Results tagged ‘ Charitable Endeavors ’

Putting the Fun in Philanthrofunphy

From 50-50 raffles to jersey auctions to rappelling mascots, Minor League teams are well-versed in the art of raising money for charity. And, lately, some teams have taken their philanthropic endeavors in bold new directions.

Take the Sacramento River Cats — please — who last month announced that they will issue a $1 fine to anyone who spells their name incorrectly:

You’ve been warned: the moniker “River Cats” is comprised of two words, with a capital “R” and a capital “C.” Effective immediately, all members of the local and national media, River Cats corporate partners, full- or part-time River Cats staff, and season, flex, and mini-plan ticket holders will be fined $1 for spelling “River Cats” incorrectly.

All money collected will go to the River Cats Foundation, which has contributed more than $1.5 million in cash and $16.2 million in in-kind donations to the greater Sacramento community since 2000.

This despite the fact that the team’s Twitter handle is @rivercats — no underscore! — and their logo doesn’t really make a point of separating “River” and “Cats.”

cats

The River Cats’ initiative brings up a larger issue, in that there is a complete lack of uniformity when it comes to Minor League monikers. The Charleston RiverDogs do not use a space between River and Dogs, for example, while the Delmarva Shorebirds go the one word, no caps route. The Minor Leagues are a grammatical minefield, their team names as unregulated as a 19th century western territory brothel.

Another unique fundraising effort comes courtesy of the Greensboro Grasshoppers, who partnered with outbid.com in order to host a live online auction featuring team owner Donald Moore as auctioneer.

GreensboroHeader

Outbid is said to “combine the theater and transparency of live online auctions with social gaming features,” and its existence means that we are all one step closer to living in a Utopian society. Items that the Grasshoppers auctioned off included team-autographed baseballs, a night in a 24-person ballpark suite and, best of all, an autographed Willie Nelson jersey.

Finally, we turn our attention to the Lancaster JetHawks (who, it should be noted, recently had to postpone one of their games due to a haboob).

The JetHawks won the California League championship last season, and now fans are being given the chance to get a ring.

jethawks

Swiped from the press release:

The Lancaster JetHawks have partnered with two local little leagues to host a special raffle giving two individuals the opportunity to win an authentic customized 2012 California League Championship Ring. Proceeds from the raffle will be donated to West Lancaster and Quartz Hill Little Leagues.

Raffle tickets are on sale now and will be sold through June 10. Tickets will be available for $5 each, or five for $20….The winning raffle tickets will be drawn just prior to the JetHawks game on June 12. The two winners will receive custom-made rings personalized with their own last name during a special pre-game ceremony that will take place at a JetHawks game in late August.

And that shall conclude this blogging week, which was admittedly a light one. And when things are light on the blog it’s always a good bet that they’re correspondingly heavy over on MiLB.com Head to the site for Promo Preview, an Opening Weekend Crooked Numbers column, and three — count ‘em three — pieces of content related to 42. 

I do it all for you, as “you” is what I have nicknamed my paycheck.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

In it for the Long Haul

Approximately two and a half months have passed since the advent of superstorm Sandy, and the areas most affected by this meteorological calamity are still in the beginning stages of what has been and will continue to be a long and arduous clean-up process.

With the long view in mind, I wanted to dedicate (the bulk of) today’s post to informing you of/reminding you about a forward-thinking Lakewood BlueClaws initiative: Restore the Shore.

restore

“Restore the Shore” is a multi-faceted and long-running program, which the BlueClaws are running in conjunction with several local businesses. It all starts with the purchase of a “Restore the Shore” t-shirt, which can be obtained HERE.

shirt

Per the team:

How It Works
- Companies, or individuals, order t-shirts online here and register by emailing restore@blueclaws.com or returning this registration form.

- Each Friday until Memorial Day, staff members (or families) wear the t-shirts and each person makes a donation every Friday.

- Donations are made through PayPal at BlueClaws.com/Restore orAtlanticPTCenter.com.

Businesses that participate will be honored in a ceremony at a 2013 BlueClaws game.

And then there’s this all-important question: Where does the money go?

More from the team:

The BlueClaws and Atlantic Physical Therapy Center are committed to supporting families impacted by Hurricane Sandy. In early 2013, those impacted will be able to fill out an application and donations will be made to as many families as possible.

The BlueClaws staff has been wearing their Restore the Shore shirts each and every Friday since the initiative started (I even spotted them doing so at the Baseball Winter Meetings in Nashville), and since then the movement has spread to other Minor League markets as well. Behold, the Lexington Legends.

lexshore

Minor League Baseball charities has donated $10,000 to the program, thus far the largest single contribution received.

restoremilb

Kudos to the BlueClaws for taking the lead in such a long-running and impactful charitable initiative. I’ll continue to publicize and provide updates on these efforts as we move closer to Opening Day.

In (far) less notable news, remember last week when I gave some publicity to the retro baseball-card inspired staff bios of the State College Spikes?

Well, as a reward for my positive PR the team sent along my very own retro baseball card. I am honored.

87toppstemplate-hill (2)

The above pic was a self-portrait taken during one of my “On the Road” stadium visits last season. The first person to identify in the comments where I was in that picture shall receive a random assortment of Minor League swag that I have lying in a box under my desk.

Good luck, and for (far) more 1987 Topps content click HERE to check out last year’s multi-part series on players included in that set who have gone on to Minor League coaching careers. It won me a Pulitzer.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Life Goes On

It had to happen eventually: not only is the (regular) season over, but I am all out of “On the Road” content. I hope that you enjoyed this year’s crop of road trip posts and articles — this sort of material is something that continues to grow and evolve from season to season, and I’m always looking to improve and expand upon that which I’ve done before. There is still a long way to go.

So, what now?

A lot of things, really. I’ve got a ton of “Return to the Road” material left to share (aka “non-baseball road trip content)”, some guest posts to assemble and disseminate, and I’m currently in the midst of the mentally exhausting task of compiling 2012’s “Promotion of the Year” MiLBY nominees. (Please, get in touch if you have any opinions to share on that front.)

But, for now, let me return to the full-to-bursting “potential blog topics” folder that resides deep within my Outlook account. Oh, yeah — we’re going to do this post “Bouillabaisse” style. There will be plenty more where this came from.

Let’s begin by taking a look at one of the best theme jerseys of the season, worn by the Colorado Springs Sky Sox on July 28th:

These jerseys were worn to commemorate the heroic efforts of the Colorado Springs police and firefighters who risked life and limb to combat the Waldo Canyon fire that raged through the region in early July.

From the press release:

These game worn jerseys will be auctioned off during and after the game with 100% of the proceeds benefiting local fire and
police designated charities. The Colorado Springs Fire Protective Association will receive 50% of the proceeds and the other 50% will support the Police Foundation of Colorado Springs.

Let’s proceed to a considerably smaller scale and quirkier charitable effort that was detailed on this blog a few months back: Northwestern University’s “Schedule Cards for Kevin.” Click on the link to read more about it, but the premise is simply that the university was collecting schedule cards for a developmentally disabled Northwestern super-fan. I asked Minor League teams and fans to join the cause, and many did so. But worthy of special note is Albuquerque-based Biz Blog reader Dave H., who sent along the following array of schedules to Kevin. How cool is this?

In an email, Halliday shared the circumstances that led to his having so many pocket schedules. His anecdote is a reminder of just how much has changed with the advent of the internet. In the old days, collecting Minor League memorabilia took serious effort:

In the early 70s I just had to have a fitted Yankees cap just like the players wear. Found a store in downtown LA that had one. Fast forward a few years and I had a players cap for every MLB team. All I had to look forward to each year were the small number of changes teams made to their uniforms. Then I discovered Minor League teams had much cooler caps, colors, and nicknames. But availability at that time was certainly local. A worker at our local minor league team noticed my Denver Bears cap and commented that he just saw Denver play in Oklahoma City. When I asked him how I might get an Oklahoma City cap, he showed me his copy of Baseball America’s Directory. I got my own copy and sent requests to over 100 teams for a mail order souvenir list. It was amazing what teams sent to me. Full color brochures, type-written product lists, phone numbers of employees that might be willing to take time to throw something in a box if my check cleared. Of course marketing has changed the last 25 years, as has my collection. I still look forward to the ever changing name/logo/color changes that make Minor League Baseball unique.

 So, among the stuff sent to me 20 some years ago were schedule cards. I just kept them stored away. And I would casually pick some up wherever I went. Attached is a photo of over 30 duplicate schedule cards that I am more than willing to send to Kevin, along with some ticket stubs I’ve kept. Hopefully there are some he doesn’t have and maybe a few teams he has never heard of.


Reader correspondence is one of my favorite aspects of this job — keep sending the emails, and I will keep answering them!

Recently the scorekeeping savant known as Stevo got in touch with some anecdotes from the Louisville Bats’ “Halloween Night” promotion. Among the evening’s special features were videoboard headshots in which the players were “disguised” as someone (or something) else. This one, of Corky Miller, was particularly apropos.

Of this there can be no doubt: International League icon Corky Miller is the Yosemite Sam of our time.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Don’t Smoke ‘Em If You’ve Got ‘Em

If you’ve got $5 burning a hole in your pocket, then there’s something wrong with your pants, the money, or both. But, should you be in Fresno at any point this season, then I nonetheless have a good suggestion as for how you should spend it.

Beginning last week and continuing through the end of the season, the Fresno Grizzlies are giving fans a chance to win nothing less than this, the most valuable baseball card of all time.

That’s the Honus Wagner T206, aka the holy grail of baseball cards. Estimates vary regarding how many were produced (between 60 and 200), and in recent years it has sold for upwards of $2.8 million dollars.

The Grizzlies are specifically raffling off a Wagner card, however. At this juncture I’ll give the floor to Grizzlies media relations coordinator Chris Kutz:

[W}e are raising money for our Grizzlies Community Fund through a raffle for an unopened, professionally-graded pack of 1909-11 Piedmont cigarettes….[T}his unopened pack of cigarettes could contain the “Holy Grail” of baseball cards depicting Honus Wagner, as a limited number of these cards are still potentially out in the public, somewhere to be found. While there is not a guarantee the Honus Wagner card is in the unopened pack, there very well may be other collectible cards from the T206 set inside the pack that are worth thousands of dollars as well.

Our raffle will run from now until September 3rd (Labor Day). We have our last regular season game on 9/3, and we will reveal the winner at the game, giving them the choice to open it there or hold off.

Raffle tickets are $5, and are available on the Chukchansi Stadium concourse during all Grizzlies home games. Proceeds benefit the Grizzlies Community Fund, whose various initiatives include the team’s Wild About Reading program and the Junior Grizzlies baseball league for youths with physical and mental disabilities.

And, as Kutz points out, the intrigue won’t end when a winner is named on September 3. Will he or she then open the pack in hopes of a Honus? Or would selling it untouched to the highest bidder be the wiser move? And, of course, there’s always the chance of some sort of KLF-inspired protest of the entire notion of commerce. 

Stay tuned…

Meanwhile, I am writing this post while on the cusp of my next road trip. Once again, the itinerary:

June 7 — Oklahoma City RedHawks

June 8 — Tulsa Drillers

June 9 — Northwest Arkansas Naturals

June 10 — Springfield Cardinals

June 11 — Travel (should be in Memphis that evening)

June 12 — Memphis Redbirds

June 13 — Jackson Generals

June 14 — Arkansas Travelers

Please get in touch if you have anything whatsoever to share about any of these locations. And, if you plan on being at any of the games, then please make sure to say hello. I enjoy meeting people (on the road and otherwise), and say yes to as many invitations and recommendations as I can.

Therefore, this will most likely be my final post until Monday. And, from that point on, expect another deluge of “On the Road” content — both here at the blog and over on MiLB.com. Good luck and Godspeed, me.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

I Blog in the East, I Blog in the West

…And I come to give you more, and I never give you less….Let’s go!

If you “Look At Me Now” you’ll find me in NYC, but at this time tomorrow I’ll be flying the friendly skies, airbound toward the arid. Look for “on location” blog posts, articles, and interviews the rest of this week into next, as I spend time in Tucson, Lancaster, High Desert, Inland Empire, and Lake Elsinore (and maybe more, logistics permitting).

But before all that, a good old-fashioned blog bouillabaisse of relevant Minor League biz-ness news (and, for the record, never have I spelled “bouillabaisse” correctly on the first try).

This week’s “Farm’s Almanac” is on the Minor League response to the Alabama tornadoes, and can be read HERE. Mentioned briefly in the story, and something I’d like to emphasize here, is that the Burlington Bees are raising money for the family of grounds crew intern Cody Wales, whose home was leveled by the tornado.

The team has been raising money at the ballpark, and checks to benefit the Cody Wales Family can be sent to the Bees front office at 2712 Mt. Pleasant Street, P.O. Box 824, Burlington, IA 52601.

—-

It’s Tuesday, meaning a new “Promotion Preview” column is up on MiLB.com. It was an admittedly slow week for promos, and I am heartened by the fact that next week’s column gives me more than twice as much notable stuff to choose from. I  once again implore you to keep in touch, with info on upcoming promos as well as recaps of those past. I cannot stress this enough! The current soporific state of my inbox leaves much to be desired.

Highlighted in a previous column was the Richmond Flying Squirrels “High Five World Record Attempt,” in which mascot Nutzy attempted to set a new standard for “most high fives by an individual in an hour.” And indeed he did (though yet to be verified by Guinness), slapping palms with 1620 fans.

Featured in last week’s column — and happening TONIGHT — is the Memphis Redbirds’ 30th Anniversary Salute to Charlie Lea’s No-Hitter (Lea now works as a color commentator for the club). The Redbirds are pulling out all the stops with this one, going so far as to tweak an immensely popular viral video.

An event that should have been included, but was instead egregiously overlooked, was the Durham Bulls’ return to iconic Durham Athletic Park yesterday. This video sums up the evening very well:

The Crazy Hot Dog Vendor wasn’t overlooked, but perhaps should have been. As this video points out, the use of the word “vendor” in his job title is blatantly misleading.

But in the end, Minor League Baseball is more about the overall experience than any specific promotion. The Fort Myers Miracle have put together an ad campaign that emphasizes this point very well. My embedding capabilities are lacking in this case, but they can be viewed HERE. And while you’re at it, check out this local newspaper story about the Miracle Bullpen and its trusty Justin Beiber backpack.

And, yes, the story features a photo of Bruce Pugh heading to the bullpen while wearing the backpack — a triumvirate of BPs, and possibly a foursome if he happened to be heading there after batting practice.

I’m now less than 24 hours from saying goodbye to the East Coast.  The next time you’ll hear from me I’ll be writing in an agitated late-night state from some hotel room, binging on Mello Yello and wondering what’s it all for.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Creating News By Responding To It

Suffice to say that it’s been a momentous couple of days for the United States and the world at large, with the killing of Bin Laden absolutely dominating the conversation. Not surprisingly, Minor League teams across the country found a way to respond to the news. A brief smattering:

The Bowie Baysox issued the following missive on Facebook In response to President Obama’s call of unity and solidarity….the first 300 fans that enter the ballpark receive a mini-American Flag.

– In San Antonio, the Missions wore their camo uniforms as part of an impromptu celebration of the military. It turned out to be quite a game, too, with David Robertson hitting for the cycle as the Missions cruised to a 17-6 victory.

– In an email received just as the blog was going to “press,” the Northwest Akransas Naturals announced that Inspired by the bravery of the Navy Seals in Sunday night’s mission in Pakistan, the Northwest Arkansas Naturals would like to recognize and thank all military members – active and retired – with free tickets to any of the next four home games at Arvest Ballpark, starting Tuesday evening.

– The Altoona Curve offered free tickets to all military members, for games on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. Rumors that Steamer was part of the special ops team have not been substantiated.

The team also remarked, facetiously albeit accurately, via Twitter that “In honor of yesterday’s events, July 4th-born Jared Hughes will be tonight’s starting pitcher for the Altoona Curve.” While Hughes only lasted four innings, the Curve rallied for a 10-9 victory over Harrisburg. This put an end to their streak of 19 straight games alternating a win with a loss (!!!)

The aforementioned Harrisburg Senators are more than just the visiting team in this particular narrative. Yesterday the team made its own announcement: In light of the events of the past 48 hours, the Harrisburg Senators want to say thank you to the U.S. Armed Forces for all that they do….Beginning this Friday, May 6th through the end of the 2011 season all active duty and retired military, Air and Army National Guard, and Reservists and their family receive box seats for only $7.50 (normally $9) with their military ID.

One of the few games going on when the news of Bin Laden’s death broke was a tilt in Tucson between the Padres and Colorado Springs — on Military Night, no less. The team made the decision to announce the news over the PA, resulting in a memorable scene.

“We felt [making the announcement] was an important thing to do,” said T-Pads general manager Mike Feder. “We’ve made a major commitment to reach out to the military; we have very large Air Force and intelligence bases located near us, and there’s a huge National Guard presence as well.”

A more localized case of dedicated team and and fan support involves Bryan Stow, the San Francisco Giant fan senselessly beaten into a coma on Opening Day at Dodger Stadium. His plight has prompted an outpouring of giving, with everyone from Tim Lincecum to Charlie Sheen chipping in with donations to help support Stow and his family during this exceedingly difficult time.

But one of the most substantial and heartfelt fundraising efforts occurred within Minor League Baseball. Stow often worked as a paramedic at San Jose’s Municipal Stadium, and the hometown Giants therefore dedicated the entire month of April to him. Throughout the month the team raised $36,181, and the Triple-A Fresno Grizzlies pitched in an additional $7,181 after holding a fundraising night of their own. That’s $43, 362 combined, which was presented to the Stow family prior to Sunday’s ballgame.


– And now, the moment in which none of you were waiting for: me promoting my own material. It’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it!

Today, as with every Tuesday, brings a new “Promotion Preview” column. Super Nintendo, bubble gum, mustaches, formal wear, “Charlie Bit Me”, Tiger Blood cocktails, and more. Always more.

And yesterday saw the 2011 debut of “Crooked Numbers“, a monthly compendium of statistical oddities and curiosities. Or, as I like to call it, “an obsessive-compulsive labor of love that I spend way too much time on even though it gets no feedback from anyone, thereby making an already sensitive writer even more sensitive.” That title was rejected by the MiLB.com higher-ups, probably for good reason.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Something For Everyone

Lots of flotsam and jetsam has piled up on the shores of Ben’s Biz Blog remote island headquarters, and the only way to deal with such excess detritus is by accumulating it into a tidy pile.

Nice to get a belabored analogy out of the way so early. Let’s go to the info!

First of all, a pair of Pacific Coast League announcers are on the cusp of celebrating significant milestones. Tonight in Des Moines, Deene Ehlis will call his 3000th game for the Iowa Cubs. The broadcast will also be notable in that it’ll include an interview with Indianapolis Colts receiver (and University of Iowa alum) Dallas Clark, who has been immortalized by the I-Cubs in bobblehead form.

Then on Tuesday, Steve Klauke of the Salt Lake Bees call his 2500th contest:

Reports the team:

Klauke joins legendary Utah Jazz broadcaster Hot Rod Hundley (2,645) as the only two play-by-play broadcasters to call 2,500 games with one Utah team. He also becomes just the fourth current Pacific Coast League team broadcaster to reach the 2,500 games-called mark with one PCL team. Currently in his 18th season with the Bees, Klauke can be heard live on 1320 KFAN and at slbees.com.

Klauke will be recognized during a pregame presentation on Tuesday, April 26, while audio highlights of his more notable calls will be played throughout the game.

Trivia Question! Who are the other two current PCL broadcasters to have called at least 2500 games? The first person to email me with the correct response will get to contribute 150 words to a future blog post on whatever topic they choose (must be family friendly, of course). benjamin.hill@mlb.com

Since we’re on the topic of the PCL , it is well worth pointing out that the Fresno Grizzlies are staging a Saturday night tribute to severely (and senselessly) injured San Francisco Giants fan Bryan Stow.

In the words of the team:

Fans can purchase a Super View ticket and special Bryan Stow bracelet for $15, with $10 going directly to The Bryan Stow Fund, established to support Bryan and his family. Stow is a paramedic with American Medical Response and works games for the San Francisco’s Single-A affiliate, the San Jose Giants, at Municipal Stadium.

As you’ll recall, the aforementioned San Jose ballclub is dedicating the month of April to Stow.

I might as well stay with the PCL, as yesterday Sacramento and Reno upped the stakes of their rivalry via a bet between each city’s classic car museum. Typical, right?


Pertinent details:

The annual season series between the Reno Aces and the Sacramento River Cats will take on new significance in 2011, as the two host cities’ auto museums will face off in a high profile wager based on the overall winner of the season series. Reno’s very own National Automobile Museum will put up the 1949 Mercury that James Dean drove in “Rebel Without a Cause,” while Sacramento’s California Auto Museum will put up a 1932 Ford raced by driving legend AJ Foyt.

The RiverCats have owned the Aces as of late. Reno’s win on 4/19 snapped a 12-game losing streak against Sacramento, with their previous victory having come exactly a year previous. (My knowledge truly knows no boundaries, a fact that I’ll tell myself many times over tonight while sitting in an easy chair and drinking whiskey in a darkened living room.)

But anyway, can you believe that I’ve made it this far before featuring a new food item that laughs in the face of death? What follows is the Lancaster JetHawks’ new “Heart-Stopper” a limited time only delicacy consisting of a hot dog on biscuits, smothered in sausage gravy, cheese, and bacon.

I actually think this one looks pretty good! If only concession items could safely and sensibly be sent via the United States post office…

Until that day arrives, I’ll be amusing myself with humorous videos. This one, featuring the clumsy ball-handling skills of Durham Bulls hurler Mike Ekstrom, is a must-see instant classic.

That’s going to close out the week for me. But before I go, may I direct your attention to my latest “Farm’s Almanac” piece on MiLB.com? Professor Joe Price is singing the National Anthem at over 100+ ballparks this summer, and he’s truly a man on a mission. From the story:

“I always love for people to join in, and for the anthem to be sung together regardless of political orientation,” said Price. “This can, potentially, be everyone’s national anthem. And as a result it can bridge the gap between the Tea Party and liberals, between hawks and doves. Because, even though it is a wartime song, it was written as a celebration of freedom. The preservation of our freedoms is what lies at the heart of it.”

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Home Field Advantage

This past Thursday, the Tri-City ValleyCats embarked upon their “4 in 24″ project. This ambitious and worthwhile involved the renovation of four local youth baseball fields over the span of 24 hours. Here’s a collage of “after” pictures, taken from an excellent blog post re-capping the event.

The project was spearheaded by the team, and done in coordination with an array of corporate sponsors and community volunteers. As the ValleyCats explain:

Part of our mission as the Capital Region’s professional baseball team is to act as a steward for the game. The 4 in 24 project was a great way to further this initiative by giving back to the community that has supported us since 2002…The biggest challenge that we faced was the sheer size of this project. The ValleyCats organization has renovated a number of fields over the years but completing four within twenty four hours required a well-coordinated effort and a lot of coffee. Each of the leagues and sponsors provided volunteers that were crucial in moving things along.

The field work included “cutting out the entire infield grass, raking and grading the dirt, leveling the playing surface, laying out brand new grass and rebuilding the entire pitchers mound and home plate areas.” The aforementioned blog post includes a plethora of “before and after” photos. Here are two:


An even more current example of MiLB altruism can be found in Durham, as the Bulls are collecting food and clothing for those victimized by the recent tornadoes in North Carolina. The team offered free tickets to Wednesday’s matinee contest for all fans donating five canned goods or a bag of clothing. Here’s the resultant scene on the concourse:

As is often the case in April, poor weather is wreaking havoc throughout the world of Minor League Baseball. Yesterday’s post included snow-filled photos and video from West Michigan, and today the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers have postponed their ballgame due to an excess of the white stuff.

This picture appeared on announcer Chris Mehring’s “Rattler Radio” blog today.  It appears that the grounds crew workers may be preparing to pelt the broadcast booth with snowballs.

Meanwhile the Quad Cities River Bandits are currently playing a ballgame despite these conditions outside of the stadium (this photo originally appeared in the Peoria Chiefs “Playing in Peoria” blog).

Such is life when you play in a ballpark built on the banks of the Mississippi, but extensive renovations of recent vintage (including berm seating that doubles as a floodwall) have done much to mitigate the damage.

I’ve gotten through this post without a single joke attempt, a rarity in the world of Ben’s Biz Blog. It feels kind of good, actually, so I’ll end this before the urge to pun-tificate becomes unbearable. Thanks, as always, for reading.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Closing Out Opening Day

The final wave of Minor League home openers are taking place throughout the country today and tomorrow, with many of them qualifying as bona-fide galas.

The Reading Phillies certainly had a lot going on. The club rang in a new era yesterday, as fans finally got a chance to check out the many improvements  made to 60-year-old FirstEnergy Stadium as part of a $10 million renovation project. Churgers were chomped, the mascot band rocked, and the first 3500 entrants received a “Ryan Howard Garden Gnome” figurine.  But one fan got to take home a 550-pound life-size version. Behold:

And behold some more:

Meanwhile, the Omaha Storm Chasers play their first game ever at Werner Park tonight tomorrow!

Update: In a disappointing but perhaps fitting bit of irony, the Storm Chasers had to postpone their home opener due to inclement weather.

The first 2500 fans receive welcome mats emblazoned with the stadium logo, and one of the guests of honor is none other than part-owner Warren Buffet. The Opening Day festivities started early this morning, with the Weather Channel broadcasting live from the stadium between 6 and 9 a.m. Say what you will about the new team name, but suffice to say that no national broadcasts would be taking place at the home opener of a Minor League team named the Royals (save for Will and Kate-obsessed British tabloid television, but they’ll broadcast from just about anywhere).

Another Pacific Coast League opener of especial significance is going down in Tucson, as the Padres play their first game at Kino Stadium after re-locating from Portland. The evening will begin on an emotional note, as the team is staging a stirring tribute to local heroes:

With Opening Night falling just three months after the tragic events of January 8th, the Tucson Padres will honor many people associated with the shooting. The following five people will throw ceremonial first pitches:

 Colonel Bill Badger: Retired Army Colonel who helped tackle the shooter on January 8th

 Daniel Hernandez: The intern who helped save the life of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords

 Patricia Maisch: Tucson resident who helped contain the shooter after he was tackled

 Roger Salzgeber: Tucson resident who helped tackle the shooter on January 8th

 Joe Zamudio: Tucson resident who jumped on the shooter to contain him

In a similarly community-minded move, the San Jose Giants have dedicated the month of April to critically-injured fan Bryan Stow. Stow, who was attacked at the Los Angeles Dodgers home opener and suffered serious injuries, has been a familiar presence at San Jose’s Municipal Stadium.

Reports the team:

The San Jose Giants will collect donations throughout the month of April to benefit the fund established to support Bryan and his family with a special tribute planned for Opening Day, April 14th at Municipal Stadium.

 “Bryan has contributed so much to the safe operation of Municipal Stadium. He has been the first person to respond to any injuries in our ballpark and has provided outstanding medical assistance to all of our fans.” said Jim Weyermann, President and CEO of the San Jose Giants. “He is a member of our family and needs our help and prayers. We intend to be there for him in the same way he has been there for our fans, hand in hand, working together to make sure that he and his family don’t have to go through this alone.”

One of the beautiful things about attending a Minor League Baseball game is that there is equal room for wacky and the somber. But when it comes to blogging about it all, I often struggle to find an appropriate tone when dealing with such disparate subject matter in the same post.

That said, I’d like to close the blogging week by bringing your attention to one of my favorite press releases of the year. In Tuesday’s post I wrote about the Lancaster JetHawks’ “Sweet Po-Tater Tots”, and the very next day this appeared.

Between Taters and Later

Benjamin Hill, a national reporter/blogger for MILB.com, the official website of Minor League Baseball, recently included the JetHawks Sweet Po-tater Tots in a blog entry on premier new food items throughout Minor League Baseball.

That’s me all right — a national reporter/blogger who will now spend the weekend showing skeptical club doormen a crumpled print-out of the JetHawks press release.

“Of course I’m on the list. Don’t you know who I am?”

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

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A Leader Among Followers

telegram.JPGAt this juncture in the space-time continuum, nearly everyone agrees that proactive social media engagement is crucial to a team’s operation.

But how, exactly, to engage?

One Minor League team that has been leading the virtual charge is the Fresno Grizzlies. The team has held innovative “Tweet-Up” promotions in each of the last two seasons (which were summarily copied by parent club the San Francisco Giants), and this past week they enticed fans to join them on Twitter by staging a drawing for Hot Stove Dinner tickets that was only open to new followers.

This most recent effort made the Grizzlies the first team in the Pacific Coast League to eclipse the 5000 followers milestone, and to celebrate they’re offering an exclusive ticket deal. Sez the team:

The package includes a Field Box seat for all four games of opening weekend…as well as aThumbnail image for Thumbnail image for fresno g.jpg number of special perks.
In addition to the tickets, fans will also get a pregame, behind-the-scenes tour of the ballpark on Friday, a pregame catch on the field on Saturday, and a post-game photo in the dugout on Sunday all for just $40. The tickets alone are a $64 value, and the special ballpark experiences are available only through this ticket package.

I spoke with Grizzlies media relations director Noah Frank, who remarked that “We’re always looking for new ways to keep people tuned in, and this is a great way to get info to our fans.”

pcl.jpgIt’s also a great way to maintain a rivalry, as the Grizzlies recent Twitter surge gave them more followers than previous PCL leader the Reno Aces.

“With a new ballpark and a new team, [the Aces] started with a lot of momentum. But we pride ourselves at being at the forefront and we’re coming on strong,” said Frank.

While that’s exceedingly mild as trash talk goes, it’s good enough for me. Your move, Reno!

Another excellent social media initiative, and one that I’ve written about before, was the Durham Bulls’ fundraising drive on behalf of the Durham Literacy Center. The team, which donated $1 to the center for every new fan they acquired on Facebook, announced today that $2000 was raised.

This idea is simple and easily adaptable, and I will be a crestfallen blogger if no other teams follow suit. Get to copying!

And, of course, let me know what YOU have been up to when it comes to social media initiatives. In the meantime, I’ll be stressing over the fact that this post didn’t have any good jokes (me to jokes: “I can’t live, if living is without you.”)

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

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