Unless you stumbled upon this blog after searching for “Brett Favre,” “Canadian Tuxedo,” or “skateboard,” then there is a very good chance that you are familiar with the world of Minor League Baseball. And if you are familiar with the world of Minor League Baseball, then there is a very good chance that you are familiar with the Zooperstars!. You know — that roaming crew of giant inflatable performing animals with pun-based names such as Harry Canary, Clammy Sosa, and Sixtoed Slothcano (I made up that last one).
The man overseeing the Zooperstars! empire is Dom Latkovski, a celebrated mascot performer whom I’ve written about in the past. Given Latkovski’s professional background, it shouldn’t be surprising that his daughters are accomplished performers as well. But what is surprising is just how accomplished they are.
Nine-year-old Gracie Latkovski has cystic fibrosis and cerebral palsy and therefore must use a wheelchair. Nonetheless, Gracie and her older sister, Quincy, were the winning performers at this month’s Jamfest Dance Super Nationals. An impressive feat under any circumstance, to be sure, but even moreso considering the challenging nature of the routine they performed together. Who says you can’t dance from a wheelchair?
More on Gracie and Quincy’s winning performance, from Kentucky TV station KPHO.
Gracie, 9, who uses a wheelchair due to Cerebral Palsy and Cystic Fibrosis, has been dancing for years with her sister at a studio near Louisville, Ky. This weekend they took the stage together at the Jamfest Dance Super Nationals at the Northern Kentucky Convention Center.
Their duet began with Gracie in her wheelchair and Quincy also sitting in a wheelchair. Quincy then stood up and twirled around the stage with her sister in a choreographed routine to a song titled ‘Reflections’.
“Seeing both my girls on stage together inspires me and shows they have the heart of a true champion,” says mom Christin Latkovski. Those who saw the performance were just as inspired by the sisters, with Jamfest representatives saying the girls “awed the audience and warmed hearts throughout the competition.”
At the end of their routine, Gracie and Quincy were named National Champions and received special recognition on stage.
“I love dancing and want to show that I can do anything everyone else can because I believe in my dreams,” Says Gracie who began dancing at age 3.
Clearly, Gracie and Quincy’s inspiring work together is deserving of a large audience. Dom Latkovski has spent decades within the world of Minor League Baseball, so shouldn’t this video be shared throughout the world of Minor League Baseball? Teams — share it with your fans! Fans — share it with your friends!
And now, an encore performance.
I don’t particularly feel like writing about hamburgers today and, hopefully, you’re not in the mood to read about them. Instead, let’s turn our collective attention to an unprecedented-in-MiLB social media innovation. The Reno Aces, otherwise known as the biggest little team in the PCL, have launched “The Club.”
Just for you, only the choicest of press release excerpts:
The Reno Aces Baseball Club today will launch The Club, a new program that rewards fans for game attendance and social media posts about the ballclub….
Participating fans will be able to earn points for checking in at the ballpark on Foursquare, liking the Aces’ posts on Facebook, and re-tweeting the Aces or using special hashtags on Twitter. Fans will also earn points for posting photos from Aces Ballpark to the photo-sharing site CrowdCameo…..
At the end of each homestand, one lucky fan will win a game-worn Aces jersey. At the All-Star Break, one fan will win tickets to the 2013 Triple-A All-Star Game and the 2013 Triple-A Home Run Derby, to be held in Reno next summer. At the end of the season, one lucky fan will win four Infield Reserved season tickets for the 2013 season, including tickets to the All-Star festivities. Fans will also have the chance to win seat upgrades, player-autographed items and other prizes throughout the season.
Points can be accumulated in a number of ways, and at varying levels (10 points for inviting friends to play, 100 for tweeting with a Reno Aces hashtag, 250 for checking in at a game on FourSquare, and so forth and so on). Read the FAQs HERE.
And congrats to current leader Dwayne Jones, who as of this writing has accumulated 38,490 points. That’s a lot of Minor League Baseball-related social media engagement! I can relate.
In other news of an anomalous variety, a press release landed in my inbox last week announcing the following: “Zooperstars! Successfully Defends Its Intellectual Property Rights”
Chances are that if you’re reading this blog then you’re familiar with the Zooperstars! (exclamation mark theirs, not mine). They are a traveling crew of pun-happy inflatable characters, who over the years have become one of the best known touring acts in the Minors. Here’s a shot of Harry Canary, taken last season while I was visiting the Tucson Padres.
Here’s what went down:
ZOOperstars! Inc. today announced that it has successfully defended its intellectual property rights against Inflatamaniacs LLC, a company which was created by a former ZOOperstars! employee. ZOOperstars! is an entertainment company that performs comedic choreographed routines at sporting and other special events around the world.
In April 2011, ZOOperstars! filed a lawsuit against Inflatamaniacs in federal court in Louisville, Kentucky, alleging that Inflatamaniacs created a knock-off act to unfairly compete with ZOOperstars!, infringed on ZOOperstars!’ intellectual property, and used both its website and You Tube to deliberately attempt to confuse and mislead customers and fans about the company’s relationship to ZOOperstars!. In the agreement finalized last month, Inflatamaniacs agreed to make monetary payment to ZOOperstars! and agreed to stop using ZOOperstars!’ trademarks on its website, on You Tube, and during its public performances. In addition, Inflatamaniacs agreed to stop performing several of ZOOperstars!’ signature routines which ZOOperstars! alleged were nearly exact replicas of its routines. In exchange, ZOOperstars! agreed to dismiss its lawsuit, though it fully intended to pursue the lawsuit to final judgment.
Interesting stuff. I was thinking of tracking down one of the Zooperstars! for an exclusive interview, but then thought better of it.
There but for the grace of God go I.
The most pressing thing that needs to be conveyed at this moment in space and time, from a blogging perspective, is this: next week there will be no new blog posts. This is because I’m taking a a week-long respite from Minor League Baseball, in the form of a vacation.
When I return, it will be nearly March. And if it’s nearly March it’ll nearly be baseball season. Therefore, it’ll be time for me to make some plans — where to go, who to see, and how to best cover this multifarious entity known as Minor League Baseball.
Suggestions welcome, and appreciated! Unique content is key, so please get in touch with any knowledge you may have about any particular corner of this Minor League universe.
I look forward to your reply. But, in the meantime, here’s a nice-sized portion of that typical Biz Blog content you’ve come to know and tolerate.
As I’ve mentioned before, we’re in the midst of “promotion unveiling season.” One of the more interesting ones to come down the pike this week comes courtesy of the Memphis Redbirds, who have put an interesting spin on the increasingly prevalent “social media” sub-genre.
Reports the team:
The first 500 fans through the gates that use Twitter can write down their Twitter username, allowing the Redbirds to follow them. Prior to the game, a Twinterview will be held with one of the Memphis Redbirds players. Twitter handles from each player will also be included on their headshots on the Redbirds’ new video board.
Fans will be encouraged to take a photo from where they sit at the ballpark and share it on Facebook. Adding their seat location to the picture caption will give them a chance to win a social media themed prize during the game. One fan will also receive a prize pack that includes a bird watching book, a team-signed hashtag and a box of figurines containing 140 characters.
Not surprisingly, my favorite aspect of this promo is the “prize pack.” I look forward to seeing what a “team-signed hashtag” looks like, and, especially, what sort of figurine characters end up in the box.
My last post had a Valentine’s Day emphasis, but now that particular holiday is firmly in the rear-view mirror. Or, is it? In honor of the Red Sox’s new manager, the Lowell Spinners are hosting their own “Valentine’s Day” on July 14.
Ya gotta love it:
The first 1,000 fans through the gates will receive a pink Bobby Valentine’s Day Spinners’ baseball. Fans who do not receive a baseball will be rewarded with Valentine’s candies and cards so no fan is left lonely on Bobby Valentine’s Day.
The concourse will feature a Valentine’s card swap area, with Valentine’s available for younger fans to give to each other, leave for their favorite Spinners players or, of course, leave for Bobby Valentine. The area will also have an abundance of Valentine’s Day favorites, including Hershey’s Kisses and NECCO Hearts.
Outside of Valentine’s Day, the Spinners will also salute Bobby Valentine by exploring some of their favorite Bobby V-isms. The concession stand will feature wrap sandwiches, in honor of their inventor, and the team will celebrate Bobby’s fabulous ballroom dancing moves, with a between innings dancing contest.
As I mentioned on Twitter earlier this week, a component that needs to be added to this stellar promo is a mustache giveaway. And all fans in disguise should get in free!
A reasonable question to ask at this juncture is “who cares about any of this stuff? The world is ending!” The Frederick Keys understand such apocalyptic angst, and are therefore staging “Six Months Until the End of the World Night” on June 21.
“We will be paying tribute to what is supposed to be the end of life on earth with our six months til the end of the world celebration. Enjoy survival of the fittest events, last meal eating contests, zombie interns and more!” reported the team. “Oh, and there will be Keys baseball too.”
If the above didn’t satiate your appetite for apocalyptic images, then perhaps this will.
Yep, that’s Visalia Rawhide mascot Tipper with his ol’ buddy Newt Gingrich at Tuesday’s World Ag Expo.
“Newt Gingrich” sounds like a good name for a Zooperstars character. This beloved troupe of pun-obsessed inflatables are visiting Charlotte on May 26, with five of the characters confirmed. The team has launched a fan poll to determine the final two characters, with the choices as follows:
- Manatee Ramirez
- Yao Flamingo
- Jeff Gordog
- Centipete Rose
- Mackerel Jordan
- Nolan Rhino
The triumvirate of above characters look like they could be gatekeepers to the afterlife, but fortunately we won’t have to deal with such matters for another six months. In the meantime, all you need is Like!
The New Hampshire Fisher Cats are aiming for 10,000 new Facebook fans this month, and will donate $5000 to New Horizons soup kitchen and homeless if this goal is met. So CLICK HERE and like away!
And you know what? That’s going to do it for me. I’ll be back on the blog come 2/27, but in the meantime please meditate on what you like about this blog, what you don’t, and what you’d like to see from it in the future. I’d love to hear it.
Maybe it was a sign from God. I was all set to do this post last night, but a mysterious note slipped under the hotel room door informed me that “due to an unexpected emergency,” there will be a “transformer replacement performed by Tucson Electric Power.” Thus, come 2 a.m., power would be lost and my wi-fi connection rendered useless.
You may have won that round, hotel general manager Helinda Lizarraga. But nothing can stop me from blogging. For yesterday I spent an action-packed day in Tucson, visiting Hi Corbett Field before taking in Thursday’s game at Kino Stadium. Please, by all means, read my story about the city’s professional baseball situation HERE.
It really is a tale of two ballparks here, and in a future post I’ll share some pictures of Hi Corbett. But for now, please enjoy this depiction of the Tucson Padres baseball experience.
Ticket prices are reasonable, as they are throughout Minor League Baseball.
But, please, leave your guns at home.
But there is plenty of parking for any and all fans arriving via mototcycle.
Yesterday’s ballgame was a Thirsty Thursday, and from the start there was a lively atmosphere that had largely been missing from Wednesday’s contest.
Eegee’s frozen fruit drinks are a Tucson favorite, and in the Thirsty Thursday spirit could be had for just $1.
The National Anthem was sung by Joint Venture, an acapella group composed of four elderly gents.
Trevor Hoffman was in town, along with Brad Ausmus and Mark Loretta, in a special advisory role. Hoffman threw out the first pitch (to the strains of “Hell’s Bells”, of course) and then watched the first few innings from the T-Pads dugout (third from left). I spoke with Hoffman later in the game, which should be available on MiLB.com shortly.
The T-Padres logo really seems to be catching on with the fan base, and those looking to exhibit their passion for the city’s newest professional baseball incarnation could do so here.
But as for the real “Kino Bambino,” he found himself upstaged by the Zooperstars throughout the evening (doing a surprise “sneak preview” performance in advance of their performance tonight).
Momentarily an afterthought, Kino Bambino decided to check out the concession items.
The views from afar:
In a nice touch, all six victims of Tucson’s recent shooting are memorialized in banners on the right and left field fences.
Kino offers plenty of room to wander, as evidenced by these two shots from Wednesday.
For more perspective, and to better contextualize tomorrow’s post on Hi Corbett, I once again bring your attention to my MILB.com story.
But, for now, the sun sets on Kino.