Results tagged ‘ Great Lakes Loons ’

All Hallow’s Eve, All the Time

This post is being composed during the afternoon of 10/31/11 — what else can I write about but Halloween? This commemoration of the macabre is being celebrated throughout America, so ipso facto its being celebrated throughout the Minors as well.

The usual array of teams (Williamsport, Lake Elsinore, Bowie, et al) have turned their ballparks into haunted houses, but in some cases such an extensive effort isn’t necessary. As the Great Lakes Loons prove with this video, sometimes all you need is a mascot dressed as a ghost, holding an air gun.

But Halloween isn’t just about cheap thrills. In Lehigh Valley, the IronPigs held their fourth annual “Suites and Treats” event for underprivileged and special needs children. This is a cool concept, and to my knowledge the IronPigs are the only ones who do it. From the team’s website:

The event took place on the Club Level with the support of the IronPigs’ suite holders, who took advantage of the opportunity to decorate their suite so the children could go “door-to-door” for a unique “trick-or-treating” experience. In total, all 20 suites along with the outdoor PenTeleData party porches were decorated for Suites-n-Treats.

A few examples, from the team’s Facebook photo gallery:


One of the benefits of staging in-season promotions dedicated to offseason holidays is that said promotion can result in content that can then be used during the holiday in question. Make sense? No?

That’s okay. All I’m really trying to say is that the Fort Wayne TinCaps staged a Halfway to Halloween promotion and aired the following video during the game. And — bonus! — the video is once again fit for public consumption.

Meanwhile, in Trenton, the team’s concern regarding the dangers of trick-or-treating has manifested itself in a somewhat ridiculous public awareness campaign.

These guys have made a video. Click HERE to watch it.

The Wisconsin Timber Rattlers have made a new video as well. It’s not related to Halloween in any way, really, but notable nonetheless. Like life itself, this effort is an interactive game of skill:

Nice work on that one by the T-Rattlers. Similar efforts will help prevent offseason mental atrophy, the effects of which have already begun to be felt.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

10 From ’11

I’m as forward-looking as the next guy (whoever that may be), but nonetheless a longing backward gaze never hurt anyone. Right? RIGHT?

I sure hope so, because recent retrospective tendencies are continuing unabated with this: a look at some of the funniest/strangest/most evocative photos to have appeared on this blog during the 2011 season. It’s a feast for the eyes, so lather up those retinas and dive right in to the unparalleled visual extravaganza that is this post.

And we’ll start with one of my favorite recurring topics: Centenarian Ceremonial First Pitches! On April 7, Violet Smith celebrated her 109th birthday with the Great Lakes Loons. 109! I still can’t get over it. This woman was in high school when the U.S. entered WWI, and has lived long enough to see Franz Ferdinand re-incarnated as a British rock group.

Take Me Out…to the Ballgame!

DOB: April 7, 1902

Segueing once again from centenarians to sky-diving bulls, this picture of the Tulsa Drillers’ Hornsby remains my favorite mascot picture of all time.

The month of May provided what was probably the most famous picture to emanate from the Minor League landscape all year. Mark Gormus of the Richmond-Times Dispatch should be commended for this one, a thrilling snapshot of “Supermom” in action at a Flying Squirrels game.

Credit: Mark Gormus/Richmond Times-Dispatch

He’s not on the same level of heroism as “Supermom,” but who can forget Michael Restovich’s stint as “Cupman”?

Meanwhile, in Visalia, the Rawhide established themselves as the Cal League’s preeminent practitioners of age-based beauty contests. The winner of their “Belle of the Ballpark” competition was 96 years young, and very happy to have emerged victorious.

Photo Credit: Ken Weisenberger

The Rawhide’s Cal League cohorts in Lake Elsinore capitalized on the planking craze in memorable fashion. Here, the inimitable Grounds Crew Gorilla lays it all out atop an oven.

I don’t mean to pry, mate, but how’d you get up there?

Similar posture was utilized by David “The Human Cannonball” Smith when he was shot over the outfield fence at a Lowell Spinners game.

Have You Ever Been Suspended in Air? (Photo Credit: Jon Corneau/Lowell Spinners)

While it would be inconceivable for a player to be shot out of a cannon (at least in affiliated ball), sometimes they do find a way to participate in the promotions. One of the most enthusiastic was Frank Pfister of the Bakersfield Blaze, who gamely chugged away after losing a pre-game “Milk-Off” to members of the aforementioned Visalia Rawhide.

Photo credit: Chris Henstra/Visalia Rawhide

But humor can be milked from any situation. After the Boise Hawks misplaced their helmets prior to a late August ballgame, the team’s hitters were forced to borrow from the opposing Spokane Indians.

I’ll close this post with what may very well be the best photo ever taken of me, the world’s most self-loathing GREATEST Minor League blogger/itinerant solo traveler. Getting pied in the face atop a dugout while Mexican wrestling-enamored interns look on was a definite career highlight. The experience made me glad to be alive; thanks to the Akron Aeros for making it happen.

Minor League Baseball can be a beautiful thing sometimes.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Musing Mascots in Costumed Contemplation

For mascots, there’s no escaping the spotlight. These mute yet endlessly expressive characters are  the center of attention everywhere they go, and as a result they always need to be “on.”  Pictures are requested, high fives demanded, and antics expected. It’s an exhilarating existence, to be sure, but not at all conducive to moments of quiet reflection and self-analysis.

Yet such moments, while rare, do occur. To capture them on camera is an exhilarating feeling, akin to a landlocked bird watcher getting an glimpse of the elusive Red Phalarope. This is how I felt during a June trip to Lake County, when I was able to capture Captains mascot Skipper in a moment of introspection.

Feeling inspired by this rare bit of photographic luck, I asked readers to please send in introspective mascot photos of their own. This request was met with an enthusiastic response, and the results are contained in this post.

What follows is the most impressive collection of introspective mascot photos that the world has ever seen.

The above individual is Louie of the Great Lakes Loons, whose powers of introspection are far greater than the average bird. Soon after abandoning his dugout perch, he went into the stands and got the fans to join him in a moment of quiet contemplation.

Another city boasting thoughtful birds amongst its citizenry is Toledo. Muddy the Mud Hen is a voracious reader, and can sometimes be spotted at the local library with his beak buried in a good book.

Muddy’s literary endeavors have increased his powers of imagination. Back at the ballpark, he sometimes gets lost in thought while resting his left arm on a railing that doesn’t even exist.

As evidenced by the picture of Skipper at the top of this post, ballpark tunnels represent a good place for a mascot to temporarily escape from the madding crowd. Here’s Phinley of the Clearwater Threshers, patriotically pontificating.

Meanwhile, in Winston-Salem, Bolt takes a moment to reflect before instigating some between-inning hula-baloo.

They say lightning doesn’t strike twice, but I was able to get a shot of Bolt during my visit to Winston-Salem this past July. This one is perhaps less “introspective” than “fatigued.”

While in Winston-Salem, I spent time with not one but TWO blog readers who went on to email me introspective mascot photos. Matt “Possum” Campbell solicited this shot of the Danville Braves’ “Blooper,” who does his best thinking with left hand planted firmly on stomach.


Meanwhile, veteran Minor League wanderer Rex Doane sent in pictures from various far-flung locales. Our journey with Rex begins in Norfolk, where Rip Tide sometimes assumes a near-beatific demeanor.

Then we fly over to flyover country, with this behind-the-back view of Swoop of the South Bend Silver Hawks.

And, finally, we arrive in the modest environs of the Modesto Nuts’ dugout. That’s where Al Almond sometimes goes in order to escape from the nuttiness surrounding him.

Another thoughtful dugout denizen is Fort Wayne’s Johnny TinCap, whose demeanor is never crotchety even if his hobbies sometimes are.

Of course, one doesn’t need to be solitary to be introspective. Over the three seasons that the team has been in existence, Chopper of the Gwinnett Braves has established himself as one of the most empathetic woodchucks in the Minors. Here he is having an on-field heart-to-heart.

Chopper’s upright demeanor is in stark contrast to Millie of the Lowell Spinners. On the last day of the season, this canal-dwelling alligator went deep into her own headspace while sitting on a stadium bench.

Allie’s daughter, Millie, simply curled up in the fetal position in order to think long and hard about the season that had just transpired.

With this concept on the verge of collapse, it seems that I’ll have to call it a day. Of course, keeping sending those introspective mascot photos in. I am totally amenable to there being a second, third, fourth, and even fifth installment of this series.

There will be no sixth installment.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

A Light Drizzle, Soon to Give Way to a Downpour

“New logo season”, that robust time of year in which fresh Minor League team emblems are unveiled to a salivating public, generally gets going in October and peaks in November.

But I know that there is a certain segment of Biz Blog readers who just can’t wait that long, as they seek new logos with a rapacious intensity that can never be satiated. I’ll aim for temporary placation, then, by sharing three new marks that I have recently come across in my seemingly endless sedentary internet travels.

First, and most extensive, is this Studio Simon effort on behalf of the Daytona Cubs.  In 2012, the team will take the field in uniforms bearing these logos:

"Way to Poochie It Up", observed @bgipple after I posted this logo on Twitter.

The timing of this might give one paws, as the logo was unveiled at the tail end of the season and with little accompanying publicity (not even a press release). But the early, albeit low-key, unveiling has led to a truly anomalous happenstance:

The D-Cubs went on to win this year’s Florida State League Championship, and the merchandise features the new logo despite the fact that the championship team in question never wore it.

At any rate, it’s time to say a fond farewell to the club’s old bear.  This particular shades-wearing cub cultivated an air of studied detachment, and I loved him for it.

Permanent Hibernation

Meanwhile, the following news has emanated from far reaches of northern Michigan: the Great Lakes Loons will be celebrating their 5th Anniversary throughout the 2012 campaign, and a series of commemorative logos are most definitely part of the festivities. These quinquennial marks will be featured on “limited-edition merchandise, stadium signage, and other team-related items.”

Finally, let it be known that there is just one Minor League Baseball game left in the entire 2011 season — tomorrow’s Triple-A National Championship Game between the Columbus Clippers and Omaha Storm Chasers. That contest takes place in Albuquerque, but the 2012 version will be held in the impressive confines of Durham Baseball Athletic Park. The logo for said contest has been revealed and, quite frankly, it’s a load of Bull:

That’s all I’ve got for the time being, but in a few months you can bet your bottom (as well as your top and/or middle) dollar that we’ll be awash in new logos. It is the way of things.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

A Plethora of Elevated Pursuits

It’s important to stay grounded, but nonetheless it’s become apparent to me that this blog is over-reliant on terrestrial perspectives. In order to shake things up, then, today’s post will feature some aerial views before returning to Earth.

We’ll start things off in flyover country, as the Indianapolis Indians recently staged a pre-game stunt that was (almost) out of this world. A squadron of Navy “Leap Frogs” parachuted into Victory Field prior to August 16′s ballgame, with Rear Admiral Scott T. Craig throwing out the first pitch. What follows is the video of their practice run that afternoon, giving us a bird’s eye view of the arduous journey from air to ground.

Not quite as high-flying, but airborne nonetheless, are our fine feathered friends the Great Lakes Loons. The team staged their annual “Raining Money” promotion on August 5, in which $2000 in one dollar bills was dropped onto the field from a helicopter. This year, the mad cash scramble was preceded by an excellently-produced short film entitled “The Sleepover,” which segued flawlessly into the promotion itself.

Seeking to retain this elevated position for as long as possible, we now travel to Lakewood, NJ. On August 20 the BlueClaws held their annual blood drive, an event preceded by an awareness-raising stint of roof-living by the appropriately-named “Roofman.”

“Roofman” is also known as “Ryan Ragan,” COO of the Central Jersey Blood Center. He spent five days on the roof prior to the drive, which resulted in a prolonged period of local radio and TV news attention. Here he is, in quieter times.

91 people ended up giving blood at the BlueClaws’ drive; meaning that the Roofman’s efforts were simultaneously not in vain and “in vein.” Life sure can be funny sometymes.  And, yes, that was an intentional spelling error in the previous sentence. In the spirit of the blood drive I was attempting to be “typo positive.”

We’ll conclude by focusing on a team whose spacebound aspirations may soon come to an end: the Akron Aeros. This traditionally aerodynamic entity is currently staging an online “re-branding contest,” with voting continuing through September 1.

While the option remains to keep the “Aeros” name, other possibilities include Gum Dippers, RubberDucks, Tire Jacks, and Vulcans. All of these names allude to Akron’s industrial past, primarily its status as a leading producer of rubber.

While I generally like team names that incorporate local history, it is my opinion that the alliterative pizazz of Akron Aeros remains superior to the new contenders. Will the voting public agree? Do you?

For now, things remain up in the air.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Riding the Emotional Rollercoaster

Okay, it’s the season now. I have the same feeling as when I returned my favorite Pixar film to the video store: I can’t keep Up!

But I’m going to try my best, disregarding any adverse consequences to mental, physical, and spiritual health. I mean, who needs those things anyway?

Mrs. Violet Smith serves as an appropriate counterbalance to this sort of fatalistic sentiment. Last night, she celebrated her 109th birthday by throwing out a first pitch for the Great Lakes Loons.

109!

DOB: April 7, 1902

According to my records, this is the first centenarian first pitch in Minor League Baseball since the Round Rock Express welcomed 102-year-old Chris Nocera in April of 2009.

And while we’re on the topic of Golden Girls, it is well-worth pointing out that the Bowie Baysox are staging a Tribute to Betty White on April 16 (complete with Florence Dusty’s Muffin Eating Contest in honor of her recent appearance on Saturday Night Live).

The Baysox players are in complete and total support of this promotion, especially Betty White “spitting image” Xavier Avery.

Another team that is truly on top of its game when it comes to videos are the State College Spikes, who have just released a truly excellent preview of their 2011 promotions.  This is the very definition of taking pride in your product — if you’re not excited then who else is going to be?

The Spikes have also recently produced one of the funniest mascot videos I’ve ever seen (“You have not done one push-up yet!”).

Another humorous video of recent vintage comes courtesy of the Inland Empire 66ers, who are proud to able to “Teach Fans How To Snuggie.” Or, more accurately, “Teaching Them How To Fleece Blanket With Sleeves.” Click HERE to check it out on Facebook.

I keep delaying a quite-substantial food post that I’ve been planning, but in honor of the weekend here’s a pic of the Lake Elsinore Storm’s new “Filthy McNasty.”

Cue up the Alan Vega, this is Suicide

The team explains that This unbelievably big burger, which could feed four comfortably, is a two-pound burger stuffed with two hot dogs, bacon and cheese. It is then smothered in chili and topped with crispy onion straws.

But for now, the Storm have more pressing matters to attend to. Just hitting the wires is news regarding their upcoming “Sheen-Co De Mayo” night. According to the Associated Press,  The promotion upset the Inland Empire Council of the League of United Latin American Citizens. Its president, Joe Olague, tells the Riverside Press-Enterprise it diminishes a significant day in Hispanic history.

The news never stops, I tell you.  Never.

So you might as well get in touch with more. I don’t plan on living until 109 anyway.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Tis the Season For Blog Posts With Tis In the Title

191.pngWelcome to the 191st, and final, Ben’s Biz Blog installment of 2010. It’s been a year filled with love, laughs, and learning, much better than 2009′s alliterative noun triumvirate of ambiguity, ambivalence, and antipathy.

But now, like a timid jouster, it’s time to go gently into that good Knight. Before doing so, let’s take a metaphorical spin around the proverbial block in order to see how Minor League teams across the country are celebrating the holidays.

We’ll start with some photos from Fort Wayne’s Parkview Field, which is looking rather picturesque this time of year.

ftw_fieldsnow.JPG

ftw_tree.JPG

Despite this not being a good time of year for apple-seed dispersal, Johnny seems to be good spirits. Any row he sits in becomes a de facto “tinpan alley.”

ftw_johnnyseats.JPG

Later, he got all introspective in the home dugout.

ftw_johnnyintrospect.JPG

Moving from introspection to Inland Empire, the 66ers have put together a video chronicling their wokplace Secret Santa follies. The lesson here is that traditionally-sized clothing is anathema to the mascot race.

And, by the way, the 66ers have a new blog. Check it out. Perhaps one day the team will reach the blogging heights that have been attained by the Great Lakes Loons, who recently put together a mammoth photo-heavy year-in-review post. THIS is probably the best single post done by a Minor League team this year.

Meanwhile, the Williamsport Crosscutters put together an article in which former players share their Christmas memories.

crosschristmas.gif

The best Christmas recollection comes courtesy of Evan Porter: Last year I was with my family on Christmas morning, when I got a call from former teammates Adam Buschini and Jeremy Barnes. They both just called to say how much they missed me. Made me cry, and then Poppa brought in a baby Golden Retriever puppy.

And it wouldn’t be December in the Minors without a team-produced “Twas the Night Before Christmas” parody. This year, the Bowie Baysox got in on the action. 

If you would like to be wrapped up all cozy like the infantile team employees in the above video, then — guess what? — the Montgomery Biscuits have got you covered.

Naughty, nice, doesn’t matter.

And finally — mercifully — that’s going to put an end to Ben’s Biz Blog 2010. Here’s to a magical, magnanimous, and altogether marvelous 2011.

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

Unlikely Scenarios Amidst An Array of the Usual

Derek Jeter’s more-contentious-than-expected contract negotiations have led some to wonder if the unthinkable could happen, with the iconic Bronx superstar signing with another team.

But what if Jeter really wanted to defy conventional wisdom? What if he decided to suit up for a Class A Short Season Astros affiliate?

Well, that would look like this:

jeter.JPG 

The above visual was created by the Tri-City ValleyCats, and inspired by a tongue-in-cheek article in the Albany Times Union.

Why not, right? Stranger things have happened, although at the moment I’m unable to come up with one. What I am able to come up with is information on a completely unrelated topic.

A week after unveiling their new logos, the Altoona Curve have done a further bit of unveiling. This time, the uniforms:

curveunis.jpg

More info, and links to more uniform visuals, can be found HERE.

Meanwhile, I’d like to note that the Great Lakes Loons have produced the offseason’s first “snow-covered field” photo. Over the coming months, there is going to be PLENTY where this came from.

snowloon.jpg

 But if it’s plenty you want, it’s plenty I’ve got. Click HERE to listen to Gameops.com’s “Best of 2010″ audio roundtable, with myself as one of the distinguished panelists. Joining me in discussion was sports entertainment guru Pat Walker and Minor League front office free agent Scott Carter (the Cliff Lee of this year’s crop).

And thanks to Gameops founder Jon Cudo, who put the whole thing together.

gameopsbest.jpg 

That’ll do it for me today, but I’ve got big plans for tonight: Ozzy at Madison Square Garden!

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

Nuts On Wheels, Loons On Ice, and Baseball on the TV

During this slow time of year, you better believe that if a new logo comes my way I’m going to lead with it.

Today, that new logo is this:

nutsmash.jpg

The above mark will serve serve as the official logo for the 2011 California/Carolina League All-Star Game, which you now know will be taking place in Modesto.

Some background info, from the press release:

The logo pays homage to the annual Graffiti month held every June in Modesto in honor of the classic film American Graffiti by filmmaker and Modesto native George Lucas. The logo features the Nuts mascots, Al the Almond and Wally the Walnut, in a classic car reminiscent of the 1950s.

Ah, yes, The Modesto Nuts and American Graffiti. I believe I wrote about that once. It is also worth noting that the Nuts’ commitment to the films of George Lucas has extended to the Sci-Fi franchise for which he is best known. Observe:

But back to the matter at hand: the Logo. Like the previous All-Star logo discussed on this blog, it was designed by the wunderkinds at Plan B Branding.

And since we’re talking about 2011 events, yesterday I was heartened to see one of the first promotional announcements of the upcoming season: The Great Lakes Loons will be staging six nights in honor of the Detroit Red Wings.

hock.jpg

The team reports:

The series, a fresh spin on the Loons successful Tigers Legends Series, will include six Loons home games paying tribute to former Red Wings greats. Three of the games will include a visit from Detroit Red Wings greats and three games will include a commemorative bobblehead of Red Wings legends.

Sounds like a excellent idea, although one question remains: What’s the difference between a “great” and a “legend”?

Such questions can be put on ice, however, for there are currently far more pressing concerns in the world of sports. Questions such as: Where I am going to watch the World Series?

Fans of the Round Rock Express needn’t worry. In honor of their big league affiliate Rangers making it to the Fall Classic, the Express are inviting fans to watch the game in style.

watch.jpg

Sez the team:

The Express will be hosting a Watch Party for every game of the Fall Classic in the Intel Club at the Dell Diamond. Our luxury, VIP club spans nearly 4,000 square feet and offers more than 22,000 square inches of flat-panel TV screens,
making it the perfect spot to witness Rangers’ history!

Sounds like a pretty great Watch Party, if you ask me. I’m sure it will be better than the last one I went to, as I was pressured into a buying a counterfeit Rolex that broke four days later.

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

Chooglin’ On Through the Postseason

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for playoff_landing_hdr.jpgIt’s playoff time out here in the MiLB wilderness, and the necessity of cranking out here-today, gone-tomorrow playoff previews and features has led to an unfortunate lull in my blogging output.

But don’t despair. I would never abandon this blog, for it is has become my professional calling card. Without it, I would be alone and forsaken in the dot com universe, with no URL on which to hang my digitally-encoded headpiece.

Thank you to those who have decided to join me here. Since content leads to contentment, I’ll dispense with the chatter and get down to brass tacks.

I barely have anything left from the regular season at this point, but I do have this:

Way back in mid-August, the Lake County Captains staged their first-ever Harry Potter Night. Player headshots were altered accordingly, and Grover the on-field host dressed up as the titular wizard:

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Writes Captains director of promotions Jonathan Levey:

Classic Park sections were split up in to actual “Hogwarts” houses and the loudest and most enthusiastic house
(Hufflepuff 101-105) won prizes at the end of the eighth inning.

Contests were held for “Best Dressed Harry Potter Character” and there was a “Harry Potter Trivia Contest” as an On-Field promotion.

Harry Potter movie clips and music played throughout the game and individual Harry Potter headshots were
made for Captains players.

The winner of the aforementioned Trivia Contest received the “Golden Snitch”:

Potter_Snitch.JPG

Being ignorant of Potter minutiae, I first assumed that the Golden Snitch was something awarded to particularly helpful police informants. But, as is so often the case, one second of internet research was all it took to upend my faulty assumptions. A “snitch” is a walnut-sized ball used in the game of Quidditch.

I don’t really no how to make a smooth transition from the topic of “walnut-sized balls”, so I won’t. I’ll simply post a particularly entertaining Charlotte Stone Crabs commercial:

The club made a whole series of these videos throughout the season, check them all out HERE.

The Stone Crabs were defeated by the Tampa Yankees in the Florida State League finals. But there are still many teams who are currently in the midst of the postseason, with the front offices of these teams doing the best they can to lure fans to the ballpark. And sometimes, one’s best involves gesturing wildly at passing motorists while dressed as a banana.

Kudos to these intrepid Great Lakes Loons employees:

Loons playoffs.jpg

You drive me crazy, Minor League Baseball season. But I’ll miss you when you’re gone.

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

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