On the Road: The Force Awakens in Durham

To see all my posts from my May 7 visit to the Durham Bulls, click HERE. To see all of my posts from my May 2016 Carolinas Road Trip, click HERE. To see all of 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). 

It’s hard to talk about the Durham Bulls without referencing the 1988 movie Bull Durham, portions of which were filmed at the team’s old home of Durham Athletic Park. The film made the Bulls an internationally recognized name, and the ensuing publicity and increased crowds helped the erstwhile Carolina League team move to a new ballpark (Durham Bulls Athletic Park, in 1995) and level of play (the Triple-A International League, in 1998).

All of this is to say, the current Bulls experience is a long way from that which was immortalized in Bull Durham. A galaxy far, far away, perhaps, given that I visited the team for its annual Star Wars promotion. Can you imagine Crash Davis wearing something like this?

IMG_1169Yet, there are plenty of iconic elements still incorporated into the Bulls’ game experience. As I ventured to the stadium on this beautiful Saturday afternoon, walking through Durham’s Tobacco District, the back end of the “Hit Bull Win Steak” sign served as my North Star.

001En route to the home plate entrance, I saw a bull that clearly hadn’t been fed in a while.

003And then — bam — there it was: the imposing front entrance to Durham Bulls Athletic Park (which will henceforth be referred to as “DBAP”).

004Shortly after arriving, I sat in on a brief promo team meeting overseen by Bulls director of marketing Krista Boyd. Here are a few quotes from this confab that I scribbled down as Krista went over the agenda. (This year’s Star Wars promo was a tribute to Han Solo and mascot Wool E. Bull was dressed up as Han.) It appears that Margot (or is it “Margo”?) had a busy day.

“Margot, you’re with Chewbacca and Leia. Chewbacca’s in seven-inch platform shoes so he walks slowly. His name’s Ryan in real life.”

“Kylo Ren will take Luke into the abyss at the end of the [mascot] race.” 

“Margot, you’ll help get Chewy, Leia and the other characters, all the Storm Troopers, to Jackie’s Landing so they can dance for the Cantina Cam.”

“Wool E. Bull will drive a landspeed racer at the end of the fifth.”

“Margot, you’ll be with Leia and meet Grace at [section] 116 for the Star Wars Kiss Cam. Wool E. will give Leia a kiss. Then get the mini-Kylo Rens ready. There will be five of them. During this time the Diamond Cutters [grounds crew dance team] will be performing….Nico, you coordinate with Grace about having the mini-Kylo Rens go after Wool. E. with the light sabers.” 

There was a lot more than than, but you get the point. Minor League theme nights, done right, take a lot of planning and coordination.

After receiving their briefing from General Boyd, the promo team was ready to go into battle.

005I then was led to a room that had been pressed into service as a changing area for members of the 501st Legion’s Carolina Garrison. The 501st Legion is legion throughout the country, and crucial to the success of Star Wars promotions. Its members appear at the ballpark, gratis, in full movie-quality costumes.

I ended up speaking with Scott “Darth Vader” Wilmoth…

Vader guy…as well as Sandie “Princess Leia” MacLachan.

Leia and cardI wrote an MiLB.com story based around these interviews, which I would encourage you to read. Click HERE.

I should mention that I was guided during these pregame wanderings by Bulls director of communications Matt Sutor, a master of corridor, concourse, staircase and onfield navigation. After bidding adieu to the Star Wars crew, he and I paid a quick visit to the Bull Durham Beer Company. While many Minor League teams have their own team-branded beer, this is something else entirely. The brewery is actually located on the concourse, in what used to be a pop-up team store.

010The Bull Durham Beer Company is an independent operation, and not owned by the Bulls. There are currently four full-time employees, and four beers on tap at every Bulls game. These include 2016’s two additions to the line-up, “Lollygagger Kolsch” and “Water Tower Wheat.” I was told that the the brewery expected to sell somewhere in the neighborhood of 800 pints on this beautiful Star Wars Saturday evening.

Anyhow, it was nice chatting with this group of brew company employees for a few minutes. I apologize to the woman on the left, as the picture I took in which your eyes are open was too blurry for me to use.

012Another current concourse highlight is the tobacco card-themed wall art, painted in conjunction with a season-long exhibit at the Durham History Hub.

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Meanwhile. out on the concourse, I was able to confirm that it remained a beautiful day in Durham.

015DBAP underwent $19 million in renovations prior to the 2014 season, and one of the most prominent additions was a large social space down the right field line dubbed Jackie’s Landing. Jackie’s Landing — so-named because it runs parallel to Jackie Robinson Drive — includes the 42 Playground and 42 Bar. Here’s the bar, which probably had Bud Light on tap. Just a guess.

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Videoboard upgrades were also part of the renovations. Though the game was still about an hour from beginning, a Star Wars-themed headshot of Tides’ leadoff hitter L.J. Hoes was already fired up and ready to go.

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Up in the press box I spoke with PA announcer Tony Riggsbee, a native of Durham who attended his first Bulls game in 1962. My conversation with Tony, an affable and interesting guy, was summarily turned into this MiLB.com article. 

019A brief peek into the owner’s suite — the owner in this case being Jim Goodmon of Capitol Broadcasting — revealed an old-tyme barber shop atmosphere….

021…as well as some old-time video games. Shoutout to Matt Sutor, who earned a blog cameo via his deft mirror positioning.

022This is the “PNC Triangle Club,” whose tables are either circles or squares.

024Meanwhile, outside, Star Wars mania was in full effect. Costumed 501st Legion members were hot photo op commodities.

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IMG_1175Outside and inside of the ballpark, it remained a beautiful day in Durham.

032And this time, when I returned to the field, my new friends were waiting for me.

IMG_1178I hope this post gave you much to Chew over. Right now I’m gonna Leia down and take a nap, but please know that the next installment of this Durham Bulls Star Wars blog trilogy will appear very shortly.

***

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

instagram.com/thebensbiz

On the Road: Getting Grilled in Greensboro

To see all my posts from my May 6 visit to the Greensboro Grasshoppers, click HERE. To see all of my posts from my May 2016 Carolinas Road Trip, click HERE. To see all of 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). 

My regular readers are by now well aware of the “designated eater” concept, but since this is the first such post of the year allow me to provide a brief review:

During the 2012 season I was diagnosed with celiac disease, meaning that I had to adopt a gluten-free diet. “Gluten-free” and “ballpark food” have a minimal Venn diagram overlap, which led to a conundrum for me. How could I continue to make stadium cuisine a part of my coverage while I myself could no longer eat most of it? The answer to this query came from on high, entering my brain space as an idea fully formed.

The designated eater.

At each ballpark I visit, I would recruit a fan to consume the concession specialties that my diet now prohibited. This initiative started in earnest during the 2013 season, and as of this writing more than 60 individuals have bravely served in the designated eater role. In Greensboro, home of the Grasshoppers, that man was Alan Hand.

In the below picture, you can say Aloha to Mr. Hand on the left. On the right is his good friend Ronnie Higdon.

041Alan and his family — wife Kristina and daughter Elliott Rose (named after Pete) — moved from Oregon to Mooresville, North Carolina in 2002. Alan and Ron became friends as a result of their respective daughters becoming friends. The two men soon found they had a mutual passion for Minor League Baseball exploration, and estimate that they attend 30 games together each season. Alan reports that he has visited 67 ballparks, while Ron puts the number at “a bunch.” Included in this bunch is the South Atlantic League in its entirety, an excursion he underwent as a sort of 50th birthday present to himself. While not pursuing their Minor League Baseball road trip urges, Ron works as a theater teacher in Mooresville while Alan is a behavior specialist in the Rowan County school system.

“I was sitting in an IEP [individualized education program] meeting and there was a lull, and I saw your post about needing a designated eater in Greensboro,” said Alan. “‘Dude, I am so doing that!'”

So here we are. Our first stop was the Grasshoppers’ “Cheeseboro” cart, which features an array of grilled cheese sandwiches.

034 As a proponent of always selecting the most unique item on the menu, I suggested that Alan get the “Sweet-n-Salty” grilled cheese. He obliged.

035The above photo doesn’t really convey just how unique this concoction was (at least by ballpark food standards). The “sweet” came in the form of strawberry marzipan brie and cinnamon, with the “salty” component delivered via prosciutto and Old Bay seasoning.

Have at it, Alan.

Alan said that the sweetness of the cheese had a “rich, melty taste that took the edge off of the salt.”

“The cheese is melted right into [the prosciutto], it meshes well and has a nice finish,” he continued. “That’s the thing here [at Grasshoppers games]. These guys really know what they’re doing.”

After the grilled cheese, we headed over to a cart situated on the third base side of the concourse. There, a man obscured by beer cans could be found in the act of grilling sausage and its various accoutrements.

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Alan opted for a good old Italian sausage, topped with peppers and onions.  038

With sausage procured and picture taken, there was nothing left for Hand to do but transfer to mouth.

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“Oh, this is good,” said Alan. “You can really taste the pork. It’s got a good snap to it. The grilled veggies are awesome, caramelized with a little bit of sweetness. The bun is nice and soggy from soaking up all the juices. Good. This is so good. I would definitely get it again.”

A ringing endorsement, to be sure, and that just about did it for the designated eater portion of the evening. Alan and Ron soon went back to their spouses in the stands, noting that their attendance at this Grasshoppers game once again earned them “wife points” and that “we realize how lucky we are.”

Back home, Alan presumably enjoyed a nightcap in his idyllic screened porch. He later sent this photo along because, if you look closely enough, you can see that the porch is illuminated by lights placed within collectible Minor League cups. Fellow #cupdate aficionados, take note.

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Let’s also hope that Alan remembered to feed his dog, Bailey. The needs of a 2010 Kannapolis Intimidators “Bark in the Park” award winner should never go unmet.

image1And with that, we bid adieu to Greensboro. Durham is next up on the blogging docket.

***

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

instagram.com/thebensbiz

On the Road: Day Turns to Night in Greensboro

To see all my posts from my May 6 visit to the Greensboro Grasshoppers, click HERE. To see all of my posts from my May 2016 Carolinas Road Trip, click HERE. To see all of 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). 

I never know how to start my second post from a particular location, other than to observe that “The game had just begun.”

So, here we are. It was May 6, 2016, the Greensboro Grasshoppers were hosting the Columbia Fireflies in a Friday evening doubleheader, and the (first) game had just begun.

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If you’re curious about what the NewBridge Bank Park videoboard looks like and who the game’s best-named player was, then you’ll find that this image simultaneously satiates both desires.

014The ballpark was largely empty throughout the bulk of the first game, as the majority of fans arrived closer to the originally-scheduled 7 p.m. single-game start time. Even the outfield concourse putting green, which I assume is usually swamped with aspiring Lee Carvallo’s, was empty.

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Putting Greensboro

A more expansive green can be found nearby.

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A commenter on my previous post remarked that NewBridge Bank Park has “one of the most underrated skylines” in Minor League Baseball. I’d have to agree.

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Miss Babe Ruth retired as the team’s batdog, but she still faithfully greets fans on the concourse during the second, fourth and sixth inning of every game.

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Mascot Guilford greets fans as well, from all sorts of ballpark locations.

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Guilford can often be found in close proximity to onfield emcee Spaz, whose voice sounds exactly like you’d expect the voice of someone named “Spaz” to sound like. Unfortunately — or mercifully, depending on your perspective — I don’t have any audio snippets.

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Spaz’s real name is Danny. Hi, Danny.

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Miss Babe Ruth may be retired, but the Grasshoppers still have an ample onfield canine presence. Master Yogi Berra takes part in a nightly game that, while a bit chaotic, is a lot of fun to watch. Team (and dog) owner Donald Moore uses a modified t-shirt gun to shoot a tennis ball to the outfield fence. Once Yogi gets to the ball, a child positioned on first base races Yogi to home plate. Hopefully this video will give you some sort of idea regarding what it is that I’m trying to convey.

Another nightly between-inning spectacle is the Neese Country Sausage Race, featuring Extra Sage vs. Extra Hot vs. Original Country. Each sausage represents a randomly chosen fan, with the winning sausage netting his (or her, if sausage can be female) corresponding fan 10 pounds of said sausage. I don’t think I’ve ever written a more convoluted sentence. Here’s a picture.

023If you want to learn more about Neese’s Sasuage, check out this — wait for it — LINK. I’d like to see a second set of racers appear at the ballpark, representing the more obscure Neese’s Country Sausage triumvirate of Souse, C-Loaf and Liver Mush.

The sausages were standing in the batting cage, which doubles as an in-game promo contest changing room and storage area. There are some groundskeeping supplies in here as well. Welcome to Minor League Baseball.

020The batting cage is close to the clubhouse, which serves as an in-game resting area for Master Yogi Berra and young Miss Lou Lou. In the below photo, Miss Lou Lou is in the cage labeled “Miss Babe.”

024Meanwhile, back outside, people were still buying tickets. Fans steadily trickled into the ballpark over the course of three hours, from the time the gates opened at 4:30 until 7:30 or so.

027Back inside, I spent a couple of innings talking with Grasshoppers’ “Speaker of the House” Zeb Vance and his father, Gil. The Grasshoppers mean a lot to Zeb, a developmentally-disabled 28-year-old, and vice-versa. I wrote an MiLB.com story about this relationship, which you can find HERE.

Zeb at May 6 Grasshoppers game and with team VP Katie Dannemiller.

Zeb at May 6 Grasshoppers game and with team VP Katie Dannemiller.

Zeb watches games from this vantage point, often interacting with the team’s players as they traverse between the playing field and the clubhouse. In the below picture, the first game of the doubleheader had just ended.

032The beginning stages of the second game were spent with my designated eater; those interactions will be the subject of the next post. Once that task was complete, I traipsed back to the tunnel (waving to Zeb, watching from above) and watched some more dog-centric between-inning endeavors.

Here we see Donald Moore and Miss LuLu, who succeeded Miss Babe Ruth as team bat dog.

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An inning or two later, Master Yogi Berra once again took part in his ball-to-the-wall race. He lost, but remains number one.

Now here’s something you don’t see every day (or any day): jeans for sale at a Minor League team store.

IMG_1119These are Wrangler jeans, specifically, because Wrangler is based in Greensboro (or, as the t-shirts in the above photo say, “Jeansboro”). Also of note: the team store is called the Majestic Yard because Vanity Fair is based in Greensboro and Majestic is one of the apparel companies residing under the VF corporate umbrella.

Enough with the facts. Time for a joke. This right here was my first groundbreaking and subversive ballpark joke of 2016. I imagine that you missed viewing them about as much as I missed making them (ie “not all that much”).

The second game, like all things this side of eternity, ended. I don’t remember who won either game of this Grasshoppers vs. Fireflies twinbill, but regardless it had six legs, wings and a short life span. With no baseball left to play, the players retreated through the tunnel and into the bowels of the facility.

IMG_1122I, meanwhile, took up residency in the home dugout and watched the postgame fireworks.

On the way out of the stadium, the exterior wall art inspired a well-timed Vine that I am particularly proud of.

And with that, my night at the ballpark concluded. Good night from NewBridge Bank Park.

IMG_1130And good night, Greensboro, as I then drove straight on to my next destination.

Hello, Durham.

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***

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

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Prince ‘Rains’ Supreme in Columbia

On the evening of April 21, mere hours after Prince’s passing, Columbia, South Carolina newspaper The State published an article detailing his legacy in the city. His longtime drummer, John Blackwell, grew up in Columbia. In 2011 this connection led to Prince donating $250,000 to local children’s charity Eau Clair Promise Zone shortly after playing a show in the city.

The Columbia Fireflies, currently playing their inaugural season, are further cementing this connection with June 9’s “Purple Game, Purple Game” promotion. On this Thursday evening, the team will take the field at Spirit Communications Park while wearing these jerseys:

Prince_Tribute_Jersey

The promotion, which occurs two days after what would have been Prince’s 58th birthday, features myriad in-game elements inspired by the purple-clad polyamorous pop legend. From the press release:

Activities at Spirit Communications Park to honor Prince will include a pregame Prince tribute band, Prince music throughout the night and a pancake-eating contest. After the game, there will be a purple-themed fireworks display.

The pancake-eating contest is inspired by a Chappelle Show sketch, which in turn inspired this Prince song featuring Chappelle as Prince in the cover art. Very meta:

breakfast can waitThe Fireflies go on to state the following:

Any fans driving little red Corvettes will receive free parking in the permitted parking lots adjacent to Spirit Communications Park.

All fans born in 1999 will receive a free purple glow necklace at Guest Services with proper proof of age.

For the lovebirds in the crowd, we’ll have a special Prince edition of the Northpoint Heating and Air Kiss Cam, featuring fans wearing purple shirts, blouses with ruffles or raspberry berets.

We will also host a Ping Pong Tournament … with the winner receiving a CD of Prince’s Greatest Hits. In addition, frozen “Purple Rain” adult beverages will be on the bar menu.

Not to nitpick, but wouldn’t a “frozen ‘Purple Rain'” beverage more accurately be known as “Purple Ice”? Nevermind, here’s another image of the jerseys.

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Proceeds from a jersey auction will benefit the Palmetto Place Children’s Shelter.

“We are so excited to recognize the legacy of Prince with the Columbia Fireflies at Spirit Communications Park,” said Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin, as quoted in the press release. “Prince’s contributions to the arts and to the causes of children and education in the City of Columbia will never be forgotten.”

If you would like to know more about the Fireflies and their new home of Spirit Communications Park, then please check out my article recapping my visit there earlier this month. It’s a nice place to see a ballgame.

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benjamin.hill@mlb.com

Twitter: @bensbiz

Instagram: @thebensbiz

On the Road: It All Begins in Greensboro

To see all my posts from my May 6 visit to the Greensboro Grasshoppers, click HERE. To see all of my posts from my May 2016 Carolinas Road Trip, click HERE. To see all of my “On the Road” posts, click HERE. If interested in seeing posts on a visit to a particular team, search for that team’s name in the blog search bar (it’s to your right). 

My 2016 “On the Road” season kicked off on May 5th, 2016. Would you like to hear about how the day went? It’s really interesting. I got up early and went to the gym, as this season it is my goal to become the most physically alluring single male 30-something Minor League Baseball writer of all time. (I’m not sure who I’m competing against). I then took a green cab to Penn Station and boarded a New Jersey transit train to the Newark airport. After an Airtrain ride spent silently mocking the automated conductor’s pronunciation of “United” (U-knitted? Really?), I proceeded through security, got mad at how expensive airport food is, got sad at the dystopian check-out kiosks that are slowly displacing the American retail worker and, finally, boarded a plane to Raleigh-Durham. In much the same way that the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders are located in Moosic, PA, the Raleigh-Durham airport is located in Morrisville. Representing two places in your name while being situated in a third — now that’s covering your bases!

Please have patience while this introduction builds to an exquisite crescendo. In Durham, where the weather was miserable, I rented a car (Volkswagen Passat, for those keeping score at home) and then drove to Greensboro while listening to the first disc in the four-volume “Complete Road Music” series. (Red Sovine almost made me cry. Again.) Greensboro, being in close proximity to Durham, was also experiencing miserable weather and, in fact, that evening’s Grasshoppers game was rained out. No matter. I wasn’t planning on attending a Grasshoppers game until the next evening, where surely everything would be fine.

And you know what? It was. Everything is always fine. This was my view of NewBridge Bank Park the next morning. There was nary a tarp in sight.

IMG_1088After an afternoon spent in silent observance of my 37 1/2 birthday (aka “Halfway to 75”) I traipsed — yes, traipsed! — to New Bridge Bank Ballpark for that evening’s scheduled doubleheader against the Columbia Fireflies. It was a doubleheader because the previous evening’s ballgame had been rained out. Everything is connected.

On Twitter I referred to the scene below as a “quintessential MiLB tableau” and I stand by that assessment. The inanimate canines to the right of inanimate mascot Guilford are, I believe, batdogs Master Yogi Berra and Miss Babe Ruth (retired). More on them later.

001In front of the giant inflatable jersey one finds a memorial to Flight 93 flight attendant Sandra W. Bradshaw, a “caring friend and companion….who sacrificed her life to save others.”

002 From the home plate side, NewBridge Bank Park is considerably more imposing.

004I was met at the entrance by Grasshoppers VP Katie Dannemiller, who led me through the team store and into the front offices. Miss Babe Ruth, a daily ballpark presence even in retirement, was there to greet me. Or, more accurately, she was there to dolefully stare at me as I traipsed past.

005From the front office it was on to the concourse, where I caught my first-ever glimpse of the brand-new South Atlantic League entity that are the Columbia Fireflies.

In the above photo, one can see a new ballpark addition (Sunbrella Shade Zone Picnic Area) as well as new ballpark view apartments that are being constructed beyond left field. Though built over a decade ago, the area around NewBridge Bank Park is still developing.

In its own way, the view from behind the ballpark is pretty nice as well.

007The early-arriving masses, beside themselves with anticipation for a pair of seven-inning Class A ballgames, could no longer be contained. A brave member of the Hoppin Fun Crew (who, like the Reading Fightin Phils, eschew apostrophe) was ready for them.

010The concourse, which spans 360 degrees but does not offer views of the field from all of those degrees, sprung to life.

008During my pregame strolling I saw one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen at a ballpark. From my notes:

“Young autograph-collecting dad, wearing flip-flops, parks his stroller on the concourse and totally wipes out while walking down the muddy berm. His feet went right out from under him and he landed on his back. Fireflies players warming up on field let out collective ‘Ohhhhh!’ He was covered in mud and elbows scraped. Went back up the hill without getting an autograph.”

I don’t mean to be mean-spirited in laughing at this, as Lord knows I’ve had my share of ballpark bloopers. One time I threw up in a clubhouse tunnel toilet in Tulsa after over-exerting myself in an on-field human bobblehead contest.

Oh, say can you see that a game was about to start? My notes indicate that the anthem fireworks were not quite in sync with the words “bomb bursting.” This observation is followed by “I love MiLB.”

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I love MiLB and I love being on the road visiting the ballparks. Perhaps this is because “On great fields, something stays.” Take it away Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, whose timeless words of wisdom are displayed in this piece of signage immediately to the left of the main entrance.

012Chamberlain’s quote brings to mind the last paragraph of Jack London’s Star Rover, an influential text in my personal canon.

There is no death. Life is spirit, and spirit cannot die. Only the flesh dies and passes, ever a-crawl with the chemic ferment that informs it, ever plastic, ever crystallizing, only to melt into the flux and to crystallize into fresh and diverse forms that are ephemeral and that melt back into the flux. Spirit alone endures and continues to build upon itself through successive and endless incarnations as it works upward toward the light. What shall I be when I live again? I wonder. I wonder. . . .

Nothing is guaranteed, but before melting into the flux I plan on writing Part Two of this Greensboro Grasshoppers blog series. Stay tuned.

***

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

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Fish, Fowl and Carousels: Binghamton Seeks New Team Name

2016 marks the 25th and final season in which Binghamton’s Double-A franchise will be known as the “Mets.” What they will be known as going forward … well, that’s still unclear. But it will be one of these six choices, unveiled yesterday as part of a “Name the Team Contest.” The team will be accepting votes through June 1, because, as everyone knows, Minor League team name contests always rely on the will of the people.

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Here are the choices; the italicized descriptions are provided by the team:

Bullheads — A local inhabitant of the Susquehanna River, a Bullhead is a bullhead catfish. The bullhead displays a tough and resilient character such as the Binghamton community.

Gobblers — A symbol of the rich hunting culture of the area, the “Binghamton Gobblers” honors the outdoorsman lifestyle and turkeys who call Binghamton home.

Rocking Horses — The “Binghamton Rocking Horses” celebrates the Triple Cities’ rich history as the “Carousel Capital of the World.”

Rumble Ponies — A tribute to the Triple Cities’ carousel heritage, the “Binghamton Rumble Ponies” is a herd of fierce horses that no carousel center pole can contain.

Stud Muffins — While tipping a cap to the players on the field, the “Stud Muffins” celebrates the collection of carousel horses belonging to Binghamtonians.

Timber Jockeys — Combining the fun of Minor League Baseball with the rich carousel history of the Triple Cities, the “Binghamton Timber Jockeys” pays homage to everyone that rides the carousels.

A fairly ridiculous half-dozen choices, to be sure, but this is the year 2016 and if you’ve been following Minor League Baseball at all over the past decade, then this shouldn’t be much of a surprise. In a world that already includes Yard Goats, Chihuahuas, RubberDucks, IronPigs and Blue Wahoos, then why not add “Stud Muffins” to the mix?

Though spiedies were somehow completely neglected, all six of the choices have some tie-in to Binghamton. Bullheads and Gobblers and regional fish and fowl references, respectively, while the remaining four pay homage to Binghamton’s status as the “Carousel Capital of the World.” Did you now that, between 1919 and 1934, a benevolent businessman by the name of George F. Johnson donated six carousels to Binghamton’s local parks? The city of Binghamton website reports that “these magnificent machines still spin from Memorial Day to Labor Day at no charge or for an admission of ‘one piece of litter.'”

I am now disappointed that “Binghamton Garbage Riders” did not make the final cut. Refuse to lose!

The "Bee-Mets", lacking buzz, now paying final season.

The “Bee-Mets”, lacking buzz, now paying final season.

Binghamton’s imminent rebrand comes during the team’s first season under a new ownership group, Evans Street Baseball. The franchise, perennially last in the league in attendance, had been the subject of various relocation rumors over the past decade (most recently as part of an elaborate plan that would have seen the B-Mets purchased by Main Street Baseball and relocated to Wilmington, Delaware, with Wilmington’s current Carolina League team moving to Kinston, North Carolina).

But as the “Name the Team” contest illustrates, baseball in Binghamton will be back for many a merry go-round as the team carou-sells its new identity to the masses. That’s my spin, at least, provided for your amusement. Now it’s time for the team to gauge fan reaction by taking a gallop pole. I could make more jokes — the neigh-sayers are already telling me to stop — but for now I’ll just let it ride. I’ve saddled you with too many already and now my voice is horse.

***

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

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About Friday Night: Carolina Mudcats, May 13, 2016

This season, when I’m on the road, I’ll write an on-the-spot 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, love. Let’s get to it, lest it get to us!

May 13: Five County Ballpark, home of the Carolina Mudcats (Class A Advanced affiliate of the Atlanta Braves)

Opponent: Lynchburg Hillcats, 7:05 p.m. start time

Five County Ballpark, from the outside:

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Five County Ballpark, from within: 

IMG_1390Culinary Creation: Pig Wings

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Ballpark Character: Muddy, celebrating Friday the 13th by dressing as Freddy Krueger.

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At Random: It was also Scout Night

003Your Groundbreaking and Subversive Ballpark Joke of the Day: 

Up Next: 

This trip is over. Stay tuned for a cavalcade of Carolinas-themed blog posts and MiLB.com articles. My next trip, God willing, will be to see the Hartford Yard Goats on June 3 and 4th.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

instagram.com/thebensbiz

About Last Night: Columbia Fireflies, May 12, 2016

This season, when I’m on the road, I’ll write an on-the-spot 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, love. Let’s get to it, lest it get to us!

May 11: Spirit Communications Park, home of the Columbia Fireflies (Class A affiliate of the New York Mets)

Opponent: Asheville Tourists, 7:05 p.m. start time

Spirit Communications Park, from the outside:

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Spirit Communications Park, from within: 

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Culinary Creation: Myself and designated eater Carter Blackmon, about to chow down on “Hog Hammer” pork shanks.

IMG_1352Ballpark Character: Edward Keene, Fireflies director of facilities/footwear fashion icon

IMG_1362At Random: A pregame English class for Fireflies players, conducted in the office of team president John Katz

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Your Groundbreaking and Subversive Ballpark Joke

Up Next: 

May 13: Carolina Mudcats

***

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

instagram.com/thebensbiz

About Tuesday Night: Myrtle Beach Pelicans, May 10, 2016

This season, when I’m on the road, I’ll write an on-the-spot 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, love. Let’s get to it, lest it get to us!

May 10: TicketReturn.com Field, home of the Myrtle Beach Pelicans

Opponent: Winston-Salem Dash, 7:05 p.m. start time

TicketReturn.com Field, from the outside:

086TicketReturn.com Field, from within: 

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Culinary Creation: Uh, where to begin? This was one of four courses, served to four designated eaters. Chicken and waffle bites, fried bologna sandwich, chicken bog balls, fried pickles, sweet potato fries. Stay tuned for a full report.

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Ballpark Character: Randy the vendor

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At Random: That’s not a T-shirt gun; this is a T-shirt gun.

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Your Groundbreaking and Subversive Ballpark Joke of the Day: 

Up Next: 

May 12: Columbia Fireflies

May 13: Carolina Mudcats

***

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

instagram.com/thebensbiz

About Monday Night: Charleston RiverDogs, May 9, 2016

This season, when I’m on the road, I’ll write an on-the-spot 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, love. Let’s get to it, lest it get to us!

May 9: Joseph P. Riley Park, home of the Charleston RiverDogs (Class A affiliate of the New York Yankees)

Opponent: Hickory Crawdads, 7:05 p.m. start time

Joseph P. Riley Park, from the outside:

003Joseph P. Riley Park, from within: 

018Culinary Creation: Take it away, Josh Shea:

Ballpark Character: Another day, another “Bark in the Park” promo.

IMG_1245At Random: 

IMG_1252Your Groundbreaking and Subversive Ballpark Joke of the Day: 

Up Next: 

May 10: Myrtle Beach Pelicans

May 12: Columbia Fireflies

May 13: Carolina Mudcats

***

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

instagram.com/thebensbiz

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