Results tagged ‘ Fifth Third Burger ’

On the Road: He Would Not Accept the Plunger in West Michigan

And we’re back!

Part one of this riveting West Michigan saga was largely a pre-game tour of the WhiteCaps’ Fifth Third Ballpark, serving as the proverbial aperitif to the degustatory delight that is this post’s main course.

Are you ready to take the plunge? Let’s go!

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My evening began just outside the pressbox, as broadcaster Ben Chiswick interviewed me as part of his pre-game show on 107.3 FM. Seven photos were taken during this interview, and in all of them I look similarly slouched over and sloth-like. None of these pictures will become a new online dating profile pic. I’m losing my edge.

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Convinced that my slovenly appearance was caused by an ill-fitting shirt (as opposed to lack of exercise and poor diet, which would of course be impossible), I headed out in search of a new addition to my wardrobe.

And, voila! It was “70s Night,” and in conjunction with this time-tested theme promo the Whitecaps had set up a DIY tie-dye (or tie-DIY, if you prefer) t-shirt stand out in the right field area.

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The process is simple: don a pair of rubber gloves, put rubber bands all over the t-shirt, and then spray with your choice of colors.

Uh, dude? You might want to be more careful with where you’re pointing that yellow bottle.

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I actually had too many rubber bands wrapped around the shirt, which severely limited the areas which actually got colored. But on the whole I liked my shirt and its minimalist psychedelic motif. If this shirt was a band it’d be Silver Apples.

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As it turns out the shirts had to be hung out to dry, so I was condemned to an evening of looking like the schlub that I undoubtedly am. C’est la vie, it was a beautiful night and we live in a beautiful world and such self-obsession is unseemly if inevitable.

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At this juncture duty called me back to the field, as I was slated to be among a small army of ceremonial first pitch throwers. While down there, I met these guys:

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There’s something I like about this picture. Dim the lighting a bit and it would look like a still from a David Lynch fever dream.

IT IS HAPPENING AGAIN.

074First pitch throwers galore, not to be confused with the James Bond villain or exemplary 80s scuzz rock. 

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Here I am en route to the mound, as the PA announcer (one Michael Newell, we’ll meet him later) went on a flattering spiel that credited me with making the Fifth Third Burger internationally famous. Hyperbole? Sure. But I did my part. 

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No documentation exists, fortunately, but I bounced the pitch ( a stark contrast to the perfect strike in Great Lakes).

Here I am walking back from the mound in shame, as my fellow first pitchers (seen on the videoboard) laugh derisively:

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But who cares? No one was there to see me. The real stars of this first pitch cavalcade were coaches and players from the Grand Rapids Griffins, who had just won the Calder Cup (the AHL’s equivalent to the Stanley Cup).

Sad Champion, not to be confused with the world’s best-named meteorologist:

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Back on the concourse I witnessed the best National Anthem I’ve seen in 2013. John Pylman, a WWII veteran who was on the crew of a B17 bomber (as was my grandfather), absolutely nailed a no-frills rendition. He knew what he was capable of and did it marvelously.

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For this dude, the National Anthem just meant a 90 second reprieve from trying to single-handedly consume a 5/3rd pound $22 hamburger.

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It’s a whole lot of burger.

The Fifth Third Burger was just part of a humongous ballpark spread that the Whitecaps had laid out for me at the table adjacent.

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It’s a bit jumbled, but this represents my best attempt to decipher the above image:

Back row: shrimp po’ boy, deep fried cheese cake, the Fifth Third Burger

Third row: sausage kabobs, Steyhauser steak sandwich, three Bacos

Second row: three orders of deep fried mac and cheese bites

First row: foot long corn dog, gluten-free hot dog, standard issue all-beef hot dog, and two turkey legs

Of course, my gluten-free diet prohibits the consumption of most of the above items. As you’ll recall from my previous post my designated eaters for the evening were local radio DJs Flounder and Marty, but this duo were nowhere to be found.

So, it was time for improvisation! The Baco — lettuce and tomato on a “taco” shell made out of approximately eight strips of bacon — is gluten-free so I started right in on that.

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There are no surprises with the Baco — it has very few ingredients and is, in essence, a bunless BLT. It tastes great and I’d recommend it, but at the same time it’s not the orgasmic explosion of flavor that some in the so-called blogosphere would make it out to be. What is with this current obsession with bacon in our culture? Yes, it tastes great, but the internet needs to calm down with all of this snarky and ultimately demeaning “bacon is like unicorns dancing in my mouth” style rhetoric. We are adults. Barely. But adults nonetheless.

Okay, I don’t know where that came from. Let’s move on.

Whitecaps promotions manager Brian Oropallo soon jumped into the fray, picking up a shrimp po’ boy with grace and aplomb.

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“The seasoning is where the flavor is,” said Oropollo, who is perhaps more physically fit than I am. “It’s got a little kick to it, maybe there’s some cayenne pepper in there.”

And back to me, this time with a gluten-free hot dog (the bun is made of rice flour).

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I know this looks fundamentally unexciting, but for me it was great to have a solid ballpark hot dog again. The bun held together nicely and tasted fine, and I’d implore all teams to add similar gluten-free options to their concession offerings. I’ve noticed that some teams equate “gluten-free” with health conscious as in “we offer fruit cups and carrot sticks,” but really all I’m looking for is to a return to normalcy. Unhealthy is fine, I’m at a ballpark!

Matt LaWell, in town to chronicle the adventures of yours truly for his upcoming book on Minor League Baseball, entered the fray as well. He appears to be eating a steak sandwich with a fork in this picture, although the only food quote of his I have written down involves the deep fried mac and cheese. (“Really creamy,” he observed.)

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Also enjoying the deep fried mac and cheese was Kevin Huisman, a longtime Ben’s Biz reader and Grand Rapids resident who stopped by the stadium to say hello. I was like, “We’re sans-Flounder and Marty, so dive right in to some designated eating!”

He obliged, calling the deep-fried mac and cheese “stellar” and then diving into the Baco. Of the latter, he said that “It’s really crumbly, so it’s a good thing it’s served in a boat. The bacon’s great, but the veggies are really fresh and that’s what makes it.”

Smoke 'em if you got 'em

Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em

Before:

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After the before:

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And back to me with the sausage kabob, as media relations manager and noted kabob fan Mickey Graham stands in the background. This looked gluten-free so I pretended it was. God forgive me. It was great.

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My attention was momentarily diverted by an on-field appliance race.

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I don’t really know what transpired, but what I do know is that Marty soon arrived on the scene. He was sans-Flounder, but one half of a morning radio DJ team is better than no morning radio DJ team at all.

Welcome, Marty! Here, he and I pose with the mighty Fifth Third Burger.

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Introduce yourself, Marty.

Marty, making up for lost time:

Fifth Third Burger!

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Steak sandwich!

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Deep fried cheese cake! (“It needs dipping sauce,” he reported.)

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At this point, the impromptu quartet of designated eaters had morphed into a ruthless consumption machine. Oropallo, ever creative, even began to eat his own arm.

Hey Ladies!

Hey Ladies!

But I had a job to do, and this job was to serve as guest MC for a between-inning contest. I was to announce the “Meijer’s M-Perks Price Drop” while throwing water-soaked blue balls into the crowd. My script, such as it was, as I jotted it down in my notebook with one out until showtime:

“Fans, make some noise! The Ferris [sic?] coffee crew and the mascots are tossing out Meijer M-Perks price drop balls into the crowd and if YOU catch a ball take it to customer service and claim your prize.” [Actually, this whole paragraph is sic.]

All things considered I think I actually did pretty well, and I have no complaints whatsoever with my co-worker.

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With that nerve-wracking 90 seconds of my life complete, I returned to the designated eating station. Marty had been abandoned — first by Flounder, and now by his impromptu crew. But still, Marty persevered.

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I hope that we’re all Marty fans by now. But, still, I abandoned him in favor of my next enterprise. Graham and I headed to the manual scoreboard, so that I could once again attempt to work it (as you’ll recall from my first West Michigan post, my initial attempt to do this was lackluster at best).

The view along the way:

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Hi, everybody!

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New online Dayton profile pic

Billy was out there working the scoreboard, and under his able and patient tutelage I was able to do so as well.

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Easy does it:

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The velveteen touch of a dandy fop:

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Success! Thanks, Billy!

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Meanwhile, Marty had switched to beer and had made new friends. God bless Marty.

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At the table adjacent, a hardy burger-eater was in the process of celebrating his burger eating accomplishments.

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All I could do, meanwhile, was eat and run (and, yes, I realize the extent to which I overuse the word “meanwhile.” If I overused “meantime” then at least I’d have an excuse to link to one of the top five songs of all time.)

I was on the run because I had yet another job to do. Or, more accurately, I had Michael Newell’s job to do.

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Newell, a school counselor, is in his 17th season as the Whitecaps PA announcer.

“It’s an absolutely great summer job,” he told me. “You can’t get me out of here.”

I could, however, do his job for a half inning. Newell’s tip was to “just yell,” though I had to restrain, or curb, my enthusiasm due to the fact that the visiting Dayton Dragons were at the plate. From my notes, these were the players that came to the plate: “Zach Vince-y, Seth Ma-hee-us Breen, Jeff Jello-Litch, Junior Air-e-us.”

Welcome to the Terrordome:

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In action:

Yes, in the above video I am saying the unremarkable name of “Jesse Winker.” But, for what it’s worth, Newell told me his favorite all-time name to say is Pedro Santana because “you really get to stretch the vowels out.”

Back outside the press box, I realized that Marty was capable of near supernatural levels of omniscience.

But I didn’t have time to ponder such things. My presence was wanted on the concourse, so that I could award a plunger to one lucky (and randomly selected) fan.

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Hey ladies!

The randomly selected fan was pointed out to me, and all I had to do was approach him and say “Congratulations, you’ve been randomly selected to win a Penning plunger!”

Except, this happened. Without hyperbole, I’ll say that this is my favorite six seconds of my professional career. And, also, this is certainly my favorite Vine video.

I am not one to call my own material classic, but this is classic.

“I deal with those things all day long! Are you freaking kidding me? You’re going to offer that to a guy in building maintenance? You’ve got some nerve.”

Other quotes I have written down from this exchange:

“This is like giving motor oil to a mechanic.”

“If this ends up in our newsletter I’ll never hear the end of it.”

But here’s the thing. This awesome guy’s awesome friends wanted the plunger, so long as I signed it with “Go Whitecaps!”

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And soon enough, we were all friends. These guys are the best.

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I celebrated this triumph of human interaction with a gluten-free Redbridge beer.

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And this was followed by a full-throated rendition of the seventh-inning stretch, followed by a totally confused attempt to dance to (what I think was) Cotton Eyed Joe.

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stretch

From left to right: Beautiful, Beautiful, Handsome, Schlub

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Back on the concourse, it was time to fulfill obligations.

#Cupdate!

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Stadium panorama, with now-obligatory Matt LaWell sighting.

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Finally, I descended to the dugout. It was time for the fat lady to sing.

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Except, no, the Whitecaps lost the game. The Fat Lady never got “her” chance to sing, and the ballgame ended with me sitting in the dugout dejectedly.

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When I was down there in the dugout, five members of the promo staff asked to take a picture with me. I swear it wasn’t the other way around, but nonetheless this photo will warm my soul for the remainder of my days on this Earth.

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I’m not sure if he took the above photo, but Whitecaps video intern Paul Salley took many great photos throughout the night and is great guy in general. So thanks to you, Paul. (Paul is currently writing a book on Wings guitarist Jimmy McCulloch, and I will gladly share more info on that as it materializes.)

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Meanwhile (there’s that word again), up in the press box, Whitecaps official scorer Mike Dean ended his work day by cranking out some Handel on the harmonica. He is known for doing this.

But STILL the night was not over. Out on the post-game part deck, River City Stew was cranking out some tunes.

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But this too shall pass. The last note, like that of Mike Dean, was on the harmonica.

And THAT was all that she wrote from West Michigan. Disseminate this post widely.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

That’s Amore (Burger Than You Can Handle)

There’s a well-known saying that goes “The way to a man’s heart is to put heart-shaped food into his stomach.”

The West Michigan Whitecaps have taken that to heart, as the team is now offering the world-famous Fifth-Third burger in the shape of a heart. This, truly, is a heart-stopping Valentine’s Day gift.

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The Fifth Third Burger has been very well-documented, here and elsewhere. But, as the team notes:

[T]his Valentine’s day beauty is no ordinary Fifth Third Burger…it has been customized for this one special occasion with a giant heart-shaped bun to please your sweetie.

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Nutritionally, you can’t go wrong with this culinary piece of art. Weighing in at four pounds, the Valentine’s Day Fifth Third Burger has 4,889 calories and 299.5 grams of fat. Pound for pound, that’s just a little more than half of the fat and calories in four pounds of Hershey’s Milk Chocolate, which contains 9,000 calories and 557 grams of
fat. What a nutritional bargain!…The Fifth Third Burger heart-shaped bomb is available for just $30, but if you want a truly special unforgettable moment, opt for the $100 package and Crash the River Rascal will deliver this winner right to your special someone. He (or she) might even share this delicious dinner with you by candlelight.

I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure the below photo is to scale:

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As mentioned previously, I’m planning on doing a “Valentine’s Day in the Minors” post next week. But this bit of news I couldn’t resist, as it put my heart in my stomach.

Meanwhile, and stop me if you’ve heard it already, but the Brooklyn Cyclones have offered Christina Aguilera a National Anthem do-over.

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Sez the ‘Clones:

Each year, it seems like someone makes a mistake and because it happens in the Super Bowl, the whole world is buzzing about it the next day.  This year’s victim is four-time Grammy Award Winner and Staten Island, NY native Christina Aguilera whose slip-up during the Star-Spangled Banner has everyone talking.

With that in mind, the Brooklyn Cyclones have offered Christina Aguilera the opportunity to perform the National Anthem at MCU Park this summer. The team will even provide her a copy of the lyrics to prevent another
mishap from occurring.

I like the phrasing there, that the team will “even” provide Christina Aguilera a copy of the lyrics. Talk about a unique and irresistible bargaining chip!

Thank you for bearing with me yet again as we trudge in lockstep toward opening day. As the Salem Red Sox so eloquently tweeted yesterday:

If Phileas Fogg began his journey today, he’d be 20 days late for the Salem Red Sox season opener. #OnlySixtyDaysAway

And now that number has been reduced to 59. You better get moving, Phileas.

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

Buffalo Takes The L.E.D

The Buffalo Bisons lit up the baseball world on Wednesday, with the announcement that they will be installing the biggest L.E.D. scoreboard in all of Minor League Baseball at Coca-Cola Field next season.

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“Well, how big is it?” I imagine you all asking in unison. Per usual, I’ll let the all-knowing press release provide the answer to that.

The new signature 80′ x 33′ LED HD Video Display from Daktronics, Inc. will add an unparalleled level of enjoyment to the Bisons Baseball Experience.

The new $2.5 million BisonsTV HD board will be funded completely by the Bisons organization and will once again demonstrate the team’s private investment in providing the ultimate fan experience and value at every game.

This news out of Buffalo reminds me of a phenomenon I bore witness to during my travels this past season: “Minor League Baseball’s Biggest Scoreboard” is a claim that is made quite liberally throughout the industry. So, let me ask you, teams:

– Do you currently boast a scoreboard that is larger than what the Bisons will be installing?
— Prior to the Bisons’ announcement, did you believe that you possessed the biggest scoreboard in all of Minor League Baseball? If so, how big is it?
— If not all of Minor League Baseball, do you currently have the biggest scoreboard within your classification of play, and/or league, and/or state?
— Regardless of size, are you proud of your scoreboard and have something you’d like to say about it?

Please, get in touch! And feel free to send pictures. I’d like to do a follow-up post on this most important of topics.

porkroller.JPGIn other news related to an International League team that plays at a facility with “Coca-Cola” in its name, I was intrigued to read yesterday that the Lehigh Valley IronPigs are looking for their first-ever house band. This band, no matter who it is comprised of, will be known as “Shake, Rattle, and Pork Roll.”

Read all about it HERE.

Being a long time fan of parody in general and Weird Al in particular, I couldn’t help but start thinking about what pig-related songs should be added to the band’s set list. Here are pork butt a few:

“I Want To Hold Your Ham”
greenjelly.jpg“Chop In the Name of Love”
“Loin On Me”
“Feel Like Bacon Love”
“Street Fighting Spam”
“MacArthur Pork”

And, of course, anything by “Hammstein”, “The Whooves”, “Engelbert Hamperdoink”, or any band that once played at Livestock.

Somehow I am still operating within a professional context here. So before things get any more out of hand, let’s wrap things up with some beef-related news. The world-famous “Fifth Third Burger” served by the West Michigan Whitecaps is about to get even more world famous-er!

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Fifth Third Burger.JPGTake it away, team-issued communication missive:

[T]he Fifth Third Burger, will be featured on the January 22 episode of Food Network’s popular “Unwrapped” show with host Marc Summers. The show airs at 9 p.m. Eastern time. The episode is entitled “Game Day Goodies.”

The segment was taped at the ballpark last fall during the Muskegon vs.
Rockford high school football game. The “Unwrapped” crew taped
behind-the-scenes footage on the making of the Fifth Third Burger as
well as the Burger Challenge action during the game.

And — hey! — it’s gratuitous video Friday. Inspired by the IronPigs’ latest initiative, I present you with what is not only the greatest song with “pig” in the title but quite possibly my favorite song of all time.

For those keeping score at home, this has been the 600th post in Ben’s Biz Blog history. Thank you so much for your continued support!

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

Snoop, Yoopers, and Declarations of Indigestion

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Whitecaps Primary.JPGI’ve got a lot of West Michigan Whitecap news for you today. Like the Fifth Third Burger, it might take a while to digest. But, unlike the Fifth Third Burger, you won’t regret attempting to consume it one sitting.

You remember the aforementioned Fifth Third Burger, don’t you? The massive meat patty made international headlines last year (really), elevating the Whitecaps to Minor League concession stand royalty. The team knew they had their work cut out for them when it came to a 2010 follow-up, so, naturally, they turned to the fans for suggestions. 10 foodstuff finalists were chosen, with an online vote determining which would be served at the ballpark this season.

23,000 total votes were tallied, resulting in what the team describes as “the tightest race in food voting history.” It was so close that a virtual tie was declared, meaning that both the Cudhigi Yooper Sandwich (6,984 votes) and the Declaration of Indigestion (6,982 votes) will be available for fan consumption.

“We didn’t want a Bush vs. Gore in Florida situation, so we went with both”, explained Whitecaps director of marketing and media Mickey Graham.

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The Cudhigi Yooper

For those not “in the know”, “Yoopers” are people who live in Michigan’s upper peninsula region. “Cudhigi” is a famous brand of sausage that emanates from said region. Put these two foreign-sounding words together, and you end up with a sandwich that consists of a sausage patty slathered with cheese, pizza sauce, peppers, and onions.

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The Declaration of Indigestion

“When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to disband from the tyranny of healthful eating, they should consume the Declaration of Indigestion,” reads the Whitecaps press release.

Such patriotic and flowery rhetoric probably brought a tear to your eye, so wipe it away and then check this out: a half-pound foot long hot dog covered with steak, cheese, pepper, and onions and served on an colossally-sized roll:

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The only other item to fare respectably in the vote total was Chocolate Covered Bacon, which garnered an impressive 27% en route to establishing itself as a 2011 front runner. What follows are the overall vote totals, complete with helpful visuals (click to enlarge):
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In case the above text is too small for your non-laser vision enhanced eyes to read: Chocolate Covered Bacon (27%), Chili Mac Taco (9%), Corn Dog (2%), Idaho Christmas Tree (1%), Poutine (1%), Twinkie Cheese Dog (1%), Chicken and Waffles (1%), Pink Panther (0%)

As if all of the above info wasn’t enough, the Whitecaps announced that the following items would also be added to concession stand menus in 2010: potato wedges, sweet potato fries, onion rings, Texas steak nachos, garlic & cheese breadsticks, Texas toast barbeque sandwiches, corn dogs, Italian grinders, boneless Buffalo wings, chocolate-covered cheesecake, fried ice cream and funnel fries.

And don’t worry — the Fifth Third Burger isn’t going anywhere.Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Fifth Third Burger.JPG

“We’ll never get rid of it, thanks to you guys,” said Graham, with “you guys” in this case referring to the large hamburger-obsessed media. (How’s that for a sandwich? The fourth estate loves the Fifth Third).

And now I can finally get to my next piece of Whitecap news, which is tangentially related to the food and beverage beat: The inaugural “Wingstock” festival will be held at Fifth Third Field on June 12, and the headliner is none other than Snoop Dogg! To my knowledge, this is the first time that the legendary rapper has played at a Minor League stadium since he captivated Brooklyn’s KeySpan Park (now MCU Park) in 2008. I sincerely hope this is the beginning of a Minor League Snoop golden age.

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In one of the most deeply idiosyncratic musical billings the world has ever seen, Snoop’s support act on this evening of chicken wing-fueled mayhem will be…

wait for it…

snoopfootball.jpgJackyl. A band best known for its lead singer’s chainsaw prowess.
 

To summarize: An iconic West Coast rapper and an AC/DC-inspired chainsaw Southern rock band playing a wing festival held at a Minor League Baseball stadium in Michigan.

This is quite possibly the most American event of all time.

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

Choose Your Demise

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Whitecaps Primary.JPGThings have been slow on the news front this week, leading to irrational fears that I’ll never have anything interesting to write about ever again.  But, as usual, I have been amply provided for in my time of need.

The West Michigan Whitecaps have released their 10 finalists for 2010’s marquee new concession item, and it does not disappoint. As you may know, the team has a reputation to uphold in the category of “attention-getting concessions.” 2009’s big (and I mean that literally) addition was the Fifth Third Burger, a monstrous concoction that ended up becoming a multi-galaxial phenomenon.

Over the last three weeks, the Whitecaps have been soliciting concession suggestions from fans. The following list represents what they felt was the “best”, which in this case is even more subjective than usual. Behold:

1. Chicken and Waffles – Why did the chicken cross the road? To lie down on a bed of waffles, get smothered in gravy and get eaten by you, of course!

2. Chili Mac Tacos – Think comfort food that took a trip to
Mexico. Creamy mac and cheese is smothered in chili then loaded into a
hard taco shell to create a taste experience that won’t soon be
forgotten.

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3. Chocolate Covered Bacon – This little piggy went to market,
this little piggy stayed home and this little piggy dunked itself in
chocolate to become a delicious treat for Whitecaps fans!

4. Corn Dog o’ Plenty – If the Idaho Christmas Tree isn’t enough
corndog for you then try the Corn Dog o’ Plenty. A full half-pound,
footlong frank that is battered and deep fried to make one gigantic
corn dog.

5. Cudighi Yooper Sandwich – If you don’t know what this one is
then you haven’t been to the Upper Peninsula. Cudighi is a spicy
sausage found throughout the U.P. and we might bring it down to West
Michigan. A sausage patty, smothered in cheese, pizza sauce, peppers
and onions could grace the concession stands of Fifth Third Ballpark.

6. Declaration of Indigestion – When in the course of human
events it becomes necessary for one people to disband from the tyranny
of healthy eating, they should consume the Declaration of Indigestion.
You see, all sandwiches are not created equal as this half-pound,
footlong hot dog is covered in a philly cheese steak (steak, cheese,
peppers and onions) and served on a gigantic sub roll. It is certainly
your unalienable right to consume one of these in the pursuit of
happiness.

7. Idaho Christmas Tree – Why waste your time eating all of your
favorite items separately? This is a batter-dipped hot dog rolled in
french fries and deep fried to create the perfect limbed link on stick.

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8. Poutin – A real treat from North of the border. The French
Canadians have done it again, and this time with gravy. Fries, fried
cheese curds and gravy make up this delectable side dish. Tres bien!

9. The Pink Panther – Not sure if this guy is named after the
famous detective or the insulation, but either way it’s delicious. Take
a hot dog bun, slather it in icing and fill it with pink cotton candy.
Maybe drizzle some root beer syrup over the top for good measure. It’s
the dessert dog you’ll have to try this summer!

10. Twinkie Cheese Dog – This dog can survive any disaster and
it might cause a few of its own. Simple – a hot dog laid in a Twinkie
covered in cheese. Yum.

Twinkie Cheese Dog? Now where have we seen that before? I wonder…

Voting runs through February 23, so be sure to make your voice heard. And while it’s still very

pink.jpg early in the process, I couldn’t help but find some solace in the fact that as of this writing the “Pink Panther” had not received a single vote. I mean, seriously, that thing is gross.

But a deep-fried combination of hot dogs and french fries? That’s pure brilliance, and if executed properly it will be an advancement in American society on par with the polio vaccine.
 

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Making Concessions (With Your Pants On the Ground)

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Whitecaps Primary.JPGMaybe it was because of the long weekend, but today has been busy with a capital whatever-letter-busy-starts-with.

I’ve got lots of Minor League news items to share with the masses, and like a fair-minded mother I love each item equally. Nonetheless, I can’t help but lead with THIS:

The West Michigan Whitecaps are soliciting original ideas for new food items to be
served at Fifth Third Ballpark this season. Starting Wednesday, January
20, fans can submit their ideas and thoughts online regarding what new
food items they would like to see served at Fifth Third Ballpark this
summer.

Some of the more unique concessions items served in the past include
Deep-Fried Twinkies, Caesar Salads, Deep-Fried Pepsi, Apple Cider
Floats and the Fifth Third Burger, which garnered international
attention with its debut last season and will remain on the menu in
2010.

And who could forget the Fifth Third Burger, that meaty monstrosity that just last March helped turn yours truly from an obscure blogger to a slightly less obscure blogger?

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If YOU would like to submit a concession idea to the Whitecaps, then read on:

Ideas for new items will be taken through February 8 and
submissions can be made through the Whitecaps facebook page
(facebook.com/wmwhitecaps), the Whitecaps Twitter page
(twitter.com/wmwhitecaps) or via e-mail at
playball@whitecapsbaseball.com. All submissions should be accompanied
with a description and a picture, if possible.


Starting February 9 fans will be able to vote for their choice on the
new 2010 concessions items. Voting will take place on the Whitecaps
website, whitecapsbaseball.com, and will end February 23.

I came up with an idea of my own, and if I can reconcile it with the laws of physics as well as societal mores then I will definitely submit it.

Moving On…

“Pants on the Ground” has become a certifiable cultural phenomenon, to the point where even Brett Favre is doing deeply unfunny renditions of it. And when a cultural phenomenon occurs, you best believe Minor League teams are going to jump on board. Kudos, then, to the Greensboro Grasshoppers for being the first team to create a video that references General Larry Platt’s masterpiece.

nypl.JPG for the 2011 New York-Penn League All-Star Game. The winner recieves an All-Star Prize Pack as well as “a lifetime of bragging rights.” More details can be found HERE.

Proceeding Into the Abyss From Which There Is No Return — MLBlogs released its 2009 rankings today, and yours truly (me, in other words) finished 21st in the “Pro” category. This represents a significant step up from 2008’s #49 ranking, so thank you very much for reading. It is my ultimate goal to become #1 overall, not just within MLBlogs but the entire internet.

Beyond Forever — A little known fact is that I regularly churn out articles for MiLB.com. Recent offerings include pieces on Gwinnett County’s new GM, Haiti relief efforts, and a new edition of “Roadtrip“. Thanks, again, for reading.  

Oh, and one last thing — Over the past several weeks, many clubs have posted pictures of their ballparks covered in snow. That was so early January, however, and teams that are “in-the-know” have moved on to the next trend: candid shots of fog enshroudment. Behold Trenton’s Waterfront Park:

fogenshroudment.jpg 

And with that, I bid you farewell.

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

Can 'The Beast' Be Beaten?

wimpy.pngAfter a five-day stint in Indianapolis for the Winter Meetings, I have safely returned to New York City’s comforting embrace. There is still much Winter Meetings blogging to come, as soon as I complete the Herculean task of uploading photos. In the meantime, I would encourage everyone to check out my anecdotally-driven wrap-up article HERE

But, for now, I would like to draw everyone’s attention to the blog of CNBC sports business reporter Darren Rovell. Specifically, Rovell wrote today about an attention-getting concession item that will be served up next season by the Gateway Grizzlies of the independent Frontier League.

It’s called “The Beast”, and it’s 15 burgers stacked atop one another:

the beast.jpg 

Frankly, I am unimpressed…and I am not just saying that because the Grizzlies are an independent team and I cover affiliated ball. The team has a distinguished history when it comes to over-the-top concessions, and I commend them for their efforts. I would also like to suggest that they open a pharmacy on their concourse and call it “Gateway Drugs.”

But “The Beast” is is just a pile of burgers, and I do not think it will end up being 2010’s mostquestion.jpg intriguing concession item.

But, what will? Is someone in the world of affiliated ball going to step up in this category?

I am devoting so much space to this because there is a little history here. If you’ll recall, last season Rovell picked up my post on West Michigan’s Fifth-Third Burger. The story then spread through the internet like virtual wildfire, resulting in a massive boost in readership for yours truly.

So, yes, this post is more self-serving than an afternoon at Old Country Buffet. I challenge you all to create an eye-popping concession item, and then get in touch. My livelihood depends on this.

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

Counterpoint

pointcpoint.jpgRecently, this blog has been way too focused on concession stand grotesquerie, as well as the unfortunate effects of food and beverage overindulgence.

While I regret nothing — NOTHING! — I nonetheless feel compelled to point out that Minor League Baseball teams often provide food options that are not designed to kill you. In fact, it wasn’t so long ago that I penned (with my keyboard) an article on vegetarian food options at Minor League stadiums. This “Minoring in Business” feature article included quotes from PETA’s Dan Shannon, the very same individual who recently authored a letter condemning the wastefulness of the Fifth Third Burger.

My point here is that reality is far more nuanced than perception (I learned to make such points as a result of fulfilling a Philosophy prerequisite in my freshman year of college).

One team that is bravely bucking current concession stand trends are the Birmingham Barons, who recently sent out a defiant, bullet-point heavy press release that touts their new “Healthy Hits” menu. Some excerpts:

? Regions Park is proud to promote healthy eating choices in 2009. The stadium’s brand-newbaronslogo.jpg “Healthy Hits Menu” will be highlighted by a menu consisting of a grilled chicken sandwich, wraps, green salads, fresh fruits and vegetables, granola bars, yogurt, milk, fruit juices and baked chips. In addition, zero trans fats will be used for fried items in the ballpark’s concessions stands.

? This addition comes in light of some staggering numbers concerning obesity, particularly related to ballpark food and our favorite demographic, children.

? Ballpark food typically offers no help to this cause. Ballpark favorites such as hot dogs, corn dogs, pizza, peanuts, crackerjacks, nachos, soft pretzels, frozen malts and chili fries offer an average of 17.1 grams of fat per option and a staggering 356.2 calories between them.

yinyang.gifOf course, the Barons do offer typical ballpark food as well — unhealthy or not, there’s always going to be a demand for hot dogs, nachos, and the like. But there’s no reason why “healthy” and “unhealthy” options can’t co-exist peacefully with one another. Together, they are the yin and yang of the ballpark dining experience.

“At Home With” Postmortem: As mentioned before on this blog, my weekly “At Home With” team profile column is no more. Up now on MiLB.com is “At Home With…At Home With”, a humorous and highly readable compilation of the column’s most insightful and amusing anecdotes. Dozens of teams are highlighted therein. Please check it out.

Thanks for reading. As always, don’t hesitate to get in touch: benjamin.hill@mlb.com

West Michigan Plunges To New Heights

As befits a team bearing the name “Whitecaps”, West Michigan has been
riding an unbelievable wave of publicity over the past several weeks.
Their Fifth Third Burger continues to be an object of nationwide –
nay, worldwide — fascination, to the point where opportunistic public
interest groups are generating national press simply by challenging its right to
exist.

But the Whitecaps have moved on. To this:

plunger.jpgIf you just thought to yourself, “Wow, that’s a 40-foot plunger located in left-center field of West Michigan’s Fifth Third Park!”, then I congratulate your remarkable ability to estimate an object’s height, location, and purpose. From the press release:

“The Penning Plumbing Plunger will help fans celebrate key moments during games. Located in left center field, the Penning Plumbing Plunger will move up and down and shoot water into the air after Whitecaps’ pitchers “flush away” the opposing team with inning-ending strikeouts.

“The concept was born from the challenge of coming up with creative ideas for Penning Plumbing,” said Whitecaps Vice President of Sales Steve McCarthy. “We had our hearts set on a giant plunger and even experimented with attaching one to the foul poles but the wind created stability issues. This is a much better solution.”

So…on behalf of lazy comedians everywhere, let me make the following observation:

That plunger is going to come in pretty handy this season, given that the Fifth Third Field stands are going to be filled with people attempting to eat a 1.6 pound burger!

Sorry.

Time for me to make a hasty retreat. As I do so, please distract yourself with this video of the plunger in action
 

Giving the Masses What They Crave

lobbyists.jpgI am pleased to announce that today has been, by far, the greatest day in the history of Ben’s Biz Blog.

As of this writing (6:33 p.m. EST), over 11,000 unique visitors have stopped by and had a look, and I sincerely hope that at least a few of these individuals become repeat “customers”. The reason for this dramatic uptick is my recent post on West Michigan’s mammoth 1.6 pound hamburger. CNBC’s Darren Rovell picked up the story and was kind enough to give me a “shout out”, and since then the post has been linked to by a dizzying array of blogs and message boards.

I have thought long and hard about how to capitalize on my fleeting, jumbo burger-related “fame”, and here’s the plan that I have come up with:

1. Give the people (more of) what they want.
2. Follow up by giving the people something they didn’t even know that they wanted.

Part Two is coming tomorrow, and it’s a doozy. But, for now, I will simply display the holy trinity of Minor League concession items. (Yes, this is gratuitous, and yes, I am pandering).

#1: The Taco in a Helmet (Brevard County Manatees)

I use this image as part of my daily meditation practices, concentrating on it in order to give myself access to deep inner mental states. This is not a joke.

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Taco In A Helmet-thumb-450x587.jpg 
#2 The Homewrecker Hot Dog (Charleston RiverDogs)

This is to a normal hot dog what a normal hot dog is to one those little pig-in-a-blanket mini-weiners. I did the math.

Thumbnail image for Homewrecker Hot Dog.jpg

#3 Fifth Third Burger (West Michigan Whitecaps)

Whether it’s a concession stand item or a double-overtime hockey game, five thirds is always a lot.

Thumbnail image for Fifth Third Burger.JPG

Once again: tomorrow’s post is going to be a good one, so please check back. And, please, get in touch at any time about anything. Reader correspondence is absolutely crucial to this operation.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

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