Results tagged ‘ Lancaster JetHawks ’

Putting the Fun in Philanthrofunphy

From 50-50 raffles to jersey auctions to rappelling mascots, Minor League teams are well-versed in the art of raising money for charity. And, lately, some teams have taken their philanthropic endeavors in bold new directions.

Take the Sacramento River Cats — please — who last month announced that they will issue a $1 fine to anyone who spells their name incorrectly:

You’ve been warned: the moniker “River Cats” is comprised of two words, with a capital “R” and a capital “C.” Effective immediately, all members of the local and national media, River Cats corporate partners, full- or part-time River Cats staff, and season, flex, and mini-plan ticket holders will be fined $1 for spelling “River Cats” incorrectly.

All money collected will go to the River Cats Foundation, which has contributed more than $1.5 million in cash and $16.2 million in in-kind donations to the greater Sacramento community since 2000.

This despite the fact that the team’s Twitter handle is @rivercats — no underscore! — and their logo doesn’t really make a point of separating “River” and “Cats.”

cats

The River Cats’ initiative brings up a larger issue, in that there is a complete lack of uniformity when it comes to Minor League monikers. The Charleston RiverDogs do not use a space between River and Dogs, for example, while the Delmarva Shorebirds go the one word, no caps route. The Minor Leagues are a grammatical minefield, their team names as unregulated as a 19th century western territory brothel.

Another unique fundraising effort comes courtesy of the Greensboro Grasshoppers, who partnered with outbid.com in order to host a live online auction featuring team owner Donald Moore as auctioneer.

GreensboroHeader

Outbid is said to “combine the theater and transparency of live online auctions with social gaming features,” and its existence means that we are all one step closer to living in a Utopian society. Items that the Grasshoppers auctioned off included team-autographed baseballs, a night in a 24-person ballpark suite and, best of all, an autographed Willie Nelson jersey.

Finally, we turn our attention to the Lancaster JetHawks (who, it should be noted, recently had to postpone one of their games due to a haboob).

The JetHawks won the California League championship last season, and now fans are being given the chance to get a ring.

jethawks

Swiped from the press release:

The Lancaster JetHawks have partnered with two local little leagues to host a special raffle giving two individuals the opportunity to win an authentic customized 2012 California League Championship Ring. Proceeds from the raffle will be donated to West Lancaster and Quartz Hill Little Leagues.

Raffle tickets are on sale now and will be sold through June 10. Tickets will be available for $5 each, or five for $20….The winning raffle tickets will be drawn just prior to the JetHawks game on June 12. The two winners will receive custom-made rings personalized with their own last name during a special pre-game ceremony that will take place at a JetHawks game in late August.

And that shall conclude this blogging week, which was admittedly a light one. And when things are light on the blog it’s always a good bet that they’re correspondingly heavy over on MiLB.com Head to the site for Promo Preview, an Opening Weekend Crooked Numbers column, and three — count ‘em three — pieces of content related to 42. 

I do it all for you, as “you” is what I have nicknamed my paycheck.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Turn the Page, Part One

Have you ever tried to monitor the actions of 160 entities on a daily basis? That’s basically what my job is here at MiLB.com, and please believe me when I say that it can be overwhelming! Keeping track of a such a vast industry exacerbates my already quite pronounced OCD-tendencies, and leads to notebook pages such as the following:

IMG_0022

All of this is to say — it’s time to turn the page! But before doing so, please enjoy this bouillabaisse blog post consisting entirely of news items seen on the above notebook page. Y’know, topics that I’ve kept meaning to get around to but never did (or at least never did outside of the Twitter realm).

So here you go — no segues, just news news news!

Would you believe that the Hudson Valley Renegades have not one but TWO former MLB pitchers on their front office staff? Joe Ausiano (1994-95 Yankees) has long been with the team, and he has now been joined by Rob Bell (who played for four teams over seven big league seasons). Bell, now 36, will serve as a sales account executive.

Hudson Valley: home of Minor League Baseball’s best front office softball team?

The Iowa Cubs have long prided themselves on conducting the most irreverent website polls in MiLB, but decided not to continue with the practice after their site underwent an extensive re-design (as nearly all  team sites have done of late, courtesy of the tech wizards here at MLBAM).

But, rest assured, they went out on top of their poll game!

cubbbs

It’s always about Battle Creek

You may recall my recent post on Minor League Front Office Cliches, in which one of the cliches mentioned was “We wear a lot of hats.” This prompted @Interstate19Cap to reply, via Twitter: “I wear a lot of hats. Haha! I should work in MiLB.”

He also attached a picture of his formidable hat wall. Not quite at a St. Pete level, but close!

hatttz

You may or may not be aware of my most recent “Ben’s Bookshelf” column, which had a Black History Month angle.

bhmbookshelfI recommend all six of the titles shown above (read the article, linked to above), but there’s far more where that came from. Check out this bookshelf pic, sent to me via Twitter by @BeesGal_SLC, and marvel at its thoroughness.

That reminds me — I really should read Curt Flood’s book!

bhmreadz

On the promotion front —  this, from the Altoona Curve, is worthy of attention. April 11 will be BOpening Night, a tribute to batboy Bo Forney who passed away earlier this month at the age of 21.

Bo Forney, with the Dubble Bubble

Bo Forney, with the Dubble Bubble

From the team:

Bo has been an inspiration to many with the way he lived,” said Curve General Manager Rob Egan.  “He had the rare ability to make anybody who came in contact with him feel better.  Bo was such a positive person, loved life, and truly enjoyed people.  We miss him deeply and look forward to celebrating his life on ‘BOpening Night’ and throughout the season.”

A silent auction will take place during BOpening Night with all proceeds from the auction benefitting the American Heart Association.  The auction will consist of game-used items from the Pirates-Curve Exhibition game and will include, in addition to other items, 14-game used jerseys that have been signed by former Curve players /current Pirates players.    

To commemorate the life of Forney, a patch with Bo’s cartoon likeness will be affixed to all bat boys uniforms throughout the 2013 season.  The Forney family will also be in attendance for BOpening Night and will throw out ceremonial first pitches prior to the game.  A moment of silence will be held in Bo’s honor prior to the game as well. 

This reminds me of the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, who last season held a ballpark service for vendor Brock Calmes. Events like these help to illustrate the deep bonds that form within Minor League Baseball ballparks, and just how meaningful the presence of Minor League Baseball within a community can be.

Last week, the Tacoma Rainiers let it be known that anyone willing to purchase 350 Opening Weekend ticket deals would receive this pyramid of Dustin Ackley bobbleheads. I don’t think that anyone took them up on it.

summit

Next I’d like to give a shoutout to Spikes, intrepid mascot for your (or at least someone’s) Rochester Red Wings. He joins Rocky of the Wilmington Blue Rocks as the only mascots (that I am aware of) to take part in a Polar Plunge for charity.

spikes

During all 10 of their Friday night home games this season, the Charlotte Knights will be wearing 1990 throwback uniforms. Luxuriate in this image!

throwback

This initiative was inspired by the fact that 2013 will be the team’s last at Knights Stadium. 1990 was the first. Sez the team:

The jerseys, which were worn by the inaugural Knights Stadium Team in 1990, will now be worn by the current Knights team during the new “Flashback Fridays” series, which is set to commemorate 24 years of history at Knights Stadium.

To return to philanthropic endeavors, the Erie SeaWolves are now at the tail end of their “Drive to Five” initiative. 

drive5

The most pertinent of the details:

Through February 28, the Erie SeaWolves will donate $25 to United Way for each new full-season ticket package purchased. If 100 new season ticket packages are purchased, the SeaWolves will double the contribution – raising $5,000 to help United Way achieve its goal to reduce poverty in our region.

If you’re the kind of person who enjoys detailed analysis of industry-wide attendance figures, then you’re going to love the Number Tamer. Nobody does it better! (Or, if someone does, I’m certainly not aware of it).

As you may be aware, one of this year’s most ill-fated sporting ventures occurred in Williamsport, PA. The Federal Hockey League’s Outlaw franchise set up shop at outdoor Bowman Field (longtime home of the Crosscutters), an idea that may sound cool in theory but turned out to be a unmitigated financial disaster. The team pulled the plug on the season mid-way through, leaving everyone in the lurch, and once this happened the Crosscutters offered a quick response via this local newspaper ad:

Outlaws_Exchange_AD

This seems like a disaster waiting to happen, but nonetheless I encourage you like Lancaster JetHawks mascot KaBoom on Facebook. Here’s why:

kaboom

Speaking of inadvisable mascot feats, here’s a picture of Lake County’s Skipper, immediately after “Tackling the Tower.”

skiiper

“Tackling the Tower” isn’t some sort of euphemism, but an annual stair-climbing event with (of course) philanthropic intent. Good work, Skipper!

And, my goodness, this notebook page still has a lot of stuff on it. This post is gonna be a two-parter.

Everything I do, I do it for you.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbizb

Stand in the Place Where You Work

Professional baseball bullpens have long been breeding grounds for eccentric behavior and bizarre rituals and, really, this shouldn’t be a surprise. Leave a group of bored young men to their own devices and spitting contests, impenetrable slang words and, yes, even lizard eating will result.

One particular bullpen competition that really seemed to take off this season was the in-game standing contest. The premise is simple: starting with the National Anthem, one (or more) players from each team’s bullpen attempts to stand at attention for the duration of the contest and beyond. This simultaneous exercise in endurance and absurdity was first brought to my attention via an excellent Myrtle Beach Pelicans blog post, and later in the season the Lowell Spinners produced a video that chronicled their standoff versus the State College Spikes.

Yet another standoff occurred on August 25, this time featuring the Lancaster JetHawks and visiting Lake Elsinore Storm. The following day I got an email from JetHawks director of sales and marketing Will Thornhill, who wrote in part:

[F]ollowing the National Anthem last night nobody in either the JetHawks or Storm Bullpen sat down.  After a couple innings we figured something was going on. Eventually only one player remained standing in each bullpen and it lasted throughout the ENTIRE game.  The Standoff continued 45 minutes after the game and both players were eventually carried out to center field where they negotiated a continuation….By the end of the game all of the fans sitting behind the JetHawks bullpen were standing as well, and when the game ended about 50 fans made their way to the bullpen and stood behind our pitcher.

The last JetHawk standing was Zack Grimmett, who for reasons lost to the annals of time conceded the stand-off during the first inning of the following day’s ballgame. Also lost to time was the name of his Lake Elsinore adversary [this info has since been regained from the annals of time. It was Mark Pope] — this all happened back in August and who among us can remember what happened back in August?

But to the extent that I can record this stand-off for posterity, I will. For while not necessarily of the best quality, some photos eventually emerged and I feel that it is my duty to share them with you. Italicized text is of the descriptive variety, and courtesy of JetHawks sales executive Jenn Adamczyk.

[I] first noticed stand-off while waiting for the [mascot] race to start. All but one or two in the JetHawks bullpen were standing. The Storm had one guy still up.

Later in the game — down to one JetHawks player and one Storm player

Post game; fans started crowding around the JetHawks player, cheering him on

Teammates carry both players from the bullpens to center field. At this point the clubbies from both teams brought the players dinner and were feeding them.

Other guys started playing [the card game] War on the field

End of the stand-off, called a truce. Both went home.

Truly, this was a classic moment in California League history. And since I’m still sitting here typing, I may as well take this opportunity to highlight my own moment in baseball stand-off history. Prior to the 2009 season, I traveled to Altoona and took past in the Curve’s “Last Fan Standing” competition. My mission was to keep one hand upon Diesel Dawg at all times.

I lasted 14 hours — good, but not nearly good enough. Story of my life.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Opening With A Salvo

It’s Opening Day 2012, and my reaction regarding the start of a new baseball season is the same as it is every year. Four words says it all, and then some.

I would GREATLY appreciate it if someone could take the audio from the clip linked to above  and lay it over an array of upbeat Minor League images, ending with the Opening Day 2012 logo. I’m serious.

And what better way to commemorate Opening Day than by reading the first “Promo Preview” column of the year? Let me know what you think of the new format (the jokes are still old). Featured in said column are new MiLB innovations such as this, straight outta Asheville:

TOURISTS GAME BALLS TO BE DELIVERED VIA ZIPLINE

The team reports, you decide:

Beginning on Opening Day, the Asheville Tourists, in conjunction with Wildwater ‘s Asheville Zipline Canopy Adventures, will deliver the game ball via zipline. Beginning nearly 500 feet from home plate, a guide from the Asheville-based zipline company and one lucky fan will fly 30 feet above the field, from the grounds of Memorial Stadium to the heart of McCormick Field, just prior to the announcement of “Play ball!”

“Coming to the ballpark is centered on entertainment and having fun,” said Tourists president Brian DeWine. “We felt there was no better way to achieve that goal than to combine two of Asheville’s favorite activities in baseball and ziplining.”

As for what else has been going on, the answer is EVERYTHING. For starters, special postal deliveries have been arriving regularly here at MiLB.com HQ, courtesy of all sorts of folks. Two of the newer arrivals:

Memphis Redbirds Schedule Poster

This is, if not a game changer, then at least a game modifier (I’d also accept “alterer”). As you can see in the above photo, fans can place their SmartPhones over Shelby Miller’s mouth in order to watch a video highlighting upcoming promotions. I’d tell you about said video, excepting my phone is defiantly stupid. It doesn’t even have the number 5.

Mermerch!

Meanwhile, a “Myrtle Beach Mermen” shirt arrived courtesy of Die Hard Threads.

Believe it or not, I have yet to watch Eastbound and Down. (Most of my television time has been spent lobbying Sony to release the rest of Mary Hartman Mary Hartman on DVD.) But the shirt is pretty cool, is it not?

Let’s close this Opening Day missive with a pair of items from our high-flying friends in Lancaster, CA — the JetHawks. In the wake of last Friday’s mega-sized Mega Millions drawing, the team decided to make winners (of sorts) out of the losers.

Starting Saturday from 11am to 2pm, fans can bring losing lottery tickets to the Clear Channel Stadium box office and receive a $2 discount on any April 12 Opening Day ticket in any section. If you can’t make it on Saturday, the discount will be available April 2-6 from 9am to 5pm.

And once admission is gained to a JetHawks game, unique comestibles await. This year’s latest (and therefore greatest) item is called “The Hawk’s Nest.”

It is, quite simply, “a nest of crispy onion straws in a bowl, topped with juicy chicken strips, chili, and cheese.”

And with that, a cut and pasted food description, I conclude my first post of the 2012 season. There’ll be plenty more where that came from.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

The Big, the Old, and the Beautiful

Me: Today I have a really big news item to share with all of you.

You: Well, how big is it?

Me: 3600 feet.

You: [Blinks incomprehendingly]

Look, I don’t know why you’re confused. I really do have a 3600-foot news story to share.

This!

The above is a rendering of the scoreboard that, in March, is scheduled to be installed at AutoZone Park in Memphis. Per the team:

The scoreboard will be the largest HD board in minor league baseball at 3600 square feet (60’ X 60’). The current largest belongs to the Buffalo Bison, standing 80’ x 33’ (2640 square feet). The Redbirds video board also beats several of the NFL team boards installed by Daktronics. The board is made up of 1,440,000 pixels and weighs over 20 tons.

Indeed, it was just last season that the Bisons’ laid claim to the oft-contentious title of “biggest scoreboard in Minor League Baseball,” but it now appears that the Redbirds are wresting it from them. But for how long? There’s always someone out there lurking, just waiting for that opportunity to claim the throne. For now, however, pixellated supremacy belongs to Memphis.

Congrats.

—-

Let’s move on from big news to old news. In fact, this is some of the oldest news I’ve ever had the pleasure of reporting. Regular readers of this blog are well aware that each of the past two Minor League seasons have included a centenarian first pitch.

In 2010, 102-year-old Chris Nocera fired a strike for the Round Rock Express.

Then, last season, 109-year-old Violet Smith threw one down the middle prior to a Great Lakes Loons game.

DOB: April 7, 1902

But 2012 will usher in a new age of elderly first pitches: that of the supercentenarian!

On March 31, Shelby Harris of Rock Island, IL will turn 111 years old. Five days later, he’ll throw out the first pitch at the Quad Cities River Bandits home opener! Harris is the oldest man in America, and it’s fantastic that the River Bandits have extended the invite and that he’s in good enough shape to do it.

Harris celebrating his 110th (photo: http://www.army.mil)

—And now let’s move on to news from the department of “It was bound to happen eventually.”

The Lancaster JetHawks, a Houston Astros affiliate in the state of California, have put together a promotion inspired by the exploits of a Colorado quarterback who first made a name for himself in Florida.

This:

Details:

After last weekend’s thrilling overtime victory against the heavily favored Pittsburgh Steelers, [JetHawks mascot] KaBoom has convinced the JetHawks Front Office to put together a special “Tebow Tuesday” Promotion that gives JetHawks fans the opportunity to buy 15 tickets for only $15.

The Tebow Tuesday Promotion will activate if the Denver Broncos can pull off another upset this weekend against the New England Patriots. The package will only be available next Tuesday, January 17, and includes 15 undated ticket vouchers for any JetHawks home game in April. In addition, any fan who wears their Tim Tebow Jersey to the Tuesday, April 17, game against the High Desert Mavericks will have the opportunity to throw out a ceremonial first pitch and take a picture “Tebowing” with KaBoom on the field prior to the game.

According to my records, this is the first Tebow-related promo in Minor League Baseball since the Fort Myers Miracle announced (and were later forced to rescind) “What Would Tebow Do?”

And now, apropos of nothing, let’s end with a photo. This shot depicts one of the perks of being a mascot: being on the receiving end of sensuous acts initiated by Miss America contestants.

Silver Swoop of South Bend is one lucky bird:

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

The Year in Ballpark Food, Part 1

I never set out to be a food blogger, and, really, I’m not. Nonetheless, food is a important component of the Minor League experience, and throughout my travels this past season I did my best to document ballpark comestibles in particular as well as regional cuisine in general.

Today’s missive (which went live at lunchtime for a reason) is the first of what will be a two-part compendium of the 2011 season’s food-based posts and photos. As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section and via email: What are your favorite Minor League ballpark foods, and why?

What follow are some of mine, presented in the order in which they were consumed.

My first 2011 road trip began in Tucson, home of the T-Padres. And what better way to enjoy Kino Stadium’s sunset views than with a plate of nachos from ballpark vendor El Charro? Nothing too fancy, but the freshest of ingredients combined with from-the-oven homemade tortilla chips helped to distinguish this particular platter.

The following afternoon, a reader recommendation led me to local institution  El Guero Canelo. The specialty there is the “Sonoran Dog,” which I described as a “hot dog is wrapped in bacon and topped with cheese, salsa, onions, tomatoes, beans, mayonnaise and who knows what else. All of this was safely ensconced in the specially-crafted (and delicious) roll and served with a roasted pepper on the side.”

After a fleeting highway encounter with the still-elusive Biz Girl, I made my west to territories occupied by the California League’s South Division entities. One of the highlights of this leg of the journey came in Lancaster, where I was able to enjoy a non-photo shopped encounter with the JetHawks’ delectable “Sweet Po-Tater Tots.”

Maple Syrup Dipping Sauce!

The Sweet Po-Taters were a mere appetizer, for then came the so-called “Stealth Burger:” a hamburger topped with pulled pork and onion rings. It was a formidable affair:

There's a burger under there, promise.

The Stealth Burger looked downright microscopic in comparison to the Brobdingnagian creation that was served to me in Lake Elsinore. Behold the Storm’s “Homewrecker,” perhaps best explained in t-shirt form.

Suitable for sharing

The following month I traversed the great state of Ohio (with a detour in Fort Wayne, IN). The first stop on this particular Minor League journey was Toledo, where appropriately-named concessions manager Corey Pleasant laid out a stunning pre-game feast.

Here we have Greek Nachos (gyro meat and pita chips), Pulled Pork Nachos, and “Bases-Loaded Fries.”

But that, of course, was not all. Here’s the “Muddy Dog,” topped with chili, cheese, and onions.

And this artisanal creation is the “Bloomin’ Bacon Burger,” a 1/3 lb. grilled Black Angus beef burger topped with crispy strips of bacon, deep fried onion rings, American cheese, and bistro sauce on a fresh Kaiser bun.

And, of course, no visit to Toledo is complete without a stop at the legendary Tony Packo’s.  I visited the Birmingham location before heading west to Fort Wayne, ordering a hot dog with chili, Paprika Dumplings, and a side of “Pickles and Peppers.”

After Toledo, I attended two ballgames at the Fort Wayne TinCaps’ Parkview Field. The majority of the second evening was spent with culinary director Scott Kammerer, who gave me a thorough tour of the team’s concession offerings. The tour resulted in an MiLB.com article, as well as this stunning image:


In addition to the hallucinogenic turkey leg seen above, highlights included delectable brisket sandwiches…

Philly-style cheesesteaks…

and a hot dog with “Cincinnati Chili” (the TinCaps’ best attempt to emulate the famous Skyline recipe).

The TinCaps are named after Johnny Appleseed’s iconic headwear, so this Apple Dumpling dessert was a fitting (and inspired) addition to the menu.

From Fort Wayne, I made my way back to the Buckeye State in order to visit the Lake County Captains. Food took a back seat to on-field participation during this jam-packed visit, but this was where I first became aware of the Cleveland-area phenomenon that is “Bertman Ballpark Mustard.”

Bertman’s Mustard: Responsible for the most delectable condiment globules around.

From Lake County it’s a veritable hop, skip and a jump to Mahoning Valley. It was Opening Day for the short-season Scrappers, and I celebrated the return of New York-Penn League baseball with the one-of-a-kind “Warsaw Wings.”

Deep-fried pierogies smothered in hot sauce!

A necessary cool-down soon came in the form of Handel’s Ice Cream. The flavor was called “Scrappy’s Favorite” — caramel ice-cream with bone-shaped chocolate-covered pretzels.

The Ohio excursion ended in Akron’s Canal Park, a location not lacking in death-taunting culinary options. After an exhausting evening that included a pie in the face and a stint in a dunk tank, I had both the following items placed before me.

On the left is the “Nice 2 Meat U Burger,” two 1/3rd pound patties, two hot dogs, bacon, cheese, and onions.

The sauerkraut-covered creation on the right is the “Three Dog Night,” a hot dog stuffed inside a brat stuffed inside a kielbasa.

And, let’s not forget: Bertman Mustard on top of it all!

Stay tuned tomorrow for Part 2 of this food-based season retrospective, featuring a bevy of offerings from South and North Carolina as well as the doom metal capital of the world (the state of Maryland, in other words).

Until then, send me your photos and anecdotes related to your favorite ballpark foods and regional creations. I’ll be right here waiting for you.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

It’s Sometimes Sunny Outside of Philadelphia

The more things change, the more things stay the same.

Last year, Jerry Lawler visited Reading’s FirstEnergy Stadium and delivered a devastating clothesline to a foolhardy cauliflower. You may recall the image, seeing how it was indelible.

This year’s notable wrestling guest was Sunny, famed diva and member of the WWE Hall of Fame. And this time, the clothesline victim was Evil Candy (a longtime nutritional adversary of Cauliflower).

Sunny was joined by noted ECW grappler “The Blue Meanie.”

Being interviewed by Channel 69:

Prior to the game, Sunny and the Blue Meanie visited the R-Phils’ clubhouse. This picture is disintegrating right before our eyes, a reminder of life’s ephemeral nature.

While in the locker room, Sunny must have taken a liking to R-Phils backstop Tim Kennelly. In a post-game interview with R-Phils director of media relations Tommy Viola, Sunny refers to the “so-cute” Kennelly as her “future ex-husband” and expresses a desire for some personal coaching (the Blue Meanie, meanwhile, reveals himself to be a fan of Matt “Roast Beef” Rizzotti).

And, quite fittingly, this star-studded “Tribute to Wrestling” featured some actual wrestling. This was the ballpark scene after the game.

And since we’re on the topic of “2011 incarnations of promotions I also covered in 2010″,  it is worth noting that the Modesto Nuts have once again staged a “Mascot Dance Party” featuring the inimitable Al and Wally.

Last season, Al was the lucky recipient of a one-on-one lesson with dance instructor Taelor Fernandez. This year, it was Wally’s turn to learn from the beautiful Ms. Fernandez.

Those lessons have really paid off.

And since we’re on the topic, you should really be aware that a new bat dog-based dance craze is sweeping through Trenton. Teach me how to Derby!

But if those moves are too complicated, then maybe you should check out what’s on offer out there in Lancaster, CA. Whip it good!

All this dancing is making me realize that I need to up my game, as the only move I ever mastered was limping to the side like my leg was broken. Please help me, Taelor Fernandez.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Non-Stop Promo Power Pack

When I was in Lancaster earlier this month, JetHawks food and beverage director Adam Fillenworth told me that the team was on the cusp of debuting “the smallest hamburger in Minor League Baseball. Such an item would be a tongue-in-cheek rebuttal to the “extreme” concessions that have overtaken the Minor League landscape in recent years, a trend that the JetHawks themselves have participated in (see Burger, Stealth).

My reportage, always free from conjecture and hearsay, was once again accurate. For the team has now unveiled their miniature creation: “The Itty-Bitty Burger.”

The tiny hamburgers in deep fried buns are only available for a limited time. They can be upgraded to a “cheeseburger” (the addition of nacho cheese dipping sauce) and can be served with complimentary sides of ketchup, mustard and relish.

“It seemed like everyone was attempting to out-do each other this year by creating food that didn’t look appealing, so we thought we’d go in a different direction,” JetHawks Food and Beverage Director Adam Fillenworth said.

This development is analogous to the rise of punk rock, a no-frills genre formed in opposition to the over-produced pomposity of ’70s arena rock bands.

A particularly adept Me Decade arena-filler was Bad Company, whose hit “Feel Like Bacon Love” was certainly heard at Richmond’s The Diamond on Wednesday. As you’ll recall, the Flying Squirrels staged a “Tribute to Bacon” featuring an appearance by a local detective with the name of Kevin Bacon.

Detective Kevin Bacon, ceremonial tosser of first pitches

A similarly sizzling promotion occurred last week in Stockton, as the Ports held “Rolling Stones Night.”

A robust crowd of over 5500 fans took in the action on this raucous evening. Some images and explanations:

Air Guitar to "Jumpin' Jack Flash"

Mick Jagger Dance-Off on the Dugout (the contestants weren't able to fit into leather pants)

The "Mick Jagger Funny Face" promo

A.J. Griffin Delivers

Sticking with the Cal League north, let’s head over to Visalia to check out this year’s Helicopter Candy Drop. The name of the promo is truth in advertising: candy is dropped on to the field by a helicopter, and then the children in attendance go on a mad scramble.

Photo Credit: Chris Henstra

Photo Credit: Chris Henstra

But that’s not all that’s been going on in Visalia. The day before the Helicopter drop the Rawhide held a “Belle of the Ballpark Grandma Beauty Pageant.” Broadcasting director Donny Baarns writes that:

The contestants each demonstrated a talent during different half-innings; Doris, the eventual winner, led the crowd in a Rawhide cheer (“Next week I will be 96,” she said, “And I can’t believe I finally made the cheerleading team!”) Another played keyboard and sang “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” The contestants also participated in a “White T-Shirt Contest,” where each was given a basic white Rawhide t-shirt and allowed to decorate it creatively in their own style. The contestants came from local retirement homes, where preliminary rounds where held.

Finalists:

Photo Credit: Ken Weisenberger

And the winner:

96 Years Young! (photo: Ken Weisenberger)

I can’t think of a better image to end the blogging week. Thanks, as always, for reading. And more importantly, get in touch! It can be a difficult thing, this writing game, and your feedback and support is very much appreciated.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

On the Road: Soaring to Sweet and Saucy New Heights in Lancaster

The JetHawks got their name due to the prominence of the aerospace industry in Lancaster, CA. This connection is made abundantly clear immediately upon arriving at “The Hangar” (Clear Channel Stadium).

This very jet, and the stadium itself, was visible outside of my hotel room window. But what the following photo does not indicate, despite the twisted flag, is just how windy it was on Saturday evening (26 mph, blowing out to right). Lancaster has long had a reputation for windy conditions — the team used to have a ticket discount based on wind speed, and is giving away a “stadium dust globe” later this season — but I was nonetheless drastically under dressed for the occasion.

But the JetHawks’ approach is not to bemoan the elements, but to harness them. See that parking lot overhang in the above photo? Those are solar panels, new for this season, and they provide the majority of the stadium’s energy and are expected to save upwards of $50k in energy costs. The JetHawks are the first Cal League team to do this, but I doubt they will be the last.

And the elements weren’t going to keep the Lancaster faithful from attending a Saturday night ballgame. Motivated in part by a camo hat giveaway, fans were lined up outside the stadium well in advance of the gates opening at 6 p.m.

Blankets are appropriate ballpark attire in Lancaster

The camo hat in question, blending into its surroundings here at the Hampton Inn.

The hat giveaway was sponsored by the local Desert Christian school, who were heavily involved in the overstuffed but well-orchestrated pre-game festivities. This included cheerleading routines, a gymnastic performance (with the gymnasts shivering in the gusty 59 degree weather) and a marching band.

With the sun descending from beyond the third base line, the game began. Some stadium views:

The “Hawkettes Dance Team” often provide top-of-dugout entertainment.

Another prominent mover and shaker in the JetHawks universe is “Dancin’ Darrell,” an usher immortalized with his own “Hangar Hero” bobblehead last season.

While I missed Darrell’s performance on Saturday, I did get a chance to speak with him and snap the above photo. He and other aspects of the JetHawks experience will be incorporated into an upcoming MiLB.com piece dealing with my Cal League meanderings (Make like a Chattanooga mountain climber and be on the Lookout).

Another individual I spoke with (prior to the game) was second baseman Jose Altuve. He’s 5’5″, very friendly, very fast, and an excellent hitter. In other words, one of my new favorite Minor Leaguers. Here he is in the first inning after legging out a double (look for video interviews with Altuve, closer Kirk Clark and slugger Kody Hinze on MiLB.com).

Moving from Altuve to “A tooth, eh?”, you’ll notice the following bit of dental-themed advertising. If a player hits it during a game he receives a free teeth whitening.

Interesting signage abounds at Clear Channel, in fact.

This complementary caption is not to compliment, but to point out that "compliment" should be "complement."

One thing I’ve learned through my job is that Minor League Baseball teams consider movie theaters to be mortal enemies in their holy war for the almighty family entertainment dollar. This sign makes the animosity explicit.

Take that movie theater located directly across from the stadium!

This poster was hanging in the JetHawks front office. I want it!

And this, which I also want, was hanging in the team store.

And speaking of said store, they had a most impressive hat collection (you know, in case complimentary camo’s not your thing. Or, if you want to complement your complimentary camo).

Of course, it wouldn’t be a Minor League road trip if I wasn’t able to add to my list of “hallucinogenic-worthy things I have dressed up and raced as.” Add Taco Bell Fire Sauce Packet to the overall tally, please.

If you cut me, do I not bleed? Alternate captions: "Lost in the Sauce Once Again" (Ween reference), "Yeah, He's the Packet Man" (Digital Underground reference)

I raced against “Hot” (one of the Hawkettes, natch) and mascot Kaboom (who I somehow didn’t get a picture of tonight). Kaboom and I lost, after deciding to pose for a picture on field. Video of all this exists — look for it on this blog shortly and if you don’t see it, then demand it. I am responsive to your needs, so long as they are also mine.

Of course, racing as the human embodiment of a mass-produced condiment really works up the appetite. Fortunately, there are plenty of options (at least if you’re a carnivore).

And there are plenty of carnivores among the fanbase.

But one of the most popular additions to the menu are the “Sweet Po-Tater Tots,” which come with a side of syrup. I have experienced them in the past through the magic of Photoshop:

But on Saturday paranoid sideways stare became reality:

The verdict on these is “guilty of deliciousness.” Seriously an excellent combination. I struggled a bit with the “Stealth Burger”, however: a hamburger topped with pulled pork and onion rings. For one, I do not know how to properly depict this photographically:

The Stealth Burger (which is about as stealth as a radioactive elephant on jet-powered rollerskates) tasted fine, but it was difficult for me to combine the different flavors. Ultimately, it made me realize that I enjoy pulled pork significantly more than I do hamburger.

And speaking of hamburger, I was speaking with JetHawks food and beverage director Adam Fillenworth during the game and he mentioned that the JetHawks will soon debut “the smallest hamburger in Minor League Baseball”  (the “anti-monster burger” if you will). Any ideas on what to name it? He’s open to suggestions.

At any rate, I enjoyed these creative concessions of colossal caloric content while ensconced in the Clear Channel control console, ably manned by PA announcer J.T. and his crew. Watching these guys in action really fosters an appreciation for just how much is going on at any given moment — sound effects, scoreboard updates, at-bat songs, between-inning contests, ad reads, etc. It’s a ton of work — involving constant communication both in the booth and via walkie-talkie — but everyone involved seemed to be enjoying themselves.


I made it back down to the seating bowl in time to capture an seemingly endless stream of kids chase Kaboom through the outfield (Kaboom not pictured, of course).

Soon after that, the ballgame came to an end. Contrary to the California League stereotypes harbored by East Coast types like myself, this game (which the JetHawks won over Lake Elsinore, 5-1) was played in a tidy two hours and 12 minutes. I was under the assumption that all contests in this circuit took 300 minutes to play and ended in scores of 33-18. (JetHawks broadcaster Jeff Lasky had done his best to disavow such misconceptions when he and I spoke earlier in the evening. Kudos, Jeff, and thanks for having me on the pre-game show.)

But no matter how long a game takes to play, it will always end with hula hoops and tennis balls strewn across the field. That’s how you know when to call it a night.

So, I’m calling it a night. Thanks to the JetHawks for their hospitality (especially uber-helpful media relations manager Will Thornhill). I hope I’ve been able to convey that Clear Channel is a worthwhile place to visit, resulting in the most positive association one could possibly make with corporate radio hegemony.

Feedback, please.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Something For Everyone

Lots of flotsam and jetsam has piled up on the shores of Ben’s Biz Blog remote island headquarters, and the only way to deal with such excess detritus is by accumulating it into a tidy pile.

Nice to get a belabored analogy out of the way so early. Let’s go to the info!

First of all, a pair of Pacific Coast League announcers are on the cusp of celebrating significant milestones. Tonight in Des Moines, Deene Ehlis will call his 3000th game for the Iowa Cubs. The broadcast will also be notable in that it’ll include an interview with Indianapolis Colts receiver (and University of Iowa alum) Dallas Clark, who has been immortalized by the I-Cubs in bobblehead form.

Then on Tuesday, Steve Klauke of the Salt Lake Bees call his 2500th contest:

Reports the team:

Klauke joins legendary Utah Jazz broadcaster Hot Rod Hundley (2,645) as the only two play-by-play broadcasters to call 2,500 games with one Utah team. He also becomes just the fourth current Pacific Coast League team broadcaster to reach the 2,500 games-called mark with one PCL team. Currently in his 18th season with the Bees, Klauke can be heard live on 1320 KFAN and at slbees.com.

Klauke will be recognized during a pregame presentation on Tuesday, April 26, while audio highlights of his more notable calls will be played throughout the game.

Trivia Question! Who are the other two current PCL broadcasters to have called at least 2500 games? The first person to email me with the correct response will get to contribute 150 words to a future blog post on whatever topic they choose (must be family friendly, of course). benjamin.hill@mlb.com

Since we’re on the topic of the PCL , it is well worth pointing out that the Fresno Grizzlies are staging a Saturday night tribute to severely (and senselessly) injured San Francisco Giants fan Bryan Stow.

In the words of the team:

Fans can purchase a Super View ticket and special Bryan Stow bracelet for $15, with $10 going directly to The Bryan Stow Fund, established to support Bryan and his family. Stow is a paramedic with American Medical Response and works games for the San Francisco’s Single-A affiliate, the San Jose Giants, at Municipal Stadium.

As you’ll recall, the aforementioned San Jose ballclub is dedicating the month of April to Stow.

I might as well stay with the PCL, as yesterday Sacramento and Reno upped the stakes of their rivalry via a bet between each city’s classic car museum. Typical, right?


Pertinent details:

The annual season series between the Reno Aces and the Sacramento River Cats will take on new significance in 2011, as the two host cities’ auto museums will face off in a high profile wager based on the overall winner of the season series. Reno’s very own National Automobile Museum will put up the 1949 Mercury that James Dean drove in “Rebel Without a Cause,” while Sacramento’s California Auto Museum will put up a 1932 Ford raced by driving legend AJ Foyt.

The RiverCats have owned the Aces as of late. Reno’s win on 4/19 snapped a 12-game losing streak against Sacramento, with their previous victory having come exactly a year previous. (My knowledge truly knows no boundaries, a fact that I’ll tell myself many times over tonight while sitting in an easy chair and drinking whiskey in a darkened living room.)

But anyway, can you believe that I’ve made it this far before featuring a new food item that laughs in the face of death? What follows is the Lancaster JetHawks’ new “Heart-Stopper” a limited time only delicacy consisting of a hot dog on biscuits, smothered in sausage gravy, cheese, and bacon.

I actually think this one looks pretty good! If only concession items could safely and sensibly be sent via the United States post office…

Until that day arrives, I’ll be amusing myself with humorous videos. This one, featuring the clumsy ball-handling skills of Durham Bulls hurler Mike Ekstrom, is a must-see instant classic.

That’s going to close out the week for me. But before I go, may I direct your attention to my latest “Farm’s Almanac” piece on MiLB.com? Professor Joe Price is singing the National Anthem at over 100+ ballparks this summer, and he’s truly a man on a mission. From the story:

“I always love for people to join in, and for the anthem to be sung together regardless of political orientation,” said Price. “This can, potentially, be everyone’s national anthem. And as a result it can bridge the gap between the Tea Party and liberals, between hawks and doves. Because, even though it is a wartime song, it was written as a celebration of freedom. The preservation of our freedoms is what lies at the heart of it.”

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

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