Results tagged ‘ Birmingham Barons ’

On the Road: Past and Present in Birmingham

Thumbnail image for baronslogo.jpgGreetings from Birmingham’s Microtel Inn, a fine establishment that features friendly staff (I was offered cookies upon arriving), clean rooms, and a reliable internet connection.

While I wait for my endorsement check from Microtel to arrive, I figured I may as well update this blog with the goings-on of what has been an unfathomably long day. What I’d like to do is regale you with anecdotes regarding my inability to comprehend the dashboard of my Mercedes Benz rental car (which I got at an economy price!), but that’s probably not why you’ve typed this particular URL into your browser of choice.

No, you’re here for content at least tangentially related to baseball. So let’s get to it!rickwood_logo.gif

I’ll be attending the Rickwood Classic on Wednesday, an annual contest held in the oldest professional baseball stadium in America. So upon arriving in Birmingham early Tuesday afternoon, I drove over to the stadium for a self-guided tour (these are available to everyone during standard business hours, and something I highly recommend doing if you’re ever in Birmingham). 

An article on my self-guided adventure tour can be located HERE. Consider this to be supplemental visual content.

Spanish Mission-style Ballpark Exterior:

Rickwood Exterior.JPG

The “Breezeway”, featuring pictures of Rickwood heroes as well as the faded starting line-up from the 2009 Classic:

Rickwood_Breezeway starting lineups.JPG

Wear and Tear:

Rickwood_cracked ramp.JPG

The World’s Deepest Dugouts?

Rickwood_dugouts.JPG

Four Light Towers on the Roof (these were state of the art in ’36):

Rickwood_lights.JPG

Rules:

Rickwood_no betting.JPG

More rules:

Rickwood_No Golf.JPG

Outfield Signage:

Rickwood_OF signs.JPG

Tellin’ It Like It Is:

Rickwood_oldest sign.JPG

The original concrete wall, set WAY back from the current outfield fence:

Rickwood_original fence.JPG

Rooftop Gazebo Press Box:

Rickwood_press box gazebo.JPG

Right Field Grandstand (a later addition to the stadium, modeled after Forbes Field in Pittsburgh):

Rickwood_rightfield grandstand.JPG

Scoreboard (from before the days of “ARI”, “FLA”, “TB”, and other such affronts to the natural order of things):

Rickwood_scoreboard.JPG

After touring Rickwood, I made the ill-fated decision to “guess” my way to the Microtel. Many wrong turns later, I arrived there in the midst of a violent downpour. This mini-monsoon subsided quickly, however, and therefore did not effect the day’s next chapter: Regions Park, current home of the Barons.

Thumbnail image for hoover.gifRegions_from box.JPG 

Inside the press box (palatial, by Double-A standards):

Regions_press box.JPG

Seriously, the press box is huge:

Regions_pic of press box.JPG

Left Field Bleachers:

Regions_from left corner.JPG

Plenty of Room to Move:

Regions_wide aisles.JPG

And, Finally, A Concessions Menu:

Regions_concessions.JPG

Can I get a round of applause for Cajun Roasted Peanuts?

At any rate, I was so preoccupied with various Rickwood-related conversations and copious picture-taking that I barely noticed the strong outing of Smokies’ pitcher Austin Bibens-Dirkx. Fortunately, my MiLB.com colleagues were there to pick up the slack.

Signing off from the Microtel,

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

On The Road Again

map-alabama.jpgI sure do love living New York City, but it is nonetheless crucial that I periodically leave my domestic lair in order to report live and direct from the ballpark. Only two of Minor League Baseball’s 160 teams play in the Big Apple, meaning that there are 158 cities perpetually on my list of places to visit. 

This week is my 2010 “Southern Swing’ — five stadiums in four cities over five days. Here’s the itinerary: 
June 1 — Regions Park, home of the Birmingham Barons
June 2 — 15th Annual Rickwood Classic at Birmingham’s Rickwood Field (The Barons’ former home, now the oldest professional ballpark in the entire country. 
June 3 — Joe Davis Stadium, home of the Huntsville Stars.
June 4 — AT&T Field, home of the Chattanooga Lookouts
June 5 –Coolray Field, home of the Gwinnett Braves
June 6 — Fluor Field, home of the Greenville Drive
The impetus for the trip was to attend the Rickwood Classic, as the ballpark is celebrating its centennial anniversary this season. To see a game in this environment is akin to traveling back in time (minus the potentially catastrophic consequences), and I’m greatly looking forward to it.

rickwood_logo.gif

I’ll be filing articles, blog posts, photos and videos throughout the week. If YOU have any suggestions regarding things I should check out in these cities then by all means let me know. Time will be tight, but I’m going to do my best to see as much as possible. 
And if you will be at any of above events then of course I’d like to meet you. Just look for the guy running around all over the place, like a freshly beheaded chicken who has not yet lost the ability to move its legs.
And, yes, this marks the second time this season I’ve been to Alabama (and third in the last 13 months). I promise that as time goes on I will achieve a far more balanced state visitation ratio.  
Looking forward to the trip, and looking forward to hearing from you. 
benjamin.hill@mlb.com
twitter.com/bensbiz  

Dare to Be Tacky b/w Division I Dog

Thumbnail image for grizzzzz.jpgYesterday I was preoccupied with photos of a man wearing a unitard, and therefore neglected to write about two imminently blog-worthy topics. I will rectify this situation………………NOW!

First up are the Birmingham Barons, who yesterday announced their “Clark Griswold Decorating Contest”. The competition, inspired by the bumbling patriarch of the National Lampoon Vacation films, calls for fans to do the following:

Deck your house with bright lights, tacky Santa figurines and enter for a chance to win a Barons’ season ticket package in 2010.

The prizes, they are as follows:

First Place: Two 12-game season ticket package and the opportunity to
throw out the first pitch at the Barons annual Christmas in July
promotion.

Second Place: Perfect-10 Plan.

Third Place: Box of Christmas lights.

It seems to me that awarding someone a box of Christmas lights is a bit redundant given the nature of the contest, similar to giving an eating champion a box of Ding Dongs for the ride home.

And speaking of Christmas lights and Ding-Dongs, here’s something that has nothing to do with either: Homer, mascot of the Peoria Chiefs, has turned down the Notre Dame coaching job. Read all about it HERE. Or, simply browse this excerpt:

With his previous five-year contract ending Monday night, speculation
had been running wild
homer.jpg that Homer may leave Peoria to take over as head
football coach at Notre Dame.

“This is where I want to be,” Homer said Tuesday through his
spokesman Lucas Smith. “Notre Dame football is a dream job for some
people and it is humbling to be considered. But when it comes down to
it, this is where I want to be working for as long as they’ll have me.”

The rumors started a couple of weeks ago when Homer’s name
was linked in an online report as a possible successor to fired
football coach Charlie Weis. Despite having no prior football coaching
experience, certain Notre Dame boosters were pushing hard for Homer to
get the job and return Notre Dame football to its glory days. It is
unclear when Notre Dame officials first contacted Homer or if they made
an official offer.

peoria.pngAn uninformed observer might think that this whole thing is a silly publicity stunt with no basis in reality, but as a Minor League expert I can tell you that this is an industry of unquestionable integrity. Press releases, like Shakira’s hips, tell no lies.

And if you think about it, Homer would make a good coach. He’d bark orders on the sidelines, chew out the refs, and play the trom”bone” at halftime, while always remaining fixated on getting to a bowl.

I apologize for nothing.

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

Rickwoodn't Be Nice

rickwood.jpgWhen it comes to places I’d like to visit within the world of Minor League Baseball, I have a list that’s two feet wide and a mile long. It’s a most unwieldy list, and upon consulting it I can not help but feel there should be a more economical way for me to write out my desires.

But at the top of this list, towering 5,280 feet above the ground, is this item:

Attend the Rickwood Classic.

For those who may not yet be “in the know” –  Each season the Birmingham Barons play one game at Rickwood Field, which served as their home from 1910 through 1987 and is now recognized as the oldest functioning professional stadium in the country. The club pulls out all the stops for the Rickwood Classic, honoring a different period of Birmingham baseball history each year by suiting up in that era’s uniforms.

I bring this up because yesterday the Barons announced the details of the 2010 Classic. Here’s a relevant excerpt:

The Birmingham Barons will do their part to celebrate the 100th
anniversary of historic
Thumbnail image for baronslogo.jpg Rickwood Field when the team returns to their
old stomping grounds for the 15th Annual Rickwood Classic on June 2.
The 12:30 p.m. contest will pit the Barons
opposite the Tennessee Smokies…The two franchises will use the occasion to pay homage to the early
years of Rickwood Field. The $75,000, 7,000-seat facility opened on
Aug. 18, 1910, when the Barons took on the Montgomery Climbers in a
game witnessed by an estimated 10,000 fans….The Barons will wear replicas of uniforms from the 1910 season while
the Smokies will wear uniforms from the 1914 season, when they were
known as the Appalachian Smokies.

I wrote a feature about the Rickwood Field earlier this year, which can be viewed HERE. And since I’m on the topic, I’d like to point out that in both 2006 and 2007, the Barons won the Classic, 3-2, on the strength of a late-inning tie-breaking sacrifice fly by Thomas Collaro. Seriously, you cannot make this stuff up.

alabama.gifAt any rate, June 2 is now marked on my 2010 calendar with an Alabama state flag puffy sticker. Maybe this year I’ll be able to traverse the Mason-Dixon line in order to see Rickwood Field in all it’s glory.

– On Tuesday I wrote about the Lakewood BlueClaws’ bowling league, and even attempted to brainstorm some potential team names. Well, the BlueClaws held a “best bowling team name” contest via Twitter, ultimately selecting these entries: Pinchy’s Pin Busters, BlueClaws Pin Setters, and Alley Claws.

I’m surprised no one suggested “Pinchsetters.”

– Finally, a new edition of “Promo Preview Offseason Edition” can be found HERE. At the very least, read the column in order to discover my three favorite songs on “Appetite for Destruction.” I’d be interested to hear yours.

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

2009: The Year in Photos

cam.jpgI am ready to embrace the offseason. I really and truly am. But if I come up with a blog post idea that will let me re-visit a time when Minor League Baseball was actually played every day, then you best believe I’m gonna do it.

And today, that idea is this: to present my favorite photos that appeared on this blog during the 2009 season. I did not apply any specific criteria when making these selections, other than to ask myself “Does this photo make my inner-most being cry out in rapturous wonderment?.” If the answer was in the affirmative, then you will see it listed below. Hopefully, your innermost being will respond similarly.   

What follows are my top 10 pics of the year, listed in the order in which they appeared on this blog.

Master Yogi Berra Lets LooseOn April 21, Greensboro Grasshoppers canine mascot Master Yogi Berra had a bit of an on-field accident. The following is one of two pictures I obtained of the incident (the “clean version”, if you will):

yogi (2).jpg  
(Photo credit: Dano Keeney)

Ceremonial CentenarianOn April 24, Round Rock Express season-ticket holder Chris Nocera threw out the first pitch. She is 102 years old — and very determined:

Thumbnail image for 102 pitch 1.JPG

Cream Stick Gets CreamedThe Akron Aeros nightly “Cream Stick Race” was, by all accounts, a chaotic free-for-all. Here, Vanilla feigns innocence immediately after pushing Maple to the ground:

creamstick 1.JPG


Ready, Set, SwallowSword swallower extraordinaire Dan Meyer prepares to ply his trade in Huntsville. I was lucky enough to be in attendance for this, a post-rainout performance for an audience of 15.

dan ready to perform.JPG

A Moo-ving ImageA key component of the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers’ “Salute to Cows” was a mooing contest. The following picture depicts the eventual champion as he readied himself for the moo of his life:

timber rattlers moo contest.JPG 
 

Presidential Self-Love The Brookyln Cyclones gave away Obama bobbleheads as part of “Barack-lyn Cyclones” night, and the commander-in-chief went out of his way to let the crowd know that he approved:

brooklyn baracklyn bobble.JPG

(photo credit: George Napolitano/Brooklyn Cyclones)

An A-peel-ing Photo –  As part of the Idaho Falls Chukars’ “Potato Night”, so-called “Spuddy Buddies” were thrown into the crowd. It was a thing of beauty:

Idaho Falls -- Spuddy Buddies Go Flying 2.JPG

Mascot MassageIn Birmingham, even costumed characters need the occasional rubdown:

Birmingham -- Mascot Massage 2.JPG

Belly Quickly BustedThis guy couldn’t even make it out of the first round in the Williamsport Crosscutters’ annual “Belly Buster” contest:

Thumbnail image for Williamsport -- Belly Buster, hot dog loser.JPG

Owlz Well That Ends Well Hootz and Holly tied the knot in a dramatic post-game ceremony in Orem, resulting in a surreal and oddly touching spectacle:

Thumbnail image for Orem Mascot Wedding Hootz sez I do.jpg

If you have any photos from this past se
ason that you think are worthy of inclusion in this blog, then by all means get in touch. I’ll be waiting patiently for your correspondence.

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

Stress-Free Blogging

birmbar.gifOne of my biggest tasks on Mondays during the season is to put off writing my “Promotion Preview”  column for as long as possible. So, I might as well write a blog post. That will delay the inevitable for at least a little while longer.

So…anyway…last month I included the following promotion in the column:

Birmingham Barons
Stress-Free Night, July 22
The Barons recently hosted the Southern League All-Star Game, a
grueling and high-anxiety task. The club is now in its first homestand
since that overwhelming event, so to recuperate they’re staging
“Stress-Free Night.” Students from nearby Virginia College will be on
hand to give massages [and] “Nature Scape” and
“Pure Mood” sounds will be played over the PA…Rumor has it that an Epsom Salt giveaway is also in
the works, but as of press time this crucial nugget of information
could not be confirmed with 100 percent certainty.

So, was “Stress-Free Night” really and truly stress-free? Not exactly, according to Barons director of group ticket sales Brad Hudson:

Rain was in the area and we pulled tarp several times; we had a new PA announcer, our first pitcher showed up 20 minutes late and our mic died IMMEDIATELY before the anthem. All that said, we still played ball and had a wonderful time! The entire stadium sounded like a Crystal Light commercial and people really embraced it. 

I’m not sure if this is the Crystal Light commercial the ballpark sounded like, but I’m going to post it anyway because conceptually it is quite brilliant:
 

But back to the matter at hand — Epsom Salts were indeed given away at the stadium, and for proof I direct you to a photo which includes both a team employee and a bag of epsom salts:

epsom rotate.JPG

Not enough proof? Well, how about a photo of four guys holding bags of epsom salts?

Birmingham -- Stress Free Epsom Salt 2.JPG

Now that that’s settled, let’s move on to something even more visually interesting. Mascot massage!

Birmingham -- Mascot Massage 1.JPG

A photo of the year contender right here, folks:

Birmingham -- Mascot Massage 2.JPG

Send me photos of YOUR Minor League Baseball experiences and promotions. If this blog was a car then reader-submitted photos would be the gasoline. Of this I am reasonably certain.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

Counterpoint

pointcpoint.jpgRecently, this blog has been way too focused on concession stand grotesquerie, as well as the unfortunate effects of food and beverage overindulgence.

While I regret nothing — NOTHING! — I nonetheless feel compelled to point out that Minor League Baseball teams often provide food options that are not designed to kill you. In fact, it wasn’t so long ago that I penned (with my keyboard) an article on vegetarian food options at Minor League stadiums. This “Minoring in Business” feature article included quotes from PETA’s Dan Shannon, the very same individual who recently authored a letter condemning the wastefulness of the Fifth Third Burger.

My point here is that reality is far more nuanced than perception (I learned to make such points as a result of fulfilling a Philosophy prerequisite in my freshman year of college).

One team that is bravely bucking current concession stand trends are the Birmingham Barons, who recently sent out a defiant, bullet-point heavy press release that touts their new “Healthy Hits” menu. Some excerpts:

? Regions Park is proud to promote healthy eating choices in 2009. The stadium’s brand-newbaronslogo.jpg “Healthy Hits Menu” will be highlighted by a menu consisting of a grilled chicken sandwich, wraps, green salads, fresh fruits and vegetables, granola bars, yogurt, milk, fruit juices and baked chips. In addition, zero trans fats will be used for fried items in the ballpark’s concessions stands.

? This addition comes in light of some staggering numbers concerning obesity, particularly related to ballpark food and our favorite demographic, children.

? Ballpark food typically offers no help to this cause. Ballpark favorites such as hot dogs, corn dogs, pizza, peanuts, crackerjacks, nachos, soft pretzels, frozen malts and chili fries offer an average of 17.1 grams of fat per option and a staggering 356.2 calories between them.

yinyang.gifOf course, the Barons do offer typical ballpark food as well — unhealthy or not, there’s always going to be a demand for hot dogs, nachos, and the like. But there’s no reason why “healthy” and “unhealthy” options can’t co-exist peacefully with one another. Together, they are the yin and yang of the ballpark dining experience.

“At Home With” Postmortem: As mentioned before on this blog, my weekly “At Home With” team profile column is no more. Up now on MiLB.com is “At Home With…At Home With”, a humorous and highly readable compilation of the column’s most insightful and amusing anecdotes. Dozens of teams are highlighted therein. Please check it out.

Thanks for reading. As always, don’t hesitate to get in touch: benjamin.hill@mlb.com

The Art and Science of the Minor League Wish List

wish.jpgToday I must draw my readers’ attention to my Minoring in Business “cover” story, which features the Holiday Wish Lists of 20 (!) Minor League teams.

Folks, this is the kind of content you just can’t find anywhere else, so I hope you appreciate it. I could just as easily be getting paid to write literary essays on the cultural effects of 21st-century social isolation for Harper’s, you know. Lewis Lapham is constantly badgering me to do this.

But, no. The Minor Leagues are my calling, so I must answer the call. Therefore, revel in today’s article, which is chock-full of interesting Holiday requests. There is currently a poll on the MiLB.com homepage, asking fans to vote on their favorites. Your choices include three masterpieces of the Minor League Holiday Poetry genre (Huntsville, Toledo, Quad Cities), as well as a handwritten mascot letter (West Michigan) and a superb doctored photo (Tri-City ValleyCats).

Not included in the Top 5 poll, but still worth checking out, are humorous contributions fromsanty.jpg Reading, Williamsport, and Birmingham. Actually, it’s ALL worth checking out. Do not discriminate.

And I may as well get in on the act as well, and post a Holiday Wish List for this here blog. I refuse to address it to anyone in particular, but I nonetheless believe these things will happen as a result of positive karmic repercussion. I give, so that I may get. Here are the two things that I want:

– More readers! The numbers have been really strong lately, especially for the offseason, but there is still plenty of room for growth. I feel that the subject matter has appeal far beyond “the industry” and Minor League Baseball superfans. The culture and atmosphere of a Minor League Baseball stadium reflects the culture and atmosphere of the community in which it is located. Taken together, these community portraits represent and reflect American culture.

To summarize, and tone down the pretention a notch (sorry Lewis): Minor League Baseball IS America.

– More feedback! There has been a nice uptick in comments as of late, and I routinely receive emails from front office folks and fans alike. But…more please! I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: this blog is a two-way street. The content will only ever be as good as what I am provided with by my readers.

So get in touch, for any reason at all:

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

Visual Representation of What Had Previously Only Appeared in Print

While I greatly enjoy writing “Promotion Preview” on a weekly basis, it is a column that clearly has its limitations. Mainly, there is only room for a handful of photos. Yet, one’s understanding and enjoyment of many of these promos would be greatly enhanced if there were an accompanying image to each write-up.

Baby steps, readers, baby steps. While this utopian vision of copious photo representation remains a long way off, at the very least I can use this blog to close the gap between this ultimate goal and present-day reality.

Alright, enough talk. I mean, really, dude. Just get on with it. All this blither blather just to set up a photo of a Pajama Jersey is a little much.

Just a minute, italicized text — did you say something about a Pajama Jersey?

I did:

P1020921.JPG

Oh, awesome. These jerseys were worn by the Birmingham Barons last month. Here are the details, courtesy of my friend italicized text:


For the team’s games on Saturday and Sunday, June 21-22, against the
Jacksonville Suns, the Barons players and coaches will wear specialty
“pajama” uniforms that will be auctioned off over the course of the
weekend.


The uniforms will be white with powder blue and black trim. They will
also incorporate stars and half-moons in the trim of the lettering to
add to the “nighttime” feel. The “Baron head” logo that is on the left
sleeve will feature the Baron wearing a night-time stocking cap.

P1020924.JPG

(photos courtesy of Justin Firesheets, the Birmingham Barons Director of Media Relations)

Moving on…readers may recall last week’s Promotion Preview column, in which I mentioned the Lowell Spinners Jacoby Ellsbury World Series coin. Well, Spinners Director of Media Relations Jon Boswell was kind enough to send along a photo of this high-quality item:

EllsburyCoinFront.jpg

That’s the front of the coin, depicting Ellsbury as a Spinner in 2005. The back shows Ellsbury amidst the aftermath of the Red Sox’s 2007 World Championship:

EllsburyCoinBack.jpg

Pretty sweet, right?

Indeed. And I, for one, would like to run more promotion-related photos on this blog. Send ‘em to milbbusiness@yahoo.com

Italicized text, over and out. 

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