Results tagged ‘ Eugene Emeralds ’

Bouillabaisse Blog Post II: Electric Bouillabaisseabaloo

In all likelihood you haven’t yet digested — or even been aware of the existence of — yesterday’s full-to-bursting bouillabaisse post. But that’s not gonna stop me from delivering yet another heaping hodgepodge of worthwhile Minor League Baseball news, because that’s just the kind of guy I am: the kind of guy who cannot be stopped, or even contained, really. Lil B’s got nothing on me, for I am the #BouillabaissedGod!

The more perceptive among you may have noticed that yesterday’s post, full-to-bursting though it may have been, contained no videos. Today is not like yesterday, because it never is, and therefore today’s post will contain videos. Let’s get to them, starting with a significant bit of publicity for Lake Elsinore’s “World’s Fastest Squirrel.” 

For more on the World’s Fastest Squirrel and the surreal world from which he emerged, kindly read my 2012 “Minoring in Business” article.

Another example of Minor League Baseball mascots in big-time roles can be found in “What the Phanatic Say?,” which features an impressive collection of Phillies-affiliated characters.

The above video, a parody of “What Does the Fox Say?”, is not to be confused with other such spoofs. THIS, for example, explains the fundamental tenets of Quakerism.

No Segue!

nosegway

The Indianapolis Colts may have been eliminated from the playoffs, but that’s not going to stop me from sharing a video that was made before the postseason begun. This Christmas, Indianapolis Indians stalwart Matt Hague offered valuable sliding tutelage to his next door stadium neighbor Andrew Luck. Hilarity, or perhaps something bearing no small resemblance to hilarity, ensued.

If it’s outdated Indianapolis Indians comedic holiday content that you want, then it’s outdated Indianapolis Indians comedic holiday content that I’ve got!

And, let’s be honest here, if something’s funny then it has no expiration date. That’s my excuse for providing yet another piece of comedic holiday video content, this time courtesy of my old pals the Altoona Curve. Get psyched for The Pockster!

The “Pockster” is a parody of Conan O’Brien’s “Rublight” ad, which you absolutely must watch. There is no person who won’t find it funny. Or, if there is, I don’t want to know that person. And if I do know that person, then all ties are renounced effective immediately.

nosegway

When it comes to Minor League Baseball blogging, I am the greatest of all time. But when it comes to the grapest Minor League entity of all time? That honor now belongs to the Reading Fightin Phils, whose mascot and star player competed against one another in a local grape-stomping competition because of course they did.

nosegway

I’ve shared a lot of stupid videos with you today, resulting in more wonton absurdity then a surrealist painting of a Chinese restaurant. But I’m going to close this post with a video that is thoughtful, tasteful, personal, and passionate. I like it a lot, this heartfelt musical plea to preserve the former home of the Eugene Emeralds.

The fact that this song was written by one “Scoop McGuire” makes it that much better. Check out savecivicstadium.org for more info.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Mustaches Amidst the Mythical

In one of last week’s posts, I detailed a triumvirate of satirical responses that Minor League teams had come up with in regard to recent events. Well, there’s always more where that came from. One endeavor that I failed to include involved the Eugene Emeralds, who uncovered a bit of fortuitous news in the same week that they unveiled their new Sasquatch logos.

primary sasquatch

Take it away, press release, the way you have oh so many times before:

In the same week that the Eugene Emeralds Baseball Club released their new Sasquatch inspired logo, researchers have released a study finding DNA links between humans and the legendary Bigfoot.  “Genetically, the Sasquatch are a human hybrid with unambiguously modern human maternal ancestry,” reads a statement released by former veterinarian Melba T. Ketchum, the lead researcher of the study. “Researchers’ extensive DNA sequencing suggests that the legendary Sasquatch is a human relative that arose approximately 15,000 years ago.”

 The Emeralds have fielded questions from fans all week inquiring about the association between the Eugene Emeralds and the new Sasquatch logo.  “Now it is clear,” said Ems General Manager Allan Benavides,  “How is Eugene linked to Bigfoot?  Well, we are all linked by DNA.  You know, science.”

Fans have also been concerned that the introduction of the Sasquatch logo means the end of the loveable bright green bear mascot Sluggo. While Sasquatch is not taking over for Sluggo, the Emeralds are looking into the potential of having a live animal mascot at home games similar to the Universities of Colorado, Georgia and Texas.  The organization is seeking a group of nature enthusiast interns (unpaid of course) to search out a live Bigfoot.  Applications for this internship can be emailed to info@emeraldsbaseball.com or mailed to PO Box 10911, Eugene, OR 97440.

Initial plans are to use Bigfoot as the world’s largest batboy.  The team has petitioned the league to have umpires undergo wilderness training to mitigate the risk of on-field attacks.

I queried the Emeralds, via Twitter, regarding the response to this unpaid internship offer. They report that they have indeed been contacted by interested applicants, and have even been in touch with a local high school’s “Squatch Club.”

Stay tuned…

For a less-recent example of excessive hair on the baseball diamond, check out this 2011 West Michigan Whitecaps innovation: the Logan Hoch cam!

Finally, fans of Minor League Baseball, movies, and the intersection of the two might enjoy my recent article on the film Parental GuidanceIt stars Billy Crystal as Fresno Grizzlies announcer Artie Decker, and the opening scene was filmed at Chukchansi Park.

frezzzzz

Crystal chatting up the Grizzlies during a break in filming

The article I wrote was, naturally, quite baseball-centric. But I’d like to make it known that, above and beyond the MiLB connection, Parental Guidance is a quality family movie. Yes, it suffered at times as a result of trying to be all things to all people, but it had heart, was well-written and acted, and even included a Ralph Branca cameo. In looking at some of the negative reviews it got online, my response is “Lighten up!” Making a film that can really and truly appeal to the whole family is a delicate balancing act, and Parental Guidance succeeded far more than it failed.

All of this, on some level, is a metaphor for Minor League Baseball itself.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

New Logo Alert: The Emeralds Increase Their Northwest Footprint

In 2010, prior to moving into their new home of PK Park, the Eugene Emeralds updated their nature-themed logo so that it looked like this:

But minor tweaks to an inherently conservative look were clearly not enough for the Emeralds, who, under the leadership of GM Allan Benavides, have become one of the Pacific Northwest’s more irreverent and forward-thinking operations (Remember when I visited there?) On Tuesday evening the team held a public event at Eugene’s Ninkasi Brewery Company in order to unveil this mythical monstrosity as their new primary logo.

Yep, that’s a rampaging Sasquatch brandishing a tree in a somewhat threatening manner. Of course it is. In an email, Benavides took the time to explain how this all came to be.

Branding a team around a color (Emerald) was a tough hurdle for us at first.  A number of different options were considered including themes that involved the forests, trees and various woodland creatures. However, once we started digging more into the name, the answer became pretty clear.

We’re the Emeralds because of the lush emerald green environment that is Eugene and what lives in the Northwest forest? Ultimately, we felt Sasquatch was the best fit to represent the mystique of the Northwest.

The logo, designed by the seemingly ubiquitous duo that is Brandiose, is unique: the Ems became the first team to use a Sasquatch as their primary logo, as well as the first team to use neon green as their primary color. From the press release:

Sasquatch biting the tree will be the emblem on the home hat while the foot-shaped “E” will serve as an alternate. The road uniforms will feature the “Eugene” script with feet on each end. Home, away and alternate uniforms will be released in the spring.

Biting the tree:

Alternate:

Road script:

Anyone who wears this alternate cap is going to end up footing the bill:

And then there’s this little number, in which the Sasquatch channels his inner Mary Poppins:

Eugene is a weird place, as I learned when I visited this summer, and now the team has a suitably weird logo. In the press release, Jason Klein of Brandiose acknowledged the city’s effect on the design process:

“Eugene is a hotbed of countercultural ideas,” said Klein. “From Sasquatch sightings to hippy culture, the Ems are honoring Eugene’s eccentricities with a few of their own.”

It’s currently logo season here in the world of MiLB. For more blog posts on recent re-brandings, kindly check out the following:

Aberdeen/Buffalo/West Michigan

Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hudson Valley

Lexington/Erie

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Return to the Road: A Beautiful Saturday Afternoon in Eugene

We have now entered the month of October, and in the world of MiLB.com this means one thing: it’s MiLBY season! For those who, somehow, inexplicably, are unaware, the MiLBYs represent our annual attempt to create order from the chaos via an online vote that will determine the top players, plays and promos of the season that just was.

The promos, in particular, are my domain. Read up on my 12 “Promotion of the Year” nominees HERE and then vote HERE. This year’s candidates, represented visually:

The MiLBYs are a present-day concern, but here on the blog the endless summer of 2012 remains the fixation. Today marks the first in a new series of “Return to the Road” posts, in which we return to the Pacific Northwest for all of the non-ballpark content that’s fit to print from my August road trip. That particular trip began on a Saturday in Eugene and when you’re in Eugene on a Saturday then what better thing to do than visit the Saturday market?

The Saturday Market runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. in downtown Eugene, from April through November. Approximately 300 vendors sell their hand-crafted and oft-edible wares, and a loose bohemian vibe prevails. Some scenes from the market:

Roasting some chili peppers. This would be a great ballpark snack, right?

The highlight of the Saturday Market wandering was meeting Bag Man, who seeks to eradicate that which he is composed of. It’s a great cause!


Also wandering about the Market was Eugene Emeralds general manager Allan Benavides and his family. They suggested a stop at the iconic Voodoo Doughnuts, which got its start in Portland and now has a Eugene location located right next to Ken Kesey Square.

The menu is rated PG-13, as double entendres abound.

Good things come in pink boxes, they say.

But none of these good things, not a single one, was gluten-free.

Therefore, I outsourced my doughnut eating duties to Benavides and his son Christian. On the right there is the bacon maple, one of Voodoo’s most famous offerings. Christian opted for some sort of Froot Loops-enhanced creation.

Next door to Voodoo Doughnuts is the aforementioned Ken Kesey Square, which pays tribute to the counter-cultural icon and long-time Eugene native. The Eugene Storefront Art Project had set up shop here, raising awareness of their mission to place short-term exhibits in empty Eugene storefronts.

Thank you for smiling at me.

Later Benavides and I took a quick drive through Eugene’s eccentric Whiteaker neighborhood.

I stared at this for 3.5 hours.

Our final destination was Civic Stadium, which was built in 1938 and first hosted Minor League Baseball in 1955. The Emeralds played their last season there in 2009, and since then the facility (which is owned by the Eugene school district) has fallen into a considerable state of disrepair. Its future is still very much in doubt, although there is a dedicated “Save Civic Stadium” volunteer group working diligently to find viable 21st century options for the old park.

Civic Stadium is located in a residential neighborhood, and many fans used to simply walk to the game. The Emeralds’ move to PK Park, which they lease from the University of Oregon, therefore represented a remarkably different ballpark experience (Benavides’ first season with the team coincided with the move to PK Park, and it has been a considerable challenge to acclimate the team’s fans to this totally new Minor League reality).

Our access, it was restricted.

The neighborhood:

The playing surface has clearly seen better days.

Behind the stadium lurks a beautiful view.

And if you’re lucky, you may get a glimpse of some truly alternative forms of transportation. (You just gotta love Eugene. I was only there for two nights, but in that time became completely accustomed to seeing quirky people doing quirky things. It’s just how that town rolls.)

After this brief stopover at Civic Stadium, Benavides and I went over to PK Park. But, of course, you already read all about that HERE. And HERE.

So, yeah, that’ll do it for all of my content from Eugene. The next morning I left this small metropolis and its outsized eccentricity and set out on the road to Salem, OR. Shortly into this journey, I became enamored with the following dining establishment.

This place had a powerful aesthetic appeal, but I did not eat there as it was very crowded on a late Sunday morning and I always feel very self-conscious eating at crowded restaurants by myself. But just down the road there was a Mexican joint!

Thank goodness for Mexican restaurants. In this gluten-free reality in which I find myself, they have proven themselves to be an ever-reliable culinary option. This plate of food, I salute you:

Next up in this “Return to the Road” series: a day of stunning natural beauty in Oregon, en route from Salem to Yakima.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

On the Road: A “Pre”requisite Postscript to an Evening in Eugene

The first installment of our riveting two-part Eugene adventure ended just before the gates opened for Saturday’s game. Fans were lined up outside, in order to receive one of the bobbleheads contained within this intimidating stack of boxes:

But who was the evening’s honoree? What, exactly, was in the box? A significant clue soon appeared in the form of this distinguished guest, seen here posing with a local on-air personality who was in the employ of the evening’s media sponsor.

That’s Neta Prefontaine, older sister of track and field luminary Steve Prefontaine (a highly-influential and record-setting University of Oregon superstar who died in a car accident in 1975 at the age of 24). As you can see, Neta was decked out in a shirt and hat honoring her brother. And, of course, it was Steve Prefontaine who was the evening’s bobblehead honoree.

But the “pre”scient among us could have already “pre”dicted this.

Here’s another pic (provided by the team) which offers a better sense of scale as well as a view of PK Park’s artificial playing surface.

As part of the evening’s festivities, the scoreboard featured the following display throughout the game (“Stop” were the opposing Salem-Keizer Volcanoues and “Pre” were the Emeralds).

The scoreboard graphic is a nod to the famous “Stop Pre” t-shirts, which were made in response to the legions of fans who yelled “Go Pre” at every race (and often wore “Go Pre” t-shirts). It’s all a little confusing, as the “Stop Pre” shirts were worn by fans of other runners but, also, by irony-adept Prefontaine fans (as well s Prefontaine himself).

The on-field MC (whose name, I want to say, was Alex) was certainly in the Prefontaine spirit.

Fear thy pen-holding fist!

Neta Prefontaine, a most exuberant woman, threw out the first pitch. (The successful delivery thereof was a cause for celebration.)

Sluggo’s embrace came just after he had made his first on-field appearance, following an intro video that had something to do with his contentious relationship with a tree (really).

Another notable on-field character was the 11-year-old son of Ems manager Pat Murphy — I am having trouble finding his name anywhere in my notes, but as you can see he is quite at ease amidst the professional baseball environment. This kid (who at the time this picture was taken was talking about how he’d one day have his own San Diego Padres bobblehead, in which he’d be “pimping” a home run) has style to spare.

Too much style, perhaps. For shortly after this picture was taken his father (a legendary head coach at ASU before entering the pro ranks) declared that the flamboyant bright green shoes seen above had earned him a “Johnny Junior College” fine. This is the Ems version of kangaroo court, in which those who have earned the manager’s ire must differentiate themselves on field during the National Anthem by standing ahead of the rest of the team.

Johnny Junior College offenders: 31, 4, 27

And, wow — it took me 1500+ words over the span of two posts, but we’ve finally made it to the ballgame’s first pitch! Things slowed down from here on out, as evidenced by the fact that I missed the first inning and a half in order to drive back to the hotel for my “back-up” camera (the original was running low on batteries). When I returned I was pleased to find that a robust crowd had settled in, and that the Minor League antics we’ve come to know and love were in full swing.

Uh, what?

The view from the press box was even better.

I’m running the poorly-composed photo seen below only because I want to make a quick note of the gentleman on the right. That’s official scorer George McPherson, who played for the Emeralds from 1974-77 (the team won the Northwest League championship in each of those first two years). If I’d been in Eugene for longer, I surely would have made McPherson the focus of a story. Very few people could be provide that sort of first-hand knowledge, regarding the immense changes that the franchise has gone through over the past four decades.

Another interesting press box denizen is a new addition this season: Jonathan Bilenki, organist.

Bilenki plays a Roland organ from the mid-90s, which is  in wedged sideways at the far end of the press box. He plays throughout the top (visitors) half of each inning, and ends his evening at the seventh-inning stretch. Bilenki, a Eugene-based music teacher, explained to me that the music that he plays falls into four categories: clapping prompts, short riffs, long riffs, and songs. He was hired by general manager Allan Benavides prior to the season, and while it was a bit awkward at first due to the difficulty of coordinating PA announcements, pre-recorded bits and the organ music, on the evening I was there it was a smoothly-functioning operation.

I am of the belief that more teams should do this — the organ helps create an old-time ballpark ambiance , serving as a nice counterbalance to the barrage of sound effects and pop music hits that are now such a huge part of the Minor League experience.

Alright, you knew it had to happen eventually: dinner time! At the suggestion of Benavides, I decided to visit a stand run by Hole in the Wall BBQ, which has locations in Eugene and Seattle. Here’s a horrible photograph I took of the stand earlier in the evening.

While sandwiches are off-limits for me due to (all together now) celiac disease, a nice sampler platter was arranged featuring pulled pork, brisket, cole slaw and potato salad. I can’t say for sure that this was all gluten-free, but let’s hope so. I must admit to a bit of laziness as of late on that front, as bun-avoidance has constituted the bulk of my ballpark eating strategy.

But anyway, here are the eats!

Getting set to dig in and, for whatever reason, looking more feminine than usual while doing it.

This was a fine plate of food, but not transcendent. The pulled pork was tender and altogether wonderful, but the brisket was a little tough and, overall, everything was a bit on the bland side. I wanted more bite, more spice, more tang. Benavides, a California native who has never been west east of Cleveland, told me that the Ems made a great Philly-style cheesesteak. I was all for documenting such an item, and swiftly appointed him the evening’s designated eater (meaning he who eats the foods that I, stricken with celiac disease, cannot).

The cheesesteak, which looks pretty good for a Philly-emulating product in the Pacific Northwest:

The general manager chowing down, as cartoon t-shirt Prefontaine looks on (those shirts, which featured the word “Eugene” in Ems font below Pre’s face, were worn by the staff and got a great fan response. Perhaps another batch will be produced?)

Okay, enough with the food. Let’s move on to the next order of business.

The following photo is the worst one in the post thus far, and Lord knows that’s saying something.

That was Salem-Keizer’s Stephen Yarrow, just after striking out. He was the ballgame’s “beer batter,” and as a result of his strikeout 14 ounce beers would be $3 for the next 15 minutes. A stampede ensued, and soon this was the scene at the beer stands.

Say what you will about Eugenians, but they sure love their discounted beer!

Eugenites (I’m pretty sure this is the name of a book in the Old Testament) are also engaged and knowledgeable baseball fans. There was a pulsating energy at the ballpark all evening, and a palpable sense that those in the stands actually cared about the game’s events (this is not always a given in Minor League Baseball, as many of you know).

Engaged partisan alert!

These fans saw a home team victory, which was followed by  little “closest to the pin” launch-a-ball action.

Good game, guys. Good game.

And, with that, a long day in Eugene finally came to a close. It’s time to go home, guys. It’s time to go home.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

On the Road: “Pre”lude to a Ballgame in Eugene

My current Pacific Northwest swing began in the city of Eugene, a college town with no shortage of cultural activities, natural beauty and eccentric characters. It’s the sort of place that almost immediately makes me think to myself that ‘Hey, I could be happy here.”

Instead of spending all of my time obsessing about the minutiae of Minor League Baseball, I could occupy myself in so many other ways. For instance, I could join Bagman in his noble (if not inherently self-hating) quest to rid the Earth of the scourge of plastic bags.

Or spend time in deep thought, listening to Father Yod on the headphones while interpreting the meaning behind psychedelic murals.

Or I could just say celiac disease be damned, and gorge on some of the most decadent donut creations known to man.

Froot Loops and Bacon

I’ll have more on all of the above Eugene attractions in a future post, as well as all sorts of stuff not even included in the above. But the whole point of this long and winding intro is not to prevaricate, it’s just to say that Eugene is great and, therefore, I was in a good mood when game time rolled around on Saturday evening. For on top of everything else, Eugene is a Minor League Baseball town. That’s the whole reason that I was there — to see Minor League Baseball! What a complete and total deviation from the norm.

The team in question is the Northwest League Emeralds, the Class A Short-Season affiliate of your (or someone’s) San Diego Padres. The Ems, as they are colloquially referred to, have undergone some major changes in over the past three years. In 2010, they moved from their longtime home of Civic Stadium (a now-crumbling edifice located in Eugene’s south side, more on that in aforementioned future post) in order to play in the shadow of this hulking behemoth:

That’s Autzen Stadium, which hosts University of Oregon football. The University’s sports teams are known as the “Ducks,” and as such you end up with signs such as this.

But where is the fan’s “bill” of rights?

The University added a baseball program in 2010, and a crucial component of this athletic initiative was the construction of a new stadium to accommodate these webbed denizens of the diamond: PK Park. This facility is also used by the Ems, who are in year three of a $2 million, 20-year lease agreement. (This agreement stipulates that the Ems receive access to the facility on June 1, although that didn’t quite happen this season.)

PK Park is located more or less next door to Autzen — the Medlar Field to its Beaver Stadium, if you will. (That analogy is 100% apt, as Eugene is indeed a very comparable situation to that which exists in State College.) And, even though I had hours in which to take a decent photograph, this is somehow the best exterior shot that I was able to take of the facility. (I have failed you, as I am wont to do. I won’t do it again, until I do):

The box office is located to the right of where this shot was taken. This area doubles as the Emeralds’ team offices as well.

And inside those offices, this was the sight that greeted visitors. If you’ve ever wanted to see what 1000 bobbleheads look like when they’re stacked in boxes on a ping-pong table (Lord knows that I have), then you’ve come to the right place.

Consider the above photo a “pre”view of what’s to come. And in addition to towering stacks of cardboard boxes, in the team offices one could find plenty of memorabilia related to past promotions as well.

But as for those mysterious boxes of bobbleheads — people were lined up outside of the park hours in advance of the gates opening, just so that they could procure that which was contained therein. I’m sure their enthusiasm contributed to a strong ticket “pre”sale.

See that dude in the middle of the line? He’s shirtless, and lying on his back directly on the asphalt. Like, “Well, if I’m gonna be waiting for this bobblehead than I may as well get some rays.” But I had no time for such lounging, instead opting for a short stadium tour with Ems GM Allan Benavides. The first picture I snapped on said tour was of one my favorite ballpark areas: the mascot changing room.

We then wandered into the Ems locker room, immediately after one of the worst attempts at “Pin the Tail on the Donkey” that the world has ever seen.

The training room was plastered with pictures of heartthrob reliever Matthew Chabot.

I later asked Chabot why his photo was so prevalent, and he explained that it was a “joke gone sour.” The gist of it was that he had jokingly (?) told an Ems employee that he had the prettiest face on the ballclub. In response these photocopied head shots were taped all over the stadium (including in some unlikely places), so that his teammates had as many opportunities as possible in which to appreciate his prettiness. If you’ve got it, flaunt it.

I spoke with Chabot (now chagrined) on the field, as part of an informal “pre”-game chat. The scene:

From the field, I proceeded upward in order to procure photographs from various stadium elevations.

The line out front continued to grow.

Not everyone was on the outside looking in, as several hundred fans were inside PK Park as part of a group picnic for local healthcare employees.

I went downstairs for a closer look at the festivities, passing lounging players along the way.

I also perchanced to notice that the 1000 bobbleheads had migrated from their ping-pong table environs. In keeping with the sense of mystery that I have inexplicably tried to cultivate regarding these bobbleheads, please ignore what’s written on the boxes.

At the picnic area, the six players recruited to sign autographs for the assembled guests weren’t getting much attention.

12 o’clock, guys!

Sluggo (who, I learned, got his name because there are a ton of slugs in Eugene), will help you carry your beer.

Separated by a balloon

These sort of signs are common at ballparks nationwide, but I appreciated the creativity of “first base” being one of the destinations. You know, I’ve found myself in a lot of life situations where first base wasn’t nearly that close at hand.

We’re nearly 1100 words into this thing, and the gates haven’t even opened yet (yes, I am aware that I am consistently writing the lowest-stakes narratives to be found on the internet). You know what that means, right?

Right?

It means that this one is going to be a two-parter. Stay tuned for much more from Eugene (and then Salem, and then Yakima, and then Tacoma, and then Everett, and then Vancouver). I’m going to be writing about the 2012 Minor League season for the rest of my life, in other words. Could someone please fetch me a Pulitzer?

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

From the Internet to the Ballpark: Celebrities, Jerseys, and Scandals

Road Trip content has dominated these virtual pages over the past week and a half, and I’ve still got a few odds and sods to share from my Ohio excursion.

But that can wait. A formidable blog backlog has been brewing in my content cauldron, which is now threatening to boil over. Time to start ladling out the info before it’s too late!

Let’s start with some significant news out of the Pacific Northwest. The Eugene Emeralds opened up the season last week, and highlighting the Opening Day roster was  Domingo Ayala. This ageless superstar is proprietor of the Domingo Baseball Academy and a YouTube sensation, and received a call-up before even playing a game. Still, he made a mark during his brief time in Eugene.

Says the team:

Domingo Ayala’s visit was short and sweet for the Eugene Emeralds. After suiting up for the Emeralds opening night at PK Park, Ayala put on a hitting clinic in batting practice, showing fans why he is the 5-time homerun champion.  This guy can literally do it all. Not only did he throw out the first pitch, but he also had time to sign autographs mid game, take pictures with fans, and even announce the Boise Hawks lineup.

 Domingo was very laid back when he heard the news from Ems Manager Pat Murphy that he would be moved up from Rookie Ball. “I thought it maybe be a week or maybe two, but it no surprise me that it happen sooner,” Ayala said.

Ayala’s brief appearance captivated the attention of the local media, as evidenced by this story that ran on KEZI News. And with good reason, as this guy is one of the most outsized characters to ever (almost) play in the Northwest League.

And speaking of characters, or in this case the limited use of them, the Lehigh Valley IronPigs paid tribute to Twitter as part of their recent “Social Media Night.” Players wore Twitter-themed jerseys, one of which was signed by the team and auctioned off through the micro-blogging website. Fan tweets were displayed on the videoboard throughout the game, and the elusive “Twitter Bird” was even in attendance.

In the next picture #PIGSAFE would have been a more appropriate hashtag.

Jerseys were auctioned off after the game, with the winning bidders getting to meet the player who had worn it.

And, finally, the elusive Twitter bird.

I”ll close the blogging week by mentioning that the State College Spikes asked fans to submit “Weiner Pics” during Monday’s game.

And, wouldn’t you know it? One fan was brave enough to do so. That’s new frankfurter mascot “Colonel Mustard,” barely visible through the fuzz.

And despite my constant focus on such lowbrow material, I’d like to reiterate once again that I remain committed producing quality articles as well. Please check out this piece on baseball’s longest game, and let me know what you think.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Balls to Bring in Beaucoup Bucks

The Stockton Ports announced their “Legends of Baseball Memorabilia Raffle” on Tuesday, a charitable initiative with prizes that are nothing short of spectacular.

The raffle begins on Monday, and continues all the way through August 19. Tickets are expensive at $20 a pop, but this seemingly exorbitant price tag is merely a reflection of the prizes the club is offering.

raffi.JPG

That’s the grand prize right there — a display featuring autographed baseballs from the top 10 home run hitters in Major League history (the photo shows just nine balls, I’m sure the 10th is just resting in a climate-controlled, hermetically sealed vault). Four other prizes are being offered in the raffle, all proud members of the signed ball family. These include a sphere autographed by eight members of the 3000 Hit Club, an orb with the John Hancock of five members of the 500 Home Run Club, a globule inked with the autos of Willie, Mick, and The Duke, and a cowhide pellet inscribed by Joltin Joe D.

Proceeds benefit a range of charities, including the Ports’ Anchor Fund. Furthermore, the team has opened up the raffle to the rest of the California League. Clubs may purchase tickets from the Ports on consignment, with the remainder of the proceeds going to the charitable organization of their choice.

To summarize: Given the quality of the prizes, the length of the raffle, and the league-wide scope, this raffle has the capability to raise a LOT of money. It will interesting to see just how much.

Odds, Ends, Sods, Scraps, Assorted Minutiae

ernie.jpg— The big story in baseball this week has been the passing of legendary announcer Ernie Harwell. He has been eulogized far and wide, and will be missed. The Eugene Emeralds sent out a press release reminding fans of Harwell’s connection to the Ems, which ties into the oft-told anecdote regarding how the broadcaster was once traded in exchange for a catcher.

– Earlier this week, I posted a video in which the West Michigan Whitecaps promoted their “Salute to Sweatpants Night”. Well, the team is at it again. Brandon Inge Bobblehead Night is tomorrow, prompting an elaborate contest amongst staffers to see who is the most Inge-like.

– Finally, I would like to suggest that more Minor League players adopt the look currently sported by Orioles farmhand Ryan Berry. With that combination of mustache, glasses, and hairstyle, it’s going to be tough for him to get through the Minors without a Ryan Berry Look-A-Like Night staged in his honor (I’m looking at you, Bowie Baysox).

berry.JPG
(photo: Tom Priddy/MLB.com)

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

April Fool's: The Aftermath

aprilfools.pngJust in case there is still any confusion: The two items detailed in yesterday’s post were both April Fool’s pranks. The Lowell Spinners will NOT be giving away Yankee bobbleheads this season, and suspended University of Oregon quarterback Jeremiah Masoli will NOT be suiting up for the Eugene Emeralds.

If you were fooled by either of these stories, then take solace in the fact that you are not alone.

The Emeralds’ Masoli prank ignited no small amount of controversy. The team sent its press release out at 10:40 p.m. on March 31st, and all three local newscasts reported the story on their 11 p.m. broadcasts.

This triumvirate of tricked televisors are less than pleased. KEZI currently has a story up on their website with the blunt headline of “Eugene Emeralds Lie About Masoli Playing For the Ems.” From the corresponding story, written by an irrationally furious Michelle Dapper (who goes on to refer to herself in the third  person):

“For obvious reasons, we here at KEZI were skeptical, so KEZI sports director MichelleThumbnail image for eugene.jpg Dapper called and asked it was an April Fool’s joke. The PR spokesperson said no….When we asked the team’s general manager on Thursday why they would lie about an April Fool’s joke when called on it, he said ‘If we had told the truth, it wouldn’t have gotten any play.'”

KMTR took a far more jovial tone, remarking that the Ems’ joke “Swung for the fences and hit a home run.” Meanwhile, the local Register Guard newspaper has written up a thorough postmortem on Masoli-gate, which includes the ominous quote:

“It’s a major breach of trust between local media and a professional
sports team,” KVAL news director Jenny Kuglin said. “I think it will
affect how we treat information we receive from the Ems in the future.”

 
Regardless of how one feels about the appropriateness of the joke, such reactions might make other teams think twice before pulling such stunts. But for my money, the wisest (and funniest) reaction came from University of Oregon coach Chip Kelly, who could not have cared less about the Emeralds’ shenanigans:

The above video is part of an entertaining article on the matter that also includes an interview with Ems director of media relations Onalee Carson. Check it out HERE

Thumbnail image for spinners.jpgThe Spinners got their share of attention as well, thanks to the announcement that the notoriously anti-Yankee ballclub would be giving away a series of New York-themed bobbleheads.

Spinners media relations director Jon Boswell had to deal with a large number of aggravated and/or confused fans, writing the following in an email:

“We’ll do just about anything to steal some thunder from our full-season brethren on the eves of their opening days. I received a few angry responses, including one anonymous gentleman who left a voicemail simply stating ‘Bucky bleeping Dent…Take your head out of your bleeping [posterior].'”

Boswell went on write that “aside from the mixed results on Facebook, including one
fan who couldn’t understand why we would select Yankee ‘scrubs who had caused so much pain and suffering to Red Sox fans’…most people found the humor in the promotion.

One entity that found humor in the promotion was the mighty Associated Press, who pickedap.jpg up the story and distributed it nationally. This marks the second time this offseason that the Spinners haven’t gotten play via the AP, showing that the club is well ahead of the curve when it comes to cracking the mystical code that determines what Minor League items get coverage and which don’t.

Regardless, now that April Fool’s is out of the way we can all once again concentrate on serious news. You know, the things that really matter, like pickle dogs, 63-year-old players, and scantily-clad bobbleheads. And thank goodness for that.

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

A Full Slate of News

Got a couple of very interesting and completely unexpected news items to share with you today, so let’s dispense with the small talk and get right to it.

Let’s start in Lowell, MA, as the Spinners have announced a baffling new series of bobblehead giveaways. The Red Sox affiliate, usually known for their vociferously Anti-Yankee stance, will be honoring legendary Bronx Bombers throughout the season:

yankeegreats.jpg

The press release announcing this stunning (albeit promotionally savvy) about-face reads in part:

The Spinners, known for their anti-Yankee approach to promotions, are
turning the tables on their popular Yankee Elimination Promotion to
honor great moments in the Red Sox arch-rival’s history.

jetercatch.jpg

“Over the past decade we’ve done bobble heads of everyone from
Pesky to Williams to Papelbon and Youkilis,” said Spinners Vice
President of Communications Jon Goode. “We’ve exhausted all of our
alumni currently playing for the Red Sox, so after years of contentious
phone calls and e-mails in response to our Yankee Elimination Promotion,
we opted to stay the baseball route with great Yankees moments.

“We are excited to honor the greatest rivalry in all of sports.”

The Spinners will salute baseball’s greatest winner, Derek Jeter,
July 1, when the first 1,000 fans will receive a bobble head
commemorating Jeter’s memorable catch made the same date in 2004, as
Jeter sacrificed his body diving headfirst into the stands to snare a
pop fly against the Red Sox.

“It is one of the all-time memorable plays in the Red Sox/Yankee
rivalry,” said Goode. “Add in the respect we have for Jeter and this was
a no-brainer.”

buycky.jpg

The Spinners will next turn to July 8 when the hero of the
Yankees 1978 one-game playoff, Bucky Dent, is honored with a pinstriped
bobble.

The series will continue with back-to-back bobble heads July 31,
as the Spinners remember the 2003 trading deadline acquisition for the
Yankees of Aaron Boone, and August 1, as we look back at Thurman Munson
on the anniversary of his epic fight with Carlton Fisk.

“We hope our great fans will show appreciation for these great
moments in baseball history,” said Goode. “We know our fans treasure
each bobble head and we hope these are no different.”

masoli.jpg

– Meanwhile, in Eugene, the Emeralds have announced that suspended University of Oregon quarterback Jeremiah Masoli will be “keeping his arm fresh” by pitching for the team this season. 

More info on this unorthodox acquisition once again comes courtesy of the press release:

Masoli recently plead guilty March 12 to a misdemeanor burglary charge involving a theft at a campus fraternity house in January. He was then suspended for the entire 2010 season.

Masoli, while in suspension, while still need to keep his throwing arm active for his reunion with the Ducks in 2011 — and with the Ems’ move from Civic Stadium to the University of Oregon’s PK Park, the opportunity seemed obvious.

“We’re just happy to help,” said Emeralds general manager Allan Benavides. “With all the new things happening with the Ems this season, what a way to cap off the excitement with Ducks superstar Jeremiah Masoli pitching for us this season!”

Front office executives expect season ticket sales to soar with the news of the Ems’ new addition. Even with little baseball experience, Masoli holds the keys for the Emeralds in 2010. Coming out of the bullpen, the Ems look to use Masoli’s power arm to shut down opposing Northwest League batters.”

There is sure to be plenty of controversy surrounding today’s announcements, as they both buck conventional wisdom in a major way. Rest assured I’ll be following every twist and turn, in order to deliver it to you straight.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

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