Results tagged ‘ Altoona Curve ’

Bull Hiring, Ball Handling, Bow Hunting, and Bob

Tomorrow’s post will be the last of 2010, and dedicated to holiday content. But that’s in the future. What’s in the present is the year’s final blog bouillabaisse — time to throw it all in a pot and stir it up real good!

To begin, I’d like to highlight an intriguing job opportunity: The Tulsa Drillers are currently searching for a full-time Mascot Coordinator and Performer. Do you have what it takes to be the next Hornsby?

hornsby.jpg

The Drillers are currently in the process of revamping Hornsby, and have hired “mascot doctor” Dave Raymond (the original Phillie Phanatic) to assist with the process. And while the club is listing the mascot coordinator position as an internship, they are also making it clear that the potential for full-time salaried employment exists for 2012.

It’s good to see mascots get this kind of respect. Having a talented and dedicated performer in the furry suit can help a team’s marketing efforts immeasurably and lead to far greater visibility within the community.

And speaking of talented performers, check out the latest dispatch from Slugger of the Tennessee Smokies:

But with all due respect to Slugger, others out there are displaying a little more ambition in their offseason endeavors. The Tri-City ValleyCats recently announced their “4 in 24 Project,” in which they’ll renovate four local youth fields in the span of just 24 hours (!!!)

424.jpg

Sez the team:

The renovations will take place in early April of 2011, with work scheduled around the clock. In order to bring the selected fields to game ready conditions, each one will have new sod placed in their infield while also seeing their pitchers mound and homeplate areas re-built.

I’ll be keeping my eye on this one like a crossbow hunter keeps his eye on a deer. And — what a coincidence! — that leads me to my next topic: Hawkins Gebbers is the latest player to be featured in the “Offseason With the AquaSox” series. If you’ve never seen a Minor League player exhibit his crossbow skills before…well, that’s about to change:

Moving on to an issue of far greater import, the Altoona Curve have announced the five finalists in their “Name the Engineer” contest.
Curve_engineer.jpg

Your choices are Tenacious, Casey, Buster, Loco, and Choo Choo Charlie. Vote HERE, and make sure to choo-choose wisely.

Finally, the passing of Bob Feller last week got me thinking about how I had interviewed him just eight months prior. The occasion was the grand opening of the Hank Aaron Childhood Home and Museum in Mobile, and Feller was one of the Hall of Famers on the star-studded guest list.
This brief clip shows just how sharp Feller was, getting the most out of life at the age of 91. And while it didn’t seem like much at the time, I’m very grateful I had the opportunity to speak with a true legend of the game.
benjamin.hill@mlb.com
twitter.com/bensbiz

Unlikely Scenarios Amidst An Array of the Usual

Derek Jeter’s more-contentious-than-expected contract negotiations have led some to wonder if the unthinkable could happen, with the iconic Bronx superstar signing with another team.

But what if Jeter really wanted to defy conventional wisdom? What if he decided to suit up for a Class A Short Season Astros affiliate?

Well, that would look like this:

jeter.JPG 

The above visual was created by the Tri-City ValleyCats, and inspired by a tongue-in-cheek article in the Albany Times Union.

Why not, right? Stranger things have happened, although at the moment I’m unable to come up with one. What I am able to come up with is information on a completely unrelated topic.

A week after unveiling their new logos, the Altoona Curve have done a further bit of unveiling. This time, the uniforms:

curveunis.jpg

More info, and links to more uniform visuals, can be found HERE.

Meanwhile, I’d like to note that the Great Lakes Loons have produced the offseason’s first “snow-covered field” photo. Over the coming months, there is going to be PLENTY where this came from.

snowloon.jpg

 But if it’s plenty you want, it’s plenty I’ve got. Click HERE to listen to Gameops.com’s “Best of 2010″ audio roundtable, with myself as one of the distinguished panelists. Joining me in discussion was sports entertainment guru Pat Walker and Minor League front office free agent Scott Carter (the Cliff Lee of this year’s crop).

And thanks to Gameops founder Jon Cudo, who put the whole thing together.

gameopsbest.jpg 

That’ll do it for me today, but I’ve got big plans for tonight: Ozzy at Madison Square Garden!

benjamin.hill@mlb.com
twitter.com/bensbiz

Keepin’ It Rail In Altoona

Last night one had the sense that something big was about to go down in Altoona. Anticipation hung in the air like a thick layer of misty morning fog. And the tension? The tension was palpable.

Palpable, I tell you.

curvelogocartoon.jpg

In the month of November, an emphatic OMG! emanating from the inner recesses of a Minor League stadium can only mean one thing.

Yep, you guessed it. A new logo:

Curve_engineeerkeystone.jpg
The new primary logo seen above replaces this:

oldstercurve.gif

Remaining constant, of course, is the team’s adherence to the railroad theme. After all, “Curve” is an homage to the famous 220 degree Horseshoe Curve train track that winds around the summit of the Allegheny Mountains.

The Horseshoe Curve is what inspired this secondary mark:
Curve_horseshoe.jpg
The team remarks in the press release that “It’s believed the Curve is the first and only professional sports franchise in the commonwealth to use the keystone as part of its primary logo.”

The Pennsylvania keystone gains further prominence with this, a third logo:
Curvestone.jpg
As a Pennsylvania native, I’m a big fan of the logo seen above. I think I’ll have to get one of these caps and pretend the “A” represents my hometown of Ambler. Anybody out there have any love for (or at least knowledge of) Ambler?

Thumbnail image for Curve_engineer.jpgThe uniforms will be revealed early next month, but the Curve do note that “Further honoring the area’s railroad ties is the new color scheme for the team: Railroad Red, Boiler Bronze, Charcoal Gray, and Soot Black.”

I guess Train Track Tan, Sleeping Car Cerulean, and Propped Up By Federal Subsidies Silver didn’t make the cut.

The logos were designed by Minor League stalwarts Plan B Branding, always proponents of attention to detail and local emphasis. On the Plan B blog, designer Casey White notes that “there are a ton of hidden symbols infused into this new brand” and that they “contain one of the coolest twists to an official On-Field that we’ve ever created.”

Heady words, those.

Instead of doing investigative reporting, I’ll just solicit feedback from the readership — Anyoneeplurubus.jpg see any hidden symbols in the new logos? The latest edition of the team’s “Tuna Vision” web series provides plenty of info on the motivations for the new logo, but precious little on potential hidden symbols.

Finally, the club is currently soliciting names for the engineer featured in the primary logo. Email your suggestions to engineer@altoonacurve.com

I’d go with “Casey at the Track”, in honor of folk hero engineer Casey Jones. That guy sure has had a lot of songs written about him.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com
twitter.com/bensbiz

Faster and Furiouser

battttssss.jpgThere’s nothing big to report today, but lots of little stuff. In the interest of equity, brevity, and levity, please peruse this rapid-fire collection of blog-worthy material.

I’ll call this Quick Hits! Surely no one in the history of blogging has ever done such a thing before.

(Note: Quick Hits! is a trademark of BensBizBlogCo LLC, 2010 All Rights Reserved All Wrongs Avenged)

Quick Hit! #1 — New Column Begins!
Last week marked the first edition of “Offseasoning”, an MiLB.com feature chronicling the offseason lives of Minor League players. The inaugural column focused on right-hander Terry Doyle, whose non-baseball job is a relatively common one: substitute teacher. If YOU are (or are aware of) a player engaged in an interesting offseason endeavor then by all means get in touch.

Quick Hit! #2 — Comic Strip Returns!
The Altoona Curve found great success last year with their “Curve, PA” comic strip, which ran in the local Altoona Mirror. This unique marketing tool will be featured on the team’s Facebook page during the offseason, starting today. The strip featured today would have been far creepier had it explored the concept of a “trophy wife.”

curvepa.jpg

Quick Hit! #3 — Ticket Package Offered!
The Charleston RiverDogs are a Yankees affiliate, but today they revealed a ticket package designed to appeal to the Braves fans in their midst. It’s called “Braves Rome to Charleston,” and includes “two tickets to the nearly-sold out 7th Annual Hot Stove Banquet on Jan. 28 that features recently-retired Braves’ skipper Bobby Cox…In addition, the RiverDogs will throw in two lower level box seat tickets to either the Sat., April 16 game or Sat., June 4 contest against the Rome Braves.”

Are YOU aware of any creative ticket packages? If so then get in touch.
Quick Hit! #4 — Artifacts Displayed!
The Omaha Royals played their last game at Rosenblatt Stadium this season, truly the end of an era. But Rosenblatt lives on at Cooperstown, as the Baseball Hall of Fame is currently displaying mementos from the final contest. Here’s a picture that includes Rosenblatt’s home plate (more pictures can be found on the the O-Royals’ Facebook page):

rosenblattplate.jpg

Quick Hit! #5Vacation Awarded!
For the 21st consecutive year, the Pawtucket Red Sox have provided a pair of local Boys and Girls Club members with an all-expenses paid trip to the World Series.The winners, selected in August, received tickets to Games 3-5 in in Arlington as well as yesterday’s Cowboys game.

Quick Hit! #6 — Teams Ranked!
According to a new study released by sportsfangraphs.com, the Toledo Mud Hens lead all of Minor League Baseball in combined Facebook fans and Twitter followers. Check out the Mud Hens’ release HERE, and the full list HERE.

Quick Hit! #7 — Countdown Continues!
As noted in Friday’s blog, the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers are releasing a series of videos in anticipation of the team’s November 12 logo unveiling. I particularly enjoyed yesterday’s Halloween video:

Quick Hit! #8 — Baseball Songs Sung!

If you like music and you like baseball, then chances are that you like songs about baseball. If so, you might want to check out “The Greatest Game in the World” by The Thrill Building. This power pop paean to our national pastime features 22 songs over 80 minutes, providing the sort of fuel necessary to make it through the offseason.

Speaking of fuel, let me know what’s going on. I am, once again, out of material.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com
twitter.com/bensbiz

So What'd I Miss?

ketch.jpgThe “Southern Swing” yielded plenty of blog content, but one unfortunate side effect of the traveling life is not being able to keep up with the overall Minor League scene at the level to which you’ve been accustomed.

So consider this entry an attempt to get partially up to speed. Playing “ketchup”, if you will.  

Let’s begin with what is undoubtedly baseball’s biggest story at the moment, a young Washington Nationals pitching phenom who goes by the name of Stephen Strasburg. The Nationals’ gain is the Minors’ loss, as Strasburg’s starts resulted in sell-out crowds no matter where he took the mound. A pair of artifacts from one such start is now available on the MiLB auction site — an autographed camo hat and autographed camo jersey from May 22’s “Armed Forces Celebration” in Syracuse. With four days left in the auction, the former is going for $326 and the latter for $755.01.

That, of course, is pocket change to readers of Ben’s Biz Blog, who according to demographicstras.jpg research are affluent tastemakers with good looks as ample as their disposable income.

A more affordable (read “free”) piece of Strasburg memorabilia was given away at Blair County Ballpark yesterday — a poster commemorating his first professional start (which took place at Altoona’s Blair County Ballpark as a member of the visiting Harrisburg Senators). This highly collectible item sparked a debate on the Curve’s Facebook page, as some fans took issue with a giveaway honoring a member of the opposing team. I’d be curious to hear opinions on this — did the circumstances warrant such a giveaway, or is it always “wrong” to commemorate the “enemy”?

Of course, I have more to talk about than Mr. Strasburg. Plenty of chattering craniums are already engaged at this task, and it is generally my goal to  be zigging while the others are zagging and to then zag in reaction to the zig.

So how about a couple of videos?

Readers may remember that I wrote up the Richmond Flying Squirrels’ “Tribute to the Marshmallow” in a recent edition of “Promotion Preview.” One of the between-inning contests was the “S’More Relay”, which is to be commended for its creativity and commitment to the theme:

Another example of above-and-beyond promo commitment can be found in Binghamton, as the Mets put together a video promoting their upcoming “Twilight Night.” Never has the line “You have baseball bat antlers” been uttered with more sincerity:
 

Moving from antlered mammals to poisonous reptiles, I’d like to note that on Monday the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers will be giving away a figurine featuring mascot Fang driving a NAPA race car.

fang car.JPG

Sorry to be a broken record when it comes to Fang and his unorthodox snake anatomy, but I just can’t get over it. Putting aside the feasibility of a reptile being granted a driver’s license, how is it possible that a snake possess both hands and feet and can use them with enough dexterity to both steer a wheel and operate pedals?

I’ll have more “ketchup” material tomorrow, unless someone out there provides me with some totally must-see, can’t-wait blog items.

Do it!

benjamin.hill@mlb.com
twitter.com/bensbiz

Bringing It To You Straight, No Taser

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Altoona_Curve.gifOn-field fan incidents have been a big topic of conversation ever since the controversial tasering of a fan at a Phillies game earlier this month.

Perhaps this explains why the Altoona Curve have made national headlines today, after a bizarre incident at Blair County Ballpark last night. After sneaking into the stadium via a parking garage, an intoxicated homeless man wandered across the outfield during the bottom of the ninth inning of a contest between the Curve and Akron Aeros.

The man, who lacked identification but gave his name as “Tyrone R. Squires”, was detained by Curve security without incident and then turned over to Altoona police. A detailed write-up of Squires’ misadventures appeared in today’s edition of The Altoona Mirror, and this account served as the basis of an Associated Press article that has been picked up by The New York Times among other outlets.

Curve media relations director Dan Zangrilli said the team was a bit perplexed over the national attention.

“It wasn’t that big a deal, quite honestly. It was just a guy who decided to take a little cruise along the warning track,” he said. “The whole thing was uneventful, and posed no threat to players or fans. That said, we do take this kind of thing seriously. Trespassing is a serious offense, and we turned him over to the authorities.”

But right now the team has bigger issues on its mind: preserved meat products. Tonight’sBraunschweiger.jpg Wacky Wednesday promotion at Blair County Ballpark is “Livin La Vida Lunch Meat”, a comprehensive salute to all things meaty that received a write-up in the most recent edition of “Promotion Preview.”

“It’s all about the Braunschweiger, baby,” said Zangrilli.

– I hope to continue yesterday’s classification-based post in the near future, but for now I’ll dispense with such formalities in order to share a couple of most-interesting Minor League developments.

The Brooklyn Cyclones have released a sketch of what is sure to be one of 2010’s most-sought after bobbleheads: Mets rookie sensation (and former Cyclone) Ike Davis in the midst of one of his now trademark dugout-tumbling snags:

ikers.jpg

     
The giveaway is on August 2, distributed to the first 2500 fans — get your tickets now and arrive early.

In other intriguing bobblehead news, the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers have announced the finalists for September’s “Fan’s Choice” bobble.

In my mind, the choice that stands out above the rest is “Scooter Vs. the Snowman”, commemorating a particularly memorable moment that occurred during the club’s whitewashed Opening Day.

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Finally, I wanted to share this video I received from the Memphis Redbirds, featuring a Baby T-Rex throwing out the first pitch. It’s going to be a long time before I tire of watching this:

The Baby T-Rex is scheduled to make its next appearance in Reading on May 25, once again throwing out the first pitch and then spending the remainder of the game ambling through the stadium. This will allow fans plenty of time to contemplate the genetic links between dinosaurs and the Crazy Hot Dog Vendor’s loyal ostrich:

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benjamin.hill@mlb.com
twitter.com/bensbiz

Relevant Developments

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for cyclones10.JPGWay back on February 1, the Brooklyn Cyclones announced that they would be staging a “YOUniform Contest”. In the highly unlikely event that the details slipped your mind, here’s a brief summary:

“The Brooklyn Cyclones are inviting young fans to participate in a
unique art contest, with the winning jersey design to be worn by the
team as a special, limited-edition YOUniform, and
auctioned off after the game to support Camp Brooklyn.”

Well, today the Cyclones announced the five finalists in the contest. Check them out HERE, and vote for your favorite. In my mind, two stand above the rest. This one reminds me of something a Caribbean soccer team might wear, and would also work very well if the team ever staged a “Bi-Polar Disorder Awareness Night”:
youni1.jpg 
As for this one, what’s not to like about the boldly-designed jersey, three-tiered pants, and no-nonsense artist’s note?

youni2.jpg 

 

In further Cyclones jersey news, the team unveiled what it will be wearing during it’s much-hyped “Jersey? Sure! Night”. This:

jerseysurejersey.jpg 

– And, hey, remember when I wrote about the Omaha Royals’ “Mike and Mike Fan Mic”? I hope so, because it was all of three days ago. Well, the team got an effusive shout out on the Mike and Mike show this morning, in which they were repeatedly praised for their efforts. Click HERE, and then scroll down to “Show in Review” and click on “Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic discuss their new favorite team”. That team would be — you guessed it — the Omaha Royals. Their new favorites. 

– Mike and Mike ended the aforementioned segment by mentioned that the O-Royals were “ahead of the curve.” Well, I wonder what the team in Altoona would have to say about that. After all, they ARE the Curve. And one of their latest innovations is something that I’ve never seen before — a twice-weekly comic strip that is running in the local Altoona Mirror. Here’s the most recent installment:
curvepa.jpg  
Is it just me, or is that lawn mover in possession of a face (and therefore, quite possibly, sentient thought)? It’s got a gas cap eye, snout nose, blade mouth, and wheel ears. Coincidentally, all of the above body part descriptions are also public domain country music song titles. It is an amazing world in which we live. A truly amazing world.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com
twitter.com/bensbiz

Flightless Birds, Bobbling Rehabbers, Bargains, and YOU

famous.jpgThanksgiving is barreling toward us like a 16-wheeler with defective brakes, so it is understandable that most people have turkey on the brain right now.

Most, but not all.

The Altoona Curve are currently preoccupied with chickens, as a result of having booked the most famous chicken of them all: The Famous Chicken, who is making his first-ever appearance at Blair County Ballpark on April 9. To celebrate the impending arrival of this well-known costumed fowl, who is famous, the team announced that they will be selling the “Chicken Ticket Plan.” Read all about it HERE.

– And since I am on the always-riveting topic of ticket plans, I may as well take this opportunity to mention the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers’ latest offer — Fans who purchase an eight pack of ticket vouchers get to choose one of the following four bobbleheads (all of which are part of the club’s “Rehab” series). This is the type of decision that can lead to mental paralysis:

Timber Rattlers -- Rehab Bobble.JPG 

I’d choose Dave Bush. It is always my goal to live as simply as possible, and his name has the least letters.

Finally, I’d like to note that the Reno Aces are getting a jump on the Holiday shopping season by offering a “doorbuster” sale in the early morning hours of so-called “Black Friday.” Fans who show up between the unorthodox shopping hours of 12-2 am will be privy to a variety of exclusive deals, ones that will not be made available to those who opt to sleep. This brings to mind a little saying I heard once — “You snooze, you lose.” I think Ben Franklin said that. It was either him, Herodotus, or Ted Nugent.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com
twitter.com/bensbiz

OutSTANDING Coverage

IMG_2262.JPGIf you have not done so already, then get thee to MiLB.com in order to read the riveting account of my time spent competing in the Altoona Curve’s “OutSTANDING Fan” competition.

All caught up now? Good. Let us proceed.

Despite the fact that this contest was nothing more than seven fans standing around life-size bobbleheads for hours on end, the Curve received a good amount of media attention. As noted in the article, one of the contestants was Adam Erikson, a DJ for Altoona classic rock station Q94. Erikson called into
Adam at Stand contest.jpgthe station every hour in order to provide his listeners with live reports from the base of the Steamer statue, and later offered up this write-up on the station’s web site. On Monday, Erikson interviewed several of the contestants on his radio show (including myself), providing an appropriate post-mortem to the whole experience.

Then, as noted in the article, two local stations featured the Out-STANDING Fan Competition as part of their noon news broadcasts. Here is a most amusing link to Abbie Tang’s report on WJAC TV (the good stuff comes at about 50 seconds in):

http://www.wjactv.com/news/18925865/detail.html

Additionally, Nick Foley of WTAV did a live report from the stadium for their evening news broadcast (featuring an interview with yours truly). I will post video of this piece of landmark journalism as soon as it arrives in my inbox.

Finally, click HERE to read the Curve’s succinct and funny write-up of the event:

Dawn of a New Era? — This trip to Altoona, absurd as it was, marked what I hope is a turning point in my life covering Minor League Baseball. To the extent that I can afford (this is all on my own dime), I plan on covering events firsthand in order to experience the ridiculousness for myself. 

I’m in the process of putting together a modest itinerary for 2009, but I am open to suggestions. This can be a win-win situation for all involved, in terms of the amount of exposure that can be generated, and it can only get bigger from here.  

So please don’t hesitate to get in touch. If you think something going on in the world of Minor League Baseball would make a good story, let me know. Endurance tests, world record attempts, theme nights, celebrity appearances, and so on and so forth, I’m open to all of it, and want to be there.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

I’ve Had All I Can Stand! I Can’t Stands No More!

steamin'.jpgThis season, to the extent that time and money will allow, I plan on taking my act on the road. I need to see, firsthand, that which I am writing about.

The season is still a month away, but the Biz Blog traveling circus is making a stop in Altoona on Friday. Specifically, I will be spending an interminable amount of time touching a life-size bobblehead.

Here, via an Altoona Curve press release, are the pertinent details:

ALTOONA, Pa -
Announced earlier this week as one of the many festivities happening during
Baseball Bash, 2009 was the Curve’s unique and innovative “out-STANDING” fan competition.  The Curve are providing a chance for fans to win a pair of
2009 Grandstand season tickets by displaying the ultimate test of fan loyalty
and endurance in a marathon contest in which they can stand with a limb of
their choice touching one of the life-size bobble head statues of Curve
mascots, Steamer or Diesel Dawg.

 Inspired by the call out to Curve fans was Ben Hill, a baseball reporter for
MILB.com, the official website of Minor League Baseball.

Hill will travel from New York City to Altoona to participate in the out-STANDING fan competition at Baseball Bash, 2009 on Friday, March 13 at Blair County Ballpark.  Bash festivities begin at 5:00 p.m., but throughout the day, the Curve will provide fans who want to win a pair of 2009 Grandstand season
tickets to participate in this fun, unprecedented competition.

 “We never expected this competition to reach as far as New York City or gain national attention,” said Curve General Manager Rob Egan. “However, there shall be no geographical boundaries to discover our ‘out-STANDING fan and all are welcome to participate. May the last fan standing enjoy their
reward all season.”

Should Hill claim victory, he will donate his tickets to a local fan who finishes closest to him.  Hill, though, claims he can be defeated.  However, it will be up to one loyal Curve fan to prove their loyalty on what is now a
national stage.  After the contest, Hill will document his experience in Altoona, which will be featured nationally in an article on Minor League Baseball’s website, MILB.com.

 “I’m looking forward to trying my hand at this,” said Hill.  “The Curve are always one of the best teams in minor league baseball in providing their fans with new, innovative promotions and this is just another example.  I welcome any and all challenges from any Curve fans.”

You hear that, Altoona? I welcome any and all challenges! This is because I have complete faith in my ability to stand in one place for a long time while touching a life-size bobblehead. In fact, I’m in training for this event right now. I typed this blog post while standing up, using my left hand only. My right hand is resting on a life-size reproduction of Billy Ripken’s 1989 Fleer baseball card (the censored version, as this is a family blog).

–Hopefully, this trip will to Altoona is just the beginning. So, please, feel free to get in touch with suggestions of other worthwhile Minor League trips I should embark upon (as well as tips for how to travel within my budget, which is currently in the proximity of $0).

Upward and onward!

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