In 2009, the Wilmington Blue Rocks became the first team to book Team Ghost Riders — better known as Cowboy Monkey Rodeo — at a Minor League ballpark. The thrilling spectacle of a monkey riding a dog herding sheep soon became an industry-wide phenomenon.
In 2016, the Blue Rocks have once again made Cowboy Monkey Rodeo history.
“Dir of Mktg Joe” is more coherently known as Blue Rocks director of marketing Joe Valenti, a longtime Cowboy Monkey Rodeo supporter. Valenti serves as the point man when the rodeo rolls into Wilmington, and in that capacity had gotten to know ringleader Tim Lepard.
“[Lepard] will retire the dogs at a certain age so they can live a dog’s life, not doing the grind,” said Valenti. “Last year he was in town in August. I mentioned to him, that if he was retiring a dog my wife and I would definitely be interested. He said, ‘We’ll look into it.’ But that night at the end of the show, as he was standing at home introducing the dogs and monkeys, unbeknownst to me he called me up there and gave me Shot. I had no idea that it was coming, we hadn’t discussed it or anything. It was crazy…He said when you’re ready, we’ll make the tradeoff.”
This past Saturday Valenti, his wife and young daughter, Rose, met with Lepard in Virginia and officially adopted the 5-year-old Border Collie.
“He was confused and tentative at first, not sure what to think about having a new family and a new home,” said Valenti. “One reason that Tim was ready to retire him is because he’s so docile. Just an affectionate, laid-back kind of dog, who was over doing the chasing rams kind of thing. Tim thought he would be a good fit with the family. So it’s been an adjustment to get his bearings and figure out who we are, but it’s gone really well….It’s cool to see him slide into the family role.”
While Shot will spend the bulk of his time at home, Valenti plans to bring him out to Frawley Stadium on a regular basis.
“He loves people. I do the onfield, hosting, so I can have him come down with me,” said Valenti. “It’ll be cool leading up to the games [with Cowboy Monkey Rodeo], a little teaser, to have the dog here. And I’ll definitely bring him when the monkeys are here, to reunite him.”
Valenti won’t consider adopting a monkey, however.
“The dog is enough. Monkeys are cool, and it’s always fun when they’re around,” he said. “They run around and scare the players. But I’ll stick to the dog.”
I’ve recently dedicated a post to showcasing new mascots that can be seen around the Minors; today’s post will focus on that other integral aspect of the Minor League Baseball experience: the food.
Let’s start with the El Paso Chihuahuas, who play their first-ever ballgame at brand-new Southwest University Park on April 28. Concessions at the new facility will be provided by Ovations, who unveiled the ballpark menu last month. Fairly thorough coverage of some of the more unique items can be found HERE and HERE among other places, including an awesome looking beef brisket “Salpicon Salad” that very well may be gluten-free (fingers crossed, I’ll be there on April 29 and 30 and will find out for sure). I contacted the team in the wake of their concessions unveiling, and Ovations’ Jeff Hanauer responded with the following pictures. And that is what you’re all here for, what you’re always here for: the pictures. Let’s proceed.
The Pico de Gallo will be included with many of the Chihuahuas’ Mexican-themed offerings. It looks outstanding, and this picture is suitable for framing.
Alligator bites with jalapeno cornbread (an El Paso specialty?)
The Chihua Dog, with bacon, beans, and jalapenos:
The Dudley Dog, a foot long and a half a pound, topped with chile con queso and pico de gallo:
A few of the many “Juarez Dogs” that will be available:
This sandwich is called, “From Philly, with Love”.
The Flamethrower, a half pound burger with ghost peppers, jack cheese, deep fried jalapenos, and chipotle ranch sauce:
Of course, no discussion of ballpark food is complete without the requisite White Michigan Whitecaps mention. Following in the footsteps of the Fifth Third Burger and the (gluten-free!) Baco, this year’s premier addition is the Auger Dogger. It is a deep-fried hot dog on a stick, surrounded by potato chips. Here’s hoping that this, too is gluten-free:
More notable concession additions, per the Whitecaps:
Pretzilla Bacon Cheeseburger (a pretzel bun with a one-third pound hamburger patty, bacon and cheese).
Coaches’ Sandwich – In honor of the three Whitecaps coaches, who hail from Australia (Andrew Graham), Texas (Mike Henneman) and Cuba (Nelson Santovenia), this sandwich includes two slices of ham, Hormel barbeque pulled pork, pickle shreddies, Swiss cheese and shrimp served on a sub bun.
Tony Gates Venison Burger – Named after the 97 WLAV local radio personality who is passionate about the outdoors and is an avid hunter, this venison burger on a bun and will be served at the Steak Cart behind home plate.
Over in Kannapolis, the Intimidators have unveiled some notable new additions. This one is self-explanatory, but I’ll explain: a 64 ounce serving of loaded nachos, served in a batting helmet.
Also of note is the Dale’s Mater sandwich, a favorite of Dale Earnhardt (for whom the Intimidators are named). It is, quite simply, a tomato sandwich with Duke’s mayonnaise.
The Trenton Thunder have unveiled a new signature item, one with a distinctly New Jersey flair. The Thunder Dog is “a jumbo sized Black Bear Franks hot dog wrapped in American cheese and famous Trenton pork roll and served on a torpedo roll.”
Also new in Trenton is the “Mega Nachos” stand, which can (and should!) be gluten-free. Sez the team:
Another new addition on the first base side is Mega Nachos, where fans can build-their-own nachos from a variety of toppings including: cheese, queso, chili, steak, chicken, pulled pork, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, jalapenos, salsa, guacamole, sour cream, and olives.
The Thunder have long had a Chickie and Pete’s stand at the ballpark, but these Philly-area purveyors of sandwiches and (gluten-free!) crab fries are now in Wilmington as well:
— Brian Radle (@BrianRadle7) April 8, 2014
And, hey, for those of you who consider gluttony to be a virtue: the Frederick Keys have recently announced a rather considerable eating challenge. Think you can do it? If so, what’s wrong with you?
Think you have what it takes to receive the Key to the City!? Check out our new eating challenge here at the Grove! pic.twitter.com/GL9xJPX2Re
— Frederick Keys (@FrederickKeys) April 16, 2014
Finally, in Fresno, the Grizzlies are now serving a “Grizzly Egg.” Per the Fresno Bee, it’s a “cream cheese-filled deviled egg, wrapped in bacon, baked and drizzled in buffalo sauce.” This thing better be gluten-free, because it looks awesome!
And that’s all of the food news I have to share with you, at least for the next couple of days. In the meantime, please know that I am writing up a storm over at MiLB.com:
— New Promo Preview leads with the Louisville Bats Corky Miller #FeartheStache t-shirt.
— New Farm’s Almanac takes a look at team-branded beer throughout the Minors.
And, as always, much more to come! There’s a reason that I say that I am the greatest of all time: because it’s true.
I like doing things in threes — if only because it gives me a semi-legit reason to use the word “triumvirate” — but sometimes three just isn’t enough. And sometimes, sometimes is now. That’s the case now, as in right now, as in right now you are reading this not-at-all gratuitous, unnecessary and insufferably self-satisfied intro to, yes, an unprecedented fourth consecutive bouillabaisse blog.
Get ready for yet another cavalcade of new and/or notable items from around the seemingly inexhaustible world of Minor League Baseball! No segue!
If you’ve been following the NFL playoffs over the past several weeks, then you’re aware that Peyton Manning often yells “Omaha!” prior to having the ball snapped to him. This inspired the Omaha Storm Chasers to call a promotional audible:
— Omaha Storm Chasers (@OMAStormChasers) January 21, 2014
I’ll quote from the press release, if only because it is more existential in nature than most press releases of its kind:
This upcoming Sunday will be the first without football since last September 1 and after the Super Bowl on February 2, sports fans will have a Sunday void until the next NFL season begins. To help occupy this opening, the Omaha Storm Chasers are offering specialty “Omaha! Omaha!” Plans that will feature a majority of Sunday home games throughout the 2014 season for only $31 or $55.
Inspired by the 31 “Omaha” audibles by Peyton Manning in the Denver Broncos AFC Championship win over the New England Patriots on January 19, the Storm Chasers are offering Box Seat Tickets to 9 Sunday Games for $31 (or about $3.43 per game).
Omaha Storm Chasers Baseball: Occupying the Void since 2011!
Regular readers of this never-faltering blogging empire are aware that I am a big fan of absurdist avant-garde interpretations of Minor League Baseball All-Star Game Home Run Derbies. (See Quad Cities River Bandits, Reading Phillies, Charleston RiverDogs, and Altoona Curve). On Thursday, the Wilmington Blue Rocks — hosts of this year’s Carolina League/California League All-Star Game — announced that they will be getting in on the act as well.
[The Blue Rocks will be] the first Minor League baseball club to host a Home Run Derby where players bat from the outfield and try to hit the ball into the stands behind where home plate normally resides. That is the highlight of the Hitting Challenge that will open the California League/Carolina League All-Star Game festivities….on Monday, June 16.
The hitting challenge will feature some of the best young prospects in baseball from both the Carolina League and California League competing in two events. First there will be a hitting contest featuring targets that players will have to hit in order to earn points. Then there will be a home run derby. Fans will have the opportunity to catch any dingers off of these sluggers’ bats as the Blue Rocks will flip the field at Frawley Stadium. A new batting cage will be installed in center field and derby contestants will be awarded homeruns by hitting balls into the seating area.
Last month I received an email from WordPress, service provider for the entire MLBlogs network, regarding my 2013 “Year in Blogging.” For what it’s worth, I wrote 128 posts in 2013, to bring the grand total to 1,026. This was less than in year’s past (the blog began in October of 2007), but I’d like to think what I lacked in quantity I made up for in quality? Maybe?
Not surprisingly, food-related posts brought in the most traffic. March’s write-up on the Charleston RiverDogs’ new food additions was this year’s most widely “read” post, followed by a similar post on West Michigan. And coming in at number three was a post that is now almost four years old, on the RiverDogs’ “Pickle Dog”! (I think this is because a picture from that post has been widely circulated on Pinterest.) Number four was the post that detailed my 2013 road trip itinerary — I think people actually read that one, rather than just looking at the pictures — and at number five was yet ANOTHER post featuring a Charleston RiverDogs food item.
I think the lesson here is that I should write more about the RiverDogs, but at the moment I have no new culinary information to share. So how about this video from the team’s annual holiday party, in which co-owner Bill Murray delivers his “State of the Team” address.
For more Charleston RiverDogs’ content (Bill Murray-related and otherwise), check out Josh Handler’s “Baseball from the Box Office” blog. Handler, a “rising front office professional” spent last season as a RiverDogs intern and I met him at the Winter Meetings.
Okay, I’ll stop with the gratuitous RiverDogs mentions. But for how long? Let’s return to the 2013 Year-End Blogging Report, which 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?
Finally, a big thanks to those who have read this blog through thick and thin, especially 2013’s top 5 commenters. Take a bow Minoring in Baseball, Possum187, Dom Latkovski (Zooperstars! founder), Jordan (who may or may not be related to me) and the Charlie & Dave Army.
Okay, I’m officially out of material. Bouillabaisse mission complete!
As you may recall, the last post on this blog was a bountiful bouillabaisse of ripped-straight-from-the-notebook Minor League news items. Well, that’s what this post is gonna be dedicated to as well.
But before we get started with that, please click THIS LINK to read this MiLB.com article detailing my Top 10 favorite Minor League stadiums. Feedback is appreciated and encouraged, and views both complementary and dissenting will be included in a future blog post.
And now, to the notebook!
I’ve never been a Jay Leno fan, but nonetheless there’s always been one thing I’ve loved about his show and that’s the weekly “Headlines” segment. And wouldn’t you know it? Last month, none other than the Lehigh Valley IronPigs made an appearance thanks to this newspaper ad:
Watch it HERE, the IronPigs reference is around the 2:30 mark.
I haven’t yet compiled my 2013 Minor League promotions spreadsheet (yes, compiling such a spreadsheet is an annual offseason task), but one giveaway item that has already caught my eye — and you know how painful that can be — comes courtesy of the Lake County Captains:
On Saturday, July 6, a Skipper Rock-N-Bobble doll featuring the Captains mascot paying tribute to Randy Newman, an inductee in this year’s class of Rock ‘N Roll Hall of Fame musicians, will be given to the first 1,500 fans compliments of Sysco. This year’s doll will also feature a sound clip from Randy Newman’s Burn On, which is synonymous with the Major League movie.
Yes! A Randy Newman-themed giveaway. And one featuring a song from “Sail Away,” arguably his best-ever album (it’s certainly my favorite). Here’s hoping Randy Newman promos spread through the Minors like a fire on the Cuyahoga. How about “Salute to American Foreign Policy Night”?
It’s pretty much indisputable that the Lexington Legends possess the best team van in Minor League Baseball. Great slogan, horrible pick-up line:
Remember a few weeks back when I wrote about the Hickory Crawdads’ “Day in the Minors” fan package? This post prompted an email response from New Hampshire Fisher Cats’ media relations manager/broadcaster Tom Gauthier, who wrote:
While we don’t have a program like [the Crawdads], we do offer a program for young kids to experience a day in the life. We work with Citizens Bank (sponsor love) to open up a handful of jobs for kids ages 6-16. They shadow with us for an afternoon and then through the game itself.
To read more about the Fisher Cats’ “Kids Run the Show” promo, click HERE.
Meanwhile, I’m more than happy to have kids shadow me for a day. As a veteran blogger, I will teach them how to show up to the office late and disheveled, overpay for lunch in lieu of bringing your own, and write jokes on Twitter instead of doing meaningful work.
You may remember my piece last season on the art of scorekeeping. In this piece one of the fans profiled was the pseudonym-ed “Stevo,” and I will now take the opportunity to direct you to his blog “The Baseball Enthusiast.” Stevo has just begun a series of posts entitled “For Those Keeping Score at Home,” featuring “intermediate to advanced” tricks of the trade.
I have a feeling that many readers of this blog will enjoy picking up what he’s putting down.
I’m pretty sure that the Reading Fightin’ Phils are the first team to give away their stadium, even if it is only for a day. Read all about it HERE. Or just look at this visual and wonder.
I know that snow-covered ballpark photos are so two weeks ago, but here’s a good one courtesy of the New Britain Rock Cats. So soothing!
In what I believe is a Minor League anomaly, the hair of Wilmington Blue Rocks mascot Rocky is real and actually grows. And once it grows long enough, he’s going to donate to Locks of Love. Click HERE to see his ‘do.
Proving that just about anything can be capitalized on by Minor League Baseball teams, the Mobile BayBears recently opened their arms to distressed travelers after the beleaguered Carnival Triumph finally limped into Mobile.
Sez the team:
The Mobile BayBears would like to give all passengers aboard the Carnival Triumph cruise ship the opportunity to visit the Hank Aaron Childhood Home and Museum for free on Thursday and Friday February 14th and 15th.
“We understand travelers have been through a lot in the past few days,” said team spokesman Craig Durham. “In an effort to make their time in Mobile as enjoyable as possible we encourage them to come see one of baseball’s most unique museums and pay tribute to Mobile legend Hank Aaron.”
The museum will be open from 9-5 on Thursday and Friday, and all non-Carnival passengers will be able to visit the museum for the standard price of $5.
NYC still has a long ways to go when it comes to fully recovering from Superstorm Sandy, and the Brooklyn Cyclones are doing their part via their “Meaningful Mondays” initiative. $3 from every ticket sold to every Monday game will go toward a local charity — read about it HERE.
Speaking of meaningful, I’d recommend that you read these most insightful observations from former Durham Bulls staffer Matt DeMargel regarding why employers should look at Minor League Baseball experience in a positive light.
And now I have reached the end of this notebook page and, therefore, the end of this post. I’ll conclude by sharing this Augusta GreenJackets staff bio. The legend of Dumpster the Stadium Cat continues to grow!
Who is CatDog?
It’s early Friday afternoon as I type this, a time in which my readership is likely to be particularly wary of too many words. Who wants to be burdened with the onerous task of reading when the weekend is so near?
So let’s go to the videos! I’ve come across quite a few over the past several days, and would love nothing more than to share them with you, the world-weary word-wary reader:
The State College Spikes have been innovators in the field of mystery-themed promotions, making GM Jason Dambach’s total lack of deductive reasoning skills all the more surprising.
I love videos like that: set-up, punchline, and done in under a minute. Or done in under 30 seconds, in the case of the Tennessee Smokies. This one features a guy who really knows how to make an impression.
And the brevity continues, this time courtesy of the Charleston RiverDogs. Yesterday, the team released their own version of “Cannibal, the Movie”. This one is not for the faint of heart:
The mascot angst continues in Omaha, where Stormy the would-be Storm Chaser has suffered yet another indignity.
Similar feelings of rejection have recently been felt by Wilmington’s Rocky the Blue Moose, who has had difficulty updating his look:
I’ll close things out with what is only a somewhat gratuitous video. The Baseball Project’s excellent second album was released last week, and I highly recommend picking it up. The combination of accomplished rock n roll chops and literate, passionate baseball writing is truly something to behold. Here’s the band playing on Letterman around the time their first album was released:
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.
It was just yesterday that I wrote “Valentine’s Day can wait.” But that was yesterday, when men were men, women were beautiful, and blogging material was plentiful.
But today? Today I got nothin’. Therefore, it’s time for my first installment of Ben’s Biz Blog Valentine’s Day coverage. Thus far, I am aware of 10 teams that are offering mascot delivery services on Valentine’s Day. But, as we know, not all mascots are created equal.
What follows are snapshots of the costumed characters that will be personally delivering Valentine’s Day gifts. And for you, the reader, I have a simple question: Which of these mascots do you think is the most romantic, the one most likely to jump-start a truly memorable Valentine’s Day? Please let me know via email, Twitter, Facebook, or, of course, the perpetually neglected comments section. I’ll compile the results and post it on the blog come Monday. Here are the candidates:
Reading Phillies — Screwball or Crazy Hot Dog Vendor
So which mascot is the most romantic? Let me know.
Over a month ago, I put out the word via various social networking applications that my list of blog-worthy material was low. I did this in the hope that someone within my vast cadre of loyal readers would send me something worthwhile to blog about.
Well, someone did. Sue, the woman behind the blog “Rants, Raves, and Random Thoughts“, sent me a cache of Minor League mascot pictures. I decided to save said cache for a proverbial “rainy day”, in which I had nothing else whatsoever to write about.
That day is today.
So, without further ado, let’s all enjoy some mascot pics.
#1: Clearwater’s Phinley at his 2008 birthday celebration:
Phinley and his pals dance the night away:
Rasta Fish, flanked by manatee and alligator
Ferrous and FeFe of the Lehigh Valley IronPigs do their part to transform a Buffalo Bisons fan into an IronPigs supporter:
FeFe vs. “Piglets”
Vegetable Racing in Reading:
Ice Cream w/ Cherry on Top (or is that a plunger?) takes a huge lead over Pizza and Popcorn:
Crazy Hot Dog Vendor!
In Wilmington, perhaps the most random mascot race of all time: Traffic Cone, Peanut, and Hot Dog:
This morning, my article on Minor League World Records “went live” on MiLB.com. You can check it out here. The article included some first-hand observations from the Wilmington Blue Rocks’ “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes” world record attempt, but there’s much more where that came from.
The following video, put together by my friend and occasional NYC comedy collaborator Jake Goldman, documents our evening in Wilmington:
I think the video came out well (Jake did a great job of putting it together) but there is plenty of room for improvement. I am making this all up as I go along, in terms of how these Minor League trips are planned, funded, and documented, so bear with me here. I appreciate any and all feedback, just keep in mind that I will always be my own worst critic (so, yeah, I am more than aware of my sloppy appearance and mumbly-mouthed speech patterns).
There’s nothing I can to do except to keep trying, so I’ll get out to the ballparks as often as time and money allows. I appreciate all the invitations and hospitality that have been extended thus far…it is my ultimate goal to create a nationwide network of friends, acquaintances, fans, and mentors, and to never have to pay for a hotel room. Paying for things is for suckers.