you know that you’ve reached the end of the line.
A select portion of my 2011 swag haul has been entered into the Ben’s Biz permanent archives, but the vast majority needs to be shed like so much excess skin. Plans are in the works for a swag giveaway later this offseason. Stay tuned…
At any rate, after this thorough cleaning and consolidation process, my work space is a lot more manageable.
Upwards and onwards!
But, because I can’t help myself, how about one final look back? I mentioned this on Twitter earlier in the week, but recently I came to a startling realization regarding my late July trip to the Carolinas: I saw seven games at seven stadiums in seven days, and the home team won each and every one!
I asked my Twitter followers what the odds of this happening would be, and most replied that it was 1/128 (.78%, two to the seventh power). But Scott “the Heckler” Jennings went a step further, compiling a Google document that took each team’s home record into account! His findings revealed odds of 1.01%
Regardless, it’s clear that I am a walking talisman, my mere presence brings victory to the masses. Invite me to your ballpark, and awkwardly intimate post-game celebrations will be the end result!
And, really, that’s going to it on the season-recap front (or is it?). From here on out it’s time to look ahead.
Look, a head!
Before the 2011 season began, I solicited suggestions regarding where I should travel this season. And one answer that I heard time and time again (via blog comments, Twitter, Facebook, and email) was “the Carolinas.”
This area is, simply put, a hotbed of Minor League Baseball.
Fueled by this feedback, I cobbled together the best itinerary I could muster given the vagaries of schedule, budget, and time constraints. And that itinerary is this:
7/20: Charleston RiverDogs
7/21: Myrtle Beach Pelicans
7/22: Kinston Indians
7/23: Durham Bulls
7/24: Burlington Royals
7/25: Danville Braves (okay, not technically the “Carolinas”)
7/26: Winston-Salem Dash
As usual, I will be doing my absolute best to chronicle the experience through MiLB.com stories, blog posts, Flipcam interviews, photo galleries, and highly aestheticized daguerreotypes. And, as usual, I will do my best to ward off anxiety attacks through the power of positive thinking.
And now comes the part of the post in which I earnestly implore you to GET IN TOUCH! Recommendations and information related to the ballparks and surrounding areas are much appreciated, and while time is always limited I do my absolute best to follow up on all the information I receive. There is some flexibility in regard to what I can write about, and your local knowledge often leads to unique content I wouldn’t be able to provide on my own.
But before I get too wrapped up in the future, let me return to the past with some ODDS and ENDS from my recent Ohio-Indiana road trip. I am happy to report that I was able to squeeze in a visit to Toledo’s world-famous Tony Packo’s — Hungarian purveyors of hot dogs, chili, and pickles.
There’s no wait staff at this joint, you just walk in and give your order to the uber-efficient and boisterous folks behind the counter.
I ordered a hot dog with Packo’s famous chili, paprika dumplings, and a side of “Pickles and Peppers.” That turned out to be a bit redundant, considering the generous amount of pickles that came with the hot dog.
While eating, I contemplated the rows and rows of signed and laminated hot dog buns on display. A sampling:
My next stop was Fort Wayne, and upon leaving that fine city I decided to pay a visit to the grave of Johnny Appleseed. But when I arrived at Johnny Appleseed Park, I found that it was a massive hiking, biking, and camping area comprising a very large amount of land. It was raining, no one was around, and no signs for the grave were in sight.
So I gave up on my mission, but the consolation prize was this photo of a road sign honoring former Fort Wayne mayor Harry Baals.
In summation: I tried to find Johnny Appleseed’s grave, but all I got was a photograph of this lousy street sign.
Sadly, the only other non-baseball excursion I was able to fit in came at the end of the trip. En route to Akron I stopped at Ravenna, OH, the town where I lived from birth through (nearly) age 2. When I got there, I was pleased to discover the town was in the midst of a classic car show and all-around civic celebration.
Upon returning to NYC’s comforting embrace, I took stock of my latest round of road trip swag.
Meanwhile, I just keep on getting things in the mail. Like this Bob Feller “Van Meter” bobblehead from the Iowa Cubs.
And the awesome Stockton Ports’ Jeremy Barfield “Rocket Arm” and Dallas Braden “Bobble Belly” combo.
For whatever reason, the Jeremy Barfield “Rocket Arm” has it in for the Dallas Braden “Bobble Belly.” As I looked on with horror, Barfield advanced on Braden and then fired a rocket shot right at his belly.
The moral of the story is don’t mess with Jeremy Barfield “Rocket Arm.” He will destroy you.
A major challenge for me when on the road is finding time to explore the area outside of the ballpark. This has been frustrating, because one of the greatest things about Minor League Baseball is that it organizes and contextualizes American travels. The presence of a Minor League team can serve as motivation to visit a place one otherwise wouldn’t. And, once there, why not find the time to take in the unique things that the surrounding community has to offer?
A Minor League road trip can (and should) be about much more than baseball. It is, quite simply, about America!
Professional obligations have, thus far, kept me from practicing what I preach in this regard (Click HERE for a sidebar compiling all output on the latest trip: five MiLB.com features, eight blog posts, four photo galleries, and 14 player interviews).
But every once in a while I can sneak something in. On May 12 in Tucson, I acted on a commenter tip and got lunch at El Guero Canelo. This place had great food and tons of character.
The Guero Canelo specialty is the “Sonora Dog”, a Tucson favorite in which the dog is wrapped in bacon and topped with cheese, salsa, onions, tomatoes, beans, mayonnaise and who knows what else. All of this was safely ensconced in the specially-crafted (and delicious) roll and served with a roasted pepper on the side. Tough to photograph in all its glory, but here’s my attempt:
Soon thereafter I toured Hi Corbett field, and followed that up by taking in its Reid Park surroundings.
May 13 was my first-ever road trip “travel day”, dedicated to driving from Tucson to Lancaster, CA (nearly 600 miles). Along the way I stopped at the “Casa Grande Ruins“, just because I saw a sign. It turned out to be an archaeological site, featuring the remains of an approximately 800 year old Native American settlement.
It’s hard to tell, but the hollowed out area in the picture below is of a ball field.
I’d love to learn more about this ancient game and how it was played, but was put off by this book’s rigorously academic tone. Perhaps someone can summarize for me?
Unfortunately, once I got to California it was pretty much all bizness all the time. I didn’t even have time to check out a tip from reader Rex Doane, what he dubbed “the most pathetic tourist attraction in the continental United States”: Adelanto, CA’s decaying lot of plastic dinosaurs! Fortunately he sent along a picture:
But I am now back in NYC, decaying in front of a keyboard. You may or may not have noticed that I have a new profile pic, one depicting the serenity I have found amidst my latest haul of road trip swag.
I didn’t actually acquire that vast array of mini-bobbleheads while on the road, but since they are all part of the Lancaster JetHawks’ “Hangar Heroes” series I included them in the photo (Lancaster was one of the teams I visited). But there was even more stuff I didn’t include.
Lake Elsinore Storm “Homewrecker” shirt, Iowa Cubs yearbook (received in mail), two Tucson Toros yearbooks, Lake Elsinore Storm cap, Cal League Baseball, San Bernardino Spirit Cap, Inland Empire 66ers souvenir baseball, Lancaster JetHawks camo cap, Charlie Sheen-Co De Mayo bobblehead, Lake Elsinore Storm toothbrush, “Goshen and Giddings” book on Visalia baseball history (by Rawhide announcer Donny Baarns), IE 66ers Ken Griffey Jr. “gold” bobblehead.
As you may recall, in my post on the Lancaster JetHawks I expressed a desirous attitude toward the following poster:
Three days later, I was handed this very poster at Lake Elsinore’s The Diamond by Storm fan (and Biz Blog reader) Ryan Bethell. Then, upon my return to NYC, there was a package waiting for me from the Minor League Baseball head office that included the past three editions of said poster.
The funny thing about all this is that with the exception of the poster, I didn’t ask for any of the swag depicted above. But I have a policy of saying yes to everything (both swag offers and requests to participate in aspects of the ballpark experience), and I take home as much as I can stuff into my carry-on luggage. Some of it ends up on my desk here at work, some in my apartment, and much is given away. But I greatly enjoy the absolute randomness of it all, and am quite proud of my ever-growing collection of Minor League detritus.
But one thing I am still missing is the woman of my dreams, who appeared on the Arizona highway like some sort of desert mirage.
I’ll catch up to you eventually, Biz Girl!