Archive for the ‘ Dailies ’ Category

On the Road: The Diamond on a Rough Night in Richmond

To see all of posts from my June 25, 2015 visit to the Richmond Flying Squirrels (this is Part Two) click HERE. To see all of the posts from my May 2015 trip through the Virginias, click HERE. To see ALL of my “On the Road” posts (going back to 2010), click HERE.

June 25th’s Richmond Flying Squirrels game, at which I was in attendance, did not begin on time. Just prior to the scheduled 6:35 p.m. start, the tarp was put on the field. It wasn’t raining at the time that the tarp was administered, but the forecast was grim and preparation is key.

026 With the tarp on the field, I had (even) more time to wander the concourse. Or concourses, in the case of the multi-level The Diamond.

(Note: The name of the the ballpark is The Diamond. It is awkward to write about a facility with “The” in the name, but I will persevere.)

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Scenes like this give me flashbacks to my Philadelphia-area youth, when I attended many a game at Veterans Stadium. This is my original conception of what a concourse was, and could only be: a dim concrete bunker.

032 And, actually, no, it was my first time visiting this particular men’s room. You must have confused me with someone else.

035The view from the top.

040While traversing these elevated environs, I made the acquaintance of usher Tom Taylor.

039Taylor, as befits an usher and as the above photo illustrates, is a gregarious fellow. He brings bags of leftover promo souvenirs to every game — koozies and t-shirts and whatnot — so that he can distribute them to the fans in the section. He dances during the seventh-inning stretch and, yes, even uses his megaphone during a rain delay.

After parting ways with Taylor, it was time for a rendezvous with my designated eater, Stuart Jordan, who was joined by his son, Turner. We’ll get to know them in the next post.

045By the time I parted ways with the Jordans, the tarp was off the field and the game had begun. Having had enough of the concourse, I returned to field level and ran smack dab into this guy.

IMG_1444That’s the Wacky Hot Dog Vendor, riding Flingo the Flamingo. This, of course, is a blatant rip-off of homage to Reading’s Crazy Hot Dog Vendor (who rides an ostrich).

As mentioned in the previous post, this evening’s promo was “The Many Faces of Robin Williams” and the team was wearing Jumanji theme jerseys. Here’s mine, safe and sound in the hotel room later that night:

IMG_1475Unfortunately, I missed (or failed at documenting) most of the between-inning promos dedicated to the Robin Williams/Jumanji theme. According to a game script that I obtained, this included a “Three Magic Wishes” contest (Aladdin), Flubber dunk, Jumanji dice roll, and a Lost Boys vs. Hook race.

Here’s on-field emcee Murph, getting ready to announce the Lost Boys vs. Hook race (the Lost Boys were the young contestants, Hook was played by the team’s pirate mascot Captain Ahrr-VA).

IMG_1458While I didn’t get any decent photos of the race itself, I did get some photos of other people watching the race. This, right here, is classic Minor League Baseball: a gaggle of spectators (family members of the race participants) standing right next to the visiting bullpen. It’s like these two classes of ballpark denizens are in two separate worlds, despite the overwhelmingly close proximity.

IMG_1457To the right of the spectators is the bullpen itself.

IMG_1460I would be remiss in my duties if I did not mention a recurring aspect of the Flying Squirrels’ gameday entertainment, which is the mid-5th inning appearance of Parker the Rally Pig.

It’s pretty simple, really. Parker is wheeled out onto the field in a custom-made chariot, by a lucky intern wearing a pig nose. Running behind him are two or three fans, also wearing pig noses. The appearance of Parker on the field is, as his name would imply, meant to spark a Flying Squirrels rally.

This is surely the only sponsored Rally Pig chariot in Minor League Baseball. Whoever negotiated this deal with Call Federal should get a raise.

IMG_1451It had been a long day, and I was off my documentation game. Instead of positioning myself on the third base side of the stadium, at the end of Parker’s route, I instead ran behind his entourage. Blurriness ensued (plus, I nearly got beaned by a wayward pitch while running behind the mound).

IMG_1454Anyhow, it was all fairly uneventful. Not at all like this:

It was now the sixth inning. Their had already been a rain delay to start the ballgame, and now the weather forecast was calling for this:

IMG_1450It was clear that the rains were gonna come monsooner or later, so I sought safety in the press box.

IMG_1462Within minutes, this was the scene.

IMG_1463Looking for something to do, I paid a visit to Flying Squirrels lead broadcaster Jon Laaser. Laaser is in his waning days with the Squirrels, as he recently accepted a job with Virginia Tech as the “Voice of the Hokies.”

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Laaser actually played a key role in my first-ever “On the Road” excursion, when I visited the Altoona Curve in 2007 for “Awful Night.” From my article:

Vic Buttler’s RBI single with two outs in the ninth inning lifts the Curve to a 3-2 victory, a decidedly non-awful conclusion to the evening’s contest. However, the Curve have some post-game entertainment planned — A “Laaser Show,” to be exact. The vast majority of the 4,007 fans in attendance remain in their seats, eager to witness a Minor League first. Most of them will soon regret this decision.

The lights go dim, and the dramatic strains of “The Final Countdown” fill the stadium. With the tension mounting, front-office employee Jon Laaser appears on the field. Glow sticks are attached to his body. Laaser then entrances the crowd with his slinky, seductive dance moves, until the music is mercifully cut off, and the lights go back on. Awful Night V has finally concluded.

It’s safe to say that Laaser’s “Light Show” days are behind him, but I couldn’t resist the opportunity to reference it one last time. (I am having trouble locating the video — which does exist — but that’s probably best for all involved.)

Meanwhile, the rain kept on coming.

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Laaser’s first headline draft was “Squirrels Lose as World Ends,” 3-0.

IMG_1465Seeking a more visceral experience, I headed back down to the main concourse. The below Vine was no mere hyperbole — this really was the hardest I’d ever seen it rain at a ballpark in my life. One long-time Ben’s Biz reader, on Twitter, was moved to call this storm a “Frog Strangler.”

While waiting out the deluge, I recorded by Groundbreaking and Subversive Ballpark Joke of the Day (patent pending).

After the game was called, I spent an hour or so at “Parney’s Pub,” a makeshift front office gathering space created by (and presided over) by team VP Todd “Parney” Parnell. Cheap domestics are the order of the day — but the more discerning consumers made sure that the team’s own “Chin Music” beer was available as well. (As for me, my gluten-free needs were accommodated by a local cider; it was sharp and crisp and not too sweet but, alas, the name escapes me).

IMG_1473It was a fun, inclusive scene at “Parney’s Pub.” When I left, Parney could be found outside of the clubhouse playing just-promoted reliever Josh Osich in one last game of Golden Tee. But I had (approximately 15) miles to go before I slept, and headed out to the rental car.

Good night, The Diamond. And fare thee well.

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On the Road: Passing Through the Squirrely Gates in Richmond

To see all of posts from my June 25, 2015 visit to the Richmond Flying Squirrels (this is Part One) click HERE. To see all of the posts from my May 2015 trip through the Virginias, click HERE. To see ALL of my “On the Road” posts (going back to 2010), click HERE.

I don’t really want to get into it, “it” being the seemingly eternal stadium debate that surrounds Richmond’s The Diamond. The facility, a massive concrete slab conveniently located just off Interstate 95, opened in 1985 and hosted the Triple-A Richmond Braves from that season through 2008.

The Braves departure was largely due to their dissatisfaction with The Diamond’s increasingly dilapidated condition. The Flying Squirrels came to town two years later (having relocated from Norwich, Connecticut),  wanting to take advantage of the robust Richmond market but also making it clear that the construction of a new ballpark was a prerequisite of the relocation.

But here we are, in the year of our Lord 2015, and The Diamond is still going strong. Or, at the very least, it’s still going. This is one resilient slab of concrete. (As for the new stadium, it’ll happen eventually. The ups and downs and twists and turns of that saga could fill a book and one day might. The Flying Squirrels’ habit of leading the league in attendance has, paradoxically, hurt the cause. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” say proponents of the status quo.)

When I visited The Diamond, it was not with the intent of adding to (or detracting from) the ballpark debate. I simply wanted to see it for myself. And as regards that unambitious goal: Mission Accomplished!

002As you can see, The Diamond resembles a gigantic spaceship. But most spaceships don’t have oversized inflatable Flying Squirrels — that’s Nutzy to you — displayed in close proximity to them. Furthermore, spaceships are almost always devoid of whimsical entrance signage such as the “Squirrely Gates” seen in the above photo.

Whimsical signage abounds, in fact.

001Perhaps Brickman Complete Tree Care has something to do with the stadium’s well-manicured exterior.

008The impeccable landscaping efforts continue down this walkway…

003 …where one finds a succinct visual rundown of the costumed characters that can be found within.

004The above stable of characters — three of whom I would go on to meet later in the evening — are overseen by this character:

009That’s Todd “Parney” Parnell, Flying Squirrels vice-president and well-known industry raconteur. He’s one of those Bill Veeck kind of characters — always upbeat and boisterous, apt to be the first one at the ballpark even if he was the last one at the bar the night before. The “office” seen above is really a re-purposed storage room (or something of that nature), located directly across from the home clubhouse. If you know Parney, then you will not be surprised whatsoever that a makeshift bar is part of the set-up.

Thanks to Parney’s largess, the home clubhouse has a Golden Tee arcade game sitting just outside its doors.
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This subterranean locale also doubles as a parking lot, for the players as well as for various team-owned vehicles. That’s one sweet Kubota, is it not?

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Oh, and a pig lives down here. Parker the Rally Pig, specifically.

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Parker has an outdoor home as well. We’ll see more of him elsewhere within this blogging saga.

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Remember, like, five photos ago? When I posted an image of Parney? In that photo he is wearing that night’s “Jumanji” theme jersey, the centerpiece of a “Many Faces of Robin Williams” promotion.

You know who else was wearing one? Me, as in Ben’s Biz, as in that niche blogger extraordinaire.

jumanjiAs the time that photo was taken, the gates had not yet opened. The Diamond, like a nihilistic interpretation of existence, was a vast sea of emptiness. (The sponsored banners laid across the uppermost sections have reduced seating capacity, which still stands at a spacious 9500.)

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Out on the concourse, it should be noted that carnival games are named in honor of the team’s top brass (Chucky, in this case, is chief executive manager Chuck Domino). More teams should follow the Flying Squirrels lead in this regard, because kids love Minor League executives and always pester their parents for money whenever they see any kind of entertainment option that features Minor League executives.

015The team store used to be a restaurant. Noted.

016The main concourse of The Diamond is located on the stadium’s second level (field level consists of storage areas, the clubhouses, batting cages, Parker’s pigpen, Parney’s pigpen, front offices, etc.) There is also a third-level upper concourse, accessible via staircases such as the above.

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The press box is accessible via the upper level concourse. Most of its denizens had already enjoyed a pregame meal courtesy of Bojangles fried chicken and biscuits.

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Jay Burnham, Flying Squirrels media relations director and soon-to-be lead broadcaster (current lead Jon Laaser recently accepted a job as voice of the Hokies) was feverishly preparing for what would surely be another stellar broadcast.

020Not wishing to disturb a broadcasting professional, I tiptoed back down to field level.

021This time around, the field was less deserted. First of all, I made the acquaintance of on-field emcee Mike Murphy, better known simply as “Murph”. Murph, decked out in his finest Jumanji regalia, had a microphone in his pocket and seemed happy to see me.

023And, hey, look, it’s Nutzy, just back from the gym. No theme night attire needed for this guy.

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For Nutzy, it was time to fly off to parts unknown. For me, it was time to descend into the dugout and conduct an interview with Flying Squirrels reliever Phil McCormick.

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I usually don’t interview players for normal reasons, and this was no exception.

Earlier, when I was in the press box, Burnham had tipped me off to the existence of a recently created Flying Squirrels music video entitled “Biagini in a Bottle.” The song, a parody of Christina Aguilera’s “Genie in a Bottle,” is a tribute to pitcher Joe Biagini sung by McCormick as writhes around in a purple onesie.

After speaking with McCormick I interviewed Biagini, the man himself. I then emerged onto the field just in time to throw out a ceremonial first pitch. I had been on a ceremonial first pitch hot streak this season, firing perfect strike after perfect strike, but all good things must come to an end.

My first pitch was so bad, in fact, that the weather turned awful as soon as I threw it. God sees all, and He was displeased.

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And so, to start the evening, a rain delay it would be. Would this be the end of my Richmond Flying Squirrels experience? Or will I somehow milk two more posts out of it? Only time will tell.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

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About Last Night: West Virginia Black Bears, June 30, 2015

This season, when I’m on the road, I’ll be writing a short, on-the-spot blog post about each Minor League ballpark that I visit. Then, upon my return home, I’ll provide the multifaceted blog coverage that you have come to know and, perhaps, even love. Let’s get to it, lest it get to us! 

June 30, 2015: Monongalia County Ballpark, home of the West Virginia Black Bears (Class A Short-Season Affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates) 

Opponent: Hudson Valley Renegades, 8:25 p.m. start time (game delayed 80 minutes due to rain)

Monongalia County Ballpark, from the outside: 

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Monongalia County Ballpark, from within:

023Culinary Creation: Loaded Pepperoni Roll

041At Random: If you really wanted to, you could watch the ballgame from here.

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Ballpark Characters: Pepperoni Roll racers Hot Pepper Hank, Double-Stuffed Dave and Pepperoni and Cheese Patty

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Your Groundbreaking and Subversive Ballpark Joke of the Day: My apologies

And that’ll do it for this trip. Next up is a one-off visit to the Vermont Lake Monsters on July 11th. And then, this:

July 28: New Orleans Zephyrs

July 29, 30: Biloxi Shuckers

July 31: Mobile BayBears

August 1: Montgomery Biscuits

August 2: Mississippi Braves 

August 3: Jackson Generals

August 4: Off (drive to Nashville, recuperate physically, emotionally and spirtually)

August 5: Nashville Sounds

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About Last Night: Potomac Nationals, June 29, 2015

This season, when I’m on the road, I’ll be writing a short, on-the-spot blog post about each Minor League ballpark that I visit. Then, upon my return home, I’ll provide the multifaceted blog coverage that you have come to know and, perhaps, even love. Let’s get to it, lest it get to us! 

June 28, 2015: G. Richard Pfitzner Stadium, home of the Potomac Nationals 

Opponent: Carolina Mudcats, 7:05 p.m. game time.

G. Richard Pfitzner Stadium, from the outside: 

003G. Richard Pfitzner Stadium, from within: 

027Culinary Creation: The American Burger — pub burger, two slices of American cheese (one white, one yellow), hot dog on the top, fries as the base:

049At Random: A few of the competitors in the “Intern Olympics”

020Ballpark Character: A few of the “Ken’s Place” regulars, hanging out down the third first base line

062Your Groundbreaking and Subversive Ballpark Joke of the Day: 

Next Up: 

6/30: West Virginia Black Bears

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

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About Last Night: Salem Red Sox, June 28, 2015

This season, when I’m on the road, I’ll be writing a short, on-the-spot blog post about each Minor League ballpark that I visit. Then, upon my return home, I’ll provide the multifaceted blog coverage that you have come to know and, perhaps, even love. Let’s get to it, lest it get to us! 

June 28, 2015: LewisGale Field, home of the Salem Red Sox (Class A Advanced affiliate of the Boston Red Sox)

Opponent: Lynchburg Hillcats, 4:05 p.m. game time.

LewisGale Field, from the outside:

004LewisGale Field, from within: 

041Culinary Creation: Hawaiian Dawg (all-beef hot dog, sub roll, Chandler’s Dixie Pig BBQ, pineapple ring, teryaki sauce)

032At Random: A “Mullet Night” promo had been staged the day before. I, too, am sorry I missed it.

046Ballpark Character: Misty gets up close and personal

051Your Groundbreaking and Subversive Ballpark Joke of the Day: 

Next Up: 

6/29: Potomac Nationals

6/30: West Virginia Black Bears

—-

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

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About Last Night: Lynchburg Hillcats, June 27, 2015

This season, when I’m on the road, I’ll be writing a short, on-the-spot blog post about each Minor League ballpark that I visit. Then, upon my return home, I’ll provide the multifaceted blog coverage that you have come to know and, perhaps, even love. Let’s get to it, lest it get to us! 

June 25, 2015: Calvin Falwell Field at Lynchburg City Stadium, home of the Lynchburg Hillcats (Class A Advanced affiliate of the Cleveland Indians)

Opponent: Winston-Salem Dash, 6:30 p.m. game time.

Calvin Falwell Field, from the outside:

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Calvin Falwell Field, from within: 

014Culinary Creation: The Aloha Donut Chicken Sandwich with bacon and pineapple

026At Random: Poor bat boy had a couple of cups stuck to the top of his helmet.

012Ballpark Character: Jimmy “Salad Bar” Wright — 1983 Lynchburg bat boy turned 2015 concourse Grill Master.

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Your groundbreaking and subversive ballpark joke of the day: Did I mention that they only played one inning before the rains came?

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

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About Friday Night: Norfolk Tides, June 26, 2015

This season, when I’m on the road, I’ll be writing a short, on-the-spot blog post about each Minor League ballpark that I visit. Then, upon my return home, I’ll provide the multifaceted blog coverage that you have come to know and, perhaps, even love. Let’s get to it, lest it get to us! 

June 25, 2015: Harbor Park, home of the Norfolk Tides (Triple-A affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles)

Opponent: Toledo Mud Hens, 7:05 p.m. start time

Harbor Park, from the outside: The traffic on the way to Norfolk (heading north from Richmond) was awful. I had to use the bathroom so badly at the time this picture was taken. I don’t remember taking it.

002Harbor Park, from within: 

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Culinary Creation: The Pork Challenge (four pulled pork BBQ sliders, four 4 ounce Cajun smoked sausages, 12 pork wings, bacon and chili cheese tots). Two individuals tried to eat in an hour.

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At Random: Tides executive vice president Dave Rosenfield, now in his 60th season of professional baseball.

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Ballpark Character: Visiting entertainer Reggy the Purple Party Dude accidentally dropped a cake on this guy’s face.

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Your Groundbreaking and Subversive Ballpark Joke of the Day:

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

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About Last Night: Richmond Flying Squirrels, June 25, 2015

This season, when I’m on the road, I’ll be writing a short, on-the-spot blog post about each Minor League ballpark that I visit. Then, upon my return home, I’ll provide the multifaceted blog coverage that you have come to know and, perhaps, even love. Let’s get to it, lest it get to us! 

June 25, 2015: The Diamond, home of the Richmond Flying Squirrels (Double-A affiliate of the San Francisco Giants)

Opponent: Trenton Thunder, 6:35 p.m. scheduled game time. Start delayed by rain for one hour and 19 minutes.

The Diamond, from the outside: 

002The Diamond, from within: 

014Culinary Creation: Boss Hog (pork roll, fried egg, pepperoni and American cheese on a pretzel bun)

043At Random: It was “The Many Faces of Robin Williams Night,” complete with Jumanji jersey

Ballpark Character: On-field emcee Murph, in full Peter Pan regalia

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Your Groundbreaking and Subversive Ballpark Joke of the Day: This, clearly, was a rain-shortened game

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

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On the Road: Wrapped, Stacked, Smothered and Deep-Fried in Omaha

To see all of posts from my May 28, 2015 visit to the Omaha Storm Chasers (this is Part Three) click HERE. To see all of the posts from my May 2015 trip through the Midwest, click HERE. To see ALL of my “On the Road” posts (going back to 2010), click HERE.

Shortly after May 28th’s Omaha Storm Chasers game began, I rendezvoused with a fan by the name of Paul Biler.

But Paul was not just any fan. Paul was that evening’s designated eater (you know, the individual who consumes the ballpark cuisine that my gluten-free diet prohibits). I picked the right man for the job.

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Paul is “from Toledo by way of Utica,” but has lived in Omaha since 1997. His family made the move to Nebraska after his wife got a job as a private investigator for a health insurance company. Paul now works for Mutual of Omaha, but he also has an extensive background as a radio deejay. His most recent work in that regard was for Omaha oldies station KGOR, but for the majority of our time together his mouth would be used for the consumption of food. That, in a nutshell, is why Paul volunteered to be designated eater in the first place.

“I can eat,” he said.

Our journey began with the “Cor-dog-o”, a new addition to the Werner Park concession menu. It is named in honor of general manager Martie Cordaro, who became enamored with it after it was originally served as a Nashville-inspired “Eat Your Opponent” specialty item. I’ll defer to the press release:

OMAHA, Neb. – This season the Omaha Storm Chasers are bestowing their President and General Manager Martie Cordaro with the highest honor a Minor League Baseball team can give: naming a hot dog after him. The “Cor-Dog-O” is one of many new food items fans can try this season from Ovations Concessions at Werner Park.

A concession item that was long overdue, only the “Cor-Dog-O” can truly reflect the “interesting” personality and style of Martie Cordaro. The specialty item consists of two hot dogs, pulled pork and coleslaw wrapped in a tortilla shell, one of the only hot dogs at Werner Park that is not served in the traditional hot dog bun.

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A closer look:

062Martie sets the scene:

“Oh, that is good,” said Paul after his first bite. “I only got the dog side of it, but I can definitely taste barbecue sauce.”

He then took another bite, leading him to declare that “the pulled pork is wonderful.”

When informed by Storm Chasers executive chef John Schow that the barbecue sauce used was local favorite Cookies (a molasses-based sauce), Paul was enthused.

“If you’re having  a party, put a pound of Vienna sausages in the slow cooker and then throw some Cookies on it,” he said. “Cook it for four hours, and then it’s perfect.”

Next up was an item that can be procured at “Poldberg’s Philly Grill,” named after Storm Chasers manager Brian Poldberg.

063That item is the “Ruben Philly” — chopped corned beef, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, rye and 1000 island dressing on a hoagie bun. It’s served with a Schwartz-brand pickle and chips (made in-house).

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Oh, man. Let’s take a closer look.

066Take it away, Paul.

“The corned beef is nice and lean, and there’s a good zing from the dressing,” said Paul. “Definitely, a heart attack in a bun.”

We then moved on to the Champ Burger, created by Schow in 2013 after the Storm Chasers won the PCL Championship. It consists of three 1/3 pound patties, bacon, ham and onion rings.

068Paul was ready for it.

070“The beef is good, cooked all the way through,” he said. “And the onion rings are really good, too. But I’ve never been too much of a burger eater.”

Schow was enamored with Paul’s eating efforts, and eventually told me “I want a photo with that guy.” So, here you go:

073Schow, like a lot of food and beverage guys I’ve met in this industry, absolutely loves working at the ballpark. It’s a casual environment that allows plenty of room for fun and experimentation.

“It’s a sweet gig,” he told me. “I mean, killer.”

And, clearly, he’s doing killer things with it. Hopefully not in the literal sense, but items like this will certainly accelerate one’s path to the boneyard:
069This is the Midwest delicacy known as the “Frenchee” — American cheese on white bread, deep-fried.

IMG_1334“Is the bread Rotellas?” asked Paul, referring to a beloved Omaha bakery.

“Of course it’s Rotellas,” replied Schow.

These two were definitely on the same wavelength.

“Say a prayer for me,” added Paul, overwhelmed by the amount of food he was now dealing with.

“Sir, I have a couple times already,” replied Schow.

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If you want a Frenchee outside of the ballpark, Paul mentioned that local restaurant Don and Millie’s is known for them.

“It’s hot, definitely something you want to break open and let cool for a while,” said Paul. “It could use more cheese. Mostly I’m tasting bread.”

But that was a rare criticism of what was clearly a fantastic culinary experience.

“The food here is great,” said Paul. “I’ve been to a lot of ballparks where the food is pedestrian, but here there’s a lot of stuff that’s unique to the Omaha area.”

I’m writing this post some three weeks after visiting Omaha, but for all I know Paul is still at the ballpark making his way through what was a most prodigious dinner. He sure had his work cut out for him.

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Oh, and for the record: I would like to commend the Storm Chasers for offering gluten-free hot dogs at the ballpark. I enjoyed one later in the ballgame.

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On the Road: Walking Off a Memorable Day in Omaha

To see all of posts from my May 28, 2015 visit to the Omaha Storm Chasers (this is Part Two) click HERE. To see all of the posts from my May 2015 trip through the Midwest, click HERE. To see ALL of my “On the Road” posts (going back to 2010), click HERE.

Okay, so where was I?

Oh, that’s right. I was at a Minor League Baseball game. A Pacific Coast League Baseball game, to be exact, though I was nowhere near the Pacific Coast. Welcome back to Werner Park, home of the Omaha Storm Chasers.

054I spent the first several innings of the ballgame with one Paul Biler, the evening’s designated eater. We’ll get to him in the next post.

057 After parting ways with Paul, I played a few holes of miniature golf on the concourse. The course, new this year, costs $3 to play.

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Doofus alert

080After sinking a birdie (or was it a bogey?), I snapped a photo of a couple making out on the berm. I wasn’t intending to.

081I was accompanied by general manager Martie Cordaro throughout these wanderings. He pointed out that the scoreboard shoots flames after each home run as well as after each Storm Chasers victory. See those propane tanks hooked up in the back there?

085I made it a goal for the evening — to take a photo of the flaming scoreboard. I’d already missed an opportunity in the third inning, when I was otherwise engaged with Mr. Biler, when Francisco Pena hit a solo shot.

Beyond the scoreboard is an impressive array of flags.

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The blue flag on the far left celebrates the American League champion status of the Kansas City Royals, but it should not be overlooked that the Storm Chasers have won back-to-back Pacific Coast League championships. Here’s Martie modeling his 2014 PCL championship ring on one finger, and a giveaway replica ring on the other. Can you tell which is which?

119One of the many benefits of inhabiting a large acreage stadium is that Wiffle Ball fields can be installed on the premises.

090I was gonna be all snarky about the sponsorship, like “Yeah, of course, because nothing says “backyard games of Wiffle ball” like a jewelry retailer. But I’m slow on the uptake — this is a diamond company sponsoring a diamond. Genius! (Yes, genius. This is the internet, where hyperbole reigns and words have lost their meaning.)

The field is real grass; the Storm Chasers have already replaced the sod twice. The blue metal poles in the sign seen above were taken from the team’s previous home of Rosenblatt Stadium.

087Continuing the lap around the concourse, one finds the “Downdraught Bar.” The regulars do their part to “Stir up the Storm.”

Picnic area, coming soon!

092Here in the left field corner, we find the loneliest seat in the ballpark. A row of one. (Cue up Nilsson, not Three Dog Night.)

095The Mike Jirschele Dugout Suite, named after longtime Omaha manager-turned-Kansas City-third base coach, is located down the third base line.

099I kept running into this bottle cap dude. This was the last game of the homestand; shouldn’t he only appear during the opener?

097We then made a press box pit stop, where Martie did an inning on the radio. Sure, fine, leave the big-time visiting celebrity on the outside looking in.

103I passed the time perusing the old yearbooks hanging on the walls.

105The view from the Cambria first base party deck.

107These women were having a great time up there.

106

With the ballgame winding down, I paid a visit to section 118. Jerry Strawn, a well-known figure at the ballpark and in the Omaha community, passed away suddenly during the offseason and his fellow fans paid tribute with a seat bearing his catch-all catch phrase. Read all about it on MiLB.com.

Jerry Strawn, in his signature Cubs/Storm Chasers jersey.

IMG_9840 (2)

In honor of Jerry Strawn. Hey Buddy!

113

The Storm Chasers scored two runs in the bottom of the ninth to knot the game at 5-5. Time for extra innings on this, the last day of what had been an exhausting road trip. At this point no fewer than four Storm Chasers had hit home runs, and I had yet to capture an image of the flaming scoreboard.

115

Not flaming

The Storm Chasers won it in the bottom of the 10th. Orlando Calixte doubled to lead off the inning, advanced to third on a sac bunt and scored on a Lane Adams single. This marked the second PCL walkoff victory I’d seen that day, the Iowa Cubs in the afternoon and the Storm Chasers at night. Let’s review:

And, hey! Flaming scoreboard. My night was a success.

IMG_1336My jokes are usually not a success. But I ‘m gonna keep making them.

And that’ll be all from Omaha. I had a great time, and I’m not lion.

118

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

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