Results tagged ‘ Erie SeaWolves ’

On the Road: A Thorough Examination in Erie

(Interested in perusing all of my 2014 “On the Road” content? Click HERE  to visit a continually updated “On the Road” landing page. Bookmark it, and read ‘em all!)

On Sunday, August  24th, after witnessing a game between the State College Spikes and Jamestown Jammers at Russell Diethrick Park, I hopped into my rental car and crossed the state line into Pennsylvania’s northwestern-most region. My destination was Erie, home of the SeaWolves, an outlier on this trip in that they were the only Double-A team I visited and one of just two that were located outside of the great state of New York.

After a good night’s sleep, I woke up on Monday rarin’ to go and ready for some Tigers-affiliated Eastern League baseball action. The SeaWolves compete at Jerry Uht Park, a downtown facility that opened in 1995. The SeaWolves were were a Class A short-season New York-Penn League club from 1995-98, making the jump to Double-A in 1999 as one of two Eastern League expansion teams. They have been a Detroit affiliate since 2001.

So, here we are: Jerry Uht Park, named after a local benefactor who, in 1995, established a fund that would, in perpetuity,  assist with ballpark renovation and maintenance costs. Those in the know call it “The Uht.”

002Upon receiving entry into the ballpark (obtained via the solemn utterance of a secret password), myself and SeaWolves assistant general manager Greg Gania immediately began a journey through the outfield. We were bathed in a resplendent aura during our travels, courtesy of a blazing celestial orb.

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Our destination was the SeaWolves clubhouse, located beyond the center field fence and vaguely resembling a minimum security penitentiary.

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Our purpose was to locate SeaWolves reliever Will Startup, whom I wanted to interview on the subject of his baseball-themed artwork. Mission accomplished.

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You can read my feature on Will HERE. The gist of it is that he spends much of his down time during the season painting baseballs, using gel pens and mechanical pencils, and recently he completed his first home plate artwork as well. Will’s a really nice guy who, at the age of 30, has admirably persevered while riding the rickety wooden roller coaster that is the Minor League existence. This marked the first time that I spoke to him since he won 2008’s Moniker Madness contest for having the best name in Minor League Baseball. Check out his blog and follow him on Twitter, should you be so inclined.

A recent Will Startup creation, designed at the request of a SeaWolves batboy (who gave it to his girlfriend).

005And here’s a page from Will’s journal, showcasing a few of his sneaker designs (this is a post-playing career aspiration of his, to design footwear).

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Will also mentioned to me that he is not the only artistically-inclined reliever in the Eastern League. Did you know that Blake McFarland of the New Hampshire Fisher Cats does incredible work with recycled tires?

After talking to Will, I rather inarticulately thought to myself that “Hey, you might as well take a couple of pictures from out here in the outfield. Carpe Diem and all that.”

So that’s what I did. You’ll notice that Jerry Uht Park has a second deck seating area on the first base side of the stadium. In 2009, ESPN.com named these seats among the top 10 seating areas in the Minors and a lowly scrivener such as I would not dare contest this assertion.

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The left field wall doubles as the back end of the Erie Insurance Arena, home to the BayHawks (NBA D-League), Otters (Ontario Hockey League) and Explosion (Continental Indoor Football League). This got me to thinking — are there any other cities that boast Minor League baseball, basketball, hockey and football franchises? Erie is a Minor League sports lovers paradise.

Anyhow, in its original permutation, Jerry Uht Park boasted a walkway out in left field where fans could watch the game. The arena-as-left field wall set-up occurred as a result of an extensive renovation and expansion to the arena, completed in the fall of 2013.

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“And Popcorn”

Meanwhile, back at the box office, bananas and poncho wearers were steadily selling tickets to a robust walk-up crowd. It was “Buck Night” in Erie, featuring $1 concession items and beer, a deal that has proven to be quite popular with Erie’s returning college students.

“We always do the costumes on Buck Night,” SeaWolves president Greg Coleman told me. “Someone will have a question about where to park and it’s like ‘Talk to the banana.'”

015Speaking of college students, their return to school in August means that, during the last two two weeks of the season, most Minor League teams are short-staffed. After all, college students almost always make up a sizable portion of the intern and game-day employees. In industry parlance, nights in which a team is lacking in personnel are referred to as a “midget wizard” (as in, one with a short staff). “We’re gonna have to make due with a midget wizard” is a phrase that I heard time and time again on this trip.

Just kidding, no  one has ever used this terminology. I should stick to pictures, which I took a lot of as a wandered around the Uht and soaked in the pre-game scene.

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017This gentleman, sitting in an ESPN.com-approved seating area, was already plenty comfortable.

019A lone Baysox player prepares himself for the evening’s upcoming contest.

021Team-logo cornhole? Check.

023Large fun zone bounce house? Check.

025Smith’s Sausage Shack? Check.

026Yes, Smith’s Sausage Shack! Smith’s is an Erie-based meat purveyor, much beloved by individuals in the area. I was delighted to see the Smith’s Sausage Shack with my own eyes, as in 2008 it served as the inspiration for one of my favorite team-produced videos of all-time. I have posted this video on several different occasions, and I am probably responsible for 1200 of its 3500+ views.

Meanwhile, the pre-game preparations continued both on and off of the field.

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034The game was just about ready to begin, and the Buck Night devotees were still streaming in.

Buck Night — Where you don’t have to spend a lot of doe!

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Identification required

IMG_0212Just make sure that you can handle your booze, Buck Nighters. SeaWolves team policy strictly prohibits the loss of consciousness.

049As the game began, Erie right fielder Steven Moya was on the cusp of making SeaWolves history. He entered the game with 34 home runs and 101 RBIs, tied with Kurt Airosa for most home runs in franchise history and one behind Eric Munson’s all-time RBI mark.

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Moya and company sure had their work cut out for them, as, in the top of the first inning, SeaWolves pitcher Wilson Palacios went through the entirety of the Bowie Baysox line-up without recording an out. Leadoff hitter Mike “Carl’s Grandson” Yaztremski, hitting for the second time in the inning, made the ballgame’s first outs via a 6-3 double play that ran the score to 7-0.

The scoreboard must have been in error when this photo was taken, as at no point in the inning was there only one out (save for that brief moment in time which the double play was being turned).

044 The black and white Great Gatsby-esque player headshots were part of the evening’s “20s Night” theme. Mascot C. Wolf was certainly dressed for the occasion.

045As was SeaWolves director of entertainment Kristi Servais, who was manning the fan assistance booth. When I mentioned to Kristi that she had the same last name as a former MLB catcher, she replied “Yeah, Scott’s my cousin.” It’s a small world.

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It was during these early-game wanderings that an autograph-collecting fan named Nick introduced himself. He was not interested in being photographed or serving as designated eater (you know, the individual who eats the ballpark cuisine that my gluten-free diet prohibits), but nonetheless he was an enjoyable and knowledgeable ballpark guide. Back in his college days he worked at Smith’s Sausage Shack, and he had nothing but good things to say about its husband and wife proprietors Dee and Barney.

“Smith’s has a cult following around here, but I’m not sure how far that it goes,” Nick told me. “Barney just works it, he’s a local legend. I was fortunate enough to work with him for three years and they were the best summers of my life. He and Dee are real salt of the Earth people.

Smith’s hot dogs certainly did look delicious.

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Nick also raved about SeaWolves second baseman Devon Travis, seen above on the scoreboard in his 1920s-style headshot.

“He’s the most fan-friendly player ever,” he said. “He has fun every day and you can just see it in his face.”

Noted, Nick. In the future, I will make a point to seek out Mr. Travis for an interview.

I also chatted a bit with SeaWolves fan Eric Brookhouser, a SeaWolves season ticket holder and jersey enthusiast (he owns 121 hockey jerseys and 49 baseball jerseys, most of the theme night variety) whom I have long interacted with on Twitter. I’m not sure what beer Eric is drinking there, but let it be known that the SeaWolves proudly serve various offerings from the nearby Erie Brewing Company.

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You can’t spell “Eric Brookhouser” without “Erie.”

Unfortunately, the SeaWolves most unique fan was not in attendance on the day that I visited. Prior to my arrival, team president Greg Coleman described this individual in an email:

Every ballpark has its characters, and Jerry Uht Park is no exception.  Richard Laurie attends each game with his puppet to cheer on the SeaWolves (Viva Los Lobos del Mar! is one of his favorite chants).  He also humorously lets the umpires know when they’ve erred.

Here’s what I (and, by extension, you) missed out on.

In this midst of all of this wandering and hobnobbing, something very unexpected occurred: the SeaWolves, down 7-0 before they came to bat, took the lead! Moya had doubled three times by this point, en route to tying the all-time franchise RBI record. And, most amazingly, Palacios was still in the game and thus in line for the win. I mean, how often does that happen? A pitcher goes through the entirety of the line-up before recording an out and still ends up with the win?

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More like the “no kiss” cam

As previously mentioned, I did not have a designated eater on this particular evening. I did enjoy a gluten-free treat, however, in the form of a walking taco.

Upon finishing the taco, I just kept on walking. The press box was my destination.

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Look closely at the above picture, and you can see an image of a doctor reflected within the top panel of press box glass. Your eyes do not deceive you — there really was a doctor in the press box.

067That’s Dr. Peter Lund of St. Vincent Allied Urology, who was in the press box so that he could administer a prostate exam to team president Greg Coleman as Coleman sang “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” This philanthropic publicity stunt, unique to the Minor Leagues, has been dubbed the “Two Knuckle Challenge” and was begun by Andy Milovich of the Myrtle Beach Pelicans. In the manner of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, this stunt was then passed from team to team. It went from Myrtle Beach to Lake Elsinore to Charleston to Savannah and then here, to Coleman in Erie.

062“I thought it was a joke at first,” said Lund of the Two-Knuckle Challenge. “But prostate cancer is a serious disease, it still kills 30,000 men a year. Men should get screened and it’s not necessarily something that they brag about.”

Coleman had recently turned 40 — as a gift, he received a Startup-designed baseball — so he was a bit on the young side to receive an exam. This wasn’t so much about his health as it was a way to raise awareness.

Here, Lund, Coleman and SeaWolves team doctor Brad Fox set up a makeshift press box examination room.

064And here’s Greg, ready to go. The lyrics to “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” were taped to the table in front of him in case he got disoriented. Sing it, Greg!

And that was that. Maybe you find this whole thing stupid and anti-climactic, but the point is crystal clear: if this guy can get a prostate exam in public while singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” then YOU can get one in the privacy of a doctor’s office. It ain’t that big a deal.

With the Two-Knuckle Challenge complete, I then spent some time speaking with SeaWolves team doctor Brad Fox. He is an interesting, enthusiastic and loquacious fellow, and my interview with him can be read HERE. He’s not only the team doctor, he’s also a batboy!

071While all of this was going on, the SeaWolves put the finishing touches on their improbable comeback.

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Final score: Erie 10, Bowie 7. Palacios was the indeed the winning pitcher, despite the fact that the ballgame’s first nine batters reached base against him. This marked the first time that I was in attendance for a game that later ended up in one of my Crooked Nuggets blog posts:

An Erie Occurrence (And I was there) — Erie SeaWolves’ right-hander Wilsen Palacios struggled mightily against the Bowie Baysox on August 25. He went through the entirety of the starting line-up without recording an out, en route to allowing seven runs on seven hits and two walks in the first inning alone. But then a funny thing happened — Palacios settled down and followed up his frightful first with four scoreless innings, and ended up earning the win as the SeaWolves rallied for a 10-7 victory. Baysox starter Branden Kline took the opposite approach, retiring the SeaWolves 1-2-3 in the first but ultimately taking the loss after allowing nine runs over 4 2/3 innings.

And that was all she wrote, folks. Upon the conclusion of the game, balls were launched and children ran the bases. Then everyone went home.

074The only thing I’ve got left to mention is that the SeaWolves are managed by Lance Parrish, surely the only Minor League skipper to have once guest-starred in an episode of Diff’rent Strokes. The internet is really failing us by not having any clips of this episode available, but here, as a consolation prize, is Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker guest-starring in an episode of Magnum P.I. 

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

On the Road: New York State of Mind, Part Two

(Interested in perusing all of my 2014 “On the Road” content? Click HERE  to visit a continually updated “On the Road” landing page. Bookmark it, and read ‘em all!)

Part one in this series detailed my non-ballpark explorations (or lack thereof) in Batavia, Rochester and Jamestown. Part two, which you are reading now, begins on August 25th and covers Erie, Pennsylvania and Buffalo, New York.

Let’s get to it, lest it get to us!

August 25th — Erie, Pennsylvania (home of the SeaWolves)

I grew up outside of Philadelphia, my grandparents had a house in the Poconos, and I went to college in Pittsburgh. Therefore, I consider myself to be quite familiar with the state of Pennsylvania. But it wasn’t until this trip that I ventured deep into the northwest quadrant of the state, and I’m glad that I finally had the opportunity to do so. Erie, heretofore unbeknownst to me, is quite beautiful.

I arrived in Erie on the evening of August 24th, having driven there after attending that afternoon’s Jamestown Jammers game. After a night of rest at the Clarion Inn, I did some writing, got lunch at a local Mexican restaurant, and then headed over to Presque Isle State Park. (I’ve been pronouncing it “Press Kyle State Park.” I hope that’s correct.)

IMG_0206Per the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources:

Presque Isle State Park is a 3,200-acre sandy peninsula that arches into Lake Erie. As Pennsylvania’s only “seashore,” Presque Isle offers its visitors a beautiful coastline and many recreational activities, including swimming, boating, fishing, hiking, bicycling and in-line skating. 

I only had about an hour to poke around, but my pokings soon brought me to this pristine stretch of beach. It was a beautiful day, and the water was a perfect temperature. I would have happily spent the entire day there, if Minor League Baseball obligations hadn’t intervened (as they always do, and must).

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I didn’t do much except wander along the coastline with my pantlegs pulled up to my knees, but what else was there to do? Presque Isle is now firmly entrenched in my mind as a place to visit on a non-baseball-related road trip (should such a thing ever exist in my life). And while that’s all the time that I had to explore Erie, there is, obviously, much more to do than go to the beach. In an email prior to my visit, SeaWolves president Greg Coleman provided the following information:

  • Near the entrance to Presque Isle (locally know as The Peninsula), you’ll find two local institutions – an amusement park called Waldameer and a ’50’s style hot dog stand/eatery called Sara’s. Both are considered Erie institutions. The Ravine Flyer at Waldameer has one of the most stunning rollercoaster views I’ve ever seen as it looks out over the peninsula and Lake Erie.
The Ravine Flyer (photo from Wikipedia)

The Ravine Flyer (photo from Wikipedia)

  • Bicentennial Tower is probably the most recognizable landmark in Erie.  It is located on the bay front at the northernmost tip of State Street (Erie’s equivalent of “Main Street”) and was built in 1996 to commemorate Erie’s 200th anniversary.
Bicentennial Tower (again, from Wikipedia)

Bicentennial Tower (again, from Wikipedia)

  • The Erie Maritime Museum is a short walk from Bicentennial Tower.  The museum hosts the U.S. Brig Niagara, the official flagship of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, when it is docked in Erie.
  • Erie boasts a number of number of attractions rarely seen in a community of its size (Erie County’s population is 280,000) including the Erie Zoo, the Tom Ridge Environmental Center, four colleges/universities within 15 miles, an indoor water park (Splash Lagoon), an NBDL basketball team, an OHL hockey team and Minor League Baseball.
  • Pop culture notes: Alice from the Brady Bunch (the recently deceased Ann B. Davis) and Train lead singer Pat Monahan both grew up Erie, PA.  Erie was also home to fictional band, the Wonders, from Tom Hanks’ movie That Thing You Do (limited filming was done at Mercyhurst University in Erie).
Erie native Ann B. Davis (once again, from Wikipedia)

Erie native Ann B. Davis (once again, from Wikipedia)

The next day, it was onward to the Queen City.

August 26: Buffalo, New York (home of the Bisons)

In Buffalo, I had a man on the inside in the form of Seamus Gallivan. Seamus and I first became acquainted during his days working for the Corpus Christi Hooks and Round Rock Express, but after the 2009 season he left Minor League Baseball and returned to his native Buffalo. His professional career is now dedicated to spreading “Buffalove” via his Good Neighborhood Foundation, working for the Larkin Square public event space and booking shows all around the city. Buffalo, after years of industrial decline and a resultant inferiority complex, is now re-inventing itself in myriad ways and Seamus is a passionate proponent of all that it has to offer.

I met Seamus at Larkin Square, which opened in 2012.

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From the Larkin Square website:

Larkin Square lies at the heart of Larkinville, the site of the former Larkin Soap Company warehouse buildings. This open public space provides a backdrop of colorful furniture amongst whimsical architecture….food, music and fun abound.

When I first got to Larkin Square, a few early-arriving food trucks were staking out the best spots for that evening’s Food Truck Tuesday event. 20 trucks set up shop on the premises, a live band plays, and (presumably) a good time is had by all.

But Seamus and I weren’t going to be visiting any of these vehicular food purveyors. Following Buffalo protocol, we were going to get some chicken wings. In advance of my visit Seamus had initiated a Facebook discussion regarding the best wings in Buffalo, which elicited a remarkable 138 comments. Here’s a sampling of the conversation:

Stevie Matthews Duffs Amherst (get hot to make them sweat) for traditional wings. Or, I am also partial to Dwyer’s in NT if you want to travel a bit out of Buffalo and get experimental with a ton of flavors.

Nathan Montague Duke’s if they want smoked BBQ wings. Gabriel’s Gate is good. Consider taking them to Anchor so they can say they’ve been there.

Christopher Taylor 911 tavern if you have to stay in the city. If not Bar Bill in EA all day long.

Lauren Leadbetter Bar Bill – east aurora (honey butter BBQ). OR Potters pub – south buffalo (honey mustard BBQ)

Duke Duquin Our smoked bbq are the best bbq by far…not even close & offer a healthy alternative as fat is rendered off during smoking process. These tasty treats are grilled not fried. #nextlevelwings

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Duke’s

Chris Duncan Elmos or duffs or anchor….. since hes never been to Buffalo why not take him to where it all started. Just kinda makes sense.
Edmund Cardoni Where I like to get wings living here: Papa Jake’s for classic wings, Essex Street (smoked), Gabriel’s Gate, Bar Bill if I’m in East Aurora, etc. But I would always bring a first-time visitor to the Anchor Bar.
Seamus went with a well-considered wild card selection, however:
Seamus Gallivan For those interested, we hit Cole’s with consideration of the interior aesthetics, patio, and that I could give him a driving tour from Larkinville up the East Side, over Delaware Park, and down Elmwood Village and downtown.
Yes, Cole’s:
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Aesthetically, Cole’s is most definitely a winner. It was established in 1934, and the walls are lined with vintage sports memorabilia.
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Seamus and I opted for a spot outside, which was a nice environment until the bees descended upon us. We ordered Buffalo wings (or, “wings” as I suppose it’s redundant to call them Buffalo wings while in Buffalo) and, changing things up, Sicilian chicken wings (tossed in Italian and Caesar dressing with Parmesan and lemon juice).
The Buffalo wings were, as Seamus put it, “solid but unspectacular.” They were a little dry, and I would have preferred a little more sauce and overall bite. Perfectly acceptable is what they were, but I guess when one is in Buffalo one expects wings of transcendence.
IMG_0334The Sicilian Wings were less traditional, but had more going on flavor-wise. A little tart, a little sweet, a little spice. I liked them a lot.
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After finishing our meal, which really was descended upon by bees, Seamus and I went upstairs to see Cole’s private event room. The lighting left something to be desired, but the stained glass Buffalo sports logos were really cool. This is the NBA’s Buffalo Braves (who later moved to Los Angeles and became the basketball powerhouse that are the Clippers).
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Bills:
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Buffalo was already making a good first impression on me, and then I saw that this was the cover story in the weekly free paper. My good impression subsequently turned to great!
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(In related pinball news — after a 15 month run, I was recently dethroned as Medieval Madness grand champion at my local laundromat. Without hyperbole, I can tell you that my local laundromat is the greatest laundromat of all time.)
After lunch, Seamus headed back to Larkin Square to get set up for the Food Truck Tuesday event. I, meanwhile, checked into my hotel and then walked to the Bisons’ home of Coca-Cola Park. There were a few architectural highlights along the way, such as this building (whatever it may be).
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But this was the highlight: The Prudential Building, designed by noted architect Louis H. Sullivan and built in 1895. It’s “an all-steel frame office building with fine terra cotta veneer.”  I mean, just look at that veneer!
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Not all architecture is created equal, however. Just look at the phallic monstrosity that is One Seneca Tower.
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Across the street from the ballpark, I spotted this piece of heartfelt signage.
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I then watched the Bisons play their final home game of the year; some has already been written about that but much remains to be written. After the ballgame I wandered down to the waterfront area known as Canalside and got a drink with Seamus at a bar called Liberty Hound. Located at the original terminus of the Erie Canal and surrounded by the USS The Sullivans and The USS Little Rock, this is a very scenic place to spend some time. The bartenders were friendly and the pours (very) generous; I’d highly recommend checking this place out before and/or after and/or during a Bisons game. Here’s a picture of the Liberty Hound, which I stole from Seamus’ Good Neighborhood website.
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 My night ended at the Liberty Hound, but my Buffalo explorations did not. The next day, after an extended bout of hotel-based writing, I met Seamus for lunch at the West Side Bazaar.  Somehow, this is the best photo I was able to take of the building’s exterior.
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Anyhow, this place is great. Simply put, and stolen from the website, the West Side Bazaar “is a small business incubator supporting entrepreneurs on their path to becoming successful business owners.”
Immigrant entrepreneurs, specifically. Inside the Bazaar are eight separate “boutiques” and four food windows. Again, my photography skills (to the extent that they exist in the first place), were failing me.
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The food options are South Sudanese, Ethiopian, Thai…
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and Burmese.
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Seamus and I opted for the Burmese. I got a curry combination platter, and it was a very satisfying meal. I would have loved to try all four options, and if I make it back to Buffalo I’m definitely making it back to the Bazaar.
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Seamus and I parted ways after lunch — thanks, Seamus, for the hospitality! Before heading on to Syracuse, I poked around the general area just a little bit more.
“Your link to quality” can be found at this “Meating Place.” Get it? I bet you never sausage a sign as that!
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West Side Stories is a great used book store. I bought an Elvis “Live in Hawaii” record (found therein was a 1977 newspaper editorial lamenting his death), a coaster embossed with a Shel Silverstein poem, a book of horror stories by Clive Barker and an annotated copy of the U.S. Constitution.
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The proprietress of West Side Stories suggested I walk down the street and check out Black Dots, a record store in an unassuming downstairs space.  You don’t have to tell me twice!
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This was a cool little spot, for sure. There was a strong punk/metal emphasis amid the limited inventory, but I ended up buying some stuff that I wouldn’t have expected to find there. Namely, a used copy of the Beastie Boys’ “Alive” 10″ and a new copy of Lil’ Wayne’s “The Leak” ep (I did not even know this existed in physical form. “I’m Me” is my second-favorite Lil Wayne song of all time, but all five tracks are fantastic.) I was also gonna finally get that last Jucifer LP but I guess that can wait until another day.
Black Dots, like every record store on Earth, had a used copy of Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours sale. People who say they do not like Rumours are probably just kidding because it’s a near-impossible album not to like no matter what your genre predilections may be.
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Oh, and Black Dot had a shelf of bootleg live tapes for 50 cents apiece. I bought “Neil Young at the New York State Fair, Syracuse, 8/27/1989.” After all, it was August 27, 2014, and I was just about to make my way to Syracuse! That’s some serious serendipity right there.
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At this point I really don’t have too much more to add, except that Sweetness 7 Cafe is a good spot to get some coffee.
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Oh, and Buffalonians really hate Jon Bon Jovi! Apparently he was part of a scheme to buy the Bills and move them to Toronto, but that scenario was thwarted thanks to a fracking billionaire. (Hey man, you can destroy the environment all you want. Just make sure that that team stays in Buffalo.)
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Jon Bon Jovi owning the Bills? Sayreville it ain’t so.

And that’s it for me, until part three.
benjamin.hill@mlb.com
twitter.com/bensbiz

(Even More) Marking of Momentous Milestones (and More)

February 14 is a day when most people are either pitching woo or lamenting the absence of woo while listening to Wu-Tang Clan songs that sample John Woo movies.  I, meanwhile, devoted a chunk of my always productive and multi-faceted work day to a blog past entitled “The Marking of Momentous Milestones.” It dealt with anniversary logos.

Soon after the publication of said post, I was alerted to the existence of several more anniversary logos. So, in the interest of fairness as well as professional stagnation, today’s post will be devoted to EVEN MORE ANNIVERSARY LOGOS. (Sorry, it’s just that many of these logos are a lock to be on caps.)

Let’s start with the Round Rock Express, who are celebrating their Quinceanera.

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Meanwhile, the Richmond Flying Squirrels are entering their fifth campaign. If you don’t believe me, just look at this:

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While it’s true that you can’t spell Quinceanera without “Erie,” the SeaWolves are even older than that. Read all about their 20th anniversary plans HERE.

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Five plus 20 equals 25, which is the number of seasons in which Scranton/Wilkes-Barre’s International League franchise has been operational.

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The RailRiders will be celebrating this anniversary throughout the season, including wearing a theme jersey that incorporates their three distinct identities (Red Barons, Yankees, RailRiders) into one coherent (?) whole.

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Yes, I’ve jumped from a 15th anniversary to a fifth anniversary to a 20th anniversary to a 25th anniversary. But there was a pattern to the order in which I shared the above logos, and it wasn’t numerically related. Anyone have any guesses?

Meanwhile, I’m barely more than half-way through my self-imposed blog post word minimum, so let’s keep this train rolling.

Also in (relatively) recent logo news, the Bristol Pirates have unveiled their look for 2014 and beyond (this marks Bristol’s first year as Pittsburgh’s rookie-level affiliate, hence the new look). Check it out, via this series of moving images:

The Harrisburg Senators have unveiled a new batting practice cap, which honors the insects that used to rain down upon fans during night games at City Island.

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From the team:

Mayflies, obviously huge fans of the team, have been known to hang out around Metro Bank Park, home of the Harrisburg Senators, on humid summer nights. These harmless little bugs are hatched near the banks of the Susquehanna River. The mayfly has a short lifespan and is fond of the bright lights of the ballpark. They can often be seen near the stadium light poles around 9:00 p.m. on a game night during the summer months. 

From me:

I am done writing this blog post. 

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Ben’s Biz Backlogged Blog Bonanza

When I’m on the road I always have so much to write about, both here on the blog and over at MiLB.com. This content overload is a good thing, but one negative aspect of it is that I can’t devote enough of my attention to that which is taking place outside of the places I visit.

C’est la vie, as the French say (when they’re giving examples of the cliched French terms that Americans actually know).

But right now? Right now I’m not on the road, nor do I have any more “On the Road” content. Therefore, today will be the first in a short series of bouillabaisse posts, in which I jump haphazardly from item to item with startling rapidity. Commence organized chaos and — warning! — some of this material is rather dated. I’m working my way through this backlog in chronological fashion.

Apropos of nothing — is R.A. Coon the best front office name in Minor League Baseball, or does Lexington’s Ty Cobb retain that honor?

(Regardless, THIS is the best blog post written by a Minor League broadcaster about someone named R.A.)

You may have seen my recent MiLB.com article about the Jacksonville Suns’ Casey Challenge, in which team president Peter “Pedro” Bragan challenges area school students to memorize the poem.

Well, speaking of the Bragans, did you know that the Suns gave away a “talking bobblehead” of Pete Bragan, Sr., the iconic team owner who passed away last season?

It really talks. Listen!

(And speaking, as I was, of “Casey at the Bat” — my favorite rendition, by far, is Tug McGraw narrating the poem while backed by Peter Nero and Philadelphia Pops Orchestra. I have it on record, and if anyone would like to assist with the LP-to-computer uploading process then let me know because I need to share it with the world at large.)

The Lehigh Valley IronPigs have long had an almost maniacal propensity for pig-related puns (the Pork Illustrated game program, for example, or a conference room for “Boar”d Meetings). These days, said puns are practically avant-garde.

The team has named its frozen yogurt bar the “Soo’eyte Spot.” You figure it out.

I have no idea how or why this happened (and it seems to have happened on multiple occasions), but the Erie SeaWolves are most likely the only team to have a Dr. Batboy.

I would like for there to be a band named “Dr. Batboy.”

Meanwhile, via Visalia broadcaster Donny Baarns, this photo of multi-generational intolerance:

And, that’s it for now. Much more where this came from, as soon as time allows.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Turn the Page, Part One

Have you ever tried to monitor the actions of 160 entities on a daily basis? That’s basically what my job is here at MiLB.com, and please believe me when I say that it can be overwhelming! Keeping track of a such a vast industry exacerbates my already quite pronounced OCD-tendencies, and leads to notebook pages such as the following:

IMG_0022

All of this is to say — it’s time to turn the page! But before doing so, please enjoy this bouillabaisse blog post consisting entirely of news items seen on the above notebook page. Y’know, topics that I’ve kept meaning to get around to but never did (or at least never did outside of the Twitter realm).

So here you go — no segues, just news news news!

Would you believe that the Hudson Valley Renegades have not one but TWO former MLB pitchers on their front office staff? Joe Ausiano (1994-95 Yankees) has long been with the team, and he has now been joined by Rob Bell (who played for four teams over seven big league seasons). Bell, now 36, will serve as a sales account executive.

Hudson Valley: home of Minor League Baseball’s best front office softball team?

The Iowa Cubs have long prided themselves on conducting the most irreverent website polls in MiLB, but decided not to continue with the practice after their site underwent an extensive re-design (as nearly all  team sites have done of late, courtesy of the tech wizards here at MLBAM).

But, rest assured, they went out on top of their poll game!

cubbbs

It’s always about Battle Creek

You may recall my recent post on Minor League Front Office Cliches, in which one of the cliches mentioned was “We wear a lot of hats.” This prompted @Interstate19Cap to reply, via Twitter: “I wear a lot of hats. Haha! I should work in MiLB.”

He also attached a picture of his formidable hat wall. Not quite at a St. Pete level, but close!

hatttz

You may or may not be aware of my most recent “Ben’s Bookshelf” column, which had a Black History Month angle.

bhmbookshelfI recommend all six of the titles shown above (read the article, linked to above), but there’s far more where that came from. Check out this bookshelf pic, sent to me via Twitter by @BeesGal_SLC, and marvel at its thoroughness.

That reminds me — I really should read Curt Flood’s book!

bhmreadz

On the promotion front —  this, from the Altoona Curve, is worthy of attention. April 11 will be BOpening Night, a tribute to batboy Bo Forney who passed away earlier this month at the age of 21.

Bo Forney, with the Dubble Bubble

Bo Forney, with the Dubble Bubble

From the team:

Bo has been an inspiration to many with the way he lived,” said Curve General Manager Rob Egan.  “He had the rare ability to make anybody who came in contact with him feel better.  Bo was such a positive person, loved life, and truly enjoyed people.  We miss him deeply and look forward to celebrating his life on ‘BOpening Night’ and throughout the season.”

A silent auction will take place during BOpening Night with all proceeds from the auction benefitting the American Heart Association.  The auction will consist of game-used items from the Pirates-Curve Exhibition game and will include, in addition to other items, 14-game used jerseys that have been signed by former Curve players /current Pirates players.    

To commemorate the life of Forney, a patch with Bo’s cartoon likeness will be affixed to all bat boys uniforms throughout the 2013 season.  The Forney family will also be in attendance for BOpening Night and will throw out ceremonial first pitches prior to the game.  A moment of silence will be held in Bo’s honor prior to the game as well. 

This reminds me of the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, who last season held a ballpark service for vendor Brock Calmes. Events like these help to illustrate the deep bonds that form within Minor League Baseball ballparks, and just how meaningful the presence of Minor League Baseball within a community can be.

Last week, the Tacoma Rainiers let it be known that anyone willing to purchase 350 Opening Weekend ticket deals would receive this pyramid of Dustin Ackley bobbleheads. I don’t think that anyone took them up on it.

summit

Next I’d like to give a shoutout to Spikes, intrepid mascot for your (or at least someone’s) Rochester Red Wings. He joins Rocky of the Wilmington Blue Rocks as the only mascots (that I am aware of) to take part in a Polar Plunge for charity.

spikes

During all 10 of their Friday night home games this season, the Charlotte Knights will be wearing 1990 throwback uniforms. Luxuriate in this image!

throwback

This initiative was inspired by the fact that 2013 will be the team’s last at Knights Stadium. 1990 was the first. Sez the team:

The jerseys, which were worn by the inaugural Knights Stadium Team in 1990, will now be worn by the current Knights team during the new “Flashback Fridays” series, which is set to commemorate 24 years of history at Knights Stadium.

To return to philanthropic endeavors, the Erie SeaWolves are now at the tail end of their “Drive to Five” initiative. 

drive5

The most pertinent of the details:

Through February 28, the Erie SeaWolves will donate $25 to United Way for each new full-season ticket package purchased. If 100 new season ticket packages are purchased, the SeaWolves will double the contribution – raising $5,000 to help United Way achieve its goal to reduce poverty in our region.

If you’re the kind of person who enjoys detailed analysis of industry-wide attendance figures, then you’re going to love the Number Tamer. Nobody does it better! (Or, if someone does, I’m certainly not aware of it).

As you may be aware, one of this year’s most ill-fated sporting ventures occurred in Williamsport, PA. The Federal Hockey League’s Outlaw franchise set up shop at outdoor Bowman Field (longtime home of the Crosscutters), an idea that may sound cool in theory but turned out to be a unmitigated financial disaster. The team pulled the plug on the season mid-way through, leaving everyone in the lurch, and once this happened the Crosscutters offered a quick response via this local newspaper ad:

Outlaws_Exchange_AD

This seems like a disaster waiting to happen, but nonetheless I encourage you like Lancaster JetHawks mascot KaBoom on Facebook. Here’s why:

kaboom

Speaking of inadvisable mascot feats, here’s a picture of Lake County’s Skipper, immediately after “Tackling the Tower.”

skiiper

“Tackling the Tower” isn’t some sort of euphemism, but an annual stair-climbing event with (of course) philanthropic intent. Good work, Skipper!

And, my goodness, this notebook page still has a lot of stuff on it. This post is gonna be a two-parter.

Everything I do, I do it for you.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbizb

The Never-Ending Happening

I’m posting this on a Friday afternoon, and on a Friday afternoon there’s only one way to do things: Bouillabaisse style!

So let’s do it! I’ve got lots to share with you, starting with a new logo straight from the heart of Appalachia. 

astroz

Greeneville’s new look is a response to similar changes made by the parent club and in this regard they are the Bluefield and Dunedin of 2012. (That reference is apropos, but I’m not going to take the time to contextualize it. I have a press release to quote!)

Sez the team:

The new Astros identity features a full star logo with a block letter ‘G’ in the middle of the star. The Astros home caps will feature this logo on a solid blue cap while the road caps will be solid orange.

The G-Stros (does anyone call them that?) change is permanent, so now let’s move on to something of a “one night only” variety. On July 12th, the Erie SeaWolves will be donning these nautical duds:

Niagara Jersey FBThese jerseys are the result of the SeaWolves partnership with the Flagship Niagara League, an organization that is seeking to promote its Tall Ships Festival.

I realize that this explanation raises more questions than it does answers. In brief: Lake Erie was the site of key 19th-century naval battles, and the Tall Ships festival (which does indeed feature tall ships) commemorates this history. Read more HERE.

Now we must proceed from theme jerseys to alternate ones, as the Mississippi Braves have somehow managed to fit “Mississippi” across the chest of this navy blue number:

bravez

I’d link to a press release with more info, but there doesn’t seem to be one. All I can tell you is you can buy these jerseys for $175 at the M-Braves team store. I guess in this case the “M” in “M-Braves” stands for “mum’s the word.”

Transitioning from the occasional to the regular, the new-look Buffalo Bisons recently unveiled their 2013 uniforms.

bisonzA bit more from the Bisons:

In the creation of their new uniforms, the Bisons paid special attention to popular team jerseys from the past. The use of a ‘Scarlet Red’ lettering and ‘Reflex Blue’ numbers on the front of the ‘Ice White’ home and gray road uniforms was taken from the jerseys worn by the team in the early years of Coca-Cola Field. A ‘Hitting Buster’ has also returned to the team’s official on-field cap, a look Bisons fans have long enjoyed from those first seasons at the ballpark. 

Meanwhile, one of the rarest of logo creatures was released into our midst this past week. A ballpark logo, this one for the Birmingham Barons’ currently under-construction Regions Field. I will refrain from editorializing, because words only get in the way of images.

The image:

baronz

I’ll close, as I often do, with something out of left-field (not literally, in most cases).

How’s THIS for a staff bio pic?

shiner

According to the GreenJackets, Kyle’s shiner was obtained while playing in a staff basketball game. Reminder to all: never play basketball with the staff of the Augusta GreenJackets.

Okay, this post isn’t quite over yet due to my desire to do some ponderous professional pontificating.

And what I have been pondering lately is whether or not to make some changes to this blog in regards to the frequency with which I post. These days I average about three entries a week, with each post (allegedly) having some substance in that it is at least 400 words long and often covers multiple topics.

But perhaps more timely “Quick Hit” or “Short Hop” or “Biz Quick” posts would be a good strategy to utilize as well? The idea here is that whenever some particularly news/buzz-worthy content appears, I would immediately generate a short post. The plus side is timely and engaging material and more of it, but the potential negative is that this approach would cheapen the product and make this blog just another cheap cranker-outer of disposable content.

Does this debate exist strictly in my own head? Probably. Am I talking to myself as I write this? Definitely. I guess the takeaway here is that after 5+ years and 900+ posts I care about this blog more than I’d like to admit, especially in regard to how the content is packaged and presented. So, if you have opinions on this (or any other pertinent matter), please get in touch. If you don’t have any opinions on this, that’s okay too. If I was you then I wouldn’t either.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Back in Business

Monday marked the first work day in which MiLB.com headquarters (located in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood) was back up and running after the superstorm, and it took me not having access to this place to realize just how much I missed it.

All of my friends are okay.

As someone who resides in a neighborhood that was marginally affected, I’m only just beginning to process the extent to which Sandy truly devastated the region in which I live and work. I was very fortunate in that I never lost power through it all, and with this being the case I channeled some of my storm anxiety into writing for MiLB.com and this blog as if nothing was wrong. I didn’t know what else to do. (For those interested in how Minor League teams were affected by Sandy, check out this short news piece). I’ll save my musings on storm life lessons and how this can and should spur me to become a more active and engaged member of my community for another day. For now, though, let’s engage in a little bit of good ol’ fashion offseason bouillabaissin.’

In case you didn’t read my MiLB.com dispatches, two teams have recently unveiled a new set of logos.

The Lexington Legends got quite a bit of play for their new look. Not only did mascot Big L unveil the new look after rappelling down the side of a building, but the team’s new road cap features a mustache and nothing else. Crank up Sparks!

The new Legends’ universe:

And then there were the Erie SeaWolves, who kept on keeping on with their canine pirate theme despite Erie’s distinct lack of mammalian buccaneer quadrupeds.

I couldn’t help but notice that the eyepatch is now on the right eye, when it used to be on the left. What does it all mean?!

So, yeah. Logos. Next up on the unveiling front are the Hudson Valley Renegades on November 13th and then, one day later, the Reading Phillies. That latter case should be very interesting, as the R-Phils are changing their name and let’s just say the community isn’t reacting positively to that news in the early-going.

Speaking of the Reading Phillies, their former media relations director Tommy Viola is now with the Charlotte Knights. And last month in Charlotte love was in the air. Ballpark wedding!

But sometimes, one needs to destroy before they can grow. Just a few days later, Knights mascot Homer visited the construction site of the Knights’ new ballpark in order to help out with the construction.

Finally, some dragon-with-a-hammer content on this blog! I knew it would happen one of these days.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

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 http://www.pinterest.com/durhambulls.

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?

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

There's Always Something

asheville.jpgIt’s a slow Tuesday in January, but Minor League news, like an indomitable tumbleweed, keeps rolling along.

The biggest thing to come down the proverbial pike today was the announcement that the Asheville Tourists have been sold to an ownership group led by the family of former United States Senator Mike DeWine. Once the deal becomes official (in March, most likely), Brian DeWine will assume presidency of the club. Brian, the fifth of eight DeWine children, is no stranger to Minor League Baseball. He interned with the Greenville Braves and Savannah Sand Gnats before spending four seasons with the Southern League’s Carolina Mudcats.

Read all about it HERE (at the very least, know that I am very proud of my lead sentence).

And since I’m on the more serious tip today, I wanted to highlight one of the State CollegeThumbnail image for Thumbnail image for scspikes.gif Spikes’ most recent initiatives. The club is encouraging fans to write letters to Chris Simmons, a member of the 2008 Spikes who is currently serving in Iraq.

Simmons’ story is an interesting one. He was drafted in the 41st round of the 2008 draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates, and sent to the Spikes in order to begin his professional career. He was one of three West Point cadets to be drafted that year, joining teammate Cole White and Drew Clothier of the Florida Marlins. Soon thereafter, the military amended its policy regarding professional athletes and the three were forced to put their baseball careers on hold.

Read more about it HERE.

But regardless of the specifics, the fact remains that Simmons is now in Iraq, serving as a Platoon Leader for the First Armor Division. Those wishing to send him a letter can do so via the following address:

State College Spikes
c/o Chris Simmons
112 Medlar Field at Lubrano Park
University Park, PA 16802

And more on the Spikes’ initiative can be read HERE.

Finally, it has become my habit as of late to re-post interesting photos that I come across via team Twitter and Facebook accounts. Here’s one I found today, which shows how decidedly un-Spring-like it currently is in Erie, PA:

Thumbnail image for eriesnow.jpg 

And since there’s “snow” more to write about, I’m going to call it a day.

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

New Video Tuesday

While the title of this post would lead you to believe that “New Video Tuesday” is a recurring feature, I assure you that it is not. Nor will it be.

You see, I am in the middle of composing a post of much greater substance — a post that will not be completed until tomorrow at the earliest. But I didn’t want this blog to lay dormant until that moment of completion occurs. That would result in a level of stagnancy that is thoroughly intolerable in this, the information age.

After all, content is content is content. Thus, “New Video Tuesday”:

Flame-throwing Cardinals prospect Casey Mulligan is doing very well on the mound this season. But, as the video shows, he’s even more talented as a dancer (thanks to Jonathan Mayo for the heads-up):
 

Of course, this marks the second “dancing during a rain delay” video I have posted this season. In case you have forgotten the first, here it is yet again:

Next, we have yet another immaculately produced parody video from the Greenville Drive. These guys are operating on an advanced level:
 

Of course, this marks the second “Greenville Drive Parody video” I
have posted this season. In case you have forgotten the first, here it
is yet again:

For the record, this remains my favorite Minor League parody video of all time:

Seriously, of the 3000 views that video currently has, about 150 can be attributed to me.

Until tomorrow, I remain,

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

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