Results tagged ‘ Elizabethton Twins ’

On the Road: Loving the Bologna in Elizabethton

To see all posts from my June 29 visit to the Elizabethton Twins, click HERE. To see all my posts from my June/July 2016 Appalachian League Road Trip, click HERE. To see all my “On the Road” posts, click HERE. If interested in seeing posts covering a visit to a particular team, search for that team’s name in the blog search bar (it’s to your right). 

As befits a Rookie-level team working out of a small, city-owned ballpark, the Elizabethton Twins offer a fairly limited range of concessions. But what they do, they do well. I learned this during the evening I spent at the team’s Joe O’Brien Field, where the food offerings are served out of “Miss Jane’s Hardball Cafe.”

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I did not sample the food offerings myself, of course. That task fell to Mr. Daniel Buck, my designated eater for the evening. It would be Daniel’s task to eat the ballpark cuisine that my gluten-free diet prohibits.

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Daniel, who lives in Elizabethton, is a truck driver. He runs the same route each day, working from 4:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., driving from Elizabethton to Roanoke, Virginia and back. He delivers tires while putting significant wear on his own, traveling approximately 1850 miles a week. His route includes stops in locales such as Marion, Chilihowie and Saltville (which, as he pointed out, was “the salt capital of the Confederacy“). Daniel was at the ballgame with his wife, Jennifer, and two and a half-month old grandbaby, Nariah. Yes, grandbaby. (Daniel is the same age as me, and he has a granddaughter. For me to attain grandfather status, I’d have to have some kids first.)

Food and beverage director Bruce Miller presented Daniel with two E-Twins specialties: the Fried Crown Bologna sandwich ($3) and a bratwrust ($4).

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Daniel began with the bologna.

Bruce, who’s been the food and beverage director for seven years, explained that he prioritizes “good stuff and good products” and that the bologna is no exception.

“I get it from a meat company, you can’t buy it like this,” he said, while declining to name the company in question. “They make it for me, cuts that are as big as a hamburger. There’s five or six ounces of bolognan[in each sandwich], and I put a little butter on the bread.”

Daniel was an instantaneous fan of the bologna.

“Well, it was gone fast,” he said, after polishing it off in a matter of minutes. “It wasn’t overcooked, and cut thick. I can’t make ’em like that. I’m breaking out in a sweat, it was so good. That was a Carter County steak, right there.”

Next up was the bratwurst.

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“It’s what you’d expect from a good ol’ ballpark bratwurst,” said Daniel. “It’s got a kick to it. I still love the bologna a little better and that’s saying something.”

img_0203This was all washed down with eastern Tennessee’s “energy drink” of choice, Dr. Enuf. If you’re in the region, you really owe it to yourself to get a Dr. Enuf. It’s got less distribution than Cheerwine, but beloved by those in the know.

img_1708Daniel wasn’t quite done yet. Dessert was deep-fried Oreos topped with vanilla ice cream.

img_0207Are you jealous?

As the above six seconds of video documentation makes clear, Daniel was a fan of the Oreos. More broadly, he was a big fan of all that was served to him during his time in this Joe O’Brien Field “Sky Box.”

“The food’s awesome,” is how he summed it up.

For that, we have Bruce to thank. I caught up with him later in the day and took this picture:

img_1725Thanks, Bruce! And thanks, Daniel.

***

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On the Road: Free Admission in Elizabethton

To see all posts from my June 29 visit to the Elizabethton Twins, click HERE. To see all my posts from my June/July 2016 Appalachian League Road Trip, click HERE. To see all my “On the Road” posts, click HERE. If interested in seeing posts covering a visit to a particular team, search for that team’s name in the blog search bar (it’s to your right). 

As mentioned previously, I spent the first five nights of my Appalachian League trip in Johnson City (the home of the Cardinals). The other four teams in the league’s West Division are all located nearby, but no team is located closer to Johnson City than the Elizabethton (pronounced Eliza-BETH-ton) Twins. Joe O’Brien Field was a mere 10 miles from my hotel, but I still had some trouble finding it

I needed to make a left hand turn onto the downward-sloping road seen in the above photo, but missed it on my first three attempts. It’s a rather unobtrusive road.

img_0182And Joe O’Brien Field is a rather unobtrusive ballpark, gently enveloped by towering hillside trees. The Watauga River runs behind the third base side.

img_0183I arrived just as the gates opened, and was immediately confused. Fans were just walking in; no one was checking tickets. But as it turned out, this was not only the home opener but also one of the team’s “Free Admission Nights.” The Twins, run by Elizabethton’s parks and recreation department, are a community-oriented team and do their best to make a night at the ballpark an affordable outing.

I’m not sure that any team has ticket prices lower than this:

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Upon arriving I spent some time with Twins general manager Mike Mains, whose role with the team is an extension of his position as Elizabethton’s parks and recreations director. My conversations with him formed the basis of this MiLB.com article, which explains more about the team and how it operates. The game at which I was in attendance marked the start of Elizabethon’s 43rd consecutive season as a Minnesota affiliate. There’s lots of history here at Joe O’Brien Field, and it’s a beautiful place to spend an evening.
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img_1702Even though it was Opening Day, the pregame festivities were minimal. As part of a league-wide initiative, pitcher Austin Tribby was interviewed on the dangers of dip. “Don’t even consider it,” said Tribby.

Both teams lined up for on-field introductions prior to the game. In the below photo, Twins manager Ray Smith is trotting out toward home plate. Smith is an Elizabethton icon, as 2016 marked his 30th season on the Twins’ coaching staff. Not only that, but he began his playing career in Elizabethton as a member of the 1977 squad.

img_0195Once both teams were identified and accounted for, it was time for a rousing rendition of our National Anthem.

Soon after the ballgame began, I met with my designated eater. Following standard operating procedure, that will be featured in a separate post. The designated eating took place in the stadium “Skybox,” which offers as elevated a vantage point as one is going to get in an Appy League ballpark. The mountains in the background are part of the Appalachian chain.

img_0204While in the skybox I interviewed Dave McQueen, known throughout the ballpark as “Big Dave.”

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Big Dave has worked with the team for decades, primarily as head of groundskeeping and clubhouse operations. I didn’t quite have the time to put together a story on Big Dave before leaving on my next trip, but he’s a very energetic and colorful individual. Here’s a snippet of the interview. There’s more where that came from, so get in touch if you want to hear more.

And here’s another Sky Box view. There are banners throughout the seating area honoring prominent Elizabethton alumni, such as Kirby Puckett. Puckett made his debut as a member of the 1982 team, hitting a robust .382.

img_0211The Sky Box stairs are not for the faint of heart.

img_0213Back on level ground, I commenced to wandering.

img_0214On the concourse, the atmosphere was sedate.

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While there, I enjoyed this bit of wall art.

img_0217The whole atmosphere was sedate, really. The season had just started, and the fans didn’t seem to be in peak form. They are known for bringing cowbells to the games (Elizabethton is dairy country), and I had been warned that the cowbells can be maddening, but on this Wednesday evening they were used sparingly.

The response to “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”, meanwhile, was virtually non-existent. Maybe this Dr. John-style rendition just doesn’t resonate in Tennessee.

Regardless of the energy in the park — or lack thereof — I remained smitten with the Joe O’Brien Field experience.

After a brief stop in the press box…

img_0222…I exited the stadium at the third base side and spent some quiet moments along the banks of the Watauga.

The view looking back toward the ballpark:

img_1722The Elizabethton batters looked good in the on-deck circle.

img_1723But they couldn’t get much going at the plate. Final score: Pulaski, 6 Elizabethton 1

img_0226Before heading on my way I wrote and disseminated a Groundbreak and Subversive Ballpark Joke.

After that, I headed back into the wilderness. Good night from Elizabethton.

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***

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

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About Last Night: Elizabethton Twins, June 29, 2016

This season, when I’m on the road, I’ll write a quick blog post about each Minor League ballpark that I visit. Then, upon my presumed return home, I’ll provide the multifaceted blog coverage that you have come to know and perhaps even love. Last night I visited Elizabethton, Tennessee, the fifth stop on my 10-team Appy League road trip.

June 29: Joe O’Brien Field, home of the Elizabethton Twins (Rookie-level affiliate of the Minnesota Twins) 

Opponent: Pulaski Yankees, 7:00 p.m. start time

Joe O’Brien Field, from the outside: 

IMG_0183Joe O’Brien Field, from within: 

IMG_0186Culinary Creation: Fried bologna sandwich ($3) and a brat ($4).

IMG_0196Ballpark character: “Big Dave” McQueen, head groundskeeper, clubhouse manager and endless fountain of E-Twins stories.

IMG_0210At Random: The Wataugah River runs behind the stadium on the third base side. This photo was taken during the eighth inning.

IMG_1720Your Groundbreaking and Subversive Ballpark Joke of the Day: 

Up Next: 

6/30: Princeton Rays

7/1: Bluefield Blue Jays

7/2: Pulaski Yankees

7/3: Danville Braves

7/4: Burlington Royals

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benjamin.hill@mlb.com

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Milking the 2013 Season For All It’s Worth

The 2013 Minor League season is dead. Long live the 2013 Minor League season.

What that sentiment in mind, today’s post will yet again feature interesting in-season content that I wasn’t able to get to during the season itself. And, more specifically, today’s post will begin with the Charlotte Knights. As you are probably aware the 2013 campaign was a significant one for the Knights, as it marked their last in Knights Stadium (also known as “The Castle”) before moving into a new stadium in downtown Charlotte proper.

But historic final season or not, there was still plenty of time for the bullpen to antagonize the team’s ATV-adept mascot, Homer. The following slew of photos  — yes, a slew! — should make that clear. In fact, this photo slew is so good that it should be made into a flipbook giveaway item for 2014.

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So, to recap: I, an ostensibly grown man, am posting pictures of grown men who make a living playing a child’s game acting like children by dousing a grown man in a dragon suit with water and baby powder.

So, with that said, let’s move on to more of the same: more Charlotte Knights’ tomfoolery. On June 15 the team staged a “Dairy Night” promotion, and the highlight (?) of this endeavor was an on-field milking contest between Jhan Carlos Marinez and Jason Berken. Click HERE for a full photo gallery, but in the meantime here’s a representative picture.

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Photo: Erica Caldwell

But, of course, cow milking contests take place at all levels of the Minors — from Triple-A to Rookie ball. For an example of the latter, there’s this from Elizabethton.

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That picture features second baseman Brian Dozier, who is now on the Minnesota Twins, so something tells me that that photo might be a few years old. But, whatever, the team sent it along with their press release so that makes it new enough for me. And wouldn’t it be great if the above photo featured a male cow? Then I could have captioned it “bull, Dozier,” and accolades would have ensued.

Speaking of animals on the ball field — Rosenblatt Stadium, the long time home of both the Omaha Royals and College World Series, is now the home of Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium. The zoo has incorporated elements of the old ball field into its design, and all in all it looks pretty cool.

And that’s all there ever was, is, or will be from this particular dispatch. Thanks for reading.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

One More Time, with Feeling

As you probably have noticed, the vast majority of content here on the blog in recent weeks has been “On the Road”-related. And, well, there’s going to be plenty more where that came from. Local trips will continue to the extent that time allows, but, also, in addition to that, I’ve got one more blockbuster to share.

Pacific Northwest, here I come!

The Pacific Northwest from space, courtesy Wikipedia

The itinerary is as follows:

8/18: Eugene Emeralds

8/19: Salem-Keizer Volcanoes

8/20: Yakima Bears

8/21: Tacoma Rainiers

8/22: Everett AquaSox

And, the piece de resistance — Ben’s Biz is going international! I am happy to report that I will be observing Julio Franco’s 54th birthday in Canada!

8/23: Vancouver Canadians

I’m not exactly sure how this latest jaunt will play out, but one thing’s for sure. I’m gonna be spending some quality time with this guy:

Vancouver’s Chef Wasabi

Beyond that, you know the drill: should you have any recommendations regarding where to eat and what to visit while I’m in the area, then please get in touch via the comments, email, or Twitter. These recommendations have been absolutely crucial on past trips, and I’m sure that this time around will be no different.

Also, keep in mind that this will be the first larger-scale trip in which I am following a gluten-free diet. Therefore, “designated eaters” would be appreciated at each stop. If you think that this is a role (eating the ballpark delicacies that I cannot) that you can fulfill at any stop along the way then, please, get in touch.

Meanwhile, I have two months of backlogged blog material to get to. I no longer stress out about such backlogs (as part of my longer-term strategy to prioritize permanence over the ephemeral), but nonetheless I might as well get to some of it now. How about this awesome Lowell Spinners commercial, which immortalizes a Spinners-ValleyCats batboy battle that took place at a game I was in attendance for last month?

Let’s see, what else have I got here…

How about this? On July 13, the Lake Elsinore Storm had over 500 people “Tebow” in the outfield as part of a “Night of Fellowship” promotion. Here’s what that looked like:

And speaking of fellowship, Elizabethton Twins general manager Mike Mains recently sent out a mass email regarding a helpful groundskeeping trick that his team employs. I hope that he won’t mind me excerpting it here, as it could help teams as they deal with weather that, in recent weeks, has bordered on the apocalyptic:

We’ve had so much rain that we got a little creative this past week. The fans blowing air under the tarp keeps the air circulating which limits damage to the grass when the tarp is down for long periods of time. The most useful thing we found is when heavy amounts of water forms on the tarp the fans will literally pick up the tarp which will form a bubble and then will force the water to the edges of the tarp which makes it much easier and quicker to push the water off and then remove. I’ve heard of this before but it has really worked for us especially with limited manpower.

The best fans in baseball:

And that’ll be it from me, until it isn’t. Thanks for reading.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Cow's About That?

Many apologies for how quiet this blog has been over the past five days. I was in Pittsburgh for a long weekend in order to attend the World Pinball Championships. This event features over 400 machines in one location and is therefore not to be missed under any circumstances. I’ll post a few pictures from my time in the Steel City at some point, simply because I’ll use any opportunity to proselytize in the name of pinball. It is a recreational activity that rivals baseball in its sheer “American-ness”.

But now it’s back to the grind. I am waist-deep in other endeavors at the moment, but nonetheless wanted to get something up on this blog. Something…anything…but what?

How about this?

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The above shot is from the Elizabethton Twins’ annual cow-milking contest (this year’s event was held on August 8). From the press release:

The Elizabethton Twins defeated the Bluefield
Orioles in the 2009 Chick-Fil-A Cow Town Celebration Milk-Off recently held at
Joe O’Brien Field. The two teams battled each other and two very large Jersey
Cows prior to Saturday Night’s game. The Twins used a very solid milking attack
led by Reggie Williams of Bellflower, California and Roman Acosta of Villia
Vaquez, Dominican Republic to win this year’s title.

 

This was the eleventh season for this unique
promotional event. During that time there was just one occasion when the team
that won the milk-off did not win the ballgame to follow. The Twins kept the
streak going as they defeated Bluefield 7-3. 

I don’t know what else to add, except that I think this promotion is “udderly” fantastic. For more on the E-Twins, check out last week’s Farm’s Almanac feature story HERE.

And, please — If you have come up with a pun superior to “udderly” fantastic then do not hesitate to get in touch. I could use some assistance.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com