On the Road: Corn, Dogs in Charleston

To see all my posts from my May 9 visit to the Charleston RiverDogs, click HERE. To see all of my posts from my May 2016 Carolinas Road Trip, click HERE. To see all of my “On the Road” posts, click HERE. If interested in seeing posts covering a visit to a particular team, search for that team’s name in the blog search bar (it’s to your right). 

When this Charleston RiverDogs narrative left off, I had just thrown a ceremonial first pitch perfect strike. This flawless spherical missive gladdened the hearts of all in attendance on this Monday evening at Joseph P. Riley, Jr. Park, but while a lesser man would have rested on his laurels I immediately got back to work. The first several innings of the ballgame — an eventual 8-3 RiverDogs victory over the visiting Hickory Crawdads — were spent with my designated eater. This will all be documented in the next post. When that task was complete, I rendezvoused with promotions director Nate Kurant (formerly of the Dunedin Blue Jays) at a location on the third base side of the ballpark. Once there, I was immediately reminded that this Monday — like all Mondays in Charleston — was “Bark in the Park” night.

IMG_1244It was also, regardless of canine admission policies, a beautiful night. A beautiful night…for baseball!

IMG_1246The majestic dog seen two photos above was on the verge of competing in a “sit or stay” on-field contest against another massive (albeit fluffier) canine. The goal was to be the first dog to obey his (or her) owner’s command to sit and stay in a hula hoop placed on the field. Neither contestant seemed too interested in this endeavor, but it was the other, fluffier, dog that won. Another great moment in Charleston baseball history, I’m sure.

One great moment begets another, as Nate and I proceeded to the control room in order to oversee the debut of a Bark in the Park-themed “Simba Cam.” The goal was to have fans hold their dogs triumphantly in the air — ala the Lion King — but really everything was fair game. Lots of laughs were had by all, particularly when a woman held up her corn dog (as seen in the right hand monitor).

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“That went as well as we could have hoped,” said one control room denizen after all was said and done. In Minor League Baseball, as in life, this is always the goal.

I then returned to the third base dugout, in order to participate as a contestant as a between-inning ribbon dance contestant. I’d be representing the third base side of the stadium, competing against a counterpart on the first base side. As always, the victor would be decided by applause.

Upon reporting for duty, I was told that I’d be dancing while dressed as an ear of corn. The justification for this nonsensical wardrobe choice was something I’ve heard time and time again while visiting Minor League ballparks: “Why not?”

Corn

In time-honored Minor League Baseball between-inning contest fashion, getting in the corn suit was a case of “hurry up and wait.” The pace of the game noticeably slowed down (there was a pitching change at one point), and the third out of the inning started to seemed like it would never come. In lieu of plotting a coherent and crowd-pleasing ribbon dance strategy, I sat around and took selfies while lamenting my latest ludicrous stint in ballpark purgatory.

Almost immediately after posting the above tweet, responses like these started appearing in my timeline. I don’t think I look all that much like Ben Roethlisberger, but I guess the dissimilarities are less apparent when wearing a corn suit. Call me Ben Roeth-Biz-Berger.

Finally, after tens of minutes of anticipation, I took the field for the big dance-off. While waiting, I had been given the following advice by a RiverDogs promo staffer: “Start dramatically, with slow, big moves. Then really get going and end with a power move.”

I guess that’s what I was going for here?

At any rate, I lost the ribbon dance-off by a significant applause margin, as apparently my first base side counterpart was the Mary Lou Retton of vegetable suit dancing. He started things off with a series of cartwheels while I was tip-toeing around plotting for a payoff that never came.

Still out of breath but no longer wearing a corn suit, I joined RiverDogs broadcaster Matt Dean for an inning on the airwaves.

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Hey Matt! IMG_1255

Once my time with Matt was said and done, there was almost no baseball left to be played. As the RiverDogs put the final touches on their victory over the Crawdads, I posed for a picture with RiverDogs co-owner Bill Murray.

When there was only one set of footprints in the infield dirt, it was then that Bill Murray carried me.

IMG_1257I also paid a brief visit to the RiverDogs concourse “Memory Booth”, which is a pretty cool idea.

054There is an iPhone camera mounted in the booth. Fans who step aside are simply instructed to press the camera icon and then relay their favorite Charleston baseball memory. I guess my favorite memory is that time I danced on the field while dressed like a piece of corn. Remember that?

Profile2While on the verge of leaving the ballpark, it occurred to me that I had not yet written and disseminated a groundbreaking and subversive ballpark joke. I quickly pressed Nate into service, using his last name (Kurant) as the punchline. Brilliant, as usual.

There was one more interesting — and unexpected — element left in my evening. Upon leaving the ballpark, RiverDogs operations director Philip Guiry asked if I wanted a ride to my hotel. Next thing I knew, I was riding in the breeze in the back of an ’82 El Camino.

Thanks for the ride, Philip. And goodnight, Charleston.

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***

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

instagram.com/thebensbiz

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