Results tagged ‘ Charlotte Stone Crabs ’

The Harlem Shake: A Minor Overview

Introductory paragraphs within this blog forum can sometimes be needlessly circuitous, steeped as they are in obscure references and acute self-consciousness. But not today. Today, we cut to the chase:

What follows is a comprehensive round-up of Harlem Shake videos produced by Minor League teams. 

Yes, you’re probably sick of the Harlem Shake at this point. I am too. But let’s take the long view, as historians with an interest in baseball history, viral fads and the intersection of the two will no doubt delight in stumbling upon this post at some at some unknown moment in the distant future. I am doing this for you, future historians! I always am. For it is you who will ensure my legacy.

Plus, you’ve gotta admit — Minor League teams, with their easy access to supply closets full of banana suits and inflatable ponies, make better Harlem Shake videos than most. So here we go! In no particular order, here are two dozen Harlem Shake videos produced by professional baseball teams in possession of a formal affiliation with a Major League club.

Frederick Keys — Apparently a big-headed reincarnation of Francis Scott Key regularly sits in on front office meetings:

Columbus Clippers — Warning! Includes bear-on-frankfurter violence that may be unsettling to younger viewers:

Bowie Baysox — A toothbrush can’t dance? I bristle at such a notion:

Lexington Legends — Mister would you please stop punching that pony? WATCH ON FACEBOOK.

Vancouver Canadians — As if any proof was needed that this was an international phenomenon:

Fort Wayne Tincaps — A solitary pothead gives way to a banana who loves the queen of hearts.

Lake Elsinore Storm — Yes that is an upside-down squirrel hanging from the dugout, and yes he is happy to see you:

Corpus Christi Hooks — Can’t a man bike through the office in peace? WATCH ON MILB.COM

Tulsa Drillers — Hey, no dogs in the swimming pool!

Gwinnett Braves — Team store? More like surreal fever dream store!

New Hampshire Fisher Cats — Fungo and friends “rose” to the occasion:

Lehigh Valley IronPigs — Give peas a chance. WATCH ON MILB.COM

Buffalo Bisons — Vest-wearing gentleman on the right is my favorite individual to appear in any Harlem Shake video:

Charlotte Stone Crabs – What’s to stop the Incredible Hulk from wearing a sombrero?

Fresno Grizzlies — Forget this faddish viral bastardization. Parker knows how to do the REAL Harlem Shake. WATCH ON VINE. 

Louisville Bats — This takes place in multiple dimensions simultaneously. It will blow your mind.

Bowling Green Hot Rods — I guess you could say that Axle rose to the occasion.

Delmarva Shorebirds — The Shake so nice they did it twice.

Springfield Cardinals — You know what? This is probably the  best one out of all of ‘em.

Round Rock Express — All bobblehead version!

Connecticut Tigers — Shout it from the rooftop!

And, finally, there are the State College Spikes. The first Minor League team to post a Harlem Shake video, and the last to be featured in this post:

EDIT! 

Two latecomers have entered the fray!

Orem Owlz — Holly, the Owlz pregnant mascot, wisely sat this one out.

Myrtle Beach Pelicans — Fans of multi-colored crustacean triumvirates rejoice!

And that’s all she wrote, folks. “She” being me, of course. I am a man. A 34-year-old man. A man who is perhaps too old to be providing you with diversions such as the above. But yet I do, and yet I did.

Do not forsake me, future historians! I do not want to believe that this has all been in vain.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Return to the Road: Days Inn and A Night Out

I plan on posting my next road trip itinerary before the week is out, but for now the supplemental Florida content keeps on rolling along. When we last left off, I had visited two wildly different Spring Training venues in the Fort Myers area before heading to Port Charlotte (home of the Stone Crabs).

Before checking in to Port Charlotte’s Days Inn, I stopped for lunch at this quality dining establishment.

I mention this because this marked the only time on this trip that I had a chance to order grouper (one of Southwest Florida’s most prevalent seafood options). The Olympia did a good job with it, I thought.

The Olympia Restaurant and the Days Inn were both located on “Tamiami Trail,” a quaint sounding name for what was in actuality a heavily-trafficked commercial road. If that’s a “trail,” then you might as well call the Empire State Building a shack…

But I, once again, digress. The Days Inn itself was nothing special, but its awesome backyard boasted an appealing otherworldly-ness. I was disappointed that the subterranean music club was closed, as that surely would have provided a hallucinogenic evening of down and dirty swampland jazz.

My final note on the Days Inn is this classic piece of passive-aggressive corporate communication:

And since I’m on the topic of hotels, the next day I traveled to Lakeland (home of the Flying Tigers) and holed up at the Imperial Swan. Did you know that this is the official winter home of the Detroit Tigers? It’s kinda obvious:

My room at the Imperial Swan was indeed fit for a regal waterfowl. For some reason I decided that Johnny Damon once spent a lot of time in this room while clad in a bathrobe. It was just a hunch.

The Imperial Swan had a decidedly Twilight Zone feel to it, however. The energy was just off. I felt like I was the only one in there, and as I rode my big wheel down the deserted hallways I half expected to come across a set of pallid hand-holding twins beckoning me to come play with them.

But that night’s dinner was an unexpected surprise. I decided on an unassuming Mexican place called “Peso’s,” and in addition to the standard-issue Mexican fare they had a menu of Cuban specials as well.

I can’t remember what this platter was called, but it made me glad to be alive. What a beautiful array of foodstuffs:

So, yeah: Next time you’re in Lakeland, go to Peso’s! It was so good that I was almost able to ignore the domestic dispute going on at the table across from me. Some chest-puffing Dad got so mad at his teenage son that he followed him out of the restaurant to, like, fight him in the parking lot. To distract me from that I decided to flirt with the waitress, which in my case means smiling and maintaining eye contact for half a second longer than usual.

Before leaving Lakeland, I made a pit stop at Henley Park Ballfield to soak in an old-time baseball atmosphere. Built in 1925 and currently on the National Register of Historic Places, this facility hosted Major League Spring Training through the mid 1960s. Since then it has served as the home of the Florida Southern College Moccasins, who do a great job with the upkeep.

I’ve got two or three more dispatches from Florida left, unless the public demands the immediate cessation of such content. Your wish is my command.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

On the Road: Agony of Defeat and Ecstasy of Meat in Port Charlotte

Destination number three on my Sunshine state sojourn was Port Charlotte, a comparatively sedate town about midway between Clearwater (to the north) and Fort Myers (to the south). Port Charlotte is home to the Stone Crabs, the Class A Advanced affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays, and the team plays at the unimaginatively named but very nicely appointed Charlotte Sports Park.

In my haste to get into the stadium and conduct player interviews, I somehow neglected to take exterior shots of the stadium. But here’s the view from just outside of the facility’s upper-most level. Plenty of room for all!

One of the pre-game player interviews I conducted was with Stone Crabs closer Chris Rearick (it will be uploaded shortly, as soon as I am in a hotel with a reliable internet connection. That has been easier said than done here in the Sunshine State). Rearick came across as a thoughtful and good-humored individual, and these traits soon manifested themselves atop the first base dugout.

Rearick, you see, had been recruited to read to members of the team’s “Kid’s Club” prior to the ballgame, with the book of choice being The Very Busy Spider. He did so into the microphone, his voice reverberating throughout the stadium.

Sample line: “‘Maa! Maa!’ said the goat. ‘Want to jump on the rocks?’ The spider didn’t answer, she was very busy spinning her web.”

This all must of have been very amusing to his fellow Stone Crabs, who were (not so) covertly watching from right field as they warmed up for the ballgame.

Rearick is a brave man, as any slip-up whatsoever would surely be seized upon by his teammates. (Right-hander George Jensen is now known as “Curious George” after he read that particular book upon the dugout, and was further made fun of due to an inability to pronounce the word “beluga.”)

With storytime over, I embarked on an extensive tour of the facilities with general manager Jim Pfander. (This was the second time in as many years I spent an evening at the ballpark with Pfander, as last year he oversaw my dunk tank and whipped cream-enhanced stint in Akron). Charlotte Sports Park is a quarter of a century old, but underwent extensive renovations prior to the 2009 season. That was the year in which the Rays made the stadium their Spring Training home, and in a corresponding move the Stone Crabs re-located from Vero Beach.

The main focus of the renovations was the addition of a large structure just beyond right field, which serves as the base of operations for the Rays during Spring Training. The organization’s head honchos have seasonal offices here, and clubhouses, weight rooms, training facilities, and dining areas can be found as well.

It’s a one-stop shop for all your Grapefruit League needs, in other words.

Entering from right field, the first room one comes to is the office of Rays GM Andrew Friedman:

Beyond the offices are clubhouses galore (“clubhouses upon clubhouses,” as Pfander put it).

The Minor Leaguers are on one side…

kept at a safe remove from MLB royalty.

But here’s the thing: once the Rays head back to Tampa for the start of the regular season, the Stone Crabs are free to take over the Major League clubhouse. These are pretty nice digs for guys who are still three levels away from “The Show.”

Meanwhile, Stone Crabs manager Jim Morrison gets to set up shop in the Joe Maddon’s office. (And, yes, Maddon’s office features a huge photo of him getting thrown out of a game.)

“Well-equipped” would be a way to describe the general scene around here, from the trainer’s area…

to the weight rooms.

But there’s still room for personal touches. For example, players can sign up for a homecooked meal courtesy of right-handed reliever Victor Mateo.

It would have been easy to get lost in this maze of Major League-quality amenities. Without Pfander’s guidance I’d probably still be in that building, sleeping under a bench in the trainer’s room, but soon enough we emerged back into the light.

And wouldn’t you know it? A baseball game was going on.

It was a sleepy Sunday evening atmosphere, very pleasant environment in which to wind down the weekend. On the concourse, kids in bathing suits were taking advantage of an inflatable water slide set up for a “Splash Day” promotion.

In the “Hit and Run” club, season ticket holders enjoyed an Asian-themed menu.

 

One of the park’s most popular food options is the cheesesteak stand in right field, which is mobbed during Spring Training games. (It’s called “Cheese and Steak,” though, perhaps out of a desire to remove the item from its ingrained Philadelphia connotations).

I already had my dinner plans all mapped out, but first things first: a sumo match against the undefeated “Colby-ashi.” As you can see, the odds were against me. Colbyashi was in a whole ‘nother weight class.

This wasn’t my first time in the suit, as last year in Bowie I suited up as “Bennyhilla” and quickly went down in defeat. This time was no different. A painfully slow walk down the stairs was the prelude to a thorough on-field beat-down.

 

The main event was still to come, however: My battle with the Stoney Dog!

In case it’s not clear, the Stoney Dog is a jumbo bacon-wrapped hot dog topped with pulled pork and fried onions. I asked food and beverage director Corey Brandt what inspired him to create such a thing and he had a quick answer.

“Pork! Pork’s good,” he said. The Stoney Dog was a spontaneous creation, he went on to explain, as opposed to an endlessly re-jiggered offseason obsession. It just sort of happened.

And now I had one in my hands.

 My professional dignity, already tenuous, was reduced even further by eating this thing.

It was an unwieldy beast, the Stoney Dog, and unhealthy to a degree that I’d rather not think about. But it was really, really good.

I’m not sure if consumption of an oversized concession item constitutes “victory,” but after losing the sumo match it felt like a redemptive act. Basking in the glow of this accomplishment, I took a seat down the first base line and watched the final inning of what turned out to be a 3-0 loss to Palm Beach.

Our good friend Chris Rearick appeared in the ballgame, allowing a run over 1 1/3 innings.

I asked the spider what she thought of Rearick’s performance, but she didn’t answer. She was too busy spinning her web. But closure was provided when the same kids whom Rearick read to were among those who ran the bases post-game.

Man down!

Kids running the bases, CCR playing on the PA, and the sky turning a beautiful purplish hue as day turned to night. It was truly a beautiful scene.

 

And that will be all from Charlotte Sports Park. Don Zimmer and friend wish you good night and safe travels.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Go West, Young(ish) Blogger

The title of today’s post is more than just a belabored play on an already mangled and misattributed quotation. It is also my way of telling you that I’m on the cusp of 2011’s first road trip!

Motivated by wanderlust and an unbeatable rental car deal, I’ll be checking out the new-for-2011 Tucson Padres before moving on to a quartet of California League teams. The itinerary:

May 11-12: Tucson Padres

May 13: Writing/Travel Day (although who knows? Maybe I’ll be able to get to a ballpark by nightfall).

May 14: Lancaster JetHawks

May 15: High Desert Mavericks

May 16: Inland Empire 66ers

May 17: Lake Elsinore Storm

I’m psyched to be making my first California sojourn as a so-called professional, and to once again get behind the wheel of a car after yet another prolonged stint of NYC public transit emasculation. Now comes the part of the post where I earnestly implore YOU to please get in touch with suggestions as to who to talk to, where to visit, what foods to try, etc. I of course have some ideas of what to write about, but as usual much is to be determined. Your feedback is much appreciated.

In particular, let me know if you have any interesting California League stories/memories. It seems like surreal things happen out there on a regular basis.

And driving a car again will no doubt lead to profound sticker shock at the pumps, something I mercifully don’t have to deal with on a daily basis here in NYC. But two teams are doing their part to ease the burden: the State College Spikes and Charlotte Stone Crabs. From the former:

From May 9th through May 20th, the Spikes will provide fans a chance to save at the pump when they take advantage of any one of seven ticket offerings. Highlighting the “Spikes Fuel Perks” ticket promotion, any fan that purchases new season tickets will earn a $100 gas card per seat bought!  


And the latter: 

Throughout the Stone Crabs season, fans will have the opportunity to purchase two reserved seats to any Stone Crabs game, along with two hot dogs, and two sodas for only $26. In addition to the ticket package, fans will receive a complimentary $5 gas card from RaceTrac convenience stores, while supplies last.

In completely unrelated news, I received the following email yesterday from Lowell Spinners groundskeeper Jeff Paolino:

I am reaching out to you to see if there is any way to find out if there are any other Military members who are currently Active or Reserve other than myself working in Minor League Baseball? Reason being, I would like to get a group initiative together throughout  MILB as representatives of both baseball and the Military.

This seems like a worthwhile endeavor, but I was unable to assist. So if you fit the above criteria (or know someone who does) then contact Jeff at jpaolino@lowellspinners.com And spread the word!

And, finally, congratulations to Pawtucket Red Sox announcer Dan Hoard — the new radio voice of the NFL’s Cincinnati Bengals.

Enjoy your weekend! For the next two days, it’ll be all we’ve got!

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Still Recapping, Moving Images

busted.jpg

If you thought I was done recapping the 2010 season, then you thought sensibly.

You also thought wrong. 

One (self-imposed) task remains, and that is to dedicate a post to the best team-produced videos that appeared on this blog in 2010. This is an entirely subjective task, of course, but it is indisputable that the following videos you are about to see possess ample comedic chops. 

In reviewing the year that was, I came to the realization that my favorite videos of the season had the following three things in common: They featured players, they were short (under two minutes) and they were funny.

No team was better at combining the following three criteria than the Peoria Chiefs, who put out videos featuring boy bands, models, and karaoke superstars. But my personal favorite paid homage to the sweet sounds of Motown.

The Tulsa Drillers were able to provide great insight into the culture of the bullpen, whose denizens are free to focus on matters follicles.

In Everett, meanwhile, the players were more concerned with that which resided above the upper lip.

And since we’re talking about players, I would be remiss if I didn’t include the masterwork of Reading Phillies sluggers Tagg Bozied and Matt Rizzotti.

The Charlotte Stone Crabs also used players to great effect throughout the season, as part of their “This Is Stone Crabs Baseball” ad series. This one, starring Isaias Velazquez, was my favorite.
 .

Velazquez has good reason to be upset, and as this video amply illustrates it is not wise to mess with Minor League Baseball players. Behold, the “aqua-palypse” that took place in Gwinnett County.

Of course, a good Minor League video doesn’t necessarily need to feature the players at all. Lakewood BlueClaws intern “D-Bo” made a name for himself this season with a series of videos designed to highlight upcoming promotions. Here’s a sample, with sight gags a-plenty:
 

Amazingly, I’ve gotten this far without posting a parody video. Let’s rectify that immediately, by checking out the Binghamton Mets unique take on “Twilight”.

But nothing inspires parody more than early ’90s West Coast gangsta rap, as evidenced by these two works of art.

The above video was produced by the Peoria Chiefs, bringing this post full circle. But before closing this one out, I have just one more thing to announce:

It’s Peanut Butter Jelly Time!

Boy oh boy is it ever.

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

Chooglin’ On Through the Postseason

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for playoff_landing_hdr.jpgIt’s playoff time out here in the MiLB wilderness, and the necessity of cranking out here-today, gone-tomorrow playoff previews and features has led to an unfortunate lull in my blogging output.

But don’t despair. I would never abandon this blog, for it is has become my professional calling card. Without it, I would be alone and forsaken in the dot com universe, with no URL on which to hang my digitally-encoded headpiece.

Thank you to those who have decided to join me here. Since content leads to contentment, I’ll dispense with the chatter and get down to brass tacks.

I barely have anything left from the regular season at this point, but I do have this:

Way back in mid-August, the Lake County Captains staged their first-ever Harry Potter Night. Player headshots were altered accordingly, and Grover the on-field host dressed up as the titular wizard:

Potter_headshot.JPG
Potter_Grover.JPG

Writes Captains director of promotions Jonathan Levey:

Classic Park sections were split up in to actual “Hogwarts” houses and the loudest and most enthusiastic house
(Hufflepuff 101-105) won prizes at the end of the eighth inning.

Contests were held for “Best Dressed Harry Potter Character” and there was a “Harry Potter Trivia Contest” as an On-Field promotion.

Harry Potter movie clips and music played throughout the game and individual Harry Potter headshots were
made for Captains players.

The winner of the aforementioned Trivia Contest received the “Golden Snitch”:

Potter_Snitch.JPG

Being ignorant of Potter minutiae, I first assumed that the Golden Snitch was something awarded to particularly helpful police informants. But, as is so often the case, one second of internet research was all it took to upend my faulty assumptions. A “snitch” is a walnut-sized ball used in the game of Quidditch.

I don’t really no how to make a smooth transition from the topic of “walnut-sized balls”, so I won’t. I’ll simply post a particularly entertaining Charlotte Stone Crabs commercial:

The club made a whole series of these videos throughout the season, check them all out HERE.

The Stone Crabs were defeated by the Tampa Yankees in the Florida State League finals. But there are still many teams who are currently in the midst of the postseason, with the front offices of these teams doing the best they can to lure fans to the ballpark. And sometimes, one’s best involves gesturing wildly at passing motorists while dressed as a banana.

Kudos to these intrepid Great Lakes Loons employees:

Loons playoffs.jpg

You drive me crazy, Minor League Baseball season. But I’ll miss you when you’re gone.

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

Charlie Crist Cancellation Causes Costumed Crustacean Candidacy

stoney.JPGThis past Tuesday, Florida governor (and Senatorial candidate) Charlie Crist was scheduled to throw out the first pitch at a Charlotte Stone Crabs game.

Crist was forced to cancel his appearance, however, for reasons that are not important. What is important is that Crist’s cancellation caused Charlotte mascot Stoney to announce an impromptu bid for the U.S. Senate.

The announcement was made from Stoney’s subterranean lair (he literally lives “under the boardwalk”), and then distributed to the masses via the almighty press release:

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” Stoney said at the
press conference. “Also, no baseball or hot dogs. I don’t want to live
in a world with no baseball or hot dogs.”

The Stone Crabs mascot will run on a platform that tackles important
issues like mandatory
Stoney Campaign Poster.jpg field trips to baseball games for all students and
universal hot dog care (No Hot Dog Left Behind).

Stoney will hold a celebration for his Senate bid on Friday night as the
Stone Crabs take on the Palm Beach Cardinals at 7:05 p.m at Charlotte
Sports Park. He will throw out the Ceremonial First Pitch before the
game and has planned a special post-game fireworks show to kick off his
campaign.

“Four score and seven years ago, I don’t know what year it was,” Stoney
said at the press conference. “But Friday, April 23 will be a night
that will live in infamy.” 

Stoney’s candidacy has made national news, as is usually the case when crabs make a bid for political office. The Atlantic interpreted the timing of the announcement as “sarcastic retribution” directed toward cancellin’ Charlie Crist, while the LA Times took it as an indicator of just how politically vulnerable the Governor has become.

crist.jpgThe Stone Crabs, for their part, insist that they were making fun of themselves and not Crist. This makes sense, as crustaceans are biologically incapable of expressing emotions as nuanced as “spite”. And Crist has connections in the industry, having served as general counsel for Minor League Baseball from 1983-88. Cross him at your peril.

At any rate, this appears to be the first mascot political attempt since Charlie T. RiverDog lobbied the Obama family to select him as nation’s first pet. I could be overlooking something, however. I often overlook things. Tell me what I overlooked:

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

The Offseason is On

onoff.jpgPerceptive readers of this blog may have picked up on the fact that I have come down with a case of the “Offseason Blues.” This ailment is not recognized by the mainstream medical community, so it has been hard for obtain the treatment I deserve.

But soldier on I must, so soldier on I shall. Today, I seek to derive strength and inspiration by conveying the following smorgasbord of Minor League news to you, the reader.

Dare to Be Stupid — Teams across the country are currently taking advantage of October down time in order to plan their 2010 promotional schedule. At least two of these clubs are actively soliciting fan suggestions: the Great Lakes Loons and the Bowie Baysox.

In advance of last week’s “Think Tank” planning session, the Loons put out a press release asking that fans submit promotional ideas on the Facebook page of mascot Lou E. Loon.

The Baysox, meanwhile, are asking fans to send an email to info@bowiebaysox.comstraight.jpg with the subject line of “CRAZY IDEA.” The caps-lock enamored club takes pains to emphasize that NO IDEA IS TOO CRAZY, so don’t be afraid to really let loose. I just gave myself 30 seconds to brainstorm a crazy idea, and the best I could do was “hermit crab giveaway.” It’s been that kind of day.

A Trip Down Memory Lane — I am in the process of putting together a spreadsheet of offseason Minor League events, so that I can write an offseason version of my “Promotion Preview” column. In the process, I have come across several worthy events that, alas, have already occurred. Such as:

Legends of Baseball Vintage Showdown in San Jose — Former big leaguers — including Hall of Famers Gaylord Perry and Rollie Fingers — faced off against players from the California Vintage Baesball Association. The game was played according to the 1886 rulebook, meaning that Perry could finally throw a legal spitball.

Hall of Fame Fight Night in Corpus Christi — Featuring eight bouts and a local Hall of Fame induction ceremony. What more could you ask for on a Saturday night in October at a Double-A ballpark?

Stone Crabs Celebrate Themselves — In Charlotte (Florida), the Stone Crabs celebrated theflacrab.gif opening of stone crab season by offering fans a $50 gift card with the purchase of a season ticket plan.
  
Dave the Horn Guy Update — Every few months, I feel compelled to mention Minor League touring performer Dave the Horn Guy. Rather than question why this is, I instead direct you to THIS LINK. There, you can download Horn Guy ringtones. If you’ve never heard Usher’s “Yeah” played through a chromatically-tuned bulb horn, then you’ve never really lived.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

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