Results tagged ‘ Fresno Grizzlies ’
This West Coast road trip began with Bakersfield and then continued on to Visalia before bringing me here, the largest and, arguably, most in-chargest city to be found in California’s Central Valley.
Welcome to Fresno, home of the Pacific Coast League’s Grizzlies, who play in the downtown facility that is Chukchansi Park. My day in Fresno actually began hours earlier, when I and two members of the team’s front office staff visited three of the region’s most venerated taco trucks (the Grizzlies, as you may know, host an annual “Taco Truck Throwdown” promotion that has become of their most popular nights of the year). These corn tortilla-inspired peregrinations will be detailed in full later this month, but today (and tomorrow’s) Fresno-based dispatch shall remain focused on this particular Monday evening at the ballpark.
An elevated view of Chukchansi’s environs:
The above views can be obtained from the upper level concourse, looking out from what would be the first base side of the stadium. But as is my general tendency, attention soon turned inward.
The outfield entrance of Chukchansi Park opens out into a pedestrian walkway that leads to a variety of Fulton Mall retail establishments (or the ghosts thereof), and one of those retail establishments was Luftenberg’s Bridal. While not located in the stadium proper, the Luftenberg’s signage in left field is a distinctive Chukchansi characteristic and it will be interesting to see what becomes of it now that the business in question has re-located (after more than 70 years occupying the building seen in the above picture).
Accompanying me for the bulk of my evening at Chuckchansi was media relations coordinator Chris Kutz, a Fresno native who was in his last week with the Grizzlies before moving on to a job within Kansas State’s sports information department. I was glad to have Chris around, as he was a wellspring of local knowledge in general and Grizzlies knowledge in particular. For instance, he told me with pride that Chukchansi Park boasts this, the slowest elevator in Minor League Baseball.
When it comes to that elevator all you can do is grin and bear it (sorry, but there’s a claws in my contract that gives me free reign to make such jokes). We made it down eventually, and soon discovered that the scene at ground level was just as beautiful as that which had existed above. It was a beautiful day in Fresno. Amid the beauty, some early arriving fans had taken it upon themselves to snag some Grizzly autographs.
But who cares about players when Parker’s around?
I had actually scored an interview with Parker soon after arriving at the ballpark, a journalist coup if there ever was one. We touched on a variety of topics, most of them having to do with his presumed supremacy over all other mascots, but due to rampant fluctuations between the first and third person our conversation was largely unusable. These are the hazards that come with interviewing a mascot, who aren’t accustomed to communicating within the realm of words, but nonetheless I thank Parker for his time.
While he wasn’t the only mascot at Chukchansi that evening, he was still atop the bill. Duck, you sucker!
It’s probably a good idea to duck when I’m on the mound, as ever since throwing a perfect strike in Great Lakes my ceremonial first pitch offerings have been atrocious. Similar to Bakersfield, I overcompensated for my fear of bouncing it by tossing an ineffectual airmailed lob.
All alone in failure:
Parker, gracious bear that he is, nonetheless gave me the thumbs up.
My first pitch segued into the National Anthem, which was to be sung by Joe Price. Joe is a professor of religious studies at Whittier College and, as you may recall, he took a sabbatical in 2011 so that he and his wife, Bonnie, could traverse the Minor League landscape in an RV. Joe sang the National Anthem at over 100 ballparks that season, which he dubbed “The Anthem Tour,” and I wrote an MiLB.com feature story about it HERE (the ongoing Anthem Tour blog, with dispatches from these ballparks, can be read HERE).
“I always love for people to join in, and for the anthem to be sung together regardless of political orientation,” said Joe, in my aforementioned 2011 feature story. “This can, potentially, be everyone’s national anthem. And as a result it can bridge the gap between the Tea Party and liberals, between hawks and doves. Because, even though it is a wartime song, it was written as a celebration of freedom. The preservation of our freedoms is what lies at the heart of it.”
Joe at the ready, as the fans sitting in the Dugout Club suites behind him engage in an amateur otolaryngological exam.
Given the depth and breadth of Joe’s National Anthem knowledge, the Grizzlies had agreed to allow him to sing the song’s fourth stanza as well as the first. (Read the lyrics HERE.) Unfortunately there was confusion in the Grizzlies PA booth regarding just what it was that Joe would be doing, and most fans were summarily confused by his double-length rendition. Nonetheless, it was cool to see this lesser known portion of the song get a public airing and I hope Joe gets the chance to do it again sometime.
With the game almost underway, Chris led me on a tour of Chukchansi’s labyrinthian corridors. The Grizzlies, a Giants affiliate, were playing the Albuquerque Isotopes, a Dodgers affiliate, and this would explain one of the first things we came across: a decimated prop from one of Parker’s recent skits.
Parker and a camouflage-adept accomplice, hastily departing from the scene of their Dodger-bashing crime.
Parker was able to escape to parts unknown, but he didn’t exactly disappear without a trace.
As for the rest of Parker’s belongings? They can be found here:
All sorts of sartorial wonders lurk within this room.
— Benjamin Hill (@bensbiz) August 6, 2013
And let it be known: in addition to having the slowest elevator in Minor League Baseball, the Grizzlies can also boast of having the largest number of non-functioning industrial kitchen appliances.
Appliance graveyard https://t.co/i0DkGoZCE9
— Benjamin Hill (@bensbiz) August 6, 2013
Outside of the Grizzlies clubhouse, a series of motivational signs have been posted by the parent club. They are very well done, these signs.
Each sign features a player who exemplifies the characteristic in question. Here’s a closer look at “The Journey,” as personified by the long, unpredictable and ultimately triumphant career of Ryan Vogelsong.
But is that really the best quote they could come up with? Bochy’s syntax is exquisitely mangled: “Well, I’ve said so many times about Ryan is how impressive his perseverance has been through everything.”
After trying to process that tortured mouthful of inspirational managerial verbiage I needed a breath of fresh air.
And alright! A game was going on!
That’s my cue to end Part One of this blogging odyssey, and my promise is that Part Two will pick up exactly where Part One left off. Until then, thank you for putting up with me, reader. Well, I’ve said so many times about you is how impressive your perseverance has been through everything.
As you may recall, one of my recent Promo Preview columns included the following write-up:
Fresno Grizzlies (Pacific Coast League) Mini-Maker Faire, April 21
Maker Faires, in which creative individuals from a wide variety of disciplines gather to showcase their creative efforts, are described as “part science fair, part county fair, and part something entirely new.” They are gaining in popularity throughout the country, and on Sunday the Grizzlies will become the first professional sports team to host such an event. The event has been scheduled on a ticket redemption day for members of the Grizzlies “Wild About Reading” program in the hopes that the young fans in attendance will be see the innovation on display and become inspired to become makers themselves.
The inexorable passage of time being what it is, this unprecedented occasion has now occurred. Grizzlies media relations coordinator Chris Kutz sent along a recap and photos documenting the firestorm of creativity and innovation that took place at the park, so from here on out this post is in his hands. Take it away, Chris:
We had 33 makers and seven local high school robotics teams on hand to take part in Fresno’s greatest show and tell. Makers included blacksmith, 3D printers, woodworkers, “How To Make Beer” station, knitters, painters, and metal workers
There was also two Rube Goldberg machines created by some local students. While one didn’t work, the other one needed a slight push at the end to set it off. The result was the machine throwing a wiffle ball (printed by a 3D printer at the stadium earlier in the day).
We had a crowd of over 9,000 people at the game, with plenty of families who made a point to visit the Mini Maker Faire before the game. As some of the photos show, lots of kids were able to get hands-on with some of the makers’ projects.
We opened at an early time (12 pm, two hours before game time) to allow people to experience the Mini Maker Faire before the game.
The most popular attraction for kids were the robots. These robots threw flying discs and tennis balls into a hoop, similar to their competitions.
We are the first sports team to hold a Mini Maker Faire at a game, while we were also the first Mini Maker Faire in Fresno.
Ultimately, the event did what we set out to do from the very beginning: for children and adults alike to experience innovation and creativity right here in the Central San Joaquin Valley. These Mini Maker Faires are held worldwide, but we wanted to show our fans that the maker movement is taking place right in our own backyard.
Was this idea “out-of-the-box”? Absolutely. But hopefully, we created an experience everyone will never forget when they look back at attending Grizzlies games.
I am an unabashed fan of such “out-of-the-box” endeavors, and encourage other teams to follow the Grizzlies’ lead. And, of course, if you’d like to see YOUR team featured on this blog in such a manner then get in touch. It really is that simple.
Introductory paragraphs within this blog forum can sometimes be needlessly circuitous, steeped as they are in obscure references and acute self-consciousness. But not today. Today, we cut to the chase:
What follows is a comprehensive round-up of Harlem Shake videos produced by Minor League teams.
Yes, you’re probably sick of the Harlem Shake at this point. I am too. But let’s take the long view, as historians with an interest in baseball history, viral fads and the intersection of the two will no doubt delight in stumbling upon this post at some at some unknown moment in the distant future. I am doing this for you, future historians! I always am. For it is you who will ensure my legacy.
Plus, you’ve gotta admit — Minor League teams, with their easy access to supply closets full of banana suits and inflatable ponies, make better Harlem Shake videos than most. So here we go! In no particular order, here are two dozen Harlem Shake videos produced by professional baseball teams in possession of a formal affiliation with a Major League club.
Frederick Keys — Apparently a big-headed reincarnation of Francis Scott Key regularly sits in on front office meetings:
Columbus Clippers — Warning! Includes bear-on-frankfurter violence that may be unsettling to younger viewers:
Bowie Baysox — A toothbrush can’t dance? I bristle at such a notion:
Lexington Legends — Mister would you please stop punching that pony? WATCH ON FACEBOOK.
Vancouver Canadians — As if any proof was needed that this was an international phenomenon:
Fort Wayne Tincaps — A solitary pothead gives way to a banana who loves the queen of hearts.
Lake Elsinore Storm — Yes that is an upside-down squirrel hanging from the dugout, and yes he is happy to see you:
Corpus Christi Hooks — Can’t a man bike through the office in peace? WATCH ON MILB.COM
Tulsa Drillers — Hey, no dogs in the swimming pool!
Gwinnett Braves — Team store? More like surreal fever dream store!
New Hampshire Fisher Cats — Fungo and friends “rose” to the occasion:
Lehigh Valley IronPigs — Give peas a chance. WATCH ON MILB.COM
Buffalo Bisons — Vest-wearing gentleman on the right is my favorite individual to appear in any Harlem Shake video:
Charlotte Stone Crabs — What’s to stop the Incredible Hulk from wearing a sombrero?
Fresno Grizzlies — Forget this faddish viral bastardization. Parker knows how to do the REAL Harlem Shake. WATCH ON VINE.
Louisville Bats — This takes place in multiple dimensions simultaneously. It will blow your mind.
Bowling Green Hot Rods — I guess you could say that Axle rose to the occasion.
Delmarva Shorebirds — The Shake so nice they did it twice.
Springfield Cardinals — You know what? This is probably the best one out of all of ’em.
Round Rock Express — All bobblehead version!
Connecticut Tigers — Shout it from the rooftop!
And, finally, there are the State College Spikes. The first Minor League team to post a Harlem Shake video, and the last to be featured in this post:
Two latecomers have entered the fray!
Orem Owlz — Holly, the Owlz pregnant mascot, wisely sat this one out.
Myrtle Beach Pelicans — Fans of multi-colored crustacean triumvirates rejoice!
And that’s all she wrote, folks. “She” being me, of course. I am a man. A 34-year-old man. A man who is perhaps too old to be providing you with diversions such as the above. But yet I do, and yet I did.
Do not forsake me, future historians! I do not want to believe that this has all been in vain.
As this will be the last post of November, I may as well lead it off with the topic that always dominates this soon-to-be-expired stretch of the calendar: new logos. It was helpfully pointed out to me earlier this week that I had neglected this recent entry to the alternate logo canon. And what an entry it is:
This one’s courtesy of the Stockton Ports, who will sport this character on their cap during each and every Friday home game next season. The team explains thusly:
The Ports new logos honor Stockton’s heritage as the largest in-land port in California and the Asparagus Capital of the World. A new character, 5 O’clock Dock, is the centerpiece of the identity, brandishing his baseball tattoos and asparagus club.
My favorite line in the press release, however, is the one that notes that the Ports have become “the first professional sports team to use Asparagus green.” Congrats on that accomplishment, guys, but considering the team name and asparagus theme I am disappointed by the failure to incorporate an aromatic “P.”
In other California League headwear news, the Lake Elsinore Storm announced last month that they are now selling 20th anniversary throwback hats that commemorate the team’s original look.
The Storm’s current “eye” logo has long been one of the most popular marks in Minor League Baseball, and that logo can be traced back to designs such as the above. (The eyes used to be part of a larger “Storm” motif, see?) Perhaps that’s a lesson for other clubs — take a particularly striking element of your current logo, then isolate and amplify. Sometimes a minimalist approach can work wonders.
I’ve been posting less videos on this blog than I have in the past, partially because Twitter has become a good forum for that and partially because watching too many of them makes me feel as if my life is slipping away in slow motion right before my eyes.
But, that said, I wanted to single out this recent Fresno Grizzlies production because it is one of the best videos I have seen in quite some time. For one, it highlights a simple and memorable trick that should be part of every mascot playbook. For two, the production is great. (That is certainly not a given when it comes to team-released offseason videos.)
Was the fan who got his hat stolen planted there by the team? Almost certainly. Does it matter? Not at all.
And since I’m posting videos, how ’bout this? In Pensacola, the Blue Wahoos have transformed their ballpark into a so-called “Winter Wonderland.” That’s not easy to do in the Florida panhandle!
Skating rink, toboggan slide, jumbo board games, Santa Claus, and more:
Finally, I’ll close with the following: the basketball trick shot dudes of Dude Perfect visited Frisco’s Dr Pepper Ballpark because of course they did. All of human history has led us to this moment.
And that’s all I’ve got for today. I’ll see you in Nashville next week, should you be in Nashville next week.
I’ve mentioned it before, but it bears repeating: this offseason, I am writing a recurring column with the pleasingly alliterative name of “Ben’s Bookshelf.” Each column features a review of a Minor League Baseball-themed book, and there have been two thus far: the first took a look at Dave Rosenfield’s Baseball…One Helluva Life and the second ventured a gander at Katya Cengel’s Bluegrass Baseball.
Thus far the response to the column has been robust — at least when it comes to the number of authors seeking to have their books reviewed. I’ve received seven submissions in less than a month (and more are welcome), so clearly this is something that has legs. Or at least a spine.
But anyway! This is where you come in: I’d like to beef up Ben’s Bookshelf by including reader-submitted reviews of favorite (or perhaps not-so-favorite) Minor League tomes. These reviews should be short (no more than 300 words), but beyond that there are no real restrictions so long as the book in question has some sort of Minor League Baseball angle. Interested in having YOUR review featured in an upcoming column? Then simply send me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll discuss your proposal in a genteel yet not needlessly loquacious manner.
And, along those lines, I’ll be soliciting ultra-concise Twitter reviews as well, so follow @bensbiz and keep your eyes peeled for literary-minded missives of the utmost brevity.
Okay! With that bit of business out of the way, I’d like to briefly and belatedly follow-up on one of this past summer’s most interesting promotional endeavors. As you may recall, the Fresno Grizzlies held a season-long raffle for a most intriguing piece of baseball history: a pack of 1909-11 Piedmont Cigarettes, which could possibly include the ultra-rare and incredibly expensive Honus Wagner T-206 card.
The winner, announced on September 3 (the last home game of the season), was one David Tyckoson. So, what did Mr. Tyckoson decide to do with his prize?
“I’m not going to open it immediately, if ever,” said Tyckoson, in a press release put out by the Grizzlies. “One of the things I love about the sport of baseball is the history behind it and this is a part of that history. To connect back to something from that history is really cool.”
So, the mystery of what’s in the box shall remain just that: a box. Or, I mean, a mystery. What would YOU have done?
If you’ve got $5 burning a hole in your pocket, then there’s something wrong with your pants, the money, or both. But, should you be in Fresno at any point this season, then I nonetheless have a good suggestion as for how you should spend it.
Beginning last week and continuing through the end of the season, the Fresno Grizzlies are giving fans a chance to win nothing less than this, the most valuable baseball card of all time.
That’s the Honus Wagner T206, aka the holy grail of baseball cards. Estimates vary regarding how many were produced (between 60 and 200), and in recent years it has sold for upwards of $2.8 million dollars.
The Grizzlies are specifically raffling off a Wagner card, however. At this juncture I’ll give the floor to Grizzlies media relations coordinator Chris Kutz:
[W}e are raising money for our Grizzlies Community Fund through a raffle for an unopened, professionally-graded pack of 1909-11 Piedmont cigarettes….[T}his unopened pack of cigarettes could contain the “Holy Grail” of baseball cards depicting Honus Wagner, as a limited number of these cards are still potentially out in the public, somewhere to be found. While there is not a guarantee the Honus Wagner card is in the unopened pack, there very well may be other collectible cards from the T206 set inside the pack that are worth thousands of dollars as well.
Our raffle will run from now until September 3rd (Labor Day). We have our last regular season game on 9/3, and we will reveal the winner at the game, giving them the choice to open it there or hold off.
Raffle tickets are $5, and are available on the Chukchansi Stadium concourse during all Grizzlies home games. Proceeds benefit the Grizzlies Community Fund, whose various initiatives include the team’s Wild About Reading program and the Junior Grizzlies baseball league for youths with physical and mental disabilities.
And, as Kutz points out, the intrigue won’t end when a winner is named on September 3. Will he or she then open the pack in hopes of a Honus? Or would selling it untouched to the highest bidder be the wiser move? And, of course, there’s always the chance of some sort of KLF-inspired protest of the entire notion of commerce.
Meanwhile, I am writing this post while on the cusp of my next road trip. Once again, the itinerary:
June 7 — Oklahoma City RedHawks
June 8 — Tulsa Drillers
June 9 — Northwest Arkansas Naturals
June 10 — Springfield Cardinals
June 11 — Travel (should be in Memphis that evening)
June 12 — Memphis Redbirds
June 13 — Jackson Generals
June 14 — Arkansas Travelers
Please get in touch if you have anything whatsoever to share about any of these locations. And, if you plan on being at any of the games, then please make sure to say hello. I enjoy meeting people (on the road and otherwise), and say yes to as many invitations and recommendations as I can.
Therefore, this will most likely be my final post until Monday. And, from that point on, expect another deluge of “On the Road” content — both here at the blog and over on MiLB.com. Good luck and Godspeed, me.
The unveiling of 2012 promotions has not yet reached a deluge, but it has far surpassed a trickle. And within this intermediate zone in which we currently reside, one of the most exciting (and sure-to-be-copied) new promotions is this:
But the above photo, while helpful, doesn’t really do the promotion justice. Per the team:
The River Bandits are proud to announce, for the first time ever in professional sports in the U.S., a photo jersey auction to benefit local cancer organizations. Small squares in the Bandits players’ numbers are available for purchase, $25 each, to feature a photograph of yourself or a loved one who has been affected by cancer. The jerseys, which will be worn during the game on Friday, August 10th, will be auctioned off during the game.
I’m sure I’ll be covering this one as it develops, but for now let’s stick with the “Quad” theme and check in on a most distressing development in Lake Elsinore.
Thunder, the mascot for the Lake Elsinore Storm, had his trusty quad stolen from a stadium storage shed! This sounds like it could be a joke, save for the legitimacy bestowed upon the situation by a local ABC news team.
The video is well worth viewing — check it out HERE.
My extensive reporting on the above topic led me to the Storm website, where I discovered the existence of the “Thunder Across Time” web series. How had I not known? This may turn out to be one of the greatest MiLB team video series of all time!
More creative use of video from the West Coast comes courtesy of the Fresno Grizzlies, who are conducting their annual National Anthem auditions in a most unique fashion.
If you think you have what it takes to sing in front of the best fans in Minor League Baseball at a 2012 Grizzlies home game, then upload your audition video to the Youtube between Wednesday, February 8th and Wednesday, March 14th. Winners will be chosen by the Grizzlies front office with the input of the number of video likes on YouTube.
We’re still a ways away from having a mascot sing the National Anthem, but boy oh boy can they ever dance. The latest (and therefore greatest) example of mascot rump shaking comes courtesy of Tulsa’s Hornsby. Or, as I like to call him, “Bull-yonce.”
Funny that the video is called “All the Single Hornsbys,” as in actuality there appear to be duplicates. But at least Hornsby is a known commodity. Up there in Michigan, the Great Lakes Loons are dealing with an extremely mysterious situation.
So who really does know what’s in the box? It could be anything. Or, maybe, there’s nothing at all. There would be some precedent for that, you know.
It’s nearly impossible to comprehend, but I am writing this on a Friday and you are reading on a Monday. Whatever sundry delights the weekend had to offer have since passed, including that inimitable annual Sunday delight that is the Super Bowl.
Thus, the consequences of the following bet are now known to the world:
As the lone Massachusetts-based entity in the New-York Penn League (go figure), the Spinners have made the following wager with no less than seven teams:
The bet, vastly superior to the minute wagers made by city mayors, would find each team’s most beloved figure donning enemy colors for a home stand: each team’s mascot would wear the opposing team’s jersey during a homestand.
Now those are some high stakes! I imagine that some mascots would commit hari-kari before succumbing to such an indignity, but that’s just idle seppuku-lation on my part.
After writing that last line, it took a long time for the applause in my head to die down. Now that it has, let’s look at another team that found a way to commemorate the Super Bowl: the Fresno Grizzlies.
But nothing can top the Super Bowl efforts made by host city denizens the Indianapolis Indians, whose Victory Field environs were totally transformed:
Another MiLB.com dispatch of note (note: they’re all of note) emanates from Birmingham, as the Barons have broken ground on their new ballpark.
But that’s not the only big Southern League ballpark news. Pensacola has a new ballpark opening in April — it will house the Blue Wahoos, of course — and this facility has now turned on the lights. Here’s the view:
Meanwhile, in Altoona, the Curve are relying on a different sort of energy. This week the team announced that, as the result of a new naming rights deal, Blair County Ballpark will be known as “Peoples Natural Gas Stadium.”
This news sent Twitter all a-twitter (or at least my Twitter feed), with flatulence jokes a-plenty. But, lest we forget, the Lake Elsinore Storm have already staged the preeminent natural gas-related promotion.
And, finally — who wants to see a new logo? Anybody? Okay, at least that one guy over there does.
So here you go: at last week’s hot stove dinner, the Hickory Crawdads unveiled this anniversary mark.
Guess that’ll do in a pinch.
It’s a strange state of affairs when Major League logo unveilings are outpacing those from the far more pliable Minors, but what is life if not strange?
For in the past week we’ve seen new looks for the San Diego Padres and (more significantly) the Miami Marlins, while the only fresh identity to be unleashed in the Minors for 2012 remains the defiantly exuberant surfin’ Cubs of Daytona. This will soon change, as the Pensacola Blue Wahoos are scheduled to emerge from the tropical depths this Friday (for more on Pensacola, check out my MiLB.com piece that ran on Friday).
For now, however, those needing a Minor League logo fix will have to make due with this Lake County Captains 10-Year Anniversary insignia:
The press release announcing the new mark notes that The logo will be featured on limited edition merchandise available at the Cargo Hold gift store at Classic Park as well as on-line at http://www.CaptainsBaseball.com. Merchandise featuring the special logo is currently arriving now in time for the holiday shopping season. The logo will also be seen on all team-issued print materials produced for the 2012 season.
And, as you may recall, it was just last season that the Captains unveiled their new primary logo. That came amidst a month which I now refer to as Logo-vember 2010, as it also included unveilings from Asheville, Kinston, Wisconsin, Omaha, New Hampshire, Kannapolis, and Altoona (among others). What a memorable — nay, magical! — time that was.
But even pre-existing logos need publicity, and the Carolina Mudcats got a nice boost last week when a new character on the Fox show Bones sported a team cap. Apparently this fella was named “Finn.”
Another team due for some increased exposure via the star-making machinations of the entertainment industry are the Fresno Grizzlies. This past August scenes from an upcoming Billy Crystal vehicle entitled “Parental Guidance” were shot at Chukchansi Park. And apparently the filmmakers were so enraptured with mascot Parker that he was recently flown down to Atlanta in order to do some follow-up shots. For more, check out this interview with Parker in the team’s “Yardwork” blog.
But a mascot’s true place is close to home, of course, especially with the holiday season approaching. This is a most busy time of year, as amply illustrated by today’s announcement by the Delmarva Shorebirds that Sherman will be appearing in a whopping SIX parades. Can anyone top that?
And in perhaps even more exhilarating mascot parade news, the R-Phils mascot band has announced their first “in-motion” gig: atop a float at the Reading Christmas parade.
Quack the Duck is psyched:
I have no doubt that he’ll be the top “billed” performer.