Results tagged ‘ Carolina Mudcats ’

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.

040

“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.

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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.

***

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

instagram.com/thebensbiz

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.

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

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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.

***

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

instagram.com/thebensbiz

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.

1992

FiveCountyStadiumArial1992

1996

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.)

008

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.

012

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.

013

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.

016

This is the view from the second level, which illustrates that those from Zebulon and its surrounding areas like to drive white pickups.
020

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.

023

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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.

***

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

instagram.com/thebensbiz

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:

001

Five County Ballpark, from within: 

IMG_1390Culinary Creation: Pig Wings

033

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

IMG_1402

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 MiLB.com articles. My next trip, God willing, will be to see the Hartford Yard Goats on June 3 and 4th.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

instagram.com/thebensbiz

Time for a Do-Over?

Over on MiLB.com you can read my round-up of the 2014-15 Minor League re-branding season, featuring 11 new team names and/or logos. In conjunction with this, my latest journalistic masterwork, I decided to take a look around the Minor League landscape in order to subjectively determine the team from each league that is most in need of a makeover.

We’ll start at the top of the Minor League ladder and work our way down. Perhaps, come this time next year, some of these clubs will have opted to update their iconography. Whether you agree, disagree or couldn’t care less, feel free to tell me so in the comments or on Twitter (@bensbiz).

International League: Louisville Bats (current logo in use since 2002)

bats

This logo is a little too reminiscent of Batman, so maybe it’s time that Louisville Gotham selves another one.

Pacific Coast League: Fresno Grizzlies (current logo in use since 2008)

frezThe Grizzlies are actively embracing their post-San Francisco identity, but the orange and black color scheme still screams “Giants affiliation!”

Eastern League: Portland Sea Dogs (current logo in use since 2003)

portlandThe “Sea Dog” in question looks like a Puritan-era rulebreaker, locked in the stockades so that all may ridicule him for his misdeeds.

Southern League: Mississippi Braves (current logo in use since 2005)

mbravesI guess there’s not much that can be done when you share the name of the parent club. Atlanta affiliates are a pretty strait-laced bunch.

Texas League: Midland RockHounds (current logo in use since 1999)

midlandThis ‘Hound looks like he would have been pals with Canseco and McGwire during their “Bash Brothers” days.

California League: High Desert Mavericks (current logo in use since 1991)

hdYou may not be able to set your watch to this logo, but at least you can hang your hat on it.

Carolina League: Carolina Mudcats (current logo in use since 1991)

mudcatsThis reminds me of the Sea Dogs’ logo. What did these poor creatures do to deserve permanent entrapment within a letter of the alphabet?

Florida State League: Tampa Yankees (current logo in use since 1994)

tampaThis is the Minor League logo equivalent of having a no-facial hair policy.

Midwest League: Lansing Lugnuts (current logo in use since 1996)

lansing

As was pointed out to me when I visited Lansing: That’s not a lugnut. It’s a bolt.

South Atlantic League: Kannapolis Intimidators (current logo in use since 2001)

kannapWhen it comes to this logo, my mind says “No” but my heart says “Yes.” I (not-so) secretly love it, despite, or perhaps because, it is inherently insane.

New York-Penn League: Brooklyn Cyclones (current logo in use since 2001)

cyclones

The Cyclones seem to do everything right, so I may as well give them a hard time for not updating the logo they came into existence with.

Northwest League: Salem-Keizer Volcanoes (current logo in use since 1997)

skvFor my thoughts on this, see: Intimidators, Kannapolis

Appalachian League: Johnson City Cardinals (current logo in use since 1995)

jccNot sure where this one falls in the bird-logo pecking order.

Pioneer League: Helena Brewers (current logo in use since 2011)

hbAs someone with celiac disease, I find this logo offensive.

In closing, I’d like to offer a tip of the cap to Chris Creamer’s SportsLogos.net. It’s a great source of info.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

From Boats to Floats

It’s a strange state of affairs when Major League logo unveilings are outpacing those from the far more pliable Minors, but what is life if not strange?

For in the past week we’ve seen new looks for the San Diego Padres and (more significantly) the Miami Marlins, while the only fresh identity to be unleashed in the Minors for 2012 remains the defiantly exuberant surfin’ Cubs of Daytona. This will soon change, as the Pensacola Blue Wahoos are scheduled to emerge from the tropical depths this Friday (for more on Pensacola, check out my MiLB.com piece that ran on Friday).

For now, however, those needing a Minor League logo fix will have to make due with this Lake County Captains 10-Year Anniversary insignia:

The press release announcing the new mark notes that The logo will be featured on limited edition merchandise available at the Cargo Hold gift store at Classic Park as well as on-line at http://www.CaptainsBaseball.com. Merchandise featuring the special logo is currently arriving now in time for the holiday shopping season. The logo will also be seen on all team-issued print materials produced for the 2012 season.

And, as you may recall, it was just last season that the Captains unveiled their new primary logo.  That came amidst a month which I now refer to as Logo-vember 2010, as it also included unveilings from Asheville, Kinston, Wisconsin, Omaha, New Hampshire, Kannapolis, and Altoona (among others).  What a memorable — nay, magical! — time that was.

But even pre-existing logos need publicity, and the Carolina Mudcats got a nice boost last week when a new character on the Fox show Bones sported a team cap. Apparently this fella was named “Finn.”

Another team due for some increased exposure via the star-making machinations of the entertainment industry are the Fresno Grizzlies. This past August scenes from an upcoming Billy Crystal vehicle entitled “Parental Guidance” were shot at Chukchansi Park.  And apparently the filmmakers were so enraptured with mascot Parker that he was recently flown down to Atlanta in order to do some follow-up shots. For more, check out this interview with Parker in the team’s “Yardwork” blog.

The Talent (Photo: Cody Turner)

But a mascot’s true place is close to home, of course, especially with the holiday season approaching. This is a most busy time of year, as amply illustrated by today’s announcement by the Delmarva Shorebirds that Sherman will be appearing in a whopping SIX parades. Can anyone top that?

And in perhaps even more exhilarating mascot parade news, the R-Phils mascot band has announced their first “in-motion” gig: atop a float at the Reading Christmas parade.

Quack the Duck is psyched:

I have no doubt that he’ll be the top “billed” performer.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

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