Fish, Fowl and Carousels: Binghamton Seeks New Team Name

2016 marks the 25th and final season in which Binghamton’s Double-A franchise will be known as the “Mets.” What they will be known as going forward … well, that’s still unclear. But it will be one of these six choices, unveiled yesterday as part of a “Name the Team Contest.” The team will be accepting votes through June 1, because, as everyone knows, Minor League team name contests always rely on the will of the people.

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Here are the choices; the italicized descriptions are provided by the team:

Bullheads — A local inhabitant of the Susquehanna River, a Bullhead is a bullhead catfish. The bullhead displays a tough and resilient character such as the Binghamton community.

Gobblers — A symbol of the rich hunting culture of the area, the “Binghamton Gobblers” honors the outdoorsman lifestyle and turkeys who call Binghamton home.

Rocking Horses — The “Binghamton Rocking Horses” celebrates the Triple Cities’ rich history as the “Carousel Capital of the World.”

Rumble Ponies — A tribute to the Triple Cities’ carousel heritage, the “Binghamton Rumble Ponies” is a herd of fierce horses that no carousel center pole can contain.

Stud Muffins — While tipping a cap to the players on the field, the “Stud Muffins” celebrates the collection of carousel horses belonging to Binghamtonians.

Timber Jockeys — Combining the fun of Minor League Baseball with the rich carousel history of the Triple Cities, the “Binghamton Timber Jockeys” pays homage to everyone that rides the carousels.

A fairly ridiculous half-dozen choices, to be sure, but this is the year 2016 and if you’ve been following Minor League Baseball at all over the past decade, then this shouldn’t be much of a surprise. In a world that already includes Yard Goats, Chihuahuas, RubberDucks, IronPigs and Blue Wahoos, then why not add “Stud Muffins” to the mix?

Though spiedies were somehow completely neglected, all six of the choices have some tie-in to Binghamton. Bullheads and Gobblers and regional fish and fowl references, respectively, while the remaining four pay homage to Binghamton’s status as the “Carousel Capital of the World.” Did you now that, between 1919 and 1934, a benevolent businessman by the name of George F. Johnson donated six carousels to Binghamton’s local parks? The city of Binghamton website reports that “these magnificent machines still spin from Memorial Day to Labor Day at no charge or for an admission of ‘one piece of litter.'”

I am now disappointed that “Binghamton Garbage Riders” did not make the final cut. Refuse to lose!

The "Bee-Mets", lacking buzz, now paying final season.

The “Bee-Mets”, lacking buzz, now paying final season.

Binghamton’s imminent rebrand comes during the team’s first season under a new ownership group, Evans Street Baseball. The franchise, perennially last in the league in attendance, had been the subject of various relocation rumors over the past decade (most recently as part of an elaborate plan that would have seen the B-Mets purchased by Main Street Baseball and relocated to Wilmington, Delaware, with Wilmington’s current Carolina League team moving to Kinston, North Carolina).

But as the “Name the Team” contest illustrates, baseball in Binghamton will be back for many a merry go-round as the team carou-sells its new identity to the masses. That’s my spin, at least, provided for your amusement. Now it’s time for the team to gauge fan reaction by taking a gallop pole. I could make more jokes — the neigh-sayers are already telling me to stop — but for now I’ll just let it ride. I’ve saddled you with too many already and now my voice is horse.

***

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About Friday Night: Carolina Mudcats, May 13, 2016

This season, when I’m on the road, I’ll write an on-the-spot blog post about each Minor League ballpark that I visit. Then, upon my presumed return home, I’ll provide the multifaceted blog coverage that you have come to know and, perhaps, love. Let’s get to it, lest it get to us!

May 13: Five County Ballpark, home of the Carolina Mudcats (Class A Advanced affiliate of the Atlanta Braves)

Opponent: Lynchburg Hillcats, 7:05 p.m. start time

Five County Ballpark, from the outside:

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Five County Ballpark, from within: 

IMG_1390Culinary Creation: Pig Wings

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Ballpark Character: Muddy, celebrating Friday the 13th by dressing as Freddy Krueger.

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At Random: It was also Scout Night

003Your Groundbreaking and Subversive Ballpark Joke of the Day: 

Up Next: 

This trip is over. Stay tuned for a cavalcade of Carolinas-themed blog posts and MiLB.com articles. My next trip, God willing, will be to see the Hartford Yard Goats on June 3 and 4th.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

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About Last Night: Columbia Fireflies, May 11, 2016

This season, when I’m on the road, I’ll write an on-the-spot blog post about each Minor League ballpark that I visit. Then, upon my presumed return home, I’ll provide the multifaceted blog coverage that you have come to know and, perhaps, love. Let’s get to it, lest it get to us!

May 11: Spirit Communications Park, home of the Columbia Fireflies (Class A affiliate of the New York Mets)

Opponent: Asheville Tourists, 7:05 p.m. start time

Spirit Communications Park, from the outside:

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Spirit Communications Park, from within: 

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Culinary Creation: Myself and designated eater Carter Blackmon, about to chow down on “Hog Hammer” pork shanks.

IMG_1352Ballpark Character: Edward Keene, Fireflies director of facilities/footwear fashion icon

IMG_1362At Random: A pregame English class for Fireflies players, conducted in the office of team president John Katz

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Your Groundbreaking and Subversive Ballpark Joke

Up Next: 

May 13: Carolina Mudcats

***

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

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About Tuesday Night: Myrtle Beach Pelicans, May 10, 2016

This season, when I’m on the road, I’ll write an on-the-spot blog post about each Minor League ballpark that I visit. Then, upon my presumed return home, I’ll provide the multifaceted blog coverage that you have come to know and, perhaps, love. Let’s get to it, lest it get to us!

May 10: TicketReturn.com Field, home of the Myrtle Beach Pelicans

Opponent: Winston-Salem Dash, 7:05 p.m. start time

TicketReturn.com Field, from the outside:

086TicketReturn.com Field, from within: 

087

Culinary Creation: Uh, where to begin? This was one of four courses, served to four designated eaters. Chicken and waffle bites, fried bologna sandwich, chicken bog balls, fried pickles, sweet potato fries. Stay tuned for a full report.

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Ballpark Character: Randy the vendor

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At Random: That’s not a T-shirt gun; this is a T-shirt gun.

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Your Groundbreaking and Subversive Ballpark Joke of the Day: 

Up Next: 

May 12: Columbia Fireflies

May 13: Carolina Mudcats

***

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

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About Monday Night: Charleston RiverDogs, May 9, 2016

This season, when I’m on the road, I’ll write an on-the-spot blog post about each Minor League ballpark that I visit. Then, upon my presumed return home, I’ll provide the multifaceted blog coverage that you have come to know and, perhaps, love. Let’s get to it, lest it get to us!

May 9: Joseph P. Riley Park, home of the Charleston RiverDogs (Class A affiliate of the New York Yankees)

Opponent: Hickory Crawdads, 7:05 p.m. start time

Joseph P. Riley Park, from the outside:

003Joseph P. Riley Park, from within: 

018Culinary Creation: Take it away, Josh Shea:

Ballpark Character: Another day, another “Bark in the Park” promo.

IMG_1245At Random: 

IMG_1252Your Groundbreaking and Subversive Ballpark Joke of the Day: 

Up Next: 

May 10: Myrtle Beach Pelicans

May 12: Columbia Fireflies

May 13: Carolina Mudcats

***

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

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About Yesterday Afternoon: Greenville Drive, May 8, 2016

This season, when I’m on the road, I’ll write an on-the-spot blog post about each Minor League ballpark that I visit. Then, upon my presumed return home, I’ll provide the multifaceted blog coverage that you have come to know and, perhaps, love. Let’s get to it, lest it get to us!

May 8: Fluor Field, home of the Greenville Drive (Class A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox)

Opponent: Columbia Fireflies, 2:00 completion of Saturday’s suspended game followed by seven-inning game at 4:40

Fluor Field, from the outside: (This building, part box office and team store, is located across from the stadium. Close enough)

006Fluor Field, from within: 

IMG_1204Culinary Creation: Fried cheesecake dusted with cinnamon sugar, with chocolate dipping sauce

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Ballpark character: Available for adoption

023At random: Carnations for moms on Mother’s Day

IMG_1199Your Groundbreaking and Subversive Ballpark Joke of the Day: 

May 9: Charleston RiverDogs

May 10: Myrtle Beach Pelicans

May 12: Columbia Fireflies

May 13: Carolina Mudcats

***

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

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About Last Night: Durham Bulls, May 7, 2016

This season, when I’m on the road, I’ll write an on-the-spot blog post about each Minor League ballpark that I visit. Then, upon my presumed return home, I’ll provide the multifaceted blog coverage that you have come to know and, perhaps, love. Let’s get to it, lest it get to us!

May 7: Durham Bulls Athletic Park, home of the — wait for it — Durham Bulls (Triple-A affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays)

Opponent: Norfolk Tides, 5:05 p.m. ET start time

Durham Bulls Athletic Park, from the outside: 004

Durham Bulls Athletic Park, from within: 

060Culinary Creation: Angus Barn Steak and Cheese Sandwich

049Ballpark Characters: Princess Leia and Chewbacca, characters from a cult movie that was being celebrated at the ballpark.

036At Random: Another career highlight.

Your Groundbreaking and Subversive Joke of the Day: 

Up Next:

May 8: Greenville Drive

May 9: Charleston RiverDogs

May 10: Myrtle Beach Pelicans

May 12: Columbia Fireflies

May 13: Carolina Mudcats

***

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

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About Last Night: Greensboro Grasshoppers, May 6, 2016

This season, when I’m on the road, I’ll write an on-the-spot blog post about each Minor League ballpark that I visit. Then, upon my presumed return home, I’ll provide the multifaceted blog coverage that you have come to know and, perhaps, love. Let’s get to it, lest it get to us!

May 6: NewBridge Bank Park, home of the Greensboro Grasshoppers (Class A affiliate, Florida Marlins)

Opponent: Columbia Fireflies, 5:00 p.m. start time (doubleheader)

NewBridge Bank Park, from the outside: 

001NewBridge Bank Park, from within: 

013Culinary Creation: Sweet and Salty Grilled Cheese (strawberry brie cheese and prosciutto)

035Ballpark Character: On-field emcee Danny aka…

021At Random: Sausage racers

023

Your Groundbreaking and Subversive Joke of the Day: 

Up Next: 

May 7: Durham Bulls

May 8: Greenville Drive

May 9: Charleston RiverDogs

May 10: Myrtle Beach Pelicans

May 12: Columbia Fireflies

May 13: Carolina Mudcats

***

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

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Loose Ends Tied Up

Housekeeping!

This word, spoken from outside the door, is my alarm clock when I’m on the road.  It brings me back to hotel room reality, as I lie in bed and wish to the high heavens that I had remembered to put up a “Do Not Disturb” sign the night before.

Housekeeping is also the purpose of this post, as I fear that readers of this blog may not have been picking up on much of what I’ve been putting down lately. To wit:

Are you familiar with “The Show Before the Show”? It’s the weekly MiLB.com podcast, co-hosted by esteemed colleagues Sam “Not Lenny’s son” Dykstra and Tyler “Maybe Lenny’s son for all I know” Maun. Each week, I join Tyler and Sam for “Ben’s Biz Banter,” in which we riff on current MiLB events that fall within my broad purview. Listen, rate and review HERE.

But THAT IS NOT ALL. I’ve been promoting it relentlessly on Twitter, but earlier this month, Tyler and I hosted a special “ALL MINOR LEAGUE TEAM THEME SONGS” edition of the podcast. Seventeen baseball earworms, three interviews with songwriting masterminds and all the contextualizing info and theoretically witty banter you could could ever want. Look — like Richard Marx, it’s right here waiting for you! Listen now! I won’t give up until I’m satisfied.

After listening to all of these songs way too many times, I think my favorite is “Everybody Loves Curve Baseball.” What’s yours? Also, if you’d like a specific team theme song to be featured in an upcoming episode, please get in touch.

***

Every Friday, I have a feature story on MiLB.com. Today’s piece tracks a remarkable 36-season streak, as at least one new Minor League ballpark has opened every season from 1981-2016. Check it out HERE. And, hey, here’s a visual that shows how much the Minor League landscape has changed over the last two-plus decades.

by league graphicupdate

I had to compile and contextualize a lot of info for this piece and, unfortunately, there were a few omissions. I appreciate people pointing them out, but jeez, it’s not intentional. If I ever make a mistake regarding your team, it’s not because I don’t like your team. I love everyone.

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Meanwhile, earlier this month, I wrote a piece about David LaBounty and his “Bookstores and Baseball” zine. I was very glad to get the chance to write about a zine in a professional context, and this one fit as it is about, yes, bookstores and baseball.

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For years, David and his family have gone on road trips centered around attending literary festivals, visiting independent bookstores and seeing baseball games (many in the Minors). Each issue —  or inning — of the zine covers a year of travel, and there are eight so far. If this sounds like your kind of thing, in line with your sensibilities, then give the article a read and check out the zine HERE.

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Also, if you like being kept abreast of the Minor League promo scene, check out “Promo Watch.” It runs every Tuesday. Where else can you find important information such as how Greg “The Hammer” Valentine bailed out of a Fort Myers Miracle appearance due to “unspecified differences” with fellow guest (and former tag team partner) Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake?

Don’t worry. Bushwhacker Luke showed up in Greg’s place and all was well.

onfieldpose

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And, of course, there’ll be plenty of road trip material — on MiLB.com and on the blog — in the very near future. I’ll be hitting the road next week!

***

Okay, I shall now consider this house to be kept. Thanks, as always for reading.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

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Asheville Crafts a New Beer Identity

In recent years, Asheville, North Carolina, has exploded into one of the craft beer capitals of the world. Buncombe County, of which Asheville is a part, is home to 24 breweries alone. This concentrated collection of alcoholic enterprise has prompted many a tourist to put out an ABV for Asheville aka “Beer City, USA.”

Today, the Tourists themselves got in on the act, with the announcement that they will suit up as the Beer City Tourists on June 2. This team’ll have some suds in their duds, but save your applause. Booze would be more appropriate.

beerIn the Tourists’ press release, which may have been written by their IPA announcer, the endeavor is explained and justified thusly:

The Tourists jerseys will display the customized print “BEER CITY” across the chest and their New Era caps will have a pint glass logo with the official Asheville “A” embedded on the pint glass. These unique jerseys will be auctioned off with proceeds going to the Asheville Tourists Children’s Fund which uses money to purchase shoes for needy children in Western North Carolina.

Asheville Tourists president Brian DeWine is also quoted in the release, yet it is not mentioned whether he will change his name to Brian DeBeer on June 2. Just wanted to pint that out.

Anyhow, Beer City t-shirts and (Pilsnerbox?) hats are already available in the Tourists’ team store. The former piece of apparel looks like this:

beercity

The Tourists are no stranger to beer-related promotions; they’ve always had a can-do spirit. The term “Thirsty Thursday” originated with the team, and they had it trademarked in 1995. I wrote an article about the team’s “Thirsty Thursday” legacy when I visited McCormick Field in 2013. Look, they’ve got a trademark and everything!

thirsty

Anyhow, the “Beer City Tourists” promotion makes a nice complement to Bowling Green’s “Bootleggers” night. That bourbon-themed celebration is scheduled for July 16, almost six weeks after Asheville’s promotion, marking a rare instance in which the beer follows the shot.

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For much more MiLB promo material, guaranteed to provide equal parts titillation, inspiration and edification, check out my new “Promo Watch” column on MiLB.com. This week’s edition focuses on the Nashville Sounds’ new “Country Music Legends Race,” featuring tottering, inexplicably khaki-clad facsimiles of Reba McEntire, George Jones and Johnny Cash.

Nashville Sounds Country Music Legends Race 2016If there’s anything else you would like to know, or would like me to write about, then just ask. That’s what I’m here for.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

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