Throughout the 2012 Baseball Winter Meetings in Nashville, four attendees of the PBEO Job Fair kept a journal chronicling their employment seeking experiences. (Meet them all HERE). This endeavor will be repeated at this year’s Winter Meetings in Orlando; 2013′s four Job Seekers will be introduced in an MiLB.com feature on Friday and then chronicle their experience throughout the next week (and, perhaps, beyond).
But first, an update from one of 2012′s quartet. Clint Belau recently got in touch with this guest post, in which he writes about his first season season working in professional baseball (as a stadium operations intern for the Albuquerque Isotopes). Last year I described Clint as “irrepressibly optimistic” — as you’ll soon see, those words continue to be a good descriptor of his life outlook.
When last we left off, I was a 35-year-old former musician, set to begin an eight month internship in a place I’ve never been, for an organization I was completely unfamiliar with, on a journey to pursue a career path I was hoping would be the one I could honestly attest to loving. Wow, when I put it that way, it sounds ultra-promising!
However, if you know anything about me (which most of you don’t, but for the sake of this sentence, I’d ask that you pretend to), you know that I’m not deterred by less than favorable odds. But realistically, what did I think would happen? That I would come to Albuquerque, immediately get along with every person in the organization, truly love every minute of the season (yes, even the 7:00 a.m. hot dog rolling sessions…I’m a sucker for assembly line situations), and develop such fantastic relationships with game day staff, fans and vendors that, after a 16 hour “work” day, I’d voluntarily stay longer simply because I enjoy the environment so much? That I would work hard enough that the organization would feel comfortable offering me a full time job that I’m mildly qualified for, and perhaps most importantly, I would spend a small portion of every single day smiling uncontrollably like a lunatic as I ponder my good fortune? Yeah, let me know how that works out pal.
Well, that’s exactly how it turned out. I spent the season as a stadium operations intern. Did I treat it like an internship? Absolutely not. From the second I set foot in that stadium, I made it my mission to weave myself into the fabric of the organization, to show them how much I wanted to be a part of it, to do everything and anything I could to represent the organization in a positive manner, to contribute to creating a valuable environment in which fans could experience everything this incredible game has to offer, and to do it all while exuding a contagious amount of joy. Alright, now I’m just starting to sound weird, but you get where I’m going with this. As a general statement, things are going well.
So now I’ll attempt to bring this all back to the point of Mr. Hill’s experiment: to take four people who are trying to kickstart their respective careers in baseball by attending the PBEO Job Fair, follow them through their week, and see where it takes them. If I have some sort of semi-educated advice for job seekers, it would be to, above all else, stay positive. You’re about to enter(or have already entered) a world of extreme competition. If you’re not passionate about it, I suggest you do something else. This world will require much more than you probably think it will. This isn’t a career that you leave at your desk after eight hours. If you do not truly love it, you will most likely grow to resent it. All of those statements are examples of what you’re about to hear when you attend the Winter Meetings, and more specifically, the Business of Baseball workshop. I know because I heard them less than a year ago. As I listened to them, I thought “it seems like they’re trying to scare us out of the industry.” In fact, it’s not a scare tactic, it’s a proper warning. However, if you’re really as passionate about baseball as you think you are, it will be an incredibly rewarding experience. For me, to be able to spend every day at the ballpark, to be surrounded by the game, to see families sharing the experience of it all, to witness the smile on a child’s face when they catch a foul ball, to know that on any given game day, you have the opportunity to help someone appreciate the game you love so much in a whole new way…that cannot be beat. I’m happy to say that a year later, I truly love being in baseball even more than my “irrepressibly optimistic” personality believed I could.
The value of attending the PBEO Job Fair is based on opening your eyes to what you’re dealing with. The advice from seasoned veterans comes at you fast and furious. The employment opportunities are high in volume, yet seemingly low in comparison to the amount of potential applicants. I can be extremely wordy at times, but if I’m boiling it down to a three word bit of advice that I’ve received numerous times from a good friend of mine, it would be this…do your best.
And there you have it, straight from the operations intern-turned-assistant director of field operations’ mouth. 2013′s series of Job Seeking Journal posts will begin on Monday, as will myriad other dispatches, Tweets, and Vine videos from Orlando’s Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort. In short, it’ll be another year of unparalleled Winter Meetings coverage. (And, yes, it truly is unparalleled — no one else provides such in-depth accounts of the non-Hot Stove perspective!)
The Winter Meetings are next week — Monday, December 9 through Thursday, December 12 to be exact — and, as such, I’ve got the Winter Meetings on my brain.
Also, as of yesterday, I’ve got the Winter Meetings on my phone. This year, for the first time ever, baseball’s premier industry confab is coming equipped with its own app. It is free to download, and available via Apple and Google Play (search “Winter Meetings”).
The Winter Meetings app is courtesy of the Professional Baseball Promotions Corp, a subsidiary of Minor League Baseball. (Minor League Baseball is headquartered in St. Petersburg, as you may recall.) Anyone who has attended the Winter Meetings knows that they are a sprawling, multi-faceted, and altogether overwhelming affair, and the purpose of the app is simply to help attendees make sense of it all (to the extent that that is possible).
Steve Densa, executive director of communications for Minor League Baseball, writes that the app has many features that should come in handy. Highlights include a list of Trade Show exhibitors that functions as a “walking Buyer’s Guide,” detailed maps of each hotel so that attendees can locate meeting rooms, a “full schedule which shows every main event/meeting by day,” and, finally, the ability to share schedules, comments, and contact info with fellow attendees.
Perhaps these screenshots will help to elucidate the information contained in the above paragraph.
If you desire, you can enter your personal info so that it is accessible to other attendees. Consider me accessible (as well as overly precious and perhaps not as protective of my privacy as I should be).
As with last year, much of my Winter Meetings content will be centered around the “Job Seeker Journals.” Four individuals have been selected, and they will be introduced in an MiLB.com feature on Friday. But, I cannot stress this enough, I am always looking to meet new people, because new people lead to new story ideas and what is this job if not a vehicle for story creation? Individuals that I am looking to meet include (but are not limited to) job seekers, trade show exhibitors, front office denizens, high-ranking execs, media moguls looking to capitalize on the most underrated niche in all of sports journalism, and, of course, veteran scribes waiting for the perfect moment to acknowledge the existence (and awesomeness) of my long-running Crooked Numbers column.
Oh, and even if you won’t be at the Meetings: what kind of coverage would you most like to see? And does anybody know of any good gluten-free places in the Orlando area? Man cannot live on Kind bars and popcorn alone.
Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and with Thanksgiving comes the official start of the holiday season. What better time, then, to turn this blog over to the Holiday League?
Yes, the Holiday League — a theoretical three-team (and growing) circuit whose logos are entirely real. The “HL,” as I just decided to call it, is the brainchild of artist/designer/baseball fan John Hartwell, who established Hartwell Studio Works in 2006. In this post he talks about his professional background, how the Holiday League came to be, and, most importantly, shares his collection of HL primary and alternate marks. This should gave you logo fiends out there — you know who you are — a lot to talk about, but even casual fans should enjoy perusing an imagined sporting realm which has room for zombies, reindeer, and anthropomorphic evergreens. Get ready to read John’s words now, as this italicized intro has run its course.
I’ve been working as a creative professional for the past 20 years, first as an illustrator and cartoonist, adding graphic designer to my description for the past ten. I cut my sports teeth on the Nolan Ryan-era Texas Rangers and absolutely feel in love with minor league baseball in the mid-to late 90‘s with the San Antonio Missions. Games at the Wolff with Henry the Puffy Taco and Ballapeño are not to be missed.
When Hartwell Studio Works launched as in independent sports design shop in 2006, one of my very first clients was Jonathan Nelson and the Birmingham Barons, doing a variety of marks for the team, including a team rebrand in 2008. As the studio’s client list grew, I knew marketing and self-promotions needed to be part of the regular project mix.
The Holiday League started as last Christmas’ North Pole Reindeer studio promo. The Reindeer were, if nothing else, a clever idea that made me laugh. It could have fallen flat on its face, but at least I would have fun doing it.
The overwhelmingly positive response to the Reindeer, however, led to the idea that this “Holiday League” could have real legs as a studio promotional campaign. The “Holiday League” name was a throw-away line in the Reindeer promo, but through the Huggers and Creepers promos and the league website and store launches, the whole thing has taken on a life of its own. It’s proven to be a great creative exercise, giving me a chance to try out new ideas and stay fresh.
Arborville Huggers “traditional” logo option for fan voting. (Extra points to whomever can identify the Monty Python reference in the original email promo.)
The Arborville “hippie” option:
The Huggers logo option for “today’s modern hipster.”
The Amityville Creeper primary logo. I briefly considered hailing them from Crystal Lake, but thought that might be too obscure:
Don and Doug the Doubleheader. The Creepers were an exercise in making bad baseball + Halloween jokes.
Credit for Bat Boy goes to a designer buddy of mine who, when I told him about the Creepers idea over lunch, blurted out “Bat Boy!” as a name for one of the mascots. I literally stopped in mid-chew, smacked my forehead, and realized it was a far better idea than the vampire character I originally had in mind. He was kind enough to let me use his much better idea!
I’m a big fan of The Walking Dead, so Wally the Walker was a no-brainer (get it?) for the Creepers. I laugh every time I look at him.
This year’s Christmas promo is already teed up with a return trip to the Reindeer. It will be a bit different from what has gone before, but I think folks will get a kick out of it. Next year’s holiday teams have already been determined, and I’m already looking forward to Christmas 2014.
So there ya have it, folks: John Hartwell and the Holiday League. Thanks for reading, enjoy your Thanksgiving, and see you in December. Oh, and that reminds me: The Winter Meetings are almost upon us! Please get in touch if you’re going be there and/or have any Winter Meeting content suggestions or article and blog post pitches That’s what I’m here for.
One more time, with feeling!
In other words, it’s time for November’s third and final “Return to the Road” installment, in which I highlight that which was experienced above and beyond the ballpark during my road trip travels. The first post covered May 8 and 9th in Bowling Green and Nashville, and part two involved the events of May 10th and 11th in Nashville, the Smoky Mountains, and Asheville. Which brings us to, yes, May 12th.
I woke up early in Asheville on this fine Sunday morning, after attending a Tourists game the night before that was eventually covered HERE, HERE, and HERE. (Thirsty Thursday origin story!) I woke up so early, in fact, that I forgot to do the obligatory road trip hotel room review and thus had to improvise.
Road trip hotel review, Sleep Inn, Asheville. https://t.co/iMZJSkdqFK
— Benjamin Hill (@bensbiz) May 12, 2013
The inability to “Sleep Inn” was because my next destination, Savannah, GA, was over four hours away and I was scheduled to attend a Sand Gnats Mother’s Day matinee at Grayson Stadium that began at 2 o’clock. The only documentation that I possess of this journey is this rather underwhelming photo of Talmadge Memorial Bridge.
Underwhelming photo, perhaps, but the bridge is anything but. Named after Georgia governor Eugene Talmadge, it connects downtown Savannah with Hutchinson Island and spans a distance of two miles. The Talmadge is imposing and picturesque, and it makes one’s entryway into Savannah proper a truly memorable experience. It astounds me, however, that what is surely the most iconic structure in a city with a majority black population is named after a politician who viciously and unapologetically espoused racial hatred and exploited racial tensions.
There’s really no way to smoothly segue from the above sentence, so I’m not even going to try. I crossed the bridge, attended the Sand Gnats game (read all about it HERE! And HERE!), and after the game found myself in a bit of a quandary in that was early evening on Mother’s Day — not exactly the best time for a traveling gluten-free Minor League Baseball writer to do a bit of exploring and socializing. Savannah’s waterfront downtown area was packed, and I simply drove along the cobblestone streets at about one mile an hour with absolutely no idea regarding what it was that I was looking to accomplish. I snaped a few underwhelming photos out of the driver’s side window and then got out of Dodge as quickly as I could.
My lack of a plan and general feelings of alienation from the scene around me put me in a grumpy frame of mind.
So I did what I always do in these situations: went to a diner, ordered steak and eggs, and then brought a stash of pork cracklins and Mello Yello back to my hotel room to serve as writing fuel. It was a beautiful night.
But frustration continued to follow me the next day, eventually catching up with me somewhere between Savannah and my next destination of Augusta. My problem was that it was lunch time and in the breaded and fried deep South it can be difficult to stay true to the gluten-free diet that a battery of medical professionals have insisted that I follow.
I was hungry and not seeing many viable options along whatever lonely stretch of road that I was on, so when I spotted a sign advertising one “Bay South” restaurant I figured I may as well roll the dice and give it a try. At the very least I’d be supporting a humble local business as opposed to a monolithic chain entity doing its part to further exacerbate America’s descent into corporatized homogeneity, and that’s half the battle right there.
The restaurant didn’t have a menu, just a small board listing the day’s specials. I was hungry, and as a stranger in a strange land I was feeling a little self-conscious and didn’t really want to give the waitress a spiel regarding my dietary needs. I simply ordered the pork chop special with field peas and stewed tomatoes and hoped for the best. This is the platter that soon arrived:
Don’t get me wrong — that’s a good looking plate of food, and in my pre-gluten free days I would have devoured it without a second thought. But that pork chop was heavily breaded, the peas were in a thick sauce that likely used flour as a thickener, and bread crumbs were mixed in with the tomatoes. The piece de resistance in this fete de gluten was the cornbread, which is to the South what pickles are to a Jewish deli.
“I made my bed, now I’ve got to lie in it,” was the thought that went through my head, so I went ahead and ate the whole plate of food. And, no surprise, it was delicious. I experienced no side effects from this major diet deviation, as I am an asymptomatic (or “silent”) celiac. It’s weird — in a way I almost wish I had symptoms, because the debilitating short-term side effects of eating gluten would serve as a safeguard against the long-term bodily damage that occurs as a result of “cheating” episodes along the lines of that detailed above (which I really don’t do very often at all).
But enough gnashing of teeth, as tautologically speaking celiac disease simply is what it is. I’m just trying to articulate the tortured mental gymnastics that accompany most restaurant meals these days, as these minor setbacks within a life of immense privilege really take a lot out of a guy!
And speaking of immense privilege, the next stop on my itinerary was none other than this esteemed locale.
I arrived at this legendary expanse of greenery with one Chad Walters, an Augusta resident and founder of Lean Blitz Consulting (who served as Designated Eater at that night’s GreenJackets game). Chad kindly spotted me a set of clubs, and I strode toward the entrance gate all like “Oh, no big deal, I’m here every day.”
I’ve actually never played golf in my life, and in one of the most predictable outcomes of all time I was turned away by a guard who denied Chad’s requests to take a picture. Whatever lurked beyond this road way was going to remain a mystery.
Desultory contemplation complete, this Augusta excursion ended with a walk down the surprisingly pedestrian (but not pedestrian friendly) pathway that separates Augusta from the strip mall homogeneity that surrounds it.
Fortunately, Chad had one more Augusta landmark to show me and this one was far more accessible. We drove into downtown proper and, after taking advantage of the ample parking opportunities, made our way to this location.
Yes, that James Brown. The Godfather of Soul! Presiding over all that he sees!
Brown was not an Augusta native, but he did spend his formative years here. Per the plaque that resides at the base of the structure, Brown “has called Augusta ‘home’ since moving here when he was five. It was in Augusta’s Lenox Theatre that he first received recognition for his talent by winning an amateur contest.”
Perhaps the James Brown’s of tomorrow are honing their chops at downtown Savannah’s I-3000 Club, although the focus there seemed to be more on adult entertainment.
After that it was goodbye downtown Augusta and hello GreenJackets. (I wrote about that ballgame HERE and HERE, as I am wont to do.) The next day it was on to Birmingham, where I closed out this trip by attending two games at the Barons’ new home of Regions Field. (Check it out, if you are wont to do such a thing.) My time in Birmingham yielded two blog posts and two MiLB.com features, virtually exhausting all of my Dream City content, so all that I have left to share is this: before leaving for the airport, I stopped for a meal at the Birmingham BBQ institution that is Dreamland BBQ.
I patronized the 14th Avenue South location, which is located in a rather residential area.
The majority of the patrons on this Tuesday afternoon were sitting in the booths…
but given my lonely traveler status I opted for a seat at the bar and promptly ordered a half slab of ribs. They were delectable (and gluten-free).
During the meal I made small talk with the bartender, who turned out to be the younger brother of outfielder Josh Phelps (now retired). This minor but nonetheless interesting baseball-related happenstance marked the conclusion of this particular road trip, as from Dreamland I went straight to the airport. I am happy to report that the boiled peanuts made it home safely.
Welcome to the second 2013 installment of “Return to the Road,” in which I highlight that which was experienced above and beyond the ballparks during my road trip travels. Part one covered May 8 and 9 in Bowling Green and Nashville, and today’s post picks up in the early afternoon of Friday, May 10th. I had attended the previous night’s Sounds game at Nashville’s Greer Stadium — read about that HERE — and upon checking out of the hotel (complete with Road Trip Hotel Room Review #2) I made my way back to the area surrounding the ballpark.
My destination was Gabby’s Burgers, an unassuming but very well-regarded burger joint located the proverbial hop, skip, and jump away from Greer.
The above photo was taken as I was leaving Gabby’s, but when I arrived there was a line that snaked all the way out of the door. It was hard to take pictures within such a cramped environment, but this more or less conveys what the scene was like inside.
As many of you know, a celiac disease diagnosis has forced me to adapt to a gluten-free diet. Ultra-specific fast food establishments such as Gabby’s can sometimes be difficult to navigate, but I had been informed the previous evening that they did in fact offer a “jazz style” burger in which the bun was replaced with lettuce. Not ideal, perhaps, but perfectly acceptable! I ordered a “Seamus burger, jazz-style” and then snagged a seat at the counter. About 10 minutes later, this arrived.
I’m writing this six months after the fact, so perhaps my adjectival command is not what it might have been, but I can say without equivocation that this burger was STUPENDOUS, easily one of the top three that I’ve ever had in my life. If you’re in Nashville, and especially if you’re in the vicinity of Greer Stadium, then you owe it to yourself to make a visit.
Greer Stadium’s iconic guitar scoreboard can be seen from the Gabby’s parking lot, and a record pressing plant (!) is located just down the street as well. Burgers, baseball, and vinyl — what more could you want from life? (Well, actually, I can immediately think of a few other things.) But all good things must come to an end, even if they come in threes, and soon enough I was off to Kodak (or would that be Sevierville?), home of the Tennessee Smokies. My journey was not without its miscues, as you may recall from my Smokies’ “On the Road” post:
I arrived at Smokies Park a bit later than I was aiming for, due to a GPS/common sense snafu in which I drove to a “Stadium Drive” in Knoxville instead of the one in Sevierville. It wasn’t until I made a turn onto “Peyton Manning Pass” that it occurred to me that I may have driven to the University of Tennessee’s Neyland Stadium instead.
This, perhaps, was not my finest moment. But I was nonetheless in good spirits when I arrived at the Hampton Inn. You can see the ballpark from the stadium!
I wrote all about my visit with the Smokies, HERE and HERE and HERE. The next morning I posted Road Trip Hotel Room Review #3, and then embarked upon the long and winding mountain drive to Asheville. Upon arriving I found myself with about two hours of free time, and I decided to make the most of it by doing what I do best: wandering the downtown area in search of independent record stores. In Asheville, a city that prides itself on its cultural eclecticism and general open-mindedness, it didn’t take long to find one.
Static Age was a bit dungeon-esque, but it didn’t make me crabby. They had a bunch of Record Store Day stuff that had long become unavailable in New York City, and I was glad to snag Mercury Rev’s “Deserted Songs” as well as a free Sub Pop sampler (they also still had limited edition Bardo Pond and Mugstar releases and in my head I was like “Yo, Asheville heavy psych bros, you gotta get on that.”)
After leaving Static Age I soon came across Voltage Records.
While combing through the stacks at Voltage, I looked up and saw a most familiar site. I had this poster hanging in my bedroom, circa 1996.
Downtown Asheville was bustling on this Saturday afternoon, and despite what some of these pictures may convey it was truly a vibrant and spirited atmosphere.
Downtown also boasts this iconic art deco beauty, the S & W Cafeteria.
S & W was a chain restaurant that served inexpensive (but presumably delicious) Southern cooking. The Asheville location was open from 1929-74, and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1977. For better or for worse, it is currently being renovated into condominiums.
Interior-wise, the most physically impressive establishment that I visited was the Battery Park Book Exchange and Champagne Bar. This multi-level book store is well organized and offers plenty of comfortable nooks and crannies to sit and drink coffee, wine, and yes, champagne. It’d be a great place to hang out for an hour or two, but, as is often the case on these trips, I just didn’t have the time. And, as is also so often the case, my pictures do not do it justice.
Back outside and once again wandering about, I soon noticed that one of these things is indeed not like the other.
I was not in the market for a red, white, and blue bandanna, but I was in the market to visit another bookstore. I always am. Here’s some interior shots of the plainly named and plainly awesome Downtown News.
Perhaps the best thing about Downtown News was their exemplary (maga)zine selection.
Arthur is currently my favorite magazine and if over the course of reading this blog you’ve found that your sensibilities are similar to mine then please take the time to check it out (I also copped that Mojo with Sabbath on the cover).
I of course realize that there is far more to Asheville than its book and record stores, but given a limited amount of time that’s what I chose to focus on and I hope you were able to pick up on at least a little bit of what I was putting down.
I’ll end with a total non-sequitur, as I have one other photo in this particular road trip folder that is totally out of context. I imagine that this is something that I stumbled upon at a gas station somewhere between the Smoky Mountains and Asheville, but certainly it is not something that I have seen before or since. The object of this game was to use a joystick to control a pair of scissors that could then cut the string holding one of two prizes: a Nikon camera and a wad of money. I don’t remember operating this ridiculous contraption, but if I did I failed.
And with that, I have no more outside-of-the-ballpark detritus to share from what were my third and fourth days of 2013′s “Southern Swing.” Thanks, as always, for sticking with me.
I will return to “Return to the Road” content momentarily, but today I want to deal with a more pressing concern: The Winter Meetings are almost upon us! This year’s event hearkens all the way back to those long-ago days of 2010, as it will be held in the (usually but not always) sunny environs of Orlando, FL:
I’ve always enjoyed covering the Winter Meetings, as I’m just about the only journalist who doesn’t care about free agent and trade proposal rumor mongering and reportage. I focus on what is in actuality the main business at hand: the entirety of the baseball industry coming together in order to share successful operating practices (the Bob Freitas Business Seminar), shop for promotional items and stadium improvements (the Trade Show), and hire new staff members (the PBEO Job Fair).
It is that last item that I wish to focus on at the moment — the Job Fair. As you may recall, last year I recruited four job seekers to chronicle their Winter Meeting experiences as they hustled their way toward potential baseball industry employment. You may remember them:
Are you planning on attending the 2013 Winter Meetings in a job seeking capacity? Would you like to chronicle your efforts for this blog and MiLB.com, therefore giving you invaluable publicity while demonstrating your verve, talent, drive, moxie, chutzpah and, of course, writing skills? Then simply send me an email – firstname.lastname@example.org – and within the contents of said email please provide your age, alma mater (if applicable), birthplace, and current place of residence. Then, please provide brief answers to the following questions (and please do so by Sunday, December 1).
– Do you have prior sports industry experience? If so, what?
– Why do you want to work in the world of baseball?
– Why should you be selected as one of the job-seeking journalers?
– What is one completely and totally random fact about you?
Among those who apply, four job seekers will be selected to write about their experiences (three posts during the Meetings, approximately 400 words each, and a follow-up post the next week). This fortunate quartet will be chosen by me and my trusted inner circle of MiLB.com advisers and announced on Monday, December 2. An MiLB.com piece profiling this year’s journalers will run on Friday, December 6, and the following week it’s off to the job seeking races!
I believe that this will make for some interesting and engaging content, which, of course, is the name of the game. And, don’t forget: if you’re going to be at the Winter Meetings in any capacity whatsoever then please don’t hesitate to get in touch. Pitch me a story idea, offer to buy me a drink, whatever. I’m always open to meeting anyone and everyone. (Except that one guy. You know who you are).
With quasi-arbitrary personal and professional milestones firmly in the rear view mirror, it’s now time to move confidently into the future by dwelling in the past. In other words, it’s time to Return to the Road! Some of you may be familiar with the “Return to the Road” concept, but for those who aren’t:
Each season I go on several Minor League Baseball road trips, documenting the ballpark experience as thoroughly as I am able. But, of course, part of the beauty of this sort of road trip is that it gives gives one the opportunity to explore not just the ballpark but the city itself. And that’s simply what these posts are — an offseason opportunity for me to re-visit my 2013 road trips by highlighting that which was seen and experienced outside of the ballpark. (Even if it wasn’t much — I’m on a tight schedule!)
2013′s slate of peregrinations began with May’s Southern Swing trip, with stop #1 being in Bowling Green. I attended May 8′s Hot Rods game, and the next morning, after recording the first of what would become several dozen “Road Trip Hotel Room Reviews,” I was able to explore Bowling Green’s downtown area (located the proverbial “hop, skip, and a jump” away from the stadium). The focal point of downtown is “Fountain Square Park,” which is ripped straight out of Norman Rockwell’s America.
Per the Bowling Green Convention and Visitor’s Bureau:
Restored facades of 19th-century buildings, a renovated Art Deco movie theater, thriving businesses and bustling professionals surround the park’s historic fountain, statues, flowers, shrubs, mature trees and benches. Once the site of prohibitionist marches, trolleys, livestock trades and scrap drives, today it is the host of summer concerts, parades, arts and crafts shows and many other festivals and events throughout the year.
Here’s what I saw on a sleepy afternoon in early May, beginning with the titular fountain:
But not all of downtown Bowling Green was as genteel as the images seen above. Here’s Rocky’s Bar, located at 322 E. Main Street.
Inebriates in the know know to order Gorilla’s Blood.
Unfortunately, that little spot of downtown wandering was about all that I had time for whilst in Bowling Green. I was listening to local country radio as I drove out of the city, and would you believe that Lee Greenwood was playing at the exact moment at which I passed the Greenwood Mall? It’s true. My notes also indicate that I heard George Strait and Alan Jackson’s “Murder on Music Row” as well, and that this song is “a much-needed corrective to condescending schlock.”
I can’t tell you where I was, exactly, but about an hour or so later I drove by this establishment and immediately did a u-turn so that I could photograph it. This, to me, is beauty incarnate:
Of course, one of the best things about trips such as these is stopping at kitschy rest stops for gas/food/totally unnecessary and irredeemably tacky but nonetheless irresistible souvenirs.
At Sad Sam’s, one is greeted by this statue. It is as vividly rendered as it is culturally insensitive.
This guy is a behemoth!
I limited myself to three items while at Sad Sam’s: An “anti-snoring” contraption consisting of a small clothespin in a wooden box (sadly not pictured), a can of boiled peanuts and the bizarrely wax-like peanut patty.
Out in the parking lot of Sad Sam’s an older gentlemen with greased-hair and a pack of Pall Malls in his breast pocket struck up a conversation with me. He was curious as to whether I liked the Kia I was driving (my rental car), and when I replied that it was adequate but unremarkable he told me that he bought an “alien green” Kia for his wife.
“She likes it, but I’m a retired auto worker,” he told me. “If I drove it to our union meetings everyone would make fun of me.”
And with that, it was on to Nashville. En route to Greer Stadium, home of the Sounds, I was able to make a brief detour at Grimey’s. Behind this humble domestic facade lurks one of the best-regarded record stores in the city.
I enjoyed browsing the stacks — both at Grimey’s and its next-door “Grimey’s Too” location — and ended up purchasing three new 7″ records (two of which were on Nashville’s Third Man record label), a couple of used LPs, and the awesome issue of Juxtapoz that was dedicated to the visual aesthetic of the Beastie Boys. My notes also indicate that the Fiery Furnaces cover of “Single Again” was playing in the store and that I “should get that.”
Grimey’s was very close to Greer Stadium, and my next stop was even closer: Fort Negley, a Union fortification built during the Civil War, is located adjacent to the ballpark.
Greer Stadium is actually visible from the base of Fort Negley.
I’m going to go out on a limb and declare this to be the only guitar-shaped scoreboard that is visible from a National Historic Landmark.
And from there, it was off to the ballgame. As I noted at the time, the Sounds were expecting me.
You can read all about my night with the Sounds by clicking HERE, but as for this particular post this is all I’ve got. I’ll close by noting that I have a pork cracklin addiction, and had to ration myself to one bag for every day that I was on this road trip. Nothing like pulling a blogging all-nighter in a hotel while eating a bag of Golden Flakes and drinking Mello-Yello!
Thanks for “returning to the road” with me. Post #1001 is now complete.
Today is my 35th birthday and, also, it is the day of my 1000th blog post. I did not mean for these milestones to coincide, but I’m glad that they did. It’s like going to a baseball game and seeing a future Hall of Famer hit his 500th home run in support of a perfect game, except 7000% less meaningful.
Over the last couple of weeks I gave a fair amount of thought to what my 1000th post should be, with the general consensus (in my own head) being that it should serve as both a comprehensive retrospective and heartfelt thank you to the loyal readers who have continued to help justify this improbable professional existence. But that kind of post takes a lot of work, and since it’s my birthday I’d much rather spend the day walking around listening to the new Eminem on my Discman and playing laundromat pinball. You know, typical grown man stuff.
Fortunately, while I was out “running” on Tuesday morning, I had an epiphany: I can still make post #1000 special, but without doing a lot of work. In fact, this is going to be a truly unique post in the annals of Ben’s Biz Blog, something completely and totally without precedent: It’s not going to have a single thing to do with Minor League Baseball! Instead, for the first and most likely last time, I will share with you one of my other passions in life: writing puns. I’ve done this compulsively for years, in tattered pocket notebooks, and last summer in San Francisco many of them were displayed in ink-on-bread form in a gallery installation entitled “Toasted Puns” (yes, despite having celiac disease I am still able to work in a gluten-based medium).
So, that’s it: Post #1000 is going to consist of 25 original puns from my ever-growing notebook collection (one pun for every 40 blog posts, as is the standard exchange rate). I hope that you tolerate them, but if not then don’t despair. Post #1001 will mark a return to biz-ness as usual.
– A good entomologist can always make adjustments on the fly.
– Beyonce’s cell phone is set to vibrate; ironic that she didn’t put a ring on it.
– The notion of an olfactory factory may seem strange, but it makes scents.
– During my days on the competitive Rock, Paper, Scissors circuit I was making money hand over fist.
– The incarcerated proofreader felt right at home in a correctional facility.
– I wanted my jokes to be raunchier, so I hired an offensive line coach.
– The mathematician’s drunken temper tantrums were seen as a regression to the mean.
– My opinion on palindromes could go either way.
– The documentary on neutrinos was over before it began.
– The best episode of Extreme Makeover is the one where Nuno Bettencourt gets a buzz cut.
– Every day at five o’clock the roofer came down with a case of shingles.
– The aquarium dermatologist refused to work with ray cysts.
– It was ironic that the stationary store kept changing locations.
– This venison seasoning is a real game-changer!
– The hairstylist to the krautrock stars possessed a real Can ‘do spirit.
– After getting laid off at the jigsaw puzzle plant all I could do was pick up the pieces and move on.
– The quickest way to lose weight is fast.
– The rock climber pursued his hobby whenever he had the inclination to do so.
– Doctor Barbie is, more accurately, a plastic surgeon.
– The best part of tweeting for a living is the per-DM money.
– The tennis star in the oversized pants was nicknamed Billowy Jean King.
– Upon raising his net, the fisherman let out an anguished whale.
– The free-thinking horticulturist planted an avant garden.
– The contrarian panhandler begged to differ.
– Puns can be childish, but groan men like them too.
Okay, that’s it: post #1000, off-topic and totally self-indulgent. I’m gonna take a vacation now, thanks for reading and talk to you next week sometime. And, above all, thanks to all of you who have read this blog on a regular basis over the past six years. It really means a lot.
Here on the blog, the recent content theme has been “covering in-season topics that I didn’t get around to covering during the season itself.” But out there in the real world, the biggest news on the MiLB front has been a topic near and dear to many of you: branding.
Over the past week, there has been one team launch (the El Paso Chihuahuas), one new identity (the Akron RubberDucks), and three sets of new logos (Arkansas Travelers, Charlotte Knights, and Rochester Red Wings). This post, number #999 in Ben’s Biz Blog history, attempts to make sense of it all in a crisp and concise fashion.
October 22: El Paso Chihuahuas (read my MiLB.com story HERE)
In my nearly eight years of covering Minor League branding efforts, none elicited as strong a reaction as October 22′s announcement that El Paso’s new Triple-A team would be called “The Chihuahuas.” The comment section of the MiLB.com article linked to above serves as a pretty good summation of the initial reaction, about 1/3 incredulous, 1/3 angry and embarrassed, and 1/3 delighted.
“Chihuahuas” is aggressively kid-friendly and completely independent of any overt reference to the parent club (in this case, the Padres), which is a trend that should be familiar to anyone who follows this industry. In recent years Brandiose has been behind IronPigs, Flying Squirrels, Storm Chasers, and RailRiders, so why not Chihuahuas? Why not anything?
My Take: While I like the color scheme and logo, the “Chihuahuas” name leans just a bit too ridiculous for my taste and was in fact my least favorite of the five “finalists” in the “Name the Team” contest (Aardvarks, Buckaroos, Desert Gators, Sun Dogs). Yes, the players come and go, but it’s a little off putting to me that men competing at Minor League Baseball’s highest level have to take the field with “Chihuahuas” emblazoned across the chest.
That said, the team did a phenomenal job in regard to creating a buzz not just in the community but nationally, and now they have the opportunity to build an entire brand around something very unique. As is so often the case, I feel that once people get used to the name they’ll not just tolerate it but embrace it. Myself as well, probably.
Also, as an aside: Holding a Name the Team “contest” in advance of announcing a new name is a great way to generate publicity. But these contests are disingenuous in that they rarely, if ever, actually take fan opinion into account. Is this advance buzz worth the ill will generated when the name chosen doesn’t reflect public consensus in any way, shape or form? It won’t happen, but I’d love it if a team came right out and explained the paternalistic mindset that informs these decisions: “You fans mean well, but since you live in a market that was heretofore without Minor League Baseball you have no idea how the industry operates and therefore no real idea what would truly make for a good team name. Feel free to argue impotently amongst yourselves while us professionals do our jobs, as in the end everything will turn out alright. We guarantee it.”
October 23: Arkansas Travelers (Read my MiLB.com story HERE).
The Travelers’ motivation for creating a new set of logos (designed, once again, by Brandiose) was two-fold. Firstly, the team wanted to streamline and simplify an identity that had become a bit of an unwieldy hodgepodge in recent years. Second, new logos represented a good way to generate buzz and momentum as the Travs enter a 2014 season in which they will serve as hosts of the Texas League All-Star Game.
My take: I like it. The Travs’ have a history in Little Rock that goes back over 100 years, and that’s something that they’re understandably proud of. The new logos are correspondingly sleek, simple and traditional (the horse references the “Arkansas Traveler” folktale that resulted in the team name in the first place), and rumor has it that there may be more to unveil later in the offseason.
10/24: Charlotte Knights (read my MiLB.com piece HERE)
The Knights are moving into a brand-new downtown ballpark in 2014, and with the new digs comes this new set of logos. Here’s what general manager Scott Brown told me:
“Charlotte is nicknamed ‘The Queen City’ after Queen Charlotte, so, moving forward, we wanted to capture royalty as our theme. The time was ripe to do this, because even though we’re only two miles away [from the previous home of Knights Stadium] we’re now inside the city limits. The Knights are defending the Queen City.”
My Take: Similar to the Travs, I like this sleek and relatively simple re-brand as it serves as a great way to kickstart what is a truly exciting new era for the Knights. And while I’m ignorant of pretty much everything beyond the world of baseball, several people on Twitter pointed out that it is somewhat similar to the logos of the collegiate UCF Knights and Army Black Knights. This could be seen as a negative, as well as the fact that the logo on the far right seems to depict a seahorse in the midst of suicide. But, again: I’m a fan.
10/29: Akron RubberDucks (read my MiLB.com story HERE)
After 17 seasons the Aeros are no more, as Akron’s Double-A franchise has scrapped that in favor of “RubberDucks.” This is all part of owner Ken Babby’s attempt to revitalize what had been an ailing franchise, and is sure to be accompanied by a veritable onslaught of duck-themed promotions in 2014 and beyond. The “Rubber” in the team’s name refers to Akron’s standing as “Rubber Capital of the World,” but even with this local tie-in the name generated a near-Chihuahuas level of internet commentary (best characterized as a mix of gentle snark and faux outrage).
My Take: When I first heard the “RubberDucks” name I winced a little bit, thinking it too cartoonish and child-like. It has grown on me somewhat, however, due to the aforementioned local tie-in, sharp and eye-catching logo set, and a general faith in the Akron front office. And just a thought, but might Akron’s “Rubber capital of the world” status have something to do with its steadily-declining birth rates?
November 1: Rochester Red Wings (read team press release HERE).
Less a re-brand than an update, this Studio Simon creation highlights mascot Spike’s ever-increasing commitment to the weight room. Pretty soon he’s going to using the #riseandgrind hashtag on Twitter.
My Take: While far less splashy than the four new logos talked about above, this is a nice re-imagining of an iconic brand (the Red Wings are the oldest team in all of Minor League Baseball). Studio Simon always does good work.
And thus concludes Ben’s Biz Blog post #999. I still don’t know what I’m doing for 1000, so it might take a while to appear. Any suggestions?
With a few exceptions, I’ve dedicated the month of October to writing about in-season endeavors that I did not get around to writing about during the season itself. So I guess it’s fitting that here on All Hallow’s Eve, also known as the last day of October, I have finally exhausted my supply of in-season content. The only thing left in my “potential blog items” Excel spreadsheet involved Jacksonville Suns infielder Derek Dietrich and that time that he performed a post-game juggling exhibition. Seriously.
“Derek Dietrich Triples and Juggles Torches” — you know, just another day at the ol’ ballyard.
Dietrich, a 24-year-old infielder who logged 57 games with the Miami Marlins this season, pulled of the above feat during August 13′s game against Birmingham. But that wasn’t the only time he took the field in order to toss dangerous items about. Here he is throwing some knives around, potential trip to the disabled list be damned.
And that’s all folks! There is no more in-season content to be had from me (unless, you know, you want to send me some). Therefore, I suppose that now is as good a time as any to bring this to your attention:
The Trenton Thunder have won the 2013 “Promo of the Year” MiLBY Award, for their “Chase the Bat Dog Retirement Party.”
Read the article HERE, which will be my last piece of content recapping the 2013 campaign.
But since I’m on the topic of MiLB.com content — the final “Crooked Numbers” column of 2013 ran earlier this month, and can be read HERE. After the column ran, I was alerted to this exceedingly entertaining and exquisitely “crooked” article by Aberdeen IronBirds broadcaster Jacob Rasch, on “The Oddities of a Suspended Game.” The article details the head-spinning specifics of a game that took some 33 days to complete, and is a must-read for anyone who enjoys the deep wellspring of absurdity that is baseball. Among the many nuggets contained therein, my favorite is this:
The starting pitcher, Austin Urban, struggled in the first half of the game. In four innings, he had given up 8 runs on 8 hits, including the Calderon grand slam. But in the resumption of the game, Urban was given a chance to atone.
“The suspended game fell on my day to pitch, so I got to go back out there,” Urban explained. “In the month that it took to get that game restarted, I made some big adjustments, and I approached it as a completely different start.”
Urban, given the opportunity to keep his team in the game, shut down the same Yankee lineup he had struggled against the month before. In the four innings he pitched after the game was resumed, Urban gave up only 1 hit and 3 walks, striking out 4.
Urban’s final line is strange to say the least: 8 innings pitched, 9 hits, 8 runs (all earned), 6 walks, and 6 strikeouts. All told, he threw a staggering 156 pitches, a number that would seem impossible if there weren’t a 32-day break in between pitch number 72 and 73.
Stump your friends! In 2013, no professional pitcher threw more pitches in one outing than Austin Urban’s 156.
And this concludes Ben’s Biz Blog post #998.