Results tagged ‘ Greensboro Grasshoppers ’

On the Road: Getting Grilled in Greensboro

To see all my posts from my May 6 visit to the Greensboro Grasshoppers, click HERE. To see all of my posts from my May 2016 Carolinas Road Trip, click HERE. To see all of my “On the Road” posts, click HERE. If interested in seeing posts covering a visit to a particular team, search for that team’s name in the blog search bar (it’s to your right). 

My regular readers are by now well aware of the “designated eater” concept, but since this is the first such post of the year allow me to provide a brief review:

During the 2012 season I was diagnosed with celiac disease, meaning that I had to adopt a gluten-free diet. “Gluten-free” and “ballpark food” have a minimal Venn diagram overlap, which led to a conundrum for me. How could I continue to make stadium cuisine a part of my coverage while I myself could no longer eat most of it? The answer to this query came from on high, entering my brain space as an idea fully formed.

The designated eater.

At each ballpark I visit, I would recruit a fan to consume the concession specialties that my diet now prohibited. This initiative started in earnest during the 2013 season, and as of this writing more than 60 individuals have bravely served in the designated eater role. In Greensboro, home of the Grasshoppers, that man was Alan Hand.

In the below picture, you can say Aloha to Mr. Hand on the left. On the right is his good friend Ronnie Higdon.

041Alan and his family — wife Kristina and daughter Elliott Rose (named after Pete) — moved from Oregon to Mooresville, North Carolina in 2002. Alan and Ron became friends as a result of their respective daughters becoming friends. The two men soon found they had a mutual passion for Minor League Baseball exploration, and estimate that they attend 30 games together each season. Alan reports that he has visited 67 ballparks, while Ron puts the number at “a bunch.” Included in this bunch is the South Atlantic League in its entirety, an excursion he underwent as a sort of 50th birthday present to himself. While not pursuing their Minor League Baseball road trip urges, Ron works as a theater teacher in Mooresville while Alan is a behavior specialist in the Rowan County school system.

“I was sitting in an IEP [individualized education program] meeting and there was a lull, and I saw your post about needing a designated eater in Greensboro,” said Alan. “‘Dude, I am so doing that!'”

So here we are. Our first stop was the Grasshoppers’ “Cheeseboro” cart, which features an array of grilled cheese sandwiches.

034 As a proponent of always selecting the most unique item on the menu, I suggested that Alan get the “Sweet-n-Salty” grilled cheese. He obliged.

035The above photo doesn’t really convey just how unique this concoction was (at least by ballpark food standards). The “sweet” came in the form of strawberry marzipan brie and cinnamon, with the “salty” component delivered via prosciutto and Old Bay seasoning.

Have at it, Alan.

Alan said that the sweetness of the cheese had a “rich, melty taste that took the edge off of the salt.”

“The cheese is melted right into [the prosciutto], it meshes well and has a nice finish,” he continued. “That’s the thing here [at Grasshoppers games]. These guys really know what they’re doing.”

After the grilled cheese, we headed over to a cart situated on the third base side of the concourse. There, a man obscured by beer cans could be found in the act of grilling sausage and its various accoutrements.

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Alan opted for a good old Italian sausage, topped with peppers and onions.  038

With sausage procured and picture taken, there was nothing left for Hand to do but transfer to mouth.

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“Oh, this is good,” said Alan. “You can really taste the pork. It’s got a good snap to it. The grilled veggies are awesome, caramelized with a little bit of sweetness. The bun is nice and soggy from soaking up all the juices. Good. This is so good. I would definitely get it again.”

A ringing endorsement, to be sure, and that just about did it for the designated eater portion of the evening. Alan and Ron soon went back to their spouses in the stands, noting that their attendance at this Grasshoppers game once again earned them “wife points” and that “we realize how lucky we are.”

Back home, Alan presumably enjoyed a nightcap in his idyllic screened porch. He later sent this photo along because, if you look closely enough, you can see that the porch is illuminated by lights placed within collectible Minor League cups. Fellow #cupdate aficionados, take note.

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Let’s also hope that Alan remembered to feed his dog, Bailey. The needs of a 2010 Kannapolis Intimidators “Bark in the Park” award winner should never go unmet.

image1And with that, we bid adieu to Greensboro. Durham is next up on the blogging docket.

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benjamin.hill@mlb.com

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On the Road: Day Turns to Night in Greensboro

To see all my posts from my May 6 visit to the Greensboro Grasshoppers, click HERE. To see all of my posts from my May 2016 Carolinas Road Trip, click HERE. To see all of my “On the Road” posts, click HERE. If interested in seeing posts covering a visit to a particular team, search for that team’s name in the blog search bar (it’s to your right). 

I never know how to start my second post from a particular location, other than to observe that “The game had just begun.”

So, here we are. It was May 6, 2016, the Greensboro Grasshoppers were hosting the Columbia Fireflies in a Friday evening doubleheader, and the (first) game had just begun.

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If you’re curious about what the NewBridge Bank Park videoboard looks like and who the game’s best-named player was, then you’ll find that this image simultaneously satiates both desires.

014The ballpark was largely empty throughout the bulk of the first game, as the majority of fans arrived closer to the originally-scheduled 7 p.m. single-game start time. Even the outfield concourse putting green, which I assume is usually swamped with aspiring Lee Carvallo’s, was empty.

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Putting Greensboro

A more expansive green can be found nearby.

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A commenter on my previous post remarked that NewBridge Bank Park has “one of the most underrated skylines” in Minor League Baseball. I’d have to agree.

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Miss Babe Ruth retired as the team’s batdog, but she still faithfully greets fans on the concourse during the second, fourth and sixth inning of every game.

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Mascot Guilford greets fans as well, from all sorts of ballpark locations.

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Guilford can often be found in close proximity to onfield emcee Spaz, whose voice sounds exactly like you’d expect the voice of someone named “Spaz” to sound like. Unfortunately — or mercifully, depending on your perspective — I don’t have any audio snippets.

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Spaz’s real name is Danny. Hi, Danny.

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Miss Babe Ruth may be retired, but the Grasshoppers still have an ample onfield canine presence. Master Yogi Berra takes part in a nightly game that, while a bit chaotic, is a lot of fun to watch. Team (and dog) owner Donald Moore uses a modified t-shirt gun to shoot a tennis ball to the outfield fence. Once Yogi gets to the ball, a child positioned on first base races Yogi to home plate. Hopefully this video will give you some sort of idea regarding what it is that I’m trying to convey.

Another nightly between-inning spectacle is the Neese Country Sausage Race, featuring Extra Sage vs. Extra Hot vs. Original Country. Each sausage represents a randomly chosen fan, with the winning sausage netting his (or her, if sausage can be female) corresponding fan 10 pounds of said sausage. I don’t think I’ve ever written a more convoluted sentence. Here’s a picture.

023If you want to learn more about Neese’s Sasuage, check out this — wait for it — LINK. I’d like to see a second set of racers appear at the ballpark, representing the more obscure Neese’s Country Sausage triumvirate of Souse, C-Loaf and Liver Mush.

The sausages were standing in the batting cage, which doubles as an in-game promo contest changing room and storage area. There are some groundskeeping supplies in here as well. Welcome to Minor League Baseball.

020The batting cage is close to the clubhouse, which serves as an in-game resting area for Master Yogi Berra and young Miss Lou Lou. In the below photo, Miss Lou Lou is in the cage labeled “Miss Babe.”

024Meanwhile, back outside, people were still buying tickets. Fans steadily trickled into the ballpark over the course of three hours, from the time the gates opened at 4:30 until 7:30 or so.

027Back inside, I spent a couple of innings talking with Grasshoppers’ “Speaker of the House” Zeb Vance and his father, Gil. The Grasshoppers mean a lot to Zeb, a developmentally-disabled 28-year-old, and vice-versa. I wrote an MiLB.com story about this relationship, which you can find HERE.

Zeb at May 6 Grasshoppers game and with team VP Katie Dannemiller.

Zeb at May 6 Grasshoppers game and with team VP Katie Dannemiller.

Zeb watches games from this vantage point, often interacting with the team’s players as they traverse between the playing field and the clubhouse. In the below picture, the first game of the doubleheader had just ended.

032The beginning stages of the second game were spent with my designated eater; those interactions will be the subject of the next post. Once that task was complete, I traipsed back to the tunnel (waving to Zeb, watching from above) and watched some more dog-centric between-inning endeavors.

Here we see Donald Moore and Miss LuLu, who succeeded Miss Babe Ruth as team bat dog.

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An inning or two later, Master Yogi Berra once again took part in his ball-to-the-wall race. He lost, but remains number one.

Now here’s something you don’t see every day (or any day): jeans for sale at a Minor League team store.

IMG_1119These are Wrangler jeans, specifically, because Wrangler is based in Greensboro (or, as the t-shirts in the above photo say, “Jeansboro”). Also of note: the team store is called the Majestic Yard because Vanity Fair is based in Greensboro and Majestic is one of the apparel companies residing under the VF corporate umbrella.

Enough with the facts. Time for a joke. This right here was my first groundbreaking and subversive ballpark joke of 2016. I imagine that you missed viewing them about as much as I missed making them (ie “not all that much”).

The second game, like all things this side of eternity, ended. I don’t remember who won either game of this Grasshoppers vs. Fireflies twinbill, but regardless it had six legs, wings and a short life span. With no baseball left to play, the players retreated through the tunnel and into the bowels of the facility.

IMG_1122I, meanwhile, took up residency in the home dugout and watched the postgame fireworks.

On the way out of the stadium, the exterior wall art inspired a well-timed Vine that I am particularly proud of.

And with that, my night at the ballpark concluded. Good night from NewBridge Bank Park.

IMG_1130And good night, Greensboro, as I then drove straight on to my next destination.

Hello, Durham.

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benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

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On the Road: It All Begins in Greensboro

To see all my posts from my May 6 visit to the Greensboro Grasshoppers, click HERE. To see all of my posts from my May 2016 Carolinas Road Trip, click HERE. To see all of my “On the Road” posts, click HERE. If interested in seeing posts on a visit to a particular team, search for that team’s name in the blog search bar (it’s to your right). 

My 2016 “On the Road” season kicked off on May 5th, 2016. Would you like to hear about how the day went? It’s really interesting. I got up early and went to the gym, as this season it is my goal to become the most physically alluring single male 30-something Minor League Baseball writer of all time. (I’m not sure who I’m competing against). I then took a green cab to Penn Station and boarded a New Jersey transit train to the Newark airport. After an Airtrain ride spent silently mocking the automated conductor’s pronunciation of “United” (U-knitted? Really?), I proceeded through security, got mad at how expensive airport food is, got sad at the dystopian check-out kiosks that are slowly displacing the American retail worker and, finally, boarded a plane to Raleigh-Durham. In much the same way that the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders are located in Moosic, PA, the Raleigh-Durham airport is located in Morrisville. Representing two places in your name while being situated in a third — now that’s covering your bases!

Please have patience while this introduction builds to an exquisite crescendo. In Durham, where the weather was miserable, I rented a car (Volkswagen Passat, for those keeping score at home) and then drove to Greensboro while listening to the first disc in the four-volume “Complete Road Music” series. (Red Sovine almost made me cry. Again.) Greensboro, being in close proximity to Durham, was also experiencing miserable weather and, in fact, that evening’s Grasshoppers game was rained out. No matter. I wasn’t planning on attending a Grasshoppers game until the next evening, where surely everything would be fine.

And you know what? It was. Everything is always fine. This was my view of NewBridge Bank Park the next morning. There was nary a tarp in sight.

IMG_1088After an afternoon spent in silent observance of my 37 1/2 birthday (aka “Halfway to 75”) I traipsed — yes, traipsed! — to New Bridge Bank Ballpark for that evening’s scheduled doubleheader against the Columbia Fireflies. It was a doubleheader because the previous evening’s ballgame had been rained out. Everything is connected.

On Twitter I referred to the scene below as a “quintessential MiLB tableau” and I stand by that assessment. The inanimate canines to the right of inanimate mascot Guilford are, I believe, batdogs Master Yogi Berra and Miss Babe Ruth (retired). More on them later.

001In front of the giant inflatable jersey one finds a memorial to Flight 93 flight attendant Sandra W. Bradshaw, a “caring friend and companion….who sacrificed her life to save others.”

002 From the home plate side, NewBridge Bank Park is considerably more imposing.

004I was met at the entrance by Grasshoppers VP Katie Dannemiller, who led me through the team store and into the front offices. Miss Babe Ruth, a daily ballpark presence even in retirement, was there to greet me. Or, more accurately, she was there to dolefully stare at me as I traipsed past.

005From the front office it was on to the concourse, where I caught my first-ever glimpse of the brand-new South Atlantic League entity that are the Columbia Fireflies.

In the above photo, one can see a new ballpark addition (Sunbrella Shade Zone Picnic Area) as well as new ballpark view apartments that are being constructed beyond left field. Though built over a decade ago, the area around NewBridge Bank Park is still developing.

In its own way, the view from behind the ballpark is pretty nice as well.

007The early-arriving masses, beside themselves with anticipation for a pair of seven-inning Class A ballgames, could no longer be contained. A brave member of the Hoppin Fun Crew (who, like the Reading Fightin Phils, eschew apostrophe) was ready for them.

010The concourse, which spans 360 degrees but does not offer views of the field from all of those degrees, sprung to life.

008During my pregame strolling I saw one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen at a ballpark. From my notes:

“Young autograph-collecting dad, wearing flip-flops, parks his stroller on the concourse and totally wipes out while walking down the muddy berm. His feet went right out from under him and he landed on his back. Fireflies players warming up on field let out collective ‘Ohhhhh!’ He was covered in mud and elbows scraped. Went back up the hill without getting an autograph.”

I don’t mean to be mean-spirited in laughing at this, as Lord knows I’ve had my share of ballpark bloopers. One time I threw up in a clubhouse tunnel toilet in Tulsa after over-exerting myself in an on-field human bobblehead contest.

Oh, say can you see that a game was about to start? My notes indicate that the anthem fireworks were not quite in sync with the words “bomb bursting.” This observation is followed by “I love MiLB.”

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I love MiLB and I love being on the road visiting the ballparks. Perhaps this is because “On great fields, something stays.” Take it away Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, whose timeless words of wisdom are displayed in this piece of signage immediately to the left of the main entrance.

012Chamberlain’s quote brings to mind the last paragraph of Jack London’s Star Rover, an influential text in my personal canon.

There is no death. Life is spirit, and spirit cannot die. Only the flesh dies and passes, ever a-crawl with the chemic ferment that informs it, ever plastic, ever crystallizing, only to melt into the flux and to crystallize into fresh and diverse forms that are ephemeral and that melt back into the flux. Spirit alone endures and continues to build upon itself through successive and endless incarnations as it works upward toward the light. What shall I be when I live again? I wonder. I wonder. . . .

Nothing is guaranteed, but before melting into the flux I plan on writing Part Two of this Greensboro Grasshoppers blog series. Stay tuned.

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benjamin.hill@mlb.com

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About Last Night: Greensboro Grasshoppers, May 6, 2016

This season, when I’m on the road, I’ll write an on-the-spot blog post about each Minor League ballpark that I visit. Then, upon my presumed return home, I’ll provide the multifaceted blog coverage that you have come to know and, perhaps, love. Let’s get to it, lest it get to us!

May 6: NewBridge Bank Park, home of the Greensboro Grasshoppers (Class A affiliate, Florida Marlins)

Opponent: Columbia Fireflies, 5:00 p.m. start time (doubleheader)

NewBridge Bank Park, from the outside: 

001NewBridge Bank Park, from within: 

013Culinary Creation: Sweet and Salty Grilled Cheese (strawberry brie cheese and prosciutto)

035Ballpark Character: On-field emcee Danny aka…

021At Random: Sausage racers

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Your Groundbreaking and Subversive Joke of the Day: 

Up Next: 

May 7: Durham Bulls

May 8: Greenville Drive

May 9: Charleston RiverDogs

May 10: Myrtle Beach Pelicans

May 12: Columbia Fireflies

May 13: Carolina Mudcats

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benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

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Opening Day 2016: Biz Blog Bouillabaisse

Oh, boy. The inexorable passage of time has once again brought us face to face with a new Minor League Baseball season. I, for one, am psyched. I, for two, have also been remiss in updating this blog over the past week or so. I have various excuses for this, of varying degrees of legitimacy, but who cares? The drought is over. New content — the lifeblood of the internet, the lifeblood of my existence — begins now.

As the title makes clear, this post will be a full-to-bursting bouillabaisse of delectable Minor League morsels. I’d like to start by noting that, over on MiLB.com, my first “Promo Watch” column of the 2016 season is now live. “Promo Watch” is a tweak on the old “Promo Preview” format, encompassing not just the traditional previews but also reviews and larger promo trend analysis. In today’s column, I highlighted a few 2016 promos that I am looking forward to. They involve previous planet Pluto, President James Garfield and pork roll.

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I’d like to think I’m writing the most consistently (and justifiably) weird stuff in the entire sports journalism ecosystem. But of a less weird variety is this Opening Day Guide, co-written with my colleague Sam “No, I’m not related to Lenny” Dykstra. Read and learn.

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Everybody loves dogs, so everybody will love this: Former Greensboro Grasshoppers bat dog Miss Babe Ruth has accepted a new position with the team.

In this capacity, Miss Babe Ruth (how is she not named “Babe Ruff”?) will “greet fans in the concourse during games and also advertise her new association” with a flea and tick prevention product named BRAVECTO.

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Last season, the Round Rock Express gave away an awesome Willie Nelson bobblehead. This year’s country music honoree is Mr. George Strait.
George Strait Bobblehead

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Remember at the Winter Meetings when I wrote about the complex issues surrounding drone usage at Minor League Baseball games? Well, that’s because, like it or not, drones are here to stay (and not just in the broadcast booth). This season, the Reading Fightin Phils are using them in an official context. This is the “Drone Cam.”

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During the offseason, the Lexington Legends partnered with a local school on “Stache Tank.” This “Shark Tank”-inspired competition asked students, working in teams as part of an economics unit, to pitch a promotional giveaway item as well as a ballpark improvement. Winning student presentations include a slap bracelet giveaway and the construction of a rock climbing wall in right field. Pretty cool idea.

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The Durham Bulls have announced that, on June 9, they will wear “the first Bulls uniform created by a company outside of the sports industry.” It was designed by Durham-based RUNAWAY, which is weird because it seems their focus would be all-caps.

PrintThe jerseys are modeled after the flag of Durham, with “DURM” in the center. DURM is a “term coined by RUNAWAY as an ode to the city’s hard-nosed history.” If you’ve got a hard nose then you should probably go see the durmatologist. 

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In my previous blog bouillabaisse I mentioned that the Sacramento River Cats had installed 472 solar panels and five SMA inverters at their home of Raley Field. The team’s environmentally-friendly endeavors continue apace, with last week’s announcement of River Cats Road Relief. This three-pronged initiative includes a carpool program, which enables cars with four or more passengers to receive free parking.

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New Jersey’s pro baseball scene has gone through some hard times, as three indy clubs have ceased operation. But their pain is the Trenton Thunder’s gain. On Wednesday, the team announced announced that Camden Riversharks, Newark Bears and Atlantic City Surf gear can be exchanged for a free ticket, food voucher and team store discount.

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 The Tri-City ValleyCats don’t start their season until June, but they’re still making good use of their time. On April 14, the team is staging its annual “4 in 24” initiative, in which four local youth fields are renovated within a 24-hour span. This is a great idea.

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I began with dogs, so I’ll end with dogs: The Inland Empire 66ers have installed Minor League Baseball’s first-ever permanent dog park

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Here’s to the 2016 season! I promise I’ll be announcing my road trip schedules shortly.

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benjamin.hill@mlb.com

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instagram.com/thebensbiz

Guest Post: I Wanna be Cupdated

As you may be aware, I embark upon yet another Minor League road trip this Friday. While on the road I strive to have a set of established routines, so that my content remains consistent from location to location. Blog posts, MiLB.com stories, photo galleries, hotel room reviews, player interviews and Designated Eater Vine videos will be provided this next time around, but for one reader that’s not enough. This reader, he wants more.

And what does this reader want, specifically?

Cupdates —  as in, information regarding the specifics of each team’s collectible plastic drinkwear accompanied by corresponding visuals.

This cup-besotted reader is Peter Golkin, last seen on this blog advocating for the “Universal Rain Check” (a guest post that resulted in a series of very thoughtful comments, though “the powers that be” didn’t see fit to respond). This time Golkin’s agitating is directed at me specifically, however, and I may accede to his demands if it is demonstrated that they do not occur in a vacuum. I now give this virtual floor over to Golkin, so that he may make his case.

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With the new season well under way and Minor League Baseball still heatedly debating the concept of a transformational, good-at-any-park Universal Raincheck (OK, that idea was completely ignored), attention now shifts downward–under the seats amid the soggy post-game detritus.

What Minor League Baseball fans want to know is: Which teams will bring forth the great stadium soda cups of 2013?

Besides the potential jackpot from a killer cap, ballclubs have no more alluring canvas on which to paint their identities than the 16- or 24-ounce plastic vessel now given by architects its own seatside suspension system.

Beer cups tend to be clear and generic for the benefit of security. But an illustrated soda cup begs for a collectable’s afterlife. Perhaps a spot next to the backyard hammock or snug in the minivan’s console. Even as a dipper’s cuspidor, the ballpark cup suggests longevity like few souvenirs can.

So what is the state of the MiLB soda cup in 2013?

Are teams going with thin, delicate models with high centers of gravity and pastel logos like those from Churchill Container Co.? Or are they opting for the thick and litho-friendly Dynamic Drinkware tumbler, like Greensboro did last year with its memorable “Grasshopper Gone Big Time” series? (Yes, they still called Giancarlo Stanton “Mike” but that’s what his superimposed signature reads and the cup was a keeper nonetheless.)

And unlike with official team headwear, money does not have to be a factor in the preservation and study of stadium soda cups. All that’s needed are patience and a willingness to touch someone else’s moist refuse. That’s why ballparks have bathroom sinks and free napkins.

As Rougned Odor continues to make his way toward Arlington and Eastern League clubs keep adding rival logos to urinal strainers, let us also pay close attention to those graspable plastic works of sports art and history.

And who can give us regular “cupdates” while on his pixie-like travels across America? Ben Hill, with perhaps some crowdsourced assistance from his much-intelligent and much-attractive readership.

We want pictures and we want stats (capacity, price of cup with drink, manufacturer, ads/no ads, dishwasher-friendly? etc.) Perhaps this is why Twitter was invented.

Regardless of the ultimate format, a regular MiLB Cupdate is long overdue in this, our unprecedented Information Age.I’ll drink to that and to memories of the man once known as Mike Stanton, Big Grasshopper.

So what say YOU? Should “cupdates” become a regular part of my road trip coverage? If the people speak, I shall listen. 

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Putting the Fun in Philanthrofunphy

From 50-50 raffles to jersey auctions to rappelling mascots, Minor League teams are well-versed in the art of raising money for charity. And, lately, some teams have taken their philanthropic endeavors in bold new directions.

Take the Sacramento River Cats — please — who last month announced that they will issue a $1 fine to anyone who spells their name incorrectly:

You’ve been warned: the moniker “River Cats” is comprised of two words, with a capital “R” and a capital “C.” Effective immediately, all members of the local and national media, River Cats corporate partners, full- or part-time River Cats staff, and season, flex, and mini-plan ticket holders will be fined $1 for spelling “River Cats” incorrectly.

All money collected will go to the River Cats Foundation, which has contributed more than $1.5 million in cash and $16.2 million in in-kind donations to the greater Sacramento community since 2000.

This despite the fact that the team’s Twitter handle is @rivercats — no underscore! — and their logo doesn’t really make a point of separating “River” and “Cats.”

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The River Cats’ initiative brings up a larger issue, in that there is a complete lack of uniformity when it comes to Minor League monikers. The Charleston RiverDogs do not use a space between River and Dogs, for example, while the Delmarva Shorebirds go the one word, no caps route. The Minor Leagues are a grammatical minefield, their team names as unregulated as a 19th century western territory brothel.

Another unique fundraising effort comes courtesy of the Greensboro Grasshoppers, who partnered with outbid.com in order to host a live online auction featuring team owner Donald Moore as auctioneer.

GreensboroHeader

Outbid is said to “combine the theater and transparency of live online auctions with social gaming features,” and its existence means that we are all one step closer to living in a Utopian society. Items that the Grasshoppers auctioned off included team-autographed baseballs, a night in a 24-person ballpark suite and, best of all, an autographed Willie Nelson jersey.

Finally, we turn our attention to the Lancaster JetHawks (who, it should be noted, recently had to postpone one of their games due to a haboob).

The JetHawks won the California League championship last season, and now fans are being given the chance to get a ring.

jethawks

Swiped from the press release:

The Lancaster JetHawks have partnered with two local little leagues to host a special raffle giving two individuals the opportunity to win an authentic customized 2012 California League Championship Ring. Proceeds from the raffle will be donated to West Lancaster and Quartz Hill Little Leagues.

Raffle tickets are on sale now and will be sold through June 10. Tickets will be available for $5 each, or five for $20….The winning raffle tickets will be drawn just prior to the JetHawks game on June 12. The two winners will receive custom-made rings personalized with their own last name during a special pre-game ceremony that will take place at a JetHawks game in late August.

And that shall conclude this blogging week, which was admittedly a light one. And when things are light on the blog it’s always a good bet that they’re correspondingly heavy over on MiLB.com Head to the site for Promo Preview, an Opening Weekend Crooked Numbers column, and three — count ’em three — pieces of content related to 42. 

I do it all for you, as “you” is what I have nicknamed my paycheck.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Everything Old Is New Again

It Is Happening Again.

Those words, spoken so hauntingly by the Twin Peaks Giant (click the link!), have been echoing through my mind recently. Several seemingly unique events that have taken place this week that in fact have precedent in the not-too-distant past. Let’s take a look:

A rather amusing story came out of Toledo today, involving the almost-but-not-quite theft of one of the bronze statues located behind the Fifth Third Field scoreboard. Here are the statues in question, photographed during my trip to Toledo this past June.

But, as the Toledo Blade reports, on Sunday night the girl in pigtails on the far left was reported stolen:

Mud Hens employee Ken Westenkirchner called the police and filed a theft report. The Arts Commission of Greater Toledo, which manages the city’s public art, prepared for a media blitz to publicize the heist and bring the perpetrators to justice….

What Mud Hens officials and the arts commission did not know, however, was that the little girl in pigtails was safely stowed in a police property room. In the early morning hours of Saturday, two Toledo police officers discovered the statue about 20 yards from its original location. They booked it into a property room for safekeeping, according to their report…..

Apparently, nobody bothered to tell the Mud Hens or the art commission. 

Later in the article, Toledo police speculate why the statue was removed in the first place.

Detective Tonya Rider said the bolts that anchored the statue to the sidewalk had been damaged. “I don’t know if it was a prank, if it got too heavy to carry,” she said. “I don’t know what the circumstances were. Maybe it was a case of buyer’s remorse.”

This saga comes on the heels of the near-tragedy that befell the Greensboro Grasshoppers last month, when the statue of iconic dog mascot Miss Babe Ruth went missing. Here’s a picture of the statue, in happier times.

Three days after the theft, Greensboro police caught the culprit and returned the statue (damaged paws and all) to NewBridge Bank Park.  Seeking to make lemonade out of this thoroughly sour situation, the team then auctioned off the returned statue on eBay. The winning bid was $1025, with the proceeds donated to the Greensboro Police Department’s Canine Unit.

Moving on the inanimate to that which is imbued with life, it is also worth noting that this has been a fertile week for player performances of the National Anthem. A YouTube of Charlotte catcher Adam Ricks playing the anthem on his guitar was featured in Tuesday’s post, and yesterday Altoona pitcher Phil Irwin belted it out at at Blair County Ballpark. Check it out on the team’s Facebook page.

Mr. Irwin

A more random and unexpected instance of history repeating itself can be found in State College, which recently had its second comical base-stealing managerial ejection in as many years. It would be near impossible to top the original, when Spikes manager Gary Robinson autographed first base and awarded it to a young fan.

Fast forward nearly one year later — to yesterday. This time the ejected manager was Leo Gomez of the visiting Aberdeen IronBirds, who uprooted third base and walked across the diamond with it before unceremoniously tossing it aside. Spikes first baseman Alex Dickerson then played groundskeeper, jovially returning the base to its intended location. Check it out HERE.

Finally, there’s Jerry “The King” Lawler, a wrestling icon who has become a regular on the Minor League Baseball appearance circuit. When he last appeared on this blog he was knocking out a cauliflower, but his current adversary seems to be anyone with the gall to steal a crown from a perpetually smiling fast food mascot. This one comes courtesy of the Frederick Keys:

Thank goodness for conveniently placed concourse folding chairs. I don’t know what Jerry would do without them.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

New For 2011 — Efficient Pigs, Generous Bugs, and Hard Working Hens

We’re in the homestretch now.

The four finalists in MiLB.com’s “Promo of the Year” voting have been determined. They are:

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Best Giveaway: Lancaster JetHawks — Robert “Hoot” Gibson bobblehead
Best Celebrity Appearance: Arkansas Travelers — Jose Canseco (vs. Gary Hogan in pre-game boxing match)
Best “Miscellaneous” Promotion: Birmingham Barons — Rickwood Classic
Best Theme Night: Fresno Grizzlies — Twilight Night

ballot.jpg

Congratulations to the above quartet – you are all winners. But the ultimate winner is yet to be determined! Vote HERE to decide the be-all, end-all Minor League Promotion of the Year. Voting runs through 10 am ET on Wednesday, October 12.

And that’ll be it — promise!

But that won’t be it for this blog post. I’ve got content, and I hope you’ll be content with it.

— First things first, the entity currently known as the Omaha Royals have announced the nine

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finalists in their “Name the Team” contest. Those who like names that evoke weather and/or cattle and/or Star Wars will be well pleased, as the choices are Cattlemen, Commanders, Force, Hailstorm, Omahogs, Royals, Sodbusters, Stormchasers, and  Windwalkers.

I have gone on the record before on this topic, and will do so again: My favorite is “Omahogs.” Not only is this moniker an efficient combination of nickname and place, but it also a nod to Omaha’s past. Between 1885-1901, the city intermittently fielded a Western League club called “The Omahogs.” The 1885 club went 4-24 before folding, replaced in the circuit by a Keokuk Hawkeyes team that included Bud Fowler (one of my all-time baseball heroes).

— Another recent announcement of note emanates from Greensboro, who announced their “Guarantee to Give” playoff pledge. If the team makes it to the postseason in 2011, then $100,000 (!) will be distributed among 20 charities. More info can be found HERE.

— But right now, the 2011 postseason seems so far away. Somewhat closer is Opening Day, which will be especially notable in Toledo. The Mud Hens have announced that their April 14 opener at Fifth Third Field will be a doubleheader, consisting of a pair of seven-inning contests. What an excellent way to say “hello” to the new season, and all the promise contained therein.

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I hope the above information met or exceeded your desire and capacity for Minor League news on a Wednesday afternoon in early October. Please let me know either way.

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

Making Concessions (With Your Pants On the Ground)

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

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

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

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

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

53burg.jpg 

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

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


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

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

Moving On…

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

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

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

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

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

fogenshroudment.jpg 

And with that, I bid you farewell.

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

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