Results tagged ‘ Fresno Grizzlies ’
The ides of March is (are?) almost upon us, and I’m not really sure if this is has any relevance to the world of Minor League Baseball. Nonetheless, the ides of March are (is?) inextricably linked with the word “beware,” and therefore I feel a nagging sense of foreboding and anxiety that I just can’t shake. In order to deal with this lingering angst in a productive way, today’s post will be a good ol’ bouillabaisse of Minor League news and notes. May this be a therapeutic experience for all.
60 Degree Weather Guarantees are a common Opening Day promotion, with the Indianapolis Indians being long-time proponents of the concept. Last year Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders president/general manager/chief of unwieldy job titles Rob Crain got in on the act in a most enthusiastic fashion, and in 2014 he’s taking things even further. Per the team:
Clad in floral orange shorts, inexplicable snorkel gear and a life preserver designed for a little girl while wearing a face of both fun and fierce determination, the RailRiders’ venerable top executive issued assurance that families and baseball enthusiasts will be comfortable when the gates open on April 10….But he did not stop there. Like most extremists, Crain took it to another level when he also promised triumph. If the RailRiders fail to defeat their nearby rivals from Syracuse? “I will dress up like a woman until we win,” said Crain.
Before moving on, I would like to note that “Inexplicable Snorkel Gear” should be the title of the next Guided By Voices album.
My colleague Josh Jackson, whose eloquence never crosses into grandiloquence, recently wrote a MiLB.com article about the Fresno Grizzlies “Farm Grown” program. (I wrote briefly about this program during my visit to Fresno last August.) “Farm Grown” seeks to highlight Central Valley agriculture as well as the Grizzlies’ role in developing “Farm Grown” players, and in 2014 there will even be an agriculture center located at the Grizzlies’ home of Chukchansi Park.
The Gar Tootelian Agriculture Zone, to be exact:
I mentioned to the Grizzlies, via Twitter, that “Gar Tootelian” sounded like something out of the Star Wars universe. They concurred, and hinted that 2014’s “Star Wars Night” promo would indeed have a Gar Tootelian aspect to it.
At this point, I don’t even understand what it is that I’m writing about. Time to move on.
Oh, wait, I’m not going to move on. Yesterday, these very same Fresno Grizzlies became the latest team to inspire an avalanche of lazy “greatest thing in the history of ever”-style hyperbolic internet rhetoric. Congratulations!
On August 2, the Grizzlies will wear Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle theme jerseys. Perhaps the Grizzlies’ version of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles theme song can go like this.
Giants Farm Club Fresno Grizzlies, Giants Farm Club Fresno Grizzlies, Giants Farm Club Fresno Grizzlies — prospects in theme jerseys, auction later!
Remember when I wrote about the as-of-now-theoretical Holiday League? Well, that entity welcomed a new team last month: the Rushmore Commanders. The Commanders have four primary logos, one for every president enshrined on Mount Rushmore. And they, like the Grizzlies, will also wear theme jerseys during their (as of now theoretical) debut season.
Okay, after my latest and therefore greatest blogging exercise I feel considerably more relaxed. But for how long? The ides of March are just four days away.
In yesterday’s post on the West Michigan Whitecaps, I speculated that their Facebook update in the aftermath of Friday’s stadium fire was the most liked and shared Facebook update in the history of Minor League Baseball. Continuing on this speculative line of social media-centric thought, it is also likely that the most popular tweet in the history of Minor League Baseball occurred just last month.
It all began on Tuesday, December 3, when the Sacramento River Cats sought to fill some offseason down time by engaging fans in an “ask us anything” discussion. This prompted their Pacific Coast League rivals the Reno Aces to posit a somewhat snarky question, and within a quarter hour the River Cats responded in devastating fashion:
.@aces River Cats are aquatically inclined felines with extremely flexible necks, developed from looking down at Reno in the standings.
— River Cats (@RiverCats) December 4, 2013
Oooh, burn! And, as burns are wont to do, it soon spread like wildfire throughout the Twittersphere and then the internet in general. Retweet upon retweet soon inspired a number of regional and national blog posts, amusing innumerable individuals along the way. I expected the Aces, egos bruised, to retort in kind but instead they took a “you’ve won the battle, but not the war” stance and humbly retreated into the background.
The background is where this feud remained, until the River Cats decided to end 2013 by gloating anew.
— River Cats (@RiverCats) December 31, 2013
This time, the Aces couldn’t stay silent.
— Reno Aces (@Aces) December 31, 2013
And on and on it went, a tit for tat diss battle in which no clear winner emerged. Click HERE to read the whole back and forth, but please know that it ended with the Aces’ referencing the “worst bobblehead of all time.”
— Reno Aces (@Aces) December 31, 2013
As mentioned, the above Twitter battle gained some notoriety not just within Minor League Baseball but within the sports universe at large. But the River Cats take on all comers, as evidenced by this far-less publicized battle that took place with the Fresno Grizzlies on December 19. This one was started by Parker, the Grizzlies mascot, in response to an innocuous question from a local radio station.
— Parker B (@TheRealParkerB) December 19, 2013
Oh, Parker, why did you do that? Did you really think you’d get away it? Cue debilitating River Cats comeback in 3…2…1…
— River Cats (@RiverCats) December 19, 2013
Parker’s ensuing retort wasn’t much to speak of (Sorry Parker, just keepin’ it real), but the Grizzlies jumped in with a parting shot. The lesson here is: when beefing with the Sacramento River Cats on Twitter, and at a loss for words, simply mention “the worst bobblehead of all time.”
— Fresno Grizzlies (@FresnoGrizzlies) December 19, 2013
At the end of the day, Twitter wars are stupid. But aren’t most things? And Twitter wars are not only stupid, they’re entertaining as well. So I guess what I’m saying is this: if you’re a Minor League Baseball team, go ahead and tweet something insulting at one of your league rivals. I’ll be glad you did.
Part One of this Fresno saga featured slow elevators, neglected stanzas, mascot wardrobes and deceased appliances. It was a masterwork, in other words, and like all masterworks it is bound to be neglected until long after I, its creator, have shuffled off of this mortal coil and back into the flux. I accepted this fate long ago and am at peace with it, having learned to still the superfluous concerns of the raging ego within the infinite beauty of the eternal present.
And speaking of infinite beauty, on the evening in which I was in town Chukchansi Park and its immediate surroundings were positively radiant.
I took these pictures from a perhaps not-so radiant area of the ballpark, as Grizzlies media relations coordinator Chris Kutz and I were wandering in and around Chuckchansi’s obscure backroads.
Gotta love it!
The Grizzlies are the most prominent occupants of Chukchansi Park, but they’re not the only ones. The Fresno Fuego soccer team plays in the facility as well, and when they do they play upon an uncoiled iteration of this massive turf lollipop.
Beyond the tarp lies glorious piles of detritus, and beyond the detritus lurks an orange-shirted team employee tasked with operating the manual right field scoreboard.
But this team employee is not alone among the debris. He’s got these guys to keep him company.
Perhaps the cats know what this vehicle is used for, because none of the humans I talked to had any idea.
And finally, there is this.
I don’t know what “C.B.T.” stands for, but I do know that visiting clubhouse manager Joe Castillo smokes ribs in this thing at the end of a homestand and then serves said ribs as the centerpiece of a post-game meal. My guess is that Mr. Castillo receives better-than-average tips for his efforts, and between him and the legendary tacos often prepared by head groundskeeper David Jacinto it is apparent that the Grizzlies are among the best post-game food providers in the PCL.
While I was loathe to leave the ramshackle charm of the Grizzlies’ storage area, Chris and I soon proceeded to the outfield area proper. Again, let it be said that it was a beautiful night in downtown Fresno.
In the outfield one can find the “Grizzlies Garden,” created and cultivated by the 2013 graduating class of downtown Fresno’s Acel Charter School (located the proverbial “hop, skip, and a jump” away from the stadium).
The school year was over and the garden’s best days were behind it, but the students had grown the likes of apples, corn, strawberries, lettuce, tomatoes, oxford commas, and chard. This project was under the umbrella of the Grizzlies “Farm Grown” program.
“We’re trying our best to tie in [the Central Valley’s] agriculture industry and community with the Grizzlies,” said Chris. “We’re all farm grown. The players are farm grown through the Giants system and we in Fresno are farm grown because so much of our food is grown here locally.”
Chris went on to explain that the high school garden was the beginning of a much larger project, as the Grizzlies are seeking to “tie in the farming community with our urban environment.” To this end, they’ll soon be turning this expanse of outfield area dirt into a garden featuring demonstration plots of prominent local crops.
Also tied in with the “Farm Grown” initiative is this very cool recurring promo advertised on the concourse.
Chukchansi Park was built in 2002, just before what Chris called “the berm rage,” and as such there isn’t a lot of berm seating.
But there is a small berm area that surrounds the pool, the centerpiece of a private outfield group area available for rental on a per-game basis. At this moment in time the life guard had no lives to guard, thus calling into question the essential premise behind her reason for being.
(And, for the record, the last Grizzlies player to have achieved a so-called “Splash Hit” was Cole Gillespie this past June.)
And when the focus finally moves from the food to the field, let it be known that the view is spectacular (not-so spectacular: the sound of the stadium PA blaring from directly above).
When Chukchansi Park was built, one of the guiding principles behind it was that people would come in and out of the park via downtown Fresno. Hence, this prominent outfield entrance that connects the park with Fulton Mall’s pedestrian walkway.
Unfortunately, it hasn’t quite worked out the way that its planners intended. The pedestrian walkway is well maintained and public art can be found throughout, but most of the storefronts are empty. Even though there was a game going on at the time, there was no signs of additional life outside the stadium.
Given the state of Fulton Mall, it’s easy to interpret the above statue as a cry of frustration. A feeling of “what should’ve been” pervades, as this seems like a perfect area for the usual array of bars, restaurants, retail establishments and refurbished theaters and concert halls that play such a major role in downtown revitalization projects. I don’t know the factors that have led to Fulton Mall’s current air of desolation, but Chris told me that “parking is a big issue and one of the reasons that this hasn’t worked. The lot for season ticket holders is on the other side of the ballpark, and they have no reason to walk through here.”
As I mentioned in the last post, Chris is a Fresno native and this was his last homestand as a Grizzlies employee before moving on to a job within Kansas State’s sports information department. He loves his hometown and wants to be a part of its long-term success, but also felt that he had no choice but to leave.
“Growing up I always heard about Fresno’s ‘brain drain’ and was told to get out, to leave while you can,” he said. “I guess [succeeding in Fresno is] too tall of a mountain to climb sometimes. A lot of my heart and soul is in this stadium and a lot of my heart and soul is in this downtown. But if you can’t create an environment for someone like me to make a difference then you’re going to face this problem.”
This moment of poignant pondering complete, Chris and I wandered back into the stadium and through the concourse on the third base side. On this particular Monday there was plenty of room to move.
It was also quiet outside of the stadium’s front entrance.
But during busy nights, the above area is anything but empty. Here’s the scene at this year’s “Taco Truck Throwdown,” which attracted more than 14,000 fans. (And, yes, as I mentioned in the last post: this month will not end without me producing some taco-related Fresno Grizzlies content).
There’s also a carousel outside of the stadium.
Beware! Terror monkey resides therein.
But why focus on primate horror on such a beautiful evening? At this particular moment in space and time the ballpark atmosphere was idyllic.
Given the taco-related activities that had taken place earlier in the day (again, I will be writing about this), getting some food during the game itself had become a bit of an afterthought. But the show must go on, and the Grizzlies had recruited three fans to serve as the evening’s “Designated Eaters” (you know, those who consume the ballpark delicacies that my gluten-free diet prohibits).
From left to right, meet Derek Pharis, Joel Medina, and Jace LeVasser. The three all went to high school together in Porterville, CA (located about an hour south from Fresno), and Derek and Joel are now attending Fresno State.
Jace quickly emerged as the star of the show because, well, Jace really liked this giant hot dog.
“It has a lot of flavor and is very delicious, but I did not feel dignified while eating it. I think a piece of me died inside,” said Jace. “I’d probably order it again.”
Derek and Joel were presented with Dinger Dogs, in which the frankfurter is butterflied open and topped with pulled pork onions, peppers and (optional) cole slaw.
Have at it, guys.
Attacking the Dinger Dog Fresno Grizzlies https://t.co/eFJgdj5hqA
— Benjamin Hill (@bensbiz) August 6, 2013
This thing got absolutely rave reviews from Derek and Joel, although this was mostly conveyed via raised eyebrows, incredulous stares, and thumbs-up gestures.
“I thought that food here was just nachos and pizza,” said Joel.
“Me too,” said Derek. “I had no idea that [the Dinger Dog] was here, but I’m definitely glad that I found it.”
I thanked Derek, Joel, and Jace for their service and soon I was on my way. Sun or no sun, the atmosphere remained beautiful.
At this late juncture in the ballgame the player’s headshots had morphed into an advertisement for California’s premier fast food establishment.
And speaking of Animal Style, Chris and I soon found ourselves under attack.
But it would have taken more than an onslaught of silly string to impede our progress. Soon enough we were within the relative safety of the Grizzlies’ front office.
Would you believe that Parker has his own desk? It’s true, and it’s easy to tell which one is his.
One of these things is not like the other. Fresno Grizzlies https://t.co/GGkwM89lYv
— Benjamin Hill (@bensbiz) August 6, 2013
Fun is guaranteed, and brainstorming encouraged.
With the concession stands about to close, it suddenly occurred to be that I had neglected to provide a stadium #cupdate. A certain subset of my readership craves such things, and on this particular trip I did not do a good job when it came to providing regular cupdates. I apologize, but one day it will please us to remember even this.
My last act at Chukchansi was to interview Dan and Milana Shydler, a pair of loyal and enthusiastic Grizzlies fans who bring dozens of homemade signs to each and every game. I wrote an article about them for MiLB.com, which you can and should read HERE.
These sentiments are most apropos: Bye Bye Baby, and good night from Chukchansi Park! Before closing the book on my visit to Fresno, I’ll leave you with these words of wisdom.
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.