Results tagged ‘ Huntsville Stars ’

On The Road Again

map-alabama.jpgI sure do love living New York City, but it is nonetheless crucial that I periodically leave my domestic lair in order to report live and direct from the ballpark. Only two of Minor League Baseball’s 160 teams play in the Big Apple, meaning that there are 158 cities perpetually on my list of places to visit. 

This week is my 2010 “Southern Swing’ — five stadiums in four cities over five days. Here’s the itinerary: 
June 1 — Regions Park, home of the Birmingham Barons
June 2 — 15th Annual Rickwood Classic at Birmingham’s Rickwood Field (The Barons’ former home, now the oldest professional ballpark in the entire country. 
June 3 — Joe Davis Stadium, home of the Huntsville Stars.
June 4 — AT&T Field, home of the Chattanooga Lookouts
June 5 –Coolray Field, home of the Gwinnett Braves
June 6 — Fluor Field, home of the Greenville Drive
The impetus for the trip was to attend the Rickwood Classic, as the ballpark is celebrating its centennial anniversary this season. To see a game in this environment is akin to traveling back in time (minus the potentially catastrophic consequences), and I’m greatly looking forward to it.

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I’ll be filing articles, blog posts, photos and videos throughout the week. If YOU have any suggestions regarding things I should check out in these cities then by all means let me know. Time will be tight, but I’m going to do my best to see as much as possible. 
And if you will be at any of above events then of course I’d like to meet you. Just look for the guy running around all over the place, like a freshly beheaded chicken who has not yet lost the ability to move its legs.
And, yes, this marks the second time this season I’ve been to Alabama (and third in the last 13 months). I promise that as time goes on I will achieve a far more balanced state visitation ratio.  
Looking forward to the trip, and looking forward to hearing from you. 
benjamin.hill@mlb.com
twitter.com/bensbiz  

2009: The Year in Photos

cam.jpgI am ready to embrace the offseason. I really and truly am. But if I come up with a blog post idea that will let me re-visit a time when Minor League Baseball was actually played every day, then you best believe I’m gonna do it.

And today, that idea is this: to present my favorite photos that appeared on this blog during the 2009 season. I did not apply any specific criteria when making these selections, other than to ask myself “Does this photo make my inner-most being cry out in rapturous wonderment?.” If the answer was in the affirmative, then you will see it listed below. Hopefully, your innermost being will respond similarly.   

What follows are my top 10 pics of the year, listed in the order in which they appeared on this blog.

Master Yogi Berra Lets LooseOn April 21, Greensboro Grasshoppers canine mascot Master Yogi Berra had a bit of an on-field accident. The following is one of two pictures I obtained of the incident (the “clean version”, if you will):

yogi (2).jpg  
(Photo credit: Dano Keeney)

Ceremonial CentenarianOn April 24, Round Rock Express season-ticket holder Chris Nocera threw out the first pitch. She is 102 years old — and very determined:

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Cream Stick Gets CreamedThe Akron Aeros nightly “Cream Stick Race” was, by all accounts, a chaotic free-for-all. Here, Vanilla feigns innocence immediately after pushing Maple to the ground:

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Ready, Set, SwallowSword swallower extraordinaire Dan Meyer prepares to ply his trade in Huntsville. I was lucky enough to be in attendance for this, a post-rainout performance for an audience of 15.

dan ready to perform.JPG

A Moo-ving ImageA key component of the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers’ “Salute to Cows” was a mooing contest. The following picture depicts the eventual champion as he readied himself for the moo of his life:

timber rattlers moo contest.JPG 
 

Presidential Self-Love The Brookyln Cyclones gave away Obama bobbleheads as part of “Barack-lyn Cyclones” night, and the commander-in-chief went out of his way to let the crowd know that he approved:

brooklyn baracklyn bobble.JPG

(photo credit: George Napolitano/Brooklyn Cyclones)

An A-peel-ing Photo —  As part of the Idaho Falls Chukars’ “Potato Night”, so-called “Spuddy Buddies” were thrown into the crowd. It was a thing of beauty:

Idaho Falls -- Spuddy Buddies Go Flying 2.JPG

Mascot MassageIn Birmingham, even costumed characters need the occasional rubdown:

Birmingham -- Mascot Massage 2.JPG

Belly Quickly BustedThis guy couldn’t even make it out of the first round in the Williamsport Crosscutters’ annual “Belly Buster” contest:

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Owlz Well That Ends Well Hootz and Holly tied the knot in a dramatic post-game ceremony in Orem, resulting in a surreal and oddly touching spectacle:

Thumbnail image for Orem Mascot Wedding Hootz sez I do.jpg

If you have any photos from this past se
ason that you think are worthy of inclusion in this blog, then by all means get in touch. I’ll be waiting patiently for your correspondence.

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

Wiffle Ball Just Wasn't In the Stars…But Sword Swallowing Was

A Thorough Documentation of My Night With the Huntsville Stars, in Words, Pictures, and Video.

BenDan Fight.jpg

As those of you with memories may recall, I was out of town and away from the blog for all of last week.

I had a good reason for this — the Huntsville Stars were attempting to set the world record for “Longest Wiffle Ball Game of All Time”, and I decided that it was my duty to document the action. This epic game of wiffle ball was scheduled to begin on Friday, May 15th, after the conclusion of that night’s contest between the Stars and the visiting Chattanooga Lookouts. In theory, it was to last all the way until 6 pm on Sunday.

Just one problem, though — torrential downpours and lightning storms in the Huntsville area put a kibosh on death-defying feats of Wiffle stamina. When my two friends (Frick and Frack, respectively) and I arrived at the ballpark, here is the sight that greeted us:

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That meant that the evening’s regularly scheduled plan was out of the question. There would be no Wiffle ball.

wiffle close up.jpg 

But when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. That’s certainly the philosophy of Huntsville Stars GM Buck Rogers, who was determined to have a good time at the ballpark despite this significant setback.

Buck in Office.JPG 

Buck, who doesn’t seem to do anything halfway, had hired the services of one Dan Meyer for the evening. Dan is a sword-swallower, and an expert practitioner of his craft. The downpour had relegated him to the team’s picnic area, giving him nothing much to do.

dan sitting.JPG

By this point in the evening, the game had been called and there were only a smattering of people left in the ballpark (mostly members of the Stars’ front office staff). But the lack of an audience didn’t deter Buck, who asked Dan to give a demonstration of his skills on the outfield grass. Dan, as befits a true professional, was more than happy to oblige.

So, it had come to this. What I had thought would be a 44-hour game of Wiffle ball had somehow morphed into an impromptu on-field sword-swallowing performance in front of an audience of 15 people.

It is things like this that make me glad to be alive.

dan ready to perform.JPG 

Dan began his performance by giving a detailed explanation of the sword’s journey (“it will hit my heart in the center of my chest…”). He then swallowed the sword, giving Buck the opportunity to pull it out. Behold the video:
 

For the grand finale — the bullwhip:

Needless to say, this was the most fun I had ever had at a Minor League rainout.

And let me state the obvious: Dan Meyer is an extremely entertaining performer. I believe that this appearance in Huntsville was his Minor League debut, but he has performed the world over in a variety of (literally) jaw-dropping situations. Perhaps most notably, he swallowed a 30-inch sword underwater while surrounded by sharks and stingrays. Check it out here. He has also founded the Sword Swallowers Association International, which is dedicated to preserving and promoting this dying art.

Truly, one of the things I like most about supplemental Minor League ballpark entertainment is that it is welcoming to performers like Dan Meyer. Individuals such as Rubberboy, Dave the Horn Guy, Myron Noodleman, and Mad Chad bring vaudeville sensibilities to the masses, helping to keep alive a dying and distinctly American form of traveling entertainment.

In closing, I must acknowledge the fine work of Mr. Joseph Pisch, who took all the photos and video seen in this post. I would also like to thank Mr. Jonathan Fischer, my personal chaffeur. That’s Joe on the left, and Jon on the right. They tried to get in on the freak show theme by smashing each other’s thumbs with a hammer, but all it ended up eliciting was stares of disgust and pity. 

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Of course, there was more to my Southern odyssey than just this one trip to Huntsville. When time allows, I’ll do a follow-up post highlighting a few other memorable moments.

Until then, send me an email. and tell me why I absolutely need to visit your Minor League ballpark. I would very much like to.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

Promo Review: Desperate Househusbands Night in Huntsville

hstars.jpgThe season is underway, meaning that my “Promo Preview” and “Promo Review” columns will be appearing on MiLB.com on a regular basis. And, of course, additional previews and reviews will regularly appear on this blog as well.

Today, I am pleased to provide a recap of the Huntsville Stars‘ “Desperate Househusbands” night, which took place on April 11. For those needing a refresher regarding what this night was all about, here’s an excerpt from the “Promo Preview” write-up:

If your marriage is like the “Lockhorns” comic come to life, then the
Stars have a promotion for you. Men who bring their “Honey Do” list of
chores to the game will receive a half-price ticket, and these
emasculating missives will be read over the PA. Whoever submits the
best “Honey Do” list receives an excellent prize — Stars’ staff will
do the chores instead.

Now, allow me to concede the floor to Stars GM Buck Rogers, who sent an email explaining how this all went down:

In the Desperate Househusbands Contest, four
finalists’ lists were read off after the game. A few of the lists were
your run-of-the-mill git’er-done Honey-Do lists. However, the crowd voted Steve
Tofflemire as the winner.  Here is Steve’s list:

1-Clean my wife’s
Tinkerbell collection (his wife, Allison has the entire home decorated in
Disney’s Tinkerbells)
2-Pick up her ‘delicates’ from the dry cleaners;

3-Attend my best friend’s wedding
4-Give my Mother-in-Law a foot massage

5-Cut the grass in my yard to look like Joe Davis Stadium’s field.

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Here’s what Steve has won:


1-On a
date to be determined between the staff and Steve, we will shut the Stars
office down and take the staff over to Steve’s house an execute this list;

2-Steve
also won a $50 gift card from Conner’s Steakhouse at Bridge Street. We’d
like to thank Conner’s for the donation. 

3-Steve will
look like a hero in the yes of his wife (and let’s not forget his
Mother-in-Law). That #4 above is going to be a tough one, Steve, and I’m
sure the interns are going to be finding all kinds of excuses.

This one is far from over, and I will make sure to get an update from Buck regarding the specifics of the mother-in-law foot massage. Remember, readers, you can not get this sort of information anywhere else!

Buck, being a loquacious individual, has more to say. I, being an accommodating individual, am going to let him say it:

The odd thing was that Steve tried
to slide this thru with his
wife in attendance
.
Most of the crowd knows Allison, who
is one of the Stars’ top fans, so they stuck around to root for Steve just
to have this promo backfire on him. Naturally, Allison didn’t know about
the list until we read it off on top of the dugouts after the game, and she was
a bit embarrassed. Steve was going to take a butt-kickin’ when he got
home, but they were cool enough to pose for a picture…The Mother-in-Law crack got the most laughs,
but Steve’s Father-in-Law just happened to attend the game, so he’s probably in
hot water over that one as well.

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So there you have it, folks. I will provide more on this story as it develops. Many thanks to Buck Rogers for taking the time to fill us in on this most ridiculous of promotions.

And, it should go without saying at this point, but I’m going to keep saying it: GET IN TOUCH with promo news, tips and recaps.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com  

The Art and Science of the Minor League Wish List

wish.jpgToday I must draw my readers’ attention to my Minoring in Business “cover” story, which features the Holiday Wish Lists of 20 (!) Minor League teams.

Folks, this is the kind of content you just can’t find anywhere else, so I hope you appreciate it. I could just as easily be getting paid to write literary essays on the cultural effects of 21st-century social isolation for Harper’s, you know. Lewis Lapham is constantly badgering me to do this.

But, no. The Minor Leagues are my calling, so I must answer the call. Therefore, revel in today’s article, which is chock-full of interesting Holiday requests. There is currently a poll on the MiLB.com homepage, asking fans to vote on their favorites. Your choices include three masterpieces of the Minor League Holiday Poetry genre (Huntsville, Toledo, Quad Cities), as well as a handwritten mascot letter (West Michigan) and a superb doctored photo (Tri-City ValleyCats).

Not included in the Top 5 poll, but still worth checking out, are humorous contributions fromsanty.jpg Reading, Williamsport, and Birmingham. Actually, it’s ALL worth checking out. Do not discriminate.

And I may as well get in on the act as well, and post a Holiday Wish List for this here blog. I refuse to address it to anyone in particular, but I nonetheless believe these things will happen as a result of positive karmic repercussion. I give, so that I may get. Here are the two things that I want:

– More readers! The numbers have been really strong lately, especially for the offseason, but there is still plenty of room for growth. I feel that the subject matter has appeal far beyond “the industry” and Minor League Baseball superfans. The culture and atmosphere of a Minor League Baseball stadium reflects the culture and atmosphere of the community in which it is located. Taken together, these community portraits represent and reflect American culture.

To summarize, and tone down the pretention a notch (sorry Lewis): Minor League Baseball IS America.

– More feedback! There has been a nice uptick in comments as of late, and I routinely receive emails from front office folks and fans alike. But…more please! I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: this blog is a two-way street. The content will only ever be as good as what I am provided with by my readers.

So get in touch, for any reason at all:

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

A Clean, Crisp, and Concise Cornucopia

bg.jpgMany apologies for my sporadic posting of late. What it comes down to is that I have no idea how to structure my life. But enough about me!

In order to, how you say, “get up to speed”, I’m going to rip a page out of my “Promotion Preview” playbook and write about a number of topics. But, here’s the catch — each of these topics will receive no less than 75 and no more than 125 words.

Go!

Wear This and You’ll Have a Ball, Girl — Anybody out there need a last-minute Halloween costume? Then head with a quickness to fresnogrizzlies.com, as the team is offering fans the opportunity to dress as the infamous “ballgirl” who was all the rage last season. You know, the one who made a spectacular leaping grab in Chukchansi Park, completely unaided by any sort of stunt cables or special effects. The costume, which costs $60, includes a Grizzlies cap and home jersey. For maximum realism, call up Jake Wald (the hapless left fielder featured in the clip) and ask him to accompany you to your Halloween party.

While We’re On the Topic of All Hallow’s Eve — Who knew? Halloween is indeedpumpkin.JPG celebrated in Canada. I know this is so because the Vancouver Canadians are staging a pumpkin decorating contest. But hurry, the deadline to submit a tricked-out gourd is today. So don’t delay, and send photographic evidence of your pumpkin prowess to aseymour@canadiansbaseball.com…In other Halloween news, Slugger the Portland Sea Dogs mascot was looking for Trick-or-Treat partners — and he found some. Congratulations to the Wareham family of Goreham, ME, who will be accompanied in their candy-pilfering rounds by Portland’s most beloved costumed character.

ports.gifThe Bands, They Are A Battlin’ — Also occurring over Halloween weekend is the Stockton Ports’ first-ever Battle of the Bands. 18 aspiring music combos will take the stage at Banner Island Ballpark over the two-day extravaganza in order to showcase their kinetic musical chops and electromagnetic stage presence. In addition, each evening features a headling band as well. The Righteous and the Wicked (a Red Hot Chili Peppers cover band) is scheduled to play on Friday, while groove rockers Minor Dischord close it out on Saturday. Hey guys, you should be more specific and bill yourselves as “Class A Advanced Dischord.” Anyhoo, the winner of this “Battle of the Bands” will be showered with a vast array of musical industry goods and services.

Hank’s Mobile Home Enjoys Brief Stint as a Mobile Home — Regular readers of this blog (ie those not drawn here by a picture of Lucille Ball) will remember this post, in which I detailed the Mobile BayBears’ plans to bring Hank Aaron’s childhood home to the grounds of Hank Aaron Stadium. Well, the club did just that this past week, subjecting the humble residence to an arduous seven-hour journey. I’d say that the whole thing went off without a hitch, except for the fact that a hitch was used in order to transport the house. Regardless, Hank’s old home is now scheduled to receive a six-month restoration, after which it will serve as a museum.

Pick the Improvement Picked — Oh, regular readers, I must defer to you once again. Because surely you remember this post, in which I detailed the Quad City River Bandits’ “Pick the Improvement” contest. As part of this innovative procedure, fans were given the chance to vote on a new upgrade to the River Bandits’ Modern Woodmen Park. Well, the results are in, and the improvement to be made is…drumroll please…the addition of backs to the bleacher seats. Cue the Sir-Mix-A-Lot!

Snap These Up! — Collectors of Minor League memorabilia will be pleased to know that theThumbnail image for catesmil.jpg Beloit Snappers are offering up a plethora of game-used jerseys. Of particular note is the fact that items worn by Chris Cates and Loek Van Mil are available. Regular readers (take a bow, you guys!) will remember this post, which highlighted the fact that these teammates were the shortest and tallest players in all of professional baseball last season. My suggestion? Buy each players’ jersey, and use it as the centerpiece of a homemade exhibit that seeks to highlight the vast diversity that exists within the human race.

Wanted: An Affable Toothy Whistlepig — A previous post on this blog (which may or may not have been read by those who visit regularly) detailed the fact that the Gwinnett Braves had unveiled their new mascot. Well, that was all well and good, but now the club needs a brave and talented soul to step up and inhabit this intriguing character on a nightly basis. In order to do this, the G-Braves are holding mascot auditions on Nov. 18 at a local high school. All aspiring costumed groundhogs are invited to
attend.

Clean Sweep, the Sequel — This past March, the Huntsville Stars staged “Operation Cleanhd.jpg Sweep”, in which fans were asked to do volunteer beautification work at Joe Davis Stadium in exchange for free tickets. The event, believe it or not, was a huge success, so the team is doing it again. Clean Sweep 2 will be held on November 1, and will give fans the chance to fullfill their lifelong dreams of doing “light cleaning, light landscaping, and painting” at a Double-A stadium. But that, of course, is not all — from the press release: “Fans will be able to taste-test an assortment of different hotdogs and
vote to decide which one will become the official hotdog of Joe Davis
Stadium for the 2009 season.” But remember — with great power comes great responsibility!

My goodness, this has been one of the longest posts in the history of this esteemed blog. I did it for you, regular readers, I did it for you. As always, get in touch with tips, questions, comments, and criticisms:

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

One Step Closer To the Inevitable…

golden.jpgLast week I did a post on the innovative season ticket plan launched by the Huntsville Stars and the West Tenn Diamond Jaxx, in which each team would honor the other’s Season Ticket Holder cards when they face each other.

Well, this is an idea that is quickly taking on a life of its own, as last week the Stars and D-Jaxx announced that the Mississippi Braves and the Chattanooga Lookouts had entered into the agreement as well. This means that each club’s 70-game season ticket plan now includes 24 additional road games.

You realize what this is all building toward, right? No? Well I’ll tell you — This is all building toward a bold new future in which a Minor League team’s season ticket plan also includes admission to each and every away game. Granted, we’re not there yet, but we are most certainly headed down that path. Prepare yourselves.

On The Topic — Somewhat similar to the new Stars and D-Jaxx ticket plan is the arrangement that exists between the Pacific Coast League’s Round Rock Express and the Texas League’s Corpus Christi Hooks. Both teams are owned and operated by Ryan-Sanders Baseball, and as a result honor the other’s season tickets and also offer team-rate discounts at the team hotel in each city.  (thanks to Hooks’ director of ballpark entertainment Seamus Gallivan for the info)

Off the Topic, But Still Related To One of the Teams in Question — The Stars, a Brewershart.jpg affiliate, are hosting a youth baseball camp on November 8. And this camp is going to be run by none other than Corey Hart. However, the Corey Hart in question is not this Corey Hart, who currently patrols right field for the Brewers. Nor is it this Corey Hart, who scored a pop smash in 1983 with “Sunglasses at Night”. Rather, it is Brewers Minor League hitting instructor Corey Hart, whose eight-year pro playing career came to an end in 2005.

All three of these Corey Harts are worthy of respect and admiration. Just don’t get confused, is all I’m saying.   

Befriending the Enemy

AWESTTENN.gifHey, you know what I like to share on this blog?

Ideas, that’s what. That, and bad jokes.

From the former category, I would like to highlight a recent innovation that was jointly announced by the Southern League’s Huntsville Stars and West Tenn Diamond Jaxx. Beginning next season, each team will now honor the other’s Season Ticket Holder cards when they
face each other.

The motivation for this came about after the Stars and theHuntsville Stars.jpg Diamond Jaxx met in a one-game playoff for the first-half North Division title. I have gone far too long without utilizing a press release quote, so please let me rectify this situation immediately:

“[The Diamond Jaxx} brought down a couple of bus loads of fans from Jackson to root on their guys,” explained [Stars GM Buck] Rogers. “It made for a really good atmosphere at the ballpark. This is an opportunity to help
promote the rivalry between the two teams and their fans, and it’s just a really good way to thank
our season ticket holders for their support.”

Considering the fact that the two teams play each other 20 times per season, this offer effectively adds 10 games to each club’s 70-game season ticket plan.

Obviously, this is an idea that could be implemented throughout the Minors, between any two Division Rivals who play a short distance from one another. Congrats to the D-Jaxx and the Stars for being potential trendsetters.

Moving On…Being of an indefatigable nature, I will make sure to update this blog regularly throughout the long, cold, offseason. Still, I must admit that in this time of year it is tough to continually find engaging and interesting material.

This is where you come in. If you work for a team, get in touch! I am interested in everything from belated promo recaps to anecdotes from the season that has passed to upcoming ’09 plans. And if you don’t work in the industry, that’s okay too. Email me for absolutely any reason at all. Basically, I just like getting email.

And I am certainly amenable to the idea of a “guest post” as well. If anyone would like to step in and write a biz-related post, then email me. This is an opportunity to take advantage of, as it is not everyday that one is given the chance to write for a vast cadre of loyal readers.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

11,689 Consecutive Firsts

Huntsville Stars.jpgSaturday, August 23rd, was a very special day in the world of baseball — and not just because it was Julio Franco’s 50th birthday. For it was on this day that the Huntsville Stars strolled into the hallowed pages of the Guinness Book of World Records.

Their accomplishment? Starting at 12:01 a.m. and ending right before that evening’s 7:05 p.m. contest against Carolina, a startling 11,689 first pitches were thrown from the mound of Joe Davis Stadium.

It may take a logical leap to accept the fact that each one of these pitches was a “first”, but this was nonetheless a very impressive accomplishment. The previous “First Pitch” record of 8,304 was set earlier this season by the Brevard County Manatees, and there is in fact a significant connection between these two franchises. Prior to re-locating to Huntsville this past offseason, Stars GM Buck Rogers served in the same capacity for the Manatees. It was Rogers, in fact, who instituted the first “World Record First Pitch” promotion in Brevard County.

Here’s an excerpt from a press release sent out by Rogers after the Stars broke the Manatees’ record.

Gates opened at midnight and fans began throwing for the
record books one minute later.
Thumbnail image for umpire.gif  Stars Manager Don Money threw pitch number
10,715 and the game’s umpires were included in the final 25 pitches.  Only two
of the umps could find the strike zone, but that’s no different than any other
day in baseball so why worry about it now?

Further research on my part resulted in me finding this blog post, which alleges that these umpires took part in the promotion at approximately 4:30 in the morning, driving straight to Joe Davis Stadium after working a game in Mobile the night before. And still, they are ridiculed. Anyways, back to Rogers’ report:

“The youngest pitcher of the night was six-month old
Maddux Welch, son of Stars Pitcher David Welch. Huntsville Mayor Loretta
Spencer came out and helped the cause as well. 
The final pitch, the ultimate world record throw, was raffled off for the
Muscular Dystrophy Association Jerry Lewis Labor Day Telethon.”

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Congratulations to the Stars on achieving this prodigious feat, one which will be remembered forevermore as one of the greatest accomplishments in the history of humankind.

Bold Font Indicating a Change in Topic: Over the past month or so, more and more teams have been sending me photos and recaps from promotions that were staged this season. Keep ‘em coming! I am a huge proponent of symbiotic relationships between Minor League franchise and blogger.

And let me reiterate the fact that I appreciate hearing from everyone who reads this blog, no matter who you are or what you have to say.
 
benjamin.hill@mlb.com

Thanks.

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