Results tagged ‘ Kane County Cougars ’
Happy 2015 to you and, should you be the possessive type, yours. The first post of this calendar year, which you are reading now, shall be nothing less and nothing more than a good old fashioned bouillabaisse. A bewildering array of interesting tidbits are offered therein, and the only thing these tidbits have in common with one another is — you guessed it — Minor League Baseball.
Let’s start with a hot-off-the-virtual-presses promo that was announced today by the Kane County Cougars. The team is currently staging a “Social Media Virtual Championship Ring Unveiling,” which I believe just might be the first such thing of its kind.
Do not adjust your set:
Beginning [January 5], the Cougars will post a blurred image of the ring design on their social media channels and fans, through a pre-determined quantity of Facebook ‘shares’ and ‘likes’ as well as Twitter re-tweets and ‘likes’ on Instagram, will help virtually “unveil” the ring design, which will be released in its entirety to the public this Friday.
This reminds me of a long-gestating but little-acted-upon article idea I have had: What Minor League teams have the best championship rings? If you think the team that you follow (or work for) might qualify for such a distinction, then please get in touch.
The holidays may be over, but the Holiday League goes on. I am speaking, of course, of the as-of-now theoretical league created by logo designer John Hartwell (of the eponymous Hartwell Studio Works). Last month, the 2014 North Pole Reindeer baseball card set was unveiled, featuring the starting line-up of the North Pole Reindeer. A lot of work has gone into these; each card features an full color front and back, and every Reindeer has his own Baseball-Reference page.
The North Pole Reindeer open the 2015 Holiday League season on April 9 against the Arborville Huggers.
Every year, Minor League teams vie for the coveted honor of “alternate logo most likely to inspire scores of Space Jam references on Twitter.” In 2015, it looks like this distinction will be going to the Rome Braves.
The R-Braves maintain that their inspiration for the logo came from a far weightier source:
The logo features a Roman soldier’s helmet on a baseball with the letter ”R” on the front. The helmet was used by the military of ancient Rome from 753 BC – AD 476 and pays tribute to the name of our hometown of Rome, GA with a red, blue, and gray color scheme.
Did you know? A new Minor League mascot-themed children’s book has been released, and this book features a “very special guest appearance by Darryl Strawberry.” What more could you ask for as regards literary material for beginning readers?
Finally, what do these four disconnected images all have in common?
Yep, you guessed it: They are all proud winners of the first-annual “Bizzie Awards,” created and then (virtually) distributed by me at the end of last month. Everyone else seems to be giving out awards at the end of the year, so why can’t I?
Last week I received an email from Brad Lawrence of Fox Virtual Tours, “the leading provider of Google Business Photos 360 Virtual Tours in the [Illinois] Fox Valley.” Brad, a certified “Google trusted photographer,” had recently created one such tour for the Kane County Cougars and as such thought that I might be interested in the potential of this technology for Minor League Baseball teams in general. I was, which leads us to this: a guest post by Brad in which he extols the virtues of Google tours. Perhaps this technology, as utilized by Kane County, will soon be coming to a team near YOU.
I had worked for the Cougars during college, in the early years of the franchise. Typical of Minor League Baseball, I wore multiple hats—answering phones during the day, and manning the Customer Service booth during games. (I was in my booth the night of OJ’s infamous slow-speed chase in 1994, and I’ll never forget the bizarre scene in the adjacent press box, as all the guys huddled around a TV.) Little did I know that almost 20 years later, I’d be back at that very same spot shooting a virtual tour for this new company called “Google,” which in ’94 did not exist.
I presented the idea to the Cougars in late August, and they were enthusiastic. Their Google tour would be the first of its kind in Minor League Baseball. It would showcase the ballpark 365 days per year on Google properties, and it would be a valuable resource for both fans and team alike. When fans bought tickets, they could sample views from around the stadium—even the lawn area or the “Leinie Lodge” right field deck. The Cougars had added an impressive Upper Deck since my stint with the team, and we were excited to show it in the tour. We would include the Super Suite, both party decks, and two standard suites in the tour. Fans could see the spectacular views from the balconies. At field level, fans would be able to take a “virtual” trip around the bases on a picture-perfect day.
The Cougars gave me the green light and I began shooting just after the season ended. We had an ideal window where the weather was great and the ballpark still looked “game-ready,” but there were no games to work around. After a few trips to the ballpark, I had all the individual “panos” I needed to assemble the tour. I then began the final stage of connecting them all to create a seamless tour of the ballpark. It all came together nicely, and I was thrilled to publish it and see it live on Google. The Cougars were thrilled, too.
I enjoyed my rendezvous with the Cougars. I think the moment is right for Google’s virtual tours, which are offered in the Google Business Photos program. With fast Internet and widespread adoption of smartphones and tablets, the tours look great on a variety of devices. They engage fans with interactive content on Google, and can be embedded on the team’s website and Facebook page. Sales staff can keep a spreadsheet with links to various locations in the tour, and simply share a link to show a section, suite or party deck. It’s a tremendous marketing resource. And with some of the finest views in all of sports, a baseball park makes a wonderful subject for a Google tour.
And now, a brief addendum from Kane County director of public relations Shawn Touney:
Just a couple of weeks in, this has been a great resource for us. I have personally used this for a couple of sponsorship meetings I’ve had. I actually spoke to a college class last week and they asked me about the tour before I had even mentioned it in my presentation. And our ticket sales team has used this as well to facilitate new business for company outings. For several of the group picnic areas at our ballpark, we have embedded code on their corresponding web pages. Here’s an example from our Party Suites web page.
And that, as they say, is that. Thanks to Brad (firstname.lastname@example.org) for writing this post (which, by the way, was #997 in Ben’s Biz Blog history). If you are interested in writing a guest post then, by all means, get in touch. I’m all ears, figuratively if not literally.
For the past two decades, the Kane County Cougars have played at Elfstrom Stadium. The facility was named in honor of Philip B. Elfstrom, a former Kane County Forest Preserve president who played a key role in bringing Minor League Baseball to the region.
Sound familiar? It should. For Kane County is the fourth Fifth Third Ballpark (or Field) in Minor League Baseball. (The others are located in Toledo, Dayton, and West Michigan.) Clearly, a naming-rights juggernaut is forming.
Fifth Third Bank is headquartered in Cincinnati, Ohio. It’s unusual name is described on Wikipedia as [T]he result of the June 1, 1908 merger of Third National Bank and Fifth National Bank, to become the Fifth Third National Bank of Cincinnati. While Third National was the senior partner, the merger took place during a period when prohibitionist ideas were gaining popularity, it was believed that “Fifth Third” was better than “Third Fifth,” which could be construed as a reference to three “fifths” of alcohol.
At the time, no one could have imagined that the name would go on to inspire the most attention-getting Minor League concession item of the 21st century: West Michigan’s “Fifth Third Burger.”
Here’s hoping that the Cougars pick up on this trend, and offer a Fifth Third Brat at the ballpark in 2012 (washed down with 5/3rds of a pint of Leinenkugel).
But regardless of potential new food items, this news out of Kane County means that there are a total of 20/3 Fifth Third ballparks in the Minors (approximately 6.66, for you conspiracy theorists). How do you feel about this? Is it an example of the increasing homogenization of a traditionally diverse industry? Or a reflection of strength and resiliency during tough economic times?
— A topic that provokes far less ambivalence is blogging, which is obviously one of the greatest things one can do with his or her time. And for an example of a Minor League team blog at its most impressive, take a look at the “2011 Year In Review” post over at “From the Nest” (the official blog of the Great Lakes Loons).
Contained therein are everything from “Top 10 Games” to “Best Nicknames” to “Fashion Stats” to “Notable First Pitches” to “Goofy Head Shots.
I’ll be honest — Minor League team blogs usually make me grumpy, as they are often well-intentioned but amateurishly done and eventually abandoned. So when teams go above and beyond I take notice. The Loons’ “Year in Review” is more than a blog post. It’s a statement of purpose, one that could be incorporated into sponsorship proposals and season-ticket renewal letters as an example of just how much the team has to offer.
— And speaking of going above and beyond — the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers have made a tradition of offering highly collectible Opening Night bobbleheads, and 2012 is no exception. As part of a year-long 50th Anniversary of Midwest League Baseball celebration, the team is offering no less than five bobbleheads as part of an Opening Night “All-Fan” giveaway.
These wide-eyed fellas are united in their ability to arouse distinct feelings of unease, but diverse when it comes to what they represent. Sez the team:
Each bobblehead is decorated with the jersey and cap from one of the following years:
- 1953 Appleton Papermakers
- 1960 Fox Cities Foxes
- 1983 Appleton Foxes
- 1995 Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (Original home jersey)
- 2011 Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (Updated home jersey)
All fans attending the game between the Timber Rattlers and the Cedar Rapids Kernels on Thursday, April 5, 2012 will receive one of the bobbleheads at random. There will be equal numbers of four models of bobbleheads. However, only 250 of the 1953 Appleton Papermakers bobbleheads will be available as part of the giveaway.
Finally, congratulations to Durham Bulls broadcaster Neil Solondz, who recently got the call-up to the parent Tampa Bay Rays. As you may recall, Solondz was one of three broadcasters profiled in my recent MiLB.com article on broadcasters on the cusp.
I’d like to think that I’m a blogger on the cusp. But the question remains: the cusp of what?
It’s been a week of -spection on this blog, of both the intro and retro varieties. Come Monday I’ll return to reporting on current Minor League events, but today we’ll keep with the theme and take one final look back at the season that was.
Specifically, my season that was. And even more specifically, the swag I accumulated. Whether through the mail or at the ballpark, people gave me a lot of stuff . By the end of the season I had no where to put it, save for in overstuffed bags beneath my overstuffed desk.
Enough is enough! Clearly, the time for Fall cleaning had arrived. First, I meticulously took stock of what I had.
And in doing so, I realized that I’d neglected to highlight the haul from my road trip to the Carolinas. This haul was dominated by the ever-generous Charleston RiverDogs, who had provided me with a full-to-overflowing bag of goodies.
The Big Lebowski-themed “Dog Abides” shirt had been briefly featured before, as I wore it while attending a game in Winston-Salem. But right above it there is a notable giveaway item — a Charleston Rainbows jersey (yes, this actually used to be the name of Charleston’s Minor League team).
I also obtained what I believe may have been a giveaway first — mascot-themed salt and pepper shakers, in which the spice-dispensing characters in question are flanked by a friendly tree.
One of the most notable members of the RiverDogs’ ownership group is Mike Veeck, who happened to be the guest of honor at the Kane County Cougars gala “Night of 100 Promotions.” And, wouldn’t you know it, I happened to obtain two shirts commemorating this event.
And, finally, a picture of some random stuff on a table. That’s when you know that you’ve reached the end of the line.
A select portion of my 2011 swag haul has been entered into the Ben’s Biz permanent archives, but the vast majority needs to be shed like so much excess skin. Plans are in the works for a swag giveaway later this offseason. Stay tuned…
At any rate, after this thorough cleaning and consolidation process, my work space is a lot more manageable.
Upwards and onwards!
But, because I can’t help myself, how about one final look back? I mentioned this on Twitter earlier in the week, but recently I came to a startling realization regarding my late July trip to the Carolinas: I saw seven games at seven stadiums in seven days, and the home team won each and every one!
I asked my Twitter followers what the odds of this happening would be, and most replied that it was 1/128 (.78%, two to the seventh power). But Scott “the Heckler” Jennings went a step further, compiling a Google document that took each team’s home record into account! His findings revealed odds of 1.01%
Regardless, it’s clear that I am a walking talisman, my mere presence brings victory to the masses. Invite me to your ballpark, and awkwardly intimate post-game celebrations will be the end result!
And, really, that’s going to it on the season-recap front (or is it?). From here on out it’s time to look ahead.
Look, a head!
Anyone who’s attended a Minor League Baseball game is aware of just how much entertainment is packed into any given evening — from pre-game concerts to between-inning contests to the time-honored post-game trifecta of launch-a-ball, fireworks, and run the bases.
And on and on and on it goes. But even by these already overstuffed standards, the extravaganza staged last Thursday by the Kane County Cougars deserves special attention. Cue reverb-drenched baritone announcer voice: The Night of 100 Promotions!
It was what it’s name implied — 100 promotions packed into a single night (the State College Spikes originated this concept, if I’m not mistaken). Fans entering the ballpark received a complete list, which included everything from “Hopscotch” to “Hula Hoop Contest” to the very meta “List of 100 Promotions.”
But number one on the list was “Mike Veeck Appearance.” Veeck, the son of legendary baseball owner and innovator Bill Veeck, has carried on the family legacy through his involvement with the Goldklang Group’s stable of teams (Charleston, Fort Myers, and Hudson Valley among them).
Veeck was one of three Chicago baseball icons on hand for the occasion. Rounding out the triumvirate were legendary executive Roland Hemond (promotion #8) and White Sox organist Nancy Faust (promotion #9).
And just because I know I’m going to get emails about it otherwise, let me note for the record that “on-field mascot defecation” was emphatically NOT one of the special promotions. That’s a tail.
But many of the scheduled promotions did make a nod toward the Veeck family’s promotional legacy. An on-field “Record Tossing” contest paid homage to the White Sox’s infamous “Disco Demolition Night,” and the “ballpark shower” was in honor of one that Bill Veeck had installed in the Comiskey Park bleachers.
On a personal level, one of my favorite promotions was #39 — Mr. Kaboom, Jr. One lucky fan got to visit Mr. Kaboom in his outfield lair and help launch off some fireworks, something I had the opportunity to do when I visited Kane County last season.
But enough about me. Here’s a smorgasbord of snapshots featuring last Thursday’s many-tiered promotion.
The evening’s surprise highlight was #98 — listed cryptically as “Rock This” on the list of promotions. What it turned out to be was a flash mob, one that the club had spent nearly two months preparing for.
It was clearly a night to remember in Kane County, and a possible 2011 MiLB.com “Promotion of the Year” contender as well. Perhaps the team might consider belatedly adding a 101st promotion: send friendly blogger complimentary case of Leinenkugel.
I recently dedicated a post to the topic of using Minor League Baseball as a tool to teach sports marketing. This was inspired by the fact that high school teachers and college marketing professors regularly link to my blog, using the content therein to explain how the industry operates and why.
But my blog operates strictly in the digital realm. Offering a more hands-on experience are the Kane County Cougars, who last season began to offer a series of high school sports business seminars. Cougars director of public relations Shawn Touney writes:
[W]e provide a presentation at the ballpark and tangibly show them our operation and answer any questions they might have about how we market our product, career opportunities, and nearly everything in between. And obviously, it drives some revenue our way and taps into a demographic that goes unnoticed in many Minor League parks.
I never would have guessed the response we would get…What began as setting aside a single seminar session time for an April noon game became a series of three dates, with 2 seminars scheduled for each of those 3 dates, to accommodate the schools who were interested in attending. When it was said and done, we had just under 1,000 students representing nearly 30 high schools throughout Chicagoland. Marketing classes, business classes, entrepreneurship classes, accounting classes – it ran the gamut. I couldn’t believe how many teachers were appreciative that something such as this was offered, which tells me that a lot of teams (big league clubs included) have not considered this.
This year, we’re offering something similar for each of our 7 noon games in April/May, with a staff-led seminar and ballgame to follow at noon. We will surpass last year’s numbers in terms of total attendance, number of participating schools, and revenue generated. The geography of the schools amazes me – we have schools coming from a 75-minute driving radius for this. We will also be hosting some fall sports business seminars in late August/early September for fall semester classes, and actually have set aside a few college nights for sport management clubs and majors who are interested in learning more.
After the presentation, the students are given supplementary materials that guide them toward viewing the ballgame from a business perspective. A sample problem:
You are a new business owner who is looking to make a splash in the Chicagoland area, bringing new customers and revenue to your business. You’re at the game this afternoon, and observing how many different opportunities there are to market your product to an audience. Here are two examples you notice:
List any other marketing opportunities for your business that you see or hear during the game.
And in 2011, the program will expand even further. Writes Touney:
Reading your blog helped spawn an idea to make the event even more interactive, by having the schools, upon returning into the classroom, create a video presentation where they essentially come up with a between-innings promotion and explain not just how they’d market the promotion, but how they’d execute it as well. I don’t think we give high schoolers enough credit; their knowledge of popular trends, fads, insight on social media are just a few examples that come to mind.
Touney’s final point is one I agree with wholeheartedly — in addition to exposing the students to new concepts, the teams staging such seminars could benefit from the creative and culturally-relevant ideas offered by the students.
So how is else is doing/might do something of this nature? Let’s hear it!
Apologies that today’s post has been wonkier than Willie’s chocolate factory. To make up for it, here’s an artist’s rendering of the Reading Phillies’ highly-anticipated Carlos Ruiz “Chooching Owl” giveaway. Remember, this thing is actually going to say “Chooch.”
Oh, so it’s more you want, is it? Well, here’s footage of Charlie Sheen spoutin’ his bull to a Bull. Hornsby, the soon-to-be-revamped mascot of the Tulsa Drillers, really shows his range here.
As usual, I implore anyone to get in touch for any reason.
Like any self-obsessed writer, I regularly check to see what websites have recently linked to my blog. Most of the time it’s random message board posters with an affinity for giant hamburgers, but occasionally the results are more interesting.
For example, last week I received several dozen hits from a high school teacher’s sports marketing blog. He asked his students to read my recent post on the Lowell Spinners’ “Human Home Run” stunt, and then write a two paragraph response explaining their thoughts on Minor League promotions as well as what sort of promotions they themselves would stage if put in a position to do so. The students’ answers, in the comments section, were not always feasible but certainly creative. A sampling:
I would bring a monster truck to my stadium/arena and it would go flying off a ramp. It would have to jump 6 school buses lined up next to each other. There would also be a huge ring of fire right in front of the ramp to make everything look crazy. The monster truck would have my team’s logo on it. It would be crazy and the place would be sold out.
Seeing that people will pay to watch risky situations. I would promote a pet skydiving. I would let dogs/cats land in the middle of the field before the game. This will honor animal abuse and will also bring fans to the stadium.
My idea would be to have player vs fan game. When the fans buy a ticket for the game they have a chance to enter contests. Then the fans will be picked at random to play a mini game with the players. I think if you give the players a chance to interact with the players it will attract more people.
I think it’s great that teachers are introducing such sports marketing concepts to high school students, as it could potentially get them interested in a Minor League Baseball career. To any high school teachers or college professors who read this blog — I will gladly assist your educational endeavors. Get in touch anytime.
And even more beneficial would be for teams to get involved. Wouldn’t it be great to invite students to the ballpark to take part in the conception and execution of a Minor League promo? While animal skydiving is probably not going to happen any time soon, it would be very interesting to see students’ ideas incorporated into gameday entertainment.
Just a thought. I’ve been known to have those once in a while.
And young promo progenitors would be more likely to come up with social media innovations, such as the Bowling Green Hot Rods’ Facebook Fan Night. This first-of-its kind promo is rolling right along — Facebook fans have selected the game time (6:35) and are now in the midst of picking the uniforms the team will wear that night.
My Midwest meanderings concluded yesterday, as did the 2010 regular season. Empty dugouts are going to be the norm from here on out. Get used to it.
Before saying goodbye, I spent an intermittently rainy Labor Day afternoon at Elfstrom Stadium in Geneva, IL. The Kane County Cougars reside therein.
The players were clearly in a hurry to bring things to a close, as the game was played in just two hours and five minutes (with visiting Wisconsin cruising to a 7-0 win). But it was an action-packed two hours and five minutes, filled with many memorable moments.
For starters, I got to meet Jack “Mr. Kaboom” Phelan. For the last 10 years, this one-time usher has been responsible for shooting off in-game fireworks. He resides on a small platform next to the right field picnic area, launching pyrotechnics during the National Anthem, Seventh Inning Stretch, and after every Cougar home run (read more about “Mr. Kaboom” on MiLB.com, coming soon).
During the seventh-inning stretch, Mr. Kaboom gave me the honors of launching the fireworks. I was psyched.
All I had to do was flip three switches in quick succession on the trusty ol’ Delcor-MP20 control board.
The Delcor MP-20 is connected via cable to a blue wooden box approximately 150 feet away. In this box, fireworks can be found:
My meeting with Mr. Kaboom was arranged by Cougars media relations director Shawn Touney, who was a gracious host throughout my Kane County cameo. Touney coordinates between-inning games and contests throughout the game, and brought me onto the field for a closer look at the action.
Here, contestants are briefed for the upcoming shopping cart race as a member of the Timber Rattlers looks on.
The racers in action:
An even more unique between-inning race involved these, parked directly beside the third base dugout.
The Bed Race involves two teams of racing families navigating this unwieldy piece of furniture across the outfield, stopping along the way to don bedclothes. It’s a bit chaotic, but I tried my best to capture the action:
And what do you know? I succeeded at an honest-to-God action shot:
The spacious interior of the “Super Suite”, which seats 200 and hosts events year-round.
Views from the top:
Of course, I also did my best to document the scene from down below.
You can wash down concessions with a regional beer whose name I can’t pronounce:
The grass berm down the third base line slopes down to the home bullpen:
One of the most striking aspects of Elfstrom Stadium is how much land the team has to work with. The facility is located within the Forest Preserve District of Kane County, and named after one of the preserve’s former presidents.
The sheer acreage is apparent almost right away. Here’s a parking lot view:
Walking past the third base line, beyond the stadium, one truly gets a sense of how large the stadium grounds really are. How many other teams would need to display a map of the area?
There’s plenty of room for group outings.
The most scenic play area in the Minors?
This wilderness adventure offered a welcome respite, but soon it was time to return to the field for the final post-game “Run the Bases” of the season. The Cougars allow all fans to run the bases, after every game, and many took advantage of the opportunity. Fans enter the stadium from center field, and the line snaked from there all the way to the basepaths.
Another action shot!
Doing my part to enforce the rules:
After the last runners had crossed home plate, the b
eds were wheeled into storage and a silence descended upon the stadium.
Rest in peace, 2010 Minor League Baseball season.
It was fun while it lasted.