Return to the Road: From One Record Store to Another

I’ve spent the past several days working on season-opening content for MiLB.com, including the first Promo Preview column of the season. Working on season-opening content led me to the realization that the season is ready to open, which led to the realization that I really had better finish writing about my last road trip of 2013! Will today be the day that I finally finish writing about last season. Read on to find out! 

Today’s “Return to the Road” missive is the third in a series, and it picks up where part two left off: in Modesto, Calif., home of the Nuts. The previous night I had witnessed the Nuts play at John Thurman Stadium, and the plan for the day was to head north to Stockton to check out the Ports. Before departing Stockton I met with my compatriots from the night before, so that we could partake in a breakfast meal at Mediterranean Market and Grill in Modesto. For the record, this was the first dining establishment I ever visited that had filing cabinets in the men’s room.

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Also for the record, my compatriots Joe and Bonnie Price and Jon Fischer. I first got to know the Prices in 2011 when Joe, a religious studies professor, sang the National Anthem at over 100 Minor League Baseball ballparks. Jon, who I have known since seventh grade, is an artist and teacher living in San Francisco. (He has recently featured me in one of his works, blogging without a shirt on).

Anyhow, thumbs up to the Mediterranean Grill. It was on the pricey side, but the food was on point.

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From left to right: Joe Price, Bonnie Price, Jon

Before leaving Modesto, I followed standard operating procedure and visited a local record store. Welcome to Salty’s Record Attic.

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I was immediately charmed by Salty’s, which was chock-a-block with used vinyl, cds, paperbacks, and pop culture ephemera.

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Unfortunately, Salty’s prices were uniformly exorbitant (even when factoring in the sale discounts, seen advertised above). I’m not sure what their clientele is, but I wasn’t about to pay $25 for a used LP I could easily get for $10 or less in NYC. But it was a charming spot, and the woman working there was friendly, so I didn’t leave empty handed. In my hands, in place of the emptiness, was a Bob Wills record and a copy of George Plimpton’s Paper Lion. (Although, now that I’m looking again at the above picture, I have to ask myself why I didn’t buy The 10cc Story). 

The visit to Salty’s represented my final order of business in Modesto. The next stop was Stockton, located just 30 miles away. Would it be magnificent, as advertised?

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The drive north was a breeze, and I spent the afternoon touring some of Stockton’s cultural highlights with city sports development director Tim Pasisz serving as my tour guide. My favorite stop was certainly the Wat Dharmararan Cambodian Buddhist Temple. The spacious outdoor grounds of the temple boast dozens of larger-than-life and dazzlingly colored statues that together illustrate the life of Buddha.

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My time exploring the city with Pasisz was chronicled in this MiLB.com story, and that evening I attended the Ports game. Would you believe that, before moving on to my next destination or Reno, I managed to visit a record store?

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How’s that for a cliffhanger ending? More to come from the West Coast, eventually, but tomorrow’s post shall deal with more timely matters…

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Return to the Road: Visalia, Modesto, and Fresno In-Between

Welcome to the latest installment of “Return to the Road,” in which I re-trace my steps during my third and final road trip of the 2013 campaign in order to bring you all of the non-ballpark content that’s fit to print. The previous post in the series began in amid the vast expanse of Bakersfield and ended at Visalia’s Lamp Liter Inn, surely one of the quaintest team-affiliated hotels in all of Minor League baseball.

The Lamp Liter still issues honest-to-God keys, and the room signage was a definite blast from the past.

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The on-site diner was similarly retro:

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Before leaving Visalia I headed downtown and took a stroll. Most of the Central Valley California towns I visited on this trip were rough-around-the-edges and possessed an air of general economic despair, but the core of Visalia I found to be surprisingly vibrant. A brief photo tour, starting with a record store that was, unfortunately, closed on Mondays (marking the second day in a row my attempts to visit a local record store were thwarted).

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I was very taken with Visalia, but my momentary illusion that it was some sort of small town utopia quickly received a reality check.

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I didn’t get any lunch in Visalia. My next stop was Fresno, and in that city my first order of business was to go on a brief tour of notable area taco trucks. This tour, arranged by members of the Fresno Grizzlies front office, was covered extensively on MiLB.com. In brief, I had a really good time!

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My time at that evening’s Fresno Grizzlies game has also been extensively documented. Among many highlights of my time at the ballpark was my encounter with this particularly committed “designated eater” (ie, the individual recruited at each ballpark to consume the gluten-free cuisine that my celiac disease prohibits).

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The next day I made a pit stop at E. Olive Street in Fresno.

003The motivation for this pit stop was the same as so many other pit stops that I make while on these road trips: I had been tipped to the existence of an independent record store.

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This particular record store was called Spinners. Welcome!

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I picked up a few moderately-priced used classic rock LPs (Michael Nesmith, Humble Pie, Black Oak Arkansas), bantered with the friendly clerks for a bit, and then was on my way out of Fresno.

Next stop: Modesto, home of the Nuts. As is my standard operating procedure on these trips, I entered the ballpark while waving to my fans while riding atop a ’59 Corvette.

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You can read all about my evening with the Nuts HERE. Part three of this series will pick up with my wanderings the next day in Modesto. A visit to a record store may have been involved.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

RiverDogs Concessions 2014: Boozier, Smokier, Greener, Healthier

Signs of spring are all around us, from warmer weather to Major League Baseball being played at ungodly hours on international soil to tiresome Twitter jokes about busted NCAA brackets. But, for me, one of the surest signs of spring is the arrival of an email from John “Schu” Schumacher, food and beverage director of the Goldklang Group (the Minor League ownership group consisting of the Charleston RiverDogs, Fort Myers Miracle, Hudson Valley Renegades, St. Paul Saints, and Pittsfield Suns).

Schu is based in Charleston, and each offseason he and his RiverDogs cohorts retreat to a secluded kitchen location in order to concoct new food and beverage options that will be served at Joseph P. Riley Jr. Park. In previous seasons I have written extensively about these culinary creations, from the Homewrecker Hot Dog to the Pickle Dog to the Pig on a Stick  to Pimento Pickle Burgers and Facebook Nachos to duck and venison sausages to beer shakes and jalapeno peanut butter and jelly burgers.

Which brings us to now, which is all there ever was and all there will ever be. On the cusp of the 2014 campaign, Schu has gotten in touch with his annual email missive. I now cede the floor to him.

[RiverDogs food and beverage director] Josh [Shea] and I finally got out of the test kitchen and have determined our new menu items for the ’14 season…here are the highlights. 

New and Improved Beer Shakes: 

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Beer Shakes were so popular last year, of course they will still be on the menu but we’re kicking it up a notch by adding Spiked Beer Shakes (beer & booze). Guinness Kahlua Shake & Lazy Magnolia Southern Pecan Beer paired with a Cathead Pecan Vodka. We will also have a rotating specials.

And, in other alcohol news:

Our Wine Garden will be tweaked into a Sangria Garden serving 4 in-house made Sangrias concoctions (a red, 2 whites and a rose Sangria).

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Our signature hot dog this year will be a Sushi Dog (a hot dog rolled in Nori paper with wasabi sweet & spicy mustard and a seaweed/cilantro/cabbage slaw.

Commercial Smoker

smokerWe purchased a Commercial Smoker to prepare in-house specialties (brisket, tri-tip sirloin, frog legs & rotating specials).

Yes, frog legs:

Taco Garden

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We started a self-serve Taco Herb Garden in ’13 – the fans loved it! So in 2014 we will be adding 2 more self-serve gardens for our fans to customize their menu items.

Carrot Dogs (and more)

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We’ll be adding some additional items to our Healthy Menu – a herb Turkey Burger and a Carrot Dog (a herb & honey roasted carrot stuffed in a bun with cilantro cabbage slaw & drizzled with a Sriracha Honey).

T-shirts (non-edible)

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All told, this will be a lot for Charleston to chew on.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Return to the Road: In-N-Out of Bakersfield and on to Visalia

The 2014 season is almost upon us, and my recent realization of its imminence quickly led to another, related, realization: I had better finish writing about my 2013 road trips!

As you probably know, I went on three road trips during the 2013 campaign: A Southern Swing, some Midwest League Meandering, and, finally, a little bit of West Coast Wandering. Every last ounce of material from those first two trips has been wrung dry, but, today, it’s time to “Return to the Road” for the third and final time this season. I have odds and ends from the West Coast to share!

This particular trip took place in August, beginning in Bakersfield, Calif. and concluding in Hillsboro, Ore. I arrived in Bakersfield at about 3:30 on Saturday morning, after driving in from LAX, and following a good night’s sleep I pulled back the hotel room curtain to reveal this landscape.

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Just across this vast expanse of asphalt was a water park, an appropriate entertainment destination for those residing within this arid atmosphere.

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After sleeping late and doing a little bit of writing, there wasn’t much time to explore Bakersfield before heading to that evening’s Blaze game. So, rather unambitiously, I set my GPS coordinates toward a local In-N-Out Burger.

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While I find the slavish devotion of its chief adherents to be a bit comical, there is no doubt that In-N-Out Burger is an above-average fast food establishment. I’ve made a point to eat there whenever I’m on the west coast, but this time around my patronage was strategic as well. I was diagnosed with celiac disease in 2012, and since then good gluten-free fast food options have been hard to come by. In-N-Out Burger, with its minimal, fresh menu, provides an easy option: protein style, in which lettuce is used as a bun (yes, I promise that there is a burger somewhere in there). The fries are “animal style,” with a thousand island-esque dipping sauce.

2916I spent that evening at Sam Lynn Stadium, home of the Blaze, which resulted in some of my best writing of the season (if I do say so myself, which I just did). The next morning I checked out of the Marriott — watch the Vine! — and spent an hour or so exploring downtown Bakersfield. Here’s “Lyles College of Beauty,” which I drove past while en route to World Records.

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World Records was closed.

002It was late on a Sunday morning, and downtown was so silent as to be a little eerie. What few sounds there were (a car passing by, the cough of a pedestrian) seemed magnified, momentarily overtaking my entire aural landscape. The scene, as I recorded it.

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The Prospect Lounge — where Bakersfield’s Minor League elite go to eat?

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Amid this desultory wandering I located another record store and this, too, was closed.

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Did anybody go to this show? If so, I’d be happy to publish your review on this blog.

Since there didn’t seem to be too many lunch options in downtown Bakersfield proper, I instead went, once again, to In-N-Out Burger. Different location, but the meal remained the same. (Perhaps also worth noting is that, according to my notes, Bakersfield’s 89.7 is a “great radio station.” Further investigation reveals that to be KSVG “Savage Radio,” a community-owned non-profit.)

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The evening before, while attending the Blaze game, assistant general manager Philip Guiry told me about a vintage store called “Hidden Treasures” that he was a fan of. It sounded like an offbeat place, the kind of spot you go to if you’re trying to make a doll head necklace, so I decided to try and check it out.

My “Hidden Treasures” internet research brought me to, well, I don’t know where I was. All I know is that I couldn’t find a place called “Hidden Treasures.”

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Since I wasn’t in the market for a 420 evaluation, I reluctantly left the Bakersfield area for good. Visalia, home of the Rawhide, was next up on the agenda, and my first impression of Visalia was distinctly positive. Welcome to the Lamp Liter Inn, one of the quaintest team hotels one can find in the world of Minor League Baseball.

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That Sunday evening I attended the Visalia Rawhide game, writing about alligator hexes and giant pretzels and whatnot. The next morning began at the Lamp Liter Inn, and that’s where tomorrow’s post shall begin as well. Until then, I remain,

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Fruits, Booze, and Floats

I long ago gave up on trying to be “first” with news related to the Minor League Baseball culinary scene, as the increase in traffic is met with a commensurate decrease in dignity. All people want to see is pictures, good writing is futile.

But, hey, when in Rome! An email from the Akron RubberDucks waddled into my inbox at the exact moment that I was settling in to write a new blog post, and this email informed me, the sendee, that TWO NEW “EXTREME MENU” ITEMS COMING TO CANAL PARK. Okay, I’ll (metaphorically) bite!

These “Extreme Menu” items are, unfortunately not a reference to Nuno Bettencourt’s short-lived stint as the host of a public access cooking show. Rather, in the grand Akron tradition of the “Nice 2 Meat You Burger” and the “Three Dog Night,” they are EXTREME-ly ridiculous examples of culinary creativity courtesy of RubberDucks food and beverage director Brian Manning.

All 2014 Extreme Foods and Duck FloatsLet’s break it down, via the time honored artistic tradition known to its core practitioners as “press release cut and paste.”

The new “Extreme Menu” entrée is the “The Pineapple TeriyAKRON Bowl.” It is half of a pineapple, hollowed out to create a bowl. It is then stuffed with a stir fry of grilled white-meat chicken, white rice, and diced pineapple before a finishing drizzle of teriyaki sauce. “The Pineapple TeriyAKRON Bowl” will sell for $11 and will be available at the Nice 2 Meat U Grill located in left field behind the new Fowl Territory seating.

Time to Dole out the picture:

Pineapple TeriyAKRON BowlTime to employ another deft “Ctrl-C to Ctrl-V” maneuver. This one is no doubt inspired by the Charleston RiverDogs’ “Beer Shake,” and as an added bonus the RubberDucks describe it elsewhere in the press release as “adults only.”

Joining the “TeriyAKRON Bowl” on the “Extreme Menu” is the giant, 32 ounce “The Ugly Duckling.” It comprises 16 ounces of an Irish full-bodied stout beer is poured over three heaping scoops of vanilla ice cream and topped off with chocolate syrup and chocolate sprinkles. “The Ugly Duckling” is available to adults of legal drinking age at the Sock Hop Ice Cream Shoppe along the right-field concourse and will sell for $9.75.

The Ugly Duckling

But that? That is not all.

Also available at the Sock Hop Ice Cream Shoppe are the full line of “Duck Floats,” sure to be a hit for fans young and old. They will be available in 16-ounce size for $5 and a 32-ounce version for $8. Each float is made up of ice cream mixed with a flavorful soda and is named after a famous duck from the world of entertainment. There’s “The Donald,” made with Orange Crush soda and vanilla ice cream; “The Scrooge,” made with Mountain Dew soda and vanilla ice cream; “The Howard,” made with chocolate ice cream and Mug Cream soda; “The Daisy,” made with Strawberry Crush soda and vanilla ice cream; and “The Daffy,” made with Grape Crush soda and vanilla ice cream.

I am deeply disappointed that there is no float called the “You Sucker”.

New 2014 Duck Floats

And there you have it! To all the amateur hour internet hyperbolists who may soon write about these items, just know that I am the greatest of all time.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Flipping the Script

The use of Native American imagery within the world of sports is a controversial topic, as teams like the Cleveland Indians and (especially) the Washington Redskins are under increasing pressure to abandon names and/or logos seen as culturally insensitive. But the Spokane Indians have found a way around this problem, collaborating with the local Spokane tribe to adopt a look that celebrates, rather than denigrates, the people it purports to represent.

This season, the club will wear a jersey in which “Spokane” is written in Salish script.

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The collaboration between the Spokane Indians and the Salish tribe is nothing new, but the above jersey represents a significant development. In fact, this partnership will be the topic of my next Minoring in Business article, running on MiLB.com tomorrow. Stay tuned!

Speaking of teams sporting a name inspired by their region’s Native American population, the Syracuse Chiefs recently unveiled this:

But that’s not the only interesting historical sporting overview that I’ve recently found via Twitter. Behold:

But as much as some things change, others remain constant. On 3/14 the Bowling Green Hot Rods held a “Pi Day” promo, in which tickets were sold for $3.14 for three hours and 14 minutes, beginning at 3:14 p.m. (And, as an added bonus,  fans who bought the tickets in person were offered free slices of pizza “pi”.)

I was curious as to how this promotion was received, and Hot Rods assistant general manager Ben Hemmen satiated my curiosity thusly.

National “Pi” Day was a BIG hit in Bowling Green. In just three hours and fourteen minutes (3.14), we sold over 600 tickets at the box office or over the phone to games for this upcoming summer. The Power of “Pi” will definitely be something that we look at using next season to tie in a promotional opportunity for our fans.

Among the many items on team to-do lists at this time of year is adding new situationally appropriate song selections to the music database. For help with this endeavor, one enterprising rookie-level P.A. announcer took to Reddit. The resulting discussion is well worth reading.

This blog is also well worth reading, in my less-than-humble opinion, and I thank you for having Reddit.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Traveling Through the Annals of Time and Space

The reasons that I write this blog are multifaceted, and hopefully you read it for multifaceted reasons as well. But, since the beginning, one of the primary reasons for its existence has been to highlight new ideas within the world of Minor League Baseball. Therefore, I’d like to share a very cool new idea with you:

The Stockton Ports have a new page on their website that allows fans to browse through an assortment of game day programs and scorecards from the 1940s, ’50s, and ’60s. Currently 12 such historical documents have been uploaded, using a digital publishing platform called Issuu. Click on the above link for access to all 12 documents; what follows is my attempt to embed a game day program from 1969. Wish me luck!

I am now operating under the assumption that the above embed was successful. (I won’t know for sure until I hit “publish.”) Regardless, please know that page eight of the game day program which you may or may not see above contains a picture of Ron Shelton when he was a member of the Ports. Shelton has gone on to a successful career as a movie director, and, surely, his time in Stockton must have had some influence on his 1988 classic Bull Durham. 

And surely, the Ports’ decision to share historic team publications in an easy-to-access manner will have a wide influence on the world of Minor League Baseball. Those things are really fun to look at, and the ads alone are worth the price of admission.

Note: I am now aware that my embed attempt was unsuccessful. Please know that I tried, and please click on the above link. 

My segue game is weak today, but here goes: while the above Ports’ initiative involves that which occurred a long time ago, the below photo involves something THAT NEVER HAPPENED AT ALL.

Mr. Freedman, a long-time contributor to my criminally overlooked “Crooked Numbers” column, tweeted the above picture because the Toledo Mud Hens were in fact the losers of the 2006 Championship Showdown. (As all sports fans know, the Tucson Sidewinders beat Toledo by a score of 4-2.) This makes that t-shirt the Minor League Baseball equivalent of Chicago Bears Super Bowl XLI Champions apparel, which is almost certainly being worn somewhere in Africa as I type this.

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Photo: World Vision

My segue game is now non-existent. In fact:

nosegwayHere’s a video. It made me laugh.

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Finally, here’s a link to an interview I did recently. I never say no to interview requests, so get in touch if you’re into that sort of thing.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Guest Post: Why I Love the Memphis Redbirds

Last month I featured a guest post on this blog by Gillian Richard, who wrote about her love for the soon-to-be-departing Huntsville Stars. In the wake of that post I took to Twitter, asking Minor League Baseball fans to write about why they love their hometown team. Wes Milligan was the first to respond to this challenge; what follows is his ode to the Memphis Redbirds. If you would like to write a “Why I Love…” guest post about YOUR favorite team, then shoot me an email benjamin.hill@mlb.com

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AutoZone Park in Memphis (All photos in this post courtesy Wes Milligan, unless otherwise noted)

You don’t get a second chance to throw out a first pitch at a Memphis Redbirds game.

There I was, just a few feet from the mound, a bundle of nerves as I prepared for my moment on the hill. To make matters worse, a few days earlier Carly Rae Jepsen had thrown out what could be the worst first pitch in Major League Baseball history, and her horrific bounce was playing in a loop in my head. I was so terrified that I hadn’t even told most of my FedEx co-workers about my impending moment in the spotlight. If I bounced it, I would never hear the end of it. Ever.

Right before I stepped on the mound, I asked a staff member which player would be catching the baseball. She said, “Oh, it’s Michael Wacha.” I went pale. True, Wacha wasn’t yet the NLCS MVP, but every die-hard St. Louis Cardinals fan knew the young prospect. He wasn’t going to be in Memphis long, and I didn’t want his last memory of AutoZone Park to be a slider in the dirt, 30 feet from home plate. And did I mention America’s Homecoming Queen was throwing another first pitch after me? So I have a future MLB star, a beauty queen and thousands of fans watching me. Nah, no pressure. No pressure at all.

When I moved to the Memphis area more than two years ago, I was more excited about seeing the Redbirds play than starting my new job at FedEx. As a lifelong Cardinals fan and former resident of St. Louis, being able to watch the young baseball talent move up the farm system firsthand was a  great tourism attraction and on my baseball bucket list. It quickly became so much more than that.

My best memories of Memphis now involve the Redbirds: snagging a foul ball, tasting Rendezvous barbecue nachos for the first time, and taking in a weekday matinee game on an extended lunch break. The willingness of the team to support the Alzheimer’s Association, my charity of choice, has meant a lot to me. And who doesn’t like fireworks night?

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BBQ Nachos (photo Ben’s Biz)

There was also the time I beat my buddies during the fifth inning tricycle race. I never did tell them one of the Memphis RedHots gave me the inside track on how to win, but does that really matter? The Memphis Redbirds give us all a chance to wind down after a long day at work, catch up with friends – and make new ones – while watching quality baseball in the city we call home.

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Minor League Baseball teams, like the Memphis Redbirds, are community treasures. The team gives us affordable access to the game we love so much, supports the community and local charities, and introduces children to America’s pastime in a close and intimate environment. For example, the Memphis Redbirds have supported the RBI Program (Reviving Baseball in the Inner Cities) for a very long time, raising thousands of dollars to grow the next generation of players and fans. That’s how I got to throw out a first pitch. Fans who donate to the program at a certain level can fulfill that baseball dream. Just don’t bounce it.

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Well, if Bob Uecker was there that night, he would have called my pitch “just a biiiiit outside.” But I didn’t bounce it. Wacha autographed the baseball, I rejoined my friends in the stands and we all enjoyed yet another Memphis Redbirds game at AutoZone Park, my favorite place to watch baseball.

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To the Memphis Redbirds: thank you for the memories and for the great times that I know are just around the corner. I’ll see you Opening Day — now pass those nachos!

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Thanks to Wes for taking the time to write this and, again: if YOU would like to submit a post for this series, then email the address below. In the meantime, here’s my “On the Road” Memphis Redbirds blog post from 2012

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

New Military Tributes are in the Cards

This past September I traveled to Louisville in order to attend the Minor League Baseball Promotional Seminar, an annual “idea-sharing” event. And of the many ideas that were shared, one particularly notable one came courtesy of the Lowell Spinners. I wrote about on this very blog:

The Lowell Spinners talked about their military trading card set giveaway, which honors local servicemen and women both past and present. This is an idea that other teams will almost certainly steal for their own promotional schedules.

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Excuse the glare

Indeed, my prediction (which was more a statement of the obvious than any sort of bold prognostication), is now coming to pass. We are in promo schedule release season, and teams staging their own military trading card set giveaway in 2014 include the Salem Red Sox, Bowie Baysox, Frederick Keys, Nashville Sounds, and Myrtle Beach Pelicans. When it comes to putting this set together, the precise method varies by team. Here’s how the Salem Red Sox are going about it.

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With Opening Day fast approaching, the Salem Red Sox are proud to announce an unprecedented promotion that will offer well-deserved recognition to some of the bravest men and women of the Roanoke Valley. In addition to creating a baseball card set of the Carolina League Champions in 2014, the team will also generate a pack of cards featuring many of the region’s dedicated servicemen and women for a “Military Appreciation Baseball Card Giveaway,” scheduled for Saturday, August 9 at LewisGale Field.

Starting immediately, fans can log onto the Salem Red Sox Facebook page and submit nominations of family members and/or friends who are worthy of inclusion in this one-of-kind creation. Each submission should include the following information:

  • Name with rank
  • Military Branch
  • Height
  • Weight (if wanted)
  • Years of service
  • DOB (if wanted)
  • Hometown
  • A bio about his or her history in the military (preferably 75-100 words)
  • A photo (headshot or full body in dress uniform)

Fans are asked to submit their candidates by March 31. After receiving nominees, all photos will be placed in an album where the “likes” will be tallied, and the 30 photos with the most “likes” will be chosen for this special card set. In the event of a tie, the earlier photo submitted will have the honor of being included as part of this collection. Voting via “likes” will continue through the first half of the season.

The final product will be a collector’s item of 30 cards, with 1,000 decks to be distributed to the first 1,000 fans through the gate on “Military Appreciation Night.”

In the case of the San Jose Giants, the team simply accepted nominations through yesterday (March 12). The team will then select the winners, independent of any voting process, and announce them during March 31′s FanFest event. One winner, however, has already been chosen. Per the team:

San Jose, CA- The San Jose Giants are excited to announce that 95 year-old, World War II veteran Joe Bell has been named the first trading card in their Salute to the Military Trading Card Set, presented byOperation: Care and Comfort. Bell has become an instant star over the past few days after video was taken of him in military uniform spontaneously shaking runners’ hands in front of his house Sunday morning as part of a run to benefit the Pat Tillman Foundation. The video of Bell and the runners has since been viewed and shared on the Internet over one million times.

And here’s that video:

 

The Myrtle Beach Pelicans’ efforts are particularly noteworthy, in that they have teamed up with a local hospice and put together a season-long initiative with a particular focus on WWII veterans. 

Over 11 game dates during the season, the Myrtle Beach Pelicans will feature stories of WWII veterans as a part of a new program called Embrace Veterans, culminating in Military Appreciation Night, presented by Embrace Hospice, which falls on the 70th anniversary of D-Day. The program is working with several different veteran-related non-profit organizations in the Grand Strand to honor veterans who served during WWII.

In addition to their involvement in Military Appreciation Night, Embrace Hospice will be a partner for an additional ten game dates throughout the 2014 season. On each of these nights, the Pelicans will highlight veterans during the game….This will include a video tribute of select veterans…. A representative from Embrace Hospice will throw out the first pitch alongside a local Grand Strand veteran as well. 

On Military Appreciation Night, the Pelicans will give away a Veteran Card Set, presented by Embrace Hospice, featuring a variety of veterans from the Grand Strand….The Pelicans are currently accepting nominations of veterans to be featured on the video board and/or in the card set. To be highlighted on a particular game night with video board feature, the veteran must be a currently living veteran of WWII. Veterans of all U.S. conflicts, whether deceased or living, are eligible for the card set. The Pelicans will make selections for both the video tributes and the card set from the nominees; all decisions on these matters are final. 

I grew up outside of Philadelphia and now live in New York City. If any teams in that general region do a military card set then I’d nominate my grandfather, Jarvis Cooper, for inclusion.

cooper My grandfather, who died in 1996, was a navigator on the B-17 bomber “Judy.” On December 30, 1943 the plane was shot down over northern France, crashing in the woods on the outskirts of the town of Ully St. Georges. Four of the 10 crew members died, and those that didn’t were cared for and housed in secret  by the French Resistance. Eventually, my grandfather and the Judy’s pilot, Glenn Camp, were captured by the Germans while attempting to take a train into Spain. They then spent more than a year in a POW camp, remaining there until the war ended.

Fast forward to September 2011, when the town of Ully St. Georges unveiled a town square memorial honoring the crew of the “Judy.” I was fortunate enough to be in attendance, and the hospitality of the French people who organized the event and hosted me throughout is something that I will always remember.

Photo pour le site List'In MAE

3_31headstonereduxAnyhow, just thought I’d share.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

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Marching Toward the Inevitable

The ides of March is (are?) almost upon us, and I’m not really sure if this is has any relevance to the world of Minor League Baseball. Nonetheless, the ides of March are (is?) inextricably linked with the word “beware,” and therefore I feel a nagging sense of foreboding and anxiety that I just can’t shake. In order to deal with this lingering angst in a productive way, today’s post will be a good ol’ bouillabaisse of Minor League news and notes. May this be a therapeutic experience for all.

60 Degree Weather Guarantees are a common Opening Day promotion, with the Indianapolis Indians being long-time proponents of the concept. Last year Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders president/general manager/chief of unwieldy job titles Rob Crain got in on the act in a most enthusiastic fashion, and in 2014 he’s taking things even further. Per the team:

Clad in floral orange shorts, inexplicable snorkel gear and a life preserver designed for a little girl while wearing a face of both fun and fierce determination, the RailRiders’ venerable top executive issued assurance that families and baseball enthusiasts will be comfortable when the gates open on April 10….But he did not stop there. Like most extremists, Crain took it to another level when he also promised triumph. If the RailRiders fail to defeat their nearby rivals from Syracuse? “I will dress up like a woman until we win,” said Crain.

 

Before moving on, I would like to note that “Inexplicable Snorkel Gear” should be the title of the next Guided By Voices album.

My colleague Josh Jackson, whose eloquence never crosses into grandiloquence, recently wrote a MiLB.com article about the Fresno Grizzlies “Farm Grown” program. (I wrote briefly about this program during my visit to Fresno last August.) “Farm Grown” seeks to highlight Central Valley agriculture as well as the Grizzlies’ role in developing “Farm Grown” players, and in 2014 there will even be an agriculture center located at the Grizzlies’ home of Chukchansi Park.

The Gar Tootelian Agriculture Zone, to be exact:

Gar Tootelian Ag Zone Rendering

I mentioned to the Grizzlies, via Twitter, that “Gar Tootelian” sounded like something out of the Star Wars universe. They concurred, and hinted that 2014′s “Star Wars Night” promo would indeed have a Gar Tootelian aspect to it.

At this point, I don’t even understand what it is that I’m writing about. Time to move on.

Oh, wait, I’m not going to move on. Yesterday, these very same Fresno Grizzlies became the latest team to inspire an avalanche of lazy “greatest thing in the history of ever”-style hyperbolic internet rhetoric. Congratulations!

On August 2, the Grizzlies will wear Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle theme jerseys. Perhaps the Grizzlies’ version of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles theme song can go like this.

Giants Farm Club Fresno Grizzlies, Giants Farm Club Fresno Grizzlies, Giants Farm Club Fresno Grizzlies — prospects in theme jerseys, auction later!   

fresno_jbalq2mp_olm2kfot

Remember when I wrote about the as-of-now-theoretical Holiday League? Well, that entity welcomed a new team last month: the Rushmore Commanders. The Commanders have four primary logos, one for every president enshrined on Mount Rushmore. And they, like the Grizzlies, will also wear theme jerseys during their (as of now theoretical) debut season.

A sampling:

Abe Lincoln primary logo

Abe Lincoln primary logo

ratification of the Constitution theme jersey

ratification of the Constitution theme jersey

Okay, after my latest and therefore greatest blogging exercise I feel considerably more relaxed. But for how long? The ides of March are just four days away.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

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