Results tagged ‘ Durham Bulls ’

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:

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

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 MiLB.com 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 brandonsneed.com. 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.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

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 MiLB.com. 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 MiLB.com 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.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Swinging For the Fences

The San Diego Padres recently announced a new partnership with TaylorMade Golf, highlighted by a piece of ballpark signage that is anything but par for the course: an 88-foot R11 replica driver along the right field foul pole.

Those who work within Minor League Baseball won’t be surprised to learn that the driving force behind this innovation is sports business jack-of-all-trades (and Fort Myers Miracle co-owner) Dan Migala who enjoyed a long stint as emcee of the annual Minor League Baseball promotional seminar.

While Migala is currently immersed in the world of MLB, the foul pole is a clear indication that he’s still in touch with the creative spirit of the Minors. So how did the foul pole come into being, Dan?

“We created this specifically for TaylorMade,” he explained via email. “It was really a creative process that just made sense, especially when you focus on the parallel values of the golf driver and the home run: power, distance, drive, etc. I had an a-ha moment that this is the perfect way to market a golf club in a baseball stadium, give them a dominant presence and allow them to authentically be a part of the game. We’re now referring to balls hit down the line as ‘Amen Corner.’”

While such radical foul pole transformation is a first for the Majors, Migala mentioned that his Promotional Seminar days served as an influence.

“There’s been a few iterations of the foul pole but my favorite was one that Darrin Gross (now with the Oakland A’s) did in Lake Elsinore in the late 90s with a local dentist and turned it into a toothbrush.”

But the foul pole revolution has only just begun.

“From a marketing perspective, this makes sense because of the authentic nature of it,” wrote Migala. “You’re establishing new inventory to the park but you’re doing it in a way where you’re enhancing what’s already there versus another sign on the wall. That’s why it’s resonating so well, and I’d imagine will create more versions to come.”

So let’s go Minor League teams! It’s time to take back the title of “most creative foul pole advertising in professional baseball.” If you currently have some ideas to share, or something in the works, then let me know!

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And now, a few QUICK HITS before I depart:

Will Ferrell is returning to Texas to host the second annual Will Powered Golf Classic. Can an encore “Rojo Johnson” appearance be far behind?

The Engel Foundation, which is seeking to restore Chattanooga’s Engel Stadium, has a new website. Give it a visit and support the cause.

– This interactive Durham Bulls “Gigapixel Fan Cam” is the coolest thing I’ve seen all day. Were YOU there on Opening Day? Prove it!

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Something For Everyone

Lots of flotsam and jetsam has piled up on the shores of Ben’s Biz Blog remote island headquarters, and the only way to deal with such excess detritus is by accumulating it into a tidy pile.

Nice to get a belabored analogy out of the way so early. Let’s go to the info!

First of all, a pair of Pacific Coast League announcers are on the cusp of celebrating significant milestones. Tonight in Des Moines, Deene Ehlis will call his 3000th game for the Iowa Cubs. The broadcast will also be notable in that it’ll include an interview with Indianapolis Colts receiver (and University of Iowa alum) Dallas Clark, who has been immortalized by the I-Cubs in bobblehead form.

Then on Tuesday, Steve Klauke of the Salt Lake Bees call his 2500th contest:

Reports the team:

Klauke joins legendary Utah Jazz broadcaster Hot Rod Hundley (2,645) as the only two play-by-play broadcasters to call 2,500 games with one Utah team. He also becomes just the fourth current Pacific Coast League team broadcaster to reach the 2,500 games-called mark with one PCL team. Currently in his 18th season with the Bees, Klauke can be heard live on 1320 KFAN and at slbees.com.

Klauke will be recognized during a pregame presentation on Tuesday, April 26, while audio highlights of his more notable calls will be played throughout the game.

Trivia Question! Who are the other two current PCL broadcasters to have called at least 2500 games? The first person to email me with the correct response will get to contribute 150 words to a future blog post on whatever topic they choose (must be family friendly, of course). benjamin.hill@mlb.com

Since we’re on the topic of the PCL , it is well worth pointing out that the Fresno Grizzlies are staging a Saturday night tribute to severely (and senselessly) injured San Francisco Giants fan Bryan Stow.

In the words of the team:

Fans can purchase a Super View ticket and special Bryan Stow bracelet for $15, with $10 going directly to The Bryan Stow Fund, established to support Bryan and his family. Stow is a paramedic with American Medical Response and works games for the San Francisco’s Single-A affiliate, the San Jose Giants, at Municipal Stadium.

As you’ll recall, the aforementioned San Jose ballclub is dedicating the month of April to Stow.

I might as well stay with the PCL, as yesterday Sacramento and Reno upped the stakes of their rivalry via a bet between each city’s classic car museum. Typical, right?


Pertinent details:

The annual season series between the Reno Aces and the Sacramento River Cats will take on new significance in 2011, as the two host cities’ auto museums will face off in a high profile wager based on the overall winner of the season series. Reno’s very own National Automobile Museum will put up the 1949 Mercury that James Dean drove in “Rebel Without a Cause,” while Sacramento’s California Auto Museum will put up a 1932 Ford raced by driving legend AJ Foyt.

The RiverCats have owned the Aces as of late. Reno’s win on 4/19 snapped a 12-game losing streak against Sacramento, with their previous victory having come exactly a year previous. (My knowledge truly knows no boundaries, a fact that I’ll tell myself many times over tonight while sitting in an easy chair and drinking whiskey in a darkened living room.)

But anyway, can you believe that I’ve made it this far before featuring a new food item that laughs in the face of death? What follows is the Lancaster JetHawks’ new “Heart-Stopper” a limited time only delicacy consisting of a hot dog on biscuits, smothered in sausage gravy, cheese, and bacon.

I actually think this one looks pretty good! If only concession items could safely and sensibly be sent via the United States post office…

Until that day arrives, I’ll be amusing myself with humorous videos. This one, featuring the clumsy ball-handling skills of Durham Bulls hurler Mike Ekstrom, is a must-see instant classic.

That’s going to close out the week for me. But before I go, may I direct your attention to my latest “Farm’s Almanac” piece on MiLB.com? Professor Joe Price is singing the National Anthem at over 100+ ballparks this summer, and he’s truly a man on a mission. From the story:

“I always love for people to join in, and for the anthem to be sung together regardless of political orientation,” said Price. “This can, potentially, be everyone’s national anthem. And as a result it can bridge the gap between the Tea Party and liberals, between hawks and doves. Because, even though it is a wartime song, it was written as a celebration of freedom. The preservation of our freedoms is what lies at the heart of it.”

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Home Field Advantage

This past Thursday, the Tri-City ValleyCats embarked upon their “4 in 24″ project. This ambitious and worthwhile involved the renovation of four local youth baseball fields over the span of 24 hours. Here’s a collage of “after” pictures, taken from an excellent blog post re-capping the event.

The project was spearheaded by the team, and done in coordination with an array of corporate sponsors and community volunteers. As the ValleyCats explain:

Part of our mission as the Capital Region’s professional baseball team is to act as a steward for the game. The 4 in 24 project was a great way to further this initiative by giving back to the community that has supported us since 2002…The biggest challenge that we faced was the sheer size of this project. The ValleyCats organization has renovated a number of fields over the years but completing four within twenty four hours required a well-coordinated effort and a lot of coffee. Each of the leagues and sponsors provided volunteers that were crucial in moving things along.

The field work included “cutting out the entire infield grass, raking and grading the dirt, leveling the playing surface, laying out brand new grass and rebuilding the entire pitchers mound and home plate areas.” The aforementioned blog post includes a plethora of “before and after” photos. Here are two:


An even more current example of MiLB altruism can be found in Durham, as the Bulls are collecting food and clothing for those victimized by the recent tornadoes in North Carolina. The team offered free tickets to Wednesday’s matinee contest for all fans donating five canned goods or a bag of clothing. Here’s the resultant scene on the concourse:

As is often the case in April, poor weather is wreaking havoc throughout the world of Minor League Baseball. Yesterday’s post included snow-filled photos and video from West Michigan, and today the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers have postponed their ballgame due to an excess of the white stuff.

This picture appeared on announcer Chris Mehring’s “Rattler Radio” blog today.  It appears that the grounds crew workers may be preparing to pelt the broadcast booth with snowballs.

Meanwhile the Quad Cities River Bandits are currently playing a ballgame despite these conditions outside of the stadium (this photo originally appeared in the Peoria Chiefs “Playing in Peoria” blog).

Such is life when you play in a ballpark built on the banks of the Mississippi, but extensive renovations of recent vintage (including berm seating that doubles as a floodwall) have done much to mitigate the damage.

I’ve gotten through this post without a single joke attempt, a rarity in the world of Ben’s Biz Blog. It feels kind of good, actually, so I’ll end this before the urge to pun-tificate becomes unbearable. Thanks, as always, for reading.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

A Quartet of Gastronomical Pursuits

lobby.jpgWhen it comes to covering concessions, I make no concessions. I will scour the furthest reaches of the internet in search of Minor League food news, so that you may read about it within the comfort and safety of this blog.

Here are four items of interest, which, taken together, amply illustrate the democratic ideals that are at the heart of the Minor League Baseball experience.

West Michigan Whitecaps Want Ideas! For the second straight year, the Whitecaps are asking fans to suggest new Fifth Third Ballpark menu items.In 2010, this endeavor yielded the Yooper sandiwch as well as the spectacularly-named Declaration of Indigestion:
Thumbnail image for jkhfkhfjkfvjfv.JPG
Sez the team: The food idea submissions will be whittled down to approximately 10 finalists, and starting February 22 fans will be able to vote for their choice on the new 2011 concessions items. Voting will take place on the Whitecaps website, whitecapsbaseball.com, and will end March 4. The winning entry will be on the menu for all fans to enjoy.

Clash of the Concessions in Durham: The Durham Bulls are offering fans the chance todurhamb.gif “create, select, and win” a new food item to be served at the ballpark in 2011.

Sez the team: Clash of the Concessions will allow fans to submit their ideas or recipes from now until February 18th for a new food item at the DBAP for the 2011 season. The Bulls will select the three best ideas, then make them available for the fans to sample and vote on at Fanfest on March 4th and 5th at the ballpark. The winning submission will become the new featured item at the ballpark this summer and the person who made the submission will win a season’s worth of the new food item!

The press release doesn’t specify what constitutes a “season’s worth”, however. My guess is that the Bulls will use the highly complex formula of 1×72, in which one represents the food item and 72 represents the number of home games on the schedule.

Myrtle Beach Pelicans Want ‘Home Run Recipes: The Pelicans have announced a contest that will be overseen by food and beverage director Brad Leininger, who “is inviting his colleagues to submit recipes that would appeal to
baseball fans. The dishes much be quick and easy to prepare and simple for hungry Pelicans fans to consume while sitting in a stadium seat. Recipes that exhibit regional flair are encouraged.”

Leininger will select five finalists, who will then go head-to-head at a competition held at the stadium. The winner receives Pelicans tickets and merchandise, as well as advertising in prominent local news publications. 

My suggestion would be a deep-fried hard-boiled egg:

friedegg.jpg

Sacramento River Cats To Stage Celebrity Chef Night: The River Cats unveiled their chefhat.jpgjam-packed promo schedule yesterday, and to my eyes June 11’s “Celebrity Chef Night” was the one that stood out. Details are scant at this point, but the team does note that “Celebrity Chefs will take over a concession stand.”

My guess is that this night will be part of an emerging trend in 2011, one inspired by the Frederick Keys quite amazing “Volt Night” last season.

Got a lead on interesting 2011 concession items? Drop me a virtual line:

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

A Leader Among Followers

telegram.JPGAt this juncture in the space-time continuum, nearly everyone agrees that proactive social media engagement is crucial to a team’s operation.

But how, exactly, to engage?

One Minor League team that has been leading the virtual charge is the Fresno Grizzlies. The team has held innovative “Tweet-Up” promotions in each of the last two seasons (which were summarily copied by parent club the San Francisco Giants), and this past week they enticed fans to join them on Twitter by staging a drawing for Hot Stove Dinner tickets that was only open to new followers.

This most recent effort made the Grizzlies the first team in the Pacific Coast League to eclipse the 5000 followers milestone, and to celebrate they’re offering an exclusive ticket deal. Sez the team:

The package includes a Field Box seat for all four games of opening weekend…as well as aThumbnail image for Thumbnail image for fresno g.jpg number of special perks.
In addition to the tickets, fans will also get a pregame, behind-the-scenes tour of the ballpark on Friday, a pregame catch on the field on Saturday, and a post-game photo in the dugout on Sunday all for just $40. The tickets alone are a $64 value, and the special ballpark experiences are available only through this ticket package.

I spoke with Grizzlies media relations director Noah Frank, who remarked that “We’re always looking for new ways to keep people tuned in, and this is a great way to get info to our fans.”

pcl.jpgIt’s also a great way to maintain a rivalry, as the Grizzlies recent Twitter surge gave them more followers than previous PCL leader the Reno Aces.

“With a new ballpark and a new team, [the Aces] started with a lot of momentum. But we pride ourselves at being at the forefront and we’re coming on strong,” said Frank.

While that’s exceedingly mild as trash talk goes, it’s good enough for me. Your move, Reno!

Another excellent social media initiative, and one that I’ve written about before, was the Durham Bulls’ fundraising drive on behalf of the Durham Literacy Center. The team, which donated $1 to the center for every new fan they acquired on Facebook, announced today that $2000 was raised.

This idea is simple and easily adaptable, and I will be a crestfallen blogger if no other teams follow suit. Get to copying!

And, of course, let me know what YOU have been up to when it comes to social media initiatives. In the meantime, I’ll be stressing over the fact that this post didn’t have any good jokes (me to jokes: “I can’t live, if living is without you.”)

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

The Spirit of the Times

spirit.jpgOne of my favorite things to say about Minor League Baseball promotions is that they “capture the zeitgeist.”

This may sound pretentious, and I always mispronounce “zeitgeist,” but it’s true. The word is German for “the spirit of the times”, and that’s what attention-grabbing theme nights are all about. Some zeitgeist-capturing examples from 2010 include promos dedicated to “Jersey Shore”, the World Cup, LeBron James, and “Twilight.” 

I’m rambling on about this because the almighty Google has recently unveiled its “Zeitgeist 2010″ year-end search round-up. Searchable by country and category, it can serve as a handy tool for promo night brainstorming.

My suggestion? Thanks for asking! How about capitalizing on the year’s “Fastest Rising Dance Move” with Teach Me How To Dougie Night. Promote it with a video featuring the mascot learning the craze, show the players dancing on the videoboard, and stage between-inning on-field demonstrations. All fans named with first name of “Doug” or last name of “Douglas” get in free.

dougie.jpg

Please get in touch with your own Zeitgeist 2010-inspired Minor League promo ideas.

***
Moving on to an actual good idea, I’d like to highlight the Durham Bulls’ latest fundraising initiative: For every new fan the team receives on Facebook between now and December 25th, the team will donate $1 to the Durham Literacy Center.

Thumbnail image for read.png
 

Bulls VP George Habel notes on his blog that “Yes we’re buying our friends…but it’s for a very good cause.” Day one of the promotion netted $150 for the cause, while expanding the team’s already formidable social networking presence.

So if you’re not a fan of the Bulls on Facebook, hustle over there immediately and get to likin’.

***

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Werner Park logo.jpgAnd, finally, it is worth noting that the Omaha Royals Storm Chasers are moving to their new home of Werner Park on Friday. This will, once and for all, end the Rosenblatt Stadium era (although the facility will remain standing for the forseeable future).

The Storm Chasers note in a press release that “Moving vans will arrive at Rosenblatt at approximately 8:30 a.m. to complete a process started by the Storm Chasers staff over the past several months. Historical items such as photos, game programs and team records will be preserved and delivered to Werner Park.”

And as for Werner Park, it “will remain under construction even as the front office staff inhabits its new digs. Nearly 75 percent of the work has been completed, including the entire playing field and seating bowl, with final touches to the concession, restroom, press and suite areas to continue into the first part of 2011.”

And as for me, I’m going to make some final touches to this post and then hit “Publish.” It’s really that simple.

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

A Break In the Action

skyhole.jpgAs the previous two posts would indicate, it’s been a big week for logos here in the world of Minor League Baseball. And there’s more where that came from — the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers are unveiling new marks tomorrow, and the Omaha Royals are announcing the results of their “Name That Team” contest on Monday evening.

So, before getting swept away in yet another logo deluge, let me dedicate this post to other news and notes from the world of the Minors.

I’ll start by talking about — Me! The latest MLBlogs rankings were announced yesterday, and “Ben’s Biz” is at #12 in the “Pro” category. Thanks for your support! Also on the list is my colleague Jonathan Mayo, an expert when it comes to prospects, the MLB draft, and player development in general. Check out his “Big, Bald, and Beautiful” blog, and follow him on Twitter (@JonathanMayoB3). Together we represent the yin and yang of the Minor League experience.

Jeez, this paragraph marks four straight without a new logo. I’ll rectify that right now, as the aforementioned Omaha Royals announced today that their still-under-construction Sarpy County home will go by the name of Werner Park.

Werner Park logo.jpg

As the logo would imply, Werner is a “global logistics company”. But they’re based in Omaha, hence their naming rights deal with the Royals.

Moving on from “that which has just been given a name” to “that which still needs a name”, I would like to note that the Jackson Generals mascot is in search of an appropriate moniker.

jaxmaz.jpg

I’d make a few of my own suggestions, if I wasn’t so entranced by his hourglass figure and copious jowls.

But nothing entrances like the soothing glow of the small screen. On Saturday the MLB Network is airing a program that was filmed at Alliant Energy Field, home of the Clinton LumberKings. It’s called “Triumph and Tragedy: the 1919 Chicago White Sox”.

clinton.jpg

And, hey, remember last week when I wrote about the Toledo Mud Hens customized Firefox browser? I thought it might have been a Minor League first, but as is so often the case I was wrong. The Durham Bulls had one first.

bullbrowz.jpg

Anyone want to send me an email letting me know that they did this before the Bulls? I’ll correct myself until the cows come home.

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

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