Throughout the 2012 Baseball Winter Meetings in Nashville, four attendees of the PBEO Job Fair kept a journal chronicling their employment seeking experiences. (Meet them all HERE). This endeavor will be repeated at this year’s Winter Meetings in Orlando; 2013′s four Job Seekers will be introduced in an MiLB.com feature on Friday and then chronicle their experience throughout the next week (and, perhaps, beyond).
But first, an update from one of 2012′s quartet. Clint Belau recently got in touch with this guest post, in which he writes about his first season season working in professional baseball (as a stadium operations intern for the Albuquerque Isotopes). Last year I described Clint as “irrepressibly optimistic” — as you’ll soon see, those words continue to be a good descriptor of his life outlook.
When last we left off, I was a 35-year-old former musician, set to begin an eight month internship in a place I’ve never been, for an organization I was completely unfamiliar with, on a journey to pursue a career path I was hoping would be the one I could honestly attest to loving. Wow, when I put it that way, it sounds ultra-promising!
However, if you know anything about me (which most of you don’t, but for the sake of this sentence, I’d ask that you pretend to), you know that I’m not deterred by less than favorable odds. But realistically, what did I think would happen? That I would come to Albuquerque, immediately get along with every person in the organization, truly love every minute of the season (yes, even the 7:00 a.m. hot dog rolling sessions…I’m a sucker for assembly line situations), and develop such fantastic relationships with game day staff, fans and vendors that, after a 16 hour “work” day, I’d voluntarily stay longer simply because I enjoy the environment so much? That I would work hard enough that the organization would feel comfortable offering me a full time job that I’m mildly qualified for, and perhaps most importantly, I would spend a small portion of every single day smiling uncontrollably like a lunatic as I ponder my good fortune? Yeah, let me know how that works out pal.
Well, that’s exactly how it turned out. I spent the season as a stadium operations intern. Did I treat it like an internship? Absolutely not. From the second I set foot in that stadium, I made it my mission to weave myself into the fabric of the organization, to show them how much I wanted to be a part of it, to do everything and anything I could to represent the organization in a positive manner, to contribute to creating a valuable environment in which fans could experience everything this incredible game has to offer, and to do it all while exuding a contagious amount of joy. Alright, now I’m just starting to sound weird, but you get where I’m going with this. As a general statement, things are going well.
So now I’ll attempt to bring this all back to the point of Mr. Hill’s experiment: to take four people who are trying to kickstart their respective careers in baseball by attending the PBEO Job Fair, follow them through their week, and see where it takes them. If I have some sort of semi-educated advice for job seekers, it would be to, above all else, stay positive. You’re about to enter(or have already entered) a world of extreme competition. If you’re not passionate about it, I suggest you do something else. This world will require much more than you probably think it will. This isn’t a career that you leave at your desk after eight hours. If you do not truly love it, you will most likely grow to resent it. All of those statements are examples of what you’re about to hear when you attend the Winter Meetings, and more specifically, the Business of Baseball workshop. I know because I heard them less than a year ago. As I listened to them, I thought “it seems like they’re trying to scare us out of the industry.” In fact, it’s not a scare tactic, it’s a proper warning. However, if you’re really as passionate about baseball as you think you are, it will be an incredibly rewarding experience. For me, to be able to spend every day at the ballpark, to be surrounded by the game, to see families sharing the experience of it all, to witness the smile on a child’s face when they catch a foul ball, to know that on any given game day, you have the opportunity to help someone appreciate the game you love so much in a whole new way…that cannot be beat. I’m happy to say that a year later, I truly love being in baseball even more than my “irrepressibly optimistic” personality believed I could.
The value of attending the PBEO Job Fair is based on opening your eyes to what you’re dealing with. The advice from seasoned veterans comes at you fast and furious. The employment opportunities are high in volume, yet seemingly low in comparison to the amount of potential applicants. I can be extremely wordy at times, but if I’m boiling it down to a three word bit of advice that I’ve received numerous times from a good friend of mine, it would be this…do your best.
And there you have it, straight from the operations intern-turned-assistant director of field operations’ mouth. 2013′s series of Job Seeking Journal posts will begin on Monday, as will myriad other dispatches, Tweets, and Vine videos from Orlando’s Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort. In short, it’ll be another year of unparalleled Winter Meetings coverage. (And, yes, it truly is unparalleled — no one else provides such in-depth accounts of the non-Hot Stove perspective!)
The Winter Meetings are next week — Monday, December 9 through Thursday, December 12 to be exact — and, as such, I’ve got the Winter Meetings on my brain.
Also, as of yesterday, I’ve got the Winter Meetings on my phone. This year, for the first time ever, baseball’s premier industry confab is coming equipped with its own app. It is free to download, and available via Apple and Google Play (search “Winter Meetings”).
The Winter Meetings app is courtesy of the Professional Baseball Promotions Corp, a subsidiary of Minor League Baseball. (Minor League Baseball is headquartered in St. Petersburg, as you may recall.) Anyone who has attended the Winter Meetings knows that they are a sprawling, multi-faceted, and altogether overwhelming affair, and the purpose of the app is simply to help attendees make sense of it all (to the extent that that is possible).
Steve Densa, executive director of communications for Minor League Baseball, writes that the app has many features that should come in handy. Highlights include a list of Trade Show exhibitors that functions as a “walking Buyer’s Guide,” detailed maps of each hotel so that attendees can locate meeting rooms, a “full schedule which shows every main event/meeting by day,” and, finally, the ability to share schedules, comments, and contact info with fellow attendees.
Perhaps these screenshots will help to elucidate the information contained in the above paragraph.
If you desire, you can enter your personal info so that it is accessible to other attendees. Consider me accessible (as well as overly precious and perhaps not as protective of my privacy as I should be).
As with last year, much of my Winter Meetings content will be centered around the “Job Seeker Journals.” Four individuals have been selected, and they will be introduced in an MiLB.com feature on Friday. But, I cannot stress this enough, I am always looking to meet new people, because new people lead to new story ideas and what is this job if not a vehicle for story creation? Individuals that I am looking to meet include (but are not limited to) job seekers, trade show exhibitors, front office denizens, high-ranking execs, media moguls looking to capitalize on the most underrated niche in all of sports journalism, and, of course, veteran scribes waiting for the perfect moment to acknowledge the existence (and awesomeness) of my long-running Crooked Numbers column.
Oh, and even if you won’t be at the Meetings: what kind of coverage would you most like to see? And does anybody know of any good gluten-free places in the Orlando area? Man cannot live on Kind bars and popcorn alone.
One more time, with feeling!
In other words, it’s time for November’s third and final “Return to the Road” installment, in which I highlight that which was experienced above and beyond the ballpark during my road trip travels. The first post covered May 8 and 9th in Bowling Green and Nashville, and part two involved the events of May 10th and 11th in Nashville, the Smoky Mountains, and Asheville. Which brings us to, yes, May 12th.
I woke up early in Asheville on this fine Sunday morning, after attending a Tourists game the night before that was eventually covered HERE, HERE, and HERE. (Thirsty Thursday origin story!) I woke up so early, in fact, that I forgot to do the obligatory road trip hotel room review and thus had to improvise.
Road trip hotel review, Sleep Inn, Asheville. https://t.co/iMZJSkdqFK
— Benjamin Hill (@bensbiz) May 12, 2013
The inability to “Sleep Inn” was because my next destination, Savannah, GA, was over four hours away and I was scheduled to attend a Sand Gnats Mother’s Day matinee at Grayson Stadium that began at 2 o’clock. The only documentation that I possess of this journey is this rather underwhelming photo of Talmadge Memorial Bridge.
Underwhelming photo, perhaps, but the bridge is anything but. Named after Georgia governor Eugene Talmadge, it connects downtown Savannah with Hutchinson Island and spans a distance of two miles. The Talmadge is imposing and picturesque, and it makes one’s entryway into Savannah proper a truly memorable experience. It astounds me, however, that what is surely the most iconic structure in a city with a majority black population is named after a politician who viciously and unapologetically espoused racial hatred and exploited racial tensions.
There’s really no way to smoothly segue from the above sentence, so I’m not even going to try. I crossed the bridge, attended the Sand Gnats game (read all about it HERE! And HERE!), and after the game found myself in a bit of a quandary in that was early evening on Mother’s Day — not exactly the best time for a traveling gluten-free Minor League Baseball writer to do a bit of exploring and socializing. Savannah’s waterfront downtown area was packed, and I simply drove along the cobblestone streets at about one mile an hour with absolutely no idea regarding what it was that I was looking to accomplish. I snaped a few underwhelming photos out of the driver’s side window and then got out of Dodge as quickly as I could.
My lack of a plan and general feelings of alienation from the scene around me put me in a grumpy frame of mind.
So I did what I always do in these situations: went to a diner, ordered steak and eggs, and then brought a stash of pork cracklins and Mello Yello back to my hotel room to serve as writing fuel. It was a beautiful night.
But frustration continued to follow me the next day, eventually catching up with me somewhere between Savannah and my next destination of Augusta. My problem was that it was lunch time and in the breaded and fried deep South it can be difficult to stay true to the gluten-free diet that a battery of medical professionals have insisted that I follow.
I was hungry and not seeing many viable options along whatever lonely stretch of road that I was on, so when I spotted a sign advertising one “Bay South” restaurant I figured I may as well roll the dice and give it a try. At the very least I’d be supporting a humble local business as opposed to a monolithic chain entity doing its part to further exacerbate America’s descent into corporatized homogeneity, and that’s half the battle right there.
The restaurant didn’t have a menu, just a small board listing the day’s specials. I was hungry, and as a stranger in a strange land I was feeling a little self-conscious and didn’t really want to give the waitress a spiel regarding my dietary needs. I simply ordered the pork chop special with field peas and stewed tomatoes and hoped for the best. This is the platter that soon arrived:
Don’t get me wrong — that’s a good looking plate of food, and in my pre-gluten free days I would have devoured it without a second thought. But that pork chop was heavily breaded, the peas were in a thick sauce that likely used flour as a thickener, and bread crumbs were mixed in with the tomatoes. The piece de resistance in this fete de gluten was the cornbread, which is to the South what pickles are to a Jewish deli.
“I made my bed, now I’ve got to lie in it,” was the thought that went through my head, so I went ahead and ate the whole plate of food. And, no surprise, it was delicious. I experienced no side effects from this major diet deviation, as I am an asymptomatic (or “silent”) celiac. It’s weird — in a way I almost wish I had symptoms, because the debilitating short-term side effects of eating gluten would serve as a safeguard against the long-term bodily damage that occurs as a result of “cheating” episodes along the lines of that detailed above (which I really don’t do very often at all).
But enough gnashing of teeth, as tautologically speaking celiac disease simply is what it is. I’m just trying to articulate the tortured mental gymnastics that accompany most restaurant meals these days, as these minor setbacks within a life of immense privilege really take a lot out of a guy!
And speaking of immense privilege, the next stop on my itinerary was none other than this esteemed locale.
I arrived at this legendary expanse of greenery with one Chad Walters, an Augusta resident and founder of Lean Blitz Consulting (who served as Designated Eater at that night’s GreenJackets game). Chad kindly spotted me a set of clubs, and I strode toward the entrance gate all like “Oh, no big deal, I’m here every day.”
I’ve actually never played golf in my life, and in one of the most predictable outcomes of all time I was turned away by a guard who denied Chad’s requests to take a picture. Whatever lurked beyond this road way was going to remain a mystery.
Desultory contemplation complete, this Augusta excursion ended with a walk down the surprisingly pedestrian (but not pedestrian friendly) pathway that separates Augusta from the strip mall homogeneity that surrounds it.
Fortunately, Chad had one more Augusta landmark to show me and this one was far more accessible. We drove into downtown proper and, after taking advantage of the ample parking opportunities, made our way to this location.
Yes, that James Brown. The Godfather of Soul! Presiding over all that he sees!
Brown was not an Augusta native, but he did spend his formative years here. Per the plaque that resides at the base of the structure, Brown “has called Augusta ‘home’ since moving here when he was five. It was in Augusta’s Lenox Theatre that he first received recognition for his talent by winning an amateur contest.”
Perhaps the James Brown’s of tomorrow are honing their chops at downtown Savannah’s I-3000 Club, although the focus there seemed to be more on adult entertainment.
After that it was goodbye downtown Augusta and hello GreenJackets. (I wrote about that ballgame HERE and HERE, as I am wont to do.) The next day it was on to Birmingham, where I closed out this trip by attending two games at the Barons’ new home of Regions Field. (Check it out, if you are wont to do such a thing.) My time in Birmingham yielded two blog posts and two MiLB.com features, virtually exhausting all of my Dream City content, so all that I have left to share is this: before leaving for the airport, I stopped for a meal at the Birmingham BBQ institution that is Dreamland BBQ.
I patronized the 14th Avenue South location, which is located in a rather residential area.
The majority of the patrons on this Tuesday afternoon were sitting in the booths…
but given my lonely traveler status I opted for a seat at the bar and promptly ordered a half slab of ribs. They were delectable (and gluten-free).
During the meal I made small talk with the bartender, who turned out to be the younger brother of outfielder Josh Phelps (now retired). This minor but nonetheless interesting baseball-related happenstance marked the conclusion of this particular road trip, as from Dreamland I went straight to the airport. I am happy to report that the boiled peanuts made it home safely.
Welcome to the second 2013 installment of “Return to the Road,” in which I highlight that which was experienced above and beyond the ballparks during my road trip travels. Part one covered May 8 and 9 in Bowling Green and Nashville, and today’s post picks up in the early afternoon of Friday, May 10th. I had attended the previous night’s Sounds game at Nashville’s Greer Stadium — read about that HERE — and upon checking out of the hotel (complete with Road Trip Hotel Room Review #2) I made my way back to the area surrounding the ballpark.
My destination was Gabby’s Burgers, an unassuming but very well-regarded burger joint located the proverbial hop, skip, and jump away from Greer.
The above photo was taken as I was leaving Gabby’s, but when I arrived there was a line that snaked all the way out of the door. It was hard to take pictures within such a cramped environment, but this more or less conveys what the scene was like inside.
As many of you know, a celiac disease diagnosis has forced me to adapt to a gluten-free diet. Ultra-specific fast food establishments such as Gabby’s can sometimes be difficult to navigate, but I had been informed the previous evening that they did in fact offer a “jazz style” burger in which the bun was replaced with lettuce. Not ideal, perhaps, but perfectly acceptable! I ordered a “Seamus burger, jazz-style” and then snagged a seat at the counter. About 10 minutes later, this arrived.
I’m writing this six months after the fact, so perhaps my adjectival command is not what it might have been, but I can say without equivocation that this burger was STUPENDOUS, easily one of the top three that I’ve ever had in my life. If you’re in Nashville, and especially if you’re in the vicinity of Greer Stadium, then you owe it to yourself to make a visit.
Greer Stadium’s iconic guitar scoreboard can be seen from the Gabby’s parking lot, and a record pressing plant (!) is located just down the street as well. Burgers, baseball, and vinyl — what more could you want from life? (Well, actually, I can immediately think of a few other things.) But all good things must come to an end, even if they come in threes, and soon enough I was off to Kodak (or would that be Sevierville?), home of the Tennessee Smokies. My journey was not without its miscues, as you may recall from my Smokies’ “On the Road” post:
I arrived at Smokies Park a bit later than I was aiming for, due to a GPS/common sense snafu in which I drove to a “Stadium Drive” in Knoxville instead of the one in Sevierville. It wasn’t until I made a turn onto “Peyton Manning Pass” that it occurred to me that I may have driven to the University of Tennessee’s Neyland Stadium instead.
This, perhaps, was not my finest moment. But I was nonetheless in good spirits when I arrived at the Hampton Inn. You can see the ballpark from the stadium!
I wrote all about my visit with the Smokies, HERE and HERE and HERE. The next morning I posted Road Trip Hotel Room Review #3, and then embarked upon the long and winding mountain drive to Asheville. Upon arriving I found myself with about two hours of free time, and I decided to make the most of it by doing what I do best: wandering the downtown area in search of independent record stores. In Asheville, a city that prides itself on its cultural eclecticism and general open-mindedness, it didn’t take long to find one.
Static Age was a bit dungeon-esque, but it didn’t make me crabby. They had a bunch of Record Store Day stuff that had long become unavailable in New York City, and I was glad to snag Mercury Rev’s “Deserted Songs” as well as a free Sub Pop sampler (they also still had limited edition Bardo Pond and Mugstar releases and in my head I was like “Yo, Asheville heavy psych bros, you gotta get on that.”)
After leaving Static Age I soon came across Voltage Records.
While combing through the stacks at Voltage, I looked up and saw a most familiar site. I had this poster hanging in my bedroom, circa 1996.
Downtown Asheville was bustling on this Saturday afternoon, and despite what some of these pictures may convey it was truly a vibrant and spirited atmosphere.
Downtown also boasts this iconic art deco beauty, the S & W Cafeteria.
S & W was a chain restaurant that served inexpensive (but presumably delicious) Southern cooking. The Asheville location was open from 1929-74, and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1977. For better or for worse, it is currently being renovated into condominiums.
Interior-wise, the most physically impressive establishment that I visited was the Battery Park Book Exchange and Champagne Bar. This multi-level book store is well organized and offers plenty of comfortable nooks and crannies to sit and drink coffee, wine, and yes, champagne. It’d be a great place to hang out for an hour or two, but, as is often the case on these trips, I just didn’t have the time. And, as is also so often the case, my pictures do not do it justice.
Back outside and once again wandering about, I soon noticed that one of these things is indeed not like the other.
I was not in the market for a red, white, and blue bandanna, but I was in the market to visit another bookstore. I always am. Here’s some interior shots of the plainly named and plainly awesome Downtown News.
Perhaps the best thing about Downtown News was their exemplary (maga)zine selection.
Arthur is currently my favorite magazine and if over the course of reading this blog you’ve found that your sensibilities are similar to mine then please take the time to check it out (I also copped that Mojo with Sabbath on the cover).
I of course realize that there is far more to Asheville than its book and record stores, but given a limited amount of time that’s what I chose to focus on and I hope you were able to pick up on at least a little bit of what I was putting down.
I’ll end with a total non-sequitur, as I have one other photo in this particular road trip folder that is totally out of context. I imagine that this is something that I stumbled upon at a gas station somewhere between the Smoky Mountains and Asheville, but certainly it is not something that I have seen before or since. The object of this game was to use a joystick to control a pair of scissors that could then cut the string holding one of two prizes: a Nikon camera and a wad of money. I don’t remember operating this ridiculous contraption, but if I did I failed.
And with that, I have no more outside-of-the-ballpark detritus to share from what were my third and fourth days of 2013′s “Southern Swing.” Thanks, as always, for sticking with me.
With quasi-arbitrary personal and professional milestones firmly in the rear view mirror, it’s now time to move confidently into the future by dwelling in the past. In other words, it’s time to Return to the Road! Some of you may be familiar with the “Return to the Road” concept, but for those who aren’t:
Each season I go on several Minor League Baseball road trips, documenting the ballpark experience as thoroughly as I am able. But, of course, part of the beauty of this sort of road trip is that it gives gives one the opportunity to explore not just the ballpark but the city itself. And that’s simply what these posts are — an offseason opportunity for me to re-visit my 2013 road trips by highlighting that which was seen and experienced outside of the ballpark. (Even if it wasn’t much — I’m on a tight schedule!)
2013′s slate of peregrinations began with May’s Southern Swing trip, with stop #1 being in Bowling Green. I attended May 8′s Hot Rods game, and the next morning, after recording the first of what would become several dozen “Road Trip Hotel Room Reviews,” I was able to explore Bowling Green’s downtown area (located the proverbial “hop, skip, and a jump” away from the stadium). The focal point of downtown is “Fountain Square Park,” which is ripped straight out of Norman Rockwell’s America.
Per the Bowling Green Convention and Visitor’s Bureau:
Restored facades of 19th-century buildings, a renovated Art Deco movie theater, thriving businesses and bustling professionals surround the park’s historic fountain, statues, flowers, shrubs, mature trees and benches. Once the site of prohibitionist marches, trolleys, livestock trades and scrap drives, today it is the host of summer concerts, parades, arts and crafts shows and many other festivals and events throughout the year.
Here’s what I saw on a sleepy afternoon in early May, beginning with the titular fountain:
But not all of downtown Bowling Green was as genteel as the images seen above. Here’s Rocky’s Bar, located at 322 E. Main Street.
Inebriates in the know know to order Gorilla’s Blood.
Unfortunately, that little spot of downtown wandering was about all that I had time for whilst in Bowling Green. I was listening to local country radio as I drove out of the city, and would you believe that Lee Greenwood was playing at the exact moment at which I passed the Greenwood Mall? It’s true. My notes also indicate that I heard George Strait and Alan Jackson’s “Murder on Music Row” as well, and that this song is “a much-needed corrective to condescending schlock.”
I can’t tell you where I was, exactly, but about an hour or so later I drove by this establishment and immediately did a u-turn so that I could photograph it. This, to me, is beauty incarnate:
Of course, one of the best things about trips such as these is stopping at kitschy rest stops for gas/food/totally unnecessary and irredeemably tacky but nonetheless irresistible souvenirs.
At Sad Sam’s, one is greeted by this statue. It is as vividly rendered as it is culturally insensitive.
This guy is a behemoth!
I limited myself to three items while at Sad Sam’s: An “anti-snoring” contraption consisting of a small clothespin in a wooden box (sadly not pictured), a can of boiled peanuts and the bizarrely wax-like peanut patty.
Out in the parking lot of Sad Sam’s an older gentlemen with greased-hair and a pack of Pall Malls in his breast pocket struck up a conversation with me. He was curious as to whether I liked the Kia I was driving (my rental car), and when I replied that it was adequate but unremarkable he told me that he bought an “alien green” Kia for his wife.
“She likes it, but I’m a retired auto worker,” he told me. “If I drove it to our union meetings everyone would make fun of me.”
And with that, it was on to Nashville. En route to Greer Stadium, home of the Sounds, I was able to make a brief detour at Grimey’s. Behind this humble domestic facade lurks one of the best-regarded record stores in the city.
I enjoyed browsing the stacks — both at Grimey’s and its next-door “Grimey’s Too” location — and ended up purchasing three new 7″ records (two of which were on Nashville’s Third Man record label), a couple of used LPs, and the awesome issue of Juxtapoz that was dedicated to the visual aesthetic of the Beastie Boys. My notes also indicate that the Fiery Furnaces cover of “Single Again” was playing in the store and that I “should get that.”
Grimey’s was very close to Greer Stadium, and my next stop was even closer: Fort Negley, a Union fortification built during the Civil War, is located adjacent to the ballpark.
Greer Stadium is actually visible from the base of Fort Negley.
I’m going to go out on a limb and declare this to be the only guitar-shaped scoreboard that is visible from a National Historic Landmark.
And from there, it was off to the ballgame. As I noted at the time, the Sounds were expecting me.
You can read all about my night with the Sounds by clicking HERE, but as for this particular post this is all I’ve got. I’ll close by noting that I have a pork cracklin addiction, and had to ration myself to one bag for every day that I was on this road trip. Nothing like pulling a blogging all-nighter in a hotel while eating a bag of Golden Flakes and drinking Mello-Yello!
Thanks for “returning to the road” with me. Post #1001 is now complete.
Today’s post will, yet again, function as an exhumation of various endeavors that I didn’t get around to covering at the moment in time when they were actually taking place. And what I’d like to focus on today is an endeavor that very much appeals to me, given my background as college radio DJ/nerd turned Minor League Baseball writer/nerd.
On Thursday, July 18, the Durham Bulls teamed with locally-based/internationally-known indie label Merge Records for an evening of baseball and music. The label , which was founded in 1989 by Superchunk’s Mac McCaughan and Laura Ballance, curated the Bulls’ walk-up music throughout the ballgame. Here’s the list of tunes that were heard that evening at Durham Bulls Athletic Park, which the Bulls have made available as a Spotify playlist.
* Arcade Fire – “Wake Up”
* Bob Mould – “Silver Age”
* Divine Fits – “Would That Not Be Nice”
* Hospitality – “Friends of Friends”
* Imperial Teen – “Runaway”
* The Love Language – “Brittany’s Back”
* M. Ward – “Requiem”
* Mikal Cronin – “Change”
* Mount Moriah – “Bright Light”
* The Mountain Goats – “The Diaz Brothers”
* Polvo – “Heavy Detour”
* Redd Kross – “Researching the Blues”
* Shout Out Louds – “14th of July”
* Spoon – “The Underdog”
* Superchunk – “FOH”
* Telekinesis – “Wires”
* Wild Flag – “Romance”
* Wye Oak – “Civilian”
I was disappointed to see that Eleanor Friedberger was left off the play list – Personal Record is a great LP! — but beyond that I thought this was really innovative partnership and the sort of thing it’d be great to see more of throughout Minor League Baseball. The Bulls’ “Merge Night” went on to serve as the centerpiece of a long Spin magazine feature on the evolution of downtown Durham, and hopefully it will serve as the impetus for a Mountain Goats song about the life of a Minor League mascot.
The evening was also chronicled as part of the season-long “Bull City Summer” project, and in that piece Bulls’ director of marketing Scott Carter explains the rationale behind it thusly:
I consider music the lifeblood of the ballpark experience: it is incredibly important to the atmosphere. But I also believe that if you can mix in some new music that may not be as mainstream, like that which Merge produces, you can make your ballpark into a place where people feel cool. That’s huge. You want people to feel like coming to a game is cool. And we’re lucky to be in a market like this one where indie music is so widely appreciated. So it’s not as out of the norm to hear some of these artists at the DBAP as it may be in some other minor league towns.
I couldn’t have said it better myself (I mean, really, I couldn’t have). While I totally understand that a lot of music on smaller labels isn’t accessible enough for the “all family-friendly entertainment, all the time” atmosphere of Minor League Baseball, the opportunities are out there (though Austin-based Matador records co-founder Gerard Cosloy quickly shot down my idea of a potential collaboration with the Round Rock Express).
So — what are some prominent (or at least semi-prominent) record labels that operate in Minor League cities? And, speaking more broadly, what are some other ways that Minor League teams could partner with the local music scene in their community? An idea that I have bandied about for the last couple of years is a concourse record fair, held in conjunction with local record stores and/or labels and/or community and college radio stations. Get in touch if you have any suggestions or feedback, as this is a topic I plan on returning to as time and inspiration allows.
A very short time ago, within the same galaxy that I am currently communicating from, I wrote about the Tri-City ValleyCats’ exemplary “Show on the Road” promotion. Read all about it simply by clicking on the link provided, but if time and/or battery life and/or attention span is at a premium and you are unable to do then here’s a synopsis:
For “Show on the Road,” the ValleyCats brought their Minor League game day experience to a local youth field, complete with on-field introductions, mascot races, between-inning contests, and, of course, more. Commence image placement:
Soon after I my post about “Show on the Road” I received the following email from Round Rock Express director of communications Jill Cacic (because remember, you can’t spell “director of communications” without “Cacic”):
We actually put on a very similar event this year in a partnership with RBI [Reviving Baseball in the Inner Cities] Austin called “Triple-A for a Day.” We brought out our entire promotional crew, mascot, PA announcer, [on-field emcee] Ballpark Rob, the grounds crew and the hot dog vendor (can’t leave Dell Diamond without him!) down to Downs Mabson Field for the RBI Austin Kid Pitch Championship to turn their field into Dell Diamond. Former MLB pitcher and University of Texas legend Greg Swindell threw out the ceremonial first pitch….It was a really great event and made these kids’ year. There were over 200 people in the stands to watch this game when they said they normally have maybe 30-35. It’s an event that we’re looking to turn into a yearly partnership with RBI Austin.
Here are a few choice photos from the team’s Facebook photo album chronicling the event:
Or, if moving pictures are more your thing, there’s this Reckless-ly enjoyable recap video:
In a similar vein, this past June the Beloit Snappers invited fans out to the ballpark for a “mystery event” at Pohlman Field.
Per the team:
All those in attendance will get the chance to meet Snappers players and coaches and they’ll receive a free ticket to the Snappers sixth fireworks show of the season on June 29th. A free hot dog and soda will also be given to everyone who shows up for this secretive happening. All other information about the event is considered highly classified.
This “mystery event” turned out to be a flash mob of sorts, as the 200 or so participants headed to a nearby youth field in order to, yes, bring the Minor League game day experience to a non-traditional environment. Once again, a few photos from the team’s Facebook photo album:
And so it went, and so it goes. I am fully expecting “Show on the Road” style events to proliferate in the year of our Lord 2014. Don’t let me down, industry. Don’t let me down.
Ben’s Biz Blog post #993 shall now cease to function.
The previous post to have been published right here on this little slice of the internet that I call my professional home featured a bevy of ostensibly quality videos from the 2013 campaign.
[cue sound of a needle scratching across a record]
What a needlessly convoluted sentence that was! What I meant to say is: let’s start this post with some more videos.
Specifically, I’d like to highlight this A+ effort out of Daytona. The weather in that city can be quite intense, to say the least, turning tarp pulls into a harrowing battle with the elements. This preview is rated MM for “meteorological mayhem:”
The intro to the above video shows clips of several notable “tarpocalypse” videos from seasons past (at least one of which was featured on this blog). Well, this one outta Ogden can now be added to the ranks:
Oh. but calamity can befall ballpark denizens in a multitude of ways. This season Lansing Lugnuts broadcaster Jesse Goldberg-Strassler emerged as the nation’s pre-eminent chronicler of press box laptop foul ball casualties. To wit:
— Benjamin Hill (@bensbiz) August 2, 2013
Let’s take a closer look. First up is L. Tyler Murray of the Dunedin Blue Jays.
— L. Tyler Murray (@LTylerMurray) August 2, 2013
Next, we have a MUST-READ ACCOUNT of foul ball laptop terror (complete with an absolutely uncanny audio clip), courtesy of Winston-Salem’s Brian Boesch.
For the record, Winston-Salem’s aforementioned “The Dash Board Blog” is easily among the best team blogs in all of Minor League Baseball. Broadcasters looking to raise their writing game would do well to scroll through its ample archives.
And then there’s Goldberg-Strassler’s 2013 broadcast partner, the inimitable and on-the-rise Slavko Bekovic.
— Slavko Bekovic (@SBekovic) May 11, 2013
And wait, what’s this? Yet another example of foul ball lap top destruction? Yes, it’s true, and this one is live and direct from Great Lakes.
— Great Lakes Loons (@greatlakesloons) August 31, 2013
Speaking of Mr. Goldberg-Strassler, during the season he anchored a weekly podcast called “Around the Nest.” In this podcast he talked to every broadcaster within the Blue Jays farm system (himself and Bekovic included), so that they could share their expertise regarding that particular team. The end result was a thorough farm system overview, all in the course of a single broadcast.
A replicable idea, no?
This has been Ben’s Biz Blog post #992. Ben’s Biz over and out.
The annual Minor League Baseball Promotional Seminar is a multi-faceted industry extravaganza, and one of its easiest-to-overlook components is the Job Fair. While a fraction of the size of its Winter Meetings counterpart, the Seminar Job Fair represents a great chance to, as its web site says, “get a head start on your competition.”
I would agree. While the number of job postings at the Seminar are fairly minimal, job seekers put themselves in a great position via the opportunity to learn from and network with the industry. A lot of Winter Meetings job seekers enter the experience with myopic viewpoints, not quite understanding the level of competition or how the industry actually functions on a day-to-day basis, but those who have attended the Seminar gain a far more realistic and nuanced view of what they need to do to succeed. And while it is certainly intimidating to be a relative unknown within the tight-knit collegiality of the industry, there are ample opportunities to make connections, start conversations, bond over drinks, etc.
While attending the Seminar, I let it be known that I would be happy to highlight Job Seekers in an upcoming blog post so that my readers (which certainly include potential employers) could get a sense of who they are, what they’re looking for, and what motivated them to come to Louisville. Three Job Seekers responded to this open call; they are profiled below.
Kyle, a resident of Morgantown, WV is currently spending his days working in sales and his evenings calling Division II basketball games. He has three years of NCAA Division I communications experience, but, as you’ll see below, baseball is his passion.
For two seasons, I doubled as the play-by-play broadcaster for the University of Kansas baseball team in the spring and the Willmar Stingers of the Northwoods League in the summer, calling more than 120 games each year. During this time, I also served as a communications assistant in the Kansas Athletics Department and acted as the director of media relations for the Willmar Stingers, writing a game recap each night, producing game notes for each series and working in the ticket office during homestands. I currently have a full-time sales job with a private corporation, but I want to return to baseball and am hoping to find a minor league play-by-play job for next season.
What prompted you to attend the Promo Seminar, and was it a worthwhile experience?
I attended the Promo Seminar to network as much as possible, realizing that a lot of teams would not have a definitive grasp yet on their broadcaster situation for next year. I set some lofty expectations going into the Promo Seminar and somehow it exceeded them. I met a lot of great people and learned an incredible amount during the group therapy and power sessions. It was certainly worth the trip.
Interested in having Kyle work for your organization? Contact him at 785-472-7013, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Michael, 24, was born in “the rubber capital of the world” (aka Akron, OH) but has lived in Tennessee for almost his entire life. He attended the Memphis College of Art and, as a graphic design professional, would like to let it be known that his favorite fonts are Nevis and Franchise.
What experience do you have in the world of baseball so far, and what sort of job are you looking for?
This past year was my first in baseball, interning as a graphic design assistant with the Tennessee Smokies. There I handled all of their graphics needs when it came to video board, print, social media, billboards, stadium signage, etc. You name it I made it. I was also the in-game audio operator for all of our their games, as well as co-director of the team’s game day productions when needed.
I am definitely looking to stay on the production and design side of things in baseball. As a designer, I enjoy being at the heart of the memory-making aspect of baseball, trying to add to the sport’s rich history with everything I make. Each design could be somebody’s first ticket, first poster, first everything, so I want to make sure they are all worth remembering.
What prompted you to attend the Promo Seminar, and was it a worthwhile experience?
I had such a blast being with the Smokies that a gathering of like-minded people sharing ideas on the sport sounded like the right place to further my experience and start to establish a network in minor league baseball. With only a year under my belt, I wanted to dive into the deep end of the pool and immerse myself in all of the knowledge I could obtain from the 3-day event. From all the ideas that I gathered to all the great people I was able to connect with, the seminar well exceeded my expectations.
The main highlight for me was every person I got to meet one-on-one and spend a few minutes with, learning so much from each one. My lowlight would have to be almost knocking over Pat O’Conner in passing at Louisville Slugger Field. Nice first impression, huh?
For more on Michael, and to get in touch with him, check out his website www.michaelvinson.net
Andrew, a classic hip-hop aficionado, attended the University of Arizona and currently resides in Austin. The Irvington, NY native reports that “Baseball is my lifelong passions, and to make a career for myself in this great game is my absolute goal!”
What experience do you have in the world of baseball so far, and what sort of job are you looking for?
For the past two seasons I have worked for the Round Rock Express. This past season I worked in the “Control Room” working in the Gameday Presentation. I am hoping to obtain a position working in Community and/ or Public Relations. However, as we all know, working in MiLB requires an individual to remain flexible and open to all opportunities!
What prompted you to attend the Promo Seminar, and was it a worthwhile experience?
I decided to drive 17 hours from Austin to Louisville to get better and learn more about the business of baseball. It was a phenomenal education with great minds and personalities coming together to share ideas, and the best part as a “Job Seeker” was that I had an opportunity to interact and introduce myself to members of MiLB across the board. This Promo Seminar is a must-go for anybody who works in MiLB and anyone who wants to gain valuable and important insights from some of the top baseball minds!
And there you have it, just a small sample of the sort of folks who are vying for a career in baseball in 2014 and beyond. Get in touch if you’d like to share your own job seeking experiences (at the Promo Seminar or otherwise).
The above title is a bit of misnomer, as the Promo Seminar is only three days long and was over by the time that everything in this post took place.
But! I was still in Louisville for the bulk of this particular day, and I did some things and saw some things and now I’m going to write all about it. I just don’t know what else to do.
Friday, September 27
After a semi-productive morning of writing, I checked out of Louisville’s Galt House Hotel amid a scene of controlled chaos. While the Minor League Baseball Promo Seminar had been a fairly large event, it had nothing on the H20-XPO taking place that weekend and the lobby was absolutely packed with water industry merchants, policy makers, activists, and hangers-on. I wanted nothing more than to get out of that aquamarine mob scene, but wasn’t scheduled to leave Louisville for another couple of hours. So, I commenced to walking.
The Galt House Hotel is on 4th Street, and as part of a downtown revitalization effort a nearby stretch of this street has been closed to traffic and transformed into a retail/dining/nightlife complex called “Fourth Street Live!” It’s good for what it is (an accessible downtown gathering spot), but there’s no getting around the fact that its loud and tacky, with a disproportionate amount of square footage given over to national chains.
Spending time on Fourth Street Live, while convenient for those situated downtown, leaves the visitor with little to no sense of what it is that might make Louisville unique. Therefore, I was glad to get a little time to walk around and take note of that which existed beyond the penned-in parameters of Fourth Street Live.
Before becoming the proud home of entities such as TGI Fridays, Hard Rock Cafe, and Howl at the Moon piano bar, Fourth Street was the site of Civil Rights sit-in protests.
Click HERE to check out a photo gallery of the sit-ins and protests that took place in and around Louisville’s Fourth Street. Captivating stuff.
Just a few minutes later I came across this little monument to monk/poet/activist Thomas Merton, who became a monk at the nearby Abbey of Gethsemani (his famous autobiography Seven Storey Mountain was written there, among many other works).
Even better is the back of the plaque, which says that on this very corner Merton had the sudden realization that he “loved all these people.”
Seeing this plaque got me to thinking about how we, as a society, don’t do enough to honor and promote the work of men and women of peace. While attending the Promo Seminar I heard a lot of great ideas about military-themed promotions and events, and I’m generally all for these types of endeavors as they represent a great chance to honor the sacrifices made by those in the community who have served overseas. But there is too much of a disparity at play, this willingness to almost indiscriminately label anyone remotely connected with the military as a “hero” while rarely if ever extending the same level of consideration to those who dedicate their lives to issues revolving around peace and social justice.
And, of course, even typing the above paragraph made me think about how I haven’t done nearly enough work on these fronts and am, at present, an ineffectual and self-centered urbanite whose college-era idealism has withered into a general “eh, I’m just trying to get by in NYC” sort of malaise. This is unacceptable, but also unacceptable is the continuation of this tangent, because, look, I had a baseball bat museum to visit.
And on the way to this baseball bat museum I saw another really interesting plaque!
Thornton Blackburn’s Wikipedia page is short, but absolutely fascinating. Please enjoy this brief excerpt, as I am laboring under the delusion that everyone is interested in what I am interested in:
[The Blackburn's] had been settled in Detroit, Michigan, for two years when, in 1833, Kentucky slave hunters located, re-captured, and arrested the couple. The Blackburns were jailed but allowed visitors, which provided the opportunity for Lucie to exchange her clothes—and her incarceration—with a Mrs. George French. Lucie was then spirited across the Detroit River to safety in Amherstburg, in Essex County, Upper Canada (U.C.).
Thornton’s escape was more difficult as he was heavily guarded, bound and shackled. The day before Thornton was to be returned to Kentucky, Detroit’s African American community rose up in protest. A crowd of some 400 men stormed the jail to free him.
Anyhow, I was indeed headed to a baseball bat museum or, to put it more specifically, the Louisville Slugger Museum. Along the way, one passes a variety of commemorative plaques which immortalize the Louisville Sluggers used by famous players. This was a Jeff Bagwell edition.
Along the way to the museum, there were many sights to be seen. Sights such as humorous Army-Navy Store signage.
Not to mention a 30-foot tall gold replica of Michelangelo’s David.
Finally, there was this photo op in front of the Louisville Science Center.
Eventually, my destination was reached.
There were no photos allowed during the factory tour, under penalty of death, but it was enjoyable to be walked through the bat making process. Afterwards I wandered about the museum portion, pausing briefly to take this subpar photo.
Ted loved his Louisville Slugger.
So did the Babe.
After visiting the Louisville Slugger Museum my hope had been to swing by Zooperstars! headquarters, but time was a bit too tight so I simply walked around for a bit on East Market Street. Before skimming through the record selection at Please and Thank You coffee shop, I stopped by Muth’s Candies and scored some primo peanut brittle.
Kentucky Fried Chicken is headquartered in Louisville, but I don’t think this graffiti was approved by corporate.
And then there’s this:
One final thing about KFC is that Louisville is home to the thus far only location of the more upscale (but still very casual) “KFC Eleven.“
And with that random fact, I am officially out of Louisville-based content. I flew back to New York City that evening, thus ending what I truly believe was a successful jaunt to Kentucky. I just wish that said jaunt could have lasted a bit longer, because then I could have attended the Cropped Out Festival. Blues Control and Endless Boogie on the same night would have been awesome!
Meanwhile, I consider this blog to be its own sort of endless boogie. Post #988 is now in the bag.