Results tagged ‘ Altoona Curve ’
To paraphrase a line from Moby Dick, Ben’s Biz Blog is “unbent from the vast corpulence of human dignity.” In other words, I can report on just about anything, no matter how ridiculous, and somehow not feel shame.
It’s a gift and a curse.
So let’s start with a strange and tragic tale out of Beloit. Yesterday evening, at approximately 6 p.m. ET, the Snappers posted the following Facebook update and picture.
Frack and Blaze have to easily be the two biggest fish in Minor League baseball. Little guy on the right is one of the “Wiggles,” there are three total.
That was the team’s last post of the day. And then the first post Thursday morning was this:
Well, we got to the office this morning and found that one of our fish, Blaze somehow made his way out of the tank. R.I.P. Blaze, you had a good run.
Does this seem fishy to anyone else? That Blaze would meet his untimely demise just hours after being highlighted on the Snappers’ Facebook page? Did he have enemies, who might have resented the attention being showered upon him?
Or maybe it was a desperate bid for freedom, an ill-advised leap toward the kind of life that fellow Minor League fish Al Tuna (of the Altoona Curve, natch) has carved out for himself. This globe-trotting aquatic vertebrae has appeared in all sorts of places lately, with the photographic evidence appearing on the team’s Facebook page.
St. Mark’s Basilica
A London Train Station
And even a taping of Conan in New York City.
Moving from fish to amphibians, you may remember that back in September I attended the Minor League Baseball Promotional Seminar in Myrtle Beach. At the event’s trade show, the following mascot was available to the highest bidder:
Multiple sources have informed me which team he will be with in 2011, but I’ll hold off from making the reveal (hint: the team’s name is itself aquatic). But if this was YOUR team, what would you name this guy? And how would you use him?
And now for a patented Ben’s Biz Blog tonal shift!
My new “Offseasoning” piece on Toronto Blue Jays prospect Bryan Kervin is now on MiLB.com. He missed the 2010 season after a life-threatening battle with ulcerative colitis, and is now on the comeback trail while also devoting himself to his Rise and Conquer charitable foundation.
A very interesting Minor League tale, and worth checking out.
Thanks, as always, for your time.
Those words, spoken so hauntingly by the Twin Peaks Giant (click the link!), have been echoing through my mind recently. Several seemingly unique events that have taken place this week that in fact have precedent in the not-too-distant past. Let’s take a look:
A rather amusing story came out of Toledo today, involving the almost-but-not-quite theft of one of the bronze statues located behind the Fifth Third Field scoreboard. Here are the statues in question, photographed during my trip to Toledo this past June.
But, as the Toledo Blade reports, on Sunday night the girl in pigtails on the far left was reported stolen:
Mud Hens employee Ken Westenkirchner called the police and filed a theft report. The Arts Commission of Greater Toledo, which manages the city’s public art, prepared for a media blitz to publicize the heist and bring the perpetrators to justice….
What Mud Hens officials and the arts commission did not know, however, was that the little girl in pigtails was safely stowed in a police property room. In the early morning hours of Saturday, two Toledo police officers discovered the statue about 20 yards from its original location. They booked it into a property room for safekeeping, according to their report…..
Apparently, nobody bothered to tell the Mud Hens or the art commission.
Later in the article, Toledo police speculate why the statue was removed in the first place.
Detective Tonya Rider said the bolts that anchored the statue to the sidewalk had been damaged. “I don’t know if it was a prank, if it got too heavy to carry,” she said. “I don’t know what the circumstances were. Maybe it was a case of buyer’s remorse.”
This saga comes on the heels of the near-tragedy that befell the Greensboro Grasshoppers last month, when the statue of iconic dog mascot Miss Babe Ruth went missing. Here’s a picture of the statue, in happier times.
Three days after the theft, Greensboro police caught the culprit and returned the statue (damaged paws and all) to NewBridge Bank Park. Seeking to make lemonade out of this thoroughly sour situation, the team then auctioned off the returned statue on eBay. The winning bid was $1025, with the proceeds donated to the Greensboro Police Department’s Canine Unit.
Moving on the inanimate to that which is imbued with life, it is also worth noting that this has been a fertile week for player performances of the National Anthem. A YouTube of Charlotte catcher Adam Ricks playing the anthem on his guitar was featured in Tuesday’s post, and yesterday Altoona pitcher Phil Irwin belted it out at at Blair County Ballpark. Check it out on the team’s Facebook page.
A more random and unexpected instance of history repeating itself can be found in State College, which recently had its second comical base-stealing managerial ejection in as many years. It would be near impossible to top the original, when Spikes manager Gary Robinson autographed first base and awarded it to a young fan.
Fast forward nearly one year later — to yesterday. This time the ejected manager was Leo Gomez of the visiting Aberdeen IronBirds, who uprooted third base and walked across the diamond with it before unceremoniously tossing it aside. Spikes first baseman Alex Dickerson then played groundskeeper, jovially returning the base to its intended location. Check it out HERE.
Finally, there’s Jerry “The King” Lawler, a wrestling icon who has become a regular on the Minor League Baseball appearance circuit. When he last appeared on this blog he was knocking out a cauliflower, but his current adversary seems to be anyone with the gall to steal a crown from a perpetually smiling fast food mascot. This one comes courtesy of the Frederick Keys:
Thank goodness for conveniently placed concourse folding chairs. I don’t know what Jerry would do without them.
The Spinners’ recent run of attention-getting stunts will surely get some “Promotion of the Year” consideration, as flossing world records and Human Home Runs aren’t the kind of thing you see every day.
Another team likely to be in the running at year’s end are the Stockton Ports, who have produced two of the year’s most creative giveaways: the Jeremy Barfield “Rocket Arm” and the Dallas Braden “Bobble Belly.”
The “Rocket Arm” is a literal-minded tribute to the extreme arm strength displayed by Barfield when he patrolled the outfield in Stockton last season. They will be distributed to the first 1000 fans in attendance at Friday’s game.
And just nine days later, the team is honoring Stockton native Dallas Braden with his own “Bobblebelly”.
This item pays tribute to Braden’s triumphant 2010 return to Stockton’s Banner Island Ballpark. The team held an on-field ceremony in honor of his Mother’s Day perfect game, during which Braden took the opportunity to display his area code tattoo.
Needless to say, Dallas approves of his Bobblebelly:
And since we’re on the topic of unique giveaway items, I’ll close with a picture of what the Altoona Curve will be giving away tonight: team-logo tighty-whities!
But be careful — improper handling of a curve will result in skid marks.
It looks like my upcoming road trip is gonna be a good one, as I’ve gotten some very enthusiastic responses from the teams that I’ll be visiting. “On the Road” coverage will surely dominate this blog (and regularly appear on MiLB.com) throughout the upcoming week and into the next.
But before leaving, I need to solicit your opinion. The Fort Wayne TinCaps have asked me to take part in a “Bad Apple Dancer” dancing grounds crew routine, an invitation rarely extended to ballpark interlopers such as myself. I was even given the choice of what song to dance to, and I need your help in making that choice. The candidates:
Party in the USA
As always, your input is important to me. What song would best showcase my prodigious dancing skills? Let me know via blog comment, twitter, or email (deadline: Saturday at 12 ET).
And while in a deliberative mood, check out the latest in the Altoona Curve’s series of television parody videos. It’s “Curve and Order.”
The Curve video was part of their latest “What We’re Watching Wednesday” promo, followed the next day by the latest entry in their mascot stunt series: “The Stuffed Animal Hoop of Death.”
Unfortunately, I am not in possession of footage of this phenomenal feat. In the meantime, may I suggest that you check out my latest “Farm’s Almanac” feature article on MiLB.com? It’s on Chris Hatcher, vying to become the first-ever player to appear in the Major Leagues as both a full-time catcher and full-time pitcher.
Thanks for reading, and see you on the road!
Suffice to say that it’s been a momentous couple of days for the United States and the world at large, with the killing of Bin Laden absolutely dominating the conversation. Not surprisingly, Minor League teams across the country found a way to respond to the news. A brief smattering:
— The Bowie Baysox issued the following missive on Facebook: In response to President Obama’s call of unity and solidarity….the first 300 fans that enter the ballpark receive a mini-American Flag.
— In San Antonio, the Missions wore their camo uniforms as part of an impromptu celebration of the military. It turned out to be quite a game, too, with David Robertson hitting for the cycle as the Missions cruised to a 17-6 victory.
— In an email received just as the blog was going to “press,” the Northwest Akransas Naturals announced that Inspired by the bravery of the Navy Seals in Sunday night’s mission in Pakistan, the Northwest Arkansas Naturals would like to recognize and thank all military members – active and retired – with free tickets to any of the next four home games at Arvest Ballpark, starting Tuesday evening.
— The Altoona Curve offered free tickets to all military members, for games on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. Rumors that Steamer was part of the special ops team have not been substantiated.
The team also remarked, facetiously albeit accurately, via Twitter that “In honor of yesterday’s events, July 4th-born Jared Hughes will be tonight’s starting pitcher for the Altoona Curve.” While Hughes only lasted four innings, the Curve rallied for a 10-9 victory over Harrisburg. This put an end to their streak of 19 straight games alternating a win with a loss (!!!)
The aforementioned Harrisburg Senators are more than just the visiting team in this particular narrative. Yesterday the team made its own announcement: In light of the events of the past 48 hours, the Harrisburg Senators want to say thank you to the U.S. Armed Forces for all that they do….Beginning this Friday, May 6th through the end of the 2011 season all active duty and retired military, Air and Army National Guard, and Reservists and their family receive box seats for only $7.50 (normally $9) with their military ID.
One of the few games going on when the news of Bin Laden’s death broke was a tilt in Tucson between the Padres and Colorado Springs — on Military Night, no less. The team made the decision to announce the news over the PA, resulting in a memorable scene.
“We felt [making the announcement] was an important thing to do,” said T-Pads general manager Mike Feder. “We’ve made a major commitment to reach out to the military; we have very large Air Force and intelligence bases located near us, and there’s a huge National Guard presence as well.”
A more localized case of dedicated team and and fan support involves Bryan Stow, the San Francisco Giant fan senselessly beaten into a coma on Opening Day at Dodger Stadium. His plight has prompted an outpouring of giving, with everyone from Tim Lincecum to Charlie Sheen chipping in with donations to help support Stow and his family during this exceedingly difficult time.
But one of the most substantial and heartfelt fundraising efforts occurred within Minor League Baseball. Stow often worked as a paramedic at San Jose’s Municipal Stadium, and the hometown Giants therefore dedicated the entire month of April to him. Throughout the month the team raised $36,181, and the Triple-A Fresno Grizzlies pitched in an additional $7,181 after holding a fundraising night of their own. That’s $43, 362 combined, which was presented to the Stow family prior to Sunday’s ballgame.
Today, as with every Tuesday, brings a new “Promotion Preview” column. Super Nintendo, bubble gum, mustaches, formal wear, “Charlie Bit Me”, Tiger Blood cocktails, and more. Always more.
And yesterday saw the 2011 debut of “Crooked Numbers“, a monthly compendium of statistical oddities and curiosities. Or, as I like to call it, “an obsessive-compulsive labor of love that I spend way too much time on even though it gets no feedback from anyone, thereby making an already sensitive writer even more sensitive.” That title was rejected by the MiLB.com higher-ups, probably for good reason.
Today’s “Farm’s Almanac” feature is on the topic of walk-up songs, and includes a variety of anecdotes related to this increasingly popular facet of the professional baseball experience. Did you know that Josh Harrison’s walk-up music is written by his brother? Or that Jeff Locke chose his after extensive focus group testing on Twitter? Or that our old friend Scot Drucker once coordinated bullpen dance routines to New Kids on the Block?
Read all about it HERE.
But the article was over-stuffed as it is, and one aspect of the walk-up experience I wasn’t able to include was that of the visitors. Or, rather, that the visiting team is at the mercy of pun-happy and perhaps slightly mean-spirited control room employees. What follows is a sampling of the info I collected:
Over Twitter, Jackson Generals assistant general manager Jason Compton shared the following:.
We played “Papa Was a Rolling Stone” for Prince Fielder when Huntsville visited Pringles Park back a few years ago.
And, even better:
We also played “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother” for Delmon Young when the Biscuits came to town…this was my favorite.
Take that, Dmitri!
Kevin Huisman, who now works for the Grand Rapids Griffins of the American Hockey League, shared this anecdote from his days with the Hickory Crawdads:
Being in the Sally League, we got a chance to play the Rome Braves, which gave us the chance to break out some opera and just about anything that we could find that had an Italian sound to it (“Funiculi Funicula”, etc.). That season, Rome also had a gentleman by the name of Van Pope on their squad, which gave us an added chance to pull in some Gregorian Chants more likely to be heard in Vatican City than a ballpark….Another opponent that season, the Greensboro Grasshoppers, gave me the most memorable dig from that season. One of their players was named Jared Gaston…[fellow Crawdads employee] Mark had 3 children at home, and we were both fans of Disney movies, so we both came up with “Gaston” from “Beauty and the Beast” pretty quickly. I think we were only able to get away with playing it once, but the reaction was priceless. My wife was sitting with the wife of one of the Crawdads players that we’d gotten to know pretty well…when they heard the first line come out, you could hear their laughter echoing along with everyone else in the crowd.
Along those lines, Altoona Curve director of creative services John Foreman shared the following.
“Last year when New Britain was in town, we’d play Skee-Lo “Wish I Was A Little Bit Taller” for [7’1″] Loek Van Mil. And when [catcher] Carlos Santana was with Akron we’d play Carlos Santana and incorporate a Carlos Santana headshot on the videoboard.
“And then there’s Lucas Duda, he’d get “Zip-A-Dee-Do-Dah” or “Camptown Races”….Guys with the last name of Sylvester we’ll play “I Tawt I Taw A Putty Cat,” and the Mr. Rogers theme song for anyone with the last name of Rogers.”
And on and on and on it goes. This topic is a wordplay goldmine and I expect — nay, demand! — for this to be an ongoing feature. So please, no matter who you may be, get in touch with examples of visiting team audio hi-jinx!
And, of course, what would YOUR walk-up song be? Contenders in my universe include James Gang “Bomber”, CCR “Bayou Country,” Dirtbombs “Wreck My Flow” Fat Joe “Massacre on Madison” and New Kingdom “Mexico or Bust.” But number one remains:
I ended yesterday’s post with some Quick Hits. In order to hold the attention of an increasingly ADD-addled populace I’ll continue on that front today.
Let’s start with this video out of Portland, ME, featuring an unusual inter-species friendship that has developed out in the Hadlock Field bullpen.
But those in attendance at yesterday’s Sea Dogs game wouldn’t have been able to witness such a serene display of sunflower consumption. Let’s just say that the visibility wasn’t optimal:
But Minor League rodents come in many forms, as evidenced by the recent debut of the Stockton Ports’ “Rally Rat.” The team explains that this critter, originally a sewer dweller, “found himself under the lights of Banner Island Ballpark, surrounded by the roar of Stockton Ports baseball fans, who were hoping to see their team take the win for the night. In his excitement, the rat scurried onto the field and joined in with the cheering. Little did he know, his presence on the field that night would bring a wave of good luck over the team that would help them defeat their opponents.”
An even more mysterious offense igniter is the Delmarva Shorebirds’ “Rally Banana,” credited with spurring a pair of comebacks in the team’s extra-inning win over Savannah on April 26. The time is ripe for this fruitful fellow, whose bid for mass a-peel includes his own Facebook page.
Chiquita him out:
And, finally, you may have heard that the city of Altoona is temporarily changing its name to “POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold, PA” (in conjunction with the release of Morgan Spurlock’s new documentary on corporate product placement). Does this mean that the hometown team will soon become “POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold Curve”?
No, it doesn’t. Declares the team:
[W]e won’t be changing our name at this point because of the obvious logistical issues involved. I don’t even know if we could fit that many letters on to a jersey. We will be participating in [Wednesday]’s City Council proclamation with our main mascot, Steamer, and are pleased that this effort…will benefit the Altoona City Police Department.”
Looks like the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees will be able to retain their “longest team name in the Minor Leagues” title. But for how long?
My original plan was to devote today’s post exclusively to food (shocker, I know), but you know what they say about the best laid plans:
They are often interrupted by a reversible hat!
The Altoona Curve announced their new logos and uniforms earlier this offseason, and the shape-shifting item seen above represents the final piece of the puzzle. Remarks the franchise:
[T]he Altoona Curve’s new home cap is believed to be the first in Minor League Baseball to feature a specially-designed, rally cap lining. When the Railroad Red cap with the new Engineer head logo is turned inside out, a bright orange lining with large black eyes is displayed to simulate the look of popular Curve rally mascot, Al Tuna.
The cap is the work of Plan B Branding, who are understandably excited by their latest innovation. I chatted briefly with company co-founder Jason Klein over IM yesterday, but all he wrote was “Al Tuna! Al Tuna!” before my connection gave out. But perhaps that’s all that was needed.
But in case you were wondering, the players themselves won’t be wearing the rally caps. Curve manager PJ Forbes told the Altoona Mirror “I can emphatically say no. But it is a nice touch for the fans, and it’s another way to get the fans involved, which is what it’s all about.” Which reminds me, why isn’t there a “Come to the Park in Your PJs” night on the Curve promotional calendar? It would be a great way to honor the manager while getting the fans involved. And that’s what it’s all about!
Speaking of getting the fans involved, the Huntsville Stars are going to be broadcasting games in a most interesting fashion this season:
The Stars will be replacing the traditional radio broadcast with a live web show for every home game. The webcast, “The Living Room Show”, will bring a different level of entertainment to the ballpark, putting the broadcast in the hands, and seats, of fans. Ryan “Pokey” Hayden, a former voice of Troy University athletics, will host the show and keep things rolling. He’ll also be in charge of calling the play-by-play, and it won’t be from the press box. Hayden will be seated on a couch in the seating bowl, calling the game with the people who love it most: the fans.
I’m definitely interested to hear (and see) how this turns out. It could be the future of Minor League Baseball broadcasting, or it could be a crazy and quickly-forgotten anomaly. But it won’t be both. I’d also curious to hear YOUR thoughts. Yes, you.
Believe it or not, I have not embedded a video since MLBlogs made its momentous conversion to WordPress (who, according to the logic of Rob Neyer, must be doing something wrong). That situation is going to be rectified right now, with a video that just happened to fall into my lapse. Courtesy of the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, here’s the offseason condensed into 118 seconds.
But the offseason, in real time, was approximately 4.2 billion years. I, for one, am glad that it ends tomorrow. It’s time to not enjoy life in a whole new way!
Oh, and that food-related post is coming soon. I think I’m going to call it “Appetite For Destruction” because how is it possible that I have never written a post with this title?
There’s just a little more than a month to go before Opening Day. Truly, the clock is ticking on the offseason:
Meanwhile, in Wisconsin, “The Offseason” has officially come to an end. The Timber Rattlers unveiled the last episode of their weekly series today, and it’s a doozy. In addition to skillfully referencing a recent hit comedy (“Brat Tub Time Machine”), it explains mascot Fang’s strange anatomy AND features a character who happens to go by the name of “Ben Hill.” What an honor:
Over on MiLB.com, “Offseasoning” has come to an end. This was a bi-weekly column profiling players’ offseason jobs and activities, and the final installment features current free agent, Twitter champion, and all-around nice guy Michael Schlact.
I’m hoping to soon do a few articles in the “Offseasoning” mode, but this time featuring Spring Training. Let me know if you are aware of any interesting stories taking place in Minor League camp.
But while some things are coming to an end, others are just beginning (sunrise, sunset, etc etc). This is the case in Pawtucket, as the Red Sox have just unleashed a whodunit “Scavenger Hunt” onto the world.
Yes, the villain in this adventure is a gorilla wearing a Yankees hat. The Paw Sox will release clues each week that will guide fans toward a “Golden Soft Toss” ball redeemable for team-related prizes.
Earlier this week I noted some of the interesting giveaways the Altoona Curve have on tap for this season. There’s more where that came from, as yesterday the team released their Theme Night schedule. The highlight is “What We’re Watching Wednesdays,” explained as such in the press release.
The first “What We’re Watching Wednesday” will take place on May 4 vs. Akron and lampoon the now retired ABC phenomenon “LOST”. The team’s working title of “LOST – Locke & Locke” plays off of 2010 Curve pitcher Jeff Locke, who actually was a huge fan of the cult series, and the mysterious character John Locke from the show itself.
After attempting to decipher the mysteries of the island, the Curve will try their hand at crime solving on June 8 vs. Erie with “NCIS/CSI: Curve, Pa. – Law & Order SVU” night. Other “What We’re Watching Wednesdays” include “How I Met Your Mascot” on June 15 vs. New Britain, “Glenn’s Kitchen” (which will place Curve Manager of Concessions Glenn McComas in the role of Chef Gordon Ramsay) on June 29 vs. Reading, “Lawn Stars” (starring Head Groundskeeper Brian Soukup) on August 17 vs. New Hampshire and “Only in Curve, Pa. with Bill the Comic Guy” on August 24 vs. Richmond. That should “Git ‘R Done” for the WWWW theme series.
There might be remarkable parity in Major League Baseball these days, but no one tops the Minors when it comes to parody.