Results tagged ‘ Carolina League ’

Lynchburg’s Name the Team Contest: How do you love them apples?

If you’re not from Lynchburg, Virginia, then you may not know the following bit of apocryphal lore:

According to local legend, Thomas Jefferson, who was visiting the owners of the Miller-Claytor House on his way to his Poplar Forest home, took a bite of the “poisonous love apple.” Supposedly, this was the first time anyone in Virginia had eaten this fruit, which we now call the tomato.

Today, some 200 years after Jefferson’s fear-dispelling chomp, the Lynchburg Hillcats announced their team name finalists. And, yes, “Lynchburg Love Apples” is among them.

You say "tomato," I say "love apple."

You say “tomato,” I say “love apple.”

It may very well be time to say goodbye to this, the current team identity.


The Hillcats — Cleveland’s Class A Advanced affiliate in the Carolina League — described the current stage of their rebranding endeavor thusly:

After the initial round of Lynchburg’s “Name The Team” contest saw its loyal fanbase suggest a number of creative and original names, the list has been narrowed to six finalists.

“We were not surprised but still extremely proud of the passion and creativity our fans displayed when submitting possible names for the Lynchburg baseball team moving forward,” said Hillcats Team President Chris Jones. “We are expecting our fans to show the same amount of passion and enthusiasm in the next step of the process by voting for their favorite name on our team website.”

In addition to “Love Apples,” which seems impossible not to vote for given the logo possibilities, there are five additional finalists under consideration. Italicized text is from the press release:

Lynchburg Derechos: Locals know Derechos are mighty storms, symbolic of the power and strength of players working their way up to the big leagues.

Wikipedia explains that a derecho is “a widespread, long-lived, straight-line wind storm that is associated with a land-based, fast-moving group of severe thunderstorms.” It should not be confused with a haboob.


This is a derecho

Spanish speakers may decide that this is the “right” choice. Okay, what else is “izquierda?” Let’s see:

Lynchburg Doves — The Lynchburg Doves pays tribute both to Lynchburg’s hunting culture and the community’s faith-based history.

To summarize: a bird symbolizing peace is being celebrated, in part, because Lynchburgers have a history of killing them.

Lynchburg Hillcats — Lynchburg Hillcats honors the seven hills Lynchburg is known for and Lynchburg’s baseball history.

Been there, done that.

Lynchburg Lamb Chops
A celebration of Lynchburg’s faith-based heritage, the Lamb Chops combines the community’s servant-spirit with the fun of Minor League Baseball.

Because Jesus is the Lamb of God and Lynchburg (home of Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University) is known for its fundamentalist Christian spirit. If they go with this name, then perhaps we’ll hear this song at the ballpark as a means to drive people out at the end of the game. Click at your own risk.

Lynchburg River Runners — Honoring Lynchburg founder John Lynch, the River Runners celebrates the man who ran goods across the James River and the town he founded.

Lynch was 17 when he founded his ferry service. When I was 17 I was working as a dishwasher and driving a 1981 Pontiac Phoenix.

For more on the Lynchburg Hillcats, check out my blog posts from when I visited last season. For more on the reaction to the proposed name change, check out the team’s Facebook page. As always, the fans are having their say.


On the Road: Winged Pigs and Whiskered Fish in Zebulon

To see all my posts from my May 13 visit to the Carolina Mudcats, click HERE. To see all my posts from my May 2016 Carolinas Road Trip, click HERE. To see all my “On the Road” posts, click HERE. If interested in seeing posts covering a visit to a particular team, search for that team’s name in the blog search bar (it’s to your right).

This guy right here, holding meat in both hands, his name is Sherman Gillespie.

036Sherman lives in Garner, North Carolina, a town located south of Raleigh. He has worked 25 years in the Raleigh police department, holding down a variety of positions through the years. Currently he is a “school resource officer sergeant,” overseeing the officers who are placed within high schools throughout the city.

Sherman is also, not surprisingly, a big Minor League Baseball fan. He is a native of Shelby, North Carolina, and annually takes time off in order to volunteer at the American Legion World Series held at historic Keeter Stadium. Sherman attends approximately 10 Carolina Mudcats games each season and also goes on Minor League ballpark trips with his family. At this particular game  — Friday, May 13th, for those keeping score at home — he was accompanied by his 13-year-old son, Carson.

I am writing about Sherman because he had volunteered to be my designated eater — you know, the individual recruited to eat the ballpark foods that my gluten-free diet prohibits. (The Mudcats do a good job with gluten-free offerings, with GF chicken tenders, Red Bridge beer and GF buns on request. Food and beverage director Dwayne Lucas told me that “Anytime someone has an allergy, we try our best. It’s about accommodating it as many people as possible.”)

Sherman’s culinary journey began with two items I had procured from the concourse-level “Grand Slam BBQ Stand”: Pig Wings ($10) and a Carnitas Tacos platter ($8).

We began with the Pig Wings (aka pork shanks), which Sherman is holding in the above picture. They were accompanied by an order of fries, which tasted spectacular — thick, crispy and dusted with Old Bay seasoning.

033Have at it, Sherman.

“It’s not bad,” said Sherman. “It’s like a chicken wing with a lot more meat. It’s juicy. Tastes just like a chicken thigh, but like eating ribs.”

From there it was on to the Carnitas Tacos platter.

034“The vegetables give it a crunch, it tastes fresh, the meat’s tender and it’s got a good flavor,” said Sherman, who had a lot to chew on.

039Seeing that we were attending a “Mudcats” game, it was only fitting to then get a Catfish Po’Boy ($5). The catfish was crispy and well-cooked, but the accoutrements a little lacking.


“It’s hot and crunchy, but doesn’t have a lot of flavor,” said Sherman. “It just needs more seasoning.”

As the catfish was being consumed, Sherman was visited by some of his Raleigh PD school resources colleagues. Sherman is their boss, but they were giving him a jovial hard time about all sorts of things and I’m sure they’ll enjoy the pictures in this post. Sherman’s son, Carson, is on the left in the Reading Fightin Phils cap.


And with that, my time with Sherman and his pals ended. And with this sentence, my Carolinas trip blog posts are now complete. Thanks to all those who’ve followed along, and stay tuned for plenty of posts from my imminent Appalachian League trip.


On the Road: Scouts and Superstition in Zebulon

To see all my posts from my May 13 visit to the Carolina Mudcats, click HERE. To see all my posts from my May 2016 Carolinas Road Trip, click HERE. To see all my “On the Road” posts, click HERE. If interested in seeing posts covering a visit to a particular team, search for that team’s name in the blog search bar (it’s to your right).

You know how it goes, usually: My first post from a particular locale sets the scene, while the third focuses on my designated eater. The second is an overview of what occurred during the ballgame itself. That’s where where at now here in Zebulon, North Carolina, the home of the Carolina Mudcats.

Yep, the ballgame had just begun. The Mudcats — Class A Advanced affiliate of the Atlanta Braves — were taking on the Lynchburg Hillcats.

027 The above “nothin’ but net” picture was taken from the lower reaches of the upper level.

028It was “Scout Night,” and Muddy was prepared.


A lot of these scouts were planning to stay the night.


As mentioned in the previous post, the netting at Five County Stadium extends from foul pole to foul pole. It may look the netting runs across the front of the dugouts, but it does not. This was a Friday the 13th optical illusion.

031The ballgame was a blur for me. I spent quite a bit of time talking to front office folks, and some of these conversations formed the basis for my article on the genesis and unlikely popularity of the Mudcats logo. I also spent a few innings with my designated eater, which, of course, will be covered in the next post.

After all that, evening sun had given way to a dark night sky. I ventured up to the farthest reaches of the ballpark and made an obvious, yet germane, observation.

My travels to the stratosphere were undertaken so that I could spend an inning on the air with Mudcats broadcaster Greg Young.

One distinct highlight of my time on the air with Greg was that I got to witness an at-bat by Lynchburg’s Sicnarf Loopstok, perhaps the best-named baseball player of all time (and winner of the 2013 Minor Moniker Madness contest).

sicnarfBack on level ground, I took in a Mudcats’ walk-off.

This was followed by post-game launch-a-ball and of course, fireworks. I never take good photos of fireworks, but I think this turned out pretty well.

After the fireworks, kids ran the bases. (This was truly the night that would never end, as run the bases was followed by a movie shown on the videoboard for the scouts in attendance.)

048As the youth ran in circles, I retreated to the concourse to write and disseminate a groundbreaking and subversive ballpark joke.

While on the concourse, I noticed that Muddy had indulged in an additional wardrobe change. He was no longer a scout; now he was Freddy Kreuger. This outfit was no doubt motivated by the fact that it was Friday the 13th, even though Freddy is from an entirely different horror franchise. Did it matter? No. Minor League Baseball.

Truly, there was nothing left for me to do, or see. With the audio of the Scouts Night’ post-game movie booming away in the background, I made my way to the parking lot.

IMG_1404Good night from Zebulon.


On the Road: Ending in Zebulon

To see all my posts from my May 13 visit to the Carolina Mudcats, click HERE. To see all my posts from my May 2016 Carolinas Road Trip, click HERE. To see all my “On the Road” posts, click HERE. If interested in seeing posts covering a visit to a particular team, search for that team’s name in the blog search bar (it’s to your right).

A couple years ago, I delivered a presentation at the Minor League Baseball Promotional Seminar entitled “From Albuquerque to Zebulon: Another Season on the Road in Minor League Baseball.” I took a little artistic license with that title, however, as I had never actually been to Zebulon. It took me until May 13, 2016, to get to Zebulon, last in the Minor Leagues alphabetically and the last stop on my Carolinas road trip.

“Zebulon?” you may be saying to yourself at this juncture. “I’ve never heard of a team from Zebulon.”

Well, theoretical you, this is because the team in question carries the geographically indeterminate name of Carolina Mudcats. The Mudcats play in Five County Stadium, with Wake, Franklin, Nash, Johnston and Wilson being the North Carolina counties in question (the ballpark is located in Wake County, while Franklin, Nash and Johnston are all within 1,500 feet). Part of the reason the team is located here is because it is just outside the territorial rights of the Greensboro Grasshoppers and Durham Bulls.

Too much text without an image is deadly in this blogging game. So here’s a picture of Five County Stadium as it looked when I arrived there in the early evening of Friday, May 13.

001The ballpark has undergone many changes since it first opened in 1991, after the Mudcats relocated from Columbus, Georgia. Eric Gardner, the team’s general manager of operations, later sent me a series of photos that help to illustrate these changes.




FiveCountyStadiumJune1996Arial2004 (following extensive 1999 renovations)

NIKOLAUS(C)Copyright 2003

It was 90 minutes before game time, and already the ballpark was bustlin’ with marching bands and clapping fans…

005…and lots of scouts. Lots and lots of scouts. They were planning on staying a while.

002On the inside, things were more sedate.

006The Mudcats were way ahead of the times when it comes to safety netting. For nearly the entirety of the park’s existence, the netting has extended from foul pole to foul pole. (Note, also, the iconic Mudcats water tower beyond left field.)


The netting isn’t as obtrusive as it would be at most Minor League parks, as the majority of the seats are on the upper level.


You really don’t see stadiums like these much anymore. “Layers upon layers” it says in my notes, and that sums up the general feel. Because it was built incrementally, it has a Frankenstein’s monster vibe to it.

To wit: This is the view from the new left field party deck, which hadn’t yet opened when I was in town.


The pathway beyond left field is a good spot to get autographs, as well as a good spot to gain perspective on just how large outfield billboards are.


This is the view from the second level, which illustrates that those from Zebulon and its surrounding areas like to drive white pickups.

On the upper level, one can get a meal at full-service restaurant “Cattails.” This establishment opened in 2005 and is open during all games as well as special events.



In the Mudcats’ front office, an actual mudcat (aka “catfish”) resides in a large tank.

010There are also two ponds on site, and Gardner told me that catfish reside therein.

“There was a bus driver who pulled a 17-pound catfish out of the pond using a hot dog as bait, while the teams were taking BP,” he said. “No one believed him, so he caught it again the next day.”

As for how the team came to be called the “Mudcats,” and how their iconic logo came about … well, that’s a story in and of itself. A story that, recently, I wrote. Check it out HERE.

Carolina_Mudcats_960_gzqntauj_wc944fqfMeanwhile, I’ll be hard at work on the next two posts in this Zebulon zaga. Stay tuned, please.


On the Road: Four Dudes and a Lot of Food in Myrtle Beach

To see all my posts from my May 10 visit to the Myrtle Beach Pelicans, click HERE. To see all of my posts from my May 2016 Carolinas Road Trip, click HERE. To see all of my “On the Road” posts, click HERE. If interested in seeing posts covering a visit to a particular team, search for that team’s name in the blog search bar (it’s to your right).

Prior to embarking on my Carolinas road trip, I did not receive any designated eater volunteers for my evening with the Myrtle Beach Pelicans. “Don’t worry,” said the Pelicans (I’m paraphrasing here). “We’ll take care of it.”

Take care of it they most certainly did. Via Facebook, the Pelicans recruited not one but FOUR designated eaters. Not only that, but these four designated eaters got to enjoy a four course (one per inning) concession standvaganza that took the designated eating concept to bold new terrain. Pelicans food and beverage director Brad Leininger and his ballpark kitchen crew are masters of the craft.

I met my four designated eaters at a picnic area located down the first base line, just after the game was underway. Our location was within spitting distance of the “Clark and Addison Grille”, one of many Cubs-themed modifications to the ballpark in the wake of the Pelicans affiliating with Chicago’s National League affiliate prior to the 2015 season.

092When I arrived at our designated location, the designated eaters were already enjoying a variety of cold, canned alcoholic beverages. It was “Craft Beer Tuesday” at Field, and, furthermore, the Pelicans had just become the first professional team to add buckets ($30) and growlers ($25) to the daily beverage menu.


Left to right: cans of Terrapin RecreationAle, Oskar Blues IPA and Palmetto Lowcountry Pilsner

This quartet, from left to right:

Thomas Robinson — A Myrtle Beach native who now lives in-between Myrtle Beach and Wilmington, North Carolina. Thomas is a big baseball fan and, while not yet a Pelicans season ticket holder, he said “I’m going to be.”

Chris Lizio — After working for the Pelicans in 2015 as a production assistant, Chris transitioned to a digital broadcast assistant position at nearby Coastal Carolina University.

Rich Johnson — For over two decades, Rich has hosted The Fishing Line program on New York-area TV and radio. He also spends ample time in the Myrtle Beach area, and particularly enjoys watching the Pelicans on dollar beer nights. “My record is 12,” said Rich. “I don’t drive, of course.”

JD Hewett — JD is a childhood buddy of Thomas; the two played baseball together growing up and now regularly attend Pelicans game. JD, who now lives in Little River, South Carolina, works alternately as a commercial artist, furniture reconditioner and hot dog vendor (selling to a whitewater rafting clientele from the riverbanks of Robbinsville, North Carolina).

The first inning was dedicated to the Pelicans’ Chicago-centric variations of ballpark favorites.

We’ll start with Thomas and Chris.

Thomas, as you saw, had the Chicago Dog. I promise there is a hot dog in there somewhere. It’s just submerged underneath green relish, sport peppers, tomato, a pickle spear, celery salt and who knows what else.

096“It’s awesome,” said Thomas. “The peppers have a good kick and I like the hotness.”

Chris had a “Chicago Deep Dish Pizza Burger.” As the name would imply, it’s a burger featuring a deep-dish pizza bun. I don’t have a standalone quote from Chris regarding this item, which I assume is because his mouth was full.

097Before moving on to Rich and JD, I’d like to give a shout-out to the house made chips that accompanied these items. Thick, crispy, seasoned with Old Bay and accompanied by a dipping sauce whose specifics I forget but which were nonetheless complementary to the overall flavor package.


Rich and JD, you’re up.

The Double Play Dog is an Italian sausage topped with Italian roast beef and peppers.

099“It’s excellent,” said Rich. “I don’t think of beef on sausage but the two flavors really balance nicely. It’s not in your face. It creeps up on you. It’s got a great kick that dissipates fast, like a chili pepper. It doesn’t linger until the next bite.”

The Polish Sausage is self-explanatory, with the titular meat topped generously with sauteed onions and peppers. I’m going to assume that my lack of a specific quote on this item was once again due to mouths being full. (The vegetable array seen behind the Polish Sausage was universally ignored, the only item all night to receive no interest. Make of that what you will.)


Everybody was having a great time, and that was only the first course. Beer break!

103Second Inning — Seafood, eat it.

Next up for the boys was an array of coastal cuisine: crab cake, fried clams and fried shrimp along with a heap of fries. The boys were pleased.


The Pelicans’ crab cakes are sourced from the aptly-named Crab Cake Lady, who operates out of Murrels Inlet, South Carolina.


In a Facebook post of his own, Rich said that the crab cake may have been the “best thing he ate all night. Tangy, delicious and not much filler at all.” The fried clams and shrimp received general approbation as well, with lack of greasiness and ample meat within the breading cited as distinct positives. Thomas said that the clams were “as good as anything you’ll find in Calabash,” claiming that that particular North Carolina locale set the gold standard for local seafood.

JD is a huge Motorhead fan — just check the shirt — so I thought it was fitting that he was the one who found the “devil shrimp.” #RIPLemmy

IMG_1316Third Inning: 

Bog Balls, a South Carolina specialty, consist of chicken, rice and sausage  mixed together into a ball and fried. They are served with a Sriacha mayo dipping sauce and, as I later learned, are gluten-free (!)

112Chris said that the fried pickles “might be my favorite thing in the ballpark.”  But nonetheless, he made a beeline for the chicken waffle bites. They are fried in waffle batter and come with a side of syrup.  (The sweet potato fries, dusted in cinnamon sugar, were similarly sweet.)


Thomas went ahead and grabbed the fried bologna sandwich, remarking that “a big cut of bologna is the best way to go. Who doesn’t like a big bologna?” He then made a suggestion to Pelicans food and beverage director Brad Leininger. “Y’know what’d be good on this bologna? A fried egg.”

115With so much food being eaten and so much being said about it, I was finding it hard to keep track of everything that was going on. This Facebook Live video, posted by the Pelicans, illuminates the general scene during this time. These guys were really living it up, in a sort of collective disbelief over how well they were being treated.

Finally, mercifully, we came to the end.

Fourth Inning: Dessert

118Thomas, Chris, JD and Rich were now enjoying birthday cake, chocolate and mint chocolate chip ice cream in a waffle cone bowl.

117But Rich was particularly enamored with this root beer float.

119“I remember being a kid at the Jersey Shore, getting my first kiss to “Light My Fire” and all that. We’d get root beer floats just like this. This is the real deal.”

And then there was funnel cake.

120Chris is a funnel cake man. 
And lest we forget, a peach bellini made an appearance. JD said that “It reminds me of a Seagrams wine cooler.”


Postscript: I’ve been recruiting ballpark designated eaters for nearly four years now, beginning shortly after I was diagnosed with celiac disease. Just like anything related to one’s job, I sometimes get cynical about it. It adds a lot of extra work at an already busy time of year, and, truly, you can only ask a guy how a hot dog tastes so many times before it gets a little boring. But I still love the concept, because it gives me a chance to meet people, at every ballpark I visit, who I otherwise wouldn’t. I love getting to tell their stories. And my own cynicism is often trumped, as it was in Myrtle Beach, by the almost giddy enjoyment of the designated eaters themselves. Brad Leininger and Pelicans staffers such as Jen Borowski, Kristen Call, Hunter Horenstein, Andy Milovich (and others, I’m sure) put a lot of effort and coordination toward creating an experience that was truly memorable for all involved.

Rich: The food was so great, I’m not gonna eat for two days. At the gym tomorrow, I’ll be in slow motion.

Chris: This made it even harder to decide what to eat here. Everything is so good.

JD: I couldn’t ask for a better evening at the ballpark. It was great hanging out with you and these guys, and watching Rich drink.

Thomas: This was the best experience I ever had at a ball field. I played ball, but this was the best.

Thanks, guys. It really was a lot of fun.


On the Road: Shooting, Rolling and Singing in Myrtle Beach

To see all my posts from my May 10 visit to the Myrtle Beach Pelicans, click HERE. To see all of my posts from my May 2016 Carolinas Road Trip, click HERE. To see all of my “On the Road” posts, click HERE. If interested in seeing posts covering a visit to a particular team, search for that team’s name in the blog search bar (it’s to your right).

As mentioned in my previous post, my whirlwind day with the Myrtle Beach Pelicans was overseen by the indefatigable front office duo of Jeffrey Draluck and Hunter Horenstein.

For the record, Jeffrey and Hunter later decided that their collective nickname would be “Hans and Franz Jefenstein.”

During the ballgame itself, Hunter was my point man. He ably oversaw the most massive designated eating experience in the history of this blog — a four-man, four-inning effort that will be documented in the next post. When all that was said and done, it was the fifth inning, and there was still much on the agenda. For reasons I can no longer quite ascertain, we began the inning while wandering around the home bullpen area.

Pelicans on their perch.

124Hunter pointed out that one downside of this bullpen setup is that it isn’t visible from the press box, meaning that those covering the game have no way to tell who is warming up. He also said that while walking past the clubhouse door, it is always a good idea to keep one’s hand out in front in a defensive gesture. You can get clobbered if someone opens it from the inside while you’re walking by. The more you know.

125Oh, wait. I do remember why we were out this way. I had been invited to ride along during the nightly ritual that is shooting t-shirts out of a massive 12-barrel t-shirt gun. Jen Borowski, the Pelicans’ senior director of community development, is an expert T-shirt markswoman. I left the shooting to her and was content to just hang out in the passenger seat while trying to look cool.

IMG_1320Riding around the field while shirts are getting shot is a lot of fun.

The view from center field.

IMG_1321Hunter and I then made our way to the third base dugout, so that I could compete in an oversized dice-rolling competition. Along the way Hunter saw an usher by the name of Bob and said “How ya doin’?”

“If I was doing any better, I’d be twins,” replied Bob.

I laughed at Bob’s remark, but upon further reflection I realized I have no idea what it means.

Anyhow, this was the oversized die I was tasked with rolling.

IMG_1324The specifics of this contest have been lost to the annals of time, but I got two rolls and an opponent on the first base side got two rolls as well. I won. That’s the important thing. And I won because my form was flawless.

Photo: Larry Kave

Photo: Larry Kave

The next stop was the press box, so that I could spent an inning on the Pelicans radio broadcast. John Vittas is on the left and Scott Kornberg is on the right. They join a distinguished legacy of Pelicans broadcasters that includes Nathan Barnett (now engaged in a futile quest to get me to visit his current Frisco RoughRidgers locale) and Tyler Maun (now an co-worker and widely beloved co-host of the Show Before the Show podcast).

126Kornberg kindly vacated his seat so that I could spend some time chatting with Vittas.

I was on the air during the top half of the seventh inning and immediately went from the booth to a press-box window so that I could lead the crowd in singing, “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” Footage of this rousing rendition may exist, but I can no longer find it. But I did find this photo (credit Larry Kave) on the team’s Facebook page.


Back on the concourse, I spent a few minutes chatting with longtime gameday employee John Glover. Glover is, in a way, the heart of the franchise. He’s been with the team since the beginning and for years has manned the guest service kiosk. He knows everybody, and everybody knows him.

128Glover, originally from what he calls “the real New Jersey” (Bayonne, to be exact) has a military background and used to teach survival courses in the Air Force. He has a kind, calm demeanor and told me that, when it comes to his time with the Pelicans, “I’ve never had a job I’ve enjoyed so much in my life.”

As the game wrapped up, I spent some time with Pelicans president Andy “Milo” Milovich. He showed off this beach area that, while empty on this Tuesday night, is often used as a group party area.



Milo told me that if a sorority books the beach area, they get to take part in a pre-game “Field of Dreams” of sorts and run out onto the field with the players. I imagine that the players don’t have much of a problem with this.

We then walked over to Grissom Plaza, on the left field concourse, which was turned into a “Mini-Wrigley” after the Pelicans became a Cubs affiliate. Note the ivy. (And my apologies for the poor quality photo.)


As Milo and I wandered about, the Pelicans put the finishing touches on a 5-2 victory over  the Winston-Salem Dash. My evening at the ballpark didn’t end there, however, as almost all of the front staff and assorted hangers-on stuck around for an impromptu post-game party at the groundskeeper’s shed. Moments like those are what makes working in Minor League Baseball special, and it says a lot about the Pelicans front office culture that nearly everyone wanted opted to hang out despite having just worked a 14-hour day and with another 14-hour day on the horizon. (And then another. And another.)

This account must end on a sad note, however, as the seemingly inseparable “Hans and Franz Jefenstein” have been separated from one another. Jeffrey has recently taken a position with the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, leaving Hunter to ride the dinosaurs alone.

Stay strong, guys, and never forget the good times.


On the Road: A Long Day’s Journey Into Night in Myrtle Beach

To see all my posts from my May 10 visit to the Myrtle Beach Pelicans, click HERE. To see all of my posts from my May 2016 Carolinas Road Trip, click HERE. To see all of my “On the Road” posts, click HERE. If interested in seeing posts covering a visit to a particular team, search for that team’s name in the blog search bar (it’s to your right). 

I’m used to arriving at the ballpark before the game begins, but more than seven hours before the game begins? This was my situation when I visited the Myrtle Beach Pelicans.


At the request of the team, I showed up at Field in the late morning so that I could get the “full Myrtle Beach experience.” Pelicans staffers (and best buds) Hunter Horenstein and Jeffrey Draluck were my designated tour guides, and over the course of the afternoon, we did everything from touch horseshoe crabs to play putt-putt to fly in helicopters. These intrepid adventures in rapid-fire tourism have been documented in an article, which touches on the Pelicans and their unique situation of operating a Minor League team within a vacation-based market.


Hunter and Jeffrey, my dino-riding Myrtle Beach tour guides.

By the time Hunter, Jeffrey and I made it back to the ballpark, I was exhausted and just about ready to call it a day. But the day had just begun! We entered the ballpark through the backdoor, which gave us the chance to check out the team locker rooms. The Pelicans are in their second season of Cubs affiliation, and this relationship is made readily apparent throughout the entirety of the players’ domain.

073Even the bathroom stalls are Cubs-branded. Use the stall on the left if you need to “drop a Maddux.”

075The Cubs have assigned a nutritionist to work with the Pelicans players on-site. Therefore, healthy “shot” options are always at the ready.

078The clubhouse was empty because the players were warming up out on the field.

079What’s up, Jeffrey Baez?

080The Pelicans were established in 1999, operating first as a Braves affiliate (1999-2010) before transitioning to the Rangers (2011-2014) and, now, the Cubs. In that time quite a few players have traveled the “Road to the Show.”

082One such player was Mike Hessman, who slugged 23 home runs for the Pelicans in their inaugural ’99 campaign. Hessman went on to hit 433 homers in the Minors, the most of all time. If I have a reason to mention him, however gratuitous, I will.

With the gates open and game time approaching, I returned to the out-of-doors. It was a pleasant evening, if a bit overcast.


In the dugout, I did my first-ever “Facebook Live” interview with Pelicans broadcaster Scott Kornberg.

It was then time to deliver a ceremonial first pitch. For good luck, I had my ball autographed by Splash.

088Splash’s John Hancock increased my confidence that my imminent offering would be straight and true.

And, of course, it was.

You’ll just have to take my word for it.

You’ll also have to take my word for it that there will be plenty more blog posts to come from Myrtle Beach. And by “plenty,” I mean “two.” Stay tuned.


About Friday Night: Carolina Mudcats, May 13, 2016

This season, when I’m on the road, I’ll write an on-the-spot blog post about each Minor League ballpark that I visit. Then, upon my presumed return home, I’ll provide the multifaceted blog coverage that you have come to know and, perhaps, love. Let’s get to it, lest it get to us!

May 13: Five County Ballpark, home of the Carolina Mudcats (Class A Advanced affiliate of the Atlanta Braves)

Opponent: Lynchburg Hillcats, 7:05 p.m. start time

Five County Ballpark, from the outside:


Five County Ballpark, from within: 

IMG_1390Culinary Creation: Pig Wings


Ballpark Character: Muddy, celebrating Friday the 13th by dressing as Freddy Krueger.


At Random: It was also Scout Night

003Your Groundbreaking and Subversive Ballpark Joke of the Day: 

Up Next: 

This trip is over. Stay tuned for a cavalcade of Carolinas-themed blog posts and articles. My next trip, God willing, will be to see the Hartford Yard Goats on June 3 and 4th.

About Tuesday Night: Myrtle Beach Pelicans, May 10, 2016

This season, when I’m on the road, I’ll write an on-the-spot blog post about each Minor League ballpark that I visit. Then, upon my presumed return home, I’ll provide the multifaceted blog coverage that you have come to know and, perhaps, love. Let’s get to it, lest it get to us!

May 10: Field, home of the Myrtle Beach Pelicans

Opponent: Winston-Salem Dash, 7:05 p.m. start time Field, from the outside: Field, from within: 


Culinary Creation: Uh, where to begin? This was one of four courses, served to four designated eaters. Chicken and waffle bites, fried bologna sandwich, chicken bog balls, fried pickles, sweet potato fries. Stay tuned for a full report.


Ballpark Character: Randy the vendor


At Random: That’s not a T-shirt gun; this is a T-shirt gun.


Your Groundbreaking and Subversive Ballpark Joke of the Day: 

Up Next: 

May 12: Columbia Fireflies

May 13: Carolina Mudcats


On the Road: Surf and Turf in Potomac

To see all posts from my June 29, 2015 visit to the Potomac Nationals (this is Part Three) click HERE. To see all of the posts from my June 2015 trip through the Virginias, click HERE. To see ALL of my “On the Road” posts (going back to 2010), click HERE.

2015 “On the Road” landing page HERE! 

This is Tony Jaeger.

047Tony’s last name does not have an umlaut, but his name is pronounced as if it was the first two syllables of herbal liqueur Jagermeister (which does have an umlaut). He said that bartenders sometimes give him free shots of Jagermeister, which is good, because it’s not a drink that he likes enough to actually pay for.

But Tony wasn’t attending this Potomac Nationals game so he could drink, or at least that wasn’t the primary reason. He was attending it so he could eat. Specifically, he was to serve as my designated eater (you know, the individual who consumes the ballpark cuisine that my gluten-free diet prohibits). He was joined at Pfitzner Stadium by his girlfriend, Katie. They met on eHarmony, and have been dating for six months.

052Tony, an El Paso native, lives in Washington D.C. (about a 45-minute drive from “The Pfitz”). He works for a non-profit organization that aids those recovering from addiction, managing the property and also assisting with activities.

“I’ve watched him do bingo,” Katie said.

Katie, meanwhile, had been an elementary school teacher for the last decade. She recently resigned, however, saying that it’s “a longer day than I get paid for.”

Tony and Katie are both baseball fans. He has a share of a Washington Nationals season-ticket plan, regularly rides his bike to games and follows the team’s affiliates online. Katie, who lives in Annapolis, Maryland, is a Baltimore Orioles supporter. She also supported Tony’s designated eating endeavors.

“I’m excited; he likes to eat,” she said. “And I like this stadium. It’s what baseball is really about. I’m glad we’re here.”

The three of us were standing in the Cafe Area, a concession and picnic area located just past the main entrance. The Cafe Area had a fairly wide-ranging menu, including, yes, a bacon boat.


The Cafe Area also had a tremendous line, one so long that I have to show it over the course of two photographs.


044We were in search of “The Codfather,” a fried fish sandwich obtainable at the tent on the left. There was no line to speak of at this tent, thank goodness. The mighty Ben’s Biz does not deign to wait in lines.


This turned out to be a slightly trumped-up “Codfather,” as it included both cod and shrimp. It was topped with cole slaw. 046Here’s a shot of Jaeger:


And here’s a short video:

“Thank God for the cole slaw, otherwise it’s just fried seafood in a hot dog bun,” said Tony, of the Codfather. “It’s good, tasty, if someone was looking for something substantial. I would add cocktail sauce.”

Okay, what’s next?

“Let’s look for the enigmatic,” it says in my notebook. I’m not sure who said that, but it captures our collective spirit at that moment. Specifically, we were looking for the enigmatic “National Burger,” which had been suggested earlier in the evening by P-Nats general manager Josh Olerud. But where could this burger be obtained? It wasn’t in the Cafe Area and it wasn’t in the same tent location in which we had located the Codfather.

As we bravely plunged into the crowded concourse area, our fates uncertain, I heard a voice call my name. It was P-Nats food and beverage manager Aaron Johnson, and in his hand was the mysterious National Burger. The enigmatic had been located, and all was right with the world.


Johnson explained that the National Burger consisted of a pub burger topped with two slices of American cheese (one white and one yellow) and a Nathan’s hot dog. Beneath the burger, serving as the base, was a layer of french fries.

“Since our team name is the Nationals, we figured we’d do something all-American,” Johnson said.

Tony wasted no time getting down to business.

051 “Oh, that’s good,” he said. “I couldn’t taste the potatoes, but cheese, burger and hot dogs captures the taste buds. And it’s not falling apart. If there was [an eating] challenge with this, I’d do it. And I’d get it again, if I could find it.”

And with that, Tony had completed his designated eating duties. He and Katie were free to return to their seats, which were located right behind home plate (courtesy of the P-Nats).

“They’re excellent seats,” Tony said. “I was telling [Katie], ‘Baby, this is the closest you’re ever gonna see home plate.'”