Yesterday’s post detailed my thirst-quenching visit to the Burlington, Vermont headquarters of Citizen Cider. That was just one element of a whirlwind weekend in and around Vermont’s most populous city, a weekend which also included a Vermont Lake Monsters game.
I spent said weekend with my cousin, Ali, and her family, who live in nearby Hinesburg. I arrived on the evening of Friday, July 10, after a downright idyllic ride on Amtrak’s “Vermonter” line. The next morning I participated in my first-ever 5K race, and it was a 5K with a distinctly Vermont flair: The Brain Freezer.
At the halfway point of the Brain Freezer, participants had to eat a pint of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. (Hence, the “Run, Pint, Run” tagline.) Really, though, my primary concern was with “run” part of the equation. In my youth I was a real skinny and naturally in-shape; my 30s, on the other hand, had (until recently) been characterized by a slow descent into a sloth-like state.
The race — proceeds of which benefited the People Helping People Global micro-lending organization — began in Burlington’s Battery Park. The “competitive” runners were lined up in the front. I, meanwhile, was a “Fun Runner” (an oxymoron, if I’ve ever heard one).
I ran the race with Ali and her son, Jason. Always prepared, she had obtained green “Keep Vermont Weird” shirts for all three of us as well as armbands which could hold our ice cream spoons.
I’m in the right hand portion of the below photo, huffing and puffing between Ali and Jason and already desirous of a nap.
My apologies for the brain freeze, but I don’t have any photos of the actual ice cream-eating portion of the race. The pints were handed out on a downtown city street, and I opted for a Cherry Garcia as it was the only gluten-free option. It was pretty much on the honor system, as regards eating the whole thing before continuing. I didn’t, and am sorry for sullying the sanctity of the Brain Freeze’s core premise.
Maybe I should have an asterisk after my name (denoting pint consumption failure), but I did finish the race. Jason overtook me at the end; finishing 221st out of 297. I then came in 222nd with a less-than-inspiring time of 42:45.
Before the show I enjoyed a “Wit’s Up” Citizen Cider.
Ali and I also had time to poke around the excellent Burlington Records. There were a lot of off-the-beaten path weirdo vibe records in the used bin, and I know I bought a few but can’t remember what. Next season, I’m gonna keep a record store log.
This marked the sixth time I’ve seen Weird Al, and never in the same place twice (Red Bank, New Jersey; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Glenside, Pennsylvania; Atlantic City, New Jersey; Oakland, California; Burlington, Vermont). The one constant is that he puts on an awesome show, full of costume changes and multi-media elements and a start-to-finish commitment to each and every song and routine.
The Flynn is an intimate and classy venue, and Ali had scored us some great seats.
One of the most unique elements of Al’s “Mandatory Fun” tour is that, at each stop, he opens the show with a rendition of “Tacky“ that starts with him outside the venue and ends on the stage. Footage from the Burlington show is at the 1:15 mark in the below video, but the whole thing is very much worth watching. It’s one of many examples of Al’s total commitment to each and every detail of the performance.
Anyhow, another massive leg of the “Mandatory Fun” tour begins in June and ends in September. He’s making stops at many Minor League markets, but I’ll be at the tour-concluding show at Radio City Music Hall on September 24. Sorry to come off like such a fanboy here, but I’ve been a Weird Al fan for a very long time.
The unveiling of 2012 promotions has not yet reached a deluge, but it has far surpassed a trickle. And within this intermediate zone in which we currently reside, one of the most exciting (and sure-to-be-copied) new promotions is this:
But the above photo, while helpful, doesn’t really do the promotion justice. Per the team:
The River Bandits are proud to announce, for the first time ever in professional sports in the U.S., a photo jersey auction to benefit local cancer organizations. Small squares in the Bandits players’ numbers are available for purchase, $25 each, to feature a photograph of yourself or a loved one who has been affected by cancer. The jerseys, which will be worn during the game on Friday, August 10th, will be auctioned off during the game.
I’m sure I’ll be covering this one as it develops, but for now let’s stick with the “Quad” theme and check in on a most distressing development in Lake Elsinore.
Thunder, the mascot for the Lake Elsinore Storm, had his trusty quad stolen from a stadium storage shed! This sounds like it could be a joke, save for the legitimacy bestowed upon the situation by a local ABC news team.
The video is well worth viewing — check it out HERE.
My extensive reporting on the above topic led me to the Storm website, where I discovered the existence of the “Thunder Across Time” web series. How had I not known? This may turn out to be one of the greatest MiLB team video series of all time!
More creative use of video from the West Coast comes courtesy of the Fresno Grizzlies, who are conducting their annual National Anthem auditions in a most unique fashion.
If you think you have what it takes to sing in front of the best fans in Minor League Baseball at a 2012 Grizzlies home game, then upload your audition video to the Youtube between Wednesday, February 8th and Wednesday, March 14th. Winners will be chosen by the Grizzlies front office with the input of the number of video likes on YouTube.
We’re still a ways away from having a mascot sing the National Anthem, but boy oh boy can they ever dance. The latest (and therefore greatest) example of mascot rump shaking comes courtesy of Tulsa’s Hornsby. Or, as I like to call him, “Bull-yonce.”
Funny that the video is called “All the Single Hornsbys,” as in actuality there appear to be duplicates. But at least Hornsby is a known commodity. Up there in Michigan, the Great Lakes Loons are dealing with an extremely mysterious situation.
So who really does know what’s in the box? It could be anything. Or, maybe, there’s nothing at all. There would be some precedent for that, you know.
The 15th annual Rickwood Classic was played today, with the visiting Tennessee Smokies eking out an 8-7 win over the Birmingham Barons. You can read all about it HERE, and while you’re there be sure to click on my first-ever photo gallery (of which I am very proud).
My “Southern Swing” must soon continue, but before moving on to Huntsville in my rented Mercedes-Benz with Texas plates (this is true), I’d like to leave you with some odds, ends, scraps and sods from my Birmingham experience.
Let’s start with this photo, taken from the roof of Rickwood Field with my trusty spy-cam. Press box sources had informed me that Josh Vitters of the Smokies had left his pants in his hotel room, and this certainly did appear to be the case:
Take it from one who knows, Josh: nothing good can ever come from leaving your pants in a hotel room.
But my favorite photo from my Rickwood excursion is this one, for reasons that I will explain once you are done perusing it:
Fans of juxtaposition should take note of Barons starter Matt Long, quietly stewing in his own juices in the bowels of the dugout while the rest of his teammates loiter carelessly atop roof while waiting for the game to start. But even more hilarious is ol’ #10 there, showing off a beautiful hour-glass figure rarely seen amongst baseball professionals.
I’d also like to say thanks to the various individuals who have provided me with Rickwood information over the past several days. Noted sports scribe Allen Berra was kind enough to share several articles he has written about Rickwood, which informed my writing while whetting my appetite for his upcoming book on the iconic stadium. I’ll certainly be covering the release of this tome on MiLB.com, but get a head start by pre-ordering it on Amazon HERE.
Meanwhile, a reader by the name of Sam Hamm, a former Rickwood bat boy, sent me some inside info on the stadium:
While time was too short for me to obtain photos of ’80s Rickwood, I did make a point to drink two Mello Yellos at the Barons game on Tuesday evening (I also put in Donovan’s Greatest Hits on the car ride home).
I was able to take a photo of the oft-painted over dugout walls, however:
And here, once again, is a photo that shows the discrepancy between the original and “new” outfield walls:
This discrepancy was the subject of another reader email I recently received, this one from a woman by the name of Marcia Bullard:
I just read your story on Rickwood. I was fortunate to visit there a few years ago when my daughter worked for the Barons. On the day we visited there was a high school tournament. We watched a bit of the game and then my daughter showed me around a bit. We were even able to go between the walls and see the back of the scoreboard and the outer wall. I seem to remember that straight away center was over 500 feet! There is a two-track that runs between the walls and to get into the scoreboard (it operates like the one at Wrigley) you have to climb a ladder. We were cautioned to stay on the track because there are snakes living in the grass! If you haven’t already, try to go between the walls. It really is an experience!
And speaking of readers — I must give a shout-out to a man by the name of Larry Lefebvre. Not only did Larry recognize me at Rickwood despite not being a member of the industry (a professional first, to be identified by a baseball civilian!), he also recently sent me an email which warmed my heart to a considerable degree:
“For the past two weeks my daughter has been singing Weird Al’s eBay song non-stop. She went on YouTube and discovered that this is not Weird Al’s only song; he has hundreds of them! After watching his videos for at least 30 minutes I heard her say to herself, ‘This guy is a genius!'”
It goes without saying that if YOU have anecdotes regarding emerging Weird Al fandom in America’s youth, then please contact me immediately so that I may spread the good word.
I suppose I should close with something baseball related, so let me just mention that it was an honor to meet Harmon Killebrew at Rickwood this afternoon. He was very friendly, unassuming, and soft-spoken, immediately making everyone feel at ease around him. I of course don’t know Harmon in any real way, but I walked away from our conversation absolutely convinced that he’s a genuinely nice guy (this was in stark contrast to another member of the 500 Home Run Club I recently met, a condescending and belittling individual whose name either rhymes with or is Reggie Jackson).
So before I shut things down for the night here at the good ol’ Birmingham-Hoover Microtel, here’s a picture of Harmon and the Barons just before the start of today’s Rickwood Classic:
A couple of weeks ago, I asked my vast cadre of loyal readers to assist me in a most important task — the creation of a new blog head shot.
The response to this request was robust, which I very much appreciate. Still, I have put off sharing the submissions because I am wary of seeming narcissistic. Usually, I hide this off-putting trait beneath a cloud of false modesty and groan-inducing wordplay.
But the moment for action is now. What follows are some of the new profile pics I now have at my disposal.
Boomer and Me — Spending some quality time with the Williamsport Crosscutters’ inimitable mascot:
A Classic Updated for Modern Times
On My Way to the Barber Pole Factory
It Was Just A Phase
You Can Do What You Wanna Do…
I plan on using all of these headshots — and more — throughout the season. But, starting tomorrow, my identity will be this:
What can I say? To see my face juxtaposed onto a Weird Al album cover is a dream come true.
Thanks to Chris McConney of the Reading Phillies for the Weird Al shot, also big thanks to:
Sarah Budd, Williamsport Cross
cutters (shots 1-2), Danny Wild, MiLB photo guru (3-5), Lauren Wombacher, Yakima Bears (6-7 and snowglobe), Cameron Wengrzyn, Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (8-13), Jake Goldman, Astoria Astroplaneteers (14), Allison Moore, Greensboro Grasshoppers (15), and Robert Peters (16).
Feel free to keep sending ’em and thanks again. I really appreciate it.
While most parody artists are of the here today/gone tomorrow variety, Al has proven to have tremendous staying power. His appeal stretches across generational lines, and shows no signs of abating (his last album, 2006’s Straight Outta Lynwood, debuted in the Top 10 and yielded a Top 10 single in “White and Nerdy”).
But despite Al’s long-standing role as one of America’s foremost satirists, he has never figured prominently in the world of Minor League promotions and game presentation. I have always considered this to be puzzling, as Al’s propensity for parody, puns, and family-friendly absurdism would seem to be a perfect fit within the anything-goes world of the Minors. In fact, I would argue that “Dare To Be Stupid” — the title of one of Al’s best albums — serves as a near-perfect encapsulation of the everyday attitude that prevails in many Minor League Baseball front offices.
Therefore, I would like to use what little influence I have to sincerely ask that “Weird Al Night” be added to team promotional schedules in 2010. What follows are a few (okay, a lot) of suggestions that could help make this dream a reality.
What: “Weird Al Night” at the ballpark
Where: Minor League stadiums nationwide
When: April-September 2010 every year thereafter
Why: To illustrate the symbiotic relationship that can exist between Minor League Baseball and America’s premier parodist.
The evening will feature Weird Al’s music throughout, as well as Al-themed games and contests, concession items, player headshots, and more. Let’s break it down.
— Player at-bat music consisting of snippets of Weird Al songs (at least for the visiting team). This would serve as a great way to inundate the crowd with the choruses of well-known Weird Al parodies (“Like A Surgeon”, “Yoda”, “Smells Like Nirvana”, “Jurassic Park”, etc. etc. ad infinitum).
— Player headshots doctored in one of two ways — the player’s face could be superimposed on album covers such as these:
Or, Al’s signature characteristics — long curly hair and glasses — could be added to existing head shots (yes, I know that Al got contact lenses and changed his hairstyle 10 years ago, but it’s the “classic” Al look that is still most prevalent in the public mind).
— Weird Al has written many songs about food throughout his career, so special items at the concession stand could include “My Bologna“, “I Love Rocky Road“, “Spam“, “Lasagna“, “Spuds“, “Taco Grande“, and, of course, the Twinkie Wiener Sandwich (taken from the 1989 cult comedy classic “UHF”)
Happy Birthday — A day at the ballpark isn’t complete without a nod to those in attendance who are celebrating their birthday. Well, Weird Al has just the song for that:
Taunt Your Opponent with the music of “Weird Al”– Whether it’s part of a larger promotion or not, there are many ways to insert Al music and video into the game day experience. Some suggestions on how to rile the opposition:
— When opposing team’s pitcher is taken out of ballgame, play snippet of “One More Minute”: “I’d rather get 100,000 paper cuts on my face, then spend one more minute with you”.
Or, even better, launch into “One of Those Days“.
— When the opposing team holds a conference on the mound, play snippet of “Confessions Part 3“.
— If opposing team is melting down, play hook from “I Can’t Watch This.”
— As a new pitcher warms up, play “Good Enough for Now” (“I couldn’t live a single day without you. Actually, on second thought, well I suppose I could”).
—- If opposing team’s line-up consists of a big money first-round pick, play “This Is the Life” when he comes to bat (“I eat filet mignon seven times a day, my bath tub’s filled with Perrier”).
— Finally, it’s a little harsh, but how about this after a bonehead play?
(yes, this is from the aforementioned “Wheel of Fish”)
Uplift the Home Team! — Weird Al shouldn’t solely be used to denigrate the opposition, however. Many clubs play rally videos if the home team is trailing heading into the bottom of the ninth. Well, it doesn’t get any more inspiring than this:
Polka Your Eyes Out! — Weird Al is a renowned accordion player, and 10 of his 12 albums contain polka medleys of popular hits. So how about hiring a polka band (or at least an accordionist) to play the national anthem and perform on the concourse? And let’s not forget that the following ballpark staples (and many, many more) have been “Polka-ized” by Al, and could be played as quick audio snippets in lieu of the original song:
“Smoke on the Water”, “We’re Not Gonna Take It”, “Satisfaction”, “Love Shack”, “Unbelievable”, “Enter Sandman”, “Walking on the Sun”, “Tubthumping”, “Let’s Get It Started”, “Take Me Out”, “Drop It Like It’s Hot”, and the entirety of “Bohemian Rhapsody” (on 1993’s “Alapalooza”).
And, finally — this is neither here nor there, but a Weird Al Minor League Ballpark Tour is something I would love to see. Move over Bob Dylan, because Weird Al is the true troubadour of our times, a walking embodiment of the pop culture zeitgeist.
In Summary — I would never expect the above suggestions to be incorporated wholesale, but I do hope that they get those in Minor League front offices thinking about how the music and video of Weird Al Yankovic could be utilized toward a more fun (and funny) game day atmosphere.
I will gladly serve as a consultant on any proposed “Weird Al” promotional nights, as I feel a responsibility to the next generation to do my part to spread the Gospel of Yankovic. If there are those in the world of Minor League Baseball who also feel this responsibility, then I urge you to act upon it.
But if this post turns out to be just one more quixotic endeavor in a life filled with them, that’s okay too. It was truly a pleasure to research and revisit Al’s entire career, because to do so allowed me to to revisit an era of my own life in which he was my hero. In many ways, he still is.
So — once again — Happy 50th Birthday, Al. Here’s hoping your reign at the top of the comedy music scene continues for decades more.
Promotions, like anything else in life, are what you make of them. So while “Waffle Appreciation Day” might not sound like much on paper, in the hands of the breakfast-loving Greensboro Grasshoppers it was transformed into one of the best theme nights of the year.
I first got a sense of the power of the waffle last month, when I contacted Grasshoppers’ director of special events Allison Moore for some information on the promo (which was held on August 24th). This is just some of her reply:
“August 24th is National Waffle Appreciation Day, celebrating the patenting of the waffle iron by Cornelius Swarthout of Troy, New York on August 24, 1869.
We at the Grasshoppers are very fond of the waffle as our fans chant “Waffle Waffle Waffle” and sing along with Parry Gripp’s “Do You Like Waffles” song on a nightly basis. They do so to taunt the “Waffle House Strike Out Victim” of the night, as they all get free waffles if he strikes out.”
The “Waffle Song”:
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Moore went on to explain that Waffle Day would also feature a waffle eating contest, waffle trivia, Waffle House giveaway items (including cozies and hats), and a special appearance by “The Waffle Man” (a spoof of the West Virginia Power’s “Toast Man”, an eccentric fan who throws toast at the crowd when an opposing batter goes down on strikes):
And, of course, waffle player headshots factored into the festivities:
Anyway…it was clear that the Grasshoppers do not mess around when it comes to waffles. Can you see that they are serious?
After the promo took place, Moore checked in to let me know that it was indeed a “success.” The waffle-eating contest stood out as a particular highlight, with the coveted “Waffle Belt” being awarded to group sales associate Travis Kerstetter:
Those interested in how Kerstetter’s victory came to be should check out this video, which shows the eventual champ out-consuming all who opposed him:
Of particular interest to me was the fact that this clip both began and ended with the music of Weird Al Yankovic (the featured songs were “Eat It” and “Waffle King”). I also must give credit to the on-field MC for referring to Kerstetter’s win as a “Travis-ty”.
And let’s not forget the “Waffle Man”, that mustachioed distributor of fine food product:
It is a very, very busy time of year, and lately I have found myself utilizing swimming metaphors in an attempt to describe my workplace situation. Often, I feel like I am drowning. Today, at the least, I am treading water. Of course, the ultimate goal is to be doing a competent breaststroke in an Olympic-sized pool. I’m not there yet, but I can dream.
Now that I’ve at least partially sabotaged myself with an unwieldy intro, let me move on to what this post is REALLY about: The extravaganza of spuds that was the Idaho Falls Chukars’ “Potato Night” promotion.
Chukars media relations director John Hadden has provided me with a veritable truckload of Potato Night information, en route to setting a new record in the category of “most pictures sent to Ben’s Biz Blog in regard to a single promotion.”
That record? 17. Therefore, I feel it would be a good idea to switch this post to a different setting. For a text-based description of what went on, click HERE. Otherwise, stick with me as I present a cornucopia of photos from a promotion that was anything but half-baked. In fact, it was over-stuffed (not to mention good in the sack).
Before the gates at Melaleuca Field opened, fans were given the opportunity to have their picture taken with a two-ton potato, courtesy of the Spuds Drive-In:
Incidentally, the Spud Drive-In Theater looks like an incredible place to see a movie. Check out the website HERE. But speaking of oversized potatoes, check out this gigantic nightmare-inducing inflatable stationed outside of the stadium:
The first 100 fans in attendance received Spuddy Buddies, which the team describes as “plush potato dolls with arms and legs.”
Meanwhile, a special concession stand option was “Spud Fudge“:
The first pitch was, of course, a potato:
Between-inning contests included a mashed-potato eating contest and, of course, a sack race:
Unfortunately, no visual evidence exists of one of the evening’s most interesting innovations. Writes Hadden:
“We did fire a potato gun at the end of the anthem. It was about eight feet long, took three interns to operate, and launched a
potato over the right-centerfield wall.”
If anyone wants to send me a drawing depicting the above description, I would most definitely post it.
Finally, TWO HOURS worth of potato-themed music was played over the PA. Prior to the promotion, I suggested to Hadden that the following song be incorporated. He assured me that it was:
In the offseason I plan on putting together a comprehensive report regarding ways in which the music of Weird Al can be incorporated into promotions. I’m not sure how long I’ll be at this job, but one thing is certain: I will not rest until Weird Al has absolutely inundated the Minor League landscape.
Forgive me the above transgression against all that is clever. Since Eminem’s new album “dropped” today, I figured I should use the opportunity to make a hackneyed reference to one of his previous hits. Carpe Diem and all that.
And, it’s true: I am, indeed, “back”. I’ll have some stunning tales (and pictures and video) from my trip to Huntsville up later in the week. But for now, let me ease back into the blogging game with this:
More player headshots from Fresno’s “Mad Tight 90s Night”!
First, Ryan Sadowski re-imagined as an alt-rock nerd:
And here we have a shot of one Adam “LL” Witters. Don’t call it a comeback!
But don’t think the Grizzlies are the only team that engages in the nefarious practice of album cover art doctoring. In Reading, the Phillies advertise upcoming mascot band performances thusly:
If you have any doctored ’90s cover art to share, please send it to:
I look forward to hearing from you.
You’ve got to give credit where credit’s due — that’s sales account executive Jonathan Gilbert in the video, and he does one heck of a job. Should he ever tire of working within the glitz and glamour of Minor League Baseball, he’ll surely be able to find employment as a late-night infomercial pitchman.
And also to give credit where it is due…CNBC’s Darren Rovell covered this first. I’m losing my edge, obviously, ready to begin that slippery and strangely comforting descent into oblivion.
But first, I have questions. Namely, what other things might the Grizzlies have planned for “As Seen on TV” night? So far, the only thing that has been confirmed is that the first 2500 fans will receive a Grizzlies logo Shammy Cloth.
For further inspiration, I suggest that the team pay close attention to this YouTube link. Or at least give this song some play over the loudspeakers on June 6.