Results tagged ‘ Durham Bulls ’

Some Shuck, No Jive

Last month’s Florida road trip was, all in all, an overwhelmingly positive experience. But one of the minor disappointments was the relative dearth of local seafood options at the ballparks — for whatever reason, the crab shacks and grouper sandwich spots that were prevalent in the area didn’t cross over into the stadium experience.

So kudos to the Daytona Cubs for taking a step toward rectifying this situation. On select nights through the remainder of the season, employees from nearby Riptides Bar and Grill will be shucking and serving oysters on the half shell!

This past Thursday was the debut of the D-Cubs oyster bar, and as you can tell from the pictures the weather was ominous and therefore the crowds sparse. But he introduction of oysters to the Minor League concession scene is a very positive development, in my opinion, and I am hoping that this idea is a success in Daytona and then spreads to all applicable markets with considerable haste!

I’m not sure of the proper way to dispose of oyster shells, but if this was in Durham I wouldn’t be surprised if the Bulls found a way to recycle them into t-shirt material. The team recently partnered with local collegiate clothing company Spring House to create a line of “Bull City” t-shirts made from 100% recyclable materials (including water bottles, plastic beer bottles and x-ray film).

From the press release:

The entire line is manufactured in Durham’s one and only garment factory, less than three miles away from the Durham Bulls Athletic Park. School House, which designed and manufactured the line, sees  the Bull City collection as an example of the power of “Made in USA” products and local manufacturing.

At this point you’ve all surely thoroughly dissected my most recent Promotion Preview column over at, which leads with approximately 400 words on the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers “Salute to Cows” (yes, I’m just the only person these days who manages to consistently write about Wisconsin in an apolitical context).

The team sent along some photos to run with the piece, and I’d like to share a couple of them here. These are just fantastic, these images, especially because they remind me of a VHS video produced by a Wisconsin-based band that I watched approximately 1500 times in college.

And, finally, I draw your attention to THIS. It’s the State College Spikes’ take on the “Call Me Maybe” video, and they totally nail it. Watch it, definitely.


The Return of the Crazy One

Hey hey my my, Ben’s Biz Blog will never die. But it will occasionally fade away so as not to burn out, before bursting back into the spotlight with a new level of luminosity.

So now that I’m saddled up on the blogging horse after a week long absence from the internet stable, how about a high-wattage post of vague symbolism, mixed metaphors, and, of course, all the Minor League news that’s fit to “print”?

Any objectors, conscientious or otherwise? No? Then let’s start with that which matters most: a nine-foot tall inflatable fish needs a name!

This 108-inch Pirate craniate will roam throughout Jerry Uht Park in 2012, inciting Erie Seawolves fans to new levels of ardor. Remarks the team:

The nine-foot tall, inflatable fish character will be unveiled on Opening Day and will accompany the SeaWolves long-time mascot C. Wolf during on-field skits, community appearances and other team events. 

Any suggestions as to what to name the fish? All I know is that if he’s ever hauled to court on charges of piracy, “gill”ty is sure to be the verdict.

And I’ll be honest here — the prominent inclusion of the above piece is news is largely motivated by the desire to once again post one of my favorite Minor League videos of all time. This earring-sporting fish is now part of a ballpark family that includes these characters:

I know what you’re asking me at this juncture —  So, you were gone for a week, and the best MiLB news you have to offer involves the nomenclature needs of a freakish fish? Au contraire! I also have a picture of a very strange groundskeeping phenomenon: watering the snow.

This picture, sent along by reader Peter Golkin (@Pedro_G on Twitter), depicts the scene at Richmond’s The Diamond last week.  So to all you groundskeeping folk out there — is “watering the snow” an actual tactic, or is the above photo merely documenting some sort of equipment malfunction?

I don’t have the time to find the answer myself, because a far more pressing endeavor involves learning the ins and outs of yet another social media platform: Pinterest.

Yesterday, the Durham Bulls offered fans a Pinterest exclusive:

The team announced that  they will add an alternate cap to their on-field uniform set, unveiling the look on the team’s new Pinterest page. To get an exclusive first glimpse at the new cap, visit

Pinterest is a virtual pinboard where users can browse, organize, and share photos or “pins” of things they find interesting.  The emerging social network is also known for its popularity among women.  In addition to seeing the team’s new alternate hat, followers of the Bulls’ Pinterest page can view pins on seven boards that include “AdoraBULL Apparel,” “Boys of Summer,” and “America’s Favorite Minor League Team.”  

Popularity among women? No wonder I had no idea…

That’ll be it for me today. But I have a lot of material left to share, as well as ideas and schemes and general brainstorming related to the upcoming season. While I enjoyed taking a week long break from the blog (and this job in general), it was extremely gratifying to return to an email inbox overflowing with thoughtful personal correspondence, random news tips, and promo schedules galore.

Thanks, as always, for giving me something to write about.

Also: anyone know what the title of this post is a reference to?

The First of Many

After 365 days, we as a species have finally escaped from beneath 2011’s tyrannical yoke.

Happy 2012!

Not surprisingly, very little news of note emerged during the just-concluded holiday season. But, nonetheless, it is now my duty to get you up to speed. For starters, I am ashamed to admit that the unveiling of a Rookie-level team’s secondary logo somehow escaped my all-seeing eye. The team in question is the Grand Junction Rockies:

As you may recall, Grand Junction’s primary logo was unveiled in November (the team has re-located from Casper, where they were known as the Ghosts). Like the secondary logo, the primary logo is strongly influenced by the parent Colorado club. (And, as more than a few Tweeters/commenters/emailers pointed out to me, it may have been influenced by Pizza Hut as well.)

In any case, both logos were designed by Visual Intent. This marks a rare instance in which a Minor League logo was NOT designed by either Studio Simon or the newly-rechristened Brandiose.

Speaking of rare instances, very few teams offer ticket specials in conjunction with the New Year. But the Fort Myers Miracle have once again done just this, with their annual “Resolution Pack.”

Priced at $20.12 (natch), this overstuffed package capitalizes on January’s mania for self-improvement by offering the following:

*A $10 gift card for your nutritional needs and supplements from Mother Earth Natural Foods
*4-pack of Box Seat Ticket Vouchers to enjoy the Miracle in 2012
*One FREE week membership to Snap Fitness and a FREE training session
*One FREE Matt Booth Boot Camp Adventure
*One FREE financial planning session with Pasquale Evangelista with Raymond
 James & Associates

And with the new year comes HOT STOVE SEASON, when teams stoke anticipation for the upcoming season by hosting dinners highlighted by celebrity guests, giveaways, and memorabilia auctions. The Delmarva Shorebirds are putting a unique twist on the format this season, as the club is hosting a “bloggers roundtable.”

Says the team:

In addition to traditional guest speakers, the Shorebirds will host a roundtable conversation about a litany of topics. Guests will have the opportunity to engage the panelists during the roundtable and throughout the night.

“The new format really lends itself to passionate baseball fans that want to talk about the sport with those that cover it on a regular basis,” said general manager Chris Bitters.

If any teams wish to invite hopelessly obscure superstar blogger Ben’s Biz to a banquet, then shoot me an email and we’ll discuss the specifics of my appearance fee and backstage rider.

Finally, I’d like to offer a hearty congratulations to Scott Carter, the new director of marketing for the Durham Bulls. Carter’s previous Minor League gig was as a VP of marketing for the Fresno Grizzlies, where he implemented trend-setting promotions such as Twilight Night, Tweet-Ups, post-game mascot wrestling, and much more. Looking forward to seeing what he’ll be able to accomplish in Durham, a historic franchise with a strong fan base that competes in an excellent facility.

It was in Durham, in fact, that my current profile picture was taken. I ended up wearing this hat for 43 days straight.

Fractions, Reflections, and Farewells

For the past two decades, the Kane County Cougars have played at Elfstrom Stadium. The facility was named in honor of Philip B. Elfstrom, a former Kane County Forest Preserve president who played a key role in bringing Minor League Baseball to the region.

It was announced on Tuesday, however, that the Cougars had reached a new naming rights deal. For (at least) the next five seasons, Elfstrom Stadium will be known as Fifth Third Bank Ballpark. 

Sound familiar? It should. For Kane County is the fourth Fifth Third Ballpark (or Field) in Minor League Baseball. (The others are located in Toledo, Dayton, and West Michigan.) Clearly, a naming-rights juggernaut is forming.

Fifth Third Bank is headquartered in Cincinnati, Ohio. It’s unusual name is described on Wikipedia as [T]he result of the June 1, 1908 merger of Third National Bank and Fifth National Bank, to become the Fifth Third National Bank of Cincinnati. While Third National was the senior partner, the merger took place during a period when prohibitionist ideas were gaining popularity, it was believed that “Fifth Third” was better than “Third Fifth,” which could be construed as a reference to three “fifths” of alcohol.

At the time, no one could have imagined that the name would go on to inspire the most attention-getting Minor League concession item of the 21st century: West Michigan’s “Fifth Third Burger.

Here’s hoping that the Cougars pick up on this trend, and offer a Fifth Third Brat at the ballpark in 2012 (washed down with 5/3rds of a pint of Leinenkugel).

But regardless of potential new food items, this news out of Kane County means that there are a total of 20/3 Fifth Third ballparks in the Minors (approximately 6.66, for you conspiracy theorists).  How do you feel about this? Is it an example of the increasing homogenization of a traditionally diverse industry? Or a reflection of strength and resiliency during tough economic times?

— A topic that provokes far less ambivalence is blogging, which is obviously one of the greatest things one can do with his or her time.  And for an example of a Minor League team blog at its most impressive, take a look at the “2011 Year In Review” post over at “From the Nest” (the official blog of the Great Lakes Loons).

Contained therein are everything from “Top 10 Games” to “Best Nicknames” to “Fashion Stats” to “Notable First Pitches” to “Goofy Head Shots.

I’ll be honest — Minor League team blogs usually  make me grumpy, as they are often well-intentioned but amateurishly done and eventually abandoned. So when teams go above and beyond I take notice. The Loons’ “Year in Review” is more than a blog post. It’s a statement of purpose, one that could be incorporated into sponsorship proposals and season-ticket renewal letters as an example of just how much the team has to offer.

— And speaking of going above and beyond — the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers have made a tradition of offering highly collectible Opening Night bobbleheads, and 2012 is no exception. As part of a year-long 50th Anniversary of Midwest League Baseball celebration, the team is offering no less than five bobbleheads as part of an Opening Night “All-Fan” giveaway.

Spot the difference:

It is not true that their eyes glow in the dark, or that they whisper in Latin at near-imperceptible volume.

These wide-eyed fellas are united in their ability to arouse distinct feelings of unease, but diverse when it comes to what they represent. Sez the team:

Each bobblehead is decorated with the jersey and cap from one of the following years:

  •    1953 Appleton Papermakers
  •   1960 Fox Cities Foxes
  •   1983 Appleton Foxes
  •   1995 Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (Original home jersey)
  •   2011 Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (Updated home jersey)

All fans attending the game between the Timber Rattlers and the Cedar Rapids Kernels on Thursday, April 5, 2012 will receive one of the bobbleheads at random.  There will be equal numbers of four models of bobbleheads.  However, only 250 of the 1953 Appleton Papermakers bobbleheads will be available as part of the giveaway.

Finally, congratulations to Durham Bulls broadcaster Neil Solondz, who recently got the call-up to the parent Tampa Bay Rays. As you may recall, Solondz was one of three broadcasters profiled in my recent article on broadcasters on the cusp. 

Solondz, farewell.

I’d like to think that I’m a blogger on the cusp. But the question remains: the cusp of what?

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,

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.

A Light Drizzle, Soon to Give Way to a Downpour

“New logo season”, that robust time of year in which fresh Minor League team emblems are unveiled to a salivating public, generally gets going in October and peaks in November.

But I know that there is a certain segment of Biz Blog readers who just can’t wait that long, as they seek new logos with a rapacious intensity that can never be satiated. I’ll aim for temporary placation, then, by sharing three new marks that I have recently come across in my seemingly endless sedentary internet travels.

First, and most extensive, is this Studio Simon effort on behalf of the Daytona Cubs.  In 2012, the team will take the field in uniforms bearing these logos:

"Way to Poochie It Up", observed @bgipple after I posted this logo on Twitter.

The timing of this might give one paws, as the logo was unveiled at the tail end of the season and with little accompanying publicity (not even a press release). But the early, albeit low-key, unveiling has led to a truly anomalous happenstance:

The D-Cubs went on to win this year’s Florida State League Championship, and the merchandise features the new logo despite the fact that the championship team in question never wore it.

At any rate, it’s time to say a fond farewell to the club’s old bear.  This particular shades-wearing cub cultivated an air of studied detachment, and I loved him for it.

Permanent Hibernation

Meanwhile, the following news has emanated from far reaches of northern Michigan: the Great Lakes Loons will be celebrating their 5th Anniversary throughout the 2012 campaign, and a series of commemorative logos are most definitely part of the festivities. These quinquennial marks will be featured on “limited-edition merchandise, stadium signage, and other team-related items.”

Finally, let it be known that there is just one Minor League Baseball game left in the entire 2011 season — tomorrow’s Triple-A National Championship Game between the Columbus Clippers and Omaha Storm Chasers. That contest takes place in Albuquerque, but the 2012 version will be held in the impressive confines of Durham Baseball Athletic Park. The logo for said contest has been revealed and, quite frankly, it’s a load of Bull:

That’s all I’ve got for the time being, but in a few months you can bet your bottom (as well as your top and/or middle) dollar that we’ll be awash in new logos. It is the way of things.

Return to the Road, Part 3: Local Landmarks and Regional Delicacies

As part of my desire to milk my road trip content to the largest extent possible, I have been periodically posting odds and sods from my recent journey to the Carolinas. Part One featured crabs and a Civil War landmark, while Part Two highlighted regional fast food and North Carolina baseball history.

And that leads us to — what else? — part 3. This chapter starts with Day 5 of the trip, which started in Durham and ended in nearby Burlington. Let’s repeat that, this time in bold:

Day 5 — Durham to Burlington

I attended an eventful game on Saturday evening at palatial Durham Bulls Athletic Park (DBAP), and followed that up the next morning by dropping in on the team’s former home. That would be the similarly-named but drastically different Durham Athletic Park (The DAP), which housed various incarnations of the club from 1926-94.


The ballpark is world-famous as a result of having been featured prominently in the classic film Bull Durham, but fell into disuse after the Bulls re-located to the DBAP.  Minor League Baseball, in partnership with the city of Durham, have since renovated the facility and it is now used as a training center for all manner of baseball jobs (more on that HERE).

The DAP also serves as the home field for a variety of youth and recreational leagues (including the excellent Durham Long Ball Program), and on the morning I stopped by I was expecting to tour the facility while one of these games was going on. But, as I later found out, all of the day’s activities had been canceled due to the heat.

Therefore, I was left to wander the perimeter of the stadium by my lonesome. Truly, there wasn’t a soul in sight.

The area surrounding the stadium had a somnambulant vibe as well, fitting for such a soporific Sunday morning.

But at least there were some unexpected patches of city-owned greenery.

Durham to Burlington (home of the Appalachian League Royals) is only about 35 miles, resulting in one of the lightest travel days of the trip. I took my time on this particular journey, first stopping for a late breakfast at reader recommended fast food chain Biscuitville.

The ambiance was a bit lacking, but I was able to obtain a country-fried steak biscuit, grits, and a sweet tea for the eminently reasonable price of $3.94.  I really wish I had this in front of me right now:

Upon leaving Biscuitville, I decided to locate some of this “Cheerwine” soda that had been so enthusiastically recommended to me by this blog’s contingent of North Carolina-based readers. I stopped at three convenience stores along the way and while none stocked Cheerwine I did nonetheless obtain some regional snacks.

For instance, I learned that Tom’s Potato Chips offers separate “Vinegar and Salt” and “Salt and Vinegar” flavor combinations.

But the above items were downright healthy compared to this devastating 1-2: Fatback and Fried Pork Skins from Carolina Country Snacks. Even though fatback is hard, unhealthy, and tough to eat I really like the stuff. I ate the whole bag that evening, yet another shameful solitary moment in a lifetime full of them.

And while not specifically a southern treat, nothing washes it all down better than a Mello Yello (in the absence of the still-elusive Cheerwine, of course).

From here to eternity

I think the main reason I keep buying this stuff is because I’m in love with the logo, which implies that the double-Ls in both words carry on past the label and into infinity.

I was soon distracted in my Cheerwine search by a series of billboards for a so-called “shopper’s heaven” by the name of J.R’s. The first billboard I saw advertised the store as the “USA’s Largest Cigarette Dealer,” but it only got more interesting from there. “Everything From Brassieres to Chandeliers!” was my personal favorite billboard, with “Awesome!” being a close second. It was duty to make a pit stop.

Shopper’s heaven included cigarettes, dolls, books…

And, of course, Sarah Palin toilet paper.

I was very proud of my personal J.R. haul, which probably sums up me as a person more than I’d care to admit.

Pretty self-explanatory, I think, except for the fact that those “Mr. B’s”  peanuts are deep-fried and meant to be eaten shell and all! As a regional snack food aficionado I was very happy to have found them, but it’s an idea that is better in theory than in practice.

The next stop on my detour-laden journey was Cookout, yet another reader-recommended regional fast food joint. The place turned out to be a “Double Drive-Thru,” with no indoor seating.

I ordered a “slaw dog” and — yes! — a Cheerwine float.

My first Cheerwine experience, albeit one compromised by vanilla ice cream. I still don’t know how to describe Cheerwine — it’s like a milder-tasting Cherry Coke with a hint of Dr. Pepper, but with a sparkling effervescence all its own.

Thank You God For America!

Cheerwine appeared in my post on that evening’s Burlington Royals game, a dispatch which also included this image of the team’s men’s room:

However, I have since been informed, by reader Matt Campbell, that the Thome nameplate has gone missing! Observe:

If anyone has any info on what happened to the Thome nameplate, then please get in touch!

But in happier news, it is worth noting that the Burlington women’s bathroom is decorated in similarly appealing fashion. Reader Rebecca Campbell (yes, Matt’s wife) was kind enough to send along these images of a land in which I had not dared to tread:

Could all of this lead to an extensive series of “Bathrooms of the Appalachian League” blog posts? I can only hope! If anyone can assist with this endeavor, then you know where to find me — alone and in front of a computer:

Return to the Road, Pt. 2: Fried Chicken and Baseball History

Yesterday’s post detailed the exceedingly modest recreational and culinary diversions I was able to fit into the first three days of my recent road trip through the Carolinas. Well, there’s more where that came from!

Today, this epic saga of roadside triviality continues with…

Day Four — En Route to Durham

I generally try to avoid fast food, but sometimes exceptions must be made. Throughout the previous two days I had seen several Bojangles chicken and biscuit restaurants, and each time I was tempted to stop.

One, because fried chicken joints are by far by favorite fast food subgenre (Popeye’s remains king, in my mind). And, two, because Kinston Indians owner Cam McRae owns and operates over 50 Bojangles franchises.

So when I came across a Bojangles upon leaving Kinston, I felt that it was my destiny to get lunch there.

Unfortunately, I neglected to remember the blog comment left by Matt “Possum187” Campbell, recommending the chicken supremes with honey mustard dipping sauce. Instead, I went with a standard two-piece meal, with a side of pinto beans, biscuit, and sweet tea (sweet tea is something I really miss, I wish it was more widely available in the northeast).

Those mustard packets were the result of me trying and failing to re-collect Possum’s comment (to everyone — I take your comments/emails/tweets very seriously, and always do my best to follow-up. Keep ’em coming). As for the fried chicken, I’d rank it well above soggy and low-quality KFC, but slightly below the uber-crisp and well-spiced offerings at Popeyes.

(Again, Popeyes is my favorite fast food chain, the only one I seek out here in NYC. I do regret, however, that they have severed their connection to Popeye the sailor man. Fleischer Brothers-era Popeye is, in my opinion, the greatest cartoon of all time.)

From Bojangles it was off to nearby Wilson, NC — home of the collegiate Coastal Plains League Wilson Tobs. There wasn’t a game going on — I just wanted to check out 73-year-old Fleming Stadium and its attached “North Carolina Baseball Museum.”

The surroundings were sleepy and residential, everything seen through a filmy haze of humidity.

The ballpark itself is old-fashioned and no-frills, as one would expect from a facility built as a WPA project in 1938.

Located down the third base line is the aforementioned baseball museum.

Inside, there are two rooms jammed floor-to-ceiling with North Carolina baseball artifacts. The first room is largely taken up with mementos and memorabilia relating to Major League players who have hailed from the state, with seven standalone displays related to North Carolinians now enshrined in Cooperstown.

The back room has uniforms, historical displays, and a wide assortment of miscellaneous Minor League memorabilia.

I was truly amazed to come across this — a team photo of the 1960 Tobs, managed by none other than current Marlins skipper Jack McKeon. Talk about a baseball life! It seems almost inconceivable, but McKeon’s managerial career began in the Eisenhower administration.

More on the North Carolina Baseball Museum can be found in this piece. I would certainly recommend visiting, and, if possible, follow up with a trip to nearby Dick’s Hot Dogs. I wasn’t able to make it (Durham awaited), but museum volunteer Eddie Boykin told me that the place is stocked with memorabilia and often populated by chatty old-timers always ready to tell their favorite baseball yarns.

It sure looks like a great spot.

I lifted the above photo from Click HERE to read his piece on Dick’s.

There’s still more to come, of course, hot dog-related and otherwise. As always, critiques, comments, concerns, and commendations are appreciated.

On the Road: Dealing with a lot of Bull in Durham

From my perspective, one of the best things about downtown stadiums is the increased likelihood of staying in a downtown hotel. This means that I can walk to the stadium — a perk that is generally indicative of a team’s proximity to complementary entertainment and historical destinations.

And if you find yourself in downtown Durham and are looking for Durham Bulls Athletic Park — well, just walk toward the bull.

The stadium is located in Durham’s “American Tobacco Historic District,” amidst a flotilla of industrial brick buildings that once served as the base of operations for the city’s tobacco industry. DPAB, built in 1995, has helped to rejuvenate and recontextualize this previously desolate area.

Not sure if it’s the “wrong” side of the tracks, but the Bulls play across them (note the iconic “Roll Your Own” Bull Durham sign on the building).

But what were once factories and warehouses are now office buildings and condos (it reminded of what Lowell has done with its mills). How’s this for a unique place to live?

Say what you will about the actual product, but Lucky Strike remains one of the coolest names and logos ever.

The ballpark fits right in to these brick-laden surroundings.

After a spirited round of dugout interviews with an illustrious group of players — uber-prospect Matt Moore! best-selling author Dirk Hayhurst! All-Star Game MVP Russ Canzler! — then I did what I always do. I commenced to wandering. There is plenty of room to move here, as the latest round of renovations have resulted in a multi-level 360-degree concourse.

Hooters girls were stationed in the outfield, handing out foam hats to all who desired one.

I was not desirous of a foam hat, but a particularly go-getting company representative tracked me down and placed one atop my head. It turned out to be a pretty good look for me, and I haven’t taken it off since.

Such headgear was nowhere to be found at Tobacco Road, a restaurant located along the left field concourse with game-accessible outdoor seating.

There’s also a group seating area located amidst the famous “Snorting Bull” sign. Fans can sit in front of the bull and take in the action…

or hang out in front of his somewhat intimidating visage.

My wandering  soon came to an end, as it was time for the next portion of the evening. I had been invited to take part in the innovative Explorer Post 50 program, which gives students ages 14-20 hands-on experience with nearly every aspect of the team’s HD game broadcasts (we’ll overlook the fact that I’m maybe a few years beyond my 20th birthday).

I wrote about the program (and my experience) in much greater detail over at Please check it out, as I have an existence to justify! But within this particular forum, I’ll concentrate on depicting things pictorially. The six monitors on the left show the live feeds of all six cameras, all of them manned (or wo-manned) by program participants. Executive producer Chase McKinney directs the broadcast, choosing all shots while issuing instructions via wireless headset.

The view through the HD cameras — the larger box displays the picture as seen on an HD broadcast, with the smaller one representing non-HD. The strip of tape denotes where the “Fox Box” will be on the game broadcast — that ubiquitous graphic displaying score, inning and game situation. That area of one’s shot should always be left open.

In the instant replay room, volunteer adviser Ken Bland does his best to make sure things go smoothly.

I spent two innings manning “instant replay B”, a task that I tried my best to explain in the piece. It involved intent game watching combined with synchronized button pushing.

From there I accompanied Bland to the visiting dugout, in order to take over duties on the third base camera.

This was a unique, stressful and very educational experience — I don’t think I’ll ever watch baseball quite the same way again! And what a great program Explorer Post 50 is. While I realize most teams don’t possess this level of technological capability, I’d love to see it emulated in other markets. These kids are obtaining invaluable real-world job skills.

When they’re not selling rubber ducks on the concourse, that is (for a post-season fundraiser).

It was nigh on the eighth inning when I finished my camera duties, and the concession areas were on the verge of shutting down. My frantic run through the concourse in search of the elusive “Bulldog” (bacon and cheese-topped hot dog, wrapped in a pretzel) proved unsuccessful, so after quickly weighing my remaining options I settled for a Doritos-brand “Walking Taco.”

Concessions are run by Centerplate

I then said a quick hello to Biz Blog reader Dustin Kilpatrick, who visits North Carolina Minor League ballparks on behalf of the North Carolina Education lottery. Thanks for the shirt!

From there I sat down for the first time all game, taking in a spirited rendition of the YMCA…

a post-game canine victory dash…

and an on-field interview punctuated by multiple rubbings of Ken Tanner’s lucky belly (photos of said rubbing came out unsuccessfully, not that this one is much better).

What it all amounted to was a first-class evening with a first-class team in a first-class facility. My only complaint would be that the team store left a lot to be desired.

Nah, I’m just kiddin.

‘That was actually the “store” at the nearby Marriot where I spent the night. I don’t mean to knock it — I was in dire need of a dress shirt and and a pair of pantyhose, and that place really came through for me.