There’s No Place But Home

My latest (and therefore greatest) Minor League ballpark road trip wrapped up in Jacksonville on Saturday. Click here — and scroll down — to see a round-up of all the blogs and articles that have been produced so far; you can sleep well knowing that there’ll be plenty more where that came from.

That trip ended in Jacksonville, the home of the Suns, who are in the midst of a season-opening homestand that can only be described as “Brobdingnagian.”

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This sustained stretch of home games came about because the Biloxi Shuckers’ MGM Park won’t be ready until (at least) early June. Therefore, the Suns are playing in Jacksonville as the “road” team during their current (April 20-24) series against the Shuckers, in addition to regularly scheduled homestands from April 9-19 and 25-29th.

It should go without saying that hosting a homestand of such magnitude is an extremely taxing experience for the front office staff, who will be working unremittingly long days at the ballpark with nary a break in sight. If there’s one team that feels their pain, who have been there and done that, it’s the Rochester Red Wings.

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In 2012 the Red Wings’ Frontier Field served as the primary home ballpark of the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees, who were forced to spend the season on the road due to an extensive renovation to PNC Field. The Red Wings’ front office ended up hosting a whopping 109 games that season, with several stretches of a duration comparable to what the Suns are experiencing right now.

The Red Wings staff, a sympathetic lot, feel the Suns’ pain and have sought to help them in their time of need via this handy list. Suns staffers are advised to print it out and put it in their wallets (or purses, or fanny packs, or what have you):

Top 10 Survival Tips for a Really, Really Long Homestand

10. Nothing but day games!

9.  On-site laundry service for all employees

8. Nightly anti-rain dance to prevent doubleheaders

7. For female employees with significant others, four letters: B-E-E-R

6. For male employees with significant others, three letters: F-T-D

5. Initiate a daily post-lunch siesta

4. Daily Red Bull happy hour for the staff

3. Give mascot “body optional, head required” days

2. Hire landscaping company to do staff lawns

1. Fans pull tarp after Day 10

Thanks to Dan Mason, Matt Cipro and the entire Red Wings front office for sharing these survival tips, and good luck to the Suns as they seek to survive. I’ll have much more material from my recent Jacksonville visit, hopefully before this current homestand finally, mercifully ends.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

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About Last Night: Jacksonville Suns, April 18, 2015

This season, when I’m on the road, I’ll be writing a short, on-the-spot blog post about each Minor League ballpark that I visit. Then, upon returning to New York City’s comforting embrace, I will provide the unimpeachable blog coverage that you have come to know and love. So let’s get to it, lest it get to us!

April 18, 2015 — Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville (Bragan Field), home of the Jacksonville Suns (Double-A affiliate of the Florida Marlins)

Opponent: Montgomery Biscuits, 8:47 p.m. ET start time (after a rain delay of one hour and 42 minutes)

Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville, from the outside: 

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The Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville, from within: 

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Culinary Delight: Salt and Vinegar Pork Rinds and Sweet Tea, from third party ballpark vendor Front Porch Kettle Corn:

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Waiting for the Punch-Vine (my nightly attempt at telling an “original” ballpark joke in six seconds):

Does this count as a joke?

At Random: Suns owner Peter “Pedro” Bragan Jr. in his office

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Last Song Played Over the PA: Procol Harum, “A Whiter Shade of Pale”

Next Up: I AM HOME. Click HERE to see all of my 2015 trip itineraries.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

instagram.com/thebensbiz

About Last Night: Brevard County Manatees, April 17, 2015

This season, when I’m on the road, I’ll be writing a short, on-the-spot blog post about each Minor League ballpark that I visit. Then, assuming that I return home, I will provide the scintillating blog coverage that you have come to perhaps know and maybe even love. So let’s get to it, lest it get to us!

April 17, 2015 — Space Coast Stadium, home of the Brevard County Manatees (Class A Advanced affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers). The stadium also hosts Washington Nationals Spring Training.

Opponent: Dunedin Blue Jays, 6:30 p.m. start time.

Space Coast Stadium, from the outside:

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Space Coast Stadium, from within: 

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Culinary Delight: No Wake Zone Burger (two burger patties with crispy fried onions, bacon, blue cheese)

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Waiting for the Punch-Vine (my nightly attempt at telling an “original” ballpark joke in six seconds):

I forgot to do one of these tonight. I apologize to my legions of fans. To make it up to you, here’s a Vine featuring one of the best first pitches that I have ever seen.

At Random: Men at work, kids at play. It’s all the same, really.

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Last Song Played Over the PA: Once again, the songs kept on playing long after the last fans had left. Here’s the last one I paid attention to:

Next Up: Jacksonville Suns — TONIGHT! — April 18.

4/19: Mama, I’m Coming Home

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

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About Last Night: St. Lucie Mets, April 16, 2015

This season, when I’m on the road, I’ll be writing a short, on-the-spot blog post about each Minor League ballpark that I visit. Then, upon my merciful return home, I will provide the exhilarating blog coverage that you have come to know and, perhaps, even love. So let’s get to it, lest it get to us! 

April 16, 2015 — Tradition Field, home of the St. Lucie Mets (and also the Spring Training home of the New York Mets).

Opponent: Brevard County Manatees, 6:30 p.m. start time.

Tradition Field, from the outside:

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Tradition Field, from within:

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Culinary Delight: Taco in a Helmet! ($6)

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Waiting for the Punch-Vine (my nightly attempt at telling an “original” ballpark joke in six seconds):

At Random: Her name is Grace, and she loves the Mets.

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Last Song Played Over the PA: Taio Cruz, “Dynamite”

Next Up: Brevard County Manatees — TONIGHT — April 17!

4/18: Jacksonville Suns

4/19: HOME SWEET HOME

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

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About Last Night: Jackie Robinson Game in Vero Beach, April 15, 2015

This season, when I’m on the road, I’ll be writing a short, on-the-spot blog post about each Minor League ballpark that I visit. Then, upon my possibly  triumphant return home, I will provide the exhilarating blog coverage that you have come to know and, perhaps, even love. So let’s get to it!

April 15, 2015 — Holman Stadium, located within the historic Dodgertown complex (Spring Training home of the Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers from 1948 through 2008).

Event: Jackie Robinson Game, between the Brevard County Manatees and St. Lucie Mets. Robinson trained at Dodgertown throughout the bulk of his career, and even hit the first home run at Holman Stadium.

Holman Stadium, from the outside: 

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Holman Stadium, from within: Some 6,000 people were in attendance, a huge crowd by Florida State League standards, no matter what the context.

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Culinary Delight: I skipped my usual food coverage, given that this was a one-time event. But here’s a shot of one of the main food and beverage areas. You can imagine how cramped this became once some 6,000 people were in the ballpark.

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Waiting for the Punch-Vine (my nightly attempt at telling an “original” ballpark joke in six seconds):

At Random: Old signage is the best kind of signage.

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In Conclusion: Thanks, Jackie.

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Next Up: St. Lucie Mets. Tonight! April 16!

4/17: Brevard County Manatees

4/18: Jacksonville Suns

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

instagram.com/thebensbiz

About Last Night: Jupiter Hammerheads, April 14, 2015

This season, when I’m on the road, I’ll be writing a short, on-the-spot blog post about each Minor League ballpark that I visit. Then, upon my ecstatically  triumphant return home, I will provide the full, multifaceted, wordplay-obsessed blog coverage that you have have come to know and perhaps even love. So let’s get to it!

April 14, 2015 — Roger Dean Stadium, home of the Jupiter Hammerheads and Palm Beach Cardinals (Class A Advanced affiliates of the Marlins and Cardinals, respectively). On this evening, the home team was the Hammerheads.

Opponent: Clearwater Threshers, 6:35 p.m. start time

Roger Dean Stadium, from the outside: The stadium is located within Abacoa, a planned community in Jupiter, Florida. Its grounds encompass some 120 acres; Roger Dean is the busiest stadium in Minor League Baseball.

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Roger Dean Stadium, from within:

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Culinary Delight: Designated Eater Stephen Goldsmith contemplates a hot dog, brat, nachos and Italian sausage (the entirety of the menu, outside of snacks and dessert).

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Waiting for the Punch-Vine (my nightly attempt at telling an “original” ballpark joke in six seconds):

At Random: Members of the Knothole Gang were instructed to get a selfie with me as part of a Kid’s Club Ballpark Scavenger Hunt. I made sure to return the favor by getting selfies of my own.

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Last Song Played Over the PA: An R&B/hip-hop mix kept playing into the night as the grounds crew did work on the field. I stopped paying attention after this:

Next Up: Jackie Robinson Game at Dodgertown in Vero Beach — today, April 15!

4/16: St. Lucie Mets

4/17: Brevard County Manatees

4/18: Jacksonville Suns

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

instagram.com/thebensbiz

About Last Night: Dunedin Blue Jays, April 13, 2015

This season, when I’m on the road, I’ll be writing a short, on-the-spot blog post about each Minor League ballpark that I visit. Then, upon my (assuredly)  triumphant return home, I will provide the full, multifaceted, pun-laden blog coverage that you have have come to know and deeply appreciate. So let’s get to it!  

April 13, 2015 — Florida Auto Exchange Stadium, home of the Dunedin Blue Jays (Class A Advanced affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays).

Opponent: Bradenton Marauders, 6:30 p.m. start time

Florida Auto Exchange Stadium, from the outside: Located in a residential neighborhood, approximately 600 steps away from salt water.

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Florida Auto Exchange Stadium, from within: Intimate!

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Culinary Delight: A sampling of meat off the grill.

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Waiting for the Punch-Vine (my nightly attempt at telling an “original” ballpark joke in six seconds):

At Random: In case anyone forgot what day it was.

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Last Song Played Over the PA: The Jackson Five — “ABC”

Next Up: Jupiter Hammerheads — tonight!

4/15: Jackie Robinson Game at Dodgertown in Vero Beach

4/16: St. Lucie Mets

4/17: Brevard County Manatees

4/18: Jacksonville Suns

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

instagram.com/thebensbiz

About Last Night: Tampa Yankees, April 12, 2015

This season, when I’m on the road, I’ll be writing a short, on-the-spot blog post about each Minor League ballpark that I visit. Then, upon my (hopefully)  triumphant return home, I will provide the full, multifaceted, pun-bedecked blog coverage that you have have come to know and tolerate. So let’s get to it!  

April 12, 2015 — Steinbrenner Field, home of the Tampa Yankees (Class A Advanced affiliate of the New York Yankees).

Opponent: Lakeland Tigers, 5 p.m. start time

Steinbrenner Field, from the outside: Fans pass a statue of George Steinbrenner as they make their way to the main entrance. To the left of “The Boss” (your right) is Tampa’s version of Monument Park as well as a September 11 tribute.

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Steinbrenner Field, from the inside: Cavernous would be the word.

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Culinary Delight: The game was preceded by the inaugural “Taste of South Tampa” event, featuring dozens of local food and drink vendors on the concourse. Here’s a close-up of “Cheesy Crab Nachos,” courtesy of Pincher’s Crab Shack.

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Waiting for the Punch-Vine (my nightly attempt at telling an “original” ballpark joke in six seconds):

At Random: Lego Steinbrenner Field!

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Last Song Played Over the PA: Frank Sinatra — “New York, New York” (even though the Yankees lost)

Next Up: Dunedin Blue Jays — tonight! — April 13

4/14: Jupiter Hammerheads

4/15: Jackie Robinson Game at Dodgertown in Vero Beach

4/16: St. Lucie Mets

4/17: Brevard County Manatees

4/18: Jacksonville Suns

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

instagram.com/thebensbiz

About Last Night: Bradenton Marauders, April 11, 2015

This season, when I’m on the road, I’ll be writing a short, on-the-spot blog post about each Minor League ballpark I visit. Then, upon my triumphant return home, I will provide the full, multifaceted, pun-soaked blog coverage you have have come to expect. So let’s get to it!  

April 11, 2015: McKechnie Field, home of the Bradenton Marauders

McKechnie Field, from the Outside (I took this upon the conclusion of the ballgame, after failing to get a decent shot upon my arrival):

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McKechnie Field, from within: Opening Night starting lineups:

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Culinary Delight: Pulled Pork and Mac and Cheese Sandwich, courtesy of local vendor Sonny’s BBQ ($10, the most expensive item on the menu).

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Waiting for the Punch-Vine (my nightly attempt at telling an “original” ballpark joke in six seconds):

At Random: Robertoad Clemente:

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Last Song Played Over the PA: Semisonic, “Closing Time.”

Next Up: Tampa Yankees, April 12

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

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Charleston RiverDogs 2015: Food Explosion!

An annual tradition here in the land of the Biz Blog — or Bizbloglandia, as some have taken to calling it — is to dedicate a post to the Charleston RiverDogs’ latest food offerings. And for good reason! In recent years, the RiverDogs have graced us with Beer Shakes, the Homewrecker Hot Dog, the Pickle Dog , the Pig on a StickPimento Pickle Burgers, duck and venison sausages and much, much more.

The team’s culinary landscape is overseen by John “Schu” Schumacher, food and beverage director of the Goldklang Group (of which the RiverDogs are a part). Schu, in conjunction with his Charleston compatriots Josh Shea and Jay Weekley, have created the following new concession items for 2015. I’ll let Schu, whose text is magically italicized, take it from here:

Josh, Jay and the crew worked especially hard over the off-season to come up with some incredible new menu items and hopefully some popular jaw-droppers. In no particular order: 

Brisket Ramen Bowl: 

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Ramen noodles sautéed with an orange teriyaki glaze, julienned snow peas, carrot ribbons & green onions. Topped with sliced smoked brisket and a hardboiled egg.

Turkey Wings and Pork Rind Basket

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Two slow smoked 1/2 pound turkey wings with a blackberry sage BBQ sauce served over in-house cooked pork rinds.

We are especially excited about these two items:

Chicken N Waffles: 

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Chicken tenders stacked between a Belgian waffle and drizzled with a smoked honey and Sriracha glaze.

A Knot to Remember: 

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A giant 24 ounce soft pretzel served in a pizza box with marinara, garlic butter and cheese sauce for dipping. 

Meanwhile, for vegetarians with an appetite…

Summer Harvest Salad (feeds 2-3 people):

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An entire hydroponic butter leaf lettuce head stuffed with a buttery quinoa mixture. The mixture includes grape tomatoes, edamame, fresh herbs and carrots. Topped with sprouts, sunflower seeds and a creamy avocado dressing.  All served in a replica baseball helmet.

For dessert:

Shock Top Creamsicle Beer Shake

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Shock Top beer blended with vanilla ice cream, OJ and orange flavored simple syrup.

While pictures are not yet available, Schu would also like to let it be known that these three items will be served as well:

Low Country Taco: Smoked pulled pork, slow cooked collards, and mac n cheese layered into a flour tortilla and topped with a Memphis style BBQ sauce. 

Southern Kimchi Dog: Collard greens, kimchi and sweet piquante peppers tossed in soy sauce and toasted sesame oil. Piled on top of a Hebrew National hot dog and finished with a garlic Sriracha sauce.

Chocolate Covered Pepper Bacon

When it comes to chocolate-covered pepper bacon, it seems that no explanation is necessary.

Thanks, as always, to Schu for providing me — and by extension, you — with another batch of delectable food information and pictures. Schu make the world a better place.

In other news, my first road trip of the season is imminent. If you’ll be at one of the following locations, or have recommendations regarding who I should talk to at the ballpark, or suggestions regarding what I should check out in the general area, or anything else at all, then please get in touch.

April 11: Bradenton Marauders

April 12: Tampa Yankees

April 13: Dunedin Blue Jays

April 14: Jupiter Hammerheads

April 15: Jackie Robinson Game at Dodgertown in Vero Beach

April 16: St. Lucie Mets

April 17: Brevard County Manatees

April 18: Jacksonville Suns

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

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