Results tagged ‘ Charleston RiverDogs ’

Traveling by Land, Sea, and Air

Quad Cities River Bandits, what have you wrought?

As you may recall, last season the River Bandits turned their All Star Game home run derby into a cartoonish extravaganza replete with beer keg targets and Hooters girls in a dunk tank. The Reading Phillies took this concept and ran with it — on July 10, the team is staging a home run derby that looks like something out of a Chuck Jones fever dream.

And now? Now we have THIS. The Charleston RiverDogs, hosts of the 2012 South Atlantic League All-Star Game, are holding their home run derby atop an aircraft carrier. The Yorktown:


At this juncture I can do one thing and one thing only. Quoth the press release, forevermore:

Quite possibly the first-ever derby off the flight deck of a carrier, the event…will be held on Monday, June 18, at 11 am with the championship round being staged at 5:15 pm Tuesday, prior to the All-Star Game at Riley Park.

The 10 Home Run Derby competitors – five from the Northern Division and five from the Southern Division – will take their 10 swings in an inflatable batting cage that is stationed on the flight deck. A total of four players will make the final round that is set for 5:15 pm at Riley Park.

The RiverDogs, being the community-involved and environment-conscious organization that they are, have addressed the litter potential as they have hired kayakers and personnel on jet skis to retrieve the balls hit into Charleston Harbor. The US Coast Guard will supervise and assist, and no sea life will be disturbed.

In addition, the Coast Guard will assess and note the longest homers to determine the finalists and will radio the results to officials that are stationed on the Yorktown to record.

Moving on, you may remember that in 2010 the Cleveland Indians and their affiliates put together an “Around the Horn” ticket pack that included games at Mahoning Valley, Lake County, Akron, Columbus, and Cleveland.

It’s a great idea (the similarly-clustered Phillies farm system should do one!) and now the Baltimore organization has introduced their own version.

It’s a really cool idea:

Visit the Fan Assistance Center in the Warehouse at Camden Yards to pick up your Birdland Passport. Use the passport when traveling to Oriole Park and the many Orioles’ Minor League affiliates’ ballparks throughout the region. Once you’ve gathered five stamps (of the possible six local Birdland destinations), you’ll receive a limited edition “Did Somebody Say Roadtrip?” Birdland Passport T-shirt.

And since I was speaking of Indians affiliates earlier, I’ll close with this lil anecdote. A couple of months ago, I received an email from a reader named Steve Wood. He lives in Ontario, but is a fan of the Indians and all of their affiliates. He lamented the isolation of the Canadian Cleveland fan:

Standing on the north shore of Lake Erie I would love to be able tell you that I can see the lights of Eastlake, Ohio, home of the Lake County Captains, or straight up East 9th St.in Cleveland as if the founders of that glorious city planned on building a bridge right to my province.  Alas, when I stand on the north shore of Lake Erie all I see is lots of Lake Erie and it’s usually pretty cold so I get back in the car.

Struck by his plight, I forwarded his info to the Captains and the team sent a “fan pack” all the way to Ontario (assistant GM Neil Stein lamented that international shipping laws prevented the team from including a “Moby Dick” sandwich). Here’s Wood now, representing the Captains in the comfort of his kitchen:

All’s well that ends well,

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Welcome to the Jungle

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:

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Read Up While Counting Down

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.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Totally Tubular

Food content has been enjoying a bit of a renaissance on the blog as of late, and who I am to curtail a renaissance?

The latest comestible tidbit to come down the pike involves a team that could reasonably make a claim to having the best concessions in all of Minor League Baseball: The Charleston RiverDogs.

John Schumacher, Food and Beverage Director extraordinaire, reports that during the offseason “an alternative tubular meat search” was conducted and that “fortunately (or unfortunately) we were successful.” RiverDogs fans, already spoiled when it comes to the variety of traditional tubular meat on offer, will now be able to choose from the following:

That big fella on the far right would be alligator. Duck is at the top of the plate, with venison down below. These alternative tubular meats come courtesy of a boutique butcher that goes by the name of Fossil Farms, and will be part of a new “Sausage World” food stand. The menu:

Sausage World – featuring Brats, Kielbasa, Duck Sausage with plum sauce, Venison Sausage with chipotle BBQ sauce (named the Byrdog after a close friend) & Alligator Sausage with a remoulade.

In another Minor League rarity, the RiverDogs are adding a wine garden to the mix in 2012. It’s still in the maturation process.

I’ve been racking my brain (and you know how painful that can be), but thus far I’ve been unable to think of any other teams that offer a wine garden. Are any out there?

And are there any other teams that market themselves specifically to “foodies”?

If any other teams would like to tout their new food and beverage selections, then you know where to find me (or, at least I hope you do. Check the bottom of this post, as well as every other post I’ve ever written).

And this doesn’t just go for food, of course. If you’re involved or interested in Minor League Baseball in any way, shape, or form, then please don’t hesitate to let me know what’s going on.

For instance, reader Matt Musk recently pointed me to his self-published book “Dream On” (available as an e-book and on paperback). It’s a quick and informative read about his journey from failed youth baseball player to Midwest League champion (of sorts). Lots of good anecdotes are contained therein, dealing with the absurdity of Minor League front office life.

And then there’s Mr. Rex Doane, who checked in last week in order to report that “Today I am the only man in NYC to wear the new High Desert Mavericks cap…it is a responsibility I am willing to shoulder.”

New York City: the epicenter of global fashion trends.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Lonely in Love, Learning to Like, and, of course, Logos

We are born alone, and die alone. And often, as the case may be, we spend Valentine’s Day alone. Fortunately, at least two Minor League teams expanded their traditional Valentine’s Day offers to include those unencumbered by an actual relationship.

The Charleston RiverDogs’ “Lonely Hearts Package” is a mere $18, and includes an upper reserve ticket, frozen dinner, and pint of ice cream. It will be delivered by this sympathetic soul.

Or, perhaps a flying groundhog would be more to your liking? If so, then get thee to Gwinnett, interested singles:

The G-Braves’ identically-named “Lonely Hearts” package includes a ticket to May 14’s “Singles Mingle” night, as well “as vouchers for a box of Nestlé Drumstick® Ice-cream courtesy of Edy’s and a frozen TV Dinner.”

I wondered what kind of “reception” these TV dinner offers had been getting, and if teams had been dealing in the “volume” expected. In response to a Twitter inquiry, the RiverDogs reported that There were a decent amount of Lonely Hearts. @ThePigglyWiggly got a lot of business in the Hungry Man frozen dinner area from us.

As for what “decent” entails, I have no idea. I’m going to guess somewhere between eight and 4,400.

In keeping with the contrarian Valentine’s Day theme, let’s now move on to the world of logos. This is, after all, a word that in Jungian psychology means “the principal of reason and judgement.” Not very love-like at all!

Today’s logo of choice comes courtesy of the Lake County Captains. But perhaps the club should change it’s name to the “CapTens”:

If you think anniversary logos are for the birds, that’s cool. But you know who else should be for the ‘Birds? You. Here’s why:

The Delmarva Shorebirds, class “A” affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles, are excited to announce the launch of a brand new campaign leading up to the home opener on April 12 designed to raise money for Big Brothers Big Sisters. The Shorebirds will donate one dollar per new Facebook ‘Like’ from now through April 11 to Big Brothers Big Sisters.

The goal of the initiative is to donate a maximum of $1,400 to Big Brothers Big Sisters by growing the Shorebirds Facebook fan page to over 10,000 likes.

So go ahead and give ’em a like. Right HERE.

And speaking (again) of being for the birds, how about this visual out of Des Moines? The Iowa Cubs sure know how to play to their audience:

Also playing to their audience: the Fort Wayne TinCaps. The team launched it’s “All About You” sweepstakes last week, and it’s chock-a-block with great prizes. But one prize, in particular, towers above the rest.

Yes, a life-size bobblehead! Forget mummification, taxidermy, cryogenics and afterlife-based belief systems. Grotesquely-sized ceramic statues featuring crazily disproportionate bodily dimensions are how one achieves true immortality.

This has been post #768 of the greatest Minor League Baseball blog of all time.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Thanks for the Memories

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.

Racing as a Taco Bell Hot Sauce packet in Lancaster:

If you can't take the heat...

Winning the “Molar Race” in Inland Empire:

Winning a burrito-eating contest in Fort Wayne:

Emptying an entire Kleenex box in Lake County, in less than a minute:

Pied atop the dugout in Akron:

Exhibiting proper Pickle Dog-eating technique in Charleston:

Manning an HD camera in Durham:

Refereeing a flip cup contest in Williamsport:

Losing a sumo match in Bowie:

And, of course — Rally Banana-ing in Delmarva:

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.

Thanks again,

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

A Clear View Through the Rear View

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!

Body heat activated high fives!

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!

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

The Year in Ballpark Food, Part II

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.

Back Row: Pickle Dog, Boiled Peanuts, Palmetto Beer, Kitchen Sink Nachos Front Row: Pimento Pickle Burger, RiverDog (topped with cole slaw, mustard-based BBQ sauce, pickled okra), Pig on a Stick (foot-long corn dog wrapped in bacon).

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.

BBQ pork platter, with hush puppies, french fries, cole slaw and a personal pitcher of sweet tea

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.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Return to the Road: A Lowcountry Landmark and Coastal Cuisine

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.

Before

After

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,

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

On the Road: The Evening Goes to the ‘Dogs in Charleston

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.)


Mascot Charlie T. RiverDog escorting the anthem singer off the field.

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.”

Yes, this:

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):

Pickle Dog, Pimento Pickle Burger, RiverDog (topped with cole slaw, mustard-based BBQ sauce, pickled okra), Pig on a Stick (foot-long corn dog wrapped in bacon), Kitchen Sink Nachos

Close up of the kitchen-sink:

Oh, and because that wasn’t enough: A Philly Cheesesteak Brat:

I did the best I could.

What, me have dignity?

Note proper pickle dog grip: middle finger on rear of hot dog to prevent slippage

Schumacher and Gilkey:

I had to depart from the feast prematurely, however, in order to dress up as what I had just consumed.

Karma?

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.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

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