Results tagged ‘ Jackson Generals ’

Pulled Pork and Plenty of It

So, I’m curious — what sort of content do you most like to see on this blog? Throughout the season I’m constantly juggling between road trip material, random promotional highlights from around the Minors, and one-off explorations of various MiLB topics (such as last week’s introduction of the Universal Rain Check).

So, yeah, it would help if I had any sort of idea regarding what to prioritize. Or maybe you just love it all? I hope so. In fact, that’s what I’m going to assume from here on out. That everybody loves everything. I feel much better now.

And falling under the umbrella of “everything” would be this semi-recent Jackson Generals endeavor, as in mid-May the team took it upon themselves to create the “World’s Largest BBQ Sandwich.” I caught wind of this when I visited the team last month, and soon thereafter media relations assistant Bradley Field sent over some pictures. So let’s check them out!

You start with a little bread:

And then add some meat:

And then add some more meat:

And then add some more meat:

And then the piece de resistance — more bread!

Not gluten-free

That heaping mass was then broken into far more reasonable single-serving portions. Bon appetit!

This historic sandwich was created in conjunction with Southern Pride, a company that manufactures BBQ pits and smokers. A press release put out by the company will, hopefully, answer any pressing questions that you may have at this juncture.

The previous [BBQ Sandwich] record, set by Newbern, North Carolina, July 2010, was 1,341 pounds. The pulled pork sandwich produced by Southern Pride and cooked on two SP-1000 smokers, weighed in at 1,566 pounds. Official witnesses from the National Guard and local fire stations were on hand to confirm the totals.

Attendees were allowed to donate at least $5 to the Families of Fallen Soldiers Fund for a piece of the sandwich. Over 400 pounds of the sandwich were served to attendees at Pringles Park. Every ounce of the remaining 1,100 pounds were served to three local outreach ministries (Operation Hope, The Dream Center and The Care Center).

1566 pounds is a bit extreme, but Minor League Baseball-related charitable initiatives come in all sizes, shapes and forms. And, whenever possible, I am happy to highlight them. Today I’ll close with a link to “Autographs 4 Alopecia,” a philanthropically-minded project spearheaded by loyal reader Greg Glass and his two sons Blake and Gavin.

Blake, 11, explains the Autographs 4 Alopecia mission thusly:

My name is Blake and I’m 11 years old. I was diagnosed with alopecia areata at the age of 1 and have been pretty much bald my whole life. My brother Gavin and I love to go to baseball games and get autographs. In 2012 we are expanding beyond baseball and will include other sports as well. We have a total of 2,072 autographed cards going into the 2012 season. This season I will again be donating $.05 and my family will match it for $.10 per card or other item we get autographed to the National Alopecia Areata Foundation.

So there you have it — to check out the boys’ autographing adventures and/or to make a donation yourself, then simply click HERE.

And, no matter who you are or what you do, please know that my lines of communication are always open.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

On the Road: Strawberries and Bologna at a Fun Place in Jackson

The town of Jackson, TN is sandwiched between Memphis and Nashville along I-40, and boasts a modest population of 65,000. It’s not the most obvious Minor League market, given its small size and close proximity to glitzier locales, but has nonetheless been a proud host of Southern League baseball since the late 20th century.

1998, to be exact, a time of presidential perjury trials, overlooked Mudhoney albums, and the release of Free Willy back into the wild. And ever since those halcyon days, the team has called Pringles Park home.

And, yes, the team is called Pringles Park because the iconic potato snack product is manufactured in Jackson. (Proctor and Gamble sprung for the naming rights). And even though Pringles are potato “crisps” as opposed to chips, the stadium is still colloquially referred to as “The Big Chip.”

Right out in front of the stadium, whose address is the unforgettable “4 Fun Place, one finds this touching tribute to “the children of Tennessee’s Fallen Warriors.”

But let’s not enter the stadium just yet. Pringles Park underwent a $1 million improvement project this past offseason — and all of the improvement occurred outside of the facility. 40,000 cars pass by daily on I-40, and in the past the stadium view on offer was obscured by what Generals GM Jason Compton describes as “kudzu and piles of sand.” That distressing situation is now in the past, thanks to a little bit of land acquisition and a whole lotta landscaping.

“The best billboard is the park itself,” Compton told me, and it’s clear that he and his organization take a lot of pride in these exterior improvements.

Look, a fountain!

I was out in this area with media relations assistant Bradley Field, who reported that “there have been no splashdowns yet.” I then suggested that the team needs a name for the fountain, and Field responded with “Pringles Pond.” That’s a good start, but this is the kind of thing that can only be decided via the power of social media (well, either that or a half-drunken brainstorming session).

The Generals certainly leave no doubt as to their affiliation. Behold this phenomenal tourist attraction: the biggest Seattle Mariners billboard east of the Wasatch mountains. (Also note the new videoboard, coquettishly peeking out from beyond center field).

The team also advertises the affiliation of its opponent, via this sign:

Lookout (for that truck!)

As you can infer, on this evening the Generals were playing the Dodgers-affiliated Chattanooga Lookouts. There were no Lookouts to be found once I returned to the stadium’s interior, but there were myriad Generals in the midst of their pre-game preparations.

During this portion of the evening I interviewed Taijuan Walker and then Nick Franklin from a picnic bench beyond the left field fence. Franklin, who I also spoke with in High Desert last season, has since been promoted to Triple-A Tacoma along with ace pitcher Danny Hultzen. Walker, just 19, might not be far behind.

Basically, the Generals are stacked. They handily won the first-half North Division title (look for Friday’s MiLB.com piece about the improbable manner in which that all went down), and it could be argued that they’re the best team in all of Double-A. Broadcaster Chris Harris told me that there has been more media interest (local and national) in this team than in his previous three years combined.

After the interviews, I adjourned to the dizzying heights of the press box…

and interviewed team bus driver Thomas “Double T” Tansil about what it was like to be part of the team’s recent clinching celebration in Jacksonville (again, more on that over at MiLB.com, soon). Tansil radiated contentment and seemed to like everything about his job, saying “it’s all been good, I wouldn’t trade nothing for it.”

Double-T, driver of Generals

The game began soon afterward, with the since-promoted Hultzen on the mound in front of a rather sparse midweek crowd.

As for the crowd — it was a Wednesday evening and as anyone who works in Minor League Baseball knows, that’s just how it is sometimes. The Generals attendance is up this season, however, thanks to factors such as the ballpark improvements and on-field success and recent re-branding (they switched to “Generals” in 2011, after being known as the “West Tenn Diamond Jaxx”).

And there’s certainly room for further growth. Compton, a West Tennessee native who has been with the club since 2001, is in his first season as GM.  He’s working on enlivening the entertainment and promotions, and efforts in that regard have been fruitful (that’s a play on words, as you’ll see soon enough).

At any rate, it was time for me to wander. That’s just what I do.

It was behind home plate that I first saw Sarge. He was playing a game called “stand like a statue while I gently caress the back of your hand.”

Mist-ery Man

Down the third base line, manager Jim Pankovits was doing his best to keep the field clear of wayward bat shards.

My lone fish-eye indulgence of the evening.

As I made it back toward home plate, I was able to watch Sarge lead a crowd of young fans in the Chicken Dance.

I couldn’t participate in these fowl activities, however, as I had my own agenda. The nightly Fruit Race was coming up soon, and I had been recruited to participate.

When I asked Compton “Why a fruit race?” his response was one that I have heard many times over when traveling through the Minor Leagues: “Why not?”

The fruit race costumes were lovingly kept in a storage area behind the left field fence (close to my picnic bench interview spot). I chose Strawberry.

And here, things get a little weird. I handed off my camera so that the race could be documented by members of the promo team, and the first photo taken looks like this:

And then, there were eight consecutive “file not found” images before, finally, this shot showing the conclusion of the race (I came in second).

I really have no idea what happened — maybe some wrong buttons were pushed, or the camera was dropped. But it started working as soon as it was handed back to me, so my explanation is this: My camera loves me, and me only, and was probably dismayed to see me demeaning myself at a Minor League ballpark yet again. Its malfunction was a protest of sorts, motivated by a desire to only document me at my best.

I love you too, camera. I love you too.

I also love being on the radio, and after shedding my Strawberry skin and once again donning my wandering blogger outfit I went up to join Harris for an inning on the air. These digs are nicely appointed…sunset, headphones, ketchup — what more could you want?

Nothing works up an appetite like being on the radio (I mean, why not? Just go with me on this one). A grill behind home plate provided a fair number of options:

The “Ricoh Burger” listed above was created by — who else? — Ricoh. He’s the man manning the grill, and has been doing so for nearly the entirety of the team’s existence.

Ricoh told me what was in the Ricoh burger, but I neglected to write it down and have now, unfortunately, forgotten. It was definitely one of those “little bit of everything” creations, and seemed a bit too much for me to handle at the moment. So I went with the bologna sandwich, and stand by this choice:

I’d only had one other bologna sandwich in my Minor League travels, and with all due respect to the Danville Braves Ricoh’s version was far superior. After receiving the sandwich I went to a concession stand down the third base line, with one item in mind. Try to guess which one:

But I was denied! There were no fried green tomatoes at this portion of the evening, so that particular ballpark experience is going to have to come another day. Or not.

I instead bought a Yuengling (which had a personal significance that I’ll explain at a later date), and then did something I rarely do on these road trips: sat in one place, as a fan, for two innings straight!

From this vantage point, I watched the Generals win the ballgame.

A few players stopped to sign autographs on their way back to the clubhouse and, really, that was that.

After the game I was thoughtfully given a nice array of Generals merchandise, which will soon be given away, by me, on Twitter. Stay tuned! Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to fit this hat in my carry-on luggage.

On my way out of the stadium, a skunk crossed right in front of my car. I probably should have immediately gone in the opposite direction, but instead tried to document the moment for posterity. It didn’t turn out that well, so I have helpfully enhanced the photo so that you may see what I saw. I mean, I don’t know about you, but it’s not every day you see a skunk in a Minor League parking lot. It was a moment to cherish.

And that’ll do it for me, from Jackson. I wrote this post in a fever, hotter than a pepper sprout, and was going to link to this song but then got overwhelmed by how great it is so here ya go. (And kudos to the Generals for playing the Johnny Cash/June Carter version over the PA after the game.)

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

A Break In the Action

skyhole.jpgAs the previous two posts would indicate, it’s been a big week for logos here in the world of Minor League Baseball. And there’s more where that came from — the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers are unveiling new marks tomorrow, and the Omaha Royals are announcing the results of their “Name That Team” contest on Monday evening.

So, before getting swept away in yet another logo deluge, let me dedicate this post to other news and notes from the world of the Minors.

I’ll start by talking about — Me! The latest MLBlogs rankings were announced yesterday, and “Ben’s Biz” is at #12 in the “Pro” category. Thanks for your support! Also on the list is my colleague Jonathan Mayo, an expert when it comes to prospects, the MLB draft, and player development in general. Check out his “Big, Bald, and Beautiful” blog, and follow him on Twitter (@JonathanMayoB3). Together we represent the yin and yang of the Minor League experience.

Jeez, this paragraph marks four straight without a new logo. I’ll rectify that right now, as the aforementioned Omaha Royals announced today that their still-under-construction Sarpy County home will go by the name of Werner Park.

Werner Park logo.jpg

As the logo would imply, Werner is a “global logistics company”. But they’re based in Omaha, hence their naming rights deal with the Royals.

Moving on from “that which has just been given a name” to “that which still needs a name”, I would like to note that the Jackson Generals mascot is in search of an appropriate moniker.

jaxmaz.jpg

I’d make a few of my own suggestions, if I wasn’t so entranced by his hourglass figure and copious jowls.

But nothing entrances like the soothing glow of the small screen. On Saturday the MLB Network is airing a program that was filmed at Alliant Energy Field, home of the Clinton LumberKings. It’s called “Triumph and Tragedy: the 1919 Chicago White Sox”.

clinton.jpg

And, hey, remember last week when I wrote about the Toledo Mud Hens customized Firefox browser? I thought it might have been a Minor League first, but as is so often the case I was wrong. The Durham Bulls had one first.

bullbrowz.jpg

Anyone want to send me an email letting me know that they did this before the Bulls? I’ll correct myself until the cows come home.

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

It's News To Me

betterlate.jpgDuring the offseason, I stay on top of any and all team name, logo, and mascot changes. But if announcements of this nature are made during the season, it is possible that they may slip through the proverbial cracks.

Three such items indeed went unremarked upon (by me) when they were first announced, but today’s post will set everything right with the world. Here, then, is a round-up of that which I neglected.

Generally Speaking — Last month, it was revealed that the West Tenn Diamond Jaxx would henceforth be known as the Jackson Generals.

general.jpg

 The new team is a nod to the region’s rich baseball history. Let us journey now to the press release:

According to Kevin McCann, author of “Jackson Diamonds – Professional Baseball in Jackson, “The name Jackson Generals has a rich history of unusual plays and colorful players. Some of the players who’ve spent time on the diamond in Jackson include Shoeless Joe Jackson, Edd Rousch, John McGraw, Ellis Kinder, Casey Stengel, Yogi Berra, Joe Garagiola, Tony Kubek, and many others.” 

The team announced the name change immediately following the conclusion of the regular season, an announcement punctuated with some thoughtful nods to the past:

Throwing out the last pitch of the regular season as the Diamond Jaxx was Ms. Jane Des Ormeaux, the 93-year-old fan who doesn’t miss a game. She also is the fan who came up with the name West Tenn Diamond Jaxx. The first pitch as the Jackson Generals was thrown by local businessman Walt Mestan. Mestan, a Chicago native, was one of the leading pitchers for the 1950 and 1951 Jackson Generals.

Miraculous Changes — While not quite as dramatic as a name change, the Fort Myers Miracle will be wearing new uniforms in 2011.

miraculous.jpg

Sez the team: The new uniforms will feature hats that are a lighter shade of navy blue than is currently being worn. The uniforms will also be without pinstripes for the first time since 1993 and feature the current Minnesota Twins logo on the left sleeve.

miracleuni.jpgThe new identity was developed in coordination with Studio Simon, similar to a General in that they are a leader in the field.

Addition By Subtraction– On August 31, the West Virginia Power unveiled their new mascot. His name is Chuck, and he replaces the five (!) costumed characters the team had previously employed. No pictures of Chuck seem to exist on the club’s website or Facebook page, but this local newspaper article picks up the slack.

So what else have I missed out on over the last six weeks? Let me know, because my powers of oversight are boundless.

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

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