My words are my words and they’ll always be my words, but, let’s face it, my words are best enjoyed when they are used sparingly and in the service of contextualizing pictorial or video content. Today, I’ll focus on doing just this: words minimal, video content ample.
And, in keeping with October’s blogging theme, this video content shall be comprised of that which I didn’t get a chance to cover during the season. We’ll begin with this riveting pre-game ceremony out of Tulsa, in which the Drillers honored the Coon family and their three generations of military service. The eldest member of the family is 94-year-old WWII veteran Phillip Coon (introduced at the 2:05 mark), the last Native American survivor of the Bataan Death March. His first pitch is a truly inspiring thing to behold, and the Drillers deserve a lot of credit for putting together such a moving piece of Independence Day pageantry.
Those in the mood for less poignancy but more parody would do well to check out this, a far different sort of Drillers video:
Moving from the Texas League to the Eastern League, the Akron Aeros produced many a worthwhile video this season. Teams looking to promote the ballpark appearances of dance world celebrities would do well to follow this comedic template:
And then there’s Cole Cook, who, in addition to pitching for the Aeros this season, took part in a series of videos highlighting his surrealist sensibilities. Cole’s father (actor Peter Mackenzie) had a starring role in the surrealist early ’90s Fox sitcom Herman’s Head, which perhaps helps to explain how he came to be involved in these sort of farcical enterprises:
And — hey! — look at this. In 2011 I turned the tables on Cole Cook by interviewing him. Yes, the interviewee became the interviewed:
Our downward descent of the Minor League ladder now brings us to Fort Wayne, home of Johnny Appleseed and, therefore, also the home of a Minor League Baseball team whose name references Johnny Appleseed. As part of the Tin Caps’ “’80s Night” promo, they produced this hilarious bit of performance art. Let it serve as proof positive that Minor League ballplayers are far less self-conscious than their big league counterparts:
Finally, you may recall that this past offseason I made productive use of my time by putting together a post featuring every “Harlem Shake” video produced by a Minor League team. That fad came and went, of course, but kudos to the Pensacola Blue Wahoos for being the only (so far as I know) to do the “Harlem Shake” IN-GAME.
Once again: Minor League ballplayers are less self-conscious than their big league counterparts.
The annual Minor League Baseball Promotional Seminar is a multi-faceted industry extravaganza, and one of its easiest-to-overlook components is the Job Fair. While a fraction of the size of its Winter Meetings counterpart, the Seminar Job Fair represents a great chance to, as its web site says, “get a head start on your competition.”
I would agree. While the number of job postings at the Seminar are fairly minimal, job seekers put themselves in a great position via the opportunity to learn from and network with the industry. A lot of Winter Meetings job seekers enter the experience with myopic viewpoints, not quite understanding the level of competition or how the industry actually functions on a day-to-day basis, but those who have attended the Seminar gain a far more realistic and nuanced view of what they need to do to succeed. And while it is certainly intimidating to be a relative unknown within the tight-knit collegiality of the industry, there are ample opportunities to make connections, start conversations, bond over drinks, etc.
While attending the Seminar, I let it be known that I would be happy to highlight Job Seekers in an upcoming blog post so that my readers (which certainly include potential employers) could get a sense of who they are, what they’re looking for, and what motivated them to come to Louisville. Three Job Seekers responded to this open call; they are profiled below.
Kyle, a resident of Morgantown, WV is currently spending his days working in sales and his evenings calling Division II basketball games. He has three years of NCAA Division I communications experience, but, as you’ll see below, baseball is his passion.
For two seasons, I doubled as the play-by-play broadcaster for the University of Kansas baseball team in the spring and the Willmar Stingers of the Northwoods League in the summer, calling more than 120 games each year. During this time, I also served as a communications assistant in the Kansas Athletics Department and acted as the director of media relations for the Willmar Stingers, writing a game recap each night, producing game notes for each series and working in the ticket office during homestands. I currently have a full-time sales job with a private corporation, but I want to return to baseball and am hoping to find a minor league play-by-play job for next season.
What prompted you to attend the Promo Seminar, and was it a worthwhile experience?
I attended the Promo Seminar to network as much as possible, realizing that a lot of teams would not have a definitive grasp yet on their broadcaster situation for next year. I set some lofty expectations going into the Promo Seminar and somehow it exceeded them. I met a lot of great people and learned an incredible amount during the group therapy and power sessions. It was certainly worth the trip.
Interested in having Kyle work for your organization? Contact him at 785-472-7013, email email@example.com
Michael, 24, was born in “the rubber capital of the world” (aka Akron, OH) but has lived in Tennessee for almost his entire life. He attended the Memphis College of Art and, as a graphic design professional, would like to let it be known that his favorite fonts are Nevis and Franchise.
What experience do you have in the world of baseball so far, and what sort of job are you looking for?
This past year was my first in baseball, interning as a graphic design assistant with the Tennessee Smokies. There I handled all of their graphics needs when it came to video board, print, social media, billboards, stadium signage, etc. You name it I made it. I was also the in-game audio operator for all of our their games, as well as co-director of the team’s game day productions when needed.
I am definitely looking to stay on the production and design side of things in baseball. As a designer, I enjoy being at the heart of the memory-making aspect of baseball, trying to add to the sport’s rich history with everything I make. Each design could be somebody’s first ticket, first poster, first everything, so I want to make sure they are all worth remembering.
What prompted you to attend the Promo Seminar, and was it a worthwhile experience?
I had such a blast being with the Smokies that a gathering of like-minded people sharing ideas on the sport sounded like the right place to further my experience and start to establish a network in minor league baseball. With only a year under my belt, I wanted to dive into the deep end of the pool and immerse myself in all of the knowledge I could obtain from the 3-day event. From all the ideas that I gathered to all the great people I was able to connect with, the seminar well exceeded my expectations.
The main highlight for me was every person I got to meet one-on-one and spend a few minutes with, learning so much from each one. My lowlight would have to be almost knocking over Pat O’Conner in passing at Louisville Slugger Field. Nice first impression, huh?
For more on Michael, and to get in touch with him, check out his website www.michaelvinson.net
Andrew, a classic hip-hop aficionado, attended the University of Arizona and currently resides in Austin. The Irvington, NY native reports that “Baseball is my lifelong passions, and to make a career for myself in this great game is my absolute goal!”
What experience do you have in the world of baseball so far, and what sort of job are you looking for?
For the past two seasons I have worked for the Round Rock Express. This past season I worked in the “Control Room” working in the Gameday Presentation. I am hoping to obtain a position working in Community and/ or Public Relations. However, as we all know, working in MiLB requires an individual to remain flexible and open to all opportunities!
What prompted you to attend the Promo Seminar, and was it a worthwhile experience?
I decided to drive 17 hours from Austin to Louisville to get better and learn more about the business of baseball. It was a phenomenal education with great minds and personalities coming together to share ideas, and the best part as a “Job Seeker” was that I had an opportunity to interact and introduce myself to members of MiLB across the board. This Promo Seminar is a must-go for anybody who works in MiLB and anyone who wants to gain valuable and important insights from some of the top baseball minds!
And there you have it, just a small sample of the sort of folks who are vying for a career in baseball in 2014 and beyond. Get in touch if you’d like to share your own job seeking experiences (at the Promo Seminar or otherwise).
The above title is a bit of misnomer, as the Promo Seminar is only three days long and was over by the time that everything in this post took place.
But! I was still in Louisville for the bulk of this particular day, and I did some things and saw some things and now I’m going to write all about it. I just don’t know what else to do.
Friday, September 27
After a semi-productive morning of writing, I checked out of Louisville’s Galt House Hotel amid a scene of controlled chaos. While the Minor League Baseball Promo Seminar had been a fairly large event, it had nothing on the H20-XPO taking place that weekend and the lobby was absolutely packed with water industry merchants, policy makers, activists, and hangers-on. I wanted nothing more than to get out of that aquamarine mob scene, but wasn’t scheduled to leave Louisville for another couple of hours. So, I commenced to walking.
The Galt House Hotel is on 4th Street, and as part of a downtown revitalization effort a nearby stretch of this street has been closed to traffic and transformed into a retail/dining/nightlife complex called “Fourth Street Live!” It’s good for what it is (an accessible downtown gathering spot), but there’s no getting around the fact that its loud and tacky, with a disproportionate amount of square footage given over to national chains.
Spending time on Fourth Street Live, while convenient for those situated downtown, leaves the visitor with little to no sense of what it is that might make Louisville unique. Therefore, I was glad to get a little time to walk around and take note of that which existed beyond the penned-in parameters of Fourth Street Live.
Before becoming the proud home of entities such as TGI Fridays, Hard Rock Cafe, and Howl at the Moon piano bar, Fourth Street was the site of Civil Rights sit-in protests.
Click HERE to check out a photo gallery of the sit-ins and protests that took place in and around Louisville’s Fourth Street. Captivating stuff.
Just a few minutes later I came across this little monument to monk/poet/activist Thomas Merton, who became a monk at the nearby Abbey of Gethsemani (his famous autobiography Seven Storey Mountain was written there, among many other works).
Even better is the back of the plaque, which says that on this very corner Merton had the sudden realization that he “loved all these people.”
Seeing this plaque got me to thinking about how we, as a society, don’t do enough to honor and promote the work of men and women of peace. While attending the Promo Seminar I heard a lot of great ideas about military-themed promotions and events, and I’m generally all for these types of endeavors as they represent a great chance to honor the sacrifices made by those in the community who have served overseas. But there is too much of a disparity at play, this willingness to almost indiscriminately label anyone remotely connected with the military as a “hero” while rarely if ever extending the same level of consideration to those who dedicate their lives to issues revolving around peace and social justice.
And, of course, even typing the above paragraph made me think about how I haven’t done nearly enough work on these fronts and am, at present, an ineffectual and self-centered urbanite whose college-era idealism has withered into a general “eh, I’m just trying to get by in NYC” sort of malaise. This is unacceptable, but also unacceptable is the continuation of this tangent, because, look, I had a baseball bat museum to visit.
And on the way to this baseball bat museum I saw another really interesting plaque!
Thornton Blackburn’s Wikipedia page is short, but absolutely fascinating. Please enjoy this brief excerpt, as I am laboring under the delusion that everyone is interested in what I am interested in:
[The Blackburn's] had been settled in Detroit, Michigan, for two years when, in 1833, Kentucky slave hunters located, re-captured, and arrested the couple. The Blackburns were jailed but allowed visitors, which provided the opportunity for Lucie to exchange her clothes—and her incarceration—with a Mrs. George French. Lucie was then spirited across the Detroit River to safety in Amherstburg, in Essex County, Upper Canada (U.C.).
Thornton’s escape was more difficult as he was heavily guarded, bound and shackled. The day before Thornton was to be returned to Kentucky, Detroit’s African American community rose up in protest. A crowd of some 400 men stormed the jail to free him.
Anyhow, I was indeed headed to a baseball bat museum or, to put it more specifically, the Louisville Slugger Museum. Along the way, one passes a variety of commemorative plaques which immortalize the Louisville Sluggers used by famous players. This was a Jeff Bagwell edition.
Along the way to the museum, there were many sights to be seen. Sights such as humorous Army-Navy Store signage.
Not to mention a 30-foot tall gold replica of Michelangelo’s David.
Finally, there was this photo op in front of the Louisville Science Center.
Eventually, my destination was reached.
There were no photos allowed during the factory tour, under penalty of death, but it was enjoyable to be walked through the bat making process. Afterwards I wandered about the museum portion, pausing briefly to take this subpar photo.
Ted loved his Louisville Slugger.
So did the Babe.
After visiting the Louisville Slugger Museum my hope had been to swing by Zooperstars! headquarters, but time was a bit too tight so I simply walked around for a bit on East Market Street. Before skimming through the record selection at Please and Thank You coffee shop, I stopped by Muth’s Candies and scored some primo peanut brittle.
Kentucky Fried Chicken is headquartered in Louisville, but I don’t think this graffiti was approved by corporate.
And then there’s this:
One final thing about KFC is that Louisville is home to the thus far only location of the more upscale (but still very casual) “KFC Eleven.“
And with that random fact, I am officially out of Louisville-based content. I flew back to New York City that evening, thus ending what I truly believe was a successful jaunt to Kentucky. I just wish that said jaunt could have lasted a bit longer, because then I could have attended the Cropped Out Festival. Blues Control and Endless Boogie on the same night would have been awesome!
Meanwhile, I consider this blog to be its own sort of endless boogie. Post #988 is now in the bag.
The 2013 Minor League season is dead. Long live the 2013 Minor League season.
What that sentiment in mind, today’s post will yet again feature interesting in-season content that I wasn’t able to get to during the season itself. And, more specifically, today’s post will begin with the Charlotte Knights. As you are probably aware the 2013 campaign was a significant one for the Knights, as it marked their last in Knights Stadium (also known as “The Castle”) before moving into a new stadium in downtown Charlotte proper.
But historic final season or not, there was still plenty of time for the bullpen to antagonize the team’s ATV-adept mascot, Homer. The following slew of photos – yes, a slew! — should make that clear. In fact, this photo slew is so good that it should be made into a flipbook giveaway item for 2014.
So, to recap: I, an ostensibly grown man, am posting pictures of grown men who make a living playing a child’s game acting like children by dousing a grown man in a dragon suit with water and baby powder.
So, with that said, let’s move on to more of the same: more Charlotte Knights’ tomfoolery. On June 15 the team staged a “Dairy Night” promotion, and the highlight (?) of this endeavor was an on-field milking contest between Jhan Carlos Marinez and Jason Berken. Click HERE for a full photo gallery, but in the meantime here’s a representative picture.
But, of course, cow milking contests take place at all levels of the Minors — from Triple-A to Rookie ball. For an example of the latter, there’s this from Elizabethton.
That picture features second baseman Brian Dozier, who is now on the Minnesota Twins, so something tells me that that photo might be a few years old. But, whatever, the team sent it along with their press release so that makes it new enough for me. And wouldn’t it be great if the above photo featured a male cow? Then I could have captioned it “bull, Dozier,” and accolades would have ensued.
Speaking of animals on the ball field — Rosenblatt Stadium, the long time home of both the Omaha Royals and College World Series, is now the home of Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium. The zoo has incorporated elements of the old ball field into its design, and all in all it looks pretty cool.
And that’s all there ever was, is, or will be from this particular dispatch. Thanks for reading.
On Tuesday night the Omaha Storm Chasers emerged triumphant in the Triple-A Championship Game and the Idaho Falls Chukars won the Pioneer League title. And that, folks is all she wrote. There are no more Minor League Baseball games until April 3, 2014 and April 3, 2014 is a somewhat imposing 197 days away.
It is now the offseason, then, but with one exception: this blog! This post, like the last one and like the next one and like the one after that, will be devoted to material that I wasn’t able to get to during the season due to my peripatetic lifestyle. It’ll be random, but it will be educational, and it will be fun. I insist.
Let’s start with a community-minded initiative that, in my opinion, every team should do a variation of. On June 8 the Tri-City ValleyCats staged “Show on the Road,” in which they brought the Minor League Baseball game day experience to a local youth field. The ValleyCats, in partnership with Hannaford supermarkets, picked a league that “exemplifies sportsmanship” and that league turned out to be the not-so-pithily named East Greenbush-Castleton Youth Baseball League.
Per the team’s ‘Cats Corner blog, the event “featured pregame entertainment, live team introductions, a live performance of the national anthem, and in-game promotions including fan favorites such as the Mayors’ Race, T-Shirt Tosses, Pony Hops and more.”
A few pics from that post:
And so it went. I’m going to momentarily assume that I have any sort of influence in this industry and once again insist that all teams do this in 2014 and beyond.
And now for something completely random: this article (and video), which my Mom brought to my attention, profiles veteran Ocean City (New Jersey) PR man Mark Soifer. Soifer’s irreverent, absurd and always family-friendly promotional philosophies should resonate with anyone who works within Minor League Baseball. For example: He once staged a wet t-shirt contest, in which participants competed to see who could throw a wet t-shirt the farthest.
Moving on, here’s a Tweet that is both self-explanatory and awesome.
— andi roman (@andi_roman) June 2, 2013
Finally, back in June I received an email from David Perahia of BobblesGalore. It read, in part:
I thought this may be a bobble that your readers would get a kick out of. We just came out with this item, only 90 were produced and each one is serial numbered.
It is the first bobblehead ever produced with 5 Mascots on one base, it is also the first bobblehead produced of the Washington Nationals new racing president – William Howard Taft.
Five presidential mascots, one bobblehead base. Some of the greatest achievements in human history are taking place right before our eyes, and we should never forget that.
Well, it had to happen eventually: As of that last Hillsboro post, I am officially done with “On the Road” content. This upsets me, as visiting ballparks take the guesswork out of doing this blog. All season long I never have to think about what I’m going to write, I simply write about where I’ve been.
But no more! I will eventually do a series of “Return to the Road” posts, highlighting that which was seen and experienced outside the confines of the Minor League ballparks in question, but today marks the first of what will surely be many catch as catch can bouillabaisse blog posts. These “everything but the kitchen sink”-style blog posts come about because all season long people send me worthy material, and I inevitably reply that I will “get it on the blog as soon as I get the chance.” That chance is finally getting got, right here and right now. So let’s dive into a stew of Minor League Baseball randomness.
Starting with this:
Yep, it’s the David Freese Kiss Cam, which got a lot of play when I featured it on Twitter a few months back. Freese played for the Redbirds in 2008 whilst in the final phases of his Minor League trajectory, and then returned to the club on a rehab assignment early this season. During his brief Memphis return he posed for the above photos, resulting in what had to be the most unique kiss cam in Minor League Baseball (it helps that the Redbirds possess the largest videoboard in the known universe).
I am always willing to lend my name to such endeavors, so if anyone wants to do a “Ben’s Biz Kiss Cam” in 2014 then I’m happy to oblige. Here’s the raw material.
While in Memphis, Freese also threw water balloons filled with paint at a canvas.
While I don’t have a picture of the resultant artistic masterpiece, let it be known that it was sold by the Redbirds for $810. This money went toward philanthropic endeavors, of course.
UPDATE! Now I DO have a picture of the resultant artistic masterpiece. Cue the J. Geils Band!
File the above two initiatives under “creative things to do when a rehabbing Major Leaguer is in town.” Our next topic is “creative ways to utilize the batter’s eye portion of a Minor League stadium.” This May, the Fort Wayne TinCaps opened “The 400 Club” group seating area and, yes, it is located in dead center field.
This area accommodates groups of between 20 and 150 people, at $40 per person (this includes a buffet food service with draft beer and wine). Here’s the view from the inside, courtesy of TinCaps’ broadcaster Mike Couzens’ exemplary “It’s All Relative” blog.
I was curious as to how the TinCaps were able to insure that the 400 Club would not interfere with the batter’s view, which led team intern/designated eater extraordinaire Keirsh Cochran to secure the following response from team president Mike Nutter:
We worked with Hok/Populus as our national architect, Design Collaborative as our local architect as well as the folks at MILB Baseball Operations and Gould-Evans to ensure the project was done correctly. We looked at SEVERAL glass samples including the same specs that are used in both New York major league ballparks. We ended up being very cautions with this and paid a lot of money to get anti-glare and tinted glass. We also angled the glass downward to ensure no glares would have a negative effect on the hitters in the batters box.
The batter’s eye is actually much bigger now than it was before and a much better hitters background.
Folks are visible through the glass, but the tinting and anti-glare really mutes it and there are no issues with distractions.
I wish that when it came to this job there were no issues with distractions, but nonetheless I will persevere. If you have any comments, complaints or suggestions regarding the kind of content that you’d like to see on this blog throughout the offseason then please, by all means, get in touch.
My “On the Road” posts are perhaps best described as impressionistic fever dreams, in which I try to piece the fragmented memories of my ballpark evenings into something resembling an objective reality. In doing so I strive to reach a fertile middle ground in which a small “t” truth can blossom into infallibility, but sometimes the discrepancy between my account of an evening and that of the team in question becomes too great to ignore. This is certainly what has occurred when it comes to my recent visit with the Reno Aces, as I documented a rather lackluster night at the ballyard that ended prematurely due to a rainout.
When the Aces read this post, they were incredulous. “It goes without saying that Ben is the greatest baseball writer of all time, but not even the greats are unimpeachable,” went the presumed front office sentiment. “And, like Loutallica or Chinese Democracy, Ben’s post on this alleged “Reno Rainout” represents greatness at its most deeply flawed.”
The Aces, led by marketing director Brett McGinness, took it upon themselves to compose a thorough corrective to my Reno rainout missive, which I will now reprint in full. In doing so I am not admitting to any errors in my previous account; rather, I am simply acknowledging that truth is a malleable construction, perhaps nothing more than a coping mechanism designed to create some semblance of order within an existence that requires daily navigation through the chaos of infinite conflicting realities.
We’re not sure what your recent column was, about the rainout at Aces Ballpark. Here’s how we remember it (with photographic proof):
It was a perfect August evening at Aces Ballpark. 75 at first pitch, not a drop of rain for miles.
The Aces and Redbirds took the field right on schedule, and you got the full Aceball experience. You seemed a bit road-weary.
The second-inning trike race against Archie went well. You pulled out to a huge lead, but seemed pretty blasé about the victory.
Next up: Dancing Grounds Crew. Surely this would shake you out of your stupor.
Guest-starring as Roof-Man, perhaps?
Same deal when you were in the wiener dog race (although you came in third, so it’s understandable why you might have been bummed out).
That was when we accidentally offered you a Triple Play Sandwich, chock-full of glutens. Cryptically, you told us, “Don’t offer me glutens. You wouldn’t like me on glutens.”
You took one bite of that sandwich and went a little nuts.
You proposed to some woman on the field. We’re still not sure if you knew who it was, or if you had met her before, or what.
We tried to tell you that “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” wasn’t a duet, but we couldn’t talk you down from the wall.
We didn’t really know what to do, so we had to call the cops.
Long story short, Nevada requires no residency for marriage certificates, so the marriage is binding. You should really head back here when you get a chance, your bride keeps stopping by the ballpark and asking about you, and we’re running out of excuses.
I’ve got to admit, the above account does explain a lot. Namely, why a woman with a 775 area code who is listed in my phone as “Betrothed” keeps calling me. I keep telling this lady that she’s got the wrong number, and that I remain Minor League Baseball’s most desirable bachelor, but who knows? Perhaps it’s time to own up to my gluten-fueled indiscretions and settle down in Reno.
Or perhaps not. I’ll spend the remainder of the week pondering my options, and in the meantime stay tuned for dispatches from one more “On the Road” locale: Hillsboro, home of the Hops. Hopefully my account will jibe with the team’s, but who really does know?
With a few straggling exceptions, the Minor League regular season ended on Labor Day. In conjunction with this imminent cessation of play I spent the day laboring over the August edition of “Crooked Numbers.” If you are visiting this little slice of the internet to begin with, then you probably know that “Crooked Numbers” is a monthly column that details all of the strangest things to have occurred on a Minor League Baseball field over the course of that month. It is a logistically onerous column to write, but any negatives are outweighed by the fact that bizarre baseball minutia is, by far, my favorite kind of bizarre minutia. Crooked Numbers is nothing less than a labor of love
And there’s more where that came from — right here and right now! Welcome to “Crooked Nuggets.” a blog-only supplement featuring all of the Crooked info that’s fit to print, in 75 words or less. There’s so much to get to, so let’s get to it!
Basepath Blunders – On August 4 Eugene Renfroe of the Eugene Emeralds smashed a line drive over the left field wall for a two-run home run. Except, no, he did not. Due to “confusion on the basepaths,” Renfroe passed teammate Anthony Torres on his way to second base, was ruled out, and therefore only ended up with an RBI single. No harm, no foul, as the Ems still defeated Tri-City by a score of 6-1.
Appy League Follies – August 10′s game between the Princeton Rays and Pulaski Blue Jays was a comedy of errors — literally. The hometown Blue Jays made seven of them that evening, including five miscues with two outs in the first inning that led to nine Rays runs. The Blue Jays then clawed back and tied the game at 9-9 after four innings, but it wasn’t enough as they ultimately lost by a score of 13-12. This strange ballgame was particularly strange for Pulaski starter Ramire Cleto. The 20-year-old right-hander allowed eight runs over 2/3rds of an inning but, as none of the runs were earned, lowered his ERA to 2.47.
Pioneer League Follies – The above Princeton-Pulaski tilt wasn’t the only Rookie-level contest this month in which a team made at least seven errors in a game they ended up losing by one run with both teams scoring in the double digits (and shame on you if you thought otherwise). On August 7 the Orem Owlz defeated the Grand Junction Rockies 11-10, in a game that featured eight Grand Junction errors and 10 overall. This was a particularly trying game for Grand Junction catcher Jairo Rosario, who made four errors. Not only did this account for half of the errors he made in the ballgame, but it also accounted for half of his eventual season total.
It All Evens Out– To quote the legendary Harry Nilsson, Nashville Sounds starter Jimmy Nelson went through a prolonged stretch throughout July and August in which “things went good, things went bad, things went good, went bad, then good, bad, good, bad, good, bad.” On July 3, July 21, July 31, and August 11 he combined to post a 1.17 ERA. But those gems alternated with starts on July 8, July 26, August 5 and August 16, in which he posted a 7.03 ERA.
Desert Sessions – Scoring 30 runs in the offense-drenched California League is perhaps a bit less impressive than it would be in other circuits, but, still: it’s impressive! The High Desert Mavericks did just this on August 9, scoring 10 runs in both the first and second innings en route to a 30-8 shellacking of the Lancaster JetHawks. Not only did every batter in the starting line-up hit safely — every batter in the starting line-up scored at least one run, drove in at least one and contributed at least one extra-base hit. On the other side of the ledger it was a tough evening for Lancaster’s Mike Hauschild and Blair Waters, as both allowed 10 runs over 2/3rds of an inning of work.
Post-script: One day after scoring 30 runs, the Mavericks were, of course, shut out.
OKC Can They Swing! — Another impressive shellacking that occurred this month came courtesy of the Oklahoma City RedHawks, who defeated the Colorado Springs Sky Sox by a score of 24-5 on August 3. Further info on this game will hopefully be provided by Crooked Numbers wunderkind Alex Freedman (also the RedHawks broadcaster), but for now let me note the following: all 11 RedHawks to bat in the game scored a run!
#MegaBowl – The Jackson Generals played three straight doubleheaders against the Mobile BayBears from August 19-21, with the teams somehow managing to play 44 innings over a span of 53 hours. All three doubleheaders were sweeps, with Jackson winning the “dual” on the 19th and Mobile emerging doubly triumphant on both the 20th and 21st.
Streaking Across the Carolina League – 2013′s much-coveted award for “most epically streaky team” goes to the appropriately-named Winston-Salem Dash, who lost eight games in a row from August 11-18 and then followed that up by winning 10 in a row from August 19-29. No other teams paired streaks of of eight games (or more) together this season, although the Great Lakes Loons (seven losses followed by seven wins, May 29-June 12) are worthy of an honorable mention.
But Wait! There’s More! – Somehow, in the midst of their aforementioned 10-game winning streak, the Dash managed to lose a game and this got them booted from playoff contention. On August 28 the team dropped an 8-7 decision to Potomac, but since this was a completion of July 11′s suspended game the winning streak remained intact.
Men of their Word – This season the Peoria Chiefs instituted a “Guaranteed Win Wednesday” promotion, which provided fans were awarded a free ticket to an upcoming game in the event of a home team loss. Well, that never happened, as the Chiefs took this whole “guaranteed win” thing to heart and proceeded to go 7-0 on Wednesdays at home during the 2013 season.
Information Omission – The Huntsville Stars defeated the Jackson Generals on the last day of the season by a score of 4-3, and to read the Stars’ game recap one think that nothing out of the ordinary occurred. Well, call me crazy, but it seems that the Stars’ outfield shenanigans were deserving of a mention. It’s not every day that a guy ends up with “RF-LF-CF-RF-CF-LF-CF-RF” next to his name in the boxscore.
Milestone Ruiners – The Tucson Padres scored two runs in the top of the ninth inning on Labor Day, pulling out a 5-4 win over Las Vegas in their final game in franchise history. That’s all well and good, except that this victory was the 3001st in Tucson’s Triple-A history. If the Padres had had the good sense to lose, Tucson would have exactly 3000 wins in its Triple-A victory ledger and all would be right with the world.
I’ve traveled quite a bit over the past four seasons, and in that time I’ve kept meteorological misfortune to a minimum. The only time whilst “On the Road” in which I experienced a rainout was in 2010, when a vicious Chattanooga thunderstorm put a halt to any and all Southern League activities that had been scheduled for that evening at AT&T Field (or, as I like to call it, “Orphan Initialism Field”)
When I arrived at Reno Aces Ballpark on a recent Thursday it was decidedly overcast, hardly the sort of day that sets hearts to fluttering.
“But, still,” I thought to myself,” “This is Reno. I don’t think that there are ever rainouts here. It’s, like, near a desert or something.”
This was an exact thought-quote.
Upon entering the ballpark (which, as you may be able to infer from the above pictures, is located in downtown proper) I met with Aces marketing director Brett McGinness and we embarked on a tour of the facility. For some reason, the very first picture that I took is of a deserted (for the time being)
cornhole bago area.
“This started as a bocce court, but bocce didn’t fit the Reno aesthetic,” Brett told me. “Bago has been much more popular.”
Also representative of the Reno aesthetic are huge meat smokers in the shape of a train.
Aces Ballpark is the centerpiece of Reno’s entertainment-centric “Freight District” and the city is a major trucking and transit hub in general, so the train motif makes sense. There are train tracks located directly beyond left field, for goodness sake.
The scene is different in right field, as there one finds the Truckee River.
To the right of right field, out in the distance, on the horizon, there are mountains.
But as for the more immediate surroundings? Take a look:
Refreshment options abounded, actually.
Outside there were food trucks, or, as nobody calls them: vehicular comestible purveyors.
Upstairs, this was the scene at “Bugsy’s.
“Bugsy’s” is so named because “Bugsy” is the nickname of Aces manager Brett Butler. Butler got that name during his playing days, when his snazzy sartorial sense inspired teammate Mike Krukow to remark that he dressed like mobster Bugsy Siegel, and the name stuck.
Keep in mind that I was walking around the ballpark with a guy named Brett [McGinness], who told me that “Growing up Brett Butler was my favorite player, because there were no other Bretts playing baseball. Now when I’m walking around the ballpark Brett [Butler] will see me and say ‘How’s it going, Brett’ and I’m like ‘Wow, dream come true!’ Brett Butler knows my name!”
Such interaction is par for the Brett Butler course, actually, as prior to the season he requests short bios of the Aces front office so that he can competently make small talk with them when the need arises. That’s just the kind of guy Brett Butler is!
There are plenty of food and drink options at Aces Ballpark — especially if you DON’T want to watch the game. There’s an entire attached entertainment district that is collectively referred to as “The Freight House.”
Bago can be found up here as well, beneath the upper torso of a glowering neon baseball player.
It is rumored, but not confirmed, that this player was modeled after veteran infielder Cody Ransom.
Meanwhile, game time was almost upon us. In the following Vine, the PA announcer’s exhortation to “Play Ball” occurs about half a second after a jagged bolt of lighting cuts across the sky. Baseball and lightning are, generally speaking, incompatible.
— Benjamin Hill (@bensbiz) August 9, 2013
But the game had begun and there was nothing to do but keep on keeping on, despite the less-than-ideal conditions. The evening’s originally scheduled “designated eater” (you know, the individual who consumes the ballpark delicacies that my gluten-free diet prohibits) was a local DJ/Aces superfan/Reno man-about-town named Chris Payne.
Payne was recently voted Reno’s “best public figure to fantasize about,” so have at it:
Unfortunately, Payne’s own recent set of dietary restrictions — he had given up red meat– rendered him unable to adequately perform designated eating duties. All I could do was admire his tattoos and footwear and move on.
“I take what I do as a fan to the next level,” said Chris. “I’m always thinking eight steps ahead of everyone else.”
Desperate times call for desperate measures, so Into the designated eating void stepped Brett McGinness himself. And first up for Brett was the $15 Triple Play sandwich, which consists of 18-hour smoked brisket and pork shoulder, BBQ-glazed meatballs, cole slaw, three pieces of Texas toast, pickles, and peperoncinis. After you order it, you are given the following sign so that an Aces food service worker can come out and hand deliver it.
(In the below photo, senior sous chef Brad Radack is holding the sign. We’ll meet Brad in just a bit.)
What a beauty this thing is!
Have at it, Brett!
As Brett methodically consumed the above item with grace and aplomb, the situation on the field went from bad to worse.
Say what you will about radar, it is incapable of untruths. And, sure enough, about 10 minutes after the first pitch, the skies opened up. It was a veritable deluge, and Brett abandoned the Triple Play sandwich in favor of tarp duty.
The concourse, in which elbow room had once been so plentiful, quickly became a mob scene.
Two brave — or would that be insane? — souls stuck it out in the stands.
The Aces’ tarp work was exemplary, and after the situation was under control Brett returned. (His sandwich, however, did not. I have no idea where that thing went.)
The Aces had prepared a rather ambitious schedule for me, involving many aspects of the game day experience, but the rains rendered this schedule moot. (At the time the rain hit I was preparing to take part in a trike race, because, as Brett said, “We figured we’d put you on a metal object in a thunderstorm.”)
Okay, fine. Plan B: watched Brett eat more food. What a life. This time we headed up to Duffy’s, a member in good standing of the Freight House conglomerate:
Brett, still soaking wet, soon had before him Duffy’s version of a reuben: corned beef, french fries and dressing on rye, cooked in a woodstone pizza oven.
Chef Radack reported that this is a new item, and it has been popular as a late night selection (Duffy’s opens 90 minutes before the game and then stays open until midnight or so). Brett, he enjoyed it.
It’s not on the menu, unfortunately, but Chef Radack and his crew were kind enough to prepare me some gluten-free pizza. On the left is pepperoni, on the right is the veggie-centric “Farmer’s Market” (onions, zucchini, peppers, pomodoro sauce).
Radack and crew, awaiting my reaction:
Thumbs-up, guys! (Seriously, please don’t kill me.)
It really was good — I’m not sure what type of flour was used, but it resulted in a crisp thin crust and that’s all I ever ask for. (Well, that and fresh ingredients. And impeccable presentation. And affordability. And a complete and total obsequiousness to my every passing whim.)
Meanwhile, outdoors, the rains had subsided. That was the good news. The bad news was that so much rain had fallen in so little time that the field remained sodden and certainly would remain sodden for some time.
Well, okay, then. In order to pass the time I resumed my new favorite activity: watching Brett McGinness eat. Here’s a Caesar wrap on a spinach tortilla, Brett. Do with it what you will.
“I’m like the Homer Simpson of food critics,” said Brett, commenting on his perhaps-less-than-discerning taste. “This is awesome, too. I love it!”
Well, then, you may as well keep right on eating. Here’s a Frito Pie Dog, in which a 10-inch hot dog is topped with chili, cheese, and Fritos.
Previous Homer Simpson-esque proclamations notwithstanding, Brett was starting to get a little burned out.
“This, it tasted like a Frito Pie Dog,” he said. “Whatever you imagine it tastes like, that’s what it tastes like.”
This would prove to be Brett’s first and final tautological culinary observation of the evening, as word soon came over the PA that there would no more Pacific Coast League baseball on this rain-besmirched Reno evening.
— Benjamin Hill (@bensbiz) August 9, 2013
My sentiments exactly, videoboard. My sentiments exactly.
2013 marks the Aces’ fifth season, and this was just their third-ever rainout. What a disappointment for such an anomaly to occur on the lone night that I was in Reno, as there is so much of the Aces experience left to be seen!
Perhaps, through a combination of technological chicanery and good old fashioned elbow grease, I’ll be able to find a way to show you some of these things. Who really does know?
Part One of this rambling Stockton blog saga began hours before game time amid Highway 4 farmland, and then proceeded all the way until said game began at Banner Island Ballpark.
Let’s zoom in for a closer look.
In the above photo, beyond the small squadron of retired jerseys, stands Ports president Pat Filippone. Filippone has reached the MiLB mountaintop by having a concession stand item named after him (the Filippone Salad, as you may recall from the last post), and I am holding out hope that, one day, a team may see fit to offer a gluten-free “Ben’s Biz Burger.”
I momentarily forced such egocentric concerns out of my mind, in favor of the task at hand: wandering. After about 25 seconds of such, I found myself in the company of this triumvirate of gentlemen.
These guys were on the concourse extolling the virtues of Tapgift, a Redwood City-based start-up whose product allows its users to send and receive gifts in real time. The Ports are the first Minor League team to have partnered with Tapgift, meaning that users can buy concession items for people at the game even if they themselves are not there.
In the above photo, on the far right, stands Mack Cage. In addition to having the toughest-sounding name of anyone I have ever met, Cage co-founded the company. He told me that the idea for Tapgift came about when he and his friends were at a Raiders game, wondering how they could make an absent friend “pay for the beer we’re drinking.”
“That was the genesis of it,” he continued. “I didn’t think we’d actually do it.”
But do it they did, and shortly after talking to Cage I received a Tapgift presenting me with peanuts and a soda. Pretty cool concept, I must say. There have been over 3,000 Tapgift downloads at Banner Island Ballpark this season, and San Jose State football is next on the docket.
Next up on the docket was to meet with “designated eater” Lee McEachern, who had been recruited to consume some of the ballpark delicacies that my gluten-free diet prohibits. Lee, a long-time reader, hod volunteered for designated eating duties because it was “a chance to meet the famous blogger Benjamin Hill…and fried asparagus.”
We’ll get to that fried asparagus eventually. But first, here’s Lee, shortly after meeting famous blogger Benjamin Hill.
And, yes, Lee is a Giants fan and his Cal League affinities lie with San Jose. The Ports are an A’s affiliate as well as inter-division rivals with San Jose, and as such Lee’s food should have been poisoned.
Joining Lee was his neighbor Jamie, a music major at Chico State who says that, due in part to Lee’s influence, she is now “a baseball freak.”
This is Arnold’s picture on his MiLB.com player page. I think he’s now my favorite player too.
The three of us got acquainted in this shaded Banner Island Ballpark locale.
And soon enough, food appeared. Clockwise from the top, we have a turkey burger on a wheat bun, nacho cheese pretzel burger, fruit cup, and a Caesar wedge salad.
Those latter two options were gluten-free, and the Caesar wedge was of particular interest to me. You squeeze lemon on the wedge, dip it in the dressing and then sprinkle on Parmesan cheese — a nice mix of flavors, and yet another example of something I never would have paid attention to in my pre-gluten-free days but that is, in actuality, really quite enjoyable!
But, anyway, gluten:
“The nacho pretzel burger is surprisingly good, the burger’s juicy and the bun is soft,” said Lee.
“It is surprisingly good,” said Jamie. “I didn’t think that the nacho cheese would work well with it, but it does.”
The turkey burger generated a less enthusiastic response.
“The turkey seems too salty,” said Lee. “I’m not trying to sound rude here, but it’s like it they know it’s bland and they’re trying to liven it up with too much seasoning.”
“I agree,” said Jamie. “It tasted kind of funny.”
“I have a wrap posed for you,” added Lee.
And what do you know? He did:
“[The wrap] is really good, but it could use a little more even distribution,” said Lee. “As it is, it’s like ‘here’s the meat, and here’s the vegetables.”
But there wasn’t time for further pontificating, because — what? — more food had arrived and this time it was of a deep-fried variety.
What we’ve got here is not a failure to communicate but, rather, three more specialty items. From left to right: deep fried cheesecake (typically only available after the seventh inning), deep-fried asparagus, and a deep-fried peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
The asparagus, served with hot sauce, ranch dressing, and Parmesan, is a Ports specialty that I longed to try and maybe I did just a little bit please don’t tell the gluten-free police.
Jamie was decidedly in the pro-asparagus camp, but Lee, ever the critic, was conflicted.
“I love asparagus, but I’m not sure it lived up to the hype. I came in with my expectations too high,” he said. “But it’s something that you have to get if you’re here, just to say that you’ve had it.”
The deep-fried peanut butter and jelly drew a bit of a confused response, with Jamie saying it was “interesting” and “something to have once” but that “the texture of the peanut butter and jelly has changed from being fried.”
The cheesecake was received rapturously, however, with Lee stating that it was “a winner — warm, melty, gooey, and perfectly fried.”
And the hits just kept on a comin’! For post-dessert, Lee and Jamie were served deep-fried pickles (or “frickles”) and buffalo popcorn chicken. Man, this looked good.
Just keep eating, guys. It is your job.
“Frickles is just a weird word!” said Jamie.
“God, this is filling,” said Lee. “But they do know how to fry here. It’s crispy and not too greasy.”
At this juncture a hearty thanks should be given to Nick Jackson of Ovations food services, who coordinated this never-ending stream of fine concession items. I’d also like to commend Lee, who perfectly followed my instruction to “bite into a frickle so that the frickle looks like Pac-Man and then hold this Pac-frickle in front of you while closing your eyes.”
And then, finally, there was this. A brat. It seemed to show up out of nowhere.
The brat afforded Lee with one final opportunity make photographic history.
“Don’t order a brat after a pretzel burger, turkey burger, buffalo popcorn, cheesecake….” said Lee, before fading into a a brief bout of incoherence. “This is great, though. Maybe even better than the pretzel burger.”
“What?!” replied Jamie, giving me an excuse to use my favorite non-standard punctuation mark.
I let them argue that one out among themselves, as I had places to go and people to see. This concession cavalcade had taken some time to digest, and the game was now half over.
My next order of business was to compete in an outfield “MVP Catch,” which entailed standing in right field and attempting to catch balls launched via slingshot with a net. I felt an added pressure while doing this, because I had just been informed of the various celebrities who were watching me.
— Paul (@ThatsAnError) August 8, 2013
And, yes, I failed in front of Mr. Steckler and Ms. Jensen (adult entertainer, model, actress, friend, believer). I should have recruited Mr. Steckler to document said failure, because this is all I’ve got.
Lumpia is the Filipino version of a spring roll, and I could not immediately ascertain whether or not it is gluten-free. I did give it a try, however, because it looked delicious and subsequently tasted delicious.
Also, I may or may not have fallen in love.
With the evening winding down, I made a final lap around the ballpark. On the concourse I came across this photo of Stockton native-turned-Ports pitcher-turned-perfect game hurler Dallas Braden.
In case you forgot — Braden has Stockton’s area code tattooed on his abdomen.
In the ninth inning I joined indefatigable ballpark travelers Rex and Coco (who appeared in Part One of this post), and watched the end of the ballgame from their visiting dugout vantage point.
Ballgame complete, Rex took a photo and Coco tallied up her scorecard. That’s how they roll.
And, whoa, I would have forgotten, but Rex reminded me to do a #cupdate.
All you #cupdate fans out there should be grateful to Rex for his collectible cup vigilance.
And that’s all I’ve got, folks. Time to pull up the anchor and move on. I hope that I have been able to convey that Banner Island Ballpark is a very nice place to see a ballgame. That’s all you need to know, really.