On the Road: A Sweltering Chicken Meets a Managerial Burger in Tennessee

As you surely recall, my last post had a cliffhanger ending. I was at the Tennessee Smokies game, the National Anthem had concluded, and the game was about to start.

So what happened then? In this, part two of my Smokies blogging saga, all will be revealed.

In a shocking twist, the ballgame began very shortly after the anthem’s conclusion. At this juncture, I found myself in the right field berm area and my vantage point was as follows:

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Thus began a lap around the stadium’s (almost) 360 degree concourse, heading plateward.

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178 As I was making my way up the third base side of the stadium, disaster struck!

Well, it almost struck, at least. A member of the visiting Barons, I’m not sure who, flailed at a pitch, lost his grip, and sent his bat hurtling into the stands. This photo shows the immediate aftermath, as ushers and director of entertainment Ryan Cox (white cap, uber-stylish shirt) survey the scene as concerned Barons look on from the visiting dugout. The bat was retrieved by the long-haried gentleman at the back of the shot, some 12 rows deep.

180All’s well that ends well, as no one was hurt. In the photo below GM Brian Cox (not be confused with Ryan Cox, sitting right next to him) is in the process of retrieving the bat from the fan. Following standard protocol, the fan was eventually given a different bat in return.

181And since we’re on the topic of being attacked by bats —  none other than Dan Wagner was in the starting line-up for the Barons. Here’s some scoreboard proof of this, taken later in the ballgame.

217Wagner knows how it feels!

ws_78batattack

That photo was taken during my 2011 visit to Winston-Salem, and that following offseason I devoted a blog post to Wagner’s re-telling of the incident. 

A choice quote:

[The bat] was clamped on my leg, so I swiped it off with my glove and it ended up on the ground opening and closing its mouth at me. I could see the fangs. It was super-creepy, worse than a spider or a rat, just nasty.

What an awesome tangent that was! I call this the “best Minor League Baseball blog of all time” because it is, and if someone could give me a “Best Blog” award along with, like, $750,000 in cash I’d really appreciate it.

But to return to the narrative at hand, all I can tell you was that the rest of my lap around the stadium perimeter wasn’t very eventful.

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186Although, I did witness an earnest conversation  between Cox and the Statue of Liberty. He was gently trying to tell her that “Salute to Huddled Masses” night wasn’t a very good idea for a promotion, especially since Huddle House wasn’t interested in sponsoring.

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I might have heard that conversation wrong, but my hearing was about to get a whole lot worse. For it was I who had been recruited to suit up as “Clucky Jacobsen” in the Smokies’ nightly Chicken Race, a costume that comes complete with a stiflingly hot, senses-obscuring rubber mask.

The Chicken Race, in which a group of kids chase Clucky across the outfield, is a long-standing Smokies tradition. The rules:

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I wrote an MiLB.com article about my Chicken Run experience, and it turned out to be one of my favorite things I’ve ever written in a professional context. Click the link to read it — please — and then return here to the blog for the following supplementary pictures:

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The luxurious changing area…

This…194

plus this…195

equals this:

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Mingling with the masses

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202Clucky and his pursuers

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205Disappearing into the night.

207Minor League Baseball is a beautiful thing.

Upon changing back into my civilian attire, I convened with my designated eater (for those new to this blog: I have recruited a “designated eater” at each ballpark I visit, to consume ballpark delicacies that my gluten-free diet does not allow).

Frederick Love, ladies and gentleman!

209Love, who grew up in Seattle, is no stranger to the world of stiflingly hot ballpark costumes. After graduating from college, he went on to suit up as Louie for the Bowie Baysox and Hornsby for the Tulsa Drillers. His current mascot gig is as “Chilly” for the Knoxville Ice Bears of the SPHL, and his sister, Baylor, works for the Smokies as a group sales representative.

In the above photo, Love is sitting outside the Double Play Cafe with a Buddy Bailey Burger (named after the Smokies’ alliterative manager) and an order of BBQ Pork Nachos.

The Buddy Bailey Burger —  1/2 pound beef patty, cheddar cheese, onion, lettuce, tomato — was the main event, and Love dug right in.

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Buddy Bailey Burger on Ben’s Biz Blog

“It has a sweet smell, very appetizing, and I wanted to get the first bite in right away,” said Love of the Buddy Bailey Burger. “I threw a little ketchup and mayo on there, and it all mixes together well. The burger is well cooked, very juicy with a lot of flavor.”

As for the nachos, Love had had those before.

“They’re one of the best things they have here,” he said. “They’ve got a perfect smoky taste.”

As he spoke, various food products raced by on the field.

213Thanks to Love for volunteering for the greater good. He is designated eater #3 of the 2013 season, and I appreciate his service.

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We had, at this juncture, entered into the latter third of the ballgame.

Images:

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Both man and beast remained vigilant as the game entered its tense final inning. (WATCH on Vine)

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Despite a late rally, the Smokies went down in defeat. This was their sixth loss in a row, part of an agonizing streak that had earlier included three straight shutouts followed by a 12-11 defeat. But win, lose, or draw, it doesn’t matter. It was Friday, and that meant fireworks were a comin’.

The pyrotechnics display was enjoyed by Soppets and non-Soppets alike.

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It was past 10:30 at this point, but it’s Friday night and who cares about bedtime? The kids, they then ran the bases.

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Being too old for such shenanigans, I instead went on a search for impromptu works of art. (WATCH)

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Suitable for framing

All that was left to do now was take a walk back to my hotel room. The Hampton Inn and Suites, it beckoned me. (WATCH).

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Good night from Sevierville!

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benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

3 Comments

Ah, come on, you didn’t even let the kids get close! Didn’t give them the slightest hope. Good form though.

-Former Track Star

FTS — Yeah, it was a rookie mistake. I had no idea where I was in relation to the kids, and throughout the entire run had the idea that they were on my heels and perhaps even overtaking me. It felt like Lord of the Flies out there.

I love that park. Here’s a weird coincidence: that was the last park I visited as a smoker. #mindblown

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