Results tagged ‘ El Paso Chihuahuas ’

On the Road: After Setting the Scene, Chihuahuan Cuisine in El Paso

My previous post on the Chihuahuas ended mid-narrative, but I had a good reason for ending it when I did. I didn’t want to bury the lede, and the lede is this:

The El Paso Chihuahuas have really, really good ballpark food. Like, really good, easily within the top five of the 110 or so ballparks that I’ve visited  over the past five seasons. I learned this first-hand on April 29, the Chihuahuas second-ever home game, when Jeff Hanauer, general manager of Ovations food service at Southwest University Park, gave me a whirlwind tour of the team’s many concession offerings.

It’s all kind of a blur, but I’ll do my best to share with you what I remember….

Prior to meeting up with Hanauer, I’d snapped a few stray food-related shots. In keeping with the team’s “living the brand” philosophy, this concession stand is called the Rio Gr-r-r-r-r-rande Grill.

086And this concession stand here isn’t a croc. They actually sell alligator meat, deep-fried and bite-sized.

088And, look, the team has its own brand of snack food.

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The thing to do with Chihuarrines is tear open the bag and douse with hot sauce (That’s what I was told, at least. The first ingredient was wheat flour, making it a no can do for a celiac such as myself).

Pre-packaged snack food aside, the Chihuahuas have adopted an “everything’s fresh”  concessions philosophy. Items throughout the ballpark are made to order on the premises. “You’ll never see a pre-wrapped hot dog here,” Hanauer told me.

There are a series of food kiosks located along the third base concourse (many of them offering food from local vendors), and Hanauer and I began with a seafood taco stop. $10 is a bit pricey for a taco platter, but it’s a lot of food. (And gluten-free!)

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One shrimp, one tilapia. I preferred the shrimp.

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Hanauer told me that, in a market like El Paso, it would be foolhardy for the team to offer its own, quite possibly inauthentic, Mexican food. Why not just go straight to the source? The Chihuahuas have therefore partnered with Leo’s, a famous restaurant with several locations in the area. Here are the folks at Leo’s, doing their thing.

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And that thing, in a word, is meat. Meat that has been cooked slowly throughout the day, for hours and hours and hours, so that by the time its served its exceedingly tender. The burritos are minimalist affairs — maybe a little sauce is added, but its pretty much just meat.

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But these pork carnitas nachos were the star of the show, just amazingly good. The meat was so tender, yet crisp on the edges, and tasted amazing on its own along with the chips and queso. With all apologies to places in which I’ve had exemplary ballpark nachos (Memphis, Northwest Arkansas, Round Rock), these just might be the best.

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Hanauer, watching me tear into these things, mentioned that he didn’t think they were gluten-free (as in, the chips had wheat flour). I should have asked about this right off the bat, but when these things appeared in front of me that part of my brain went off. I just started eating as if there was no tomorrow. (And who knows? There might not be.) In this particular instance I am at peace with my transgression. These nachos were just that good.

SO GOOD.

Anyhow, this is a picture of a margarita.

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Why is this significant? Because the margarita was prepared using the  Bottoms Up dispenser, in which the cup fills from the bottom.  Bottoms Up took the industry by storm a few years back, but I had never seen it used for anything other than beer. (Unfortunately, my video of  the margarita being filled up was plagued by technical glitches, so this is just one more thing that you’ll have to trust me on).

Speaking of technical glitches, this is one poorly lit photograph.

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That there is the Flamethrower, a half-pound burger with ghost peppers, deep-fried jalapenos and jack cheese. Ghost peppers are the hottest peppers in the world, so they’re incorporated into the mix pretty sparingly — LEST SOMEONE DIES. Still, this thing packs some serious heat and just might be the spiciest hamburger in Minor League Baseball. Tell me it isn’t.

Here’s the Frito Pie, served up in a dog bowl. Absolutely fantastic, and gluten-free! I went at this one pretty hard for a minute.

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I’m not sure if the Frito Pie is always served in a dog bowl, but these steak nachos definitely are. And these things did not skimp on the steak, as big tender chunks are distributed throughout.

Here we have a foot long hot dog with chili con carne:

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Healthy options. They exist.

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I don’t know exactly where I was at this point, except for “in the stadium.”

Men were at work.

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And — what’s this? — eggs were on the grill.

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Eggs are a key component of the Huevos Rancheros burger, a variation of the Mexican breakfast staple.

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The burger is topped with egg, cheese and salsa verde, and if you stick a fork in it the egg yolk oozes out as a sort of bonus condiment. (I had one of these, sans bun, and it was probably better that way. I plan on making these at home.)

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And then there was the Juarez dog, a variation of the Mexican street food classic.

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That is an applewood bacon-wrapped beef hot dog topped with pulled pork, BBQ sauce, cole slaw and chicharrones. Think about that mix of flavors and textures for a second, it really is extraordinary.

Juarez dogs on the grill:

What’s this? Another picture of a Frito Pie? Okay, cool, whatever.

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This one was firmly in the “look but don’t touch” category for me: Buffalo Chicken and Waffles:

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Dessert Nachos, because too much is never enough.

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But speaking of dessert — the Chihuahuas offer what is now MY FAVORITE DESSERT IN ALL OF MINOR LEAGUE BASEBALL.

Here’s what I wrote over at MiLB.com: Quite simply the best dessert I’ve ever had at a Minor League ballpark. You could compare Raspas to a snow cone, but that would be like comparing Leo’s to Taco Bell. Shaved ice is topped with one of six fruit flavors, and a variety of condiments can be added to provide an additional kick of sweet, sour and/or spicy flavor.

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The Raspas stand is run by local concessionaire Elizabeth Triejo, who has a true passion for this traditional Mexican dessert. I stopped by the next day and got another one.

1579There are two key elements that make Raspas so good. One is that all of the fruit flavors are made in small batches by Elizabeth, so everything is all natural and tastes that way. And then there are the condiments, such as Chamoy and Tajin, that deliver a customized mix of spicy, sweet and sour flavors.

So, yeah, if you’re ever at an El Paso Chihuahuas game then get a raspa. My adjectival accolade abilities are failing me, but they are almost certainly better than any ballpark dessert you’ve had before.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

On the Road: The Chihuahua Era Begins in El Paso

My itinerary on this particular road trip began in Albuquerque and ended in Austin, my  primary motivation for traveling to this area in the first place was so that I could visit El Paso. For it is in El Paso that one will find the biggest story of the 2014 Minor League season, the El Paso Chihuahuas. This Pacific Coast League entity played its first-ever home game on April 28 (after opening the season in their old home of Tucson), but I spent that evening in Albuquerque. I was on hand for the second-ever Chihuahuas game, however, as on April 29 I arrived in the city and quickly made my way to Southwest University Park in order to see what all the fuss was about.

And believe you me, there was a fuss. Upon entering my hotel room, I found a limited-edition Chihuahuas-themed can of Pepsi:

IMG_1267En route to the stadium, public transit showed its support.

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The newspaper coverage during the days that I was in town was extremely enthusiastic.

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And the one time I turned on the radio while driving in El Paso, I happened to hear a morning talk show in which one of the co-hosts was being lambasted for wearing a Chihuahuas hat after having initially bashed the team name and all it stood for. In short, the Chihuahuas aren’t just the biggest sports story in El Paso, they’re the biggest story in El Paso. Period.

I have already written a long MiLB.com story about the Chihuahuas and their home of Southwest University Park, which provides far more context regarding how and why the team came to be. The Chihuahuas are going to be an interesting team to follow for quite some time, on several levels, but this post is gonna keep it simple. This post will simply walk you through (a portion of) my night at the park.

My hotel, a Holiday Inn, was on Missouri Avenue in downtown El Paso. From there it was just a short walk to the stadium.

005Getting closer, as the ballpark can be seen just beyond the El Paso Museum of History.

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And then — bam! — the ballpark.

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Prior to this trip, I hadn’t ever spent time in a town that borders Mexico. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised by just how close Mexico was to El Paso — what was I expecting? —  but seeing signs such as the above just felt surreal to me. (This says more about my northeastern upbringing and perspective  than it does about anything having to do with El Paso and Juarez.)

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The gates hadn’t yet opened at the time I arrived, but anticipation was high. People were lined up on all sides of the ballpark, hundreds deep. I had never seen so many people waiting to get into a Minor League stadium, ever.

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Once I got inside, I took this photo of the field itself. Those are the Franklin Mountains looming beyond left-center field, and later on during my stay I learned that the Rocky Mountains extend to El Paso as well.

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Taking a cue from the Lake Elsinore Storm, the Chihuahuas’ logo features a prominent set of eyes. Here’s an eyes-olated view, which I snapped on the staircase.

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Quite unexpectedly, just prior to the game I received an invite to throw out a ceremonial first pitch. While this was the second game of the season, there was still an Opening Day-level of excitement. Politicians, media personalities, pop singers, youth baseball players and military members were all gathered in this little “room” adjacent to the visitor’s dugout. Being from out of town, I kind of felt like an interloper amid this display of local pride.

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As for my first pitch — it was a strike, but no evidence seems to exist. Or, if there is evidence, I don’t have it. Hey, does anybody out there have any evidence? Chico?

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I know you can hear me, Chico! Don’t walk away from me!

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Eh, nevermind. I have no idea what I’m talking about anyway. After throwing my first pitch, I returned to the concourse and embarked on a solo walk around the facility. A pictorial tour, or, as I like to call it, a pic-tour-ial, will now commence.

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See that brick structure out in right field? Keep that in mind, we’ll visit that later.

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Berm seating is $5.

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The Splash Zone, which remained splashless on this pleasant Spring evening.

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The Chihuahuas bullpen is ensconced in a little alcove located down the third base line, while the visitor’s are caged within the bottom floor of this outfield structure.

043 The view to the bullpen’s left:

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And now here we are back behind home plate, somehow. I’m not sure how it happened either. 046

As I mentioned previously, the Mexican city of Juarez is located directly behind the ballpark. Juarez is in the Mexican state of Chihuahua (hence the team name), and residents of the city represent, at least potentially, a sizable portion of the of the fan base.

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Turning inward, and then outward again.

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That picture was taken through a window, as I was standing in a hallway located outside of the suite area. This area is decorated with a surprisingly diverse array of artwork.

This is Tom Lea’s The 2,000 Yard Stare, a famous portrait of post traumatic stress disorder and the visual equivalent of a punch in the gut.

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This Warholian expression of team pride was created by a local non-profit called “Creative Kids.”

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Around this point in the evening I ran into Chihuahuas general manager Brad Taylor, and he led me on the so-called “nickel tour” of the ballpark. Specifically, he wanted to show me the aforementioned three-story brick structure that sits just beyond the right field fence. It is called “The Big Dog House,” and the first level houses the City Hall Grill.

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This establishment got its name because it stands where El Paso City Hall once stood. City Hall, as you may recall, was imploded in order to make room for the ballpark. Was this an example of visionary leadership, or a wasteful, hubristic and ultimately self-defeating  folly? That question that has been hotly debated in El Paso (and elsewhere) over the past year, leading to some criticism that “City Hall Grill” is a disrespectful name. (Somewhat akin to clearing a forest to make room for a housing development, and then naming all of the streets in the development after trees.)

This plaque is currently displayed in the City Hall Grill.

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Taylor brushed off this controversy, saying that “Once [those critical of the City Hall Grill] realized that we had no intent to mock them, I think they understood our vision. We’re just paying tribute to those who preceded us.”

We then walked up one floor, to the Sun Kings Saloon.

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The Sun King Saloon is named after one of El Paso’s former Minor League entities (the Sun Kings were not blown up in order to make room for the Chihuahuas, however). The walls of the saloon are decorated with El Paso baseball memorabilia, often with a Chihuahuas twist.

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This advertisement is interesting, in that it lauds the Sun Kings as a Minor League Baseball success story as a result of almost drawing 100,000 fans in their debut 1962 season. It’s comparing apples and oranges, but I’d be surprised if the Chihuahuas draw less than 600,000 in 2014.

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Finally, at the top of the building, one finds the “Wooftop Deck.” It was largely empty on the night I visited, but this would be a great place to watch the game!

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From the Woof Top Deck, one can see the side profile of El Paso’s famous “Mountain Star.”

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Another view from the Woof Top:

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From there we made a brief stop the WestStar Bank Club, located on the second level behind home plate, an appealing place to get a drink despite its less-than-appealing name. (The next afternoon, I saw people chugging beer from a dog bowl at the bar.)

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The view:

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Somehow my next picture is from the far left field corner of the stadium. I guess we walked over there.

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The seats out here, they swiveled! Swiveled, I tell you!

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You know, it’s like that old gypsy woman once told me: “Once the seats start swiveling, the blog post must end.”

Part Two of this El Paso Chihuahuas saga shall appear on Monday, then. It’s gonna have a lot of pictures of food.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Pictures of Food

I’ve recently dedicated a post to showcasing new mascots that can be seen around the Minors; today’s post will focus on that other integral aspect of the Minor League Baseball experience: the food.

Let’s start with the El Paso Chihuahuas, who play their first-ever ballgame at brand-new Southwest University Park on April 28. Concessions at the new facility will be provided by Ovations, who unveiled the ballpark menu last month. Fairly thorough coverage of some of the more unique items can be found HERE and HERE among other places, including an awesome looking beef brisket “Salpicon Salad” that very well may be gluten-free (fingers crossed, I’ll be there on April 29 and 30 and will find out for sure).  I contacted the team in the wake of their concessions unveiling, and Ovations’ Jeff Hanauer responded with the following pictures. And that is what you’re all here for, what you’re always here for: the pictures. Let’s proceed.

The Pico de Gallo will be included with many of the Chihuahuas’ Mexican-themed offerings. It looks outstanding, and this picture is suitable for framing.

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Alligator bites with jalapeno cornbread (an El Paso specialty?)

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The Chihua Dog, with bacon, beans, and jalapenos:

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The Dudley Dog, a foot long and a half a pound, topped with chile con queso and pico de gallo:

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A few of the many “Juarez Dogs” that will be available:

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This sandwich is called, “From Philly, with Love”.

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The Flamethrower, a half pound burger with ghost peppers, jack cheese, deep fried jalapenos, and chipotle ranch sauce:

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Of course, no discussion of ballpark food is complete without the requisite White Michigan Whitecaps mention. Following in the footsteps of the Fifth Third Burger and the (gluten-free!) Baco, this year’s premier addition is the Auger Dogger. It is a deep-fried hot dog on a stick, surrounded by potato chips. Here’s hoping that this, too is gluten-free:

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More notable concession additions, per the Whitecaps:

Pretzilla Bacon Cheeseburger (a pretzel bun with a one-third pound hamburger patty, bacon and cheese).

Coaches’ Sandwich – In honor of the three Whitecaps coaches, who hail from Australia (Andrew Graham), Texas (Mike Henneman) and Cuba (Nelson Santovenia), this sandwich includes two slices of ham, Hormel barbeque pulled pork, pickle shreddies, Swiss cheese and shrimp served on a sub bun.

Tony Gates Venison Burger – Named after the 97 WLAV local radio personality who is passionate about the outdoors and is an avid hunter, this venison burger on a bun and will be served at the Steak Cart behind home plate.

Over in Kannapolis, the Intimidators have unveiled some notable new additions. This one is self-explanatory, but I’ll explain: a 64 ounce serving of loaded nachos, served in a batting helmet.

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Also of note is the Dale’s Mater sandwich, a favorite of Dale Earnhardt (for whom the Intimidators are named). It is, quite simply, a tomato sandwich with Duke’s mayonnaise.

The Trenton Thunder have unveiled a new signature item, one with a distinctly New Jersey flair. The Thunder Dog is “a jumbo sized Black Bear Franks hot dog wrapped in American cheese and famous Trenton pork roll and served on a torpedo roll.”

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Also new in Trenton is the “Mega Nachos” stand, which can (and should!) be gluten-free. Sez the team:

Another new addition on the first base side is Mega Nachos, where fans can build-their-own nachos from a variety of toppings including: cheese, queso, chili, steak, chicken, pulled pork, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, jalapenos, salsa, guacamole, sour cream, and olives.

The Thunder have long had a Chickie and Pete’s stand at the ballpark, but these Philly-area purveyors of sandwiches and (gluten-free!) crab fries are now in Wilmington as well:

And, hey, for those of you who consider gluttony to be a virtue: the Frederick Keys have recently announced a rather considerable eating challenge. Think you can do it? If so, what’s wrong with you?

Finally, in Fresno, the Grizzlies are now serving a “Grizzly Egg.” Per the Fresno Bee, it’s a “cream cheese-filled deviled egg, wrapped in bacon, baked and drizzled in buffalo sauce.” This thing better be gluten-free, because it looks awesome!

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And that’s all of the food news I have to share with you, at least for the next couple of days. In the meantime, please know that I am writing up a storm over at MiLB.com:

New Promo Preview leads with the Louisville Bats Corky Miller #FeartheStache t-shirt.

New Farm’s Almanac takes a look at team-branded beer throughout the Minors.

And, as always, much more to come! There’s a reason that I say that I am the greatest of all time: because it’s true.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

A Mass of Cots-tumed Characters

I’m going to assume that, at this point in time, you have already thoroughly scoured my post on 2014 road trip itineraries. (If you haven’t, then please click HERE). Thanks to all who have provided feedback on that post; more is always encouraged via benjamin.hill@mlb.com  and twitter.com/bensbiz

But enough about me! Did you know that, in recent weeks, several new Minor League mascots have made their debut? I am sensing a profoundly ambivalent response to that query, but soldiering on in the face of ambivalence is what I do best. Therefore, let’s start with Chico of the El Paso Chihuahuas, who I will be able to meet in person on April 29th. Say what you will about the Chihuahuas name/logo/overall branding efforts, but one thing they are definitely not is bashful. Chico, who came into the world without even a scintilla of an origin story, is IN YOUR FACE.

(This, and all Chico photos, courtesy Peter Svarzbein/El Paso Chihuahuas)

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Let’s back up a little…

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From the rear. This photo could in no way be misconstrued.

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I do my best to refrain from lazy “only on the internet” phrases such as “nightmare fuel,” but there’s no doubt that Chico has a bit of an edge too him. He’s got red eyes, a dog collar necklace, and a cockeyed, teeth-baring grin, three presentational elements that are rarely associated with the Minor League mantra of family-friendly entertainment.

El Paso Chihuahuas — on the cutting edge, or missing the mark? I have a feeling that Chico doesn’t care what your opinion is, whatever it is. He will be performing for a fan base that includes Pauly Shore and Cheech Marin (really!), so chances are that he’ll fit in just fine.

Peter Svarzbein/El Paso Chihuahuas

Peter Svarzbein/El Paso Chihuahuas

Meanwhile, a couple thousand miles to the northeast, the Akron RubberDucks have unveiled “Webster.” 

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And, yes, let’s get this out of the way. As noted by more than one of my Twitter followers, Webster appears to be Minor League Baseball’s version of “Poochie,” the superfluous Itchy and Scratchy sidekick whose cynical conception and even more cynical demise was the subject of a classic Simpsons episode.

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It turns out that, in the flesh, Webster is downright endearing. Chances are slim that he will die on the way back to his home planet, I look forward to meeting him when I visit Akron on July 18.

Out in Modesto, Al the almond and Wally the walnut have long held things down on the mascot front. You’d think that the team would be content with displaying their pair of nuts at every home game, but, no, they want more. Get ready for a female pistachio!

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Like all female pistachios, this one needs a name! Fans are invited to choose among Penny, Patty, Shelley, Bella, or Polly, but why isn’t “Ms. Tachio” one of the options? I need to start a consulting company so that such wordplay opportunities are always taken advantage of within the industry. I would be good at this, and you know it.

Finally, in Little Rock, the Arkansas Travelers have unveiled not one and not three but yes two mascots: Ace and Otey. Sez the team:

Ace is a native Arkansan who grew up rooting for the Travelers. He proudly served his country and upon returning to the Natural State competed and won the Mascot Tryout. With a name like “Ace” of course he is a pitcher and stands at a very menacing 7′ 2″ tall and weighs 501 pounds with a size-36 hoof.

From the Travs’ Opening Day Facebook photo album:

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At 7’2″, Ace’s height is even greater than former Arkansas Traveler Loek Van Mil!

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This, also from the Travs, might be one of my favorite mascot bios in recent memory.

Initially the idea was for just one mascot, but when Ace introduced the Travs and Hughes Agency to his best friend “Otey the Swamp Possum” during the interview process all bets were off. Just like Ace, Otey is also native to the state hailing from Southeast Arkansas. He grew up watching Travs games with his family from underneath the stands at Little Rock’s Ray Winder Field. Otey, who was named after former Traveler infielder and groundskeeper R.C. Otey, claims that he is the Travelers’ “Good Luck Charm”. In fact Otey believes that his superstitions helped the Travs win the 2008 Texas League Championship even though their 62-78 regular season record was the worst for a champion in Texas League history. Otey stands a stout 5 feet tall, he is a fan of second base and the “phantom double play” and his favorite number is .984, which was R.C. Otey’s career fielding percentage.

And with this memorable bio comes a very memorable mascot.

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Okay, let’s back it up just a bit…

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Otey inspired a brief burst of snark and faux-outrage from amateur hour internet hyperbolists, but so what? As Otey’s bio makes clear — and this is something I learned firsthand when I visited in 2012 — the Travs and their fans have a strong nostalgia for their colorful Ray Winder Field past.  So much so, the beer garden at their current home of Dickey-Stephens Field is named after a well-known and often well-lubricated fan who would slide, in shorts, into a popcorn box base. Otey should fit right in.

And with that, it’s time for me to hook slide on out of here.

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benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Calling an Audible, in Blog Form

That last little run of “Return to the Road” posts was a pleasant diversion, and I hope to do it again in the near future (highlighting material from August’s trip to the West Coast). But, first, a more pressing concern: It is now time to plan 2014’s road trip itinerary, which means these offseason doldrums will soon be a thing of the past.

Cheer up, Spring is coming!

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I have a few road trip ideas in mind and  a few potential itineraries sketched out, but I would like your input as well. So, pitch me! My number one priority when it comes to these trips is to get unique and interesting material that will appeal to as many people as possible. (Ridiculousness is encouraged, but not mandatory.) So if YOUR team is planning something unique and interesting  that could result in great material for this blog and MiLB.com, then please let me know about it. Invite me out to the ballpark, and tell me about ways I can immerse myself in your interesting and unique ballpark experience. If I can work it into my schedule — time and money are finite resources at the moment — I will!

Please get in touch benjamin.hill@mlb.com. I thank you in advance; we now return to regularly-scheduled blog programming….

Russell Wilson is not only the quarterback of the Super Bowl champion Seahawks, he is also a former Minor League Baseball player. The Texas Rangers acquired him from the Colorado Rockies in December’s Rule 5 Draft, and now one Rangers affiliate is doing everything they can to lure him back to the Minors. That team would be the Myrtle Beach Pelicans.

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The gist of it is that if Wilson agrees to play a game as a member of the Pelicans, then the Pelicans will donate $10,000 to charity. For more information, please consult this video (warning: video contains copious footage of a shirtless general manager).

In other Super Bowl-related promo news: fresh off of their “Omaha! Omaha!” ticket initiative, the Omaha Storm Chasers announced the following promotion:

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Omaha and Peyton Manning have been connected in the news for the past three weeks, but besides general promotion for the city, Omaha sports fans have not had a reason to root for the Broncos in the Super Bowl. The Omaha Storm Chasers are attempting to add that rooting interest by offering 1,800 complimentary ticket vouchers to their July 6th game with Colorado Springs if the Broncos win the big game.

The Broncos did not win the big game, of course. Not by a long shot. Nonetheless, the Storm Chasers still gave away 480 tickets in honor of the debacle that was Super Bowl XLVIII.

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And then, finally, there’s this. Let it be known that the Weasel approves of the Pacific Coast League’s newest entrant.

Nothing can top that bit of news. I’ll Encino you all later.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Bouillabaisse III: The Search for More Material

Each of the last two posts on this blog were full-to-bursting bouillabaisse blasts, but those who thought that I was out of Minor League news and notes to share THOUGHT WRONG. A final scouring of my myriad notebooks and spreadsheets has brought even more items to light, and thus it is now my duty to shine this light unto the world.

Let’s begin by re-stating a proven fact, and that is that Ben’s Biz Blog is the greatest Minor League Baseball blog of all time. While this should be common knowledge, I nevertheless work tirelessly to disseminate this message to all corners of the known universe. Enter the Hickory Crawdads, who last week issued a press release in which they welcomed fans to leave a message on their office walls prior to renovation:

Renovations are already underway at Crawdads Stadium, but fans can visit the ‘Dads old front office one last time this week and leave a personalized message on the walls. Join Conrad and the rest of the front office staff by inscribing a favorite memory, a goodbye, or simply well wishes, and have your message shared on the Crawdads Facebook page.

I humbly asked the team, via Twitter, to please make note of my blogging supremacy and, happily, they assented. If it’s written on a South Atlantic League front office wall, then you KNOW it’s true!

In perhaps slightly more meaningful Minor League indoor art news, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders are staging an innovative mural painting contest. An excerpt from the press release:

[The RailRiders] and Lackawanna County are sponsoring an indoor mural competition for the entrance of the Mohegan Sun Club at PNC Field. The mural will be unveiled on Wednesday, April 2 at the annual “Meet the RailRiders” event. Experienced mural artists are invited to submit designs capturing the essence of baseball, community and Northeastern Pennsylvania.

Three finalists will be chosen by a selection committee before the public votes on the winning design from Feb. 14-24. The winning artist(s) will paint the mural during the month of March. All supplies and materials will be provided, including scaffolding. The winning artist will receive a cash award of $5,000 to paint the mural and two RailRiders 2014 season tickets.

Rest assured that I will be following this contest as it develops, but in the meantime: What other Minor League Baseball stadiums feature murals? I, like a painter who has lost his inspiration, am drawing a blank.

No segue!

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“This post is going to the dogs” sounds like something that I’d write if I was completely and totally devoid of inspiration. But I’m not, at least not yet, so instead just let me inform you that some canine content is imminent. Did you know that the El Paso Chihuahuas have sold merchandise in all 50 states, in advance of ever playing a game?  Team-produced infographics, like sleeping dogs, don’t lie!

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In other news, the Chihuahuas are now selling “pawtial” season ticket plans. I am apparently alone in thinking they should have found a way to utilize the phrase “season yip-ets.”

And then there are the Trenton Thunder, who have welcomed a new bat dog into the fold. This puppy, son of Derby and grandson of Chase (R.I.P.), needs a name and in this matter your assistance is requested.

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I voted for Mo.

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My readership is largely comprised of Los Angeles culinary scenesters with Midwestern roots, so I apologize that many of you are familiar with the following bit of news:

Restaurateur Susan Feniger has opened the Mud Hen Tavern, which, according to the Los Angeles Times, is “a neighborhood bar with ‘gourmet pub and comfort food’ inspired by the chef’s memories of going to Mud Hens baseball games in Toledo, Ohio.”  The menu looks great, and it’s immediately apparent that the chef attended Mud Hens’ games during that brief period (’75-’77) when tuna ceviche and pumpkin ravioli were available at the concession stand. 

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I’ve never seen a team do this before:

Fans of the Quad Cities River Bandits can own a piece of history with a commemorative 2013 Midwest League Championship ring in a limited-time sale. Until Feb. 1, fans may purchase rings that match the ones earned by the team’s players and staff, and each fan may personalize the championship hardware with his or her last name on the side of the ring.

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For $295, it can be yours! That would be a good investment for those looking to impress women, because nothing (and I mean nothing) impresses the fairer sex like a Midwest League Championship ring. I am speaking from experience.

Or am I?

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

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