Results tagged ‘ Burlington Bees ’
I was fortunate enough to go on a series of road trips this season, all of which featured jam-packed itineraries. One unfortunate side effect of a busy schedule is that I found it difficult to explore the areas I was visiting outside of the confines of the ballpark.
Difficult, but not entirely impossible. On Sunday, September 5th, I was was able to make a brief stop at “Snake Alley” in Burlington, IA (home of the Bees, of course).
Located in Burlington’s idyllic, sprawling, and somewhat ramshackle “Heritage Hill” neighborhood, Snake Alley is billed as nothing less than “the Crookedest Street in the World”.
A brief history, from the official Snake Alley website:
Snake Alley was constructed in 1894 as an experimental street design. The intention was to provide a more direct link between the downtown business district and the neighborhood shopping area located on North Sixth Street.
Working together, three public-spirited German immigrants conceived and carried out the idea of a winding hillside street, reminiscent of vineyard paths in France and Germany.
But unlike most vineyard paths, you are allowed to drive down this one. So, I did. The view from the top:
People actually live on this road. One of the houses:
The view, upon reaching the bottom:
And, really, that’s about all I had time for. But that’s what’s great about Minor League Baseball — it can bring you to small towns, such as Burlington, that might otherwise be overlooked. And an afternoon at Heritage Hill combined with a Bees game at Community Field that evening would make for a truly excellent day of leisure.
A long-term goal of mine is to be able to combine the ballpark experience with additional content from the town where said ballpark resides. I still have a ways to go toward truly accomplishing this, but Snake Alley was a start.
And I truly appreciate that a pair of readers took the time to email me with suggestions regarding things to check out while I was in the Midwest. In addition to recommending Snake Alley, former Bees employee Adam Small mentioned that the Old Thresher’s Reunion was well worth checking out. Over 100,000 people flood the town of Mount Pleasant, IA (population 10,000) over Labor Day weekend as part of an extensive tribute to vintage agricultural equipment, and country music shows and live theater take place nightly. Here’s a shot from the official Midwest Old Threshers web page, which conveys what a truly American experience this must be:
Small also suggested stopping at Ross’ Restaurant in Bettendorf, IA (one of the Quad Cities). A 24-hour diner, the restaurant is best known as the home of the Magic Mountain. According to a local newspaper article, the Magic Mountain “starts off with grilled Texas toast covered with Ross’ special hamburger meat, then is piled high with a choice of either French fries or hash browns and smothered with cheese sauce. A diner can request his or her mountain be capped with snow — an option of chopped onion.”
Unfortunately, I cannot find images of this mammoth concoction online. Use your imagination, or, better yet, visit the restaurant and send me a picture.
Also providing some Midwestern food recommendations was Iowa native Shaun Northrup (now VP of tickets for the Fresno Grizzlies). He wrote:
If you stop at any restaurant/gas station and you see a “tenderloin” on the menu — ORDER IT!! It is a fried pork sandwich.
As you may recall, I did get a chance to order a Tenderloin while taking in at the game at Burlington’s Community Field.
I was a bit intimidated by the Tenderloin, and didn’t quite know how to approach it from a condiment perspective, so I contacted Northrup for advice. His reply:
“‘With Everything’ — ketchup, mustard, pickles, onion, salt, and pepper.”
Another food recommendation I was able to enjoy was Sterzing’s Potato Chips, a company based out of Burlington. They were crisp, tasty, and refreshingly simple: potatoes, oil, and salt. Native Iowans who go on to live elsewhere are known to suffer Sterzing’s withdrawal, or so I’ve heard.
A final recommendation, and one I passed the exit for but did not have time to check out, was the Bob Feller Museum in Van Meter, IA. I’ll definitely work it into my plans the next time I’m in the area. A visit there would almost certainly have resulted in an interesting experience, perhaps along the lines of Greenville’s Shoeless Joe Jackson Museum.
Well, that’ll most likely do it for my 2010 “On the Road” content. Thanks for reading, and feel free to get in touch anytime regarding anything in this blog post, anything in Minor League Baseball, anything in America, or anything at all.
The Bees play at Community Field, a no-frills bleacher-centric facility. There is no videoboard, vendors, wacky theme nights, or architectural quirks, and the mascot presence is minimal at best.
Such Minor League accoutrements are what fuel the Ben’s Biz Blog engine, and in Burlington they are decidedly lacking.
But guess what? I loved it there.
The Bees are a labor of love, a small-market community-owned team whose idea of game presentation is to simply present a game. A timeless feeling prevails and there is charm to spare.
After navigating my way through Burlington’s poorly-marked maze of street detours, the abundant greenery of Community Field’s parking lot was a welcome sight indeed.
After doing a pre-game interview with Bees radio announcer Nick Devlin, I was set loose to explore the stadium grounds. Community Field was built in 1947, but the grandstand burned down in a 1971 fire. It was re-built by volunteers and re-opened in 1973, and in 2004 came further renovations and additions (info on this, and much more, can be found in my MiLB.com story).
By my estimate, there are at least two dozen teams that claim to have “the biggest videoboard in Minor League Baseball”. Therefore, it was refreshing to visit a stadium that doesn’t even have a videoboard.
One of the old-fashioned light towers, pretentiously shot:
Down the first base line, stadium regular “Dancin’ Bobby” lives up to his name by enthusiastically dancing to each and every song that comes over the PA.
The Lip Land Kid’s Area (I believe it is sponsored by a chicken-centric local restaurant, but I’ll have to get back to you on that).
But, really, the whole park was a kid’s area.
The visitor’s bullpen is located far down the right field, next to an isolated equipment storage area.
Their home counterparts are in a better location, naturally. A stoic mannequin stands guard over a bunch of goofballs.
Fans can get plenty close to the third base dugout, including kids who slap gloves with the players as they make their way back from the field.
Of course, I was intrigued by what the concession stand might offer.
Let’s take a look!
I was told that the Bees Rite was “like a sloppy Joe”. This didn’t sound very exciting, so I opted for the Lippy Dog.
I know what you’re thinking — In a literal sense, isn’t every hot dog a “Lippy Dog”? Well, this wasn’t a hot dog. It was crispy chicken smothered in buffalo wing sauce and ranch dressing.
The Lippy Dog was really good, actually, and I devoured it. I then went back to the concession stand for that Midwest specialty — “The Tenderloin” (ie fried pork). These things are just comical.
The food might not have been healthy, but at least my appetite was. Usually when I’m on the road, anxiety and time constraints limit me to a diet of ranch Corn Nuts and Mello Yello. This worries me.
But this was not a night to be worried. Burlington’s relaxed, baseball-first environment helps to settle the mind.
The Bees won, 6-1, at which point all fans were invited to come onto the field and run the bases. My pictures of this portion of the evening didn’t come out, but I did get a mediocre picture of the press box.
And that’s the Bee-all end-all of this particular post. Sorry that the ending was such a Buzz kill, but I’m pollen another all-nighter here and just about out of stings to say.
To the itinerary!
9/2 — Omaha Royals (their last-ever game in Rosenblatt Stadium!)
9/3 — Iowa Cubs
9/4 — Burlington Bees
9/5 — Quad Cities River Bandits
9/6 — Kane County Cougars
Feel free to get in touch with any content suggestions or inside tips regarding the teams/cities in question. And if you’ll be at any of these games, please say hello. As always, I’ll be the guy in the shirt.
And not only will tomorrow be the Omaha Royals’ last game at Rosenblatt Stadium — it may be their last home game as the “Omaha Royals.” In conjunction with their 2011 move to nearby Sarpy County, the organization is currently staging a “Name the Team” contest. Over 400 names have been suggested thus far, let’s go to the press release:
Names relating to the weather and to the military have been leading the way so far. Some of those suggestions include Storm, Hail, Heat, Blizzard, Twisters, Bombers and Commanders. Some fans have just tweaked the name to vary slightly from Royals, suggesting Monarchs and Kings. Other fans, no doubt sad to see the demise of Rosenblatt Stadium following the 2010 season, have submitted the team name Blatts for
I would like to suggest a return to the moniker employed by the city’s long-defunct Western Association franchise: the Omahogs.
And while I am excited to be visiting the Iowa Cubs on September 3, I’m disappointed that I will not be in attendance for September 5′s giveaway: the Player to Be Named Later Bobblehead.
Finally, one of the sport’s most unsung characters gets his due:
A parody video in which a G-Funk classic is repurposed as a celebration of a California League baseball team. It’s Bo’z N Da Hood with “Nothin But A Storm Thang”:
The lyrics to “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” are incorporated into one of the verses in the above video, but for a truly unique interpretation check out this adorable dispatch from Lansing.
It’s a good thing that Ryan was in Lansing and not West Michigan, because he would probably have been terrified by first pitch honoree Ronald McDonald:
(photo credit: Emily Jones)
Sweet dreams! I’ll be sending out dispatches from the Midwest as soon as I can.
If you’re not familiar with the name “Randy Wehofer”, then you will be soon. The aspiring thespian plays baseball announcer Jack Jeffries in the upcoming movie “Sugar”, and gives a startlingly realistic performance (for much more on “Sugar”, including a movie trailer, see today’s article in MiLB.com).
Wehofer’s dedication to his role was so extreme that he spent the last decade preparing for it. He logged nine seasons as the broadcaster for the Midwest League’s Burlington Bees before moving on to the Iowa Cubs prior to the 2008 campaign. In perhaps the greatest coup in Ben’s Biz Blog history, I was able to land an exclusive interview with Wehofer.
So, without further ado, a glimpse into the mind of one of Iowa’s most buzzed-about actors:
Ben’s Biz: You bring a method actor’s intensity to your role as play-by-play announcer Jack Jeffries. Did this make you difficult to deal with on the set? Any Christian Bale-style freakouts?
Randy Wehofer: Working in minor league baseball for 10 years, I’ve grown very accustomed to a specialized and pampered lifestyle and while on set, I demanded that things worked exactly like a real game. I was especially pleased when the guy who played the visiting manager changed his lineup five minutes before shooting the scene and didn’t tell anyone so we could scramble in the press box to figure out who was coming to the plate. When we shot the road scenes, they were sure to bring me a cold hot dog in the fourth inning when I couldn’t possibly have time to eat it or enjoy it. I really appreciated the way the crew went out of its way to keep me in my comfort zone.
BB: The pressures of fame and fortune can be hard to deal with. Now that you are a celebrity, what steps are you taking to insure that you keep a level head?
RW: I don’t want to make other people jealous, but since word has spread about the movie, I’ve noticed that my wife Joanie and I get better tables at restaurants and the other day I even got a card that says my 14th haircut is going to be FREE. I try to take all of this in stride, though, and remember how hard it must be for all of those guys that work in the big leagues, but haven’t been in a movie.
BB: Do you think players will be jealous of you this season, because fans will be asking you for autographs instead of them?
RW: I’m actually hoping that one of the veteran players might take me under his wing and teach me the ropes when it comes to signing autographs. I’ll need to know what kind of pens to use for glossy photos as opposed to baseballs and how to avoid cramping up on hot days. If all goes well, I’m hoping this experience could put me in the running for a future spot as a roving autograph instructor for a Major League organization.
BB: What will be the next step for you as an actor? Will you be accepting additional roles as a baseball broadcaster, or are you looking to go against type?
RW: In the future, I do want to show my range as an actor so I’m actively seeking roles as a public address announcer, the guy who takes your order in a drive thru, or do a guest spot in a kids show as the guy who reads the morning announcements in a school. I don’t know if I’m ready for it yet, but someday I’d really love to play a baseball broadcaster in an animated feature. I think it would be awesome to be a cartoon.
BB: You are listed in the movie’s credits as “Randolph Wehofer”, as opposed to “Randy”. Is this a bid to be taken more seriously, comparable to when Mark Wahlberg stopped using the name “Marky Mark”?
RW: It was really a ploy to try to have my name take up as much room on the screen as possible during the credits. When I was filling out the form to be in the movie, I actually listed my middle name and a phonetic pronunciation guide for my name as what I wanted included, but they edited it down to just my full first and last name.
BB: Early buzz is that you are a front-runner for a “Best Supporting Actor” Oscar in 2010. Have you started working on your acceptance speech?
RW: I hate to correct you on your own blog, Ben, but I’ve actually been told that my performance is so noteworthy that they’ve created a new category for “Best Athletic Supporting Actor” – and I’ve been told that I will be the only one nominated in that category, so I like my chances. I’d like to thank all the people that made this possible and hope everyone really likes “Sugar.”
(See Randy Wehofer in “Sugar”! The film opens in NYC and Los Angeles this Friday, and nationwide on April 24)