Results tagged ‘ Durham Bulls ’

On the Road: Steak, Cheese and ‘Cue in Durham

To see all my posts from my May 7 visit to the Durham Bulls, click HERE. To see all of my posts from my May 2016 Carolinas Road Trip, click HERE. To see all of my “On the Road” posts, click HERE. If interested in seeing posts covering a visit to a particular team, search for that team’s name in the blog search bar (it’s to your right). 

This is Ken Childs.

050Ken, a Massachusetts native, attended college (and played baseball) at North Carolina Wesleyan College. Collegiate wood bat aficionados may remember him from his stint as bullpen catcher for a Cape Cod League Hyannis Mets team that included Jason Varitek. Upon graduating from college in 2001 he moved to Durham, and in Durham he remains. Ken is currently an IT manager for Duke’s anesthesiology department. He also works as a PA announcer at South Boston [Virginia] Speedway and covers bobsled, skeleton and luge at his website slidingonice.com. Ken, clearly a 21st-century renaissance man, is also a diehard Durham Bulls fan. He’s a half-season ticket holder with front row seats located just past the first base dugout.

Finally, and most importantly to the purposes of this narrative: Ken served as the designated eater when I attended May 7’s Durham Bulls game. Therefore, it was his duty to consume the ballpark cuisine that my gluten-free diet prohibits. That ballpark cuisine included the Angus Barn steak and cheese sandwich that he is brandishing in the above photo.

Let’s take a closer look at this $16 behemoth.

049Angus Barn, a well-known upscale Raleigh steakhouse, is one of two new Bulls food vendors for the 2016 campaign. These steak and cheese sandwiches — angus beef, grilled onions, peppers, cheddar cheese and secret sauce on Italian bread —  are prepared and sold out of a concourse kiosk. The only other item on the Angus Barn menu is cheddar cheese and crackers; clearly, steak and cheese is the prime attraction here.

“You have no shame, right?” I asked Ken, as he was preparing to take his first bite of this imposing creation.

“My softball team’s name is, quite literally, No Shame,” Ken replied.

At this moment, I knew I had selected the right man for the job. Have at it, Ken.

“Amazing,” said Ken, while removing dripping foodstuffs from his chin. “I don’t know what the secret sauce is, but it’s delicious as hell. This is the best cheesesteak I’ve ever had. I’m not even exaggerating here.”

As for the hefty $16 price tag, Ken said it was justified but conceded that there are better deals to be had.

“The food here [at Bulls games] is so good, and so much of it is not $16.”

That said, he then went back to rhapsodizing about his sandwich.

“I’m taking some huge bites here. Everything is cooked perfectly. It’s fantastic.”

053 2016’s other new ballpark food vendor is Makus Empanadas. We didn’t have any luck there, unfortunately. It was the seventh inning, and they were already sold out.

055Undaunted, we traversed over to the third base side of the ballpark in order to sample the day’s two Star Wars-themed beverage offerings.

056On the left is Vader Ade, consisting of Fruit Punch Gatorade and blood orange sorbet. On the right is Yoda Soda, which is Lemon-Lime Hawaiian Punch with Sierra Mist and lime sorbet. Ken sampled the former and I the latter. Both were overwhelmingly sweet. Kids would love ’em, I think, but it was a little too much for my refined and sophisticated adult palette to handle.

“It tastes like ice cream covered in Pixy Stix juice,” is the quote written in my notebook. I’m not sure who said that, me or Ken, so let’s just consider it a team effort.

Despite having eaten a massive steak and cheese sandwich in less than 10 minutes, Ken was still hungry. Or, at the very least, he was still willing to stuff more food into his mouth. Next up was a visit to Smokebox Barbecue, located on the outfield concourse.

058The Smokebox is “eastern style” vinegar-based barbecue. Ken opted for the ‘Cue Dog, which is a hot dog topped with pulled pork and coleslaw.

057Ken gamely assented to starring in yet another Vine video.

“You’ve got to come at this thing from the bottom to really get it right,” said Ken. “But the barbecue is incredible, and that plus the dog and the slaw, it all comes together. It’s inexplicable, really.”

As with the steak and cheese sandwich, Ken consumed this oversized item within the span of a few minutes. His food consumption efforts were nothing if not conscientious, focused and dedicated.

“I’m not one to back down from a challenge,” he said. “Thankfully, there’s no bad challenge here. The food here is incredible. They’ve got a little bit of everything, and it’s fantastic. It really is.”

Thanks to Ken volunteering to be my Durham Bulls designated eater. This was an experience that really stayed with him.

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On the Road: Star Wars Sells Out in Durham

To see all my posts from my May 7 visit to the Durham Bulls, click HERE. To see all of my posts from my May 2016 Carolinas Road Trip, click HERE. To see all of my “On the Road” posts, click HERE. If interested in seeing posts covering a visit to a particular team, search for that team’s name in the blog search bar (it’s to your right). 

A short time ago, in a galaxy not so far away, a hackneyed Minor League Baseball writer began a blog post about the Durham Bulls’ May 7 Star Wars promo with an uninspired reference to the film. That writer? Me!

When the last post in this Bulls blogging trilogy ended, I was on the field and a game was about to begin. I don’t want anyone griping to me about continuity errors, so I’m gonna pick up right where I left off. So, there I was: standing on the field with the game about to begin.

What’s up, Leia? I’m surprised they let that Wookiee standing next to you into the ballpark. Chewtobacca is banned in Minor League Baseball.

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The above two compatriots were soon joined by Han Solo — or at least what passed for Han Solo on this beautiful day at the ballpark.

038As the first pitch approached, Bulls manager Jared Sandberg took a moment to model the team’s Star Wars uniform.

IMG_1179It was cool to chat with Sandberg, even if it was only for a minute. Most players/coaches/managers don’t know who I am, as my side of the Minors generally doesn’t deal with what’s happening on the field. But Sandberg is a fan of the “exploring America through Minor League Baseball” angle, and we made extremely tentative plans to go on a MiLB road trip after he retires from coaching and managing. Be on the lookout for that in 2047 or so.

Once the game began, I had a few innings to engage in some idle wandering. A sold-out Star Wars crowd in a beautiful ballpark on a beautiful Saturday afternoon — what more could one want from their Minor League Baseball experience?

This photo, sent to me by the team, depicts Luke Maile at the plate for the Bulls. He shoulda changed his surname to “Skywalker” for the occasion. (Get it? It’s a Star Wars reference.)

Luke Maile UniformYou know who else should’ve assumed a different identity? Bulls on-field host Jatovi, who could’ve affixed an “Obi-Wan” in front of his name. Note that Jatovi, a true fashion icon, is wearing a Star Wars shirt with tags still affixed at the neck and an “X-Large” sticker on the front.

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During my laconic travails around the ballpark, I witnessed a variety of between-inning events. This Vine was filmed in the aftermath of a Bull Durham mascot race, featuring Crash, Nuke and Annie. I believe Wool. E. Bull — a.k.a. Han Solo — was in there as well, but he didn’t finish after having been banished to the abyss.

This photo, again sent to me by the team, depicts an abdomen-baring moment of the Diamond Cutters grounds crew dance.

Han Solo DCsAt one point during the middle innings, I wrote and disseminated a groundbreaking and subversive ballpark joke.

At another point during the middle innings, I participated in an on-field Star Wars trivia contest. It was a setup, as all the “correct” answers involved me doing a Wookiee yell. I did my best to appease the masses, and for the rest of the afternoon random fans stopped me to say “Good job!” or a variation of that sentiment.

Ken Childs, the disseminator of the above tweet, was my designated eater for the evening. His exploits will be chronicled in the third and final post of this Bulls trilogy. Once my time with Ken was complete, the game was in its waning innings.

060The waning innings waned a little longer than usual, however, as the Tides and Bulls were deadlocked at 1-1 after nine frames. This gave me the opportunity to write and disseminate another groundbreaking ballpark joke.

I wish I could report that the Bulls won on a “Han” solo home run, but it was not to be. Instead, the Bulls emerged victorious after Dayron Varona (who has a Star Wars-style name, at least) hit a two-out walk-off double. Jaff Decker, who had singled with one out, scored the winning run. The sellout crowd, therefore, went home happy.

@durhambulls win, 2-1, in 11, after a walk-off double by Dayron Varona. I was far away when it happened.

A video posted by Benjamin Hill (@thebensbiz) on

And that did it for my evening with the Durham Bulls. Stay tuned for the aforementioned food-related post, appearing a short time from now in, yes, a galaxy not-so far away.

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benjamin.hill@mlb.com

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instagram.com/thebensbiz

On the Road: The Force Awakens in Durham

To see all my posts from my May 7 visit to the Durham Bulls, click HERE. To see all of my posts from my May 2016 Carolinas Road Trip, click HERE. To see all of my “On the Road” posts, click HERE. If interested in seeing posts covering a visit to a particular team, search for that team’s name in the blog search bar (it’s to your right). 

It’s hard to talk about the Durham Bulls without referencing the 1988 movie Bull Durham, portions of which were filmed at the team’s old home of Durham Athletic Park. The film made the Bulls an internationally recognized name, and the ensuing publicity and increased crowds helped the erstwhile Carolina League team move to a new ballpark (Durham Bulls Athletic Park, in 1995) and level of play (the Triple-A International League, in 1998).

All of this is to say, the current Bulls experience is a long way from that which was immortalized in Bull Durham. A galaxy far, far away, perhaps, given that I visited the team for its annual Star Wars promotion. Can you imagine Crash Davis wearing something like this?

IMG_1169Yet, there are plenty of iconic elements still incorporated into the Bulls’ game experience. As I ventured to the stadium on this beautiful Saturday afternoon, walking through Durham’s Tobacco District, the back end of the “Hit Bull Win Steak” sign served as my North Star.

001En route to the home plate entrance, I saw a bull that clearly hadn’t been fed in a while.

003And then — bam — there it was: the imposing front entrance to Durham Bulls Athletic Park (which will henceforth be referred to as “DBAP”).

004Shortly after arriving, I sat in on a brief promo team meeting overseen by Bulls director of marketing Krista Boyd. Here are a few quotes from this confab that I scribbled down as Krista went over the agenda. (This year’s Star Wars promo was a tribute to Han Solo and mascot Wool E. Bull was dressed up as Han.) It appears that Margot (or is it “Margo”?) had a busy day.

“Margot, you’re with Chewbacca and Leia. Chewbacca’s in seven-inch platform shoes so he walks slowly. His name’s Ryan in real life.”

“Kylo Ren will take Luke into the abyss at the end of the [mascot] race.” 

“Margot, you’ll help get Chewy, Leia and the other characters, all the Storm Troopers, to Jackie’s Landing so they can dance for the Cantina Cam.”

“Wool E. Bull will drive a landspeed racer at the end of the fifth.”

“Margot, you’ll be with Leia and meet Grace at [section] 116 for the Star Wars Kiss Cam. Wool E. will give Leia a kiss. Then get the mini-Kylo Rens ready. There will be five of them. During this time the Diamond Cutters [grounds crew dance team] will be performing….Nico, you coordinate with Grace about having the mini-Kylo Rens go after Wool. E. with the light sabers.” 

There was a lot more than than, but you get the point. Minor League theme nights, done right, take a lot of planning and coordination.

After receiving their briefing from General Boyd, the promo team was ready to go into battle.

005I then was led to a room that had been pressed into service as a changing area for members of the 501st Legion’s Carolina Garrison. The 501st Legion is legion throughout the country, and crucial to the success of Star Wars promotions. Its members appear at the ballpark, gratis, in full movie-quality costumes.

I ended up speaking with Scott “Darth Vader” Wilmoth…

Vader guy…as well as Sandie “Princess Leia” MacLachan.

Leia and cardI wrote an MiLB.com story based around these interviews, which I would encourage you to read. Click HERE.

I should mention that I was guided during these pregame wanderings by Bulls director of communications Matt Sutor, a master of corridor, concourse, staircase and onfield navigation. After bidding adieu to the Star Wars crew, he and I paid a quick visit to the Bull Durham Beer Company. While many Minor League teams have their own team-branded beer, this is something else entirely. The brewery is actually located on the concourse, in what used to be a pop-up team store.

010The Bull Durham Beer Company is an independent operation, and not owned by the Bulls. There are currently four full-time employees, and four beers on tap at every Bulls game. These include 2016’s two additions to the line-up, “Lollygagger Kolsch” and “Water Tower Wheat.” I was told that the the brewery expected to sell somewhere in the neighborhood of 800 pints on this beautiful Star Wars Saturday evening.

Anyhow, it was nice chatting with this group of brew company employees for a few minutes. I apologize to the woman on the left, as the picture I took in which your eyes are open was too blurry for me to use.

012Another current concourse highlight is the tobacco card-themed wall art, painted in conjunction with a season-long exhibit at the Durham History Hub.

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Meanwhile. out on the concourse, I was able to confirm that it remained a beautiful day in Durham.

015DBAP underwent $19 million in renovations prior to the 2014 season, and one of the most prominent additions was a large social space down the right field line dubbed Jackie’s Landing. Jackie’s Landing — so-named because it runs parallel to Jackie Robinson Drive — includes the 42 Playground and 42 Bar. Here’s the bar, which probably had Bud Light on tap. Just a guess.

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Videoboard upgrades were also part of the renovations. Though the game was still about an hour from beginning, a Star Wars-themed headshot of Tides’ leadoff hitter L.J. Hoes was already fired up and ready to go.

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Up in the press box I spoke with PA announcer Tony Riggsbee, a native of Durham who attended his first Bulls game in 1962. My conversation with Tony, an affable and interesting guy, was summarily turned into this MiLB.com article. 

019A brief peek into the owner’s suite — the owner in this case being Jim Goodmon of Capitol Broadcasting — revealed an old-tyme barber shop atmosphere….

021…as well as some old-time video games. Shoutout to Matt Sutor, who earned a blog cameo via his deft mirror positioning.

022This is the “PNC Triangle Club,” whose tables are either circles or squares.

024Meanwhile, outside, Star Wars mania was in full effect. Costumed 501st Legion members were hot photo op commodities.

IMG_1171

IMG_1175Outside and inside of the ballpark, it remained a beautiful day in Durham.

032And this time, when I returned to the field, my new friends were waiting for me.

IMG_1178I hope this post gave you much to Chew over. Right now I’m gonna Leia down and take a nap, but please know that the next installment of this Durham Bulls Star Wars blog trilogy will appear very shortly.

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benjamin.hill@mlb.com

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About Last Night: Durham Bulls, May 7, 2016

This season, when I’m on the road, I’ll write an on-the-spot blog post about each Minor League ballpark that I visit. Then, upon my presumed return home, I’ll provide the multifaceted blog coverage that you have come to know and, perhaps, love. Let’s get to it, lest it get to us!

May 7: Durham Bulls Athletic Park, home of the — wait for it — Durham Bulls (Triple-A affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays)

Opponent: Norfolk Tides, 5:05 p.m. ET start time

Durham Bulls Athletic Park, from the outside: 004

Durham Bulls Athletic Park, from within: 

060Culinary Creation: Angus Barn Steak and Cheese Sandwich

049Ballpark Characters: Princess Leia and Chewbacca, characters from a cult movie that was being celebrated at the ballpark.

036At Random: Another career highlight.

Your Groundbreaking and Subversive Joke of the Day: 

Up Next:

May 8: Greenville Drive

May 9: Charleston RiverDogs

May 10: Myrtle Beach Pelicans

May 12: Columbia Fireflies

May 13: Carolina Mudcats

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Opening Day 2016: Biz Blog Bouillabaisse

Oh, boy. The inexorable passage of time has once again brought us face to face with a new Minor League Baseball season. I, for one, am psyched. I, for two, have also been remiss in updating this blog over the past week or so. I have various excuses for this, of varying degrees of legitimacy, but who cares? The drought is over. New content — the lifeblood of the internet, the lifeblood of my existence — begins now.

As the title makes clear, this post will be a full-to-bursting bouillabaisse of delectable Minor League morsels. I’d like to start by noting that, over on MiLB.com, my first “Promo Watch” column of the 2016 season is now live. “Promo Watch” is a tweak on the old “Promo Preview” format, encompassing not just the traditional previews but also reviews and larger promo trend analysis. In today’s column, I highlighted a few 2016 promos that I am looking forward to. They involve previous planet Pluto, President James Garfield and pork roll.

notpreview

I’d like to think I’m writing the most consistently (and justifiably) weird stuff in the entire sports journalism ecosystem. But of a less weird variety is this Opening Day Guide, co-written with my colleague Sam “No, I’m not related to Lenny” Dykstra. Read and learn.

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Everybody loves dogs, so everybody will love this: Former Greensboro Grasshoppers bat dog Miss Babe Ruth has accepted a new position with the team.

In this capacity, Miss Babe Ruth (how is she not named “Babe Ruff”?) will “greet fans in the concourse during games and also advertise her new association” with a flea and tick prevention product named BRAVECTO.

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Last season, the Round Rock Express gave away an awesome Willie Nelson bobblehead. This year’s country music honoree is Mr. George Strait.
George Strait Bobblehead

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Remember at the Winter Meetings when I wrote about the complex issues surrounding drone usage at Minor League Baseball games? Well, that’s because, like it or not, drones are here to stay (and not just in the broadcast booth). This season, the Reading Fightin Phils are using them in an official context. This is the “Drone Cam.”

drone

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During the offseason, the Lexington Legends partnered with a local school on “Stache Tank.” This “Shark Tank”-inspired competition asked students, working in teams as part of an economics unit, to pitch a promotional giveaway item as well as a ballpark improvement. Winning student presentations include a slap bracelet giveaway and the construction of a rock climbing wall in right field. Pretty cool idea.

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The Durham Bulls have announced that, on June 9, they will wear “the first Bulls uniform created by a company outside of the sports industry.” It was designed by Durham-based RUNAWAY, which is weird because it seems their focus would be all-caps.

PrintThe jerseys are modeled after the flag of Durham, with “DURM” in the center. DURM is a “term coined by RUNAWAY as an ode to the city’s hard-nosed history.” If you’ve got a hard nose then you should probably go see the durmatologist. 

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In my previous blog bouillabaisse I mentioned that the Sacramento River Cats had installed 472 solar panels and five SMA inverters at their home of Raley Field. The team’s environmentally-friendly endeavors continue apace, with last week’s announcement of River Cats Road Relief. This three-pronged initiative includes a carpool program, which enables cars with four or more passengers to receive free parking.

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New Jersey’s pro baseball scene has gone through some hard times, as three indy clubs have ceased operation. But their pain is the Trenton Thunder’s gain. On Wednesday, the team announced announced that Camden Riversharks, Newark Bears and Atlantic City Surf gear can be exchanged for a free ticket, food voucher and team store discount.

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 The Tri-City ValleyCats don’t start their season until June, but they’re still making good use of their time. On April 14, the team is staging its annual “4 in 24” initiative, in which four local youth fields are renovated within a 24-hour span. This is a great idea.

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I began with dogs, so I’ll end with dogs: The Inland Empire 66ers have installed Minor League Baseball’s first-ever permanent dog park

dogs

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Here’s to the 2016 season! I promise I’ll be announcing my road trip schedules shortly.

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Guest Post: Why I Love the Durham Bulls

It’s time for another “Why I Love” guest post, in which a Minor League fan explains what it is they love about their favorite team, and why. Today’s guest writer is Ken Childs, a proud resident of Durham, North Carolina and, therefore, a proud fan of the Durham Bulls. 

To see other “Why I Love” guest posts, click HERE. And If YOU would like to write a “Why I Love” post, email me at benjamin.hill@mlb.com.

Why I Love the Durham Bulls, by Ken Childs 

(All photos courtesy of Ken Childs)

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Opening Day, 2014

I’ve been a resident of the beautiful city of Durham, North Carolina my entire adult life.  The city has transformed over the last 14 years from what was almost an afterthought of a place into a bustling center for local restaurants, shopping and the arts.  And in the middle of all that growth has been (and always will be) the Durham Bulls.

You’ve probably heard the name: There was a little indie movie made about the Bulls in the 1980s that did okay.  The players who have come through here have shaped the Major League Baseball landscape for quite some time. The Bulls have been a consistent model of how teams should be run, and that has been shown in their continual trips to the Governors’ Cup playoffs. The list of “what’s not to like” about the Bulls, their home of Durham Bulls Athletic Park (DBAP) and their organization as a whole wouldn’t be long enough to fill out an index card, let alone this space, so we’ll go with “what there is to like” and ramble on for a while all about it!

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The view atop the “Blue Monster” in left field

Durham Bulls Athletic Park, which opened in 1995, is considered “older” now, at least when compared to the Minor League Baseball building boom that’s come about over the last decade or so. Nonetheless, you likely won’t find a nicer stadium anywhere. On any given summer night, on the corner of Blackwell and Jackie Robinson, you’ll find families, friends, couples and desperately single guys alike settled in the beautiful 10,000 seat stadium to take in not only great baseball, but great entertainment in general. And the building itself is what those new stadiums aim to be. You want your Minor League park to be a smaller version of a Major League stadium, downtown, near lots of restaurants and things to do both before and after the game?  The DBAP has long been that, before most new stadiums were even a glimmer in an architect’s eye.

The DBAP has its own little quirks that make it like no other: There’s the bull (of Hit Bull, Win Steak fame), Jackie’s Landing (the nicest bar in Durham), the Blue Monster, the grass in the outfield entire families sit on to enjoy a game on a weekend evening and no other shortage of things that make it unique.

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For a facility of its caliber, and a team of its caliber, the Durham Bulls are just about as budget-friendly as their mascot, Wool E Bull, is family-friendly (the “E” is short for “Education”…seriously).

Peek-A-Bull

Peek-A-Bull

The Bulls offer dollar hot dog nights, the best fireworks show anywhere (your town’s 4th of July show pales in comparison, I promise) and lots of great coupons and deals to get in on the cheap. And, even if you don’t, the most expensive ticket in the place is $15.  Admit it: in the past, you’ve spent a lot more on a lot less.

Section 114, Row A

Section 114, Row A

So that’s what there is to love, in general, about the Durham Bulls. Now, why do I love them? For starters, they’re my hometown team. At heart I’m a Chicago White Sox fan, and their Triple-A team is down the road in a lesser city in North Carolina playing in the same International League division. But when they come to town, you can only root for one team, and that’s going to be the hometown one (even if the Bulls are an affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays).

At heart I’m a “people person” kind of guy, and the Bulls’ entire staff are the same way. From Jatovi (the Bulls on-field announcer and master of ceremonies) to general manager Mike Birling and everyone in between, there’s not a single person who won’t go out of their way to help a fan make his or her experience amazing. I’m not a needy guy, but anytime I’ve ever had any issue with anything, there was someone there in a Bulls shirt to lend a hand.

I’m also a sucker for food and cheeky events, and the Bulls have me covered that department as well. There’s Food Truck Rodeo night, where all of Durham’s best food trucks (and we have many) line up in right field. There’s craft beer night, ’80s night, ’90s night and the always popular Bark in the Park night.  The concessions have everything from traditional ballpark food to taco stands to what is truly some of the best BBQ anywhere. So, whatever you’re in the mood for, DBAP most likely offers it. The on-field action is always great, but sometimes it’s that little extra fun in-between innings that makes the night special.

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Food Truck Rodeo

Bark in the Park

Ken Childs (right) and his dog, Deacon, at Bark in the Park Night

And, of course, there’s the baseball itself. The roster is generally made up of outstanding players who are also outstanding people. Hardly ever do you see a player skip a chance to sign an autograph, grab a picture with a fan or flip an extra ball to a kid in the first few rows. Great players like David Price, Wil Myers, Chris Archer, Craig Albernaz, Desmond Jennings and so many more have spent substantial time here in Durham, and this has led to the knowledge that, at any given ballgame, you’re seeing the future of baseball right before your eyes.

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Wil Myers thrills a young fan

A moment with Craig Albernaz

A moment with Craig Albernaz

The Bulls are always in the hunt for the playoffs, and since moving to Durham in 2001 I’ve seen them win the International League championship four times. Baseball is always a little bit more fun when your team is winning, and that is rarely a problem here in Bull City.

The Governors' Cup, awarded to the IL's championship team

The Governors’ Cup, awarded to the IL’s championship team

In short, there are a lot of baseball teams out there, but none are as great as the Durham Bulls. Candlesticks always make a nice gift, but Bulls tickets might be just a little bit nicer.

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The iconic Lucky Strike tower, towering over DBAP

Thanks to Ken for taking the time to write this and, again: If YOU would like to submit a post for this series, then send an email to the address below. In the meantime, here’s my 2011 “On the Road” post detailing my Durham Bulls experience.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Where to Begin?

For the past six months, the material on this blog has been almost entirely devoted to “On the Road” stadium visit recaps. I hope that you enjoyed reading these posts, and if you haven’t read them then I hope that you might soon take the time to do so. But now it’s time to move on, psychically unencumbered, to something that I haven’t done for a while: a full-to-bursting Ben’s Biz Blog bouillabaisse!

This will be the first in a randomly occurring series of posts in which I dig into my email vault of blog-worthy items from the season that was. Let the randomness begin! Randomness such as, oh, I don’t know, a Durham Bulls fan tweeting in the guise of a Game of Thrones character.

Some context regarding the above Twitter outburst, courtesy of the Durham Bulls’ “Hit Bull Win Blog.”

Mur Lafferty, or @mightymur as she is known on Twitter, is a Campbell Award winning author who covers games from a very unique perspective — through the eyes of Game Of Thrones character Sansa Stark. She calls it #Sansaball and being the nerds that we are (see Star Wars Night jerseys), we look forward to this every time she’s in the building.

She seemed to be in the building a lot during the 2014 season, as evidenced by tweets containing the #Sansaball hashtag. Tweets such as these, and so on and so forth:

This begs the question: if YOU were to tweet as a television character during Minor League Baseball games, who would it be and why? (I’d go with Chris Peterson from Get A Life.)

Minor League front office types often boast that they are in the “memory-making business,” and, well, images like this sure make for a great memory:

Opening Night Fireworks 222_2

That picture was taken way back on Opening Day, as Richmond Flying Squirrels mascot Nutzy entered the building in a most memorable fashion.

The evening also ended memorably. Flying Squirrels team president Todd “Parney” Parnell did his best Johnny Cash impersonation by jumping through a ring of fire.

Ring of Fire 640x360

Moving on from Johnny Cash to the Beatles, it’s now time to take a look at “A Day in the Life” of a Minor League employee. This video was made by Greg Monahan, the Lansing Lugnuts on-field host and a graduate student at Michigan State. It was made as part of a school project, and it is well worth your time.

And that will be it for today. Now that I’m back from vacation and all of my road trip content is in the rear view, this blog is officially in offseason mode. I’ve got plenty of material to share, but am always looking for more. If there’s something that you’d like to see covered, or if you are interested in potentially writing a guest post on a relevant Minor League topic of your choice, then please get in touch. Like Richard Marx, I will be right here waiting for you.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

A Cultural Collision in Downtown Durham

Today’s post will, yet again, function as an exhumation of various endeavors that I didn’t get around to covering at the moment in time when they were actually taking place. And what I’d like to focus on today is an endeavor that very much appeals to me, given my background as college radio DJ/nerd turned Minor League Baseball writer/nerd.

Durham_Bulls

On Thursday, July 18, the Durham Bulls teamed with locally-based/internationally-known indie label Merge Records for an evening of baseball and music. The label , which was founded in 1989 by Superchunk’s Mac McCaughan and Laura Ballance, curated  the Bulls’ walk-up music throughout the ballgame. Here’s the list of tunes that were heard that evening at Durham Bulls Athletic Park, which the Bulls have made available as a Spotify playlist.

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* Arcade Fire – “Wake Up”

*   Bob Mould – “Silver Age”

*   Divine Fits – “Would That Not Be Nice”

*   Hospitality – “Friends of Friends”

*   Imperial Teen – “Runaway”

*   The Love Language – “Brittany’s Back”

*   M. Ward – “Requiem”

*   Mikal Cronin – “Change”

*   Mount Moriah – “Bright Light”

*   The Mountain Goats – “The Diaz Brothers”

*   Polvo – “Heavy Detour”

*   Redd Kross – “Researching the Blues”

*   Shout Out Louds – “14th of July”

*   Spoon – “The Underdog”

*   Superchunk – “FOH”

*   Telekinesis – “Wires”

*   Wild Flag – “Romance”

*   Wye Oak – “Civilian”

I was disappointed to see that Eleanor Friedberger was left off the play list — Personal Record is a great LP! — but beyond that I thought this was really innovative partnership and the sort of thing it’d be great to see more of throughout Minor League Baseball. The Bulls’ “Merge Night” went on to serve as the centerpiece of a long Spin magazine feature on the evolution of downtown Durham, and hopefully it will serve as the impetus for a Mountain Goats song about the life of a Minor League mascot.

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Maybe next time?

The evening was also chronicled as part of the season-long “Bull City Summer” project, and in that piece Bulls’ director of marketing Scott Carter explains the rationale behind it thusly:

I consider music the lifeblood of the ballpark experience: it is incredibly important to the atmosphere. But I also believe that if you can mix in some new music that may not be as mainstream, like that which Merge produces, you can make your ballpark into a place where people feel cool. That’s huge. You want people to feel like coming to a game is cool. And we’re lucky to be in a market like this one where indie music is so widely appreciated. So it’s not as out of the norm to hear some of these artists at the DBAP as it may be in some other minor league towns.

I couldn’t have said it better myself (I mean, really, I couldn’t have). While I totally understand that a lot of music on smaller labels isn’t accessible enough for the “all family-friendly entertainment, all the time” atmosphere of Minor League Baseball, the opportunities are out there (though Austin-based Matador records co-founder Gerard Cosloy quickly shot down my idea of a potential collaboration with the Round Rock Express).

So — what are some prominent (or at least semi-prominent) record labels that operate in Minor League cities? And, speaking more broadly, what are some other ways that Minor League teams could partner with the local music scene in their community? An idea that I have bandied about for the last couple of years is a concourse record fair, held in conjunction with local record stores and/or labels and/or community and college radio stations. Get in touch if you have any suggestions or feedback, as this is a topic I plan on returning to as time and inspiration allows.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Whole Lotta Love b/w Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin On

Starting any piece of writing with the formal definition of what will then be discussed is as hackneyed as it gets. But when has an aversion to the hackneyed ever stopped me before?

Hashtag (noun) — The # symbol, called a hashtag, is used to mark keywords or topics in a Tweet. It was created organically by Twitter users as a way to categorize messages.

While this may be old news to the more social media-adept among us, I included the above definition (taken from the Twitter Help Center) as a way to bring everyone up to speed regarding a technique that I’ve been using more and more as a means to gather news and opinions from the disparate corners of the MiLB universe.

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A hashtag, albeit a stylized one

For instance, I established the #MinorLeagueFrontOffice cliche hashtag as a means to collect said cliches, and the result was the “Minor League Front Office Cliche” compendium that you may have read (and may have even enjoyed) last week.

And while I did not originate the #mascotlove hashtag, I suggested to teams that they use it within all of their Valentine’s Day tweets chronicling the amorous travels of their gift-delivering mascots. Searching through tweets with the #mascotlove tag, one can find images such as the following:

@ReadingFightins: Here is a photo of the @CrazyHotDogVendr on one of his many Valentine’s Day deliveries this afternoon. http://ow.ly/i/1wFBI  #mascotlove

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@BowieBaysox Here is a great video compilation from @Branden_Roth of all the Valentine’s deliveries Louie made today #mascotlove http://youtu.be/MId_uKXGw7Y

@DurhamBulls A dapper Wool E. Bull making the rounds today delivering#ValentinesDay Wool E. Grams. #mascotlove pic.twitter.com/gMdqIuBe

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And on and on the #mascotlove went, but at this point I think you get the general idea.

Meanwhile, the Harlem Shake has been a gargantuan internet trend over the past week. While its power is now waning, mercifully, the #HarlemShake hashtag provides a seemingly infinite list of individuals and institutions who did their own version.

This includes Minor League teams, of course, with the State College Spikes the first out of the gate. The Connecticut Tigers soon followed suit, and other teams to post their own versions include the Columbus Clippers, Vancouver Canadians, Lake Elsinore Storm, Tulsa Drillers, Buffalo Bisons, Round Rock Express, Delmarva Shorebirds, Charlotte Stone Crabs, Gwinnett Braves, Corpus Christi Hooks, Fort Wayne TinCaps, Lexington Legends, Bowie Baysox and Frederick Keys.

As for a favorite? Choosing one is a near impossible task. But I’ll go with the Connecticut Tigers, due to their creative use of outdoor environs. Also, the “roar” at the end of the song is very fitting given the team name.

[10 minutes later]

I can’t seem to post this. So watch it HERE.

And as for a video I actually CAN post, how about Round Rock’s bobble-centric version?

If the demand exists, I will follow up this post with a compendium of all MiLB Harlem Shake videos. It won’t be one of the prouder moments of my life.

Finally, there’s this: inspired by the Brooklyn Cyclones’ freewheeling “Ask Me Anything” blog posts, I have instituted an #askbensbizanything hashtag. As the name would imply, feel free to ask me anything (the weirder, the better) but please keep in mind that this is a family publication. Thus far the questions have trickled in at a glacial pace, but when have I ever let a profound disinterest on the part of the reading public ever get in the way of anything?

I look forward to your continued queries, however few and far between they may be.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Something Fur Everyone

I have already thoroughly documented my own Winter Meetings experience, and played a role in documenting the experiences of quite a few others. But as our old friend Ron Popeil was so fond of saying: “But wait — there’s more!”

On both December 2 and December 3 the touring performance crew known as Fur Circus made goodwill appearances at the Nashville Ronald McDonald House and Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital (prior to setting up shop as Trade Show exhibitors). This was a win-win mix of altruism and self-promotion — Fur Circus, relative newcomers on the MiLB touring circuit, were able to spread some good cheer while also spreading the word about themselves.

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Fur Circus put out a press release prior to their visit, and later wrapped it up with this:

But, of course, all of that happened in the long-ago year of 2012. Here in 2013, we have new things to occupy our time —  like New Year’s-themed ticket packs! The Miracle have been doing this for a couple of years now, and I’m always surprised that it hasn’t inspired other teams to do something similar.

miraclepack

Speaking of ticket packs, you may remember that the Durham Bulls are offering the creatively conceived and executed “Wil He or Won’t He” package. Per the squadron:

The Durham Bulls have unveiled a new ticket package in response to the blockbuster trade which sent Minor League Player of the Year Wil Myers and other Kansas City Royals prospects to the Tampa Bay Rays in exchange for former Bulls pitchers James Shields and Wade Davis. The “Wil He, Won’t He?” Pack consists of three big Bulls games, including Opening Day on April 8th and July 4th, and an added incentive for fans should Myers skip Durham and make the Major League roster out of Spring Training. If he does not start the season with the Bulls, ticket package buyers will receive an additional game for free.

Well, now said package has been endorsed  by Mr. Myers himself!

Finally, in the all-important category of “Minor League team page staff bios,” both the State College Spikes and Lake County Captains have modeled theirs after retro baseball card designs. An example of each:

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Oh, and speaking of retro baseball cards — last year around this time I put together a series of “then and now” blog posts detailing those featured in the classic 1987 Topps set who are currently coaching in the Minor Leagues. Why don’t you give it another look? It was a lot of fun to put together and got a great response, but Lord knows it’s too much work for me to re-do each year. I’m only one man.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

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