Archive for the ‘ Dailies ’ Category

Out of Many, One

MLB.com is currently running a content called “Face of MLB” (or, more accurately, #FaceOfMLB), a Twitter-driven popularity contest to determine, yes, the “Face of Major League Baseball.” This bracket-style tournament is now in the finals, with David Wright pitted against dark horse contender Eric Sogard, but Major League Baseball is clearly not the concern of this little slice of the internet. Our concern is this:

Who, or what, is the face of Minor League Baseball? On Monday, with a lot of help from my Twitter followers, the answer to this question was finally obtained. THIS is the “Face of MiLB”:

For those who may be unawares, this face is comprised of the eyes of the Lake Elsinore Storm, the nose of the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, the mustache of the Lexington Legends, and the mouth of the Mahoning Valley Scrappers. Four teams, in four states, in four leagues, at four levels of play combining their otherwise disembodied facial features into a coherent and not-at-all frightening whole. This is what Minor League Baseball is all about!

My thanks to Ben Gellman-Chomsky for his photoshop skills, and John B. for getting the ball rolling with this tweet.

And if you’re wondering what this face would like in physical form, well, wonder no longer. Simply observe the efforts on one David Dermer.

After all this, I only have one more thing to add: an even better “Face of MiLB” would also include a hat bearing the Minor League Baseball logo as well as a gold pendant inscribed with the words “Ben’s Biz.” Feel free to make that happen. (I don’t actually do anything, I just make passive-aggressive suggestions.)

The above bit of inspired stupidity was inspired, however indirectly, by this bit of inspired stupidity: this season, the Lehigh Valley IronPigs will wear several new alternate uniforms. And one of those uniforms revolves around brine-soaked pig meat:

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From the team:

The “Smell The Change” initiative is brought to life in the IronPigs brand-new bacon-themed Saturday ensemble, which includes a bacon strip logo transfixed to the cap, a fresh “Pigs” jersey design emblazoned across the chest as well as the first-of-its-kind bacon-style piping down both legs of the pants….The bold new bacon strip logo sits atop a two-tone cap featuring the familiar colors of IronPigs Steel and Furnace Blue. The bacon-enriched pants, the first baseball pants to feature a logo design within the piping, are also IronPigs Steel. In addition to the cap and uniform offerings, innovative “scratch-and-sniff” t-shirts that smell like bacon (they’ll literally make your mouth water) are also now available.

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“Smell lasts for up to 10-15 washes.”

In my early days of doing this blog, I would have tried very hard to be “first” with news such as the above. But now that I am old and wizened, I don’t worry about it, for the increased traffic that results is as ephemeral as the morning dew. My strategy now is to simply sit back and watch the amateur hour internet hyperbole pour in from across the land. Hey guys, did you know that the IronPigs are your new favorite sports team, that their epic bacon logo will make your mouth water, that it has “won” the internet, and is therefore the best thing in the history of ever?

Have some dignity, internet, says man who just wrote the above blog post.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

A Dance Routine That’s Anything But

Unless you stumbled upon this blog after searching for “Brett Favre,” “Canadian Tuxedo,” or “skateboard,” then there is a very good chance that you are familiar with the world of Minor League Baseball. And if you are familiar with the world of Minor League Baseball, then there is a very good chance that you are familiar with the Zooperstars!. You know —  that roaming crew of giant inflatable performing animals with pun-based names such as Harry Canary, Clammy Sosa, and Sixtoed Slothcano (I made up that last one).

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My encounter with Harry Canary, Tucson, 2011.

The man overseeing the Zooperstars! empire is Dom Latkovski, a celebrated mascot performer whom I’ve written about in the past. Given Latkovski’s professional background, it shouldn’t be surprising that his daughters are accomplished performers as well. But what is surprising is just how accomplished they are.

Nine-year-old Gracie Latkovski has cystic fibrosis and cerebral palsy and therefore must use a wheelchair. Nonetheless, Gracie and her older sister, Quincy, were the winning performers at this month’s Jamfest Dance Super Nationals. An impressive feat under any circumstance, to be sure, but even moreso considering the challenging nature of the routine they performed together. Who says you can’t dance from a wheelchair?

More on Gracie and Quincy’s winning performance, from Kentucky TV station KPHO. 

Gracie, 9, who uses a wheelchair due to Cerebral Palsy and Cystic Fibrosis, has been dancing for years with her sister at a studio near Louisville, Ky. This weekend they took the stage together at the Jamfest Dance Super Nationals at the Northern Kentucky Convention Center.

Their duet began with Gracie in her wheelchair and Quincy also sitting in a wheelchair. Quincy then stood up and twirled around the stage with her sister in a choreographed routine to a song titled ‘Reflections’.

“Seeing both my girls on stage together inspires me and shows they have the heart of a true champion,” says mom Christin Latkovski. Those who saw the performance were just as inspired by the sisters, with Jamfest representatives saying the girls “awed the audience and warmed hearts throughout the competition.”

At the end of their routine, Gracie and Quincy were named National Champions and received special recognition on stage.

“I love dancing and want to show that I can do anything everyone else can because I believe in my dreams,” Says Gracie who began dancing at age 3.

Clearly, Gracie and Quincy’s inspiring work together is deserving of a large audience. Dom Latkovski has spent decades within the world of Minor League Baseball, so shouldn’t this video be shared throughout the world of Minor League Baseball? Teams — share it with your fans! Fans — share it with your friends!

And now, an encore performance.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Guest Post: Saying Goodbye to the Huntsville Stars

Earlier this month I wrote a post asking for suggestions regarding my 2014 road trip itineraries. Responses flowed in (well, perhaps trickled in) via both email and Twitter, but an email I received from one Gillian Richard stood out above the rest. Richard is a passionate fan of and advocate for the Huntsville Stars and their home of Joe Davis Stadium, and as I read her email it became apparent to me that hers is a perspective worth sharing. While this may have been addressed to me specifically, it can — and should! — be read as a message to all Minor League Baseball fans: Get thee to Huntsville in 2014!

Enjoy, and after reading get thee to MiLB.com and read this blog post’s companion piece, my interview with Stars general manager Buck Rogers.

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photo: Gillian Richard

Hey Ben,

I just wanted to add my thoughts about your 2014 road trip itinerary, on behalf of the Huntsville Stars. I’ve been a Stars Fan for a long time (since birth, actually. I’m from Huntsville), and I’m really sad to see the team go at the end of the year. However, since it is the last year for the team, I think they are very deserving of a spot on your itinerary.

While the team doesn’t have the best reputation within the Minors, it holds a special place in my heart. Being in the South, baseball usually comes second to college football, but it was never that way for me, and that’s largely because of the Huntsville Stars. I grew up going to games, and I worked at “The Joe” for two summers that went by way too fast. It was at Joe Davis Stadium that I fell in love with the game, and during my second season there that I realized all I ever want to do in life is wake up and work at a ballpark. I poured my heart and soul into that summer, and I was paid back tenfold because of the people who worked there and, of course, because of the game.

 Joe Davis Stadium has a lot more to offer than it’s given credit for. Being the oldest stadium in the league has its perks, one of which is the great wildlife you can find inside the park! Gary the Groundhog was the subject of many conversations, and I think it’s safe to say he’s the unofficial mascot of the Stars. (He even has his own Twitter handle.) One of my cats was a stray I found running around after a game, so I took him home and named him Joe Davis. It just seemed like the right thing to do. There are countless other things that make the stadium unique, and I’m sure you could find several long-time season ticket holders who can share even better stories than what I’ve got. I can think of several people who feel the same way I do about this place, as a matter of fact.

Photo: Ben's Biz

Photo: Ben’s Biz

So maybe the attendance numbers aren’t as good as they could be. Maybe I spent my 20th birthday spray painting a tarp to cover a hole in the batter’s eye because the stadium is outdated. But despite those things, I can’t think of a staff or a stadium more deserving of recognition. Isn’t Minor League Baseball supposed to be about the historic instead of these brand new, high-tech stadiums anyways? About spending an afternoon in the cheap seats, appreciating the simple things in life? Focusing more on the talent and the crazy promotions than on the stadium amenities? That’s what I love about the game, anyways. And that’s what I’ve gotten out of the countless nights I’ve spent at The Joe throughout my life.

If nothing else I’ve said makes you at least consider coming to Huntsville to help me say goodbye to my team, we have a sweet used record store that’s trip-worthy! I would be more than happy to show you all Huntsville has to offer, which is more than you might think.

I don’t know if you’ll be able to make time for it, but I would appreciate you considering it. Baseball is one of those things that gets in your blood and stays forever, especially for those of us who have chosen to make careers out of loving a game. The Huntsville Stars are definitely in my blood, and even though all my merchandise will become vintage come September, I’ll never forget what the team meant to me and what a difference it made in my life.

I think I wrote this letter partially to pitch the idea of you coming for a visit, but mostly it was for me to be able to express how I was feeling about the team leaving to someone who might understand. Thanks for reading, and thanks for writing this blog. You do a great job with it, and I appreciate every post.

Gillian Richard

While I have visited Huntsville in the past, Gillian’s email really got me thinking about how a “final” visit would be appropriate. While I am not ready to announce my road trip itineraries yet (i’s need to be dotted, t’s need to be crossed, blah blah blah), I have put together a trip that does include Huntsville on the schedule. I’ll be there in early June, God willing, chomping at the bit to visit that used record store.

But, more importantly, I hope that Gillian has inspired YOU to perhaps visit the Stars in their final season. You might get to meet Gary the Groundhog, and, who knows? You might get to go on the field after a rain out and watch the general manager use a bullwhip to pull a sword out of a guy’s mouth. That’s what happened when I stopped by in 2009.

 

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Start Spreading the News

On February 6th, a Broadway play by the name of “Bronx Bombers” opened at Circle in the Square Theatre. As you can probably infer, this play is about the New York Yankees.

Bronx Bombers poster by Mark Ulriksen

The play, written and directed by Eric Simonson, is an exploration and celebration of that ineffable Yankee mystique. Yogi Berra (played by “Bosom Buddy” Peter Scolari) is the play’s central character, and the likes of Reggie Jackson, Billy Martin, Lou Gehrig, Elston Howard, Joe Dimaggio, Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle and Derek Jeter also play key roles.

Battiste, Wilson, Wernke, Coffey, Dawes, Nobbs- Primary Stages

Reviews thus far have been generally positive, but Broadway tickets don’t sell themselves (not yet, anyway, as the advent of ticket sentience is likely decades away). Among myriad marketing efforts, those promoting the show have reached out to local Minor League teams and set up special nights at the theater for front office and fans. Veteran sports PR executive Joe Favorito has been helping to coordinate these efforts, and he explains that “we have set up co-promotions where season [ticket holders] get discount tickets for a special night. The night includes a chance to meet the cast and in turn we will do some special events with our cast at ballparks this summer.”

Favorito is still coordinating with some of the Minor League teams in the area, but two who have already sent their fans to the theater are the Trenton Thunder and Staten Island Yankees. Both are Yankees affiliated, but the SI Yanks were a particularly good fit considering that they are based in NYC and known colloquially as “The Baby Bombers.”

Here’s Staten Island mascot “Scooter the Holy Cow” mingling in the lobby:

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In this shot, SI Yanks director of entertainment Michael Katz directs theater attendees to the entertainment that can be found at Staten Island Yankees games.

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This seems like a cool way to engage with and reward loyal MiLB team ticket holders, while also promoting the team to a baseball-friendly audience. What’s not to love?

On a personal level, I had the opportunity to see Bronx Bombers while it was in previews. I’m not a Yankees fan, so I went into it a little skeptical that it would be nothing but a smug and one-dimensional celebration of a team that, quite frankly, has already been celebrated enough. Yankee fans are clearly the target audience, but the show took enough risks as regards structure and setting that I was intrigued throughout. And the performances are across-the-board solid; in addition to Scolari as Yogi I also enjoyed Francois Battiste as a swaggering and imminently fashionable Reggie Jackson and Bill Dawes as a reckless but endearing Mickey Mantle

I didn’t walk out of the theater thinking it was one of the best plays I’d ever seen, and, yes, it is a little schmaltzy and sentimental at times, but overall I’d recommend to anyone whose interests include any sort of overlap between theater and baseball.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

The Marking of Momentous Milestones

Every day is the anniversary of something. For example, one year from today will mark the anniversary of this post, which is, not coincidentally, about anniversary logos. You all love anniversary logos, right? I don’t — “mildly enjoy” would better describe my feelings — but a job’s a job so here we go.

2104 marks the Everett’s 20th season as a Mariners affiliate as well as their 31st season in the Northwest League. The latter of the two accomplishments is the focus of this logo, designed by the renegade maverick firebrand rebel iconoclasts that are Brandiose.

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The press release says:

The new emblem incorporates the AquaSox current color scheme along with a hint of orange in recognition of the team’s previous affiliation with the San Francisco Giants. The franchise was known as the Everett Giants for 11 seasons (1984-1994) before becoming the Everett AquaSox prior to the 1995 season.

Later, the press release was compelled to report this non-essential but rather interesting bit of information:

Nearly 30 years ago, on June 19, 1984 at Everett Memorial Stadium, the Everett Giants took the field for the first time led by manager Rocky Bridges. Before an overflow crowd of 3,527 – Bellingham defeated Everett 10-5. Since then, nearly 2.7 million fans have come to Everett.

And did you know? Pitcher Terry Mulholland made his professional debut as a member of that 1984 Everett team, marking the first of what would be 23 professional seasons. Mulholland is the only player in baseball history to have pitched for the 1984 Everett Giants and the 2006 Tucson Sidewinders, a fact that will get you everywhere in life.

And while I haven’t been everywhere, I have been to Everett. Click HERE and HERE for a good chunk of the coverage I provided while visiting the AquaSox.

18 hours and 53 minutes after receiving information regarding the AquaSox, I was hit with the following:

Lake Elsinore, CA – On April 15, 1994 the Lake Elsinore Storm opened its gates to the community and Southern California. This season on Opening Night, April 10, the organization will commence a 20th Anniversary celebration at The Diamond that promises to be special.

The 20th Anniversary Logo commemorates two decades of baseball in Lake Elsinore and will be displayed on game jerseys, team hats and the infield grass, as well as throughout the community with a 20th Anniversary poster.

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I can’t wait for the 30th anniversary logo…

Unlike the AquaSox, the Storm press release did not include any information on the first game in franchise history. While I do not have access to that information, I can tell you that among the members of the 1994 storm was one Kevin Flora. The very next season, Flora became one of five players named “Kevin” to play for the Philadelphia Phillies (Elster,  Jordan, Sefcik, and Stocker) were the others.  Jim Fregosi managed that team — RIP.

While I don’t know anyone named Kevin personally, I did visit the Lake Elsinore Storm in 2011. Read all about that HERE, and then read this piece on the origins of the team’s logo (among the top-sellers in all of Minor League Baseball).

Earlier this week I duly tweeted out both of the above logos, and soon enough I was hipped to the existence of other, quite similar, entities.

I have seen no further information regarding the Bees’ 20th anniversary plans, but let it be known that the team was called the Salt Lake Buzz from 1994-2000 and then the Stingers from 2001-05 before, perhaps inevitably, transitioning to the Bees moniker. The 1994 Buzz club included a 21-year-old LaTroy Hawkins, who returned to Salt Lake in 2012 on a rehab assignment.

I have never been to Salt Lake, but I have visited a team called the “Bees.” Click HERE to read about it.

Twitter is good at generating buzz, and the Tampa Bay Yankees soon chimed in with the following:

That 1994 Tampa Yankees squad featured Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter, but more importantly, there’s this: One year prior to playing for a Major League team that included four other players with the same first name, Kevin Elster appeared in three games as a member of the Tampa Yankees.

It’s a beautiful place, this world.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Winter Meetings Job-Seeker Journal: Ian Fontenot, the Exciting Conclusion

Throughout the 2013 Winter Meetings in Orlando, four attendees of the PBEO Job Fair kept a journal chronicling their employment-seeking experiences (meet them all HERE). The last time we heard from Ian Fontenot was on December 11, when he expressed a cautious optimism in regard to landing a “full-time marketing opportunity” with an unidentified Minor League club. Now, two months later, he has checked in one final time. Read on to find out where Ian will be working in 2014, and how it all came about. 

Ian Fontenot- HeadshotBig Risk, Big Reward

Hello, all. When I last created a journal entry two months ago, I left you with a bit of a cliff hanger as to where I’d end up after an exciting and stressful Winter Meetings experience. I took a big risk and gave up a great internship opportunity to pursue what I deemed to be a perfect fit for what I was looking for when I arrived in Orlando: a full time position.

Since declining my two internship offers from the Winter Meetings, I graduated from LSU and moved back home to Port Barre, LA to wait out the decision-making process and sell myself to more organizations. As I continued the interviews with my prospective full time job, I got more calls and emails for more internships. I got a few more offers, which added to the risk of waiting for a final answer from the job I wanted. I basically reached the point of no return as I turned down another perfect internship to continue the wait. (I won’t name any teams, but let’s just say I’d be living on the beach for the next several months.) Then, I got the call I had been waiting for.

Exactly two months from the date of my first interview with the team, I received an offer to become the newly created Marketing Manager for the Staten Island Yankees. And of course, I accepted…after a grand total of seven interviews and a trip to Richmond County Bank Ballpark, which has the absolute best view of the Manhattan skyline. In less than two weeks, I’ll be starting a chapter of my life in New York. Coming from the smallest of towns in Louisiana, I know this is going to be one hell of a transition, but I couldn’t be more excited for the challenge. More than anything, I’m relieved that the numerous risks I’ve taken since leaving Orlando have paid off, because if not, I’d be writing to you explaining the opportunity cost of taking risks with your future.

If I have any advice for future job seekers in professional baseball, it would be to always keep your head up during your search. When I signed up to attend the Job Fair, I was hoping for the best, but certainly didn’t expect to be offered the opportunities I was presented. At the Winter Meetings, anything can become possible if you’re prepared for it.

Congrats to Ian on landing the job! I’ll make sure to visit him in Staten Island this summer. 

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Don’t Have a Cow, Man

“It wasn’t something that I was planning on, it just sort of happened.”

Those words can be applied to many life situations, from the momentous to the exceedingly trivial, and those words certainly applied to how I spent last Friday afternoon. Taking place firmly within the realm of the exceedingly trivial, I found myself embroiled in a Twitter beef — a literal beef, as it were — with Visalia Rawhide mascot Tipper T. Bull. It all started innocently, with this tweet from the Rawhide:

Because I have a distinct propensity for indulging in bad jokes whenever possible, I replied with the following:

Tipper was less than impressed with this remark, and expressed his disdain thusly:

OKAY, IT’S ON!

At this point I kind of wanted to end it, as Tipper’s tweet was written so definitively. But then I thought, to myself: “You’re 35 years old, an ostensible professional and nominally an adult, and you’re going to let a Class A Advanced bovine mascot have the last word in a Twitter battle? That’s not the kind of man you were raised to be.”

And that’s where it ended. While me vs. Tipper might not have been Aces vs. RiverCats in the MiLB Twitter fight pantheon, it did provide a pleasant diversion throughout the course of an offseason afternoon. And as for Tipper, I’m just going to assume that we’re friends again. The beef has already been squashed.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

The Most Popular Blog Post of All Time

During my recent run of bouillabaisse blog posts, I took the time to parse the “Year in Blogging” report that I had recently received from WordPress. For the purposes of today’s post, I’d like to return to the following excerpt:

[T]he 2013 Year-End Blogging Report…included the following information regarding the search terms that led people to visit Ben’s Biz: “Some visitors came searching, mostly for canadian tuxedo, ben’s biz blog,bens biz blog, skateboard, and brett favre.” The lesson here is that a picture of Brett Favre in an all-denim outfit riding a skateboard would be blog traffic gold. Can someone doctor one up for me?

I am happy to report that not one, but two, someones indeed doctored one up for me. Posting them here will drive my traffic to stratospheric new levels, insuring that I remain the most influential and indispensable blogger in Minor League Baseball history. This one is courtesy of Wisconsin Timber Rattlers creative director Ann Mollica, who, among other accomplishments, played a huge role in making the world aware of the Whitewall Ninja.

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And this one is courtesy of a mysterious Twitter entity, known as @AizersWallet.

Favre_AizerswalletMy sincere thanks to Ms. Mollica and Mr. AizersWallet for their photoshopped efforts on my behalf. And I thank you, random internet Google searcher, for your fleeting visit to Ben’s Biz Blog. Before you leave, please take a moment to recognize that I am the greatest and also most underrated baseball writer of all time.

Thank you.

You know what else drives the eyeballs to this little slice of the internet landscape? Rhetorical questions.

But since I don’t have any material related to that particular topic, I’ll instead hit you with some logo news. Late last month, the polarizing but undoubtedly influential “ideas company” that is Brandiose announced the final re-branding of what had been a very busy offseason (Akron RubberDucks, El Paso Chihuahuas, Inland Empire 66ers, Vermont Lake Monsters, and more that I am probably forgetting as I sit here typing stream of consciousness-style).

Forthwith, the Vancouver Canadians will sport this updated look (note the “V” hidden within the leaf):

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 On the topic of “new logos with cool hidden elements,” here’s the Brooklyn Cyclones’ 2014 New York-Penn League All-Star Game logo:

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Even cooler are the jerseys that will be worn during the All-Star Game, which feature “the names of EVERY Player who made it from the NYPL to the Major Leagues watermarked into the pattern.”

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And, finally, how about a logo for a team that doesn’t officially exist yet? If all goes according to plan, the Huntsville Stars will move to Biloxi in time for the 2015 season. This fledgling Southern League franchise, a Brewers affiliate, does not yet have a name. But it does have a website, and the website includes this logo:

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Seeing those two B’s together reminds me that I need an official “Ben’s Biz” logo. Please, feel free to send over your prototypes.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Return to the Road: A Three-Sided Midland Perspective

Thus far, this ongoing “Return to the Road” series has highlighted outside-of-the-ballpark trip highlights from Appleton, WI to Beloit, WI (but barely) to Midland, MI. Midland is where we are going to remain, as we begin today’s fourth and final post in the series.

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I awoke in Midland on Wednesday, June 26, and had a little bit of time to explore after checking out of the hotel. After all, that evening’s destination of Lansing (home of the Lugnuts) was just a short drive away. My partner in these explorations was writer Matt LaWell, who shadowed me during this trip as part of a book he is writing on Minor League Baseball. We began in downtown Midland, which included the periodic table-influenced “H Hotel” and its attendant eateries “Table restaurant” and the “Zinc Cafe.”

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The heart of downtown Midland, and certainly its most recognizable landmark,  is “The Tridge,”

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The Tridge, built in 1981, is what its name implies: a three-way bridge (built at the confluence of the Tittabawassee and Chippewa Rivers). A Farmer’s Market is located nearby (it wasn’t open on the day I visited), and a variety of cultural events are held in and around this area as well. It’s all very scenic and well-maintained, and we were fortunate enough to have visited on a beautiful day.

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This statue, simply title “Couple,” features its titular individuals gazing upon the Tridge in perpetuity.

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After a little bit of wandering, we came upon the similarly-titled “Family.”

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Unfortunately, a certain subset of Midland’s public statue-viewing public can’t keep their hands to themselves.

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A little bit of local history, courtesy of a rock.

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These idyllic early afternoon wandering were much enjoyed, but soon enough it was time to depart not just the Tridge but Midland itself. Farewell county courthouse, I hardly knew ye!

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From here on out, my outside-of-the-ballpark content from this week-long Midwest League excursion is exceedingly minimal. As previously mentioned, I attended that night’s Lansing Lugnuts game (and wrote about it HERE and HERE and HERE). Unfortunately, there was no time to explore Lansing proper, as I had to get up bright and early the next morning in order to appear on Grand Rapids radio. That was the first act in what turned out to be a full-to-bursting West Michigan Whitecaps experience, which was chronicled HERE and HERE and, yes, even HERE.  My time with the Whitecaps turned out to be so full-to-bursting that I didn’t get any real chance to explore Grand Rapids, either, although on the way out of the city Matt LaWell and I stopped at an eatery recommended by then-Lansing Lugnuts broadcaster Slavko Bekovic.

This eatery was called “The Winchester.” As a Brooklyn resident, I am quite familiar with this sort of establishment: a locally-sourced nouveau American bistro with self-consciously hip sensibilities.

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Here’s a picture of Matt LaWell at the bar. I only wish his well-manicured mustache was visible, as well-manicured mustaches are just the sort of thing one would expect to see at such an establishment.

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If you’ve got $40 to spend on a hamburger, then you’re everything that is wrong with America. But if this is wrong, maybe you don’t want to be right….

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All in all the Winchester had a very impressive menu, and “GF” designations are always much appreciated by celiac disease-afflicted individuals such as myself.

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An order of chicken wings and polenta fries turned out to be way more food that I bargained for.

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Sorry for the anti-climax, but this is all I’ve got and my Midwest League 2013 content well is now officially dry. (From Grand Rapids it was on to South Bend and my time visiting the Silver Hawks was chronicled HERE and HERE. Unfortunately, time constraints were such that no explorations of South Bend proper were able to take place.)

Therefore, this particular “Return to the Road” series is going to end with a picture of chicken wings and polenta fries. Isn’t that always the case?

In any case —  I’ll “Return to the Road” again before the offseason is through, in order to cover August’s trip to the West Coast. Gotta milk the material for all it’s worth!

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Return to the Road: A Well En-Dow-ed Afternoon in Midland

It’s time for another installment of “Return to the Road,” in which I, yes, return to the road in order to further elaborate on that which was experienced during my 2013 Minor League road trips. Part one of this episodic adventure covered Appleton, WI, part two covered Beloit, WI (however fleetingly), and today will cover Midland, MI (home of the Great Lakes Loons).

bens_map_2013_ha1isac9I spend the entirety of Tuesday, June 24 in Midland, giving me plenty of time to explore the city before attending that evening’s Loons game. Often when I  find myself in this type of situation, I look up the location of a local record store and orient my wanderings from there. But this time was different, as Loons vice president of marketing Chris Mudhenk had magnanimously set up an afternoon itinerary of local cultural destinations.

I wrote a story on all of this for MiLB.com, but in the interest of redundancy and copious photo-dumping I will recap it here as well. First up was the Alden B. Dow Home and Studio.

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From the MiLB.com piece:

In many ways, Midland is synonymous with Dow Chemical, as Herbert Henry Dow established the company there in the late 19th century, and its headquarters have remained there ever since.

Herbert’s son Alden was a disciple of Frank Lloyd Wright who went on to enjoy a distinguished architectural career, and for the last 50 years of his life he lived and worked in a whimsical yet geometrically precise house — constructed largely with one-foot square “Unit Blocks” recycled from the chemical company — that has since been designated a National Historic Landmark.

Pictures weren’t allowed inside the house, but these outdoor images help to illustrate the spirit of pragmatic whimsy which infused Dow’s work.

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Next up was the Midland Center of the Arts, beginning with a stop at the Alden B. Dow Museum of Science and Art. Again, from the MiLB.com piece:

The Midland Center for the Arts is a cultural consortium, a one-stop humanities shop in which “art, science, history, music, theatre, dance, films, camps, classes and professional world-class entertainers live under one roof.” The building housing these complementary entities was designed by none other than Alden B. Dow and is anchored by the four-story Alden B. Dow Museum of Science and Art.

Assistant marketing director Kristen Wuerfel gave me a brief after-hours tour of the facility, passing by attractions such as a mastodon skeleton, an interactive periodic table of the elements and a full-size farm tractor en route to a fourth floor “Icons of the Sky” exhibit featuring the Lego architecture of Adam Reed Tucker.

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Next door to the museum is the Dow Gardens. For the last time, an excerpt from my MiLB.com piece:

This 110-acre sanctuary was developed by Herbert [Dow], expanded upon by Alden, and now maintained via the Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation. Amid the impeccably maintained expanses of grass, curved pathways and idyllic waterways are a variety of sculptures, many of which are installed temporarily. Dow Gardens assistant director Elizabeth Lumbert explained, “Our visitors might not like everything they see, but the art helps people see the landscape in a fresh way.”

Dow Gardens [then featured] an exhibit titled “Zimsculpt,” which highlights work done by Zimbabwean artists.

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Not a bad way to spend an afternoon; those considering visiting Midland in order to see the Loons should know that they’ll have plenty to do beforehand. My evening was spent at the Loons game, of course, and you can read about that experience HERE. But if I had to sum it all up in one photo, then that photo is this.

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There will be one more “Return to the Road” post next week. After that, other topics will be explored. I’m just not sure what, so let me know if you any suggestions or perhaps want to write a guest post. Like a produce stand sold out of everything except corn, I’m all ears.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

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