Archive for the ‘ Travel ’ Category

On the Road: A Dedicated Fan Base in Greeneville

To see all posts from my June 25 visit to the Greeneville Astros, click HERE. To see all my posts from my June/July 2016 Appalachian League Road Trip, click HERE. To see all my “On the Road” posts, click HERE. If interested in seeing posts covering a visit to a particular team, search for that team’s name in the blog search bar (it’s to your right).

Pregame wanderings complete, it was now time to take in a ballgame. (For me, taking in a ballgame simply translates to “more wandering.”)

IMG_1540David Lane, the longtime general manager of the Astros, introduced me to some of the team’s most dedicated fans throughout the game. First I met Arthur and Edith Ricker, who just so happened to be celebrating their 69th wedding anniversary. Arthur delighted in sharing his World War II memories, with Edith often jumping in to steer the conversation back on course. As that impish gleam in her eyes amply illustrates, she was quick with a smile and had a great sense of humor.

“Want me to stick out my tongue?” said Edith, just before this picture was taken.
IMG_0028Later on I met Steve Alexander, part of Greenville’s most celebrated baseball family. Most prominent among them was Steve’s father, Dale, who won the 1932 American League batting title as a member of the Boston Red Sox.

IMG_0053 Finally, there were sisters Norma, Betty and Joyce of nearby Mosheim, Tennessee. The sisters agree that the best player they ever saw play for Greeneville was Jose Altuve, whom Betty called “a little fireball.”

IMG_0055For more on the individuals mentioned above, read my MiLB.com story.

Anyhow, there was still a ballgame going on. There always is.

IMG_0029It was “Olympic Night” at the ballpark, which manifested itself primarily via the staff — and the mascot — wearing over-the-top patriotic t-shirts (I guess all t-shirts are “over-the-top,” come to think of it). Gizmo, the cousin of Houston mascot Orbit, loves America.

IMG_0056If baseball doesn’t work out, maybe Garcia, Pal, Johnson, Castro, Franco, Fernandez and Sanbria (?) can form the country’s most awkwardly-named law firm.

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Hitting coach Cesar Cedeno, on the left, was honored this season with a bobblehead/leg featuring his preferred dugout pose. Two undulating appendages for the price of one!

As the game wore on, I spent a couple of innings in the grassy area down the third base line that serves as a promo crew staging area.

IMG_0061Some of the things I saw back there can’t be unseen.

Nah, just kidding, all of the food is alive and well.

IMG_1548The Astros ended up losing the ballgame, 5-3, to the Johnson City Cardinals. My only note involving the game itself was that Greeneville shortstop Jonathan Arauz (who was born just before I entered my sophomore year of college) hit a home run over the right field fence and that a “retrieval effort ensued.” Fascinating stuff, as always.

After the game, I spent some time admiring Pioneer Park’s Greeneville baseball history exhibit.

IMG_0065Once I returned to the field of play, a rather desultory round of Launch-A-Ball was just wrapping up.

IMG_0067That meant it was time for me to wrap things up as well. All that was left to do was write and disseminate my nightly Groundbreaking and Subversive Ballpark Joke.

***

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

instagram.com/thebensbiz

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On the Road: Kicking Things Off in Greeneville

To see all my posts from my June 25 visit to the Greeneville Astros, click HERE. To see all my posts from my June/July 2016 Appalachian League Road Trip, click HERE. To see all my “On the Road” posts, click HERE. If interested in seeing posts covering a visit to a particular team, search for that team’s name in the blog search bar (it’s to your right).

Okay. Here we go. Over the last two months I visited the entirety of the Appy League as well as 10 teams throughout California, Nevada, Idaho and Washington. I’ve written features and short blog posts from (nearly) all of these locations, with still more to come. On a personal level, I moved to a new apartment here in NYC and, one month later, have still not finished unpacking. Oh, and the Ben’s Biz T-shirt is now available! The cumulative effect of the above endeavors leads me to my favorite activity of all: excuse making! I just haven’t had the time (some might say the wherewithal) to return to the blog to write the in-depth ballpark recaps you have come to know and, surely, love.

But you know what? Now I’ve got the time. I’ve got it in spades. Today I’ll begin blogging about Appy clubs and their diamonds, with all the heart I muster. So let’s get to it, lest it get to us.

***

I flew into the city of Asheville, North Carolina, on the morning of June 25. I had no time to be a tourist, however, as I needed to get to neighboring Tennessee as soon as possible. So I hopped into a rental car, cranked up Complete Road Music Volume 1, shed a tear to some Red Sovine and hit the open road.

After checking into a hotel in Johnson City — my home base for the next five nights — I headed to Greeneville to see the Astros. I never quite made it to Greeneville, however, as the Astros actually operate in neighboring Tusculum. Their home of Pioneer Park, built in 2004 and funded via a sizable donation from local businessman/philanthropist Scott Niswonger, is located on the campus of Tusculum College. The Astros run the park between June 1 and September 15; otherwise it is under the control of the college.

IMG_0002Pioneer Park is the newest park in the Appy League. It has 2,500 seats, but can accommodate as many as 3,800 via berm seating. The Astros led the league in attendance from 2004-2014, but last year were dethroned by the Pulaski Yankees and their renovated Calfee Park. They are currently in fourth place in the 2016 attendance rankings, having been passed by the Burlington Royals and Johnson City Cardinals (two teams that have also made improvements to their facilities recently).

One of the first things I saw upon entering the ballpark was pitchers Diogenes Almengo and Patrick Sandoval signing pregame autographs.

IMG_0004Longtime season-ticket holders Bill and Don were not signing autographs, though they probably would if you asked nicely.

IMG_0005I spent an hour or so before the game with Astros general manager David Lane, who, when I arrived at the ballpark, was manning a ticket booth. (Such is life in the Appy League.) Among other locations, we stopped in one of Pioneer Park’s four suites.

IMG_0007This “Wheel of Fun” was donated by the parent Houston Astros. The primo prize, in my opinion, is “game-used item.”

IMG_0009 This Tusculum College athletic field is adjacent to the ballpark.

IMG_0011The clubhouses are located down the right-field line. In the below photo, I like to imagine that the player with the bat is actually carrying a bindle stick and that he has just decided to run away from home. His friend is bidding him goodbye and good luck.

IMG_0013The clubhouses are shared with the Tusculum baseball team, who once boasted a standout player by the name of Boo Morrow.

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And wouldn’t you know it? Today (August 30), is Boo Morrow’s birthday.

Capture

If you think this closet looks cluttered now, just think about what it looks like after the season ends. Then, the Astros have to stuff it with just about everything they own since they do not have access to the rest of the facility.

IMG_0017Longtime readers of this blog, of which there are several, know that I never pass up the opportunity to take a picture of a trainer’s table.

IMG_0018Clustered in the corner of a hallway were the remnants of the previous night’s fireworks show. MAXX CALIBER! (Lane also spotted four broken bats in the general vicinity, and grabbed them so they could be used as Wheel of Fun “game-used items.”)

IMG_0022The Pioneer Park grounds crew works year-round, on behalf of both the college and the Astros. Their storage space is ample.

IMG_0023Our visit to the dugout was brief, as a game was about to break out.

IMG_0019But before a game begins, patriotic protocols must be followed.

IMG_0025I watched the National Anthem while standing behind these two longtime fans. We’ll meet them in the next post.

IMG_0026

***

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

instagram.com/thebensbiz

About Friday Night: Spokane Indians, August 12, 2016

On Friday night I visited Spokane, Washington, the final stop on my sprawling 10-team California-Nevada-Idaho-Washington road trip. After a not-so-brief travel and sleep delay, I now provide the following brief recap. There will be far more to come on the blog regarding this trip, as well as my previous Appalachian League excursion. 

August 12: Spokane Indians (Class A Short-Season affiliate of the Texas Rangers)

Opponent: Eugene Emeralds, 6:30 p.m.

Avista Stadium, from the outside: 

IMG_0392Avista Stadium, from within: 

IMG_0424Culinary Creation: Bacon Blue Fries (beer-battered fries with blue cheese dressing, blue cheese crumbles and bacon crumbles)

IMG_2777Ballpark Character: Doris the Spokanosaurus

IMG_2771At Random: The Indians are long-time partners of the Spokane Indian tribe; signage throughout the ballpark is in the tribe’s native Salish language.

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Your Groundbreaking and Subversive Ballpark Joke of the Day: 

Up Next: 

This trip is over!

***

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

instagram.com/thebensbiz

About Last Night: Tri-City Dust Devils, August 11, 2016

This season, when I’m on the road, I’ll write a quick blog post about each Minor League ballpark that I visit. Then, when I return home, I’ll provide the multifaceted blog coverage that you have come to know and perhaps even love. On Thursday night I visited Pasco, Washington, the penultimate stop on my sprawling 10-team California-Nevada-Idaho-Washington road trip.

August 11: Tri-City Dust Devils (Class A Short-Season affiliate of the San Diego Padres)

Opponent: Spokane Indians, 7:15 p.m.

Gesa Stadium, from the outside: 

IMG_0365Gesa Stadium, from within: 

IMG_0370Culinary Creation: The Grand Slam Burger (topped with barbecue pulled pork)

IMG_2685Ballpark Character: On-field emcee/late-innings peanut vendor Erik Mertens

IMG_2677At Random: I’m going to go ahead and declare this to be the biggest sunshade in Minor League Baseball.

IMG_0380Your Groundbreaking and Subversive Ballpark Joke of the Day: 

MiLB.com articles from this trip thus far: (Read ’em all!)

At the Helm in Sacramento

It’s Churros Time in San Jose

Marty is Doing Well in Visalia

Up Next: 

August 12: Spokane Indians (vs. Eugene, 6:30 p.m.)

***

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

instagram.com/thebensbiz

About Last Night: Boise Hawks, August 10, 2016

This season, when I’m on the road, I’ll write a quick blog post about each Minor League ballpark that I visit. Then, when I return home, I’ll provide the multifaceted blog coverage that you have come to know and perhaps even love. On Wednesday night I visited Boise, Idaho, the eighth stop on my sprawling 10-team California-Nevada-Idaho-Washington road trip.

August 10: Boise Hawks (Class A Short-Season affiliate of the Colorado Rockies)

Opponent: Hillsboro Hops, 7:15 p.m.

Memorial Stadium, from the outside: 

IMG_0322Memorial Stadium, from within: 

IMG_0326Culinary Creation: Rocky Mountain Oysters (look it up)

IMG_0347Ballpark Character: Rally Rocket, the alter-ego of Hawks’ account executive Jon Jensen.

IMG_1082At Random: I was Fry. I lost in this race to Spud and Gem.

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Your Groundbreaking and Subversive Ballpark Joke of the Day: 

Up Next: 

August 11: Tri-City Dust Devils (vs. Spokane, 7:15 p.m.)

August 12: Spokane Indians (vs. Eugene, 6:30 p.m.)

***

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

instagram.com/thebensbiz

About Last Night: Reno Aces, August 8, 2016

This season, when I’m on the road, I’ll write a quick blog post about each Minor League ballpark that I visit. Then, when I return home, I’ll provide the multifaceted blog coverage that you have come to know and perhaps even love. On Monday night I visited Reno, Nevada, the seventh stop on my sprawling 10-team California-Nevada-Idaho-Washington road trip.

August 8: Reno Aces (Triple-A affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks)

Opponent: Salt Lake Bees, 7:05 p.m.

Greater Nevada Field, from the outside: 

IMG_0272Greater Nevada Field, from within: 

IMG_0292Culinary Creation: Funnel cake, red velvet funnel cake and a deep-fried Snickers bar lurking in the back.

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Ballpark Character: Princess, a 10-year-old pit bull rescue dog, has become a ballpark celebrity. She shares an office with her owner, Aces executive vice president Andrew Daugherty.

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At Random: Aces shortstop Jack Reinheimer made a cameo as designated eater, becoming the first-ever active player to act in this capacity. A truly historic moment.

IMG_2526Your Groundbreaking and Subversive Ballpark Joke of the Day: 

Up Next: 

August 10: Boise Hawks (vs. Hillsboro, 7:15 p.m.)

August 11: Tri-City Dust Devils (vs. Spokane, 7:15 p.m.)

August 12: Spokane Indians (vs. Eugene, 6:30 p.m.)

***

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

instagram.com/thebensbiz

About Last Night: Las Vegas 51s, August 6, 2016

This season, when I’m on the road, I’ll write a quick blog post about each Minor League ballpark that I visit. Then, when I return home, I’ll provide the multifaceted blog coverage that you have come to know and perhaps even love. On Saturday night I visited Las Vegas, the sixth stop on my sprawling 10-team California-Nevada-Idaho-Washington road trip.

August 6: Las Vegas 51s (Triple-A affiliate of the New York Mets)

Opponent: Fresno Grizzlies, 7:05 p.m.

Cashman Field, from the outside: 

IMG_0246Cashman Field, from within: 

IMG_2431Culinary Creation: Atomic Dog (hot dog, bacon, nacho cheese, jalapenos on a pretzel bun)

IMG_2447Ballpark Character: Bruce the Beer Man is very, very, very loud.

At Random: I finally got around to doing a #cupdate, for all the #cupdate fiends out there.

IMG_2455

Your Groundbreaking and Subversive Ballpark Joke of the Day: 

Up Next: 

August 8: Reno Aces (vs. Salt Lake, 7:05 p.m.)

August 10: Boise Hawks (vs. Hillsboro, 7:15 p.m.)

August 11: Tri-City Dust Devils (vs. Spokane, 7:15 p.m.)

August 12: Spokane Indians (vs. Eugene, 6:30 p.m.)

***

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

instagram.com/thebensbiz

About Last Night: Visalia Rawhide, August 5, 2016

This season, when I’m on the road, I’ll write a quick blog post about each Minor League ballpark that I visit. Then, when I return home, I’ll provide the multifaceted blog coverage that you have come to know and perhaps even love. On Friday night I visited Visalia, California, the fifth stop on my sprawling 10-team California-Nevada-Idaho-Washington road trip.

August 4: Visalia Rawhide (Class A Advanced affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks)

Opponent: Inland Empire 66ers, 7:00 p.m.

Recreation Park, from the outside: 

IMG_0214Recreation Park, from within: 

IMG_2405Culinary Creation: Spicy Corn Nugget, an inside look.

IMG_2401

Ballpark Characters: Rawhide general manager Jennifer Pendergraft with her two and half week-old son, Maverick.

IMG_2399At Random: Team history painted on a slab of gunite that forms the base of the grandstand.

IMG_2394Your Grounbreaking and Subversive Ballpark Joke of the Day: 

Up Next: 

August 6: Las Vegas 51s (vs. Fresno, 7:05 p.m.)

August 8: Reno Aces (vs. Salt Lake, 7:05 p.m.)

August 10: Boise Hawks (vs. Hillsboro, 7:15 p.m.)

August 11: Tri-City Dust Devils (vs. Spokane, 7:15 p.m.)

August 12: Spokane Indians (vs. Eugene, 6:30 p.m.)

***

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

instagram.com/thebensbiz

About Last Night: San Jose Giants, August 4, 2016

This season, when I’m on the road, I’ll write a quick blog post about each Minor League ballpark that I visit. Then, when I return home, I’ll provide the multifaceted blog coverage that you have come to know and perhaps even love. On Wednesday night I visited San Jose, California, the fourth stop on my sprawling 10-team California-Nevada-Idaho-Washington road trip.

August 4: San Jose Giants (Class A Advanced affiliate of the San Francisco Giants)

Opponent: Stockton Ports, 7:00 p.m.

Municipal Stadium, from the outside: 

IMG_0137Municipal Stadium, from within: 

IMG_0169Culinary Creations: Barbecue spread from Turkey Mike’s

IMG_2352Ballpark Character: Paul, beloved churros vendor

IMG_0201

At Random: One of many pieces of concourse art, which combine to make Municipal Stadium one of the most unique and aesthetically pleasing ballparks I have ever been to. The door below used to house a phone booth, hence the Clark Kent/Superman theme.

IMG_0140 Your Groundbreaking and Subversive Ballpark Joke of the Day: 

Up Next: 

August 5: Visalia Rawhide (vs. Inland Empire, 7:00 p.m.)

August 6: Las Vegas 51s (vs. Fresno, 7:05 p.m.)

August 8: Reno Aces (vs. Salt Lake, 7:05 p.m.)

August 10: Boise Hawks (vs. Hillsboro, 7:15 p.m.)

August 11: Tri-City Dust Devils (vs. Spokane, TBD)

August 12: Spokane Indians (vs. Eugene, 6:30 p.m.)

***

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

instagram.com/thebensbiz

About Last Night: Modesto Nuts, August 3, 2016

This season, when I’m on the road, I’ll write a quick blog post about each Minor League ballpark that I visit. Then, when I return home, I’ll provide the multifaceted blog coverage that you have come to know and perhaps even love. On Wednesday night I visited Modesto, California, the third stop on my sprawling 10-team California-Nevada-Idaho-Washington road trip.

August 3: Modesto Nuts (Class A Advanced affiliate of the Colorado Rockies)

Opponent: Visalia Rawhide, 7:05 p.m.

John Thurman Field, from the outside: 

IMG_0107John Thurman Field, from within: 

IMG_0115Culinary Creation: Chicken and Rice Bowl, a new addition for 2016.

IMG_0126Ballpark Characters: Wally, Shelley and Al, a triumvirate of anthropomorphic nuts.

IMG_2275

At Random: All of my slinging attempts after this one were flawless, of course.

Your Groundbreaking and Subversive Ballpark Joke of the Day: 

Up Next: 

August 4: San Jose Giants (vs. Modesto, 6:30 p.m.)

August 5: Visalia Rawhide (vs. Inland Empire, 7:00 p.m.)

August 6: Las Vegas 51s (vs. Fresno, 7:05 p.m.)

August 8: Reno Aces (vs. Salt Lake, 7:05 p.m.)

August 10: Boise Hawks (vs. Hillsboro, 7:15 p.m.)

August 11: Tri-City Dust Devils (vs. Spokane, TBD)

August 12: Spokane Indians (vs. Eugene, 6:30 p.m.)

***

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

instagram.com/thebensbiz

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