Results tagged ‘ Charleston RiverDogs ’
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.”
The West Michigan Whitecaps have been a major player on the concessions scene in recent years, unleashing colossal monstrosities such as the Fifth Third Burger and the Declaration of Indigestion upon the world.
So when the team held its annual fan vote to determine 2011’s new food item, it seemed a safe assumption that the winner would be something meaty and/or massive. Walking Spaghetti, perhaps? Meat Salad and the Bologna Lollipop also appeared to be strong contenders.
But…no. In a stunning repudiation of all that the Minor Leagues have come to stand for, the winner was none other than the irreverently-named “Chicks With Sticks.”
More specifically, Chicks With Sticks is a healthy option consisting of fresh sliced vegetables with a hummus (made from “Chick” peas) or optional ranch dipping sauce.
While I’m surprised that this won a fan vote, healthy eating options at the ballpark are nothing new. Even the Akron Aeros, best known for their new line of meaty behemoths, recently announced their “Farmer’s Market” concession stand, featuring veggie burgers, turkey hot dogs, hummus and chips, fruit platters, veggie platters and salads.
A quote from Aeros food and beverage director Jason Kerton sums up the strategy here:
“The Akron Aeros will offer a caloric counter-balance to our “extreme” menu items and full lineup of innovative carnivorous creations, with offerings of a lighter fare.”
Nonetheless, recent news out of Durham is more in line with what we’ve come to expect from the Minors. The Bulls will be serving “The Bulldog” in 2011, an all-beef hot dog wrapped in bacon and cheese and blanketed in soft pretzel dough.
Along much more ridiculous lines, Charleston RiverDogs announcer Danny Reed has, uh, announced that he will be attempting the “Slammer Pizza Challenge”. This endeavor is described as a gluttonous pizza quest featuring a team of two people attempting to polish off a 28-inch Gilroy’s pizza with five toppings of the team’s choosing, which can weigh in excess of seven pounds.
And, guess what? He needs a partner! Those interested in joining Mr. Reed’s noble pursuit have until May 23 to apply.
I’m pretty sure that Gwinnett Braves mascot Chopper would be up to the challenge, but right now he has bigger concerns. Nudity alert!
And — hey! — it’s Friday. That means its time for me to end the blogging week with a gratuitous video of my choosing.
And what I choose is this:
It’s early Friday afternoon as I type this, a time in which my readership is likely to be particularly wary of too many words. Who wants to be burdened with the onerous task of reading when the weekend is so near?
So let’s go to the videos! I’ve come across quite a few over the past several days, and would love nothing more than to share them with you, the world-weary word-wary reader:
The State College Spikes have been innovators in the field of mystery-themed promotions, making GM Jason Dambach’s total lack of deductive reasoning skills all the more surprising.
I love videos like that: set-up, punchline, and done in under a minute. Or done in under 30 seconds, in the case of the Tennessee Smokies. This one features a guy who really knows how to make an impression.
And the brevity continues, this time courtesy of the Charleston RiverDogs. Yesterday, the team released their own version of “Cannibal, the Movie”. This one is not for the faint of heart:
The mascot angst continues in Omaha, where Stormy the would-be Storm Chaser has suffered yet another indignity.
Similar feelings of rejection have recently been felt by Wilmington’s Rocky the Blue Moose, who has had difficulty updating his look:
I’ll close things out with what is only a somewhat gratuitous video. The Baseball Project’s excellent second album was released last week, and I highly recommend picking it up. The combination of accomplished rock n roll chops and literate, passionate baseball writing is truly something to behold. Here’s the band playing on Letterman around the time their first album was released:
All of a sudden it feels like the season again, with news and notes coming in from left and right and everywhere in between. It’s time to start posting, because the content levels are rising and soon I might drown — alone and forgotten in a remote corner of MiLB.com HQ.
To the Bullet Points!
— The New York-Penn League may not start play for another three months, but that didn’t stop the Brooklyn Cyclones from releasing a picture of their Angel Pagan bobblehead. I’m glad that they took his first name literally as opposed to the surname, because a bobblehead depicting the ballplayer as a hedonistic polytheist probably wouldn’t go over too well.
— Meanwhile, Brooklyn’s NYPL rivals the Lowell Spinners announced the follow-up to last year’s celebration of Bubblewrap.The team will stage a “Flossing World Record Attempt” on June 29, a promotion recommended by four out of five dentists. My extensive research into this most crucial of topics revealed that previous attempts have involved a huge single strand of custom-made floss.
I’m not sure if this will be the case in Lowell, but either way I recommend that this product serve as the official sponsor.
– In other follow-up news, the Lake County Captains are continuing with the Christmas Story themed giveaways that started with last season’s “Skipper Leg Lamp.” On July 23, fans will receive a bobble doll in which Skipper’s nose is stuck to a foul pole. I haven’t obtained a picture yet, but this item is of course a reference to this:
– Another notable jersey hailing from the preeminent Midwest is that which the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers will be wearing during Sunday home games. This one is like an undersized fish — total throwback.
Since I didn’t post yesterday, and because we are entering a particularly “newsy” time of year, today will be devoted to TWO headline-worthy items. Let’s start with — you guessed it – food.
The Charleston RiverDogs have announced 2011’s signature dog — a frank following in the grand tradition of Pickle and Homewrecker. Food and beverage grandmaster John Schumacher writes that “our crack team of concessionaires have been working overtime in the test kitchen and scouring the State Fair Circuit far & wide for ideas.”
The result is “Pig On A Stick” — a foot long corn dog wrapped in bacon:
Unlike more conceptual recent attention-getters such as the Three Dog Night, this one pretty much speaks for itself. And since I have attributed to it the gift of speech, I imagine it is saying “This bacon is suffocating me, it’s salty embrace inescapable.”
Speaking of embraces, the Bowling Green Hot Rods are embracing Facebook at a heretofore unheard of level. May 18 will be “Facebook Fans” night, an evening devoted to the mercurial whims of the team’s passionate social networking partisans.
This one is quite literally a game-changer:
[T]he initial step of the promotion drives the team’s Facebook fans to recruit new members to add to its following…..Until April 18, for every 200 additional fans that ‘Like’ the team on Facebook (up to 10,000), the Hot Rods will reduce ticket prices by 50 cents for all of its Facebook fans on May 18. This means for every 1,000 new fans beyond the current 7,000, box seat ticket prices drop $2.50 from their face value of $10.
Starting next Monday and continuing every week through the beginning of the season, the team begins phase two of the promotion. Each week a new element…will be posted on the team’s Facebook page for fans to vote on. The first element on February 21 will have fans select what time the game starts…Additional elements include which uniforms the Hot Rods will wear and what food and merchandise items will be specially priced for the game…Hot Rods Facebook fans will also be incorporated into several game day activities ranging from on-field promotions, first pitch opportunities, and meetings with Hot Rods players and coaches.
Like a serialized novella, this is going to take a long time to play out. You can count on me for periodic updates and observations, as it should be quite interesting to see this one develop.