During my recent run of bouillabaisse blog posts, I took the time to parse the “Year in Blogging” report that I had recently received from WordPress. For the purposes of today’s post, I’d like to return to the following excerpt:
[T]he 2013 Year-End Blogging Report…included the following information regarding the search terms that led people to visit Ben’s Biz: “Some visitors came searching, mostly for canadian tuxedo, ben’s biz blog,bens biz blog, skateboard, and brett favre.” The lesson here is that a picture of Brett Favre in an all-denim outfit riding a skateboard would be blog traffic gold. Can someone doctor one up for me?
I am happy to report that not one, but two, someones indeed doctored one up for me. Posting them here will drive my traffic to stratospheric new levels, insuring that I remain the most influential and indispensable blogger in Minor League Baseball history. This one is courtesy of Wisconsin Timber Rattlers creative director Ann Mollica, who, among other accomplishments, played a huge role in making the world aware of the Whitewall Ninja.
And this one is courtesy of a mysterious Twitter entity, known as @AizersWallet.
My sincere thanks to Ms. Mollica and Mr. AizersWallet for their photoshopped efforts on my behalf. And I thank you, random internet Google searcher, for your fleeting visit to Ben’s Biz Blog. Before you leave, please take a moment to recognize that I am the greatest and also most underrated baseball writer of all time.
You know what else drives the eyeballs to this little slice of the internet landscape? Rhetorical questions.
But since I don’t have any material related to that particular topic, I’ll instead hit you with some logo news. Late last month, the polarizing but undoubtedly influential “ideas company” that is Brandiose announced the final re-branding of what had been a very busy offseason (Akron RubberDucks, El Paso Chihuahuas, Inland Empire 66ers, Vermont Lake Monsters, and more that I am probably forgetting as I sit here typing stream of consciousness-style).
Forthwith, the Vancouver Canadians will sport this updated look (note the “V” hidden within the leaf):
On the topic of “new logos with cool hidden elements,” here’s the Brooklyn Cyclones’ 2014 New York-Penn League All-Star Game logo:
Even cooler are the jerseys that will be worn during the All-Star Game, which feature “the names of EVERY Player who made it from the NYPL to the Major Leagues watermarked into the pattern.”
And, finally, how about a logo for a team that doesn’t officially exist yet? If all goes according to plan, the Huntsville Stars will move to Biloxi in time for the 2015 season. This fledgling Southern League franchise, a Brewers affiliate, does not yet have a name. But it does have a website, and the website includes this logo:
Seeing those two B’s together reminds me that I need an official “Ben’s Biz” logo. Please, feel free to send over your prototypes.
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.
Well, this is it: after today’s post I am officially out of 2012 in-season content. Be it content supplied by teams or content that I garnered myself while on the road, there just isn’t any more of it left. The next post, whatever it may be, will be covering that which has occurred since the cessation of on-field play.
At this juncture, it would be appropriate to let out a long, terrified scream. I’ll wait.
All that I’ve got left to share is this: an account of my final moments in Vancouver before flying back to the United States. Upon the conclusion of Friday’s “Nooner at the Nat” I had about five hours of free time, and no real idea what to do. And then inspiration struck — I’d hang out aimlessly! So I drove through downtown Vancouver at a snail’s pace (or whatever “snail’s pace” converts to in the metric system) until reaching the glorious swath of public space that is Stanley Park.
This park is huge — larger than Central Park (my most immediate reference point) and boasting approximately 120 miles of roads and trails. Its namesake is Lord Stanley, former Governor General of Canada and, also, the man for whom the Stanley Cup is named.
Lord Stanley sez: “To the use and enjoyment of people of all colours (sic) creeds and customs for all time I name thee STANLEY PARK.”
I’m not really sure where in the park I was. I was just there, and that was the point.
This monument is in honor of the 190 Canadian soldiers of Japanese ancestry who lost their lives in World War I.
This, meanwhile, is a tree.
Water, water everywhere.
Lord Stanley wasn’t the only statue-esque acquaintance I made out there in the park. Here’s one of Robert Burns, “Scotland’s National Bard.”
The plaque reads, in part: “Robert Burns’s sincere desire for friendship and brotherhood among all peoples is clearly shown in his many poems and songs. His poetry and letters, both serious and humorous are worthy of study by those who value liberty and freedom.”
I eventually wandered to the park’s perimeter, which provided a view of the high-rises lurking just beyond the water.
I eventually wandered out of the park altogether, drawn in part by a desire to commune with this public art installation.
These jovial lads of identical height, girth and facial composition could be found at the end of Denman Street. As I had never spent time on a street named “Denman,” ever, in any city, I decided to see what it had to offer. The short answer is that Denman Street had a lot of restaurants, dozens and dozens of them, over the course of many blocks. I was up for a meal, no doubt, but the combination of my gluten-free specifications and being solo on a Friday evening led me to rule out many of the contenders. (Talk about a familiar feeling…)
This DIY establishment certainly looked intriguing…
but in the end how I could I go with anything but the Number One option?
Look…this whole celiac disease thing can be a drag, no doubt, but at the end of the day there are still plenty of options. Within 20 minutes, this wonderful plate of food was presented to me by a personable waitress who I may one day marry or, more likely, will never see again.
Vietnamese pork chops = one of the best dishes on the planet. And anytime a crispy fried egg is part of the entree equation, quality quotient only increases. As for a beverage, I was immediately intrigued by an option going by the name of “Coco-Rico.” When I asked the waitress what it was, she explained that it was a coconut soda.
“A lot of people ask about about it, only the adventurous ones try it,” she said.
As a lover of coconut, adventure and waitresses, I ordered it without delay!
After going number one at Number One (the door in the bathroom said “Door locks automatically 🙂 (So don’t worry!)”), it was time for my final act as a visitor in the beautiful, seemingly utopian city of Vancouver: more loitering! This time, the location was English Bay Beach Park.
The Bowling Green Cave Shrimp goes international!
I remained on the beach until the sun went down, reading A Prayer for Owen Meany and contemplating scenarios that could result in me starting a new life in Vancouver (very few of these scenarios involved murder, I’m happy to report).
Somehow, I was able to make it from the beach to the wilderness of Stanley Park where my rental car was located.
And that, finally, for real this time, is all I’ve got. The road had reached its nadir. After a long stint of overnight travel I made it safely back to Brooklyn, where, as usual, a very reliable individual was waiting for me.
There’s nothing left to do now but start brainstorming 2013’s slate of Minor League journeys. Please get in touch should you have any suggestions in that regard and — hey! — I really (really, really) hope you enjoyed all of the content that I was able to squeeze out of the 2012 season. This is all a work in progress, as always, but I do my best. Thanks for reading — now it’s time to batten down the hatches here in NYC as Sandy, purported to be the storm of the century, bears down upon us. Good luck, and Godspeed.
The blog post that chronicled my evening with the Vancouver Canadians was the longest such missive in Ben’s Biz history, but that doesn’t mean that I exhausted all of my Vancouver content. Of course not! The game I attended was on a Thursday evening, and I wasn’t due to fly out of the city until Friday night.
And wouldn’t you know it? On Friday afternoon the Canadians were hosting one of their popular “Nooner at the Nat” day games, so back to the stadium I went. Except this time, I opted to stow my vehicle in the public park located across the street. My thinking was that this would start the day off with a different perspective, and as always my thinking was correct.
Queen Elizabeth Park is located at quite a prodigious elevation, and as such it offers some spectacular mountain and city views.
The park’s parking lot is located a proverbial hop, skip, and a jump from the domed glory of the Bloedel Conservatory.
Among those enjoying the view from the top of the park was this bronzed family — note that brother and sister (or at least I presume they are brother and sister) are both wearing vintage Great Adventure shirts.
I was sorry to leave my statue-esque acquaintances, but baseball was calling my name (in a shrill, unnecessarily loud falsetto). As I walked down the hill and toward Nat Bailey Stadium, I came across a species of tree which may or may not be indigenous to the wilds of Vancouver. This tree was getting a kick out of using its snout-like appendages to tickle the undercarriages of unsuspecting passersby, but when it tried that on me I was ready with a swift uppercut and it shrank away in defeat.
Back on the street, cars were lined up at the stadium entrance. Vancouverites are serious about their Friday afternoon baseball!
However, I soon realized that “Nooners at the Nat,” while a great name, is a bit misleading. Gates open at noon, yes, but the game doesn’t start until one. It was around 12:30 when I arrived on the scene, and no tickets whatsoever were available. Just read the sign!
I mingled with the masses for bit, in the hopes that someone would recognize me and that I could then claim to be “internationally famous.” But, no, it was not to be. (I remain only nationally famous, and by “nationally famous” I mean recognized at a bar this one time and by a concert merch table this one other time). With delusions of grandeur squashed, as they quite mercifully always are, I made my way into the stadium in time for the National Anthems (this is Canada, after all). Performing both anthems was a group called the “Altar Boyz,” and as one of the groundskeepers near me noted “That’s Altar Boyz with a zed.”
As you may recall, my experience at the previous day’s Canadians game had provided some quite memorable food experiences (in the form of an oversized corn dog and an even more oversized “Fungo Dog,” click on the link at the top of this post to read all about it). But this time around, I was interested in trying some ballpark sushi.
While not at the standards one would expect from one of Vancouver’s many fine sushi restaurants, this was still a tasty and unique ballpark meal. The Fuji Combo on the left consisted of two California rolls, two spicy California rolls, two shrimp nigiri, and one smoked salmon. The Red Dragon Roll, meanwhile, was salmon, seaweed, crab extract (not sure what that means), and cucumber.
Oh, and this marked the first time I’d ever had ginger and wasabi in single-serve condiment packets. What a life milestone.
New online dating profile pic:
Thumbs up for the best sushi in the Northwest League!
It was a beautiful day. The game? It was underway
As I had done the evening before, I then hitched a ride in the Smart Car for a lap around the infield.
I filmed said lap around the field with my handy FlipCam, but you know what? It just didn’t come out very well. So, nevermind. Let’s move on.
The Canadians’ dancing grounds crew, whom I had performed with the night before, are bonafide Vancouver celebrities. By the time I returned from my Smart Car journey, they were engaged in an interview with a national sports broadcast (who would later film their dance performance as well).
At this point in the afternoon, I was feeling good. The previous evening’s ballgame had provided me with all of the content I would need from Vancouver (and more), so there was nothing that I felt I HAD to do. I just took in the scene.
Much of the sold-out crowd was lurking in the shadows.
The evening before I had been a Sushi Race competitor. This time around I just took it all in from the cheap seats.
I then adjourned to an even more elevated vantage point: the roof.
On the roof is where the press box is situated, and its denizens were hard at work.
Did I mention that it was a beautiful day, and that Vancouver is a stunningly beautiful city?
Vancouver is also filled with stunningly beautiful dancers — of both the grounds crew and dugout Chicken Dance variety.
I eventually clambered down from the roof, in order to procure a new vantage point from which to snap a photo.
The Canadians bullpen is located down the third base line, and there is no escape from the fans whatsoever (note the standard-issue pink backpack down there by the catcher’s knee).
Unceremoniously and without warning, my “Nooner at the Nat” photos ended here. The above shot of a brooding bullpen observer is the last picture from a ballfield that I am able to post from the 2012 season.
Upon the conclusion of the contest, I returned to the manicured splendor of Queen Elizabeth Park.
And…scene! But would you believe that I have one more post’s worth of material to share from Vancouver? It’s true! Just one more, and then my 2012 road trip content is finally, officially, mercifully, complete Thanks for tolerating my continued attempts to milk it for all it’s worth.
The last “Return to the Road” dispatch ended with some pictures from what I declared to be the swankiest team lodging in all of Minor League Baseball — Tacoma’s Hotel Murano. And from the Murano this post shall begin.
The Murano’s hallways offer guests the chance to view a “private collection of some of the world’s finest contemporary glass treasures.” Each of the hotel’s 24 floors showcase a different artist; I, on the 23rd, was located within the realm of Mr. Hiroshi Yamano.
The Murano’s focus on glass artisans was no mere act of random whimsy — Tacoma is home to the Museum of Glass, in recognition of the influence that artists from the Pacific Northwest have had on the medium. So when I set out to briefly explore downtown Tacoma before heading to Everett, the Museum of Glass was my destination.
Along the way I passed this statue, without stopping to learn who this woman was and what she stood for.
Union Station — formerly a train station, currently a courthouse — had charm, style and panache to spare.
As did the statue out front, entitled “New Beginnings.” It was installed as part of the city’s 1984 centennial celebration, and the man depicted is an early 20th-century railroad passenger with a jaunty step and optimistic world outlook.
Inspired, I strolled through Tacoma’s downtown with the same levity of spirit I imagined the above bronzed passenger to have once possessed.
Finally (and by “finally” I mean “within 5 minutes”) I came to a vantage point which included the conical Museum of Glass as part of the backdrop.
Of course, time is always at a premium when I’m on the road. So as opposed to actually going into the museum, I just checked out the glass specimens lining both sides of a pedestrian bridge that led to the museum.
The view from the ground.
Anti-climactic as it may be, that’s all I’ve got from Tacoma. My next destination was Everett, whose team hotel was a Holiday Inn.
I knew I was in the right place when, upon parking, I looked up to see a team bus poking through the trees.
And while this Holiday Inn lacked some of the Hotel Murano’s more memorable amenities (for instance, I was not able to have the Bhagavad Gita delivered to my room), it did boast what is certainly the most wonderful view of any Minor League team hotel.
I attended that evening’s Everett AquaSox game, and wrote like crazy all about it. (In fact, my writing was so passionately incendiary that even the links to it have since burned up.) Time was even tighter than usual the following afternoon, as an international journey (to Vancouver) awaited me. Nonetheless, I spent about an hour wandering about in downtown Everett before getting lunch at a Thai restaurant and then resuming my travels in earnest.
Everett had character, and I’d love to return some day.
Lunchtime! (Use of exclamation mark extremely debatable)
After that it was goodbye to the antiquated signage of Everett…
and hello to Peace Arch National Park, my entryway to Canada.
Peace Arch Park was beautifully maintained, and as a big fan of Paul Robeson I enjoyed driving through the locations of one of his most significant public performances. From Wikipedia:
In 1952, African-American singer and activist Paul Robeson, banned from international travel during the Red Scares, performed several concerts at the site. He sang from a flatbed truck on the American side to an audience in Canada.
And would you believe that the Peace Arch was built by Sam Hill, the peripatetic Quaker who constructed the full-size Stonehenge replica which I had visited several days prior? That guy was real go-getter, and as a slow-moving and rapidly-stagnating blogger I can’t help but feel that I’m not quite living up to the high surname standards he established.
It took approximately forever to get into Canada, and I pity those who have to cross the border on a regular basis. I did enjoy the interrogation I received from the border guard, who tried to poke holes in my “Minor League Baseball writer traveling to Canada in order to cover the Vancouver Canadians” alibi.
Guard: And how long have you been writing about the Minor Leagues?
Me: Seven years.
Guard: If you’ve been doing this for that long, then why is this the first time you’ve visited Vancouver?
I explained, as succinctly as possible, that Vancouver was the only Canadian team in the Minors and that, therefore, visiting Canada as part of my job was not, nor was it going to be, a common professional occurrence. (In fact, I was looking at it the highlight of a perpetually uncertain odyssey that began with writing game recaps on the night shift on a part-time, hourly basis. What I wanted to say was “Look, lady, you should be proud of me that I’m here talking to you at all.” I then would have felt an overwhelming sense of guilt for referring to her impolitely as “lady.”)
I’m not sure who’s bored-er at this point — the guard or the straggling few readers who have stuck with this post to the end. So, anyway, yeah: I made it to Canada, and I have the fake money to prove it.
The road will be returned to (at least) once more, with all of the supplemental content that’s fit to post from the wilds of Vancouver. Stay tuned for another installment of the most low-stakes and meandering series of blog posts to be found on the internet…
I’ve been employed by MiLB.com in various writerly capacities for approximately 2600 days, and in that time have produced more content (good, bad and ugly) than I care to think about. But this content, voluminous as it has been and will continue to be, had never included a blog dispatch chronicling the professional baseball scene in another country.
My latest (and therefore greatest) road trip ended with a two-day stop in Vancouver, home of Canada’s sole remaining Minor League entity: the nothing-if-not-accurately-named Canadians. This franchise, occupants of 60-year-old Nat Bailey Stadium, have been members of the Northwest League since 2000 (prior to this they competed four rungs higher on the Minor League ladder, as entrants within the venerable Pacific Coast League). More information on the Canadians’ history and current operation can be found in this effervescently-written MiLB.com piece, which also includes a photo gallery and links to four interviews I conducted while visiting Nat Bailey (including a chat with Minors Moniker champion Rock Shoulders!).
“The pictures, the pictures, why won’t he get to the pictures!” you’re saying at this point.
I hear you:
Nat Bailey (named after the restauranteur/baseball supporter who founded the famous-in-Canada “White Spot” chain) is, in every sense, a classic ballpark. You can tell this even before entering.
I had driven to Nat Bailey immediately after making it into Canada via the Peace Arch border crossing, and therefore hadn’t had a chance to experience even one iota of Vancouver (the iota is the metric system’s smallest unit of measurement). So before entering the facility I did a lap around it, to at least get a small sense of where I was and what it was like there.
Well, first and foremost, it was beautiful.
Nat Bailey is located amidst a residential area, and it sure looks like an appealing neighborhood to call home.
The residents of this neighborhood make ample use of the Hillcrest Community Centre (yes, “centre”, this is Canada) located next door to the stadium.
The smell of chlorine wafts from this building, but serving as a public pool and recreational facility was not its original intent. The Centre was built as the curling venue for the 2010 Winter Olympics! (And, oh goodness, it’s all coming back to me — I actually wrote an article about this when the building was being constructed).
Across the street from this erstwhile Olympic venue is a massive and beautifully maintained public park, which I had the good fortune to explore the following afternoon (more on that in a future Vancouver-based post). If I lived here, I would totally join the lawn bowling club:
At this point my entrance into the ballpark could be delayed no more. And, once I did so, I was greeted in a very hospitable fashion: the front office had devised an action-packed itinerary for me, and as a result this narrative will last a very long time. (That’s fine with me. On the other side of these blog posts lies the unfathomable abyss of the offseason).
After conducting a couple of player interviews, I embarked on a stadium tour with manager of community relations Jeff Holloway. The view from the field:
At the time of its installation, the Nat Bailey videoboard had the second highest definition of any in professional baseball (behind New York’s Citi Field). But the hand-operated scoreboard located just to the right is a relic, as it had originally been located within Seattle’s Sicks Stadium (home of the 1969 Pilots team immortalized in Ball Four).
Within an hour, this sprawling first base-side picnic area would be packed with fans as part of a Thursday evening sellout. Did I mention that it was an absolutely beautiful day?
We proceeded to the concourse, just minutes after the gates had opened and the throngs began pouring in.
You can’t really tell in this picture, but the third concession stand in is devoted to the unassailable combination of sushi and Asahi beer (the combination of a large Japanese population and proximity to water makes Vancouver a premier sushi town).
Oh, look, I just found a picture of what I was just talking about:
Our next stop was this historical concourse display, named in honor of a well-known and loved Vancouver baseball historian/super-fan.
Artifacts, photos, and a team timeline can be found along the walls.
A prominent pair of teammates from Vancouver’s last season in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League:
An early iteration of mascot Bob the Brown Bear, whom I soon ran into out on the main aisle.
Sorry, Bob. I didn’t mean to invade your personal space.
Back outside the stadium, large crowds had gathered as game time approached.
The Canadians are a hot item these days, thanks to a total franchise overhaul that occurred after new owners Jake (no relation to Bud) Kerr and Jeff Mooney bought the team prior to 2007 and installed veteran baseball exec Andy Dunn as president. I was told that fireworks nights tickets go for exorbitant amounts on the secondary market and — hey! — this is something I’d never seen outside of a Minor League park before. A scalper!
My re-entry to the stadium was assured, but not before appearing as a guest on broadcaster Rob Fai’s pre-game show. Here he is finishing up his interview with the previous guest, an ardent C’s supporter who appears at each and every game dressed in full uniform: pitching coach Dave Pano.
There are no pictures of me during my time on the air, but I don’t think this will trouble anyone a single iota. The pre-game show segued nicely into the game itself (it’s weird how that happens), and we re-entered the stadium just in time for the anthems.
Yes, anthems plural. I thought this group did a fine job singing both the “Star-Spangled Banner” and “Oh, Canada.”
Take my word for it.
Finally! Play ball!
The first order of business was to make our way down the third base line in order to experience one of the most, uh, “generously-portioned” food items in Minor League Baseball. Just the sight of it on the grill made the concession workers giddy.
Here’s the menu. Take one guess as to what it could have been.
Not an “Itzakadoozie,” but it was a doozy: the two-foot fungo dog! (But what is that in meters?)
This 24-inch frankfurter is provided by a local butcher, and it’s more than just a novelty: it’s delicious! But, of course, said deliciousness was off-limits to me due to, yeah, the celiac disease. Enter Andrew Forsyth, Canadians media relations assistant and enthusiastic “designated eater” for the evening.
Take it away, Andrew, and gussy it up! He put pretty much every condiment available on that thing:
From there, only one thing was left to be done: Eat It! And Forsyth did so, with aplomb.
But yet another colossal concession item awaited us – the one-foot corn dog. How much is that doggie in the window?
It’s abundantly gluten-ous nature meant that this gluttonous corn dog was, of course, off-limits to me. But nonetheless I took a moment to gaze longingly into (what I assumed were) its eyes, reflecting on the good times that I had once enjoyed with its batter-dipped brethren.
‘Tis better to have loved and lost:
The Canadians’ front office staff was exceptional throughout my visit, both in their dealings with me and (more importantly) the fans in general. It’s an ace operation. But if I had to offer a criticism, it would be this: no one was interested in “designated eating” the corn dog, nor was a designated eater found. The last time I saw my beloved corn dog it was sitting neglected under a table, a tragic ending to a brief but glorious existence:
But life goes on, long after the thrill of food on a stick has gone. The next order of business was to join sales and community relations coordinator Vanessa Williams during her daily Smart Car drive around the perimeter of the playing field (this is a sponsored promotion).
This was our view, as we waited for a third out that seemingly never came. I’m not sure if the corn dog had already been removed from the table at this point, or if was simply obscured by the (soon to be dancing) members of the grounds crew.
The Smart Car journey is full of peril, and Williams approached her task with a pragmatic and world-weary stoicism. This was her burden to bear and, come what may, she’d deal with it.
The visiting Boise Hawks seemed to be friendly enough fellows.
Fortunately, we weren’t hit by any wayward balls to the backstop.
The Canadians bullpen showered the car with sunflower seeds (Williams has learned to keep the drivers’ side window up).
Along the warning track, we reached speeds approaching a blazing 40 kilometers an hour.
Check out the view!
And, finally, there were the cackling wiseacres of the Boise bullpen. They had partially barricaded the mound with trash cans, but Williams eluded these obstacles with ease.
Upon the completion of this circular journey, there was no time to reflect on what had occurred. Like a politician running behind schedule, I was quickly whisked away by my overseers. We rushed through the concourse and into one of the best lairs that I had the good fortune to spend time in this season.
A mascot lair!
The partially costumed individual seen above would soon transform into Chef Wasabi as part of the Canadians’ nightly “Sushi Race.” I, meanwhile, was to be Mr. Kappa Maki. Before continuing, I’d like to make a few announcements regarding Ben’s Biz procedures from here on out:
New Blog Policy Alert: From the moment I put a mascot head on, that mascot is referred to in the third person and not as “I.”
New Blog Policy Alert II: Out of respect for the mascot community, I will no longer run dressing room shots of the disembodied heads and strewn-about suits of a team’s primary mascot(s). “Racing” mascots will continue to be depicted in various states of dismemberment, however.
We may now proceed. Here I am in proper Mr. Kappa Maki attire, sans head.
You gotta love Mr. Kappa Maki, as he projects a perpetual glazed lasciviousness (must be the effects of the seaweed). I imagine him sounding like an Asian Pauly Shore.
Side profile, limbs emerging from the avocado.
The action shots from the race didn’t come out too well, but all that you really need to know is that Mr. Kappa Maki overcame an early lead held by Ms. B.C. Roll and emerged triumphant.
Ain’t no thing, bros. Ain’t no thing
Mr. Kappa Maki was feeling A-Okay en route back to the lair.
But Maki’s mellow was harshed right quick, after coming face to face with this once back in the lair.
Back in civilian clothing, I returned to the ballgame and immediately became intrigued by this increasingly overburdened Boise Hawks coach (who I have not been able to identify). He had about three pairs of batting gloves stuffed in the front of his uniform, elbow guards on both arms, and a stopwatch. He was the most cyborg-esque first base coach I had ever seen.
But, of course, I had other business attend to — for the first time ever, Vancouver’s elite crew of dancing grounds crew members were welcoming a guest dancer. And this dancer, he was me.
This would be my second time engaging in dancing grounds crew antics (last season, I danced to “Party in the USA” while in Fort Wayne with the Tin Caps), and this time around the grounds crew in question picked an even easier song to dance to: “Apache.” The moves I had to memorize were as follows:
gyrate to the front/left/back/right/front, then jump, then spin with right hand circling in the air
We rehearsed these moves in the grounds crew storage area:
I should have gotten a non-performance shot of the grounds crew, as they were a very friendly and laid-back group of individuals. But thanks to Tom Archibald, Dylan Marsden, Trevor Sheffield and Connor Merillees for letting me crash their scene for an evening.
We had some time to kill before our moment of on-field dancing glory, so I amused myself by taking pictures of good ol’ number 14…
and here’s Boise slugger Dan Vogelbach, taking in the action with bat in hand.
And then — showtime! It wasn’t until later that I realized I had mistakenly walked backwards through the entire routine.
Airborne! (just barely)
And, would you believe it? Video exists of the entire routine! So here ya go:
Afterwards, I was thoroughly exhausted.
But no time to rest! Still wearing my ill-fitting borrowed grounds crew shirt, I was hustled over to the third base dugout to do the “Chicken Dance.” This familiar ritual is led every inning by dance master Hans Havas, an ebullient usher who has been part of the Nat Bailey experience for the past 32 years.
And, okay, fine. There’s video of this too. I was paired with a food service employee who seemed to be a Chicken Dance veteran (I forget her name, but remember her smile.) On the video you can hear fans taunting Vogelbach regarding his love of chicken, and this was par for the course for the Boise first baseman. I saw him play in both Yakima and Vancouver, and in both places he was given a really hard time because of his rotund body type. It didn’t seem fair.
Finally, it was time for a breather. Seeking a brief respite from public interaction, I retreated to the ballpark’s top row. What a sight to behold:
Another sight to behold was that which can be obtained from the stadium’s roof, upon which lies the press box.
One denizen of said box was Boise Hawks announcer Mike Safford.
I, along with Halloway (ever the accommodating tour guide) were on the roof during the seventh-inning stretch. And — wow! — Canadians fans are really enthusiastic singers. This video quality might not be great, but for the record I’d like to say that this was the best rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” that I’d ever heard at a Minor League ballpark. I almost shed a tear.
Back down on the concourse, I met a couple of these enthusiastic individuals. This is Steve Mezzomo, the preeminent supporter of Canadians fan favorite Balbino Fuenmayor (Fuenmayor, 22, has somehow managed to play six Minor League seasons already. The last three have been in Vancouver).
Mezzomo (who, while spelling his name, said “zed-zed” as Canadians are wont to do) said that he and his two boys were immediate Fuenmayor fans, and that making the shirts “just seemed like something fun to do with the kids.”
“The first day we wore the shirts, we saw Balbino and said ‘What do you think?’ said Mezzomo. “His mouth just dropped, and he wanted to take our pictures. Then, during the game the batboy ran over and said ‘Balbino wants to see you.’ He gave us a game bat. He’s such a great great guy; every time he has a ball he throws it to me. I almost feel bad.”
And here’s another individual who spells his name with a “zed-zed:” Joe Frizzell a Vancouver baseball lifer if there ever was one.
Frizzell grew up right by old Athletic Park, where he served as a sort of jack-of-all-trades.
“I did everything around the ballpark,” he said. “Batboy, operating the manual scoreboard, ballshagger, and then I finally got into selling tickets.”
This experience came in handy, as from 1951-56 Frizzell worked at Nat Bailey Stadium as what he calls the “game day manager” for the Vancouver Capilanos (a team named after a brand of beer). On a day-to-day basis, Frizzell played a key role in running the club. And now here he was, some six decades later, taking in the action as the Canadians dropped an 11-5 decision to Boise.
Where does the time go? Next thing I knew, the fans were filing out and the grounds crew was doing work on the field in a much less rhythmic fashion than before.
And with that, this dispatch from Vancouver finally, mercifully, concludes. It took me 2600 days to get to Vancouver, and 2600 words to write about it. But, sometimes, a single picture can say so much more. This was one helluva night at the ballpark.
We are careening toward what is sure to be an eminently enjoyable Holiday Weekend, and strenuous acts like “reading things on the internet” don’t hold much appeal at the present moment. So allow me to take you on out of the work week with a cavalcade of recent video masterworks to emanate from the Minor League landscape.
Let’s start with the one Minor League team that will NOT be celebrating July 4th: the Vancouver Canadians. Our neighbors to the North produced a Major League-spoofing commercial that is rapidly attaining viral status.
If that somehow hasn’t satiated your desire to see Minor League productions of Major League, then check out this recent “One-Minute Movie” put together by the Mahoning Valley Scrappers.
Staying within the always rich topic of “Ohio-based Minor League parody”, the Akron Aeros are promoting an upcoming appearance by soap star Patrick Drake by putting words into his mouth.
The next day the Aeros’ are trying to appeal to a younger segment of the female fan demographic with their “Princess Tea Party.” Mascot Orbit is doing his best to learn the proper etiquette.
The Aeros’ Eastern League compatriots Trenton Thunder don’t need to worry about selling tickets to this weekend’s slate of games, thanks to the presence of rehabbing superstar Derek Jeter. But not even Hall of Fame-bound Bronx icons possess the charisma of the team’s endlessly effervescent Bobby Baseball.
Also in possession of copious charisma if Montgomery Biscuits pitcher Chris Archer. Thursday is “Ladies Night” in Montgomery, and one lucky lady will win a date with the dashing right-hander:
Not as desirable to the ladies is new Frederick Keys’ mascot “Frank Key.” The freakishly large cranium might have something to do with that.
But the true indicator of any Minor League video’s success is how it plays in Peoria. And this one, from the hometown Chiefs, has been viewed plenty of times within the fine Illinois metropolis.
I’d say that the above definitively proves that rhythm is not a prerequisite of professional baseball success. Also not a prerequisite of professional baseball success: being human.
It’s not just a lazy stereotype, it’s the capital T Truth: Anatomically incorrect snakes take their celebrity airport pick-ups very seriously.
And that’s gonna conclude the blogging week. Enjoy the Holiday, and I’ll see you right back here at this very URL on July 5.
But usually it ain’t like that. One simply has to make do with what’s available, imbuing it with enough meaning to make it seem worthwhile.
So welcome to today’s blog post, a full-to-bursting bouillabaisse of imminently worthwhile and meaningful material!
I’ll start with what you surely all came here for: video of anthropomorphic sushi engaged in a high-stakes battle royale amidst a sprawling winter wonderland.
Which of the Vancouver Canadians racing mascots will prevail? Only those who have watched this video know for sure!
But perhaps you prefer your Minor League mascots in cameo, as opposed to vegetable, rolls? If so, then watch on. You might be surprised at who turns up, as he’s a most elusive character. He’s also a vegetable.
And, of course, hardly a day goes by when there is not a new logo to share. I’m particularly pleased to share this, the official mark of Chattanooga’s Engel Foundation:
As you’ll no doubt recall, this is the group that is seeking to restore the iconic Southern Association facility (which played host to a veritable cavalcade of baseball greats). I wrote an article and blog about the efforts during my trip to Chattanooga last season; read all about it HERE and HERE.
Oh, so it’s more logos you want? Then more logos I have. The three images seen below were designed by the ubiquitous Plan B Branding, to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Boise Hawks. Fans can vote for their favorites at the team’s web page, but as of now that image in the middle possesses a formidable lead.
For those who may not have seen it via Facebook, Twitter, or scrolling CNN news story, there is currently a piece on MiLB.com about Marty Dobrow’s book “Knocking On Heaven’s Door.” Check it out HERE, or just look at the cover here:
— Will you be there?
— Regardless, what sort of articles/blog posts would most interest you?
Feedback, please. I know you’re out there.
Apologies for my lack of a post yesterday, as I was caught up in Hall of Fame-related matters. Specifically, I attended Andre Dawson’s press conference at the Waldorf-Astoria Ballroom (a step down from MiLB.com’s swanky offices, but adequate for the purpose).
My mission was to ask Andre a question about his Minor League career, so that I could then base an article around his answer (journalism at its finest!). I succeeded in this quest, but just barely, as mine was the last question granted. It was a very anxiety-inducing experience.
So what sort of masterwork resulted from my Herculean efforts?
But enough about me. It is worth noting that Dawson’s election adds a beatific glow to the 2010 promotional schedules of both the Lakewood Blueclaws and Vancouver Canadians. “The Hawk” is scheduled to swoop into both of these team’s ballparks, gripping a pen in his talons so that he may sign autographs for his assembled
Dawson at the BlueClaws game has a backstory of sorts, as the club has made an effort in recent years to bring on-the-cusp HOF candidates to FirstEnergy Park. This came about after the team hosted Goose Gossage and Jim Rice, both of whom were subsequently elected to the Hall of Fame. More about all of this can be found HERE.
And this gives me that most dangerous of notions: an idea.
May I suggest that teams stage a series of autograph signings entitled “You Will Not Be Forgotten”? The guests of honor would be those who fell off the Hall of Fame ballot in their first year of eligbility (this year, that illustrious group consists of Andres Galarraga, Robin Ventura, Eliis Burks, Eric Karros, Kevin Appier, Pat Hentgen, David Segui, Mike Jackson, Ray Lankford, Shaun Reynolds, and Todd Zeile).
Any takers? No? Well, at the very least let this blog post serve as proof that such an idea was once documented in writing before being consumed by the eternal void.
And speaking of the eternal void, I am happy to report that MiLB.com’s fledgling series of “Roadtrip” articles has avoided such an ignominious fate. There has been a good response to these thus far, and I would encourage any teams that are interested in being featured to send me an email (any and all fan suggestions are welcome as well).
The most recent edition of the column, featuring four teams in southern California, can be found HERE.
And this concludes the first blogging week of 2010. Here’s to 49.5 more.
Once upon a time, affiliated professional baseball in Canada was fairly common. The likes of Ottawa, Calgary, and (my favorite) Medicine Hat were all part of the Minor League scene, but now that scene is down to just one team: the Vancouver Canadians.
As has been mentioned on this blog in the past, Canadians GM Andrew Seymour has always been conscientious about sending me photos from the team’s events and promotions. This is much appreciated, because photos=content and content is king. Without it, this blog is nothing but a vortex of eternal nothingness. I’m not sure that the previous sentence made sense, but this cursor, much like time itself, can only move forward. So forward we shall go…
To pictures! Over the past several months, Seymour sent me a multitude of pictures that for reasons of varying validity I neglected to post on this blog. This situation will now be rectified.
First, let’s take a look at the Hot Dog Eating Contest that the team staged. The following photos serve as ample proof that Canadians are sometimes more American than Americans.
Here’s where the magic happened:
Such a tranquil scene was soon disrupted by the ravenous actions of individuals such as these:
Mitch Berger, that is. The punter for the Super Bowl champion Steelers (and Vancouver native) paid a visit to the ballpark in order to sign autographs, pose for pictures, and flash expensive jewelry: