Results tagged ‘ Charleston RiverDogs ’
We’re still in the midst of Opening Week, during which Minor League teams pull out all of the stops: Blue Angel flyovers, operatic National Anthems, special guests from seasons past, that sort of thing.
But there’s always room for the weirdness. Always. And one of the prime purveyors of the surreal ballpark spectacle are the Lake Elsinore Storm, whose Opening Night festivities included the following dance routine.
Ah, Grounds Crew Gorilla, I missed you, buddy. Planks for being you.
The Grounds Crew Gorilla may be a unique character, but he’s hardly alone when it comes to animalian ballpark denizens. One of the most recent on the scene is the Great Lakes Loons’ “Rall E. Camel“, a new companion to Lou E. Loon:
Rall E. was the denizen of the much-hyped mysterious box that arrived at Dow Diamond this winter, but apparently he’s none the worse for wear after his long confinement. (No word yet on whether his theme song will be “My Humps.”)
Amidst a spirited discussion on the team’s Facebook page, the Loons offered the following explanation for Rall E.’s existence:
It all dates back to one game in 2009, having exhausted all means of sparking a Loons rally, there was still one last video clip in the production vault. The following ‘Rally Camel’ clip was played on the video board and lo and behold the team rallied. Throughout the year the clip was played in late-game situations and every time the team would rally for the win. Rall E was born.
But sometimes it’s better, or at least more fun, to present things out of context. For example, the following image was recently attached to a press release put out by the Charleston RiverDogs.
Just stare at that for a few minutes, and it will provide entry into new realms of consciousness.
Finally, you may recall that in a post last week I linked to my favorite YouTube video as a means to express my thoughts on the start of a new season. After doing this, I wrote that I would GREATLY appreciate it if someone could take the audio from the clip linked to above and lay it over an array of upbeat Minor League images, ending with the Opening Day 2012 logo.
The very next day there was an email in my inbox, subject line “Ask and ye shall receive.” So, yes, now this exists:
Big thanks to Anita Tsuchiya for taking the time to create what is surely one of the more obscure videos floating around the internet!
And with that, today’s blogging goals have now been realized. Until next time, I remain:
Opening Day countdowns are a recurring feature of many teams’ Facebook and Twitter feeds, and for good reason. It’s a quick and easy way to keep baseball’s imminence in the collective consciousness.
One team that you can really count on when it comes to counting down are the Delmarva Shorebirds, who are in the homestretch of an ambitious and creative “30 Days of Opening Day” promotion.
Sez the press release:
Starting on March 14, which is 30 days removed from the home opener, the Shorebirds will have a new event, appearance or contest planned each day leading up to April 12.
This includes mascot tour stops, local TV appearances, a Fan Fest, a “Player’s Send-off Party” and recurring weekly promotions such as “Donut Monday,” “Talk to Me Tuesdays,” and “Weenie Wednesdays. ” It is my opinion that “Donut Mondays” should be adapted by every MiLB team. Each Monday morning, the team posts the following message on Facebook:
Post a picture of your office or place of business on our wall and your office could win a delivery of donuts from us tomorrow morning! The post with the most ‘likes’ by 5pm today wins!
It’s a hole lot of fun! (Hope your eyes didn’t glaze over at that last sentence. I dough my best).
Another innovative endeavor comes courtesy of those very same RiverDogs who were featured in Monday’s post. Late last week, the team announced the latest component of their “Be Your Own Fan” marketing campaign.
Another press release, another excerpt. This is how we roll:
Fans will have the opportunity….to register for “Be Your Own Fan” campaign. Upon registering, fans will receive a free colored coded bracelet, plus emails, offers and incentives that cater to their interests and to the reason they come to the ballpark.
There are nine unique fan groups from which to choose:
- The Networker: Comes to the ballpark to meet and connect with people and utilize the facility’s atmosphere to create business relationships;
- The Foodie: Someone who loves the various food offerings at The Joe;
- The Family: Comes to games because they know that a RiverDogs game can always be counted on to provide an evening of quality, wholesome family entertainment;
- The Socializer: Comes to The Joe to because they know that it is THE place to be seen;
- Promo-Sapian: Always into the wacky between innings promotions and awesome giveaways;
- The Traveler: Visits the ballpark for a taste of true Charleston hospitality;
- The Pyro: Loves the many postgame fireworks shows at The Joe;
- The River Pup: The younger fans at the park that have a blast as members Charlie’s Kids Club;
- The Super Fan: Knows the RiverDogs’ roster by heart and wears that heart on his/her sleeve.
The Goldklang Group’s “Be Your Own Fan” campaign has been running for a few years now and, while a good slogan, I often found it to be a bit vague in execution. The above initiative is a real step forward, then, as it clearly details all the ways in which the RiverDogs (and, by extension, Minor League Baseball) can appeal to diverse groups of people.
Minor League Baseball’s appeal can extend to aspiring foul line guardians of advanced age, and the Mobile BayBears are reaching out to exactly this demographic with their “Golden Glovers” program.
Taking a cue from the San Francisco Giants’ long-running “Ball Dudes” promotion, the BayBears are offering the following opportunity to those over the age of 60:
[E]ach BayBears home game, two “Golden Glovers” will report to the field and sign a one-day contract with the BayBears. Responsibilities will be to suit up in uniform and protest the foul lines. BayBears manager Turner Ward will provide key strategies in stopping foul balls down the lines and making sure the “Golden Glover” provide the foul balls to the kids in the stands.
So there you have it, folks. Another blog post, another array of creative and adaptable ideas from the world of MiLB. Thanks for your support; I’ll be here all week.
Writing a pre-Thanksgiving post on “what I am thankful for” has the whiff of an obligatory elementary school essay assignment, but I want to get something up on this slice of the internet before it all goes (mercifully) dark for the holidays.
And you know what I’m thankful for? That I have a job that puts me in absurd situations on a regular basis. Some highlights from the 2011 season.
The point of this unbridled exercise in Holiday week narcissism is…well…I guess there is no point. But I do want to issue a sincere THANK YOU to everyone who has supported these absurd endeavors of mine. And it’s never too early to start thinking about the 2012 season — please, get in touch if you have any suggestions regarding Minor League places to go and things to do. I really do try to say “yes” as much as possible.
Finally, two stories are up today that I’d really appreciate if you checked out. First up is my story on Greg Halman, who was stabbed to death earlier this week. I talked to people who knew him at all stops on his Minor League journey, and did the best I could to write something that went beyond “I’m shocked that his happened” quotes.
Elsewhere, I have a guest column up on Baseball Propectus. It’s a pretty through overview of the Minor League mindset, and I sincerely hope it brings a few new converts into the fold.
It’s been a week of -spection on this blog, of both the intro and retro varieties. Come Monday I’ll return to reporting on current Minor League events, but today we’ll keep with the theme and take one final look back at the season that was.
Specifically, my season that was. And even more specifically, the swag I accumulated. Whether through the mail or at the ballpark, people gave me a lot of stuff . By the end of the season I had no where to put it, save for in overstuffed bags beneath my overstuffed desk.
Enough is enough! Clearly, the time for Fall cleaning had arrived. First, I meticulously took stock of what I had.
And in doing so, I realized that I’d neglected to highlight the haul from my road trip to the Carolinas. This haul was dominated by the ever-generous Charleston RiverDogs, who had provided me with a full-to-overflowing bag of goodies.
The Big Lebowski-themed “Dog Abides” shirt had been briefly featured before, as I wore it while attending a game in Winston-Salem. But right above it there is a notable giveaway item — a Charleston Rainbows jersey (yes, this actually used to be the name of Charleston’s Minor League team).
I also obtained what I believe may have been a giveaway first — mascot-themed salt and pepper shakers, in which the spice-dispensing characters in question are flanked by a friendly tree.
One of the most notable members of the RiverDogs’ ownership group is Mike Veeck, who happened to be the guest of honor at the Kane County Cougars gala “Night of 100 Promotions.” And, wouldn’t you know it, I happened to obtain two shirts commemorating this event.
And, finally, a picture of some random stuff on a table. That’s when you know that you’ve reached the end of the line.
A select portion of my 2011 swag haul has been entered into the Ben’s Biz permanent archives, but the vast majority needs to be shed like so much excess skin. Plans are in the works for a swag giveaway later this offseason. Stay tuned…
At any rate, after this thorough cleaning and consolidation process, my work space is a lot more manageable.
Upwards and onwards!
But, because I can’t help myself, how about one final look back? I mentioned this on Twitter earlier in the week, but recently I came to a startling realization regarding my late July trip to the Carolinas: I saw seven games at seven stadiums in seven days, and the home team won each and every one!
I asked my Twitter followers what the odds of this happening would be, and most replied that it was 1/128 (.78%, two to the seventh power). But Scott “the Heckler” Jennings went a step further, compiling a Google document that took each team’s home record into account! His findings revealed odds of 1.01%
Regardless, it’s clear that I am a walking talisman, my mere presence brings victory to the masses. Invite me to your ballpark, and awkwardly intimate post-game celebrations will be the end result!
And, really, that’s going to it on the season-recap front (or is it?). From here on out it’s time to look ahead.
Look, a head!
Yesterday’s culinary compendium included copious coverage of ballpark food and regional cuisine, focusing on trips I made to Arizona, California, Ohio and Indiana.
The journey continues today, with a heavy emphasis on what may have been my favorite road trip of 2011: the Carolinas. It all started at Joseph P. Riley ballpark, the home of the Charleston RiverDogs. This is a team that has provided me with plenty of food-based news items through the years (Homewreckers! Pickle Dogs! Pig On A Stick!), and I was excited to finally make my first visit.
The team was ready for me.
Not the best photo, I know, but hopefully indicative of the RiverDogs’ bountiful array of creative food options. Oh, and a Philly Cheesesteak Brat eventually made an appearance.
Here’s a better view of the top-loaded “Kitchen Sink Nachos,” which are served in a pizza box.
But I focused my efforts primarily on the Pickle Dog, making sure to grip the pickle firmly from the rear so that the hot dog would not slip out.
The next day I drove to Myrtle Beach (home of both the Pelicans and the Mermen), and en route I stopped for lunch at “Hog Heaven BBQ.” Apparently, what passes for heaven in the mind of a pig is an afterlife of eternal cannibalization.
Dismayed and confused by this concept, I instead opted for some crab.
I was admonished by various quarters for ordering seafood at a BBQ joint, and I understand those criticisms. But here in NYC a platter such as the above is (relatively) hard to come by, and I have no regrets. None!
I stayed with the seafood theme at that night’s Pelicans game, ordering up some fried clams.
The following afternoon, en route to Kinston, I went to a BBQ joint and actually ordered some BBQ. Bart’s was the name.
At Grainger Stadium that evening, I followed the recommendation of GM Ben Jones and ordered a Philly Cheese Steak, North Carolina style. “Magnifique!” is what I imagine a French fan of Carolina League baseball would say upon biting into the following:
Are there any French fans of Minor League Baseball out there? What a rare subset of fans that must be.
Much less rare is the sight of a Bojangles fried chicken joint in the state of North Carolina. As I was making my way from Kinston to Durham, I patronized the following establishment.
Being a man of perpetual movement, at that night’s Durham Bulls game I ordered a Doritos-brand “Walking Taco.”
That’s nacho typical taco, but it provided all the sustenance I needed until the following morning’s stop at Biscuitville.
Less than two hours later, I patronized another regional fast food chain: Cookout. I’ve since heard from many Cookout aficionados, all of whom insisted that milkshakes should be purchased. Duly noted, but this time around I ended up with a Cheerwine float.
One of the highlights of the following day’s travels was lunch at Zack’s Hot Dogs, a Burlington, N.C. institution.
Since I’m always a proponent of a balanced and healthy diet, the hot dog lunch was followed by a bologna burger at that evening’s Danville Braves game.
The last stop on the Carolina excursion was Winston-Salem. A pre-game meal was obtained a Bibb’s BBQ, located a proverbial hop, skip, and jump away from BB&T Ballpark (domicile of the Dash). And what a meal it was:
That’s about all she wrote from the Carolinas; but fortunately I was able to squeeze one more trip into the 2011 campaign: Maryland, home of the crab pretzel!
More specifically, the home of the cheese and crustacean-laden snack seen above was Aberdeen’s Ripken Stadium. But perhaps an even more anomalous ballpark treat is that which can be found at Hagerstown’s Municipal Stadium: pickled beet eggs!
The Hagerstown Suns experienced some drama this past season, when a light pole fell onto the field during a storm. This is where the light pole used to stand…or is it? Maybe this mark was made by a huge pickled egg!
Or maybe a huge Krumpe’s donut used to lie on that spot! After the game I went to nearby Krumpe’s Do-Nuts (open 8 p.m. to 2 a.m.) and picked up a few.
My trip, as well as my season of traveling, ended the next day in Delmarva. Needless to say, I did not leave Arthur W. Perdue Stadium on an empty stomach.
That was dinner, consisting of a “Chessie Dog” (half-pound frank with cheese, onions, peppers), Crab Dip (with three bread dipping sticks), and a Scrapple sandwich. But there’s always room for dessert, especially when it’s as appealing as the concoction known as “Sherman’s Gelati.”
And that, as they say, was that. I hope you enjoyed, or at least tolerated, this trip down recent memory lane. It provided me yet another opportunity to revive a season which is in actuality dead as the proverbial doornail, and for that I am grateful.
When I’m on the road visiting Minor League ballparks, time is short and the days are long. I do my best to document as much as I can, but inevitably much of the non-baseball related content gets lost in the shuffle.
But my pledge, as always, is to get to it eventually. After all, one of the joys of going on Minor League road trips is that they provide a reason to explore towns large and small that one otherwise not think to visit. In this regard, Minor League Baseball serves as a portal to a near infinite array of distinctly American experiences. I just wish I could experience more of them!
With all this in mind, here are some leftover observations and images from my recent trip through the Carolinas.
Day One — Charleston
As mentioned in my post on the RiverDogs, I was fortunate enough to fire my first shot of the road trip at Fort Sumter.
I was only able to visit for about 20 minutes, but obviously this a must-see for American history buffs. The first shots of the Civil War were fired on this waterfront locale, by Confederate troops seeking to drive the U.S. army out of the fort.
That was 150 years ago. Here’s what the fort looks like today.
That was all I was able to do when it came to extraneous Charleston excursions. That I night I attended the game, getting stuffed with hot dogs before dressing up as one, and the next day it was off to Myrtle Beach.
For those who have actually explored Charleston — what places would you recommend visiting, and why? Feel free to send pictures, if applicable.
Day Two — En Route to Myrtle Beach
Always in a rush, I am, on these trips, but, regardless, I greatly enjoyed the comparatively leisurely paced drive to Myrtle Beach. As opposed to an efficient but homogeneous interstate route, the trip is made onl Route 17 aka “The Coastal Highway.” The road is awash with basket vendors and BBQ joints, and I stopped for lunch here.
Welcome to Hog Heaven BBQ, possessing an exterior brandished with this unforgettable image.
The restaurant’s motto is “Where it’s not just BBQ”, and I took that to heart. While the $6.95 lunch buffet was reasonably priced and well-stocked, I couldn’t resist the chance for some fresh crab. The meat contained therein tasted heavenly, leading to a level of contentment comparable to that felt by a heavy-lidded pig cannibalizing itself in the afterlife.
But as for Myrtle Beach proper, what I’ve written about the experience is all I’ve got. What’d I miss?
Onward, to North Carolina!
Day Three — En Route to Kinston
Traveling from Myrtle Beach to Kinston meant another strong dose of Route 17. On this leg of the trip, the lunch stop of choice was Bart’s BBQ.
A BBQ pork plate (vinegar based sauce), hush puppies, cole slaw, crinkle cut fries, and a pitcher of tea for under $10. A truly excellent bargain.
While this is all I have from Day 3, things picked up considerably over the following four days. Still to come: two classic stadiums, a baseball museum, fast food joints, a massive low-brow shopping emporium, and various incarnations of Cheerwine soda.
I’ll get to it eventually,
Wednesday was one of those endless-seeming travel days that only a plane ride can provide. Nothing like waking up in brutally hot New York City and making it to even more brutally-hot Charleston, SC by lunchtime.
I didn’t have much time to explore this by-all-accounts beautiful city before heading to the ballpark, but I would like to note that the first shot of this road trip was fired at Fort Sumter!
But jokes pandering to history nerds didn’t get me to where I am today. Minor League Baseball did! After my brief cameo at this Civil War landmark I hightailed it over to “The Joe” aka Joseph P. Riley Ballpark aka “The home of the Charleston RiverDogs.”
Exterior ballpark shots were neglected in favor of my latest series of player interviews, which can be viewed HERE (my personal highlight was being able to ask RiverDogs’ closer Mark Montgomery about his recent five strikeout inning). Once those were complete, I had time to soak in the scene.
And during one of my brief forays into the RiverDogs’ clubhouse, I met legendary clubhouse manager “Rally Vinnie.”
As Vinnie attended to his (seemingly endless) clubhouse duties, the players warmed up on the field.
The starting pitcher for the visiting Lexington Legends was 2010 first-round draft pick Mike Foltynewicz, who I chatted with this past offseason. He had more important things to do on Wednesday, however. Like get loose.
During my pre-game wanderings and press box socializing, I was introduced to inimitable PA man Ken Carrington. Ken is unique (so far as I know) in that he does both PA and on-field host duties while “on-location” throughout the stadium. For my article on Ken (and the RiverDogs experience in general), check out today’s piece on MiLB.com. Please.
Here’s Ken doing his thing on the field pre-game.
And here he is enthusiastically belting out “Mony Mony.” I’m sure there was a reason for this.
Some pre-game views, less than 10 minutes before the start of the contest (none other than Minor League Baseball president Pat O’Conner threw out the first pitch, but my photo of his ceremonial offering left much to be desired.)
The RiverDogs are one of four teams presided over by the Goldklang Group, which includes both Mike Veeck (son of legendary baseball owner and promoter Bill) and legendary comedic actor Bill Murray on its executive roster. The Goldklang Group’s most recent slogan is “Be Your Own Fan,” and this free-thinking phrase definitely applies to the food.
Goldklang Group director of food and beverage John Schumacher is based in Charleston, and he and RiverDogs food and beverage man Josh Gilkey have put together an amazing array of choices (click HERE for the full menu).
At “Joe’s Bar and Grill” (named after mayor and stadium namesake Joseph P. Riley), one can get the Pimento Burger as well as the “Pickle Dog.”
At the exceedingly popular “Dog World,” fans can choose from seven signature hot dogs, or simply build their own. Business has been especially good since Adam Richman from “Man vs. Food” took on the 1/2 pound “Homewrecker” during his visit to Charleston.
A visit from “Ben’s Biz Blog” is of significantly lesser impact, but nonetheless Schumacher and Gilkey gave me a tour of their operation before laying out a ballpark feast.
An appetizer course of boiled peanuts (a southern specialty) and local Palmetto beer.
Followed by THIS (sorry for the poor photo, even my camera was intimidated):
Close up of the kitchen-sink:
Oh, and because that wasn’t enough: A Philly Cheesesteak Brat:
I did the best I could.
Schumacher and Gilkey:
I had to depart from the feast prematurely, however, in order to dress up as what I had just consumed.
It was time for Mission: Throw T-Shirts from the Back of a Truck:
The mission was successful.
But I have digressed, perhaps irrevocably so. Before concluding this road trip missive, a few more shots of the ballpark. Note here how quickly the fence juts out, from 305 feet to 345.
One of the best sunset views I’ve seen in the Minors: the swamps behind the ballpark, taken from the second level just outside the press box.
And, yes, the sun has set on this particular post. There is much more to come from the Carolinas. Too much, in fact, but I’ll do the best I can with it.
Sherman, the feathered mascot of the Delmarva Shorebirds, has been banned from his own stadium! This is a case of benevolent blackmail, as the motivation for his exile is as follows:
[The Shorebirds] have officially banned Sherman the Shorebird from Arthur W. Perdue Stadium until the team collects 500 pounds of canned food items to benefit the “Strike Out Hunger” campaign. All the canned food items will go to the three local food banks on the Eastern Shore. Sherman will not be allowed to attend the April 5 exhibition game or the April 7 home opener unless the team collects at least 500 pounds of canned food items.
This self-imposed mascot ban is part of the Shorebirds’ “Strike Out Hunger” campaign, an initiative announced in conjunction with the 2011 South Atlantic League All-Star Game (to be held at Perdue Stadium). If the team is really serious about all of this, they should go ahead and also ban the players until their goals are met. I’m sure the Major League affiliates wouldn’t object at all.
From here we move on to that most treasured of topics, ballpark food.
Charleston RiverDogs food and beverage guru John Schumacher has gotten in touch with some of his club’s 2011 menu additions (in addition to the already covered “Pig on a Stick.”
Let’s take a look.
A Signature Nacho Stand is new for 2011, featuring options such as “The Kitchen Sink” and “Facebook BBQ”. I’m really going to have to look into the latter.
While you were looking at the above picture, I looked into the issue of Facebook BBQ Nachos. Here’s Schumacher’s explanation, a powerful example of social media if there ever was one:
We had BBQ Nachos on the menu for a few years but decided to take them off after the ’09 season as they weren’t selling well and they had a high food cost. During the first homestand of 2010 a few fans started a Facebook page to “Bring Back the BBQ Nachos @ the Joe”. So we decided to let them sweat it out for a few homestands while the Facebook page grew.
We re-introduced them as Facebook BBQ Nachos.
This year’s signature burger is the thoroughly Southern Pickle Pimento.
The Cheesesteak Brat, a brilliant melding of two ballpark favorites, will make a its debut as well.
And, finally, the imminently self-explanatory entity that is the bologna slider.
Meanwhile, Charleston food and beverage ex-pat Jason Kerton continues to make waves with the Akron Aeros. On March 30th, the team will be holding a rather unique media event:
The Akron Aeros will be featuring the newest food sensations at Canal Park with a special “weigh-in” event for the media. Step on the scale (if you dare!) and then sample one – or all – of our new food offerings.
I have a feeling that some of the media assigned to cover this event will immediately start looking for a “weigh-out.”