Archive for the ‘ Travel ’ Category

On the Road: Bologna, Barbecue and Blooper! in Danville

Before we get into the meat of this post — and there is a lot of meat product in it — a brief update: Over the last several weeks, my Appalachian League articles have proceeded apace on MiLB.com. The most recent article, on the Burlington Royals, can be found HERE. Check the dropdown bar within the piece to see all of my articles from the trip. The only Appy League team I have yet to cover in any capacity is the Danville Braves. Thus, I will jump ahead in the blogging narrative in order to provide this post, on my D-Braves designated eaters.

I’ve been recruiting designated eaters since the 2012 season, and in that time the overwhelming majority of them have been male. Not to stereotype, but men seem to comprise the majority of my readers, and men seem to be more willing to pose for ridiculous photos featuring themselves and Minor League foodstuffs. So let’s hear it for Brooke Robinson and Mary DeFriest, 2016’s first female designated eaters!

In the below photo, Brooke and Mary were photobombed by Blooper!, whose name includes a built-in exclamation mark.

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Brooke and Mary are both currently employed by the Greensboro Grasshoppers, who operate approximately 45 miles southwest of the Danville Braves. Brooke is the team’s coordinator of promotions and community relations; last season she was a promotions assistant for the Corpus Christi Hooks. Originally from Fort Worth, Texas, Brooke said she knew she wanted to work in baseball after attending a Chicago Cubs game at age 5.

“I just loved the atmosphere and wanted to be a part of it,” she said. “I eventually want Bill Murray status. I want to be a team’s director of fun.”

And, yes, Brooke Robinson is named after Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson. She said her dad wrote the third baseman a letter telling him he was going to name his daughter after him, and that Robinson sent back an autograph.

Mary, originally from Great Falls, Virginia, graduated from Indiana University this spring. She then relocated to Greensboro, where she works for Brooke as a promotions and community relations intern. This is her second Minor League Baseball internship as she spent last season with the Tri-City ValleyCats. Mary said she enjoys working in Minor League Baseball because “it’s a creative atmosphere and I’m a creative person, so I thrive in that atmosphere.”

Brooke and Mary were excited to do their part to alleviate the extreme designated eating gender disparity that has existed thus far.

“First of all, it’s all guys all the time,” said Brooke. “And we’re in the business. We do the YMCA every day. We have no shame.”

OK, time to eat! The concession stand lines were very long on this July 3 evening, but fortunately we had a man on the inside. The following spread was presented to Brooke and Mary, and they were psyched to do some designated eating.

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Well, then have at it!

The “Kitzmiller” is a fried bologna sandwich, named for longtime D-Braves assistant general manager Bob Kitzmiller. Kitzmiller, who retired from the team in March, passed away the morning after this ballgame took place. (I learned of his death via a moment of silence prior to July 4’s Burlington Royals game.) Kitzmiller was well-loved at the ballpark and the community; click HERE to read a local newspaper tribute. Far beyond being a bologna sandwich namesake, Kitzmiller made a large impact in Danville’s sports community and the Appalachian League in general.

Brooke and Mary enjoyed their Kitzmillers.

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“I’ve never had bologna cooked this way before, but it tastes pretty good,” said Mary. “I like grilled onions.”

“I’d have been scared to try it, but now that I have I’d definitely get it again,” said Brooke.

Brooke and Mary then cleansed the palate with a beer, which was not a Coors Light despite the usage of a Coors Light cup. My notes say it was a “local orange IPA,” so perhaps it was something from Danville’s 2 Witches Winery and Brewery.

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At any rate, the brew got exceedingly high marks. Mary gave it a “10 out of 10” because it didn’t “have a crazy bite to it” and was “smooth.” Brooke declared that a better beer could not be found outside of her native Texas.

Next up was a Blooper! Dog, featuring mustard, chili and a fried pickle. Extreme close-up!

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Mary: There’s a lot of mustard.

Brooke: The mustard’s on everything.

Mary: The pickle’s so good. Pickle is the key. I kind of want to eat the pickle by itself.

Brooke: My pickle slid out, so I ate the pickle already.

Mary: They should sell pickle fries like this.

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Before moving on to the BBQ Dog, Brooke and Mary sent me on an important errand.

Once you’re done laughing at the above (if you’re ever done laughing), then you can move on to this extreme close-up of the BBQ Dog. Topped with pulled pork and slaw, it is more photogenic than it’s Blooper! Dog counterpart.

IMG_0149A new food item calls for a new pose.

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Once again, a brief conversation ensued.

Mary: I like that it’s not drenched in sauce. Sometimes there’s too much sauce and the bun gets really soggy.

Brooke: And it’s vinegar-based. I would get this.

Mary: I would definitely get this. It’s the perfect combo.

Mary then declared the BBQ Dog to be her favorite item of the night. Brooke went with the Kitzmiller.

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And me? I’m just here for the popcorn.

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Brooke and Mary’s work was done for the evening, meaning they were now free to hang out with old pal Blooper! and new pal Captain America.

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“This was awesome,” said Brooke of the designated eating experience. “I assumed at a smaller ballpark they just had hot dogs. But people should come and try the food here.”

“I’m really thankful for this opportunity and wish it could continue,” said Mary. “I just love food and wish I didn’t have to stop eating.”

I, in turn, thank Brooke and Mary for their designated eating service. It was indeed a great night at the ballpark.

***

This will be the only Appy League post I’ll have time for before embarking on my next trip, which kicks off Aug. 1 in Sacramento. Please accept my apologies for the blogging backlog –it’s been a very busy couple of weeks for me professionally as well as personally. In a nutshell, I’ve had to find a new apartment in NYC and will be moving in on Friday. I leave for my next road trip two days later. Crazy times! 

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

instagram.com/thebensbiz

Ben’s Biz: Now Wearable!

In June of 2015, the official Ben’s Biz logo made its debut. This was a professional milestone for me.

Ever since the logo — designed by the magnificent Sean Kane — appeared, dozens if not scores of people have asked me the following question: “So when am I gonna get to buy a T-shirt featuring your beaming, beatific countenance?”

That question has a new answer: “Now!”

The official Ben’s Biz T-shirt is available for purchase!

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The official Ben’s Biz T-shirts, Made in the USA by Original Retro Brand, retail for $20. They look and feel great, and a portion of every purchase benefits Minor League Baseball Charities, supporting youth baseball, community outreach and disaster relief efforts in Minor League cities across the country. Every shirt comes with a free autograph, which you will surely frame and hang in a prominent location:

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I couldn’t find anyone to model one of my shirts for me, so I took to the streets myself.

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Photo credit: #TwitterlessDannyWild

Once again, the shirt is AVAILABLE FOR PURCHASE! Supplies are limited, because the market for this shirt is limited. More than anything, this is about spreading the word: the word that there’s a guy who writes about the business and culture of Minor League Baseball, visits many different ballparks, tries to be original and funny and not too much of a sycophant and  — hey! — his stuff might be worth reading. Thanks to all who’ve spread the word thus far.

AND THAT’S NOT ALL!

There’s another Ben’s Biz T-shirt, and this one is not for sale. This one will only be available to an exclusive fraternity: the Designated Eater.

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In 2012 I was diagnosed with celiac disease. Since then, at each ballpark I visit, I’ve recruited a designated eater to consume the ballpark cuisine that my gluten-free diet prohibits. Going forward, every designated eater will receive the T-shirt seen above. I’ll be bringing them with me on my next road trip, which kicks off Aug. 1 in Sacramento.

So there you have it: Ben’s Biz is in T-shirt form, and these shirts are AVAILABLE FOR PURCHASE.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go work on my modeling poses.

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Handsome Boy Modeling School

***

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

instagram.com/thebensbiz

About Monday Night: Burlington Royals, July 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 Monday night I visited Burlington, North Carolina, the final stop on my 10-team Appy League road trip.

July 4: Burlington Athletic Stadium, home of the Burlington Royals (Rookie-level affiliate of the Kansas City Royals) 

Opponent: Danville Braves, 6:30 p.m. start time

Burlington Athletic Stadium, from the outside: 

IMG_0164Burlington Athletic Stadium, from within: 

IMG_1980Culinary Creation: The “Moose Taco”, named after Kansas City Royals standout Mike Moustakas. Moustakas never played for the Burlington Royals, but he did play for the Burlington (Iowa) Bees in 2008.

IMG_0188Ballpark Character: Presidential candidate Bingo, looking patriotic on the 4th.

IMG_0175At Random: Infantile shenanigans

Your Groundbreaking and Subversive Ballpark Joke of the Day: 

My Appy League articles on MiLB.com thus far: 

Fellowship in Greeneville

An Emotional Kingsport Debut

Radio Dreams in Johnson City

Up Next: 

My Appalachian League trip is now complete. Stay tuned throughout the month of July for more blog posts and articles. My next trip begins on August 1; designated eaters still needed in Sacramento, Visalia, Boise, Tri-City and Spokane.

August 1: Sacramento River Cats (vs. Salt Lake, 7:05 p.m.)

August 2: Stockton Ports (vs. Rancho Cucamonga, 7:10 p.m.)

August 3: Modesto Nuts (vs. Visalia, 7:05 p.m.)

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 7: “Off”

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

August 9: “Off”

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: Danville Braves, July 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, upon my presumed return home, I’ll provide the multifaceted blog coverage that you have come to know and perhaps even love. Last night I visited Danville, Virginia, the ninth stop on my 10-team Appy League road trip.

July 3: Legion Field, home of the Danville Braves (Rookie-level affiliate of the Atlanta Braves) 

Opponent: Burlington Royals, 7 p.m. start time

Legion Field, from the outside: 

IMG_0110Legion Field, from within: Fireworks on the day before the Fourth of July; the place was packed.

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Culinary Creation: BBQ Dog

IMG_0149Ballpark Character: Mascot Blooper and Captain Five O’Clock Shadow America, celebrating our nation’s independence on this July 4th Eve.

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At Random: Evan Gattis, condiment lord

IMG_0121Your Groundbreaking and Subversive Ballpark Joke of the Day: 

My Appy League articles on MiLB.com thus far: 

Fellowship in Greeneville

An Emotional Kingsport Debut

Up Next: 

7/4: Burlington Royals

***

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

instagram.com/thebensbiz

About Last Night: Pulaski Yankees, July 2, 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, upon my presumed return home, I’ll provide the multifaceted blog coverage that you have come to know and perhaps even love. Last night I visited Pulaski, Virginia, the eighth stop on my 10-team Appy League road trip.

July 2: Calfee Park, home of the Pulaski Yankees (Rookie-level affiliate of the New York Yankees) 

Opponent: Bristol Pirates, 7 p.m. start time

Calfee Park, from the outside: 

IMG_0065Calfee Park, from within: 

IMG_0101Culinary Creation: Funnel Fries ($4)

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Ballpark Character: The Calfee Cat

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At Random: One, Calfee Park is the only Appy League stadium I’ve visited that has a videoboard (installed in 2015). Two, it was a wild ballgame. The Pirates scored six runs in the second inning on one hit, lost the lead three times and still went on to win by a score of 15-14. Time of game: 3:40.

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Your Groundbreaking and Subversive Ballpark Joke of the Day: 

My Appy League articles on MiLB.com thus far: 

Fellowship in Greeneville

An Emotional Kingsport Debut

Up Next: 

7/3: Danville Braves

7/4: Burlington Royals

***

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

instagram.com/thebensbiz

About Last Night: Bluefield Blue Jays, July 1, 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, upon my presumed return home, I’ll provide the multifaceted blog coverage that you have come to know and perhaps even love. Last night I visited Bluefield, Virginia, the seventh stop on my 10-team Appy League road trip.

July 1: Bowen Field, home of the Bluefield Blue Jays (Rookie-level affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays) 

Opponent: Kingsport Mets, 7:00 p.m. start time

Bowen Field, from the outside: 

IMG_0002Bowen Field, from within: 

IMG_1793Culinary Creation: The Big Whisky BBQ Sandwich, provided by the local restaurant of the same name. At $5, it’s the most expensive item on the menu.

IMG_0024Ballpark Character: Henry “Double Loud” Belcher (Correction: Henry’s nickname is “Double Out.” But “Double Loud” works pretty well, too).

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At Random: Blue Jays manager Dennis Holmberg in his colorfully decorated office, adjacent to a colorfully decorated clubhouse.

IMG_0006Your Groundbreaking and Subversive Ballpark Joke of the Day: 

My Appy League articles on MiLB.com thus far: 

Fellowship in Greeneville

An Emotional Kingsport Debut

Up Next: 

7/2: Pulaski Yankees

7/3: Danville Braves

7/4: Burlington Royals

**

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

instagram.com/thebensbiz

About Last Night: Princeton Rays, June 30, 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, upon my presumed return home, I’ll provide the multifaceted blog coverage that you have come to know and perhaps even love. Last night I visited Princeton, West Virginia, the sixth stop on my 10-team Appy League road trip.

June 30: Hunnicutt Field, home of the Princeton Rays (Rookie-level affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays) 

Opponent: Greeneville Astros, 7:00 p.m.

Hunnicutt Field, from the outside: 

IMG_1738Hunnicutt Field, from within: 

IMG_1753Culinary Creation: No designated eater tonight, so I laid low on the food front. Here’s a picture of Roscoe’s Grill.

IMG_0240Ballpark Character: Roscoe

IMG_1739He talks!

At Random: Unorthodox bleacher seating.

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Your Groundbreaking and Subversive Ballpark Joke of the Day

Up Next: 

7/1: Bluefield Blue Jays

7/2: Pulaski Yankees

7/3: Danville Braves

7/4: Burlington Royals

**

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

instagram.com/thebensbiz

About Last Night: Elizabethton Twins, June 29, 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, upon my presumed return home, I’ll provide the multifaceted blog coverage that you have come to know and perhaps even love. Last night I visited Elizabethton, Tennessee, the fifth stop on my 10-team Appy League road trip.

June 29: Joe O’Brien Field, home of the Elizabethton Twins (Rookie-level affiliate of the Minnesota Twins) 

Opponent: Pulaski Yankees, 7:00 p.m. start time

Joe O’Brien Field, from the outside: 

IMG_0183Joe O’Brien Field, from within: 

IMG_0186Culinary Creation: Fried bologna sandwich ($3) and a brat ($4).

IMG_0196Ballpark character: “Big Dave” McQueen, head groundskeeper, clubhouse manager and endless fountain of E-Twins stories.

IMG_0210At Random: The Wataugah River runs behind the stadium on the third base side. This photo was taken during the eighth inning.

IMG_1720Your Groundbreaking and Subversive Ballpark Joke of the Day: 

Up Next: 

6/30: Princeton Rays

7/1: Bluefield Blue Jays

7/2: Pulaski Yankees

7/3: Danville Braves

7/4: Burlington Royals

**

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

instagram.com/thebensbiz

About Last Night: Bristol Pirates, June 28th, 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, upon my presumed return home, I’ll provide the multifaceted blog coverage that you have come to know and perhaps even love. Last night I visited Bristol, Virginia, the fourth stop on my 10-team Appy League road trip.

June 28: Boyce Cox Field, home of the Bristol Pirates (Rookie-level affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates)

Opponent: Greeneville Astros, 7:00 p.m. start time

Boyce Cox Field, from the outside: This is the entrance to the park; the field is down that pathway and to the right.

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Boyce Cox Field, from within: 

IMG_0157Culinary Creation: Bird’s Nest (the Pirates’ version of a Frito pie, $3) and a chili dog ($2)

IMG_0160Ballpark Character: Dewayne Woods, retired Army soldier turned volunteer ballpark pirate.

IMG_1679At Random: “One of baseball’s greatest individual accomplishments” took place in Bristol.

IMG_0133Your Groundbreaking and Subversive Ballpark Joke of the Day: 

Up Next: 

6/29: Elizabethton Twins

6/30: Princeton Rays

7/1: Bluefield Blue Jays

7/2: Pulaski Yankees

7/3: Danville Braves

7/4: Burlington Royals

**

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

instagram.com/thebensbiz

About Last Night: Johnson City Cardinals, June 27, 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, upon my presumed return home, I’ll provide the multifaceted blog coverage that you have come to know and perhaps even love. Last night I visited Johnson City, Tennessee, the third stop on my 10-team Appy League road trip. 

June 27: TVA Credit Union Ballpark (formerly Howard Johnson Field at Cardinal Park), home of the Johnson City Cardinals (Rookie-level affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals).

Opponent: Elizabethton Twins, 7:00 p.m.

TVA Credit Union Ballpark, from the outside: (This photo was taken earlier in the day, before  — cue ominous music — the rains came).

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TVA Credit Union Ballpark, from within: The gates had opened, and the rains were getting close now.

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Culinary Creation: The rains came, so I was unable to do my usual food overview. But let it be know, Dr. Enuf is available at the ballpark. People in Eastern Tennessee really love Dr. Enuf.

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Ballpark Character: 18-year-old broadcaster Joey Liberatore, really wishing he could call a game that, instead, was postponed when the rains came.

IMG_0127At Random: The rains meant business. The game was officially “banged” approximately 20 minutes before the scheduled 7 p.m. start time.

IMG_1647Your Groundbreaking and Subversive Ballpark Joke of the Day: After failing to come up with a joke Sunday in Kingsport, I was hellbent on coming through in Johnson City. The rains were not going to stop me. Thanks to Cardinals assistant GM Zac Clark for providing the voice of “Socket.”

Up Next: 

6/28: Bristol Pirates

6/29: Elizabethton Twins

6/30: Princeton Rays

7/1: Bluefield Blue Jays

7/2: Pulaski Yankees

7/3: Danville Braves

7/4: Burlington Royals

**

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

instagram.com/thebensbiz

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