On the Road: The Beginning of a Blogstravaganza in Great Lakes
The second stop on my Midwest League road trip was Beloit, MI while destination number three was Midland, MI. Those two locations are quite removed from one another, both psychically and geographically, and getting there required an arduous day of travel that included roadside distractions, a seemingly interminable slog through the city of Chicago, an hour lost due to the vagaries of the Central/Eastern time zone divide, and a pleasant hour and a half cruising on rural Michigan roads while listening to the West Michigan Whitecaps radio broadcast (Ben Chiswick on the play by play).
I arrived in Midland late that Monday night, and was shocked — shocked! — to discover that the price of a Jameson on the rocks at the Buffalo Wild Wings near my hotel was just $3. That was a pleasant way to unwind from the day of travel, and the next morning I woke up ready for a full to bursting day of Midland exploration. The results of these explorations — the Alden B. Dow House! Midland Center for the Arts! Dow Gardens! The Tridge! — are already chronicled in a full-to-bursting “Farm’s Almanac” piece on MiLB.com.
But the above mentioned attractions were but an aperitif, as the main course was, of course, Dow Diamond. This facility houses the Midwest League Dodgers affiliate that is the Great Lakes Loons, who seem content to remain sedentary despite possessing the ability to fly:
Just to the left of this outfield entrance are a set of solar panels, 168 to be exact. Loons marketing and entertainment VP Chris Mundhenk later explained to me that the panels don’t directly power the facility, but the energy generated goes back into the grid and is roughly equivalent to the amount needed to run the videoboard over the course of a season.
Upon entering, one finds a a more primitive power source.
Those fire pits are certainly appreciated on chilly nights in April and May, but totally unnecessary on the late June evening in which I was in attendance. The weather was downright gorgeous.
The Dow Diamond has plenty of open air seating, as well as plenty of room for open air eating. My first order of business was to rendezvous with the evening’s Designated Eaters — y’know, the people (or person) that I recruit at each ballpark that I visit to sample the ballpark cuisine that my gluten-free diet prohibits.
In what was to soon become a trend on this trip, the Loons had arranged for local morning radio DJs to serve as the Designated Eaters. Meet Johnny and Blondie of 96.1 WHNN, who have been doing a show together for 12 years (Blondie began as a producer and later became a co-host, remarking that she ended up with Johnny because she “drew the short straw.)
Given that their show starts at 5:30 a.m., Johnny and Blondie don’t go out in the evenings very often. But apparently a complimentary ballpark buffet was too good of an opportunity to pass up.
In the above pic, this esteemed morning team are toasting with a pair of Michigan Cherry Chicken Wraps. Yes, a Michigan Cherry — I had not known this before visiting, but cherries are a common crop in Michigan and therefore both beloved and ubiquitous.
“It’s light and refreshing, not like nachos and hot dogs that just lie there in your stomach,” said Blondie.
While waiting for the next entree, I asked Johnny and Blondie what it was they generally talked about on the air.
“Everything from sex to sports,” said Blondie.
“A lot of sex,” emphasized Johnny.
But the sex talk was going to have to wait, as a Macstravaganza had arrived.
The above items can be found at the “Mac Mac Mac Mac Gone!” concession kiosk:
Johnny and Blondie were intrigued:
They had plenty of help, as this was a family affair (while Blondie is Johnny’s “work wife,” his real wife is there on the left).
The consensus was that the BLT was the best and lobster the runner-up. Round three awaited, but in the meantime I had a pair of duties to attend to on the field.
First up was a pre-game interview on the field with voice of the Loons Brad Golder, broadcast over the stadium as well as the FM radio waves. The Loons actually own their flagship station (ESPN 100.9), and the station’s office is located in the stadium itself. I’ll have a bit more on that later, but first, please endure this sustained stretch of narcissism.
Golder and I on the set:
Hearing my voice broadcast over the stadium PA is always a bit nerve wracking, but I enjoyed the interview due largely in part to Golder’s lively and well-prepared line of questioning. I don’t know how long it lasted — four minutes? 400? — but it flew by as quickly and assuredly as a Loon in its prime.
Next up was a ceremonial first pitch, which was documented better than any first pitch I have ever thrown (my compliments to the photographer, I’m sorry that I don’t have your name).
Seriously, I think I’m going to have this made into a flip book!
Yep, I threw a perfect strike. It was one of the highlights of my career thus far.
By the time I arrived back on the concourse, Johnny, Blondie and crew had already devoured most of their latest round of food offerings. Apparently a prime rib sandwich as well as a pastrami sandwich had been placed before them, but somehow this is the only photographic evidence that remains.
And, yes, since you can see it in the above picture I may as well get one of my more recent contractural obligations out of the way and provide a #cupdate. The collectible cup that Johnny is holding in the above pic is for beer:
Finally, I’d like to note that I was too busy running around to indulge in any concessions during the ballgame, but the Loons are one of the few teams I’ve encountered who make a note of all of their gluten-free ballpark options. Check it out!
And as for the food in general? Well, I’m going to let Johnny and Blondie have the final word.
Blondie and Johnny of 96 WHNN w/ @glloons food review. https://t.co/8Tispjvdld
— Benjamin Hill (@bensbiz) June 25, 2013
And I’m going to go ahead and let that be the final “word” of this post as well. Stay tuned for part two of this Great Lakes Loonstravaganza, coming soon!