Results tagged ‘ Everett AquaSox ’

The Marking of Momentous Milestones

Every day is the anniversary of something. For example, one year from today will mark the anniversary of this post, which is, not coincidentally, about anniversary logos. You all love anniversary logos, right? I don’t — “mildly enjoy” would better describe my feelings — but a job’s a job so here we go.

2104 marks the Everett’s 20th season as a Mariners affiliate as well as their 31st season in the Northwest League. The latter of the two accomplishments is the focus of this logo, designed by the renegade maverick firebrand rebel iconoclasts that are Brandiose.

Everett30thLogo-Color

The press release says:

The new emblem incorporates the AquaSox current color scheme along with a hint of orange in recognition of the team’s previous affiliation with the San Francisco Giants. The franchise was known as the Everett Giants for 11 seasons (1984-1994) before becoming the Everett AquaSox prior to the 1995 season.

Later, the press release was compelled to report this non-essential but rather interesting bit of information:

Nearly 30 years ago, on June 19, 1984 at Everett Memorial Stadium, the Everett Giants took the field for the first time led by manager Rocky Bridges. Before an overflow crowd of 3,527 – Bellingham defeated Everett 10-5. Since then, nearly 2.7 million fans have come to Everett.

And did you know? Pitcher Terry Mulholland made his professional debut as a member of that 1984 Everett team, marking the first of what would be 23 professional seasons. Mulholland is the only player in baseball history to have pitched for the 1984 Everett Giants and the 2006 Tucson Sidewinders, a fact that will get you everywhere in life.

And while I haven’t been everywhere, I have been to Everett. Click HERE and HERE for a good chunk of the coverage I provided while visiting the AquaSox.

18 hours and 53 minutes after receiving information regarding the AquaSox, I was hit with the following:

Lake Elsinore, CA – On April 15, 1994 the Lake Elsinore Storm opened its gates to the community and Southern California. This season on Opening Night, April 10, the organization will commence a 20th Anniversary celebration at The Diamond that promises to be special.

The 20th Anniversary Logo commemorates two decades of baseball in Lake Elsinore and will be displayed on game jerseys, team hats and the infield grass, as well as throughout the community with a 20th Anniversary poster.

20thAnniversaryLogo3b3 FINAL

I can’t wait for the 30th anniversary logo…

Unlike the AquaSox, the Storm press release did not include any information on the first game in franchise history. While I do not have access to that information, I can tell you that among the members of the 1994 storm was one Kevin Flora. The very next season, Flora became one of five players named “Kevin” to play for the Philadelphia Phillies (Elster,  Jordan, Sefcik, and Stocker) were the others.  Jim Fregosi managed that team — RIP.

While I don’t know anyone named Kevin personally, I did visit the Lake Elsinore Storm in 2011. Read all about that HERE, and then read this piece on the origins of the team’s logo (among the top-sellers in all of Minor League Baseball).

Earlier this week I duly tweeted out both of the above logos, and soon enough I was hipped to the existence of other, quite similar, entities.

I have seen no further information regarding the Bees’ 20th anniversary plans, but let it be known that the team was called the Salt Lake Buzz from 1994-2000 and then the Stingers from 2001-05 before, perhaps inevitably, transitioning to the Bees moniker. The 1994 Buzz club included a 21-year-old LaTroy Hawkins, who returned to Salt Lake in 2012 on a rehab assignment.

I have never been to Salt Lake, but I have visited a team called the “Bees.” Click HERE to read about it.

Twitter is good at generating buzz, and the Tampa Bay Yankees soon chimed in with the following:

That 1994 Tampa Yankees squad featured Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter, but more importantly, there’s this: One year prior to playing for a Major League team that included four other players with the same first name, Kevin Elster appeared in three games as a member of the Tampa Yankees.

It’s a beautiful place, this world.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Return to the Road: Glass Menageries and Roadside Reverie

The last “Return to the Road” dispatch ended with some pictures from what I declared to be the swankiest team lodging in all of Minor League Baseball — Tacoma’s Hotel Murano. And from the Murano this post shall begin.

The Murano’s hallways offer guests the chance to view a “private collection of some of the world’s finest contemporary glass treasures.” Each of the hotel’s 24 floors showcase a different artist; I, on the 23rd, was located within the realm of Mr. Hiroshi Yamano.

The Murano’s focus on glass artisans was no mere act of random whimsy — Tacoma is home to the Museum of Glass, in recognition of the influence that artists from the Pacific Northwest have had on the medium. So when I set out to briefly explore downtown Tacoma before heading to Everett, the Museum of Glass was my destination.

Along the way I passed this statue, without stopping to learn who this woman was and what she stood for.

Union Station — formerly a train station, currently a courthouse — had charm, style and panache to spare.

As did the statue out front, entitled “New Beginnings.” It was installed as part of the city’s 1984 centennial celebration, and the man depicted is an early 20th-century railroad passenger with a jaunty step and optimistic world outlook.

Inspired, I strolled through Tacoma’s downtown with the same levity of spirit I imagined the above bronzed passenger to have once possessed.

Finally (and by “finally” I mean “within 5 minutes”) I came to a vantage point which included the conical Museum of Glass as part of the backdrop.

Of course, time is always at a premium when I’m on the road. So as opposed to actually going into the museum, I just checked out the glass specimens lining both sides of a pedestrian bridge that led to the museum.

For tobacco use only

The view from the ground.

Anti-climactic as it may be, that’s all I’ve got from Tacoma. My next destination was Everett, whose team hotel was a Holiday Inn.

I knew I was in the right place when, upon parking, I looked up to see a team bus poking through the trees.

And while this Holiday Inn lacked some of the Hotel Murano’s more memorable amenities (for instance, I was not able to have the Bhagavad Gita delivered to my room), it did boast what is certainly the most wonderful view of any Minor League team hotel.

I attended that evening’s Everett AquaSox game, and wrote like crazy all about it. (In fact, my writing was so passionately incendiary that even the links to it have since burned up.) Time was even tighter than usual the following afternoon, as an international journey (to Vancouver) awaited me. Nonetheless, I spent about an hour wandering about in downtown Everett before getting lunch at a Thai restaurant and then resuming my travels in earnest.

Everett had character, and I’d love to return some day.

Lunchtime! (Use of exclamation mark extremely debatable)

After that it was goodbye to the antiquated signage of Everett…

and hello to Peace Arch National Park, my entryway to Canada.

Think metric? Never!

The cars going in the other direction were fleeing Canadian tyranny

Peace Arch Park was beautifully maintained, and as a big fan of Paul Robeson I enjoyed driving through the locations of one of his most significant public performances. From Wikipedia:

In 1952, African-American singer and activist Paul Robeson, banned from international travel during the Red Scares, performed several concerts at the site. He sang from a flatbed truck on the American side to an audience in Canada.

And would you believe that the Peace Arch was built by Sam Hill, the peripatetic Quaker who constructed the full-size Stonehenge replica which I had visited several days prior? That guy was real go-getter, and as a slow-moving and rapidly-stagnating blogger I can’t help but feel that I’m not quite living up to the high surname standards he established.

Stalled out

It took approximately forever to get into Canada, and I pity those who have to cross the border on a regular basis. I did enjoy the interrogation I received from the border guard, who tried to poke holes in my “Minor League Baseball writer traveling to Canada in order to cover the Vancouver Canadians” alibi.

Guard: And how long have you been writing about the Minor Leagues?

Me: Seven years.

Guard: If you’ve been doing this for that long, then why is this the first time you’ve visited Vancouver?

I explained, as succinctly as possible, that Vancouver was the only Canadian team in the Minors and that, therefore, visiting Canada as part of my job was not, nor was it going to be, a common professional occurrence. (In fact, I was looking at it the highlight of a perpetually uncertain odyssey that began with writing game recaps on the night shift on a part-time, hourly basis. What I wanted to say was “Look, lady, you should be proud of me that I’m here talking to you at all.” I then would have felt an overwhelming sense of guilt for referring to her impolitely as “lady.”)

I’m not sure who’s bored-er at this point — the guard or the straggling few readers who have stuck with this post to the end. So, anyway, yeah: I made it to Canada, and I have the fake money to prove it.

The road will be returned to (at least) once more, with all of the supplemental content that’s fit to post from the wilds of Vancouver. Stay tuned for another installment of the most low-stakes and meandering series of blog posts to be found on the internet…

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

On the Road: Frankfurter Follies, Culinary Concoctions and Garbage Gremlins in Everett

Yesterday’s “ribbeting” narrative from Everett ended where such Biz Blog narratives often do: with the evening’s ballgame having just begun. I spent the first couple of innings with the AquaSox “Frog Squad” game day promo crew, overseen by director of community relations Katie Crawford and fronted on the field by the esteemed Mr. Schuyler Muller.

Encore presentation

Upon the conclusion of the top of the second inning, I was among those assigned to toss t-shirts to the crowd. My area of operation was directly behind home plate, which requires innovative wind-up techniques in order to insure that the shirt makes it over the net.

A far more memorable endeavor occurred one inning later, when I suited up as “Frank” in the nightly “Waddle Race.” This is the continuation of new ballpark tradition for me — dressing up as a food product that I can no longer eat due to my recent celiac disease diagnosis. 

I become that which I cannot consume!

Frank has been a staple of the Everett Memorial Stadium experience for years, but apparently his appearances have become increasingly rare. While waiting to appear on the field, I learned that Frank was, truly, a processed meat product in demand. I signed several autographs for enthusiastic fans, feeling the whole time as if I was failing them because my “signature” was terrible. It is very hard to use a Sharpie when it is gripped through ill-fitting slippery red gloves!

One woman, in particular, was a rabid Frank fan. As soon as she spotted him she ran over, offered a big hug, and then had me sign two balls, a hat and a stuffed Frank doll. Clearly, this was a moment she had been waiting for. (And, clearly, I am currently confused as to whether I am writing in the first or third person).

As for the “Waddle Race” — I’d definitely never seen the likes of this before. It was a relay race, featuring two teams of two, in which participants had to run while gripping a baseball between their legs. If the ball was dropped along the way, the contestant had to spin around twice before proceeding. Frank was assigned the second leg of the race, alongside a competitive Dad with a prominent calf tattoo.

When Frank received the ball from his teammate, he had a healthy lead over the opposition. The hand-off:

But keeping a baseball between such slippery uniform fabric was hard work, and Frank’s progress toward the finish line was slow.

———-

Okay — pause! Do you remember when I was at a Jackson Generals game earlier this season, and participated in a Fruit Race? My camera mysteriously stopped working during the race, with this damaged photograph followed by a series of “file not found” blank images.

At the time, I offered the following theory to why this had occurred:

My camera loves me…and was probably dismayed to see me demeaning myself at a Minor League ballpark yet again. Its malfunction was a protest of sorts, motivated by a desire to only document me at my best.

I am now convinced that this theory is true, as this damaged “Waddle Race” photo was followed by another series of “file not found” images. Unpause!

———-

So, what happened the rest of the way is that Tattooed Dad overcame Frank’s lead and coasted to victory. In my opinion, this was because Tattooed Dad was wearing shorts. It is much easier to sandwich a baseball between bare skin than it is to do so with polyester pants. Please trust me on this!

But, anyway, my camera malfunction continued throughout the following between-inning contest. Muller the MC, who was already in his golf clothes, donned a green jacket and narrated the “Three Stroke Golf Challenge” in suitably hushed tones. It went off really well, and the success of the “Three  Stroke Golf Challenge” was par for the course for the AquaSox. They have a creative slate of between-inning contests, and aren’t afraid to take risks. If you work for a team and feel that your operation might be getting a little stale in that department, then I’d suggest stealing some of their ideas.

Around the fifth inning or so I joined up with fourth-year employee Alex Baker, now a Frog Squad member and marketing intern, and the two of us went on a daring journey behind the outfield wall.

This mysterious area led to a mysterious alcove.

I was briefly tempted to plunge the entire ballpark into darkness…

But, instead, I just kept on walking until we reached our final destination: a lair!

And not just any lair, but the lair of the manual scoreboard operator. A grounds crew employee named Steven Cook resided therein, dropping numbered slats of wood into their appropriate holes.

The view:

Somewhere along the line, this list of rehabbing Seattle Mariner players morphed into a list of AquaSox scoreboard operators. What’s the difference, really?

I enjoyed my time in this lair, as I enjoy my time in all lairs. But there was more to see, and more to do. Back amongst the public, I snapped this shot of what the scoreboard looks like from the stands.

A brief stop back in the promo pit proved that all was copacetic; a typical scene consisting of dice-sitting employees in plastic hats with a cross-legged amphibian adjacent.

So Baker and I continued to our next destination — the “Frank’s Loaded Dogs” concession stand.

While I could not consume Frank in his full form, I did order a “Webbly’s AquaDog” sans bun.

Very tasty, yes, but in this anecdote I am a peripheral character. Upon meeting Baker earlier in the evening, he had earnestly inquired whether or not I had found a “designated eater” (i.e. one who is ready and willing to “take a gluten-filled bullet” on my behalf).

I replied that “No, I had not” and he quickly assured me that he would be up to the task. And, boy, was he ever. Baker chose the “Build Your Own” option, and after a bit of trial and error he concocted the following: Hebrew National frankfurter with mac and cheese, bacon, pulled pork, onions, jalapenos, cheddar cheese and bbq sauce (and probably more, there was only so much room in my notebook). I have multiple pictures of him posing with it, because he kept adding things to it.

But, throughout, the smile remained consistent.

The final product, which Baker dubbed the “Ultra-Dog.” It was, truly, a work of art.

We retreated to the picnic area down the first base line. Members of the Yakima bullpen were completely oblivious to the culinary history that was taking place just behind them.

I daintily approached my dinner.

While Baker’s approach was anything but dainty. I mean, he just devoured that thing.

Baker’s take on the “Ultra-Dog”: “Delicious! The flavors balanced each other perfectly — it was spicy, savory, and had a little tang from the onions. And then the hot dog brought it all together, serving as the backbone, if you will.”

Transcendence achieved.

At this point it was the seventh inning, and I was struck by a crazy idea — how about sitting down and watching the baseball game?

The fans engaged in an enthusiastic rendition of the seventh-inning stretch, which warmed my heart.

But, of course, I almost immediately forgot about my plan to just watch the game. In the eighth inning, it was time for “Garbage Gremlins.” I had never seen such a thing! Anyone who desired was invited to grab a (sponsored!) yellow trash bag, in order to collect garbage from the stands. All who did so received “AquaDollars” that could be redeemed at the ballpark, with the individual collecting the most trash receiving bonus AquaDollars (I forget just how many AquaDollars were at stake, so let’s just say “$850,000″).

Garbage Gremlins in action! Refuse to lose, there’s refuse to gain!

But this was no garbage time ballgame, and the hometown team emerged triumphant.

Frank approved the outcome.

You’d think that at this point it was time to call it a night, except no, it’s never time to call it a night when on these trips. Acting on a tip I had received earlier, I proceeded past out-of-uniform AquaSox autograph signers in search of a significant historical marker.

In the dark Everett night, it took me a while to find what I was looking for.

But, finally — success!

That square plaque on the bottom right commemorates the approximate landing spot of Ken Griffey Jr.’s first professional hit. I’ll let the plaque do the explaining (cigarette butt included to provide a sense of scale).

A unique bit of baseball history, and the icing on the cake to one of the most enjoyable and diverse “on the road” experiences that I have ever had. These days, I am constantly asked “You travel a lot. What are your favorite ballparks to visit?” Well, Everett Memorial Stadium is way up there, ranking with other 2012 favorites such as the Daytona Cubs and Arkansas Travelers. Great ballpark, great staff, great logo, great food — I’d highly recommend visiting should you ever get the chance to do so.

But, c’mon guys, you need to invest in at least one more letter “a.” An upside-down “u” doesn’t quite cut it…

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

On the Road: Seeing the Frogs, Live in Everett

The 2012 Minor League regular season may have reached its conclusion within that subjective sliver of reality known as “the present, ” but here on the Biz Blog it’s still going strong! This post documents the penultimate stop of my Pacific Northwest road trip, when I navigated my rental car into an objective sliver of reality outside of Everett Memorial Stadium in order to enjoy an evening with the AquaSox.

This facility, owned by the local school district, is one of the most unique that I have ever visited. It’s shoehorned in next to the school district’s fairly massive athletic arena, and idiosyncrasies abound. In some areas of their operation the team has very little room to maneuver, in others the reverse is true. You’ll see what I mean once I get to the pictures — that’s why you’re all here, right? To see pictures? Words are immaterial; my reason to exist is to indulge this mania for the image.

Here’s Everett Memorial from behind, close to where I parked my rented vehicle.

From there, one follows the curved pathway seen above into a rather charming stadium entrance way. (And given that the AquaSox have a frog for a logo, the sign seen below should read “Regulations pro’ribbit’ food or beverage from being transported into park.”)

As is almost always the case, my first order of business was to conduct some player interviews. To do this, I hooked a right and ascended a steep pathway to the players’ secluded clubhouse castle.

Once I made it to the top (no oxygen tank for me!), there were two competing vantage points. Actually, strike that, everything should be in harmony: there were two complementary vantage points. To the left, one can see Everett Memorial Stadium peeking out from beyond the track that encircles the high school athletic field.

To the right are the stands from which teenage gladiatorial combat can often be viewed. In the absence of such spectacle, AquaSox players use this as an area of respite. Perfect for private phone calls:

For several years the team has filmed an informative, loose, and always funny video series entitled “Meet the AquaSox.” They are very well done, and provide a template for other teams to follow. Therefore, I wasn’t surprised that the interviews I conducted were imbued with a similarly fun spirit. These guys know the drill. (More on these interviews, and links to all of them, can be viewed HERE.)

The standout interview was one that I conducted with Dominic “The Godfather” Leone and Blake “Flacco” Hauser. They are members of the “Nasty Boys” bullpen crew, and toward the end of the interview they were joined by several of their relief corps comrades. (Right before I took this shot, they had re-iterated amongst themselves that a strict “no smile” policy was in effect.)

But as soon as I took the shot, it was observed that fellow “Nasty Boy” Oliver “Boca” Garcia was in the immediate vicinity. His teammates yelled to him that his presence was desired, so he high-tailed it over from the stands.

Garcia (whose nickname of “Boca” means “mouth” as in “he has a big mouth, literally”) didn’t smile either.

Interviews complete, it was now time to enter the stadium proper. This view right here, this is more or less the inverse of the first photo in this post.

Grandstanding:

The promotion team’s base of operation is located down the third base line. There, one found the tools of the trade stacked up and ready to go.

Further promo props could be found in a stadium storage room, including three strollers that are sometimes used for a between-inning Baby Race. The AquaSox got the idea to do a Baby Race after seeing the Trenton Thunder’s version featured on this blog — I am very proud to be playing a role in the spread of Baby Races across the land!

I had remarked earlier that, in some ways, the AquaSox have a lot of room to move. The following array of pictures should illustrate what I mean — the team’s concourse area is adjacent to another high school athletic field, giving fans plenty of opportunity to spread out should they desire to do so.

I’ll revisit the concessions a bit later on in the narrative, but please let it be known that there are a wide variety of options.

Including, yes, a Chowder Bowl combo.

The AquaSox are limited in their alcohol distribution methods due to their school district overseers. This, right here, is the only place in which it can be found.

The doubly-alliterative “Coca-Cola Picnic Pavilion” doubles as the AquaSox batting cage, leading to the occasional day game conflict between early-arriving picnic-ers and players trying to get some extra work in.

The view from this multi-use pavilion is a vast expanse of greenery.

But there were no player-fan scheduling conflicts on the Wednesday evening in which I was in attendance. These two distinct ballpark species were intermingling as I made my way over to the outfield berm.

The young fans seen below weren’t interested in displaying suite emotions, so they walked this way to a bermanent vacation. (And, next time they go to a Mariners game, they’ll be back in Seattle again).

The G.H. placard is in honor of slain Mariners outfielder Greg Halman, who began his professional career in Everett. (My feature on Halman, written shortly after his death, includes quotes from AquaSox announcer Pat Dillon).

The view from the berm, shortly after the gates had opened.

Back on the concourse, I ran into Everett Memorial Stadium’s most famous denizen: Webbly! Truly, he is one of my favorite costumed characters, just a toadally cool dude.

At this point I had a choice between going on to the playing field or visiting the press box. I chose the ladder option, and boy was it steep!

This ladder leads to the roof, where a game-day employee dutifully records the game. It offers a very nice view.

In the off-chance that you ever view a game from this location, be aware that foul balls rocket up here with a startling velocity.

Battle scars:

After taking in a few more vantage points, I began my descent…

first to the press box…

and — finally! — the field.

Copious signage around the ballpark is a fact of Minor League life, as it accounts for a sizable revenue stream. Sometimes said signage is a garish mish-mash of images, but in the case of the AquaSox it is an aesthetic triumph that enhances an already appealing ballpark environment.

On the field, good ol’ number eight was dutifully signing autographs.

But most uniformed personnel were socializing with individuals representing a local branch of the Special Olympics.

Representatives from the Special Olympics spent much of the evening engaged in an awareness campaign. Their mission was to “Spread the word to end the word.”

I joined the cause, and wore this bracelet around my weak-limbed blogger’s wrist.

The word that the Special Olympics are seeking to curb the use of is “retard,” which, as I’m sure you know, is freely tossed around as an insult. Being someone who, literally, obsesses over words, this is an issue I’ve often thought about. In many cases I’m against heavy-handed attempts to restrict the use of potentially offensive words because doing so paradoxically lends more power to the words in question, but I’m completely in agreement with the Special Olympics on this one. The pejorative use of “retard” is ignorant and careless, and those employing it in that context should be aware that it is both uninformed and disrespectful.

(But, again, I know that you’re not here for words of any type! I’ll do my best to limit their usage in the future.)

With the game about to begin, a spur of the moment request was made of yours truly: would I be interested in doing the pre-game introductions of the AquaSox starting nine?

Of course! I never say no to what is asked of me. And by doing so, regular on-field MC Schuyler (pronounced “Skyler”) Muller would have more time to luxuriate in his own resplendent glory.

From the golf course to the ballpark

Okay! Here we go! There wasn’t really time to get nervous while doing this, and a feeling of power emerged with the realization that, as soon as I said a player’s name, he popped from the dugout and ran to his position. It was like I was commanding them.

I allowed myself to go off-script just once, referring to second baseman Brock Hebert (pronounced “A Bear”) as “number one in your hearts.” But, beyond that, it was a simple case of reading words off of a piece of paper.

My moment of on-field tyranny was short-lived, fortunately, as it quickly gave way to the National Anthem (not that I was asked, but singing the National Anthem is one of the few things I refuse to do at a ballpark. A kazoo rendition? Maybe.)

And, with that, the game finally got underway. This shot shows “number one in your hearts” at the plate while good ol’ number eight looks on.

There’s still much more to come from Everett, but it took me 1500 words to get this far and, therefore, you know the drill: Stay tuned for part two!

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Operation Shutdown

This post, the 748th in the the history of this blog, will be the last you ever hear from me…

until 2012!

But, of course, I will be back. For if there is someone out there who can resist the siren call of writing about the same subject in perpetuity at levels of increasing stagnation, that person is not I.  With that being the case, let’s end the year on a high note….

It’s time for the second edition of the Ben’s Biz Twitter Top Ten! The purpose of such an endeavor is to provide a compendium of the most intriguing @BensBiz tweets and re-tweets of the past week (or three weeks, in this case). The tweets, as they appeared on Twitter, are italicized. Let’s get to it!

10. Please re-frame in the form of a question

Indeed, the @AbqTopes were referenced on Jeopardy! last night http://youtu.be/Bz2iho2ggVE

Here’s how it went down:

9. You be the judge

Harry Potter’s “Ministry of Magic” and @MemphisRedbirds — separated at birth? http://yfrog.com/ntczkhuj

8. Just sayin’ is all

Mike Cameron signs w/ @Nationals, but he’s no stranger to the area. Spent ’94 w/Prince William Cannons, where 17 of 116 hits were triples!

If he had maintained that triples rate in his Major League career, he’d currently have amassed 250 (good enough for fourth all time, just two behind Honus Wagner).

7. I really would frame this

Suitable for framing RT @EverettAquaSox: Check out this awesome holiday drawing we just got! http://twitpic.com/7vxc29

6. This was in response to the question of “What MiLB theme nights would you like to see?”

Lehigh Valley IronWarPigs! RT @andyshal: Black Sabbath night in Allentown! Bill Ward as home plate ump. Ozzy on PA. Concert after the game.

“IronManPigs” would also be acceptable.

5. Another One Rides Waits For the Bus

Great idea: seats from Indianapolis’ Bush Stadium installed at city bus stops: http://indy.st/selEY9

Photo: Indystar.com

4. Someone out there needs to stage “Free Eye Pad” night, advertising it heavily on the radio.

That’s the MiLB spirit! RT @WSDashBaseball: A team could do [Free iPad Night] if they were creative enough: http://twitpic.com/7shvkc

3. Use your doppel radar

Received an email from @GreatLakesLoons alleging that fan on left is a mulleted @BensBiz doppelganger http://yfrog.com/h465jscj Agree?

Well, do you?

2. What does it mean?

Magic in Rancho Cucamonga RT @Quakes_Baseball: Check out the Double Rainbow over the Quakes Epicenter Stadium! http://bit.ly/uxsLAa

1. Effect and Cause

This picture of @TulsaDrillers Tim Wheeler is on MiLB.com: http://yfrog.com/nxrugktj Here’s why he’s so scared: http://yfrog.com/h41s4hzj

I hope you enjoyed this most recent edition of the @BensBiz Twitter Top 10. I’m almost out of 2011 material, but not quite yet….

For what better way would there be to end the year than with a video of a mascot tackling a Christmas tree?

Actually, there’s one better way. For nothing says “holiday season” like a team-produced “Twas the Night Before Christmas” parody.

And that, as they say, will be that. Thanks for sticking with me throughout a (generally) action-packed 2011, and here’s to an ennui-free 2012!

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

All Will Be Revealed

This blog is rife with non-sequiturs, bizarre tangents and all manner of self-indulgent nonsense, so it’s likely that no one batted an eye at the intro to yesterday’s post. 

But my motives, they were ulterior. The stylized and oversized “A” that began the post was no mere homage to the reading habits of my youth. Rather, it was the latest clue in an internet-wide scavenger hunt currently being staged by Jason Klein and Casey White, the duo behind logo design and “creative ideas” company Plan B Branding.

Or, rather, the company formerly known as Plan B Branding. In a move most meta, this branding company is currently re-branding itself, and the scavenger hunt is a creative way in which to unveil the new name. Here’s how Casey and Jason are explaining their current endeavor:

Over the last decade we’ve made a number of great partners and now they’re helping us celebrate the unveiling of our new company name.

Each day a letter from our new name will be posted on one of our partner’s Websites. Clues will be posted here daily at 10am Pacific Time, to help you find the website featuring the letter of the day. The first person to email us the website and letter of the day will be our daily winner. All daily winners will be entered into a grand price drawing: we’ll dream up the winner’s very own personal logo.

The “A” posted here yesterday was the second letter to be unveiled, and the new name is currently listed as:

What could it be? Flatwhale? Placate Me? Beastmode? Your guess is as good, and most likely better, than mine.

Regardless of what the name ends up being, it seems to me that Jason and Casey are setting a good template for other teams and companies who may wish to re-brand themselves. This is creative, interactive, and fun. And, best of all, it gave me something fresh to write about in November!

Finally, it’ll be interesting to what the winner’s  “personal logo” ends up looking like. The options are limitless; personally, I’d insist on finding the middle ground between “lighthearted whimsy” and “crushing existentialist despair.”

And since we’re (somewhat) on the topic of design, let me bring your attention to an email I recently received from reader Jeremy Reiss. Reiss, a Louisville-based designer and art director, writes that he “recently completed a project I think you might find interesting. I took all the slang words and phrases surrounding the hitting aspect of baseball and illustrated them into a 12″ x 12″ letterpresses, 2-color print.  For those interested, I’ve made a limited edition (50) available for purchase online.”

This is my kind of thing, aesthetically:

For more info, or to order a print, check out Reiss’ website. And, remember, if you have something that might be of interest to readers of this blog then never hesitate to get in touch.

Let’s go ahead and end today’s post with a video sure to make you feel old. Everett’s latest edition of “Meet the AquaSox” features players born in the late ’80s and early ’90s talking about music made before they were born.

I was in fifth grade when New Kids on the Block were at their peak, and at the time I was offended by their very existence.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

From Field of Dreams to Waterworld

Metro Bank Park, home of the Harrisburg Senators, is located on City Island and surrounded by the Susquehanna River.

One of the perpetual perils of such an aquatic location is flooding, and last week the stadium got hit and hit hard. This aerial view is truly breathtaking:

The most unfortunate thing about the flooding was the timing of it all — it occurred in tandem with the Eastern League semi-finals, forcing the Senators and opposing Richmond Flying Squirrels to play the entire series in Richmond (the Senators were promptly swept in three games, scoring three runs total).

Some more images, courtesy of Sens GM Randy Whitaker. The lower the water level, the more recent the shot.

The Senators offices have re-opened and the phone lines restored, but access to the ballpark is still restricted. There is a LOT of cleaning up to do, but the good news is that structural damage is minimal. Metro Bank Park, which underwent a plethora of renovations prior to the 2010 campaign, was built to withstand such aquatic intrusions.

As you may recall from my visit last season, the stadium concourse is ringed with submarine-style doors. That women’s restroom was well-protected!

Since I’ve now got water on the brain, now seems as good a time to check in with your good friends and mine the Everett AquaSox. The team is recently began their weekly offseason “Meet the AquaSox” video series, a great example of simple and engaging offseason content.

Here’s the latest edition, featuring squirrel-emulating Aristocats fan Patrick Brady:

And speaking of the cinema, throughout this past season the Lakewood BlueClaws produced a series of movie-themed “Catch of the Day” game programs. Truly, some of the best graphic design to be found in the Minors.

Could someone please do a movie poster parody entitled “Aguirre, the Wrath of Blog” with my face superimposed over that of Klaus Kinski’s? I’d really appreciate it!

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Bull Hiring, Ball Handling, Bow Hunting, and Bob

Tomorrow’s post will be the last of 2010, and dedicated to holiday content. But that’s in the future. What’s in the present is the year’s final blog bouillabaisse — time to throw it all in a pot and stir it up real good!

To begin, I’d like to highlight an intriguing job opportunity: The Tulsa Drillers are currently searching for a full-time Mascot Coordinator and Performer. Do you have what it takes to be the next Hornsby?

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The Drillers are currently in the process of revamping Hornsby, and have hired “mascot doctor” Dave Raymond (the original Phillie Phanatic) to assist with the process. And while the club is listing the mascot coordinator position as an internship, they are also making it clear that the potential for full-time salaried employment exists for 2012.

It’s good to see mascots get this kind of respect. Having a talented and dedicated performer in the furry suit can help a team’s marketing efforts immeasurably and lead to far greater visibility within the community.

And speaking of talented performers, check out the latest dispatch from Slugger of the Tennessee Smokies:

But with all due respect to Slugger, others out there are displaying a little more ambition in their offseason endeavors. The Tri-City ValleyCats recently announced their “4 in 24 Project,” in which they’ll renovate four local youth fields in the span of just 24 hours (!!!)

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Sez the team:

The renovations will take place in early April of 2011, with work scheduled around the clock. In order to bring the selected fields to game ready conditions, each one will have new sod placed in their infield while also seeing their pitchers mound and homeplate areas re-built.

I’ll be keeping my eye on this one like a crossbow hunter keeps his eye on a deer. And — what a coincidence! — that leads me to my next topic: Hawkins Gebbers is the latest player to be featured in the “Offseason With the AquaSox” series. If you’ve never seen a Minor League player exhibit his crossbow skills before…well, that’s about to change:

Moving on to an issue of far greater import, the Altoona Curve have announced the five finalists in their “Name the Engineer” contest.
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Your choices are Tenacious, Casey, Buster, Loco, and Choo Choo Charlie. Vote HERE, and make sure to choo-choose wisely.

Finally, the passing of Bob Feller last week got me thinking about how I had interviewed him just eight months prior. The occasion was the grand opening of the Hank Aaron Childhood Home and Museum in Mobile, and Feller was one of the Hall of Famers on the star-studded guest list.
This brief clip shows just how sharp Feller was, getting the most out of life at the age of 91. And while it didn’t seem like much at the time, I’m very grateful I had the opportunity to speak with a true legend of the game.
benjamin.hill@mlb.com
twitter.com/bensbiz

Still Recapping, Moving Images

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If you thought I was done recapping the 2010 season, then you thought sensibly.

You also thought wrong. 

One (self-imposed) task remains, and that is to dedicate a post to the best team-produced videos that appeared on this blog in 2010. This is an entirely subjective task, of course, but it is indisputable that the following videos you are about to see possess ample comedic chops. 

In reviewing the year that was, I came to the realization that my favorite videos of the season had the following three things in common: They featured players, they were short (under two minutes) and they were funny.

No team was better at combining the following three criteria than the Peoria Chiefs, who put out videos featuring boy bands, models, and karaoke superstars. But my personal favorite paid homage to the sweet sounds of Motown.

The Tulsa Drillers were able to provide great insight into the culture of the bullpen, whose denizens are free to focus on matters follicles.

In Everett, meanwhile, the players were more concerned with that which resided above the upper lip.

And since we’re talking about players, I would be remiss if I didn’t include the masterwork of Reading Phillies sluggers Tagg Bozied and Matt Rizzotti.

The Charlotte Stone Crabs also used players to great effect throughout the season, as part of their “This Is Stone Crabs Baseball” ad series. This one, starring Isaias Velazquez, was my favorite.
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Velazquez has good reason to be upset, and as this video amply illustrates it is not wise to mess with Minor League Baseball players. Behold, the “aqua-palypse” that took place in Gwinnett County.

Of course, a good Minor League video doesn’t necessarily need to feature the players at all. Lakewood BlueClaws intern “D-Bo” made a name for himself this season with a series of videos designed to highlight upcoming promotions. Here’s a sample, with sight gags a-plenty:
 

Amazingly, I’ve gotten this far without posting a parody video. Let’s rectify that immediately, by checking out the Binghamton Mets unique take on “Twilight”.

But nothing inspires parody more than early ’90s West Coast gangsta rap, as evidenced by these two works of art.

The above video was produced by the Peoria Chiefs, bringing this post full circle. But before closing this one out, I have just one more thing to announce:

It’s Peanut Butter Jelly Time!

Boy oh boy is it ever.

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

Tilling the Fertile Soil

“So many blog topics, so little time” is shaping up to be a pretty good tombstone epitaph for yours truly. But as long as I’m residing in the land of the living, Sisyphean struggles to mitigate the content glut will continue unabated. So here ya go: a random array of Minor League pictures and videos.

Let’s start with the scene in Reading this past Tuesday. Despite a bit of controversy, the R-Phils’ fan base proffered a heartily enthusiastic response to the evening’s “Ryan Howard Garden Gnome” giveaway.

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The line outside of FirstEnergy Stadium, before the gates opened.

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The gnomes, awaiting distribution:

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What’s Up With Hat?

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Moving on from beards to the mustache, the Everett Aquasox pitching staff recently dedicated themselves to the fervent cultivation of upper lip hair. The results, in extreme close-up:

Another recent event of note in the Pacific Northwest was the pitcher’s mound wedding of hurler Corey Davisson. Read all about it HERE. (warning:adorable photos contained therein).

Less adorable, but more hilarious, are Class A baseball players dancing with surprising sincerity to the Clinton era’s pre-eminent boy band. This masterpiece was the highlight of the Peoria Chiefs’ recent “90s Night” promotion:

While this was the lowlight:

A pop culture celebration of more recent vintage recently occurred in Lexington, as the Legends staged a “Jersey Shore Night” promotion. The beat got beat up:

But after the beat-up comes the beatdown. “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan visited Hickory recently, where he did all he could to make sure that Conrad didn’t win the mascot race. A truly brilliant snapshot, this is:

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But even Hacksaw wouldn’t be able to stop the menagerie of characters that grace the cover of the Toledo Mud Hens upcoming comic book giveaway (scheduled for August 12). This is, truly, a work of art:

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Of special interest in the above image is the presence of Jamie Farrmadillo, Kitty Holmes, and Jim Flealand. There is no finer racing triumvirate in all of Minor League Baseball.

Or is there?

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

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