Results tagged ‘ Danville Braves ’

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

Musing Mascots in Costumed Contemplation

For mascots, there’s no escaping the spotlight. These mute yet endlessly expressive characters are  the center of attention everywhere they go, and as a result they always need to be “on.”  Pictures are requested, high fives demanded, and antics expected. It’s an exhilarating existence, to be sure, but not at all conducive to moments of quiet reflection and self-analysis.

Yet such moments, while rare, do occur. To capture them on camera is an exhilarating feeling, akin to a landlocked bird watcher getting an glimpse of the elusive Red Phalarope. This is how I felt during a June trip to Lake County, when I was able to capture Captains mascot Skipper in a moment of introspection.

Feeling inspired by this rare bit of photographic luck, I asked readers to please send in introspective mascot photos of their own. This request was met with an enthusiastic response, and the results are contained in this post.

What follows is the most impressive collection of introspective mascot photos that the world has ever seen.

The above individual is Louie of the Great Lakes Loons, whose powers of introspection are far greater than the average bird. Soon after abandoning his dugout perch, he went into the stands and got the fans to join him in a moment of quiet contemplation.

Another city boasting thoughtful birds amongst its citizenry is Toledo. Muddy the Mud Hen is a voracious reader, and can sometimes be spotted at the local library with his beak buried in a good book.

Muddy’s literary endeavors have increased his powers of imagination. Back at the ballpark, he sometimes gets lost in thought while resting his left arm on a railing that doesn’t even exist.

As evidenced by the picture of Skipper at the top of this post, ballpark tunnels represent a good place for a mascot to temporarily escape from the madding crowd. Here’s Phinley of the Clearwater Threshers, patriotically pontificating.

Meanwhile, in Winston-Salem, Bolt takes a moment to reflect before instigating some between-inning hula-baloo.

They say lightning doesn’t strike twice, but I was able to get a shot of Bolt during my visit to Winston-Salem this past July. This one is perhaps less “introspective” than “fatigued.”

While in Winston-Salem, I spent time with not one but TWO blog readers who went on to email me introspective mascot photos. Matt “Possum” Campbell solicited this shot of the Danville Braves’ “Blooper,” who does his best thinking with left hand planted firmly on stomach.


Meanwhile, veteran Minor League wanderer Rex Doane sent in pictures from various far-flung locales. Our journey with Rex begins in Norfolk, where Rip Tide sometimes assumes a near-beatific demeanor.

Then we fly over to flyover country, with this behind-the-back view of Swoop of the South Bend Silver Hawks.

And, finally, we arrive in the modest environs of the Modesto Nuts’ dugout. That’s where Al Almond sometimes goes in order to escape from the nuttiness surrounding him.

Another thoughtful dugout denizen is Fort Wayne’s Johnny TinCap, whose demeanor is never crotchety even if his hobbies sometimes are.

Of course, one doesn’t need to be solitary to be introspective. Over the three seasons that the team has been in existence, Chopper of the Gwinnett Braves has established himself as one of the most empathetic woodchucks in the Minors. Here he is having an on-field heart-to-heart.

Chopper’s upright demeanor is in stark contrast to Millie of the Lowell Spinners. On the last day of the season, this canal-dwelling alligator went deep into her own headspace while sitting on a stadium bench.

Allie’s daughter, Millie, simply curled up in the fetal position in order to think long and hard about the season that had just transpired.

With this concept on the verge of collapse, it seems that I’ll have to call it a day. Of course, keeping sending those introspective mascot photos in. I am totally amenable to there being a second, third, fourth, and even fifth installment of this series.

There will be no sixth installment.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

On the Road: Visiting Dan Daniel in Danville

American Legion Post 325 Field at Dan Daniel Memorial Park might have an unwieldy name, but it’s a pretty unassuming place to watch a ballgame.

The city-owned facility is home to the Appy League’s Danville Braves, but as the name would imply it also hosts an array of local youth teams as well. And while the structure itself is modest, the area surrounding it is impressive. “Legion Field”, as it is commonly called, is located within the sprawling 170-acre confines of Dan Daniel Memorial Park.

The park is also home to a gleaming, thoughtfully-constructed Veteran’s Memorial, paying tribute to local war casualties from the Revolutionary War to Iraq and Afghanistan.

I had assumed going into the evening that the town of Danville was named after Dan Daniel, whoever he may be. But this assumption, like so many before it, turned out to be erroneous.

The town of Danville is named for the Dan River, which itself had been named by an 18th-century settler. Dan Daniel, meanwhile, was a longtime Democratic Congressman who died in office in 1989 at the age of 73.

As the plaque notes, Daniel’s “fiscal conservatism was exceeded only by his liberal love of family and nation.” And — look! — his real first name is “W.C.” They could have called the place “W.C. Fields.”

Back within the confines of the stadium, I did my usual round of player interviews and then took in the pre-game scene.

As game time approached, I was caught unawares by the announcement that “Santa Claus” would be throwing out the first pitch. I then did the best I could to document this rare offseason appearance. It wasn’t even “Christmas in July” night. He was just…there.

In the above shot, note that there are a lot of children hanging out in the home dugout. Most of them are the players, many of whom are still in their teens. The rest were there as part of a birthday party for the daughter of D-Braves GM David Cross (I’ll never be able to type that name without thinking of my college-era obsession with Mr. Show).

First pitches, as they often do, gave way to the National Anthem.

And wouldn’t you know it? After the National Anthem the game began.

I spent most of the evening watching from the third and first base bleachers, as the covered grandstand area was obscured by a net that stretched halfway down each base line.

But the view from the first row was nonetheless pretty good.

One key advantage of sitting in the grandstand was that the seats weren’t wet — as was often the case on this road trip, the weather was a bit on the precipitous side.

But why I am sitting here writing about sitting? It’s time’s to sit here and write about wandering. This mural is one of the first things one sees upon entering the park.

It’s very well done, but I liked this bit of ballpark artwork even better.

I can’t help but make a note of this prominent bit of misspelled signage.

Speaking of misspelled signage, I am continually amazed that this Chik-Fil-A advertising campaign was greenlit — desperate members of  a species targeted for mass slaughter trying to appease their carnivorous overlords by advocating for the mass slaughter of a different species.

Dystopian sci-fi hasn’t got a thing on Chik-Fil-A.

And on the topic of discriminate animal consumption — let’s check out the D-Braves concessions.

The team proudly serves Kunzler hot dogs. Is it just me, or are there subliminal images embedded within this logo?

But it’s my policy to always order the most unique thing on the menu — in this case the bologna burger. And this led to a problem — I had no money on me. Usually this is rectified by a quick trip to the ATM, but in this case it was rectified by a not-so quick trip to the ATM.

20 minutes, several wrong turns and two out-of-order ATM machines later, I finally found a working cash dispensary and then hightailed it back to the park. The lesson here is that while the Appy League may be cheap, always bring enough cash for all your ticketing/concession/”souvenier”/50-50 raffle needs.

Finally, it was time for the bologna burger.

It’s topped with onions, peppers, and mustard, a combination recommended by the guy working the grill (“That’s how they make ‘em down at the racetrack,” he told me).

It tasted fine, but suffered in comparison to my closest reference point: the pork roll sandwich. (This is a New Jersey specialty, and now that’s it on my mind I’ll go on the record and say that a pork roll sandwich with Chickie and Pete’s Crab Fries and a Yuengling is my favorite concession combination in the Minors. Here’s to you, Trenton Thunder.)

But in this particular narrative I’m in Danville and still hungry. While the nachos were standard issue, I appreciated the fact that they were served like this (with a bag of tortilla chips on the side).

It might look sloppy, but layering the bottom of the tray rectifies the all-too-common problem of not enough cheese (writes a single 32-year-old man blogging about nachos on a Friday evening).

But these are nacho problems, they’re mine. So let’s return to the ballgame.

The between-inning activities were fairly minimal, as one would expect. There was a Pony Hop Race (those things are everywhere these days) and a dizzy bat race among other things, but for the most part it was little more than a PA announcement related to sponsorship or an ongoing game program bingo contest. At one point “The Chicken Dance” was played, with no accompanying announcement that it was the Chicken Dance or that people should, in fact, dance. I appreciated this.

Blooper the mascot made the rounds throughout the evening, but my attempts to take an interesting picture of him continually proved fruitless.

But this shot of the Danville sunset turned out pretty well, I think.

Also turning out well was the game itself, with the D-Braves coasting to a 7-3 victory over Pulaski.

There is ample opportunity to interact with coaches and players outside of the home clubhouse after the game.

But what excited me the most was that I finally got a nice shot of Blooper.

I’m going to add this one to my ever-growing “Introspective Mascot” file folder. If you’ve got some of your own to send along, you know where to find me.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

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