Archive for the ‘ Dailies ’ Category

Deflated Balls, Good Cause

There’s been a lot of chatter lately regarding “Deflategate.” Unless you are living under a rock and/or don’t care about extremely trivial matters, then you are no doubt already familiar with this latest and greatest NFL controversy. It revolves around allegations made against the New England Patriots and their coach, Bill Belichick, who have been accused of gaining an unfair advantage in last Sunday’s AFC Championship game against Indianapolis via the use of improperly inflated balls.

This scandal, ridiculous yet captivating, calls out for a satirical response from a Minor League Baseball team. Yesterday evening, after a little Twitter prompting from yours truly, one team answered the call: The Myrtle Beach Pelicans.

On Wednesday, April 15, the Pelicans will be staging #DeflateCancer Night at their home of TicketReturn.com Field. The aim, as the team puts it, is to “tighten the grip on testicular cancer.”

640x360_Deflate_Gate_NEW_v0kee401_t8nku6cm

This promotion, simply put, is brilliant. Minor League Baseball at its best. Tire service checks? Free ball inflation? A Rocky Mountain Oyster eating contest? A deflation ceremony? An apropos Breeders reference? It’s all here, along with much, much more. Let’s go to the press release:

In light of the NFL and New England Patriots “Deflate-gate” scandal, #DeflateCancer Night will focus on raising awareness for testicular cancer and feature an inflatable baseball giveaway to the first 1200 fans through the gates. Eleven of every 12 fans will receive a deflated ball, while one in every 12 will receive a “properly” inflated ball.

When fans arrive at the ballpark, they will be greeted by a variety of ball-related promotions. Any fan who arrives in a vehicle with a Massachusetts license plate can request a complementary tire-pressure check from service technicians from Tire Town, who will also be on-site passing out free tire pressure gauges to fans.  

The Pelicans staff will offer free ball inflation at Gate 1 to fans that bring deflated balls in need of inflation. If they wish to donate their deflated (but functional) balls (footballs, beach balls, basketball, volleyballs, and soccer balls), the Pelicans will donate them to the Boys and Girls Club of the Grand Strand.

Once inside the ballpark, fans can take advantage of concessions discounts on meatball sandwiches, chicken bog balls, roasted and boiled nuts, and of course, discounted hot dogs as a part of the yearlong Weiner Wednesday promotion. The team also plans to conduct a Rocky Mountain oyster-eating contest between Pelicans Vice President and General Manager Andy Milovich and one “lucky” fan as a between inning game. Fans can also take deflated hot-air balloon “rides” at the park.

The Pelicans will also pass out balloons to fans during the game to engage in a communal deflation ceremony while playing the “Deflate-gate” press conference of New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick on the left field video board.

Music for the night is sure to feature famous ball-related tunes like “Great Balls of Fire,” “Cannonball,” “Wrecking Ball,” and “Balls to the Wall.”

Important to note for concerned parents, the Pelicans have opted not to invite the New England Patriots equipment manager to run the Kids Zone. The bounce house, speed-pitch, and obstacle course will, as always, be inflated to the specified safety levels outlined in their respective manuals.

Finally, the Pelicans plan to formally invite Walt Anderson and his officiating crew from the AFC Championship Game to inspect the game balls prior to first pitch.

Word from Splash, the Pelicans mascot, is that Mugsy, the Salem Red Sox mascot, has been hatching plans to film the Pelicans practices prior the three-game series, which begins on April 13 at TicketReturn.Com Field at Pelicans Ballpark.

“In honor of the New England sports tradition, the choice of a night in which the Boston Red Sox affiliate was in town was the obvious choice for this night,” explained Milovich. “To be able to promote awareness of such a serious disease so early in the season, while having some fun in the process is what we are all about.” 

#DeflateCancer Night is one of the nights in the Pelicans’ Strike Out Cancer series, a six-night series devoted to raising awareness and money to fight different types of cancer. The series was a great success in 2014.

Kudos to Andy Milovich and the Pelicans staff for once again showcasing their formidable brainstorming skills, and for once again tying it all in to a good cause. As you may recall, Milovich has ample experience with this sort of thing:

Meanwhile, word on the street is that at least one other Minor League team will be announcing a #DeflateGate promo today. Stay tuned…

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Guest Post: The Number Tamer Returns

In January of 2014, I wrote an MiLB.com article about David “The Number Tamer” Kronheim, a Queens-based “freelance advertising copywriter and marketing research analyst” who annually produces hyper-detailed (and deeply informative) baseball attendance reports. In conjunction with that article, Kronheim contributed a guest post to this blog in which he further elaborated on his methods.

Another year has come and gone, which means that it’s once again time to check in with Kronheim. In this, his most recent guest post, he elaborates on 2014’s biggest attendance gains throughout Minor League Baseball and the common factor which united them all. Unruly digits beware, the Number Tamer is on the case! 

New Cities and New Ballparks Had Big Attendance Increases in the Minor Leagues in 2014

By David Kronheim – Numbertamer.com

The big attendance story in 2014 for the affiliated leagues of Minor League Baseball was the huge increases posted by three teams that moved to new cities or new ballparks.

A Mexican League team moved from Minatitlan to Tijuana. Attendance in Tijuana was 419,169 in 2014, up 298,658 from the 120,511 that this team drew in Minatitlan in 2013.

El Paso opened a great new ballpark, and a Pacific Coast League team moved there from Tucson, where it had drawn 200,077 in 2013.  In 2014, the El Paso Chihuahuas attracted 560,997, an increase of 360,920.

Southwest University Park in El Paso (Ben's Biz file photo)

Southwest University Park in El Paso (Ben’s Biz file photo)

The biggest attendance increase in 2014 for any Major League or Minor League Baseball team was by the Charlotte Knights of the International League. They moved from the suburb of Fort Mill, South Carolina to a magnificent new, mass transit-accessible ballpark in the uptown section of Charlotte.

The Knights led Minor League Baseball in total attendance in 2014, drawing 687,715. Their previous high was 403,029, in 1993. The 2014 total was the third best ever by an International League team. Average attendance per date in Charlotte was 9,686, tops among all United States Minor League teams.

BB&T Ballpark in Charlotte (Ben's Biz file photo)

BB&T Ballpark in Charlotte (Ben’s Biz file photo)

In 2013, in Fort Mill, the Knights drew 254,834. Attendance at the new ballpark in 2014 was up 432,881. This was the third-highest increase in Minor League history for a team that moved from one ballpark to another in the same geographic market. Buffalo had a 650,891 increase when they moved into a new park in 1988. Memphis posted a 462,512 gain in 2000, the year they relocated from Tim McCarver Memorial Stadium. (Tim McCarver says that the ‘Memorial’ part of that stadium’s name was in memory of his throwing arm.)

Tijuana, El Paso and Charlotte had a combined 2014 attendance increase of 1,092,459.  Such huge growth by teams moving to new markets and/or new ballparks has not been unusual in recent decades within the Minor Leagues.

Much of the tremendous growth in Minor League Baseball attendance since the late 1970s has been the result of so many markets opening new ballparks, either for a team they already have or to attract a new team.  Here are some examples:

The first of a new era of Minor League ballparks was Cooper Stadium in Columbus, Ohio. In 1977, the Clippers moved there from Memphis, and attendance increased from 364,278 to 457,251. From 1953 through 1976 only one U.S. team, Hawaii in 1970, had drawn that well. In 1979, Columbus drew 599,544, the highest Minor League total since the San Francisco Seals of the Pacific Coast League drew 606,563 in 1948.

Columbus got a new park in 2009 and continues to be one of the best draws in the Minors. In 2014, the Clippers drew 628,980. It was the fifth time in the last six years that the Clippers topped 600,000, and the 28th time in 36 seasons that they drew above 500,000.

Huntington Park in Columbus (Ben's Biz flie photo)

Huntington Park in Columbus (Ben’s Biz file photo)

In 1982, a team moved from Springfield, Illinois to Louisville and began to shatter attendance records. The 1982 Louisville club drew 868,418, breaking the then-Minor League record of 670,563 by the 1946 San Francisco Seals.

Louisville’s gain of 747,881 from the 120,537 that the franchise drew in Springfield in 1981 is still the biggest year-to-year attendance increase in Minor League history. In 1983, Louisville became the first Minor League team to draw one million, averaging 16,191 per date. That year, Louisville outdrew three Major League teams (Cleveland, Minnesota and Seattle) in total attendance, and those teams plus Cincinnati and the New York Mets in average per date.

Louisville has now topped 560,000 for 15 straight seasons.  The Bats have drawn better than 500,000 in 29 seasons, more often than any other team.

Louisville Slugger Field (Ben's Biz file photo)

Louisville Slugger Field (Ben’s Biz file photo)

As noted earlier, the Buffalo Bisons had a 650,891 increase in 1988 when they moved to Pilot Field (now Coca Cola Field).  The Bisons had drawn 495,760 in 1987 at War Memorial Stadium, which was quite an accomplishment. The old park had been home to the Buffalo Bills until 1973, and was where the acclaimed baseball film The Natural was shot. But this facility had seen better days.

Pilot Field was the prototype for all the retro-minded ballparks that have been built since then. It was designed with Major League expansion in mind, and the fans in western New York certainly made the effort to convince MLB to give them a team. In 1988 the Bisons drew a Minor League record 1,146,651 fans. They went on to top the one million each season through 1993, led by 1991’s total of 1,188,972 (1,240,951 including post-season games).  No team has reached a million since 1993, but, through 2014, attendance in Buffalo has been above 500,000 in a record-setting 27 straight seasons.

Coca-Cola Park in Buffalo (Ben's Biz file photo)

Coca-Cola Park in Buffalo (Ben’s Biz file photo)

In 1994, Salt Lake City got a Pacific Coast League team from Portland, Oregon. Attendance rose 527,214.

Starting in the 1990s, teams from some of the lower classifications posted huge gains as a result of relocation. In the Class A Midwest League, the 1994 move of Waterloo to West Michigan (near Grand Rapids) resulted in a gain of 423,883.  Also in the Midwest League, in 1996, the Lansing Lugnuts drew 498,858 above their 1995 attendance figures in Springfield, Illinois.

In 2000, five teams playing in brand-new ballparks had a combined increase of 2,486,321 over what those franchises drew in 1999. Louisville opened a new park, and their attendance rose 324,444. A new park in Memphis resulted in a gain of 462,512. Sacramento drew 861,808, a then-record high for a Pacific Coast League team, and 620,347 above what the franchise had attracted in Vancouver in 1999. Round Rock, then in the Texas League, drew a Double-A record of 660,110 (up 560,870 from what the team drew in Jackson, Mississippi in 1999).

Dell Diamond in Round Rock (Ben's Biz file photo)

Dell Diamond in Round Rock (Ben’s Biz file photo)

In 2000, Dayton drew 581,853, then the highest-ever in Class A. This was a gain of 518,148 from their 1999 totals in Rockford, Illinois.  The Dayton Dragons have been an incredible success story, topping 570,000 every year, and they now have the 15 highest attendance totals ever in Class A. They’ve sold out all 1,051 home dates that they’ve played, including playoffs and two league All-Star games. This is the longest sellout streak in North American pro sports history! The Boston Red Sox, whose sellout streak covered 794 regular season and 26 postseason dates, hold the Major League (in any sport) sellout streak record.

There have been more huge attendance increases posted since 2000. In the Class A South Atlantic League in 2001, Lakewood and Lexington each drew more than 420,000 above the 2000 attendance totals they had posted in Cape Fear and Kissimmee. respectively.

The top short-season team increase took place in 2001. The Brooklyn Cyclones drew 289,381, which was then the highest attendance ever by a short-season team. The gain was 250,719 above what they had attracted while playing in Queens in 2000. The Cyclones  compete in a location unlike any other in pro baseball. MCU Park is right off of the famed boardwalk at Coney Island, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and the amusement rides. Brooklyn has led all short-season teams in attendance every year, topped by a record-high 317,124 total — and 8,345 average per date — in 2002.   Throughout their history, Brooklyn has achieved a higher average per date than nearly all teams below the Class AAA level.

MCU Park in Brooklyn (Ben's Biz file photo)

MCU Park in Brooklyn (Ben’s Biz file photo)

Honors for the best gain since 2000 go to Frisco of the Texas League. In 2003, the RoughRiders drew 666,977 — 642,408 more than the team they replaced drew in Shreveport in 2002.

Tijuana, which had a big gain with a new team in 2014, also got a new team in 2004. They drew 474,573 more fans than the Dos Laredos club they had replaced. The team left Tijuana after the 2008 season.

Also in 2008, the Lehigh Valley IronPigs (Allentown, Pennsylvania) reached 602,033 in their inaugural season. This marked a 475,139 increase from the total of 126,894 the franchise drew in Ottawa in 2007.  (This club’s name comes from the term ‘pig iron,’ which is used to make steel.)  The IronPigs are the only team to top 600,000 in each of the past 7 years. Their ballpark seats 8,089, making it one of the smallest Triple-A parks. In the team’s seven seasons, attendance has exceeded the seating capacity of the ballpark 392 times in 491 dates (including the postseason). They’ve sold out all seats, lawn seating and standing room in 132 of those dates.

lvasg_people42

Coca-Cola Park in Lehigh Valley (Ben’s Biz file photo)

More new ballpark-related increases may come to Minor League Baseball in 2015. Biloxi, Mississippi gets a Southern League team, the Shuckers, who moved from Huntsville, Alabama. A short-season New York-Penn League team relocated from Jamestown, New York, to Morgantown, West Virginia, where it will share a new ballpark with West Virginia University.  The Nashville Sounds open First Tennessee Park, which, just like the old park, will have a guitar-shaped scoreboard in recognition of Nashville’s role as the ‘Music City.’

You can get much more information about 2014 and historical Minor League and Major League Baseball attendance from my website – numbertamer.com.  Just go to the ‘Baseball Reports’ page on the site to get your free downloads of the attendance analysis reports.

Thanks to David Kronheim for once again taking the time to share his expertise. Meanwhile, if YOU have Minor League Baseball-related expertise that you would like to share then please get in touch with me about the possibility of writing a guest post. 

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

 

Now and Then

As I have often mentioned, the offseason content on this blog can be characterized as an ongoing battle between the old and the new. The urge to share new Minor League initiatives and ideas must do constant battle with the desire to give belated coverage to that which I didn’t get around to writing about during the season itself.

But why must this dynamic always be framed in oppositional terms? Today’s post represents an attempt at reconciliation, so that the old and the new may transcend temporal concerns in favor of taking up residence within the eternal now. It’s a perfectly logical approach.

New! 

Like it or not, Valentine’s Day is less than a month away. The Bowie Baysox, like many teams, are offering a variety of romantic ticket packages in honor of this occasion. But, unlike many teams, they are also offering a vitriolic “Love Bites” anti-Valentine’s Day package featuring secondary mascot Rocko.

Bowie_Baysox_Anti_Valentines_Day_3n38r26k_pf52kbby

Per the team:

The Rocko’s Love Bites Pack is $55 and perfect for the downtrodden on what can be a quite depressing holiday. This lonely hearts package includes four SINGLE game General Admission Baysox tickets to enjoy by yourself, a Baysox Foam Claw signifying your ripped out heart, a Black Baysox Mini-Bat to fend off any nearby happy couples, six black balloons to denote your singular unromantic status, and a pint of ice cream with a special Baysox bowl to help alleviate your sorrows.

But that’s not all, for Rocko will also help those in unhappy relationships hit the killswitch.

Fans can have the frustrated fish do the dirty work for them and deliver his Love Bites Pack within 25 miles of the stadium to help you part ways with a significant other.

If anyone takes Rocko up on this offer, then I have but one request: Make sure you get it on video.

Old:

Remember back in June when the Potomac Nationals hosted a “Beard-A-Palooza” weekend in honor of Jayson Werth?

beardolympics_fugth0o0_r4n99jyh

Well, I have obtained photos of the festivities (by “obtained” I mean the team sent me some). Here, a pair of front office staffers engage in a beard-tasting competition.

Beard tasting“Beard vs. Food” eating contest: 

Beard vs foodTo the victor go the spoils:

Beard vs food winnerLongest beard competition:

Longest beardStrongest beard competition:

Strongest beardOnce again, to the victor go the spoils (maybe this guy won because his opponent, upon further review, was deemed to not have had a beard in the first place):

Strongest winner

This old and new coexistence experiment seems to have gone pretty well. I think I’ll do it again in the near future. In the meantime, make sure to check out the new edition of “Ben’s Bookshelf” over on MiLB.com. It features three highly-recommended Minor League Baseball-themed books:

bookshelf_5cnz06dg_vrrspcpwbenjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Guest Post: Why I Love the Columbus Clippers

After a seven-month hiatus, I am pleased to announce the return of the”Why I Love” series of blog posts. The premise is simple: Each post is written by a Minor League Baseball fan, in which they explain just what it is that they love about their favorite team and why. Today’s guest writer is  Sarah Lukowski, an Ohio State University graduate student. The Buckeyes won the College Football National Championship last night and today is a day of celebration at OSU and throughout the state of Ohio. But, soon enough, it will be time for sports fans in the area and nationwide to turn their attention to baseball. In this post, Lukowski makes the case for her beloved Columbus Clippers.   

To see other “Why I Love” guest posts, click HERE. And If YOU would like to write a “Why I Love” post, email me at benjamin.hill@mlb.com.

Why I Love the Columbus Clippers, by Sarah Lukowski

It’s a beautiful evening, one of those summer evenings that seem to last forever. And if you are lucky enough to find yourself in Columbus, Ohio, on such an evening, there’s no better way than to spend it than at Huntington Park. Or, really, any other kind of evening…or afternoon, or morning. You get the point. That’s almost certainly where you’ll find me if the Clippers are in town.

1

Huntington Park, in all its majesty, before the crowd arrives

Huntington Park, a gorgeous stadium, recently celebrated its fifth anniversary. What’s not to love about a beautiful diamond? If you sit on the outfield grass on those long summer evenings, you’ll inevitably see a beautiful orange-purple sky as the sun sets behind the first base side of the ballpark. Nights like these are absolute perfection, reminding each and every person in the crowd why they fell in love with the game of baseball. Children roll down the slight incline of the lawn and hope that a home run heads their way.

2

The lawn: perfect for relaxing, rolling, home runs, and, in this case, watching Trevor Bauer do his pregame long toss.

Or, if you are like me and want to get closer to the action, you can situate yourself a few yards away home plate. It’s a cliche, but there truly isn’t a bad seat.

The view I enjoy each and every day of the season.

The view I enjoy each and every day of the season.

I have always loved watching sports because of the people and the Columbus Clippers game experience is no different. The staff is always friendly, the fans in the crowd are the type of people you want to hang out with and the guys on the field are the type of players it is easy to cheer for.

And, while you never want guys to get hurt or get sent back down from the Cleveland Indians, it is a part of the game. In recent years I have seen both Michael Bourn…

6and Jason Kipnis.

5

When you think “Minor League Baseball season ticket holder” I am probably not who you would imagine. I am a 24-year-old grad student who, while growing up in rural Michigan, fell in love with the game of baseball by cheering on the Battle Cats/Battle Creek Yankees/Battle Creek Rays/Southwest Michigan Rays (the name and affiliation changed frequently). In Columbus, from time to time, curious passersby will ask with some incredulity, “So Sarah, you come here every game?!” To which I always reply with a smile, “Yes, I just really like watching baseball.” This is true, but the full truth would be that the Clippers organization creates an atmosphere that I have loved from the time I arrived in Columbus.

ate

When I moved to Columbus I knew that I wanted to be a season ticket holder and am grateful that the long-time season ticket holders — shout out to first few rows of Section 9! — have welcomed me with open arms. They tell me stories of the Clippers’ past as a Yankees affiliate, and we chat about Cleveland Indians players past, present and future. Such closeness has allowed generations to grow side-by-side over their mutual love of America’s pastime, a closeness that is truly at the heart of Minor League Baseball.

7  55

One person in particular that makes the Columbus Clippers unique is team historian Joe Santry. I can always count on Joe to tell me an amazing story of Columbus’ baseball past whenever I ask. Joe is one of the true gems of Minor League Baseball and if you haven’t met him yet, I highly recommend making a point to find him at the game. He can be hard to track down, as he is typically documenting the various events that make each game special, but if you do run into him, just ask him for a story. He never disappoints.

Joe Santry, left, and Clippers director of social media Josh Samuels.

Bens Biz file photo: Joe Santry, left, and Clippers director of social media Josh Samuels.

Beyond the people, if great eats are your thing, the Clippers do not skimp on the budget-friendly ballpark meals. I buy hot dogs for 10 cents on Mondays, dollar rib bones on Tuesdays, wings for 50 cents on Wednesday, and celebrate the beginning of the weekend each Friday with music, delicious pulled pork sandwiches, and discounted drinks. I could easily gain 10 pounds each summer feasting on all these ballpark treats. And, as if you needed an added bonus, visiting the various parts of the ballpark where they are sold give you all-new vantage points from which to take in the game.

Bens Biz file photo: Ribs at the Clippers game

Bens Biz file photo: Ribs and a view at the Clippers game

Finally, I would be remiss to not mention the entertainment. You can always count on 2013 MiLB Mascot Mania champion Lou Seal to make his way through the crowd. Children shyly approach to give him a high five while their parents look on, camera in hand. The in-game entertainment brings the always crowd-pleasing hot dog race, among tons of other antics and promotions that often define the MiLB experience.

9

Ketchup and Mustard race down the first base line. Relish is missing in action.

There is something new happening all the time. But my favorite, from childhood and until now, will always be the Zooperstars! Admittedly, the Zooperstars! are not special to the Clippers organization; they travel to various ballparks throughout the summer. The games are already worth it, but they make it even better. Look them up and if they are at a park near you, YOU MUST GO! Seriously, missing a Zooperstars! game is criminal.

10

If you’re a resident of the Columbus area and haven’t gotten to a game, I’m not sure what you could be waiting for — get yourself to the game! If you’re from out of town, it is well worth the trip. To the Clippers organization: Thank you for making each game memorable. I can’t wait to see what the next several years have in store.

Thanks to Sarah  for taking the time to write this and, again: if YOU would like to submit a post for this series, then send an email to the address below. In the meantime, here’s my “On the Road” post detailing my Columbus Clippers experience during the 2014 season

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Current Events

A distinct blogging dynamic has emerged this offseason, as I find myself splitting my efforts between timely, of-the-moment topics and better-late-than-never guest posts and other leftover 2014 season odds and ends. Today’s post will be dedicated to the former category. This ain’t no Rerun, this is What’s Happening!!

Obligatory pop culture reference now complete. Let’s proceed.

The New Hampshire Fisher Cats are currently in the tail-end of a unique and creative ticket promotion. This promotion is pretty self-explanatory:

nhfc

Here’s how it works, per the team:

Want to see your photo on a Season Ticket? Post your favorite Fisher Cats-themed photo on our Facebook page, and it could be featured on a 2015 Season Ticket. Submit photos of your family having fun at a game, smiling with Fungo at a parade, or even wearing your favorite Fisher Cats hat at the beach! Post and share your photos here. The deadline is Jan. 10!

As of this writing (the afternoon of January 9), the team had received over 100 submissions. Check it out HERE. And, for what it’s worth, here’s my submission. It was taken at an undisclosed location during a secret visit to the Fisher Cats’ home of Delta Dental Stadium. Earlier in the evening, I had visited the team store to purchase this officially licensed cap.

IMG_0708 —

Kudos to the Potomac Nationals, who did not let the promotion of an integral member of their operation go unnoticed.

jeremy_cf6acqm6_62qbbmx5

Sez the team:

Woodbridge, VA–The Potomac Nationals have announced the contract of team Clubhouse Manager, Jeremy Delewski has been purchased by the Syracuse Chiefs, the Washington Nationals’ Triple-A International League affiliate.

According to Syracuse Chiefs officials, Delewski’s promotion from the Class-A Advanced Potomac Nationals to Washington’s Triple-A club was finalized in San Diego, CA during the 2014 Major League Baseball Winter Meetings.

The financial terms of this transaction have not been disclosed.

Hey! Remember when I visited the Bakersfield Blaze during the 2013 season? I really enjoyed my time there, and it resulted in what I feel was one of my best-ever “On the Road” MiLB.com articles (not to be confused with my “On the Road” blog posts from the same locale).

Anyhow, one of the highlights of my evening in Bakersfield was meeting mascot performer Ryan Salisbury, who had gotten a ride to the game via this Craigslist ad:

 mascotneedsrids

Ryan has now been featured in this Strongest Hearts video, which highlights his unique status as a vegan Minor League mascot. Some quotes from the video:

“Maybe it will lead to something else, maybe it won’t. But enjoy it while we can.”

“There’s a little bit of a smell.”

And, my favorite:

“You can enjoy [sports] from a nerdy background or a weird background.”

Anyhow, watch the whole thing here.

Strongest Hearts Extra; Heater the Bakersfield Blaze Mascot from Strongest Hearts on Vimeo.

And, of course, please make sure to check out my recent MiLB.com material. This week, three articles appeared:

Batting Around – My monthly (more or less) round-up of notable business developments in the world of Minor League Baseball.

Columbia Breaks Ground on New Ballpark — News story on a stadium that will be hosting a yet-to-be-officially-named relocating Minor League team. Contains plenty of insight from team CEO Jason Freier on why Columbia is “crying out” for a team.

Minoring in Business — This edition of the long-running column is a joint interview with new Midwest League president Dick Nussbaum and his predecessor, George Spelius.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Guest Post: Beer Running in Bowie

Back in April of 2013, a Ben’s Biz Blog reader by the name of Mike Bryan sent me an email that read, in part:

As someone who loves Minor League Baseball and collecting autographs as well as road trips I look forward to your posts. However, I’m disappointed that you are missing out on a great promotion not too far from your NYC location. If you do not have any Memorial Day plans I think you should schedule a trip to Bowie, Maryland and write about about the 1K beer run that [the Baysox] do. 

I was unable to make it Bowie for the 2013 1K Beer Run, but invited Michael to write a guest blog post about it if he so desired. He took me up on this offer…eventually. This past May, 13 months after he first got in touch, he sent me a detailed recap of the 2014 version of the event. By this time I was on the road, neck deep in my own ballpark endeavors, and thus unable to find the time to run it here on the blog. But now here we are, in January of 2015, the depths of the offseason, and I finally find myself with the opportunity to post Mike’s Bowie Baysox 1k Beer Run recap.

So here it is, some eight months after he sent it to me and 21 months after he first got in touch. Ben’s Biz Blog — The Pace is Glacial!

Mike Bryan (left) with friends  Andrew Renison (center) and Mark Taylor

Mike Bryan (left) with friends Andrew Renison (center) and Mark Taylor

Mike writes:

May 4th was the first of two Bowie Baysox 1K Beer Runs for the 2014 season. It also happened to be the date for my fiancée’s bridal shower. Since the bridal shower was an all-girls event, I was able to head to Bowie with a couple of friends and my dad to participate in the wonderful 1K Beer Run.

The Baysox began this tradition last year; participants start by the first-base dugout and run, jog or walk around the entire baseball field. After completing the first lap you receive a beer to enjoy on your second lap around the field. However, if you are trying to win the race — which my friends and I were — you do not really enjoy the beer. We are all out of shape from our glory days of high school, so sprinting around an entire baseball field and then chugging a beer is no easy task. After completing your beer and the second lap, you are then handed another beer to enjoy or chug before finishing your final lap around the field. Once you have finished the race you receive your final beer to “enjoy.”

run

Having already participated in this event in 2013, I decided to employ a different strategy to try and win the run. Since I am not the best beer chugger in the world, I decided to simply shotgun the beers after each lap. Although for about 4-5 seconds I felt terrible, I was able to quickly get back to the running part of the race.

Full page photo

It was a three-horse race throughout the run and my friend Andrew Renison and I were able to pass another participant by the left-field foul pole as we were heading in for the final turn. Once we passed him it was a two-horse race and I was able to edge out a victory right at the finish line. Some may say Andrew let up to let me win, but we will never know.

Full page photoAs the winner of the event I was able to throw out the first pitch. Unfortunately, that did not go so well as I tried to throw it as hard as I could. It landed right in the dirt, and, as Bob Uecker likes to say, it was “just a bit outside.”

Full page photo

Throws before hose

Despite the horrific first pitch we were all able to still have a good time at the rest of the game. Bowie won, 8-5, behind home runs by Christian Walker and Dariel Alveraz, two of the Orioles’ better prospects.

During the game we were able to enjoy the wonderful food and beer selections that the Baysox had this season. Over the last couple of years the team has really expanded their craft beer selections, serving local beers such as Loose Cannon and Flying Dog. In addition to the great beer selection, they have a couple of unique food items that we tried out. We had a hot dog stuffed with macaroni cheese and Old Bay seasoning sprinkled on top as well as an Old Bay sausage, which were both phenomenal. Then again, anything with Old Bay on it tastes great.

Old Bay Mac Cheese Hot Dog

After lunch and some more beers we moved on to dessert. For our last meal we tried out some S’mores, which were one of the best desserts I have ever had. The best way to describe them is “similar to a S’mores Pop Tart, but better.”

Smores

Unfortunately I was not able to defend my title for the next race, on June 21st, since I was on my honeymoon. But I’ll definitely participate again next year and look forward to you visiting Bowie on one of your next road trips as well!

A big thanks to Mike for taking the time to write this guest post. For the record, I did visit Bowie on a 2011 road trip; hopefully I can make it again in 2015. 

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

In With the New

Happy 2015 to you and, should you be the possessive type, yours. The first post of this calendar year, which you are reading now, shall be nothing less and nothing more than a good old fashioned bouillabaisse. A bewildering array of interesting tidbits are offered therein, and the only thing these tidbits have in common with one another is  — you guessed it — Minor League Baseball.

Let’s start with a hot-off-the-virtual-presses promo that was announced today by the Kane County Cougars. The team is currently staging a “Social Media Virtual Championship Ring Unveiling,” which I believe just might be the first such thing of its kind.

Do not adjust your set:

Championship Ring BlurredHow it works:

Beginning [January 5], the Cougars will post a blurred image of the ring design on their social media channels and fans, through a pre-determined quantity of Facebook ‘shares’ and ‘likes’ as well as Twitter re-tweets and ‘likes’ on Instagram, will help virtually “unveil” the ring design, which will be released in its entirety to the public this Friday.

This reminds me of a long-gestating but little-acted-upon article idea I have had: What Minor League teams have the best championship rings? If you think the team that you follow (or work for) might qualify for such a distinction, then please get in touch.

The holidays may be over, but the Holiday League goes on. I am speaking, of course, of the as-of-now theoretical league created by logo designer John Hartwell (of the eponymous Hartwell Studio Works). Last month, the  2014 North Pole Reindeer baseball card set was unveiled, featuring the starting line-up of the North Pole Reindeer. A lot of work has gone into these; each card features an full color front and back, and every Reindeer has his own Baseball-Reference page.

cupid-front-2x

cupid-back-2x

The North Pole Reindeer open the 2015 Holiday League season on April 9 against the Arborville Huggers.

 

Every year, Minor League teams vie for the coveted honor of “alternate logo most likely to inspire scores of Space Jam references on Twitter.” In 2015, it looks like this distinction will be going to the Rome Braves.

rome

The R-Braves maintain that their inspiration for the logo came from a far weightier source:

The logo features a Roman soldier’s helmet on a baseball with the letter ”R” on the front. The helmet was used by the military of ancient Rome from 753 BC – AD 476 and pays tribute to the name of our hometown of Rome, GA with a red, blue, and gray color scheme.

Did you know? A new Minor League mascot-themed children’s book has been released, and this book features a “very special guest appearance by Darryl Strawberry.” What more could you ask for as regards literary material for beginning readers?

Stormy_and_the_Case_of_the_Terrible_Twister_Book_2014_300

Finally, what do these four disconnected images all have in common?

MiBPanel_72cf27vo_u2gxcu56

Yep, you guessed it: They are all proud winners of the first-annual “Bizzie Awards,” created and then (virtually) distributed by me at the end of last month. Everyone else seems to be giving out awards at the end of the year, so why can’t I?

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

That Time That a Minor League Baseball Mascot Crashed My Brother’s Wedding Reception

Last month my brother, Andy, and his fiance, Jen, got married.

File photo of my brother, the groom

File photo of my brother, the groom

As you can see, my brother is a real catch and Jen is a lucky woman. The two lovebirds got married at the Radisson Station Hotel in Scranton, Pennsylvania, located just minutes away from the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders’ home of PNC Field. The proximity of these two locales gave me a half-formed idea and, like many not-totally-thought-out endeavors, it all started on Twitter. I had just posted my detailed recap of the RailRiders’ stadium experience on this blog, and Scranton was on the brain:

And that’s all it took. The RailRiders accepted the invite, on behalf of CHAMP, and the following Saturday he did indeed appear at the reception. Really, you couldn’t miss him. (All photos by Two Sticks Studios, except the one not marked with the studio URL.)

Hill_410-LCHAMP is a species of indeterminate origin whose name is indeed written in all caps. Perhaps, like CHUD, his name is an acronym. Crazy Happy Amazing Mascot Party? At any rate, that’s what commenced once CHAMP walked into the room. He appeared at the perfect time — all of the requisite speeches, glass clinking, food eating and awkward “I can’t remember the last time I saw you”/”I’m going to pretend that I know who you are” wedding conversationalizing had already taken place; all that was left to do was hit the dance floor.

twosticksIn the above photo, you can see me in the background rubbing my hands together with a worried expression on my face. I look like a sad old man, which is a role that I’ve been training for my entire life. This is because I told very few people about CHAMP’s appearance, and was worried that, somehow, it wouldn’t go over well and that I’d ruin the whole wedding and thus bring shame and disgrace upon my family name for generations to come. Fortunately, these concerns were unfounded. In this photo, Jen is in the background giving me a hug. The bride’s approval means that everything is okay! The groom’s opinion means nothing.

twosticks5

So party on, CHAMP. Everyone loves you.

Champ1

Hill_407-XL

Hill_411-M

twosticks4

CHAMP was great, a true pro. He circulated freely around the room, taking the time to engage with anyone interested in engaging with him. In this picture, four-year-old Elle expresses reservations toward meeting a heretofore un-encountered creature.

Hill_451-M Success!

Hill_454-MBye CHAMP, thanks for stopping by. I give your appearance two horns up.

twosticks7A huge thanks to CHAMP and the RailRiders for making this happen. Also, a big thanks to Scranton-based Two Sticks Studios, who did a phenomenal job in documenting not just CHAMP’s appearance but the entire wedding. If I was to ever get married in Scranton (hey, you never know), then I would totally hire those guys. Their own post on the evening’s mascot cameo can be read HERE.

And that’ll do it for my 2014 blogging year. Thanks, as always, to those who took the time to read it. My hope for 2015, as with every year, is that the material on this blog is better than that which came before and that its audience continues to grow. Enjoy your holidays — that’s an order — and see you on the flip side.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

 

 

 

A Look Back at the Winter Meetings in San Diego, Part Four

Day Four: Wednesday, December 10

I carry a notebook with me throughout the Winter Meetings, so that I may document that which I see and observe. Also, because it makes me feel legitimate. I mean, why would I be carrying a notebook around with me if I wasn’t a big-time writer? People who see me, even if they don’t know who I am, they still know I’m the real deal once they see that I’m a guy with a notebook. Clearly, important words are being written therein.

Or not.

All that I have written in my notebook regarding the Winter Meeting events of Wednesday, Dec. 10, is “Writing, Lynn U., Job Fair, lunch, writing, Trade Show.” Fortunately, these events are still fresh in my mind, their myriad sharp edges and curved, sloping ambiguities as yet unravaged by the inexorable passage of time. So, please, allow me to elaborate. For the purposes of this narrative, it is now Wednesday morning in San Diego.

IMG_0504

After an a.m. writing session, I headed down the bayfront boardwalk toward the San Diego Convention Center, walking at a leisurely enough pace while San Diego’s legions of workout warriors (rollerbladers, bikers, jogging moms pushing strollers) blazed on past. My biggest workout came courtesy of this staircase, which led from the boardwalk to the second floor of the Convention Center. I felt woozy going up this thing, trying to walk in a straight line up the stairs but inevitably drifting toward the railing. Did MC Escher design this?

IMG_0532

After a few minutes of dazed and confused San Diego Convention Center wandering, I ran into a guy named Brandon Caudill. Rather than register for the PBEO Job Fair, he opted for a DIY employment-seeking technique.

IMG_0533

IMG_0534A message from Brandon, with the incessant clanging of train warning bells in the background.

Brandon didn’t seem to be in the best of spirits, perhaps as a result of having spent three days wandering around San Diego while wearing a homemade sandwich board. I admired his moxie, however, and hope that he will once again be able to dress up as a dragon.

Bidding adieu and good luck, I then hustled into the Trade Show in order to partake in what has become a Winter Meetings tradition for me: speaking to Lynn University sports management students. Each year, professor Ted Curtis procures a booth at the Trade Show, inviting various industry luminaries (operating at various degrees of wattage) to stop by and give a little insight into his or her profession.

Given the travel involved from Boca Raton to San Diego, there were fewer Lynn University students present than in previous years. Hear I am speaking to one of them.

IMG_0547

Photo: Ted Curtis

From there it was back to the Job Fair, to speak with Maggie O’Keeffe. I first met Maggie, 20, at the Promo Seminar in Oklahoma City this past September and became intrigued by her quest to become the first female play-by-play announcer in Major League Baseball history. (Or at least one of the first.) My MiLB.com feature on Maggie can be read HERE.

IMG_0537While prowling the Job Fair area, I ran into Job Seeker Journal writer Darius Thigpen, who was participating in a podcast taping with fellow job seeker Ben Gellman-Chomsky.

IMG_0541

I ended up inviting myself on as a guest to the podcast, and then got kicked off after delivering one too many puns. (For many people, “one too many puns” = one.) This was Gellman-Chomsky’s fifth time attending the Job Fair and — spoiler alert — he got a job.

People don’t get hired based on the strength of their business cards alone, but this certainly couldn’t have hurt. 1986 Topps for life!

IMG_0588Upon bidding adieu to the Trade Show, lunch was consumed while sitting in Petco Park’s open-to-the-public bleacher seating area. Fake snow-making was in progress.

IMG_0543Afterwards, I took a few minutes to appreciate the accomplishments of Padres icon Jerry Coleman.

IMG_0544It was then back to the Convention Center for one last run through the Trade Show.

IMG_0545

I had a small list of vendors who I wanted to interview for future MiLB.com stories or blog posts, but my efforts in this regard were largely fruitless. The show was now in its final hour, and a “Let’s blow this joint” attitude prevailed. Many of the vendors had already packed up and left, and many others were in the process of doing so. I understand how exhausting it is to be a Trade Show vendor, on your feet all day while hustling product with a permanent smile, but why not stick it out until the bitter end? You never know who might come along.

This representative of the XPogo stunt team stuck it out until the end, and I am now rewarding him for his perseverance via the posting of this Vine video. (Hey, it’s better than nothing). Coming soon to a ballpark near you?

Closing time, the Trade Show sells no alcohol, so sneak in your whisky and beer… (If you’ve got better Trade Show-related parody lyrics, then, by all means, please get in touch.)

IMG_0559The mannequins had been stripped of their clothing and the floor had been stripped of its carpet. Clearly it was time to leave. After a brief constitutional in the hotel room, it was time to head back to Petco Park for the annual Winter Meetings Gala. This is the eighth such event I’ve been to, and the most memorable. Industry in a Holiday Wonderland.

I’ve always enjoyed the Gala, no matter the locale, because it signifies the end of the Winter Meetings. I am fortunate to be able to attend this event, but is inherently stressful — a lot of frantic speedwalking from one locale to another, a lot of impromptu conversations with people who I may not see for another year (or whom I’m meeting for the first time) and a lot of harried writing sessions in lobbies, hallways and hotel rooms. No matter what I’m doing, I always feel like I’m missing out on something else. It’s just overwhelming.

So when the Gala rolls around, it is accompanied by a profound feeling of relief. The Winter Meetings are done, save for one last chance for me to walk around and wait for people who work in Minor League Baseball to accost me with compliments regarding the work I do. I need this ego fuel, keeping it in reserve for a long, cold months ahead.

A good photographer, or at least someone who didn’t have a phone in one hand and a drink in the other, could have gotten some great shots from this event. There were elves and Santa and the Grinch and fairies wearing ice skates on the premises. A sledding hill was installed on the outfield, tours of the clubhouse were available and fireworks went off promptly at nine o’clock.

IMG_0565

IMG_0575A walking snow globe.

IMG_0578The evening kept right on rolling after the Gala concluded, with many attendees heading across the street to a party co-sponsored by Brandiose (whose founders are San Diego natives) and the Lake Elsinore Storm (a Padres affiliate located just 75 miles away). This Vine sums up the atmosphere, and it also includes a cameo by elusive Minoring in Twitter scribe Danny Wild.

It was a long night that resulted in virtually no sleep, as early the next morning I was at the airport in order to fly on back to New York City. I slept the whole way, but not before overhearing the following while waiting to board.

And that’s all I’ve got, the well has run dry. Not only are the Winter Meetings in the books, but my Winter Meetings-related blogging efforts are in the books as well. I hope you found these posts to be illuminating and edifying.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

A Look Back at the Winter Meetings in San Diego, Part Three

Day Three: Tuesday, December 9

On Tuesday, with the Winter Meetings in full swing, an anonymous but clearly exasperated Minor League Baseball employee posted the following to the @MiLBProbz Twitter account:

I can understand the frustration. Only a privileged handful of each team’s employees get to attend the Winter Meetings each year, while the rest are stuck in the office making cold calls (you know, because it’s winter). But, hey, guess what? If those same frustrated front officers ever get the chance to attend the Winter Meetings themselves, then you can bet dollars to donuts that they, too, will engage in disingenuous “wish you were here” social media braggadocio. It’s human nature: Complain about abhorrent behavior until you, too, have a chance to engage in it!

I’m as guilty as the rest. More so, actually, as this series of blog posts has allowed me to extend my Winter Meeting reminisces until more than a week after the event’s conclusion. This is because everything that happened to me while in San Diego was VERY IMPORTANT. Like, on Tuesday morning, while walking to the San Diego Convention Center, I took a picture of this boatload of bananas.

IMG_0519I could produce a lot of these types of pictures, if I so desired. They have mass a-peel, so why not just keep on Dole-ing them out? After all, I’m not the sort of man willing to let a prime punning opportunity potassium right by. Seeking to share the fruits of my labors, I introduced the following concept to my vast Twitter following:

Spoiler alert: this went nowhere. The next day, I conceded defeat:

But that’s okay. In real life, I had places to go and people to see. Namely, the PBEO Job Fair, which I visited early Tuesday afternoon simply because I wanted to get a sense of what that environment was like. This event, a Winter Meetings staple, was situated on the second floor of the San Diego Convention Center. Specifically, it was located at the terminus of an interstellar portal.

IMG_0526

IMG_0524

The picture below depicts the scene in the Interview Schedule room. Each piece of paper posted on the boards shows the list of candidates that have been chosen to interview for a particular job or internship.

IMG_0525

Pictured, from left to right: white guy, white guy, white guy, white guy, white guy, white guy, white guy, white guy, white guy, white guy

Job Seekers are generally engaged in one of three tasks: applying for a job, interviewing for a job or, most commonly, waiting around for jobs to be posted and interviews to be announced. But no matter what task one was engaged in, there was plenty of room in which to spread out.

IMG_0522

Imagine, if you will, that the hallway seen above was littered with trap doors. Anyone with the misfortune of falling through such a door would have landed in or in front of the annual Baseball Winter Meetings Trade Show.

IMG_0545I went down to the Trade Show to meet a co-worker, esteemed Minoring in Twitter writer Danny Wild, so that the two of us could collaborate on a short Trade Show video for MiLB.com. In advance of Mr. Wild’s arrival, I took some time to acquaint myself with that which was contained within the Trade Show’s labyrinthian corridors.

There were a lot of things contained within, that’s the nature of the beast, but what fascinated me the most was this.

IMG_0530

How to Master Baseball, self-published, was given to me by its author, Winston B. Lewy, who had obtained a booth at the Trade Show in order to convince attendees that he had indeed invented a way in which baseball could be mastered. The book contains 945 (!) queries related to the game of baseball, divided into chapters such as “How to Master Hitting” and “How to Master Sliding.” Adherents to the program then must construct a variety of PVC-pipe based mechanisms (as seen in the cover illustrations above) in order to practice the techniques outlined therein.

Free stuff is in abundance at the Trade Show, so when Lewy first handed me the book I didn’t think much of it. It was only after flipping through it in my room that evening that I realized I had stumbled upon something truly unique and strange. The book is written as if its target audience is a future civilization that has lost its knowledge of baseball, a civilization which must now use the book in order to understand and master the sport anew. I quickly became fascinated by Lewy and his quixotic mission, but when I returned to the Trade Show the next day to get more detail he was already gone. Had he ever been there?

IMG_0557

Anyhow, after my brief but impactful encounter with Lewy, I did indeed meet up with my esteemed colleague Danny Wild and we did indeed produce a video (and accompanying article) about the Trade Show.

If you watched the above video, then you will see that I, for one, have already mastered baseball. My stroke (as seen at the :32 mark) is impeccable.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 491 other followers