Results tagged ‘ Hickory Crawdads ’

On the Road: A Reversal of Fortune in Hickory

Did you know? Each one of my road trip blog posts has an accompanying MiLB.com article. Click HERE to read about a distinct “highlight” from Hickory. 

Six of the seven cities I visited on my latest (and therefore greatest) ballpark road trip started with one of the first 11 letters of the alphabet. What are the odds? Coming in fourth alphabetically and fifth chronologically was Hickory, North Carolina.

I think I need to work on my ledes. In the meantime, here’s a picture.

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Hickory is the home of the Crawdads, the Class A affiliate of the Chicago White Sox  Texas Rangers. The team plays in city-owned L.P. Frans Stadium, named after a local Pepsi bottler who funded a portion of the stadium’s construction (there’s no truth to the rumor that L.P. stands for “Loves Pepsi”). I arrived at L.P. Frans Stadium on a recent Sunday afternoon, amid beautiful weather and correspondingly buoyant spirits.

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L.P. Frans Stadium is 21 years old, having been built in 1993 for $4.5 million dollars. Adjusted for inflation, this comes to approximately $7.4 million dollars, and this begs the question: why are stadiums so much more expensive to build these days? There is no chance whatsoever that, in our present economic climate, a Class A facility could be constructed for $7.4 million. Three times that, maybe, and even that would be a relatively conservative estimate. What is going on here?

But tangents can wait. The subject here is L.P. Frans Stadium, which underwent extensive renovations this past offseason in advance of the Crawdads hosting the 2014 South Atlantic League All-Star Game. One new addition are these Party Patios, located down the third base line.

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My view from this particular location, at this particular moment in space and time, was this:

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To the left was the home clubhouse. Note the immaculately manicured bullpen area, on the right.

006 I then walked round (and round) to this carousel, located next to covertly-branded playground equipment. It’s certainly not the best playground of all time, but it’ll do in a pinch.

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Is you a Crawlady, or is you a Crawdude? (Actually, the sign on the women’s room says “Crawdudettes,” but I don’t like taking pictures of women’s rooms because I don’t want anyone to get the mistaken impression that the kindly traveling Minor League Baseball writer is some sort of lecher.)

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As you can tell by the above photo and the one below, there is a significant amount of brickwork incorporated into L.P. Frans Stadium. That just means that there is mortar love.

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And what are these contraptions hanging from wall-mounted half-baseballs? Anyone? I forget to ask, and clearly it would be too labor intensive to send an email.

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Like the Party Patio, the Picnic Pavilion is another p-based alliterative addition to the stadium. This area used to be bleacher seating.

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It’s a little tough to see, but the stadium has protective netting all the way up the base lines. This is a good thing, safety-wise, but a bad thing, sight-line wise.

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Speaking of Crawdudes and Crawdudettes, here are Candy and Conrad.

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I was on the field at this juncture in order to — you guessed it — throw out a ceremonial first pitch. I wore my GoPro, strapped to my skull, and this time the footage was somewhat acceptable. That’s really all I’m aiming for in life — to be somewhat acceptable.

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Here’s the footage, followed by a portion of the afternoon that I’ll contextualize a bit later on. You can hold off on watching that second portion, for now.

A bit high, but I’d rather be a bit high than in the dirt. At any rate, no one was impressed.

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Guys on the bench are — wait for it — reserve Claws.

The pre-game introductions were pretty cool, and involved not one but two youth teams. Upon having their name announced, the players ran through a high-five line (yellow team) and then joined with a kid from the black team as they made their way to their respective positions.

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For what it’s worth, the Crawdads’ catcher is one Joe Jackson. His great-great-great uncle was “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, so, yeah, you could say baseball runs in the family.

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I requested an interview with Jackson prior to the game, but for whatever reason he wasn’t available. Maybe because he’s tired of always answering questions about his great-great-great uncle? It’s a nice twist that he’s playing in the same league as the Greenville Drive, however, as Greenville is his hometown and it was where “Shoeless” lived as well.

As the game began, Crawdads community relations director Megan Meade gave me a brief tour of the ballpark. The press box and surrounding areas were almost comically crowded. To an extent, this cramped environment is a result of not having much storage space elsewhere in the ballpark.

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But there was plenty of room to move on the concourse, where this gentleman was enjoying one of the Crawdads’ expanded beer selections.

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The Crawdad Cafe, located down the third base line and also featuring an indoor seating area, is another new edition. It lies across the concourse from the so-called VIP seating area.

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For VIPs only

For VIPs only

One component of the renovations was the expansion of the front office, by a cool one thousand square feet. According to Meade, “It felt like 200,000.”

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Oh, hey, it’s Conrad.

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Conrad was psyched, as he was on the cusp of witnessing what would be the main event of the afternoon. The tour could wait, as it was now time for Alex Ward to take “The Clawlossal Challenge.”

This, friends, is the Clawlossal. The challenge is to eat it within the span of six outs or less.

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For the record, the “Clawlossal” is a foot-long chili-cheese dog, pub chips, a half-pound burger, a pulled pork sandwich, a corn dog, five onion rings, two jalapeño poppers and two pickle spears. Also for the record: I’ve already written an entire article (with videos) about how the whole absurd spectacle went down.  Therefore, what follows are simply a few photo highlights.

Alex, all smiles at the outset:

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Should Alex complete the challenge, he’d win a t-shirt that would make him the envy of all.

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Alex alternated between the Clawlossal’s myriad food items with finesse and aplomb. Chews Your Own Adventure:

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In the homestretch, with plenty of time still remaining.

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A crowd gathers, hoping to witness an historic occasion. That kid in the orange shirt is 11 going on 37. He just got hired as an assistant AD at a Division II college.

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The finish line was in reach, but the finish line was not reached. Instead, disaster struck.

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Those in the biz call this a “reversal of fortune.”

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So close, but yet so far.

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Better luck next time, Alex!

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Okay, time to resume our little tour of the stadium. Here’s the Party Patio, once again. This time with people!

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Meade and I then walked down to the bullpen, which is a most picaresque locale.

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Meet “The CrawFathers”

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As is often the case with bullpens, there was a lot of clever banter taking place. Much of it was unprintable, but at one point there was an extended riff about taking Aleve.

“We call these I-B-Throwins. Take 6-8 of these and you’re good to go.”

We didn’t hang around in the bullpen for very long — there was a game going on, after all — but I was reminded of the fact that I like to do stories about bullpen games/rituals/pranks, etc. I got some great material last year in that regard (if you don’t know, Google “Whitewall Ninja”), and am hoping for more before this year is out. If you’ve got any leads, call me.

But anyway, we left the bullpen and came upon this scene.

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These young fans were waiting for their opportunity to chase Conrad across the field, in much the same way that I was chased across the field last season in Tennessee while wearing a chicken suit. It’s a pretty standard Minor League promotion, and I got some great video of it, but because I was born yesterday I shot the video in improper vertical fashion and the MiLB.com Quality Control Department deemed it unusable.

See that red haired kid, front and center? I asked him why he was so excited to chase Conrad and he told me “I’m gonna punch him in the head! He steals hats, he creeps me out.”

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Never underestimate a child’s desire to physically assault a Minor League mascot.

After watching Conrad escape the clutches of his would-be tormentors, I rendezvoused with Crawdads promotions assistant Brice Ballentine. I was to be a contestant in the team’s version of “Cash Cab,’ answering trivia questions while being driven around the perimeter of the field in a golf cart.

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Remember the video I posted earlier, with the first pitch footage? That video also includes my time in the Cash Cab. Ballentine is to be commended for writing a series of questions specific to my job, and I am to be commended for knowing the answers (though, toward the end, I got by with a little help from the fans).

As you can probably see from the above video, the weather was beginning to take a turn for the ominous.

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The skies soon opened up, and the crowd began to disperse. Through it all, Ballentine, dressed as a base-cleaning tooth fairy, stoically stood beside the first base dugout.

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Ballentine was waiting for an inning break that never came, which could be interpreted as a metaphor for the vague sense of longing that is a chief component of the human psychological condition.

What came instead was a torrential downpour, and then came the tarp. Fortune, it had been reversed yet again.

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As you can see in the above picture, the rain absolutely soaked the playing field. Puddles were all over the outfield, and the game was subsequently called with the Crawdads defeating visiting West Virginia, 4-2, in an abbreviated six inning contest.

Time to go home, folks, nothing more to see here.

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That concourse concrete doesn’t just look slick, it is slick! Once the rains came, Alex (of Clawlossal eating challenge fame) and I sought refuge in the Crawdads Cafe. He entered before me and held open the door, just in time for me to take a comical pratfall. I slipped, landed on my posterior, and slid into the interior of the cafe as if it was third base. There were a bunch of people already inside, who politely stifled the urge to laugh until finding out that I was indeed okay (I was save for a couple of minor scrapes and, of course, a bruised ego).

Moral of the story: Don’t run on a wet concourse, especially if the concourse in question is at L.P. Frans Stadium. That thing is slippier than an eel lathered in sunscreen taking a nap atop a banana peel.

This guy was more equipped for the wet concourse than I, and for good reason: he’s a baseball lifer. Meet Crawdads group sales representative Stephen “South” Johnson.

075South got his nickname because his father is none other than North Johnson, a veteran Minor League exec who currently serves as the general manager of the Gwinnett Braves (who I had visited the day before).

“I knew pretty early on that I wanted to work in Minor League Baseball. I grew up in a ballpark. I was in one for the first time when I was four days old,” said South, whose family moved from Kinston to Rancho Cucamonga to Myrtle Beach to Gwinnett. “It’s kind of like being a military brat.”

As it turned out, South did a far better job than I did in documenting the storm that postponed the game.

That marked the second time on this trip in which I saw the tarp, and it would not be the last. But, regardless, the game must go on.

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Meanwhile, my next ballpark road trip is fast approaching. Contact me with suggestions of any kind regarding each of the following ballparks. And if you want to be a “Designated Eater” at a park where that honor is available, then get in touch! I’ve had some cancellations recently, plenty of spots still available!

July 18: Akron RubberDucks

Designated Eater: Adam Ray, Joe Meadows

July 19: West Virginia Power

July 20: Columbus Clippers

July 21: Indianapolis Indians

July 22: Louisville Bats

July 23: Lexington Legends

July 24: Dayton Dragons

Designated Eater: George Coleman, Richie Devotie

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Bouillabaisse III: The Search for More Material

Each of the last two posts on this blog were full-to-bursting bouillabaisse blasts, but those who thought that I was out of Minor League news and notes to share THOUGHT WRONG. A final scouring of my myriad notebooks and spreadsheets has brought even more items to light, and thus it is now my duty to shine this light unto the world.

Let’s begin by re-stating a proven fact, and that is that Ben’s Biz Blog is the greatest Minor League Baseball blog of all time. While this should be common knowledge, I nevertheless work tirelessly to disseminate this message to all corners of the known universe. Enter the Hickory Crawdads, who last week issued a press release in which they welcomed fans to leave a message on their office walls prior to renovation:

Renovations are already underway at Crawdads Stadium, but fans can visit the ‘Dads old front office one last time this week and leave a personalized message on the walls. Join Conrad and the rest of the front office staff by inscribing a favorite memory, a goodbye, or simply well wishes, and have your message shared on the Crawdads Facebook page.

I humbly asked the team, via Twitter, to please make note of my blogging supremacy and, happily, they assented. If it’s written on a South Atlantic League front office wall, then you KNOW it’s true!

In perhaps slightly more meaningful Minor League indoor art news, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders are staging an innovative mural painting contest. An excerpt from the press release:

[The RailRiders] and Lackawanna County are sponsoring an indoor mural competition for the entrance of the Mohegan Sun Club at PNC Field. The mural will be unveiled on Wednesday, April 2 at the annual “Meet the RailRiders” event. Experienced mural artists are invited to submit designs capturing the essence of baseball, community and Northeastern Pennsylvania.

Three finalists will be chosen by a selection committee before the public votes on the winning design from Feb. 14-24. The winning artist(s) will paint the mural during the month of March. All supplies and materials will be provided, including scaffolding. The winning artist will receive a cash award of $5,000 to paint the mural and two RailRiders 2014 season tickets.

Rest assured that I will be following this contest as it develops, but in the meantime: What other Minor League Baseball stadiums feature murals? I, like a painter who has lost his inspiration, am drawing a blank.

No segue!

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“This post is going to the dogs” sounds like something that I’d write if I was completely and totally devoid of inspiration. But I’m not, at least not yet, so instead just let me inform you that some canine content is imminent. Did you know that the El Paso Chihuahuas have sold merchandise in all 50 states, in advance of ever playing a game?  Team-produced infographics, like sleeping dogs, don’t lie!

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In other news, the Chihuahuas are now selling “pawtial” season ticket plans. I am apparently alone in thinking they should have found a way to utilize the phrase “season yip-ets.”

And then there are the Trenton Thunder, who have welcomed a new bat dog into the fold. This puppy, son of Derby and grandson of Chase (R.I.P.), needs a name and in this matter your assistance is requested.

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I voted for Mo.

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My readership is largely comprised of Los Angeles culinary scenesters with Midwestern roots, so I apologize that many of you are familiar with the following bit of news:

Restaurateur Susan Feniger has opened the Mud Hen Tavern, which, according to the Los Angeles Times, is “a neighborhood bar with ‘gourmet pub and comfort food’ inspired by the chef’s memories of going to Mud Hens baseball games in Toledo, Ohio.”  The menu looks great, and it’s immediately apparent that the chef attended Mud Hens’ games during that brief period (’75-’77) when tuna ceviche and pumpkin ravioli were available at the concession stand. 

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I’ve never seen a team do this before:

Fans of the Quad Cities River Bandits can own a piece of history with a commemorative 2013 Midwest League Championship ring in a limited-time sale. Until Feb. 1, fans may purchase rings that match the ones earned by the team’s players and staff, and each fan may personalize the championship hardware with his or her last name on the side of the ring.

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For $295, it can be yours! That would be a good investment for those looking to impress women, because nothing (and I mean nothing) impresses the fairer sex like a Midwest League Championship ring. I am speaking from experience.

Or am I?

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

2013 Promotions: Strange Combinations

Over the past two weeks I have spent a heroic amount of time combing through the promotional schedules of Minor League full season teams, in search of the best, brightest, weirdest and wackiest innovations that will be on offer during the 2013 campaign.

As always, this was a LOT of information to digest, especially since there are many teams that schedule multiple promotions for each and every contest. Such promo overload is the inevitable result of the industry’s never-ending quest to be all things to all people, and as an added bonus it sometimes provides unintentional comedy fodder. (The best example of this comes courtesy of an Eastern League club that shall remain anonymous, who in 2011 scheduled “Tribute to Michael Jackson” on the same evening as “Boy Scout Sleepover Night.”)

What follows is a brief list of absurd and/or incongruous promo combinations scheduled for the 2013 season. Maybe one of them will be incongruously taking place at a ballpark near you! (And, of course, if you have further examples then please send ‘em my way.)

Akron Aeros — International Juggler’s Day/Thirsty Thursday

This can’t end well.

Kannapolis Intimidators — $2 16 oz Budweiser drafts/Operation Family Time (May 17)

Spending time with the family can be stressful, but the Intimidators are offering a way to take the edge off.

Myrtle Beach Pelicans — Hangover Night/Thirsty Thursday (May 23)

Seems like “Hangover Night” would make more sense on May 24th…

Omaha Storm Chasers — Superhero Cape Giveaway/Diaper Derby (June 8)

Perhaps unprepared Diaper Derby participants could just use the cape?

Lakewood BlueClaws — Cecil Fielder Appearance/Wing Fling (June 12)

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While perhaps not quite as rotund as his immodestly-named son, Tigers slugger Prince, there’s no denying that Cecil Fielder was one of the largest individuals to ever don a Major League uniform. He’s scheduled to sign autographs at Lakewood’s FirstEnergy Park on June 12, during which the BlueClaws will also be staging a “Wing Fling.” Local restaurateurs will compete in a “best wing” contest, and it seems to me that Cecil would be the perfect judge. And if he’s moved to participate in the scheduled “wing-eating contest”? Forget about it…

Quad Cities River Bandits — “Ghost Rider” Cowboy Monkeys/John Deere Night (June 15)

The Cowboy Monkeys usually ride border collies, but perhaps on this special evening they could ride a tractor instead.

Frederick Keys — Meet the Team/Pajama Night (June 23)

Finally — a socially acceptable way to mingle with professional athletes in an outdoor setting while wearing a bathrobe.

Frederick Keys — Military and Civilians Night (July 31st)

Or, as I like to call it — “Everybody Night.”

Hickory Crawdads — Kids Run the Show/Unemployment Night (August 7)

Well, yeah — when kids are running the show then the adults are out of a job!

I’ve got plenty more where this came from, and I’m sorry if that sounds like a threat.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Livin’ the Dream

It wasn’t motivated by anything in particular, but over the past few days I’ve created a compendium of Minor League front office cliches on Twitter. If you’re interested in seeing them simply search Twitter for the #MinorLeagueFrontOffice cliche hashtag. And, of course, feel free to submit your own as I will be compiling these cliches in an upcoming blog post. (If you don’t use Twitter, feel free to leave your Minor League Front Office Cliche in the comments or send me an email.)

Such a cliche compilation is both the literal and figurative definition of the term “inside baseball,” and I apologize to readers who I am leaving in the cold. But, in conjunction with this apology, I’d like to direct you to an interesting new initiative that can give anyone a chance to see these cliches come to life in an up-close-and-personal fashion.

This season, the Hickory Crawdads are offering a “Day in the Minors” fan package.

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From the team:

[T]he ‘Dads Day in the Minors program offers a behind the scenes experience like none other, giving YOU the chance to see what it’s like to work for a minor league baseball team for a day. For just $99, you will receive experience in all areas of the organization, including promotions, sales, concessions and media!

Of course, there’s no such thing as a “typical” day in the Minors, but the Crawdads are offering the following as a “sample” schedule:

9am – Staff meeting 
10am – Work with the promotions team to prepare for the game 
11am – Go on a mascot appearance and wear the suit if you want the total experience 
12pm – Work with the Group Sales department 
1pm – Work with the Stadium Operations team to make sure the stadium has been properly cleaned from last night’s game and is stocked and ready to go for tonight’s game 
2pm – Check in concessions deliveries and set up for a picnic 
3pm – Assist the groundskeeper with field preparation 
4pm – Batting Practice 
5pm – Make sure the Press Box is all set up 
6pm – Open the gates, greet fans, take tickets and hand out giveaway items 
7pm – Go over the ground rules and exchange the lineup card with the visiting manager during the managers meeting at home plate with the umpires 
7:15pm – 10pm – During the game you will receive experience in most of the following areas: Ticket Office, concessions, promotions, customer service & the Press Box 
10pm – Break down and clean up 
Midnight – Go home as an official Day in the Minors survivor!

Plus, if you are truly lucky, it will rain during the day and you’ll have the opportunity to pull tarp!

This could be you.

This could be you.

While $99 is far more than most people spend on MiLB-related endeavors, I do believe that this is a worthwhile expenditure that could be enjoyed by people of all ages. In particular, a “Day in the Minors”-style program could be a great way to expose high school and college-age fans to the realities of working in the sports industry so that they could then make a better informed decision as to whether this would be a career they’d like to pursue.

Teams could also waive the fee and make this part of their community outreach efforts. In recent years Minor League Baseball president Pat O’Conner has emphasized the need for teams to diversify both their staffs and fan base in response to changing demographics, and offering a full immersion into front office culture would be a unique way to engage portions of the community that currently aren’t aware of or interested in the local Minor League product on offer.

But I’m just riffing here…As far as I know the Crawdads are currently the only team offering such a program, and it will be interesting to see if they are successful with it. Your thoughts? Would you pay $99 for this comprehensive Class A experience? Or, if you work for a team, is “Day in the Minors” the sort of initiative that you’d consider making available to your fan base?

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Ripped From the Headlines

It can be tough to stand out within this oversaturated media landscape that we all find ourselves immersed in, but Minor League teams have become particularly adept at doing just this via the tried and true tradition of riffing on newsworthy events. In this post, please find a few offseason examples of relatively recent vintage.

Please!

Inland Empire 66ers —  Farewell to Twinkies Night

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In the wake of the news that Hostess was shutting down its operations, the 66ers leaped into action and secured 1000 Twinkies before they disappeared from the shelves. With snack cakes secured, they then announced that April 5 will be “Farewell to Twinkies Night.” Per the team:

The first 999 fans in attendance will receive a free Twinkie; however there will be a silent auction for the final Twinkie to be awarded during the seventh inning stretch with proceeds going to charity.

But, of course, that’s not all:

The organization has also extended an offer to actor Woody Harrelson, who in 2009, starred as the Twinkie obsessed Tallahassee in the zombie comedy, Zombieland, to throw out the ceremonial first pitch. Beyond the invitation to Harrelson, the 66ers have also contacted Hostess about featuring Twinkie the Kid, Hostess’s well known mascot, in the Mascot Dash vs. the team’s own Bernie.

Hickory Crawdads — The Mayans Got It Wrong

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In the wake of the world continuing on as usual post 12/21/12, the Crawdads decided that a ticket-related celebration was in order. Explained the team:

Being as we’re jubilant with relief that the earth is still spinning, the ‘Dads are offering all fans FREE Grandstand Tickets for The Mayans Got it Wrong Night on April 8.

“As part of last year’s May Mayan Mayhem promotion, we were prepared to give everyone a free season ticket for life if the world did end today,” said Crawdads Director of Promotions Jared Weymier. “But we think free tickets on April 8 AND the world not ending is a pretty good combination!”

The Crawdads are also to be commended for this out-of-left-field press release, issued in the wake of the news that New York Jets superfan Fireman Ed was retiring from going to games.

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In light of former New York Jets Superfan Ed “Fireman Ed” Anzalone declaring this week that he will retire from going to Jets games, the Hickory Crawdads are formally inviting him to become the new Official Superfan of the Crawdads.

Fireman Ed cited increasing confrontations with other Jets fans at Metlife Stadium as the reason why he is retiring from attending Jets games and leading their faithful in his renowned “J-E-T-S, Jets Jets Jets” chant. With the family-friendly atmosphere at Crawdads games, as well as the ‘Dads long-standing appreciation of firemen and all emergency responders, L.P. Frans Stadium is the perfect location for Ed to retire.

As part of becoming the Official Superfan of the Crawdads, the ‘Dads are offering Fireman Ed a free season ticket and parking pass for life, a customized Crawdads fireman’s hat and a personalized Crawdads jersey that no one will ever negatively confront him for wearing. Fireman Ed will have free reign to lead Crawdads fans in whatever chant he chooses – after all, “D-A-D-S, Dads Dads Dads” has a good ring to it!

Finally, we have this press release masterpiece from the Myrtle Beach Pelicans, in which they wax indignant about New Orleans’ basketball team “copying” their name.

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I’m just going to go ahead and drop a massive chunk of cut and pasted text right here. Myrtle Beach earned it with this one:

Inspired by the mind-numbing creativity shown by the NBA’s New Orleans franchise in recently announcing a surprise and out-of-left field (pun intended) name change from Hornets to Pelicans, Minor League Baseball’s Myrtle Beach (S.C.) Pelicans, the Advanced Class-A affiliate of the Texas Rangers, are asking their fans to consider a sweeping re-branding and promotional effort, effective for the 2013 Carolina League season.

The re-branding and promotional plan would not only pay homage to everything New Orleans, but would provide Minor League Baseball fans from the Grand Strand an opportunity not extended to basketball fans in Louisiana — participating in selecting the team’s new nickname. Using the same level of out-of-the-box thinking used by the Hornets, nickname choices have been narrowed to Saints, Hornets, Jazz, Bayou Bengals, Ragin’ Cajuns and Voodoo, along with any other current or former sports nickname the club could poach from the Bayou State.

The re-branding plan has already affected the team’s organizational structure. Current General Manager Scott Brown, the reigning Carolina League Executive of the Year, is so inspired by the idea that he has decided to re-trace the Hornets past history and move he and his family to Charlotte, North Carolina, where he will become the General Manager of that city’s Triple-A franchise. The Hornets called Charlotte home from 1988-2002.

If fans select choose to drop the Pelicans name in favor of a New Orleans-themed moniker, the club will institute of a series of NOLA-themed promotions and ballpark changes to complement the club’s new brand:

  • The team’s home ballpark would be renamed “TicketReturn.com Field at Preservation Hall”
  • Areas of the ballpark would also be re-branded. The pond in the parking lot would be called “Lake Pontchartrain”, while patrons entering ballpark restroom facilities would be taking their personal business to the “French Quarter”
  • The club would petition city and county officials to rename streets and landmarks around the area. 21st Avenue North, which runs along the ballpark, would be called “St. Charles Avenue,” Broadway at the Beach, Myrtle Beach’s entertainment hot spot, would become “Bourbon Street,” and, boldy, the team would call its home county “Horry Parrish.”
  • The logo of the new team name would include a fleur de lis, much in the same fashion as the current logo, which incorporates a crescent-shaped moon in the background.
  • A different NOLA-themed promotion for every day of the week would be incorporated. The lineup would feature Mardi Gras Mondays, Fat Tuesdays, Wet Wednesdays (featuring 1/2 price hurricane drinks), Thirsty Thursday (featuring Creole Bloody Marys), Big Easy Fridays (featuring the music of Al Hirt, Louis Armstrong, Aaron Neville and other New Orleans legends), Sazerac Saturdays and Voodoo Sundays (Details currently under development).
  • The team’s game night entertainment would also reflect the newly-created team image. The club’s entertainment staff would be known as the “Promotional Krewe”, jazz music would serve as player at-bat songs, legendary political strategist James Carville would be invited to serve as one of the team’s radio announcers, and the playing of the Smokey and the Bandit theme song during the 7th Inning Stretch would be replaced by “When the Saints Go Marching In.”
  • Saints quarterback Drew Brees would be invited to toss out the ceremonial first pitch of the 2013 season and a season-long “Superdome” promotion would be instituted, providing ticket discounts to anyone with a “bald dome.”
  • TicketReturn.com Field at Preservation Hall concession stands would offer traditional New Orleans foods such as poboys, crawfish, jambalaya and gumbo with classic side dishes such as red beans and rice.
  • Team merchandise would obviously include team beads, as well as NOLA-themed t-shirts, and plush dolls of mascot Splash would be turned into Voodoo dolls

If you are aware of other teams displaying a similarly Peli-can do spirit, then get in touch.

This has been Ben’s Biz Blog post #900 — here’s to more, but hopefully not 900 more. That would be overkill.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Not On the Road: Self-Esteem, Singing, and Pseudo-Celebs

Well hello everybody and how ya been? It’s Ben’s Biz typing on the keyboard again. I’ve got grace, class, style, finesse and debonair. Writing ’bout MiLB promos and hopin’ folks care.

The point of the above Beastie Boy lyric approximation is simply to say that it’s been a while since I was able to kick out a good old-fashioned blog bouillabaisse (and I spelled “bouillabaisse” correctly on the second try, a new record).  I’ve still got some odds and ends from my left coast road trip to share, but today will be all about the here and now in addition to what was recently the here and now but is now then.

For starters, TONIGHT is the Richmond Flying Squirrels’ “Tribute to Bacon” featuring an appearance by Kevin Bacon!

This particular Kevin Bacon has never been immortalized in celluloid, however.

Bacon, a Chesterfield County native for more than 35 years, is currently a detective with the Chesterfield County Police Department….He is a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University with a bachelor’s degree in Administration of Justice.

So that would be just one degree of Kevin Bacon? Perhaps he’ll obtain a Masters one day. Another Flying Squirrels item of note is that this picture of a “superhero Mom” catching a fly ball went viral.

Credit: Mark Gormus/Richmond Times-Dispatch

Name a media outlet, and chances are they ran something on this. For background on how it all came to be, check out this Richmond Times-Dispatch story. 

The following photos didn’t go viral, but they were sent along to me by the Toledo Mud Hens and are well worth a look. The ol’ “gum on the hat” trick is never not funny. This time around the victim is Michael Restovich of the visiting Charlotte Knights.

Another perennial source of Minor League humor comes in the form of mustaches. One of the most prominent facial follicle initiatives currently taking place is the Delmarva Shorebirds’ “Mustache May.” Members of the team and front office are participating, and fans can donate money toward their favorite.

The current leader is none other than trainer Will Lawhorn.

Not at all creepy

You’ve got to have good self-esteem to grow a mustache like that, which is something that Hickory Crawdads mascot Conrad is currently lacking.

HICKORY, NC -In response to SI.com writer Peter King’s column on Mon., May 16, in which Conrad the Crawdad’s self-esteem was questioned, the Hickory Crawdads are introducing a brand-new promotion and ticket deal for the rest of the 2011 season – Conrad’s Self-Esteem Wednesdays!

For every Wednesday home game…fans can receive a discounted $4 box seat ticket just by mentioning “Conrad’s self-esteem” at the Ticket Office.

The Crawdads will then donate $2 from every $4 ticket to Catawba Valley Behavioral Healthcare in support of their ongoing mission to provide behavioral health and support services for those in need in the Unifour community.

I’m sure Conrad will rally from the depths of his despair, something that Akron Aeros fans have become quite adept at doing.

And since I always like to end on a high note, how ’bout these Cedar Rapids troubadours?

Contact me with any kernels of info you may have to disseminate. I’ll be here waiting.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Walk-Up Songs: Visitor’s Edition Vol. 1

Today’s “Farm’s Almanac” feature is on the topic of walk-up songs, and includes a variety of anecdotes related to this increasingly popular facet of the professional baseball experience. Did you know that Josh Harrison’s walk-up music is written by his brother? Or that Jeff Locke chose his after extensive focus group testing on Twitter? Or that our old friend Scot Drucker once coordinated bullpen dance routines to New Kids on the Block?

Read all about it HERE.

But the article was over-stuffed as it is, and one aspect of the walk-up experience I wasn’t able to include was that of the visitors. Or, rather, that the visiting team is at the mercy of pun-happy and perhaps slightly mean-spirited control room employees.  What follows is a sampling of the info I collected:

Over Twitter, Jackson Generals assistant general manager Jason Compton shared the following:.

We played “Papa Was a Rolling Stone” for Prince Fielder when Huntsville visited Pringles Park back a few years ago.

And, even better:

We also played “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother” for Delmon Young when the Biscuits came to town…this was my favorite.

Take that, Dmitri!

Kevin Huisman, who now works for the Grand Rapids Griffins of the American Hockey League, shared this anecdote from his days with the Hickory Crawdads:

Being in the Sally League, we got a chance to play the Rome Braves, which gave us the chance to break out some opera and just about anything that we could find that had an Italian sound to it (“Funiculi Funicula”, etc.).  That season, Rome also had a gentleman by the name of Van Pope on their squad, which gave us an added chance to pull in some Gregorian Chants more likely to be heard in Vatican City than a ballpark….Another opponent that season, the Greensboro Grasshoppers, gave me the most memorable dig from that season.  One of their players was named Jared Gaston…[fellow Crawdads employee] Mark had 3 children at home, and we were both fans of Disney movies, so we both came up with “Gaston” from “Beauty and the Beast” pretty quickly.  I think we were only able to get away with playing it once, but the reaction was priceless.  My wife was sitting with the wife of one of the Crawdads players that we’d gotten to know pretty well…when they heard the first line come out, you could hear their laughter echoing along with everyone else in the crowd.

Along those lines, Altoona Curve director of creative services John Foreman shared the following.

“Last year when New Britain was in town, we’d play Skee-Lo “Wish I Was A Little Bit Taller” for [7'1"] Loek Van Mil. And when [catcher] Carlos Santana was with Akron we’d play Carlos Santana and incorporate a Carlos Santana headshot on the videoboard.

“And then there’s Lucas Duda, he’d get “Zip-A-Dee-Do-Dah” or “Camptown Races”….Guys with the last name of Sylvester we’ll play “I Tawt I Taw A Putty Cat,” and the Mr. Rogers theme song for anyone with the last name of Rogers.”

And on and on and on it goes. This topic is a wordplay goldmine and I expect — nay, demand! — for this to be an ongoing feature. So please, no matter who you may be, get in touch with examples of visiting team audio hi-jinx!

And, of course, what would YOUR walk-up song be? Contenders in my universe include James Gang “Bomber”, CCR “Bayou Country,” Dirtbombs “Wreck My Flow” Fat Joe “Massacre on Madison” and New Kingdom “Mexico or Bust.” But number one remains:


benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Tilling the Fertile Soil

“So many blog topics, so little time” is shaping up to be a pretty good tombstone epitaph for yours truly. But as long as I’m residing in the land of the living, Sisyphean struggles to mitigate the content glut will continue unabated. So here ya go: a random array of Minor League pictures and videos.

Let’s start with the scene in Reading this past Tuesday. Despite a bit of controversy, the R-Phils’ fan base proffered a heartily enthusiastic response to the evening’s “Ryan Howard Garden Gnome” giveaway.

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The line outside of FirstEnergy Stadium, before the gates opened.

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The gnomes, awaiting distribution:

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What’s Up With Hat?

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Moving on from beards to the mustache, the Everett Aquasox pitching staff recently dedicated themselves to the fervent cultivation of upper lip hair. The results, in extreme close-up:

Another recent event of note in the Pacific Northwest was the pitcher’s mound wedding of hurler Corey Davisson. Read all about it HERE. (warning:adorable photos contained therein).

Less adorable, but more hilarious, are Class A baseball players dancing with surprising sincerity to the Clinton era’s pre-eminent boy band. This masterpiece was the highlight of the Peoria Chiefs’ recent “90s Night” promotion:

While this was the lowlight:

A pop culture celebration of more recent vintage recently occurred in Lexington, as the Legends staged a “Jersey Shore Night” promotion. The beat got beat up:

But after the beat-up comes the beatdown. “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan visited Hickory recently, where he did all he could to make sure that Conrad didn’t win the mascot race. A truly brilliant snapshot, this is:

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But even Hacksaw wouldn’t be able to stop the menagerie of characters that grace the cover of the Toledo Mud Hens upcoming comic book giveaway (scheduled for August 12). This is, truly, a work of art:

Toledo_Comic Book.JPG

Of special interest in the above image is the presence of Jamie Farrmadillo, Kitty Holmes, and Jim Flealand. There is no finer racing triumvirate in all of Minor League Baseball.

Or is there?

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

An NFL of an Idea

craw2.pngNFL training camp is in session, meaning that baseball’s months-long dominance of the American sports landscape is coming to a close.

But instead of lamenting this fact, Minor League Baseball teams are having fun with it.

On Thursday, the Hickory Crawdads are staging the “Haynesworth Conditioning Challenge” in honor of the fitness test that Redskins defensive lineman Albert Haynesworth has been unable to pass.

From the press release:

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All participants will have to complete the same conditioning test
that Haynesworth has failed multiple times, which is as follows:

1. Twelve consecutive 25-yard dashes (300 total yards) in less than 70 seconds

2. Rest period of 3.5 minutes

3. Twelve more consecutive 25-yard dashes in less than 73 seconds

All participants that successfully complete the challenge in the
allotted time will win two season tickets for the rest of the 2010
season, including all potential playoff games. All participants that
attempt the challenge will receive a free ticket to a future game this
season (excluding Aug. 14). Since Albert’s had multiple shots at it,
any fans that attempt and fail the challenge on Thursday can come back
to L.P. Frans Stadium any time between 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. this Friday and
try again.

While this promotion is definitely happening, the same can’t be said for the Fort Myers Miracle’s “Brett Favre Night.” The team may or may not stage a tribute to the Vikings QB on Monday, and their maddeningly indecisive and contradictory press release provides no clear insight whatsoever.  

But who needs football anyways? Those enamored with the out-of-breath exertions of larger-than-average men got more than their fill in Lakewood last week. As part of the BlueClaws’ “Goonies Night” celebration, Jeff “Chunk” Cohen judged a “Truffle Shuffle” contest:

truffleshuffle.jpg

Think that that guy could pass the Haynesworth Conditioning Challenge?

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

Why Won't It Stop?

ketchup-500.jpgI’ve been playing catch-up this week, hearkening me back to my days as a featured performer at the Condiment Theater.

This is because baseball, quite inconsiderately, doesn’t take a day off. So while I was on the road cranking out articles, blog posts, Promo Preview columns, and frivolous contest introductions, the emails kept coming in alerting me to items that may be worthy of coverage.

Allow me to now present to you, the reader, some of these items. I’ll start with the most narcissistic, a 42-second video commemorating my stint as “The Apprentice…Of the Crazy Hot Dog Vendor.

With that out of the way, let’s proceed to last night’s promotion in Akron. The Aeros held “Ship Out LeBron Night”, in which fans were asked to donate unwanted LeBron James apparel in exchange for free tickets.

As you can see, quite a few fans took the team up on its offer. As soon as Orbit is done playing around, these items will be donated to an international relief organization.

Akron_orbitthrowjerz.jpg 

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A mascot doing snow angels atop the discarded apparel of a vilified NBA superstar is definitely something you don’t see every day.

Another thing you don’t see every day is 3,692 people popping bubble wrap at the same time. It makes a sound quite similar to dessicated locust husks bouncing off the roof of a station wagon.

As part of the promotion, the Spinners rolled out the “Bubblewrap Dance Floor.” To celebrate 50 years of bubblewrap, 50-year-olds were invited onto the field to dance to 50 cent.

An even more Rainman-esque aspect of the promotion was that the 50th fan in attendance would get a year’s supply of popcorn if the 50th out of the game occurred via pop out. It did, and one lucky fan took home a vast collection of kernels (Spinners media relations director Jon Boswell writes that, keeping in the spirit of the promotion, “He’ll have to do the popping himself!”)

The Spinners’ Bubble Wrap extravaganza was in last week’s “Promotion Preview” column. This week’s includes the following two top-quality items.

Torii Hunter Bobble-Arm in Orem

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Skipper Leg Lamp in Lake County

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I wish that the above item was being given away as part of a “Salute to Hallucinogenic Fever Dreams” promo, but there’s actually a story behind it. See, the Captains are staging “Christmas In July”, and “A Christmas Story” was filmed in nearby Cleveland. Hence, a giveaway featuring a Minor League twist on one of the movie’s most memorable scenes.

And speaking of the Captains, you may recall that one of the team’s biggest fans comes to nearly every game dressed like Waldo. Recently, this horizontally-striped standout took his act to Cleveland:

waldoceleveland.JPG

Certainly a Waldo this ambitious is worthy of your Facebook fandom. Perhaps I can even score an exclusive interview one of these days.

Also worthy of your Facebook fandom is the fourth annual Minors Moniker Madness, which seeks to determine the best name in the Minors (MMM can also be followed on Twitter).

This year’s contest is shaping up to be the best yet, as teams have mounted homegrown promotional campaigns in support of their players. Here’s one of the best efforts I’ve seen thus far:

Finally, you may have noticed that the Charleston RiverDogs and Hickory Crawdads have recently been the recipients o
f some big-time exposure:

Perhaps I’ll receive some big-time exposure one of these days. Until then, I’ll be staring at a computer screen in search of a clever closing sentence that never comes.

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

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