Results tagged ‘ Guest Post ’
You may recall last month’s post from Lehigh Valley, in which I attended an IronPigs game with five friends (no media pass for me that evening, I stayed strictly in “fan mode”). One of the friends who took in this contest was Steve May, a Brooklyn-based English teacher with a penchant for photography, the works of Tyson Meade and, of course, the written word. In the following post, Mr. May provides an account of his inaugural IronPigs experience. All words and photos are his.
Finally, a Ben’s Biz Blog post free from the tyrannical perspective of the titular protagonist! Enjoy the brief respite:
A few Fridays ago, I attended a Lehigh Valley IronPigs game with my friend Ben, the man behind this fine Minor League Baseball business blog. The game was part of a yearly trip that Ben, me, and some other friends of ours make to the wilds of the northeastern fourth of Pennsylvania. The trip is part escape and part homecoming, as most of us are longtime New Yorkers originally from Pennsylvania; for summer to feel like summer, we need to get out on the road somewhere, go on roller coasters and dark rides, eat soft-serve and kettle corn, and be around baseball. What better place to achieve close proximity to the National Pastime than Coca-Cola Park in Allentown?
Please forgive the fact that I didn’t really take any other photos for the first few innings. There were nachos grande and beer to be devoured and inhaled, respectively. Also I found myself roped into participating in a spirited between-inning round of Whack-an-Intern. Faced with wardrobe malfunctions, a partisan crowd, uncooperative intern heads, and formidable competition in the form of my good friend Beth, I came up a mere three whacks short of a tie. Afterwards, some interns alleged rough treatment on my part. (Ask yourself this question: If you were in my shoes, up against the considerable odds with which I was faced, would you tap softly or go hard? Yeah, that’s what I thought.)
Still reeling from my defeat, looking to put the sting behind me with the help of an adult beverage, I headed in the direction of the outfield Paradise. On the way, I was surprised to find one of the interns whose head I had too vigorously whacked charming the ladies with a blue puppet with baseball eyes. The intern attempted to charm me, too, but I turned the tables on him and tricked him/the puppet into posing for a face-in-hole photograph.
(ed. note: this whacked intern is none other than Ben “Utility Man” Youngerman, a talented and versatile touring ballpark performer who is no stranger to this blog.)
Following the arrows, I moved past the baseball-themed kiddie-land type situation on the concourse along the third-base line to left field, where Paradise awaited. As if taking in a game at a beautiful Minor League ballpark on a pleasant summer Friday evening following a day spent touring the Martin Guitar Factory for free, scoring ludicrously cheap 70’s-sleaze-era Rolling Stones albums at Double Decker Records, and bowling (!) were not enough.
Margarita or sangria? Should sangria come frozen? Does frozen sangria even count as sangria? Wouldn’t a mai tai be more appropriate? These were my concerns as I weighed the options at the Tiki Hut in Paradise. I eventually settled on sangria; it was the least fluorescent and what I think I secretly wanted in the first place (flip a coin and if you’re disappointed with the result…). The hut, with the obligatory faux-thatched roof, accented with fake palm trees and unlit torches, had all the standard tiki bases covered. Paradise? On a game night in summer, not too far off.
Frozen cocktail in hand, I proceeded to the lawn overlooking center field, where I observed a large number of Boy/Cub Scouts/Webelos; evidently, it was Scout Sleepover Night. My anonymity compromised by my very public and still stingingly recent defeat in Whack-an-Intern, I was confronted by more than one well-meaning uniformed tween. I endured their chidings and constructive criticism with the humility of a man more accustomed to defeat than I am typically willing to accept I am.
At this point, from the field, the Human Bobblehead Game was announced. I looked up at the scoreboard behind me, and there, with pedometers strapped onto their heads, were the aforementioned Ben and Shal. That Ben, who last year logged a million steps on his pedometer [ed. note: the editor logged FOUR million steps on his pedometer], should now find himself in such a situation was completely appropriate; given this familiarity with the quirks of the ‘dometer, he was my pick to win. Shal, though, had an ace in the hole in his status as an unreformed head banger, and proved that he had the fire/desire to win.
What was there to do now but get something else to eat? Moving hurriedly past the speed pitching booth (I didn’t trust the tween hurlers when I was myself a tween), I made my way up the first base line to what has to be one of the most complete food courts in the Minor Leagues. Pretzels? Check. Pizza? Si. Both ice cream and Dippin’ Dots? All these are standard. Steel mill-themed Blast Furnace Grill? Gyros? German-themed beer garden? Truly, Coca-Cola Park has it all. For a New Yorker engaged in the self-conscious search for the lost Pennsylvania August of his youth, all roads necessarily led to “Aw Shucks” Roasted Corn. Four dollars later, I held in my hands a golden ear literally glistening with butter, parm, and spice. After posing with a nearby IronPig, I tore through the corn with the reckless abandon of a man in the grips of acute culinary nostalgia. It was sweet as summer.
Back in the best seats in the house, with the IronPigs holding a commanding 6-0 lead over the visiting Syracuse Chiefs, we were paid a visit by mischievous IronPigs co-mascot FeFe (named after the, you know, symbol for iron on the Periodic Table). In what could only be described as a three-minute thunder run through our section, FeFe sat on laps, climbed over seats, posed for photos, flirted with nonplussed spectators, and otherwise wreaked havoc as only a giant ponytailed anthropomorphic pig can.
How else could such a front-to-back perfect evening have ended but with fireworks? Collectively, the pyrotechnic bursts of molten color served as a reminder that this had been, not just for my crew, a great night. In Allentown as in New York, summer is as fleeting as lights in the night sky over center field. A good idea then to take it in, savor it before it has passed. When, months from now, the wind is bitter cold and all the world seems to be covered with an inch and a half of snow, there will be preserved in the middle distance of our memories a time and place more temperate and pleasant, populated with tiki huts and mascots and surprisingly competitive mid-inning contests. A night at the ballpark.
And thus concludes this guest post; thanks to Steve for taking the time to write it. I am generally amenable to handing this blog over to others, so if you would like to pen a guest post of your own then please get in touch and perhaps something can be arranged. Said post can cover a ballpark experience, share a specific Minor League memory, or advance ideas and initiatives that you’d like to see the industry take under consideration.
I have more “On the Road” content to come — from last month’s trip down South and last week’s jaunt to Lowell — but, for now, how about something completely different? Loyal reader Pete Golkin is a proponent of an idea that I had never heard of before and, for all that I know, he invented: a universal Minor League Baseball raincheck.
The impetus for the idea is simple. Golkin, like myself (and surely many of my readers) loves visiting Minor League ballparks throughout the country. But when attending games in this context, rain checks are useless. When, if ever, will the traveling fan be able to return to the stadium in question in order to redeem them? Golkin, therefore, wants teams to issue industry-wide rainchecks that are redeemable at any Minor League stadium. This would certainly take some bureaucratic finagling, and I’m really not sure how feasible it would be. But I like the idea, and in response to Golkin’s request that I promote the idea I did him one better. I simply asked him to write the post himself.
So here we go! A poignant plea for the Universal Rain Check, written by loyal Minor League Baseball fan Pete Golkin in the form of a humorous essay:
I finally used my Williamsport Crosscutters rain check. Actually the wife deserves credit. Heading out early a few Sundays ago, she plucked the humble scrap from a kitchen shelf and inscribed these words on the back: “Please use MANGO for bkfst.”
A forgettable detour on The Road to The Show but a victory for Vitamins A, C and B6.
And that’s the problem. If your summer travel includes Priceline, tolls, a dose of the local culture (battlefields, snacks on conveyor belts, robot tobacco farmers) and a nightly topping of Minor League Baseball, ol’ Mr. Rain Check will likely land in your wallet but only to die there.
In the case of Williamsport, who could complain? We had already soaked up a day of the Norman Rockwellness that is the Little League World Series on the town’s south end. And a third ballgame in 7 hours, even one featuring post-pubescent pros, was testing the limits of an 11-year-old and an 8-year-old jonesing for motel Nickelodeon.
Still, we waited two hours in the heavy night drizzle. The Crosscutters and Muckdogs never got past their dugouts and we left “Historic Bowman Field” —4 hours from our old Virginia home—knowing we were done there for the season. Moosic and Harrisburg were calling, to be followed by a new school year.
But what if that rain check wasn’t limited to Williamsport? What if I could have used it the next night in the next park down the road? For that matter, how about anywhere in Minor League ball for the rest of the year?
Call it the “Universal Rain Check” and bask in the resulting goodwill, MiLB.
OK, maybe some accounting issues would need to be resolved.
But remember, we’re talking about Minor League Baseball tickets. They’re not supposed to break the bank or become scarce–which is why you’ll never see a scalper in the parking lots at Danville, Greensboro or Richmond.
To work out the details, I suggest calling in the same accountants who said my old sliced cheese wrapper meant two-for-one admission anywhere on a Tuesday. And if I have to prove I’m an out-of-towner to get a rain check with “range,” I’ll gladly show a driver’s license. Simple stuff.
So on behalf of baseball pilgrims everywhere—at least the ones not bound for Fenway in an SUV limo–give the Universal Rain Check a shot, MiLB. It can only mean more fans up and down the road.
Oh, and while you’re at it, how about accepting MLB gift cards? I’ve got two I need to use before I lose them.
If you have any opinions on Mr. Golkin’s proposal, then, please, let them be known in the comments section. In the words of lifelong Minor League Baseball fan Mahatmas Gandhi: “Be the change you seek.”
It would be quite easy to forget, but way back on December 23 I launched the “Ben’s Biz Blog-ojevich” contest. The premise was simple — the first person to contact me with complimentary words about my blogging skill would “win” a free post.
That person turned out to be “BeesGal”, writer of “The Sporkball Journals“. Who is BeesGal? I’ll let her answer that in her own words:
Well, my day job is running a one-woman business that
provides writing and editing services for a diverse assortment of
audiences–commercial, journalistic and scholarly. My labors of love are split
into two seasons: fall/winter is spent pursuing a degree in Japanese language,
while spring/summer is spent immersed in the sights, sounds and smells of minor
league baseball. I’ve been a season-ticket holder with the Salt
Lake franchise since 1998 and
devoted fan of minor league baseball since 1994–except for a one-night stand
on October 2, 1995 when I
watched Randy Johnson pitch 6 innings of perfection in the ALDS tiebreaker
between the Mariners and Angels. I can be contacted via email: email@example.com.
For her guest post, BeesGal has provided a thorough dissection of Michael Lewis’ “Moneyball”. In essence, it is a contrarian view of a contrarian book, and one of the most cutting critiques of the “Stats vs. Scouts” debate that I have ever read. So, without further ado, here it is:
(noun) The use of skillful
tricks and deceptions to produce entertainingly baffling effects: conjuration, magic, prestidigitation,
sleight of hand.
As incredible as it may sound, I didn’t get around to reading Moneyball
until this fall of 2008. Not surprising to me, since I am a lousy stathead.
It’s not that I’m bad with numbers; I’m actually quite the nimble
digit-cruncher. It’s simply I don’t find statistics to be the most interesting
perspective from which to view baseball. I don’t own stock in a baseball team,
real or rotisserie. I don’t bet on sports. I don’t follow the draft.
But I digress. I finally read Moneyball on the recommendations of so many
people whose baseball experience and expertise far exceeds mine. And the
published reviews seemed to promise an enjoyable, entertaining read, regardless
of whether I care about the stats vs. scouts debate. (I don’t.) Hence my
disappointment to discover I didn’t care for it all that much. I didn’t dislike
it. I was, um, …underwhelmed.
So when the opportunity came to guest-write for Ben’s Biz Blog, this seemed
like the perfect opportunity give Moneyball another shot. Was my indifference
justified, or not? More importantly, where the h*ll did it come from?
Unfortunately, I must announce liking the book even less the second time, albeit
for an entirely different reason than I expected.
As everyone in the English-speaking world knows, this book investigates how
Oakland A’s were able to win so
many games with so few financial resources. I would say it uses primarily two
techniques to make its case: deductions based on statistical analyses and
detailed character profiles. One method appeals to reason and the other to
humanity. Obviously, you can’t use charisma as the basis for scientific proof.
On the other hand, you can use it to influence the way the information is
perceived. Here’s how Michael Lewis does it.
Chapter 2 is a mesmerizing recreation of the Oakland
A’s draft room on June 4, 2002.
It sets up the premise for the book and introduces the main characters. In the
second reading, I noticed something that annoyed me to no end. The scouts were
very difficult to identify except as a vague collective of nameless,
barely-humans–the “Greek chorus.”
At first, it was unclear why some scouts were named and described, while
others remained literally faceless. For example, eight scouts were mentioned by
name in chapter 2: John Poloni , Ron Hopkins , Kelly Heath , Billy
Owens , Matt Keough , Chris Pittaro , Dick Bogard , Grady Fuson
 and Erik Kubota . The numbers in brackets indicate how many times they
were referred to by their names. My favorite character reference was Hopkins,
who got introduced in four words, “Ron Hopkins is ‘Hoppy,’” after which we
never read of him again. Grady Fuson was the penultimate “bad guy” in this
chapter; singled out as the personification of all that is wrong with
traditional baseball thinking.
Aside from this handful of names, virtually every other scout was referred
to by job title, “scout” or “scouts.” What is particularly odd is these
nameless entities spoke or acted about 149 times without us knowing who is
doing what. When the scouts were somewhat more identifiable, it was by physical
attribute. Old/older  tops the list, followed by fat , vocal , folded
arms , lean , pleading . Notice how many of these generic attributes
were also rather unappealing. Also notable was how the physical descriptions
seem to have been selected for their power to metaphorically reinforce the
philosophical differences between the two sides of the room–the forces of
ignorance resisting enlightenment.
There were a few scout descriptions offering greater detail, none were
flattering. For example, here is one that seems particularly negative and
conjectural: “This old scout is pushing fifty-five but still has a lean
quickness about him, as if he hadn’t completely abandoned the hope that he
might one day play the game.” Out of all the possible explanations for this
nameless man’s low percentage of body fat, I’m supposed to presume it’s an
unwillingness to accept old age? Weird.
As chapter 2 came to a close, I felt as though I’d been handed a media guide
with the information for L.O.O.S.R.S.(Luddites On Other Side of Room, Spitting)
consisting of a handful of names, four bios, couple of anecdotes and little
else. They’re wearing road grays, no numbers or names.
The media guide for Team Beane, on the other hand, is filled photos
whites, of course), names, positions, biography, career stats and
uniform numbers. Among the scouts, Chris Pittaro is someone “Billy had long ago
identified as a person willing to rethink everything he learned, or thought he
had learned, playing baseball.” Dick Bogard was characterized as “the oldest
scout of all,” Erik’s “baseball father;” a supporter of statistics; the one
scout to admit “Billy made us take Zito;” having “vast experience to which he
had no visceral attachment;” and having scouted Billy Beane the ballplayer.
Erik Kubota  is Beane’s hand-picked scouting director , hired to replace
Grady Fuson. And of course there was Billy Beane , general manager , and
Paul DePodesta , assistant general manager .
Seems as though purpose of chapter 2 is to create an sense of emotional
detachment from a certain group of people, namely the scouts. If you can render
the opposition less than human, good; if you can demonize it, even better. For
centuries, this effective psychological technique has been used in sci-fi
(such as the “Borg” of Star Trek: Next Generation), advertising, politics and
I’m not sure if this was kept nagging at me the first time. Once my “covert
ops” alerts were triggered during the second read, however, it was impossible
for me to shake the feeling I was being played. In the end, I cannot help but wonder
why Lewis did it? Since I’m not Lewis, I haven’t a clue. All I can offer is my
opinion; namely, I would have preferred the chance to decide whether Beane is a
great GM or just lucky, or sabermetrics is superior to scouting without the
B-movie caricatures. Certainly I would have enjoyed the book considerably more
without the syntactical sleight of hand.
Well, that’s it. I suspect my 15 minutes of glory was used up about 400
words ago. In closing, I’d like to thank Ben for letting me crash his blogspace,
not to mention handling the crush of email he’ll undoubtedly be getting in
Bye for now!
. . . BeesGal