Results tagged ‘ Asheville Tourists ’

Return to the Road: A Tourist Within the Realm of the Tourists

Welcome to the second 2013 installment of “Return to the Road,” in which I highlight that which was experienced above and beyond the ballparks during my road trip travels. Part one covered May 8 and 9 in Bowling Green and Nashville, and today’s post picks up in the early afternoon of Friday, May 10th. I had attended the previous night’s Sounds game at Nashville’s Greer Stadium — read about that HERE — and upon checking out of the hotel (complete with Road Trip Hotel Room Review #2) I made my way back to the area surrounding the ballpark.

My destination was Gabby’s Burgers, an unassuming but very well-regarded burger joint located the proverbial hop, skip, and jump away from Greer.

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The above photo was taken as I was leaving Gabby’s, but when I arrived there was a line that snaked all the way out of the door. It was hard to take pictures within such a cramped environment, but this more or less conveys what the scene was like inside.

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As many of you know, a celiac disease diagnosis has forced me to adapt to a gluten-free diet. Ultra-specific fast food establishments such as Gabby’s can sometimes be difficult to navigate, but I had been informed the previous evening that they did in fact offer a “jazz style” burger in which the bun was replaced with lettuce. Not ideal, perhaps, but perfectly acceptable! I ordered a “Seamus burger, jazz-style” and then snagged a seat at the counter. About 10 minutes later, this arrived.

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I’m writing this six months after the fact, so perhaps my adjectival command is not what it might have been, but I can say without equivocation that this burger was STUPENDOUS, easily one of the top three that I’ve ever had in my life. If you’re in Nashville, and especially if you’re in the vicinity of Greer Stadium, then you owe it to yourself to make a visit.

Greer Stadium’s iconic guitar scoreboard can be seen from the Gabby’s parking lot, and a record pressing plant (!) is located just down the street as well. Burgers, baseball, and vinyl — what more could you want from life? (Well, actually, I can immediately think of a few other things.) But all good things must come to an end, even if they come in threes, and soon enough I was off to Kodak (or would that be Sevierville?), home of the Tennessee Smokies. My journey was not without its miscues, as you may recall from my Smokies’ “On the Road” post:

I arrived at Smokies Park a bit later than I was aiming for, due to a GPS/common sense snafu in which I drove to a “Stadium Drive” in Knoxville instead of the one in Sevierville. It wasn’t until I made a turn onto “Peyton Manning Pass” that it occurred to me that I may have driven to the University of Tennessee’s Neyland Stadium instead.

This, perhaps, was not my finest moment. But I was nonetheless in good spirits when I arrived at the Hampton Inn. You can see the ballpark from the stadium!

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I wrote all about my visit with the Smokies, HERE and HERE and HERE. The next morning I posted Road Trip Hotel Room Review #3, and then embarked upon the long and winding mountain drive to Asheville. Upon arriving I found myself with about two hours of free time, and I decided to make the most of it by doing what I do best: wandering the downtown area in search of independent record stores. In Asheville, a city that prides itself on its cultural eclecticism and general open-mindedness, it didn’t take long to find one.

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Static Age was a bit dungeon-esque, but it didn’t make me crabby. They had a bunch of Record Store Day stuff that had long become unavailable in New York City, and I was glad to snag Mercury Rev’s “Deserted Songs” as well as a free Sub Pop sampler (they also still had limited edition Bardo Pond and Mugstar releases and in my head I was like “Yo, Asheville heavy psych bros, you gotta get on that.”)

After leaving Static Age I soon came across Voltage Records.

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While combing through the stacks at Voltage, I looked up and saw a most familiar site. I had this poster hanging in my bedroom, circa 1996.

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Downtown Asheville was bustling on this Saturday afternoon, and despite what some of these pictures may convey it was truly a vibrant and spirited atmosphere.

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Downtown also boasts this iconic art deco beauty, the S & W Cafeteria.

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S & W was a chain restaurant that served inexpensive (but presumably delicious) Southern cooking. The Asheville location was open from 1929-74, and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1977. For better or for worse, it is currently being renovated into condominiums.

Interior-wise, the most physically impressive establishment that I visited was the Battery Park Book Exchange and Champagne Bar. This multi-level book store is well organized and offers plenty of comfortable nooks and crannies to sit and drink coffee, wine, and yes, champagne. It’d be a great place to hang out for an hour or two, but, as is often the case on these trips, I just didn’t have the time. And, as is also so often the case, my pictures do not do it justice.

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Back outside and once again wandering about, I soon noticed that one of these things is indeed not like the other.

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I was not in the market for a red, white, and blue bandanna, but I was in the market to visit another bookstore. I always am. Here’s some interior shots of the plainly named and plainly awesome Downtown News.

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Perhaps the best thing about Downtown News was their exemplary (maga)zine selection.

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Arthur is currently my favorite magazine and if over the course of reading this blog you’ve found that your sensibilities are similar to mine then please take the time to check it out (I also copped that Mojo with Sabbath on the cover).

022I of course realize that there is far more to Asheville than its book and record stores, but given a limited amount of time that’s what I chose to focus on and I hope you were able to pick up on at least a little bit of what I was putting down.

I’ll end with a total non-sequitur, as I have one other photo in this particular road trip folder that is totally out of context. I imagine that this is something that I stumbled upon at a gas station somewhere between the Smoky Mountains and Asheville, but certainly it is not something that I have seen before or since. The object of this game was to use a joystick to control a pair of scissors that could then cut the string holding one of two prizes: a Nikon camera and a wad of money. I don’t remember operating this ridiculous contraption, but if I did I failed.

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And with that, I have no more outside-of-the-ballpark detritus to share from what were my third and fourth days of 2013’s “Southern Swing.” Thanks, as always, for sticking with me.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

On the Road: Moon Pies and Clear Skies in Asheville

Part one of this Asheville Tourists saga included ziplining onto the field from a hill overlooking the stadium, so I suppose you could say that it was a real cliffhanger. Today that cliffhanger concludes in stunning fashion, so long as your definition of “stunning” is more along the lines of “exactly what you would expect.”

Let’s get to it! When we last left off, the skies were clearing and this Saturday evening ballgame was finally ready to begin.

061But as the ballgame was beginning, I was not in the seating area. Instead, I had taken advantage of the delay and met up with one Kelly Noble. Mrs. Noble, a mother of two boys who lives in nearby Hendersonville, had been chosen as the evening’s “designated eater” (for those new to the blog, the “designated eater,” or DE, consumes the ballpark delicacies which my gluten-free diet prohibits).

The team held a Facebook contest prior to my arrival to choose the designated eater, and she earned this honor by responding thusly:

Because I am a mom of 2 teenage boys who love baseball and so I usually end up with the last chip, fry, an empty cup. Plus I work full time and today’s lunch was a bagel I found in the fridge from last week. I would love a fresh hot dog and nachos I don’t have to share!! 

Most of the available seating options were a bit damp after the recent rain storm, so Kelly and I sat on a circular brick wall in the concourse area. Tyler Holt, an intern with Professional Sports Catering (the Tourists’ food and beverage company), soon arrived bearing gifts.

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Contained underneath was an order of pork nachos and, in keeping with the Asheville Tourists’ lunar theme, a deep-fried Moon Pie!

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My designated eater was all for a dessert-first approach. Ladies and gentlemen, Kelly Noble!

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I am always hesitant to take pictures that seem like they were simply meant to embarrass, but Kelly had a great attitude about the whole thing.

“I just want my boys to be able to laugh at me,” she said with a smile, while posing for a series of pictures such as the above. Kelly grew up with brothers and now has sons, and was clearly used to being in the minority, gender wise. I appreciated her great sense of humor and could relate somewhat —  I am the oldest of three boys , and growing up my own mother took a similarly light-hearted and tolerant approach to our relentless competitions and bodily function-based comedic approach.

And you know what? Since this game actually occurred during Mother’s Day weekend I’d like to belatedly wish Kelly, my own mother Elaine Cooper and, well, all moms a belated “Happy Mother’s Day!”

But we were on the subject of Moon Pies.

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“I’m trying to think of the best adjective to describe it. Wow…yeah…I don’t know! You’re the writer!” said Kelly, before finding the words. “It was delicious and filling!”

The Moon Pie was part of a smorgasbord that included the pork nachos, a “Wee-Heavyer” ale from Asheville’s French Broad brewing company and a gluten-free option in the form of chips and hummus (!)

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But this being Asheville, it wasn’t just any hummus.

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I hope you think this is funny, boys.

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Speaking of, they soon showed up to check out what was going on.

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Kelly’s sons are the two in the middle, 12-year-old Cole and 14-year-old Taylor. The friend on the right was turning his head because he was on a quest for phone numbers from young female fans and one must have been walking by. Even though he was 14 he seemed to think he had a shot with anyone up through age 20 or so. I admired the confidence.

And then, because too much is never enough, more food arrived. Pulled Pork Dog!

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“The key is if the BBQ is good, and this is. It’s BBQ central down here,” said Kelly. “This is a great combination of flavors and…I don’t know. You’re the writer!”

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Despite Kelly’s best efforts there was quite bit of food left over. “Time to use Mom skills,” she said, and within two minutes the entire smorgasbord had somehow been reduced to a neat stack that was easily taken back to the seats by her and the boys. And with that, Designated Eater #4 of the 2013 season had concluded her duties.

I’ve written about 1900 words over the course of  these two Asheville-based blog posts, and yet still haven’t arrived at a point of time in which actual professional baseball was being played on an actual professional baseball field. Let’s rectify by taking a trip out there.

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I loved this general admission seating area located down the first base line, which features plenty of room in which to spread out. Some fans bring their own chairs, and I was told that on hot days sunbathers are a common sight.

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McCormick Field is 89 years old, and as such the amenities are sometimes in short supply. This converted office building located down the first base line is the only suite available.

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In talking about McCormick, Tourists president Brian DeWine told me that “we’re as landlocked as landlocked can be.”  This concourse photo gives an indication of just how constrained the team is in their operations.

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Despite my previous concessions-based coverage, I never showed any pictures of the concession stands themselves. Again with the rectification:

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Back in the seating area, I noticed that Mr. Moon’s attention was directed skyward.

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He was checking out the rainbow!

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Okay, Vine Time! Six seconds of brilliance, guaranteed.

The rainbow.

An observation, perhaps unfounded, that the PA announcer sounded quite a bit like a Simpsons character. 

And, finally, Mr. Moon was out there for more than just rainbow observance purposes. Would it surprise you to know that he can do the moonwalk, and is a great dancer in general?

As night fell, the already picturesque surroundings became even more picturesque. I will illustrate this with pictures.

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Action in the home bullpen:

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But for an even closer view of the action, try the dugout suites. $30 buys a catered meal from the fried chicken and biscuits juggernaut that is Bojangles (the seating area’s sponsor) and one of the closest views of the action one can find in professional baseball.

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While sitting in this area, I made the following Vine. It is, truly, six seconds of brilliance.

 I then retreated to the area behind home plate, in an attempt to document the perfect example of a 90 degree leg kick. I certainly took this picture at the right angle!

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That young man on the mound, whoever he was, soon closed out the victory for Asheville. Good game, good game.

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And good night from McCormick Field! I’ve been to a lot of ballparks over the last four seasons, but this one was an all-time favorite.

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benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

On the Road: A Tourist Visits the Tourists in Asheville

I arrived at McCormick Field at about 6 o’clock on a rainy Friday evening, and I must have been in a rush as it appears I didn’t take any shots of the stadium before entering. The saga begins, photographically, with this:

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That’s none other than Mr. Moon, who was introduced as part of the Tourists’ re-branding campaign prior to the 2011 season. I wrote an article about it at the time, which included the following quote from (then) new president/ownership group member Brian DeWine.

“We had the desire to change and wanted something fun and exciting that told the history of baseball in Asheville,” said Tourists president Brian DeWine. “The original [professional] team in Asheville was called the Moonshiners, and that got us thinking about the moon and how many people have watched Tourists baseball under the moon through the years….Plus, we always joke that the moon is the ultimate Tourist destination.”

Good to know, but that begs the question: Why is this team called the “Tourists” in the first place? DeWine explained that one to me shortly after I arrived at the stadium:

“The name was first used in 1915….Everyone on the team was from out of town, so the locals said ‘Well, we’ll call them the Tourists, then.”

And here we are, 98 years later, and the team is STILL the Tourists. Meanwhile, they’re playing in a stadium that’s almost as old as the team name. McCormick opened in 1924, with Ty Cobb playing the outfield on Opening Day. By my reckoning that makes it the second-oldest Minor League stadium, behind only Vermont’s Centennial Field.

But anyway — I fear that this early influx of words has caused me to lose a sizable portion of my readership. Here’s a picture:

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The above photo is by no means a good one, but it illustrates three things:

1) It was a pennant giveaway night, which is what Mr. Moon was brandishing in that first picture.

2) The main entrance is on a residential street. (Depending on one’s perspective, it would be either really cool or deeply annoying to live so close to a stadium.) This is indicative of the extent to which the field is tucked into its surroundings, with no room whatsoever to expand.

3. As a result of some long-ago architectural misfire, the ticket window is located inside the stadium. That leads to the rather awkward entrance set-up, in which fans pass under the archway, advance to the ticket window, and then proceed through a small opening in the improvised barricade.

The view on this overcast evening, immediately after passing through said barricade:

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 I soon made it on to the field and, uh, what’s this?

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To answer a question I already knew the answer to: That is a zipline, extending from the backstop some 300+ feet all the way up to a hill overlooking left field. Before every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday contest the game ball is delivered by a fan via the zipline.

Unprecedented!

From my recent Tourists-themed MiLB.com piece: 

This endeavor is sponsored by Asheville Zipline and Canopy Adventures, one of the region’s many providers of outdoor entertainment. The company’s employees are on hand to set up and take down the zipline (DeWine boasts that it can be done in six minutes flat), and also accompany the chosen fan on the 300-foot journey homeward.

“The first year we did [the zipline] 70 times, but found that it got a little repetitive, so now we save it for the bigger games,” said DeWine. “On Boy Scout night, the kids will do it until midnight, when we finally have to curfew them.”

I went up there to check it out.

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Soon enough, I was invited by the friendly zipline guides to give it a try for myself. All I had to do in exchange was sign my life away.

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Ready!

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Set!

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Go!

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It was fun, although our combined weight was a little above optimal and we didn’t quite make it to the designated target laid out just to the right of home plate. (I am, as I type this, the fattest I’ve ever been in my life). Upon landing my guide and I looped back up to the top of the hill, and I am including this picture of our walk partially as a means to convey just how verdant McCormick’s surroundings are.

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 Upon arrival, I handed off the zipline reins to the fan who had been chosen (via a concourse raffle) to deliver the game ball. She was psyched. (I apologize that I do not have her name, nor the name of my zipline guide. My excuse was that it had started to rain by this time, and I didn’t want to get my notebook soaked.)

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Want to see the zipline in action? Here’s my Vine video, which, like all Vine videos, is six seconds long.

Usually the game ball delivery signifies the start of the game, but the rain was coming down hard enough that its start was delayed. So, more pre-game wandering was destined to occur.

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It may be a bit difficult to see, but here there are two things I’d like to point out.

1). The right field fence is only 297 feet away. This is certainly tempting for left-handed batters, but home runs are harder than they appear because what the fence lacks in distance it makes up for in height. At 36 feet, it is just a foot shorter than Fenway’s iconic Green Monster.

2). The scoreboard reads “Visitors” and “Tourists.” Never not funny.

This shot of the visitor’s dugout also provides a good view of the roof, which is held up with imposing concrete slabs that convey a sturdy masculinity.

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McCormick was originally a largely wooden edifice, but has taken on a more concrete form after renovations in 1959 and (especially) 1992. Its old-time charm is completely intact, however, as I hope these pictures have shown and will continue to show.

Signage!

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This picnic area, located down the third base line, was pretty sedate on this drizzly evening.

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If I had been at McCormick Field just one day earlier, however, it would have been a far different scene. For Asheville is the original home of the Thirsty Thursday promotion, and it remains the most popular night of the week. I wrote all about this in my aforementioned MiLB.com article; click HERE to read it.

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Trademarked!

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Next to the picnic area is the visitor’s dugout, where coaches and players (and what appears to be a cop) were waiting out the rain delay.

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That mural may look familiar, as it is featured in the movie Bull Durham. Crash Davis ends his career as a member of the Tourists, and a scene was shot at McCormick. WATCH!

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Want an idea of just how long McCormick Field has been around? This photo hangs in DeWine’s office, taken during the 1924 season. As was standard practice in the South at the time, the seating areas were segregated. Behind home plate was for whites while black fans had to watch from down the third base line.

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Meanwhile, here on a Friday evening in 2013, the skies had begun to clear.

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Get out to the grandstand, Mr. Moon. It’s almost game time!

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As you may have been able to guess, this post is going to be a two-parter. If Mr. Moon could talk, he’d surely tell you to  check back soon for the riveting conclusion of this McCormick Field saga.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

It’s A 1-Derful World

As everyone is well aware, today is 11/11/11. This marks the only time in our lifetimes that the date will be represented with six ones across the board, and — of course! — anomalous occurrences should be celebrated.

Within Minor League Baseball there is an established precedent for numerically-inclined (and often absurdly intricate) date-related promotions, so this morning I monitored my Twitter and Facebook feeds with an unwavering sense of purpose. And Minor League Baseball, once again, did not disappoint. Some highlights of my searching:

The South Bend Silver Hawks offered fans a package, in which 11 tickets could be obtained for $11 between 11 and 11:11 a.m. Later, the team reported to me via Twitter that 24 of these packages (a total of 264 tickets) were sold.

– Perhaps inspired by the Silver Hawks, the Gwinnett Braves made the exact same offer at the last minute. “FANS- this just in- 11 tickets for $11!! You have until 11:11 AM to call in!” read the post on the team’s Facebook page.

In Asheville, the Tourists offered a deal that was good for all of one minute. At 11:11, all hats and t-shirts were available for $11.11 at the team’s “Tourist Trap” store (five hardy but certainly not tardy souls took them up on it).

– Somewhat similarly, the Daytona Cubs offered a 2011 team hat for $11 all day. And with the purchase of said hat, fans received a coupon good for $5 off a new 2012 logo hat. (As you may recall, the D-Cubs recently unveiled a new logo).

Finally, in State College (where nothing else of note is going on), the Spikes amply demonstrated their Facebook power. At 11:11, the team posted the following: 

‎’LIKE’ THIS POST FOR A CHANCE TO WIN! We need 111 people to LIKE this post!

If our goal is reached by 5 p.m. then we will randomly select one of the participants as the winner of TWO FREE SPIKES TICKETS and a MICHAEL ROBINSON SIGNED BALL (former Penn State QB and current NFL player). Happy 11/11/11!

As of this writing (2:30 EST), a whopping 164 people have already clicked the like button on the above missive. Impressive!

As I am writing this, 11:11 has yet to arrive on the West Coast. However, I have not come across any PST teams doing anything similar. Is this time zone disdainful of detail-oriented numerical promotions? Say it ain’t so!

And look at that! It ain’t so! At 11:11, the Fresno Grizzlies announced the following: For one day only, on Friday November 11, fans can get 11 Field Box vouchers for just $11 each (normally $16), as well as $11 in Grizzlies Bucks for FREE – that’s a $187 value for just $121!

Clearly, Minor League Baseball is #1.

In news of a non-sequitur nature, did you know that mascots have the power to create earthquakes?

What a load of bull.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Keys, Kino, Bambino, Reno

At this time of year I feel like I’m manning the laser cannon in Space Invaders, blasting away  at the relentless Minor League news stories falling methodically from the sky like so much alien detritus. No matter how adept my aim, however, I am always destroyed in the end.

But enough with the life metaphors, as Opening Day is approaching and there is simply no room for existentialist fatalism. There’s a new mascot to write about!

The costumed character in question is a relative rarity on the Minor League scene, as he is based on a Key historical figure, one whose martial maritime (mis)adventures inspired our National Anthem. Meet Frank Key of the Frederick Keys, based on Francis Scott Key and sponsored by the Tourism Council of Frederick County:

Frank Key, who joins long-time mascot Keyote at Harry Grove Stadium, will have his own adult fan club. Those who join “Frank Key’s Army” receive perks such as discounted merchandise and concessions, exclusive Q and A’s with staff and players, and the always enticing prospect of “unique fan experiences.”

In other mascot news, Tucson’s recently-unveiled Friar character now has a name: The Kino Bambino.

The team explains this Ruthian character thusly:

The long lost brother of the San Diego Padres’ Swinging Friar roamed the desert and arrived in Tucson for the March 25th Spring Training game. He dazzled the 11,000 fans that day, dancing and waving to screaming fans. The Tucson Padres front office marveled at their luck – the brother of the Swinging Friar showing up just weeks before the season!

Then the only question was – what to call him? After sorting through the hundreds of suggested names, one stood above the rest, the Kino Bambino. His name has a strong connection to the Tucson region, while also honoring the most famous baseball player of all time. The Kino Bambino, and Kino Stadium, are named after Father Eusebio Kino, the man who established 24 missions in the southwestern United States in the late 1600’s.

Quite fitting that a mascot with a religious background would come to the team after wandering in the desert. Kino Bambino is both on and from a mission.

From Keys to Kino to…uniforms? Sure, why not?

The Asheville Tourists unveiled their lunar-based logo some time ago, but it wasn’t until last week that the world got a look at the unis.

Click HERE for more pics, but I’ve got no time for such finger-activated endeavors. For the Reno Aces have unveiled some new gear, time to switch to ALL-CAPS:

Team-issued explanation:

For all road games, Reno will wear a gray and navy cap, which includes a new logo that features the Reno “R.” The team will debut this new cap during the April 5 exhibition game against the University of Nevada at Aces Ballpark.

Also, the Aces will wear an alternate white cap for select home games this season.

But before you can talk about logos, you have to have a name. Pensacola’s Southern League entry will begin play in 2012 (having re-located from Zebulon, NC), and the team is now accepting submissions in a “Name the Team” contest.

The only thing I can come up with is the “Pensacola Wars” and that’s not even funny. But what else is new?

benjamin.hill

twitter.com/bensbiz

Tucson Throws Back, Moves Forward

I’ve learned never to say never in this crazy game called life, but I can say with a strong degree of certainty that THIS will be the last new logo unveiled this offseason:

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Yes, the Tucson Padres now have an identity. It is indebted to the San Diego Padres duds of yore (1978-84, specifically), and also incorporates Tucsonian elements via the mountains and cacti. In a 2010 first (save for the Kannapolis Intimidators alternate mark), the logo was NOT designed by either Plan B Branding or Studio Simon. Rather, it was the work of the San Diego Padres Creative Services Department.

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T-Pads merch won’t be available for several more weeks, due to the fact that the logo just received official approval. For more on the logo and recent Tucson developments, click HERE. For some background on why a Pacific Coast League is back in Tucson in the first place, click HERE.

In a nutshell, the team will play in Tucson for at least two seasons after moving from Portland. The plan is to then move to Escondido, CA. Stay tuned.

And since I’m on the topic of logos, surely one of the most memorable marks to have been unveiled this offseason is the Asheville Tourists’ “Mr. Moon”.

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Well, now Mr. Moon needs a name.The Tourists want suggestions, with entries judged based on creativity, regional relevance and family-friendliness. The first thing that comes to my mind is “Keith”, and your response to that should be “Who?”

Ah, nevermind. I’m out of here.

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

A New Moon in Asheville

Today is a big day on the North Carolina League logo front, as both the Asheville Tourists and Kinston Indians have overhauled their identities. This post will focus on the Tourists, who are making like Margaret Wise Brown on opposite day and saying “Hello Moon”!

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But that’s “Mr. Moon” to you, as that’s the name of the shades-wearing natural satellite featured prominently on the new cap design.

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In an homage to the moon’s longstanding reputation as a preeminent provider of nocturnal light, the above image glows in the dark.

But why such an emphasis on the moon in the first place? The team explains in a press release that:

“The concept pays tribute to countless moon-lit nights at McCormick Field, during which the Tourists have become part of the summer fabric for families throughout the Land of the Sky….The Tourists are the first team to incorporate a moon into their identity program. The closest may have occurred 100 years ago, when the Asheville team in the Class D Southeastern League (1910) and the Appalachian League (1911-12) was known as the Moonshiners.” 

And in case you didn’t know, Mr. Moon is a big fan of ribs that float through space until reaching his eager crater-filled maw. This is an alternate logo, and a brilliant one at that:

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And let’s not forget the batting practice cap, which features Mr. Moon utilizing his trusty hobo’s bindle as a bat:

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What it all adds up to is a happy constellation of logos:

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Some of which are available — right now! — in cap form:

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All of the above is courtesy of the increasingly ubiquitous Plan B Branding, who, along with Studio Simon, are the Coke and Pepsi of the Minor League logo landscape.

And speaking of cola: “RC” you later, as I’ve got a plane to catch. I’ll provide additional logo news and posts as soon as I am able. In the meantime, what’s YOUR opinion on all this?

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

There's Always Something

asheville.jpgIt’s a slow Tuesday in January, but Minor League news, like an indomitable tumbleweed, keeps rolling along.

The biggest thing to come down the proverbial pike today was the announcement that the Asheville Tourists have been sold to an ownership group led by the family of former United States Senator Mike DeWine. Once the deal becomes official (in March, most likely), Brian DeWine will assume presidency of the club. Brian, the fifth of eight DeWine children, is no stranger to Minor League Baseball. He interned with the Greenville Braves and Savannah Sand Gnats before spending four seasons with the Southern League’s Carolina Mudcats.

Read all about it HERE (at the very least, know that I am very proud of my lead sentence).

And since I’m on the more serious tip today, I wanted to highlight one of the State CollegeThumbnail image for Thumbnail image for scspikes.gif Spikes’ most recent initiatives. The club is encouraging fans to write letters to Chris Simmons, a member of the 2008 Spikes who is currently serving in Iraq.

Simmons’ story is an interesting one. He was drafted in the 41st round of the 2008 draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates, and sent to the Spikes in order to begin his professional career. He was one of three West Point cadets to be drafted that year, joining teammate Cole White and Drew Clothier of the Florida Marlins. Soon thereafter, the military amended its policy regarding professional athletes and the three were forced to put their baseball careers on hold.

Read more about it HERE.

But regardless of the specifics, the fact remains that Simmons is now in Iraq, serving as a Platoon Leader for the First Armor Division. Those wishing to send him a letter can do so via the following address:

State College Spikes
c/o Chris Simmons
112 Medlar Field at Lubrano Park
University Park, PA 16802

And more on the Spikes’ initiative can be read HERE.

Finally, it has become my habit as of late to re-post interesting photos that I come across via team Twitter and Facebook accounts. Here’s one I found today, which shows how decidedly un-Spring-like it currently is in Erie, PA:

Thumbnail image for eriesnow.jpg 

And since there’s “snow” more to write about, I’m going to call it a day.

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

Just Another Footrace Between Alcoholic Beverages

ash.jpgLong-time readers of this blog (they exist!) are aware that I am a big fan of nightly races that take place in Minor League ballparks. More specifically, races that involve recurring costumed characters sprinting through foul territory as if their lives depended on it.

A shining example of this would be the Spiedie Races that took place in Binghamton last season. The drama and intrigue surrounding these battles gradually reached a fever pitch, but a Sopranos-esque anti-climax resulted in far more questions than it answered.

But that was last season. Let’s talk about 2009, because the Asheville Tourists have something interesting going on. I will now defer to an email I received from Tourists broadcaster Ben Levine:

I’m not sure if you’re familiar with
the city of Asheville, but it’s pretty unique and it is known for a few things
in particular. Among them is its reputation for being one of the nation’s hubs
for independent breweries. There are a bunch of local and regional breweries in
and around the area.

This season, [lead broadcaster] Jay [Burnham]
got five of the local breweries to sign on to sell their beers on our concourse
at a ‘Local Beers of Asheville’ stand, and he also got them to sponsor what
we’re calling ‘The Great Asheville Beer Race.’ It’s basically comparable to the
Hot Dog race in Milwaukee and the Presidents racing in Nationals Stadium. We
ordered five different beer costumes and distributed them to each sponsor for
decoration. We will run the races for Thursday-Saturday games, and we use fans
to run the race, offering a brewery T-shirt to the winner.

This sounds awesome. All I need now is some good ol’ photographic evidence. 

beer race 1.JPG

Thanks! Now, I would like to see a picture featuring the gentleman on the far right. Make it happen, computer.

beer race 2.JPG

I just came to the realization that the above picture features a man with a head on his head.

Until next time, I remain,

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

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