Tagged: Syracuse Chiefs

Minor League Baseball News Explosion!

The month began with a slew of attention-grabbing promotional announcements, but recently things have been pretty slow here in the world of Minor League Baseball. I call it the calm before the storm. Pretty good expression, right? Feel free to use it.

Therefore, now is a good time for a good ol’ fashioned bouillabaisse blog post (and, yes, for those keeping score at home, I always spell bouillabaisse correctly on the first try). If, for some reason, you need to use a restraining device while using your computer, then now would be a good time to buckle up. A bubbling stew of delectable Minor League morsels and mixed metaphors await you.


For the second year in a row, the New Hampshire Fisher Cats are featuring fans on their season tickets. Pretty cool, right?


Note, also, that the Fisher Cats (who for a short but glorious period of time were known as “The Primaries”) have unveiled their “Bipartisan” Opening Day jerseys. Fans get to vote on the accompanying hat. Pretty cool, right?



Speaking of politics, eminently qualified presidential candidate Donald Trump recently issued a “53 degrees or free” guarantee on behalf of the Syracuse Chiefs. Take that, Rochester. Until this video was released, I hadn’t realized just how much Trump looks like Chiefs general manager Jason Smorol. Pretty cool, right?


David Kronheim, aka “The Number Tamer”, has released his 2015 Minor League Baseball Attendance Analysis. It doesn’t get any more thorough than this (for more on the Number Tamer, read THIS ARTICLE and/or THIS GUEST BLOG POST). Pretty cool, right?


As I think I’ve mentioned before, the California League has a 75th anniversary logo


I bring this up because every team in the league has its own specific logo, courtesy Brandiose. Pretty cool, right?



The Northwest Arkansas Naturals are one of many teams that host Scout Night ballpark sleepovers. They are the only team (so far as I know), to issue scouts their own team-logo badges. Pretty cool, right?


Update: Fort Wayne TinCaps creative director Tony DesPlaines has creatively directed my attention to the fact that his club has been doing this for years.

TinCaps Scout Patches

Update to the Update: The Vermont Lake Monsters have been doing this for years as well.


Update to the Update to the Update: 

Update to the Update to the Update to the Update: 

Update to the Update to the Update to the Update to the Update: 

Guest Post: Why I Love the Syracuse Chiefs

It’s time for another installment of “Why I Love,” in which Minor League fans explains what it is they love about their favorite team, and why. Today’s guest writer is Jared Wicks, a Syracuse resident who, over the past decade, has become an ardent supporter of his hometown Chiefs.  

To see other “Why I Love” guest posts, click HERE. And if YOU would like to write a “Why I Love” guest post, email me at benjamin.hill@mlb.com

Why I Love the Syracuse Chiefs, by Jared Wicks

(All photo courtesy of Jared Wicks, unless otherwise noted)

NBT Bank Stadium, home of the Syracuse Chiefs (Ben's Biz file photo)

NBT Bank Stadium, home of the Syracuse Chiefs (Ben’s Biz file photo)

Growing up in Syracuse, New York, I was taught that there were two teams to root for: Syracuse University basketball and Syracuse University football. If you insisted on watching baseball, then there were New York Yankees games on TV. I was also taught that my family’s income level would only permit attending a few sporting events each season, and always in the upper, upper deck.

In my youth I was familiar with the Chiefs. But, like many people in the area, I never thought much of them. That changed during the 2004 season, when I was 17. I received some free tickets from my sister, so my friends and I decided to head to the ballpark. Why not? The list of things to do in the area on a minimum wage budget were few and far between. That night, after the seventh inning, my friends and I sneaked down to the lower level seats and watched a man named Russ Adams play for Syracuse. He made an impression on us, largely because of the PA announcer’s introduction of “Ruuuussss Ad-dams.” Then, just a few days later, my friends and I were at a local sports bar watching the Toronto Blue Jays play against the New York Yankees. Up to plate came a man whom I had recently been just a few feet away from. Yes, Mr. Ruuuuussss Ad-dams.

Ever since that day I’ve been a die-hard fan. The Chiefs have, without seeming to even try, made me feel important while providing top-notch entertainment. I am certainly not rich, but when I’m at NBT Bank Stadium it’s hard not to feel that way. For a small price, you can sit just a few feet away from the baseball stars of yesterday, today and tomorrow. The Chiefs became my little secret, but it wasn’t long before all of my friends took to the idea of going to games. In the central New York area there aren’t too many entertainment options on a summer night, and it doesn’t get much better than being at the ballpark watching players competing within the highest level of the Minors. From my vantage point in section 105, row 1, I’ve gotten a chance to watch Jayson Werth, Vernon Wells, John Smoltz, Josh Beckett, Melky Cabrera, Bryce Harper and many, many more. I can hear, smell and see everything, and maybe even get to hear the players say “Thank you” after I scream out “Good luck.”


7 April 2010-Strasburg 008

Stephen Strasburg pitching for the Chiefs in 2010

In all the time I’ve been going to games, one of the most important aspects has been getting a chance to meet and become friends with some great people. Unlike bigger sports franchises, Minor League Baseball provides an intimate atmosphere. I have gotten to know many season-ticket holders and fans on a first-name basis — or should I say on a nickname basis? One of my favorites is former season-ticket holder Michael Kendrick. (Or, as we liked to call him, “K Dad.”) Kendrick came to every game from 2005-13, and during this time he was responsible for hanging the strikeout “Ks” for the Chiefs pitchers. He also was known for his heckling of players, which he peppered with unique and obscure facts. He might mention a player’s interests outside of baseball, or call former Yankee prospect Shelly Duncan by his real name (it’s David).

And then there’s Dave, who sits in section 207, row 1 at every single game (and many road games, too). While quiet in nature, Dave boasts a vast knowledge of not just Syracuse Chiefs baseball but also politics, social issues and other areas of sports history. And of course I have to mention Lloyd “The Suspect” Broadnax. We call Broadnax “the suspect” because of the catchphrase he uses while heckling the opposing team: “You’re not a prospect, you’re a suspect!”  Broadnax doesn’t stop his heckling for even one minute during the game. The writer of this blog, Ben Hill, learned that this past season. Hill was trying to interview him, and during the interview Broadnax would only answer his questions in-between pitches.

(That article can be found HERE).

Jared Wicks, center, dressed as an umpire. Lloyd "The Suspect" Broadnax is in the white Chiefs jersey.

Jared Wicks, center, standing next to Lloyd “The Suspect” Broadnax (in white)

As if I didn’t already have enough reasons to love the Chiefs, management at the ball yard changed hands prior to the 2014 season. Jason Smorol was named general manager, and everything that I always said I would love to do if I owned a Minor League team came to life during his first season. Smorol brought an unmatched energy to the ballpark, introducing great games, promotions, deals and themes that made you not want to miss a single game.

One night, during a rain delay, the Chiefs set up a free miniature golf course on the concourse. I mean, how cool is that?

2014-06-24 20.19.07

One promotion that I really became a part of was Tattoo Night. This promo offered me a chance at two great things: One, to get a free Syracuse Chiefs’ logo tattoo, courtesy of the Chiefs and sponsor Carmelo’s Ink City. Two, that very tattoo now grants me free admission for life to all Chiefs games.

2014-07-01 17.09.10

Regardless of the tattoo, the Chiefs are well worth the five dollar cost of admission. They have provided me with years of not just entertainment, but memories. Summer nights with friends, enjoying dollar hot dogs, talking about work and family, watching fireworks, laughing at monkeys dressed as cowboys riding dogs and even seeing things like a perfect game by Columbus Clipper Justin Germano and a four-homer game by the Chiefs’ Michael Aubrey. And last season I — and the whole city — was provided with a real chance to get excited. The Chiefs made it to the playoffs for the first time since 1998 and won their first division title since 1989.

Being a fan of the Chiefs has also given me an opportunity to visit other great cities, simply by following the team. Day trips to Rochester, Scranton and even Cooperstown to see them play have allowed me to explore those cities.

18 May 2008- Cooperstown 001

Shopping, zoos and landmarks lead to great day trips, which still cost under $100 for two people (including game tickets, gas and food). I even got a chance, in 2011, to watch the Chiefs play the Pawtucket Red Sox at Fenway Park in Boston. The seats we had would have cost $150 face value at a Red Sox game, but they only cost me $22 and that was for a doubleheader.


The cuisine at any ballpark is great, superior to any other sports option in Syracuse. The Chiefs sell Hoffman’s Hot Dogs, a central New York staple, a dog so good that Hall of Fame coach Jim Boeheim and Hall of Fame quarterback Roger Staubach became investors. The Chiefs sell these hot dogs at the same price that it would cost you to make one at home and, on Thursdays, for even less than that. My love of all things Canada is satisfied with poutine, and there are also pulled pork sandwiches, salt potatoes (a New York specialty) and even a burger with a hot dog on top of it.


Poutine, Bens Biz file photo

I have recently changed my goals in life, from working as a correction officer to returning to school. I now want to work in sports, preferably Minor League Baseball, and it’s all thanks to the Chiefs. I love this team because they love me right back. Unlike at Yankee Stadium or Lambeau Field, there is something to be said for watching a sports team whose staff knows your name, whose ushers know your seat and whose players smile when they hear you say something funny.

While other sports fans in New York may struggle to obtain custom license plates of their favorite teams — they’re all taken — GoChiefs was available for me as a way to show my pride. Summer is meant to be spent outdoors, and in central NY there is no cheaper or better option than the Syracuse Chiefs.

2013-06-03 17.17.41

Thanks to Jared for taking the time to write this and, again: If YOU would like to submit a post for this series, then send an email to the address below. In the meantime, here’s my 2014 “On the Road” post detailing my Syracuse Chiefs experience. Jared even makes a cameo: 




Current Events

A distinct blogging dynamic has emerged this offseason, as I find myself splitting my efforts between timely, of-the-moment topics and better-late-than-never guest posts and other leftover 2014 season odds and ends. Today’s post will be dedicated to the former category. This ain’t no Rerun, this is What’s Happening!!

Obligatory pop culture reference now complete. Let’s proceed.

The New Hampshire Fisher Cats are currently in the tail-end of a unique and creative ticket promotion. This promotion is pretty self-explanatory:


Here’s how it works, per the team:

Want to see your photo on a Season Ticket? Post your favorite Fisher Cats-themed photo on our Facebook page, and it could be featured on a 2015 Season Ticket. Submit photos of your family having fun at a game, smiling with Fungo at a parade, or even wearing your favorite Fisher Cats hat at the beach! Post and share your photos here. The deadline is Jan. 10!

As of this writing (the afternoon of January 9), the team had received over 100 submissions. Check it out HERE. And, for what it’s worth, here’s my submission. It was taken at an undisclosed location during a secret visit to the Fisher Cats’ home of Delta Dental Stadium. Earlier in the evening, I had visited the team store to purchase this officially licensed cap.

IMG_0708 —

Kudos to the Potomac Nationals, who did not let the promotion of an integral member of their operation go unnoticed.


Sez the team:

Woodbridge, VA–The Potomac Nationals have announced the contract of team Clubhouse Manager, Jeremy Delewski has been purchased by the Syracuse Chiefs, the Washington Nationals’ Triple-A International League affiliate.

According to Syracuse Chiefs officials, Delewski’s promotion from the Class-A Advanced Potomac Nationals to Washington’s Triple-A club was finalized in San Diego, CA during the 2014 Major League Baseball Winter Meetings.

The financial terms of this transaction have not been disclosed.

Hey! Remember when I visited the Bakersfield Blaze during the 2013 season? I really enjoyed my time there, and it resulted in what I feel was one of my best-ever “On the Road” MiLB.com articles (not to be confused with my “On the Road” blog posts from the same locale).

Anyhow, one of the highlights of my evening in Bakersfield was meeting mascot performer Ryan Salisbury, who had gotten a ride to the game via this Craigslist ad:


Ryan has now been featured in this Strongest Hearts video, which highlights his unique status as a vegan Minor League mascot. Some quotes from the video:

“Maybe it will lead to something else, maybe it won’t. But enjoy it while we can.”

“There’s a little bit of a smell.”

And, my favorite:

“You can enjoy [sports] from a nerdy background or a weird background.”

Anyhow, watch the whole thing here.

Strongest Hearts Extra; Heater the Bakersfield Blaze Mascot from Strongest Hearts on Vimeo.

And, of course, please make sure to check out my recent MiLB.com material. This week, three articles appeared:

Batting Around — My monthly (more or less) round-up of notable business developments in the world of Minor League Baseball.

Columbia Breaks Ground on New Ballpark — News story on a stadium that will be hosting a yet-to-be-officially-named relocating Minor League team. Contains plenty of insight from team CEO Jason Freier on why Columbia is “crying out” for a team.

Minoring in Business — This edition of the long-running column is a joint interview with new Midwest League president Dick Nussbaum and his predecessor, George Spelius.



On the Road: Changing Directions in Syracuse

(Interested in perusing all of my 2014 “On the Road” content? Click HERE  to visit a continually updated “On the Road” landing page. Bookmark it, and read ‘em all!)

On Tuesday, Aug. 27, I woke up in Buffalo and, after a concentrated burst of exploration in that fine city, hit the road and drove 150 miles on I-90 east to Syracuse. While flipping through the radio dial on the way there, it seemed like all the disc jockey chatter was focused on the New York State Fair. People in this region of New York seem to LOVE the State Fair, an annual 12-day, late-summer extravaganza that takes place in a town just west of Syracuse proper. During the drive to Syracuse, I thrilled to a radio host’s impassioned rant against a new State Fair policy banning goldfish as one of the Midway game prizes, and, later, I was less than thrilled to hear that people seemed to enjoy seeing Train and the Wallflowers perform the night before.

But the New York State Fair — featuring performances by Journey and Cheap Trick! — wasn’t the only game in town on Aug. 27. For it was on that evening that I attended a ballgame at NBT Bank Stadium, home of the Syracuse Chiefs. Ignoring the adjacent “Park and Ride” State Fair parking lot, I deposited my vehicle within a vast expanse of asphalt and proceeded toward this, the main entrance.


2014 was a very interesting season for the Chiefs, both on and off the field. Last fall, after a string of money-losing seasons and increasing dissatisfaction regarding the direction of the community-owned franchise, John Simone was replaced as general manager by Jason Smorol. In November I wrote an article about this chain of events, excerpted here:

In 2013, the Chiefs drew only 345,000 fans to NBT Ballpark, the lowest total since the stadium opened in 1997. Upon the conclusion of this dispiriting campaign, the news only got worse as a financial report released by the team’s board of directors revealed that the franchise had already lost more than $500,000 in 2013. This was, by far, the most that the International League franchise had ever lost in a single year.

Drastic times call for drastic measures. And at the end of September, the board relieved general manager John Simone of his duties. Simone had served in that role since 1996, taking over for his father, legendary executive Tex Simone, who had been at the helm since 1970. The 2014 season will mark the first time since the 1960s that a Simone hasn’t been in charge of the Chiefs, and stepping into that void will be none other than Smorol. Can he turn this ailing franchise around?

2014 not only marked Smorol’s first season at the helm, it also included the Chiefs’ first trip to the postseason since 1998 and their first division title since 1989. (On the day I was in attendance, they were on the verge of clinching the North Division title, a feat accomplished three days later.)

After introducing myself to Mr. Smorol, I proceeded to the press box and took in the view on what was an overcast but generally pleasant evening at 17-year-old NBT Bank Stadium.


The concourse was sparkling.


Walking further down the right-field line, one finds the “Hank Sauer Room of Legends.” Sauer played four seasons as a member of the Chiefs (1942-43 and 1946-47, with two years of military service in-between), hitting 50 home runs in 1947 at the age of 30. This solidified him once and for all as a bona fide power hitter, and he went on to play in the Majors from 1948-1959 (winning an MVP Award as a member of the Chicago Cubs in 1952).


Smorol later told me that the team has “grand visions” for the Room of Legends, as the long-term plan is for it to house the Chiefs’ Hall of Fame.


Outside of the Room of Legends, one finds this tribute to Syracuse’s “Mr. Baseball” Tex Simone. Prior to his retirement last year, Tex had been involved with the Chiefs, in one capacity or another, since the franchise’s inaugural season in 1961. (Other iterations of the Chiefs existed, in one form or another, from 1934-1957).


This bust had originally been located at the main entrance to the stadium, and its relocation to the Room of Legends did not sit well with the Simone family. This article, from Syracuse.com, details the ensuing controversy and provides a good glimpse at the turmoil that gripped the franchise prior to this season of transition.

Moving on to happier matters: 1911 is a local spirits and hard cider company whose products are readily available at this “Flavors of Syracuse” concession stand. (On an unrelated note, those two guys must have been so embarrassed when they realized that they wore the same outfit to the ballpark.)


Blue collared shirt? Check. Khaki shorts? Check. Sneakers? Check.

All of the pregame photos shared thus far show few fans in the ballpark. But a significant number of early-arriving fans were indeed present, and their mission was to procure an autograph from special ballpark guest Bucky “Expletive Deleted” Dent. The line snaked through the concourse, as legendary Syracuse vendor Jimmy Durkin roamed up and down the line selling pens.

“Hey!” yelled Durkin. “Get your own pen right here! They’re any color you want! They’re only a dollar! Hey!”

029 Away from the concourse, the scene remained serene.

030The Chiefs were wearing theme jerseys as part of the evening’s “Latino Night” promotion.


“What we found out is that Syracuse doesn’t have a very large Latino population,” Smorol later told me. “This might be our last Latino Night.”

Speaking of Smorol, here he is on the scoreboard making a nightly pregame speech that details all of the activity that’s about to take place at the ballpark. I had seen Rochester Red Wings general manager Dan Mason making a similar speech several days before, and I think it’s a great idea. It sends the message that the general manager is open and personable, ready and willing to interact with the fans and listen to their suggestions and questions, and this is an especially important thing for someone in Smorol’s position to do. He’s the proverbial “new guy in town,” after all, and a big part of his job this year was to turn around the public perception that the Chiefs are an out-of-touch organization.


Oh, and for those keeping score at home: The videoboard seen above was installed prior to the 2012 season, boasting dimensions of 30 by 55 feet.

Meanwhile, my wandering continued. This is the view from down the right-field line:

034During these solitary travels, I came across a piece of signage left over from the “Sky Chiefs” era. The team went by this moniker from 1997-2006, reverting back to the original “Chiefs” name in 2007. At that point the team adopted a train-themed identity that “honors the mighty railroads that shipped goods manufactured in Syracuse all over America.”

035Just minutes before, when I had been on the left-field side of the stadium, the Fun Zone inflatables were standing tall and proud. But, clearly, something had since gone awry.


The Rochester Red Wings were that evening’s opponent. In the team’s bullpen, I noticed one-time Moniker Madness semifinalist Mark Hamburger receiving a vigorous back rub from one of his relief corps compatriots.


Hamburger then returned the favor. Hey, you scratch my back…

038The game was now under way, and the Latino Night videoboard graphics were in full effect. (I’m not exactly sure why Steven Souza is listed as having a .000 batting average, as he played in 96 games for the the Chiefs this season. He and several other core Syracuse players were called up to the Nationals at the conclusion of the regular season, and this move angered Chiefs fans who felt that the team should have remained intact for the playoffs.)

041If the scoreboard is to believed, “Today’s Options” equal the sound made when someone blows into the crook of their arm.

043International League baseball inaction.


The Chiefs are one of a few teams to feature an elderly mascot among their costumed character repertoire. Here’s Pops, up close and personal.

044 Soon thereafter, I caught a less up-close but still quite personal view of Scooch. Introspective mascot alert!

046I didn’t just meet with mascots during these early-game peregrinations. I also spent a significant chunk of time with Brian Goswell and his son, Owen. They were my designated eaters for the evening (you know, the individuals recruited to eat the ballpark cuisine that my gluten-free diet prohibits).

051Brian, his wife, Joanne, and Owen had driven all the way from Kingston, Ontario, in order to obtain designated-eating glory (although Joanne, probably wisely, had chosen to abstain). Brian, who works for the city of Kingston, serves as the president of the baseball league in which Owen, 12, competes. Owen is a catcher, and Brian proudly told me that he’s “got the art of framing a pitch down pat.” Owen, whose favorite player is Josh Thole, told me that I bore a striking resemblance to Thole’s battery mate R.A. Dickey. Does he have a case here?



Eponymous Biz Blog author:


Brian, a dedicated reader of this blog for several years, had long had designated-eating aspirations. He contacted me shortly after my 2014 trip itineraries were posted and promptly secured this honor, all the while unaware that his passport had expired. Thanks to his deft handling of the required bureaucratic maneuvers, a new one arrived in the mail the day before and his plans proceeded apace.

Oh, the irony: The Goswells crossed the border into the United States so that they could eat some poutine. Poutine, of course, is a Canadian specialty consisting of french fries covered with gravy and cheese curds. This might be blasphemous to those living north of the border, but the Chiefs’ iteration of this dish replaced the cheese curds with shredded mozzarella.


Owen, an avowed poutine fan, says that his favorite poutine purveyors are New York Fries and Smoke’s Poutinerie. Of the Chiefs’ offering, he remarked that it’s “Awesome, better than some in Canada. I like the different cheese — mozzarella instead of curds.”

“When cheese, gravy and fries are added together, you can’t lose,” added Brian.

Next up was a fried clam sandwich, served with cole slaw and french fries.

055Father and son partake:

“I’m not big on seafood, but I thought that this was good,” said Brian. “My wife was right: ‘Try it — you might like it.'”

“But she doesn’t need to hear about this,” replied Owen.

Next up was chicken wings with “Bang Bang” sauce, which Smorol raved about. (“It’s good on everything!” he enthused at one point. “Bang bang everything!”)

My photo of the wings is abysmal.


Out of focus, everything

I’m not too familiar with the history and origin of Bang Bang sauce, but it appears to be a spicy-sweet mayo-based condiment.


“Jason was right: ‘Bang Bang everything,'” said Brian. “These are really good.”

“I agree,” said Owen.

“It’s not much that you and I agree on,” said Brian. “You’re coming around.”

“Don’t tell Mom this, either,” said Owen. “Then she’ll want us to get along all of the time.”

Meanwhile, Smorol couldn’t help but help himself to some chicken wings. What, the GM worry?


The upstate New York specialty that are salt potatoes made an appearance as well. I have no other photos or quotes involving these potatoes, but here they are.


Finally, there were some hot dogs. Hofmann’s hot dogs, to be exact, a local company that spells its name in counterintuitive “one F, two N’s” fashion.

063 Father and son partake.

064Brian called this “one of the top three hot dogs I’ve ever had” as a result of its “big ballpark feel and the spicy mustard complementing it.”

“It was huuuge,” concluded Owen.

And that, as they say, was that.

“I have now fulfilled one of my lifelong dreams,” said Brian. “Being your designated eater.”


Brian had one final request before disappearing into the sunset. Would I please do a Syracuse Chiefs #Cupdate?

But of course. This one’s for you, collectible cup aficionados, courtesy of Brian Goswell.


049After parting ways with the Goswells, I walked over to the concourse area behind home plate and introduced myself to legendary vendor Jimmy Durkin. I ended up conducting a brief interview with Jimmy, which will form the basis of an upcoming MiLB.com piece (I’m telling ya, this season’s road trip content might never end).


Hey, it’s Jimmy Durkin!

Lest we forget, there was a game going on.

069Of the 4,209 fans in attendance on this Tuesday evening, there was one gentleman in particular that I wanted to meet.

071And there he is: Lloyd “Suspect” Broadnax.

075Lloyd is a Chiefs superfan known for his profound heckling skills, and his backstory is an interesting one (read all about it in my “Suspect” MiLB.com piece). Here he is in action.

The Chiefs held a “Tattoo Night” promo earlier in the season, in which fans got a team-logo tattoo in exchange for season tickets. Lloyd, not surprisingly, was one of the fans who took part.


Jared Wicks, a die-hard Chiefs fan who often sits in the same section as Lloyd, got a tattoo as well.

077Ziv Konsens, another regular attender, displaying an “Ump Needs Glasses” eye chart.

079Lloyd, Jared, Ziv and everyone else had plenty to cheer about, as the Chiefs plated a pair in both the seventh and eighth frames en route to a 4-3 win. It was a good — “neigh” — great victory for the Chiefs. The fans cheered themselves “horse.”


I took that picture on my way out of the ballpark, but that was only so I could go back into the ballpark. My next stop was the Chiefs’ ground-floor front-office area, which features several full-to-bursting display cases of Chiefs memorabilia.




I ended up spending quite a bit of time in the front office, chatting with team staffers who were decompressing after (yet another) long day. I also spoke with 98-year-old Don Waful, a former Chiefs team president who is still a regular presence at the ballpark. Here, Waful points to his plaque on the Chiefs Wall of Fame.

093Waful, a WWII veteran, spent more than two years in a German POW camp located in Poland. One of the American prisoners alongside him was Fred Johnson, the father of former Nationals manager Davey Johnson. Last February, Johnson attended the Chiefs’ annual Hot Stove Dinner specifically so that he could talk to Waful about his war memories. From a Syracuse.com article on the encounter:

Fred Johnson was a tank commander who slept in the same section of an Oflag64 barracks as Waful and six other men. But Davey Johnson recalls that his father – quiet and reserved – rarely spoke about what he endured as a POW.

Johnson looked forward to what he might learn from Waful, who told him about the intense cold at the camp, during winters in Poland. Waful told him about the awful nature of the food. But he also remembered the extraordinary camaraderie that bound together all the prisoners during the harsh days of the war.

It’s hard to top a story like that, so I won’t even try. Good night from NBT Bank Ballpark, an enjoyable place to take in a ballgame and a fine entertainment alternative to the New York State Fair.




On the Road: New York State of Mind, Part Three

(Interested in perusing all of my 2014 “On the Road” content? Click HERE  to visit a continually updated “On the Road” landing page. Bookmark it, and read ‘em all! More articles are being added by the day.)

Part one in this series detailed my non-ballpark explorations (or lack thereof) in Batavia, Rochester and Jamestown. Part two covered Erie, Pennsylvania and Buffalo, New York. Part three, which you are reading now, begins on August 27th in Syracuse and ends on the 29th as I leave Syracuse for Troy (one of the “Tri-Cities” referenced in the Tri-City ValleyCats name).

But enough of this introductory babble: Let’s get to it, lest it get to us!

August 27 — Syracuse, New York (home of the Chiefs)

After leaving Buffalo (where the last post left off), I arrived in Syracuse in the late afternoon and drove straight to the Chiefs’ home of NBT Ballpark. Here’s a sneak preview of what that looked like:


I attended that evening’s game — some has been written regarding that experience, but much more remains to be written — and then checked into the Crowne Plaza Hotel in downtown Syracuse. This was a fairly classy establishment, above average as Minor League team hotels go, but the most notable thing about it was the elevators. To use them, one would type in the desired floor on a console located in the lobby, and the console screen would then direct the user to one of three elevators. Inside the elevators there were no buttons (outside of those used for emergencies), since the elevator already “knew” where you wanted to go.

This might be superior to the traditional system, but I found it impossible to shake the habit of pushing a button once inside the elevator. Every time, there was that instinctual lunge toward where the buttons would be, followed by the realization of “Oh, right, it already knows what floor I want to go to.” Everyone I rode with seemed to have the same reaction, with the result that the elevators were always a topic of conversation when riding the elevators. In this regard, the unorthodox system served as a vehicle for increased social interaction within an environment usually permeated by stilted going-through-the-motions niceties and subsequent awkward silence.

August 28: A full day in Syracuse, but not much to report.

After a bout of late morning writing, I set out to Dinosaur Bar-B-Que for lunch. Dinosaur has become a mini BBQ empire here in the Northeast, but it all started at this location in downtown Syracuse.

095I got a brisket and ribs combination platter, and while no photographic evidence of this meal is available I can assure you that it was delicious. And BBQ is generally pretty easy to navigate on the gluten-free front — stay away from sandwiches (and in some cases, certain sauces) and you’re pretty much good to go. Here’s a picture of the brisket, unabashedly stolen from the Dinosaur Bar-B-Que home page:


(As an aside, I recently went to Mighty Quinn’s BBQ in New York City. I was a bit wary of the place because it received a lot of hype and places in NYC often don’t live up to said hype, but this place served some of the best BBQ I’ve ever had. Not just in the northeast, but anywhere. The brisket and wings were particularly amazing. If you’re visiting NYC, make sure to get a meal there. Maybe I’ll join you.)

Anyhow, all I did after going to Dinosaur BBQ was go back to the hotel room, do some more writing, and then drive to Auburn to see that evening’s Doubledays game. Some has been written about that experience, and much more remains to be written. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to spend any time whatsoever in Auburn proper, which is regrettable. Auburn bills itself as “History’s Hometown,” and attractions include the Harriet Tubman Home and Fort Hill Cemetery (built on a site once used by Native Americans as a fortress). It was also the childhood home of apocryphal baseball inventor Abner Doubleday — hence the name of the local sporting nine.

Auburn -- home to Lil' Abner

Auburn — home to Lil’ Abner

August 28 — Syracuse, New York and Troy, New York (home of the ValleyCats).

After checking out of the Crowne Plaza and saying goodbye to the unorthodox elevators, I jumped (literally jumped!) into the car and headed to New Century Vietnamese Restaurant for lunch. Located on a block that was otherwise residential, this unassuming establishment really delivered the goods.


And by “the goods,” I mean this. God bless Vietnamese food. It is consistently wonderful.

001Time was at a premium, as it always is, but before leaving Syracuse I decided to look up the address of a local record store, punch it into the GPS, and head over. This effort brought me to this area.

007And, specifically, to The Soundgarden. (Given this store’s name, you’d think it’d be located near Cornell as opposed to Syracuse University).


The Soundgarden is the sort of store that used to be quite common in college towns, a something-for-everybody clearinghouse of cds, vinyl, posters, t-shirts, books, magazines, collectible toys and even incense. I like these kind of places.



My big find here was the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion “She’s On It/Jack the Ripper” 12″ that was released for Record Store Day. (The NYC stores had sold out of it quickly, and I never got a copy. My high school self would have been very disappointed at my lackadaisical efforts in obtaining this record, as back then a record featuring the Blues Explosion covering Beastie Boys would have made my head explode. (Oh, and fun fact: the first concert I ever saw was Beastie Boys at the Philadelphia Civic Center in May of 1995. Blues Explosion and the Roots opening.))

Anyhow, I also picked up three used cds: Neil Young “Road Rock,” Acid Mothers Family “Do Whatever You Want Don’t Do Whatever You Don’t Want” and “Weird Al” Yankovic “Poodle Hat.” (I coulda sworn I had this already, but a recent perusal of the stacks indicated otherwise. It is imperative to own all “Weird Al” recordings).

And that was it for Syracuse. I realize I didn’t have much but I stretched it out for all that it was worth and got a little more self-indulgent than usual in the process. I hope you don’t mind.

From Syracuse it was on to Troy, where I attended that evening’s Tri-City ValleyCats game. So far nothing has been written about that, but the blog post from that evening promises to be fairly epic. The next day I had some time to poke around the city of Troy, but I think I’m going to save that material for a fourth (and definitely final) “New York State of Mind” post.

Until then, I remain,



Flipping the Script

The use of Native American imagery within the world of sports is a controversial topic, as teams like the Cleveland Indians and (especially) the Washington Redskins are under increasing pressure to abandon names and/or logos seen as culturally insensitive. But the Spokane Indians have found a way around this problem, collaborating with the local Spokane tribe to adopt a look that celebrates, rather than denigrates, the people it purports to represent.

This season, the club will wear a jersey in which “Spokane” is written in Salish script.


The collaboration between the Spokane Indians and the Salish tribe is nothing new, but the above jersey represents a significant development. In fact, this partnership will be the topic of my next Minoring in Business article, running on MiLB.com tomorrow. Stay tuned!

Speaking of teams sporting a name inspired by their region’s Native American population, the Syracuse Chiefs recently unveiled this:

But that’s not the only interesting historical sporting overview that I’ve recently found via Twitter. Behold:

But as much as some things change, others remain constant. On 3/14 the Bowling Green Hot Rods held a “Pi Day” promo, in which tickets were sold for $3.14 for three hours and 14 minutes, beginning at 3:14 p.m. (And, as an added bonus,  fans who bought the tickets in person were offered free slices of pizza “pi”.)

I was curious as to how this promotion was received, and Hot Rods assistant general manager Ben Hemmen satiated my curiosity thusly.

National “Pi” Day was a BIG hit in Bowling Green. In just three hours and fourteen minutes (3.14), we sold over 600 tickets at the box office or over the phone to games for this upcoming summer. The Power of “Pi” will definitely be something that we look at using next season to tie in a promotional opportunity for our fans.

Among the many items on team to-do lists at this time of year is adding new situationally appropriate song selections to the music database. For help with this endeavor, one enterprising rookie-level P.A. announcer took to Reddit. The resulting discussion is well worth reading.

This blog is also well worth reading, in my less-than-humble opinion, and I thank you for having Reddit.



Minor Leagues, Minor Changes

A quick glance to your right will reveal some minor changes to the ol’ blog dashboard, changes that I hope will add to your overall enjoyment of the Biz Blog experience.

For starters, why not subscribe? Those who do so will receive an email notification each and every time a new post goes live. (Because if there’s one thing you surely need in your life, it’s more email.) Below that you’ll find my five most recent Tweets, and hopefully that will serve as a not-so-subtle reminder to please follow me on Twitter (@bensbiz).

Biz Bloga Lisa says: "Subscribe!"

The links have been updated (and will continue to be updated) as well. I added the category “Ben’s Biz on MiLB.com” to provide links to some of my recurring website features, an action that may help alleviate the disconnect between blog and MiLB.com contact. They are meant to complement one another!


Find me on MiLB.com!

But not everything is about me, of course. I’ve updated the list of team blogs to include heavy hitters such as the Frisco RoughRiders “Insider Blog” (regularly updated and chock full of info) and the similarly information-besotted (and oft humorous) “Inside the Chiefs” with the Chiefs in question hailing from Syracuse.

On the player side of things, check out “Cole Cook’s Stream of Consciousness.” This should turn out to be one of the most creative and unpredictable blogs out there, and recent posts include literal-minded rap song interpretations as well as ruminations on the potential sentience of mouth-residing gingivitis killers.

(Cook, as you may recall, is a right-hander in the Cleveland Indians organization who I interviewed this past June. He actually grew up in Herman’s Head).

Also of note is Mets farmhand Collin McHugh’, whose “A Day Older, A Day Wiser” is a well-written and wise chronicle of the Minor League life. It is certainly worth your time, should you have any to spare.

Reading about the Minor Leagues is fun!

Also, for the heck of it, I threw on a link to one of last season’s personal writing projects: “Leave ‘Em Wanting Moyer,” a start-by-start documentation of Jamie Moyer’s 2010 season. It’s slightly insane, but aren’t we all?

Anyhow, if YOU have any suggestions as to what blogs to highlight and link to (insane or otherwise), then please get in touch via the usual channels. With this bit of housekeeping complete, I’ll leave you with the best Minor League team video that I’ve come across all day.

Over the Line!

And, why not? Here’s one I missed the first-time around: the Round Rock Express’ Ballpark Rob takes on the phenomenon that was “Friday.”



Moving On Down

Thumbnail image for lad.jpgI find myself with much random material that I would like to share with you, an individual who I presume possesses at least a passing interest in Minor League Baseball game operations and promotions.

In order to create some sort of order from the chaos, I shall organize said material by level of play. Let’s start at the top of the Minor League ladder, and then move down rung-by-rung until, finally, we find ourselves back on solid ground.

This may take a few days, actually…


The Toledo Mud Hens established a Fifth Third Field attendance record this past Friday, and it wasn’t because of a “National Dance Like A Chicken Day” promotion that came complete with complimentary chicken hat:

No, the primary draw was Crystal Bowersox. My hopes of an exciting new fad in jewel-strewn footwear were quickly dashed when I found out that Crystal is an “American Idol” finalist who hails from Ohio. 13,200 turned out to see the up-and-coming troubador sing the National Anthem; I have yet to confirm if she later led the crowd in a spirited rendition of the Chicken Dance.

— Those same Toledo players who enjoyed the vocal stylings of Ms. Bowersox are not nearly as enamored of opposing mascots, as this item from the latest “International League Notebook” makes clear:

Durham mascot [Wool E. Bull] was pelted by water balloons from the Toledo dugout
when he
wooly.jpg appeared on the field [May 12], but it wasn’t quite as funny
when the mascot slipped on the wet grass and suffered an apparent knee

“Just what we needed — Wool E. Bull is hurt. The training room is full
already,” Durham manager Charlie Montoyo told the
Durham Herald-Sun.

— The last time I wrote about mascot injuries, the costumed character in question was “Pops” from the Syracuse Chiefs.     Fortunately, Pops seems to be okay these days, as the only thing I have to report from Syracuse is that the team’s blog is currently featuring an amusing rundown of International League hotels.  The latest such establishment to be featured is Pawtucket’s Comfort Inn. 

— Which brings me to my next item, as the excellent blog of Pawtucket broadcaster Dan Hoard recently featured a post on Mike Cameron’s over-the-top generosity during his recent rehab stint with the club. An excerpt:

Cameron took the notion of being a big-leaguer to new heights on Thursday when he purchased a luxury box for Game 6 of the Celtics/Cavs playoff series and invited the PawSox players and coaches to join him. 


I mentioned this in this week’s “Promotion Preview” column,but the Richmond Flying Squirrels have launched an interesting weekly promotion in this, their inaugural season: “Where’s Parney”. Writes director of promotions Christina Shisler:   

Every Friday our VP and COO, Todd “Parney” Parnell
frequents a different sponsor’s location (restaurant or bar) after the game and
our fans must track him down! We include hints throughout the week on where he
will be on our e-newsletter, Facebook, Twitter and website and the first 20
fans to find Parney out at one of our “Where’s Parney” sponsor locations win a t-shirt and get to hang out with the Squrirels VP!

Keep in mind, folks, that this is the man everyone is trying to find:

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Richmond -- Parny Unitard beleaguered.JPG 

— Moving from Flying Squirrels to Fisher Cats (as I so often do), New Hampshire’s Eastern League franchise recently welcomed its Two Millionth Fan. Congratulations to 10-year-old Brendan Howard for his well-timed turnstiling.

— Meanwhile, in Tulsa, it appears that another mascot-themed soap opera has entered theThumbnail image for hornsby.jpg fray. I say “another”, because THIS exists in Lehigh Valley. So now we have “Bulled and the Bluetiful” and “As the Bacon Turns”. Anyone want to suggest other potential Minor League parody soap opera titles?

This particular blog post is quite like a soap opera, in fact, in that it shall end with three words that signify the promise of much more to come: