Results tagged ‘ Las Vegas ’

Pin City

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While I was glad to attend last week’s Minor League Baseball Promotional Seminar, I can’t say I’m too crazy about the city where the event was held: Las Vegas.

Specifically, I don’t like the Las Vegas Strip. It’s a place that willfully obliterates its past and any trace of the authentic in deference to a gleefully immoral plastic hedonism, stunning its cash-hemorrhaging visitors into submission with faux-opulence and naked appeals to our worst instincts.  
 
But less than a mile from the strip is The Pinball Hall of Fame, a place I’ve come to regard as a welcome and much-needed antidote to Vegas overload. Inside are over 150 fully functional machines representing all eras of pinball history, as well as a variety of other impeccably-maintained coin-op entertainment.

The place is run as a non-profit (with extra proceeds benefiting the Salvation Army), and the no-frills aesthetic is immediately apparent:

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The lighting wasn’t great, nor are my photo skills in general, so I’ll go easy on the pics. But inside is wall-to-wall pinball:

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Medieval Madness, a game I was literally obsessed with throughout the entirety of college (as an aside, a nice bit of trivia is that Tina Fey voices one of the game’s princess characters).

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And see that sticker on the bottom right hand corner? Those with internet-enabled smart phones can scan the stickers, instantly receiving information about the game in question.

25-cent dinner (not included in my Promo Seminar expense report):

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What video games looked like in 1973:

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A claw machine, circa 1938:

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This variation on skee-ball featured an alien hurling non-stop insults. I played it three times and failed to dunk him even once (you had to hit a moving circular target, seen here on the left).

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And, finally, a machine selling totally awesome “Gross Out Key Chains.”

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If anyone reading this blog would like one of these keychains, send me an email with your address (friends and family excluded). My supplies are ultra-limited, so please act quickly and specify whether your preference would be to receive “pooping cow”, “booger nose”, or “rubber chicken.” 

I hope you’ll forgive this brief foray into non-baseball content, but this is all in line with my larger goal of highlighting unique places located within Minor League markets. Minor League Baseball is a great way in which to plan and contextualize American explorations, which to me is one of its most appealing and enduring characteristics.

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

Back On Track In the Big Apple

I have returned from Vegas, slightly damaged but fundamentally intact, and ready to resume blogging duties on a regular basis.

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As you’ll no doubt recall, I was in the Sin City in order to attend the annual Minor League Baseball Promotional Seminar. How it works is simple. Attendees file into a big room in order to hear speeches and discussions regarding innovative promotional ideas. Then, in the evenings, they mingle.

Speeches

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Minglin’

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As luck would have it, I filed a pair of stories from Vegas.

ray.gifThe first piece laid out a simple and exciting new equation: Mascot Legend Dave Raymond + Vero Beach Sports Village = Mascot Boot Camp, specifically for costumed characters within Minor League Baseball.

The second article focused on Justine Siegal, head of the organization Baseball for All. Siegal was attending the seminar in order to pitch “Girl’s Baseball Day” promotions to Minor League teams.

And, of course, both articles were packed with the requisite “News and Notes” you’ve come to know and love (or, more accurately, that you’ve come to be vaguely aware of, and barely tolerate).

I would have produced more content from Vegas, but on Thursday afternoon I ended up getting very sick (my theory is food poisoning). The less said about that, the better, but suffice to say it occurred to me that the 11th floor of the Paradise Tower in the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino would be a very sad and spiritually deficient place in which to shuffle off this mortal coil.

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Tomb of the Unknown Blogger

Sickness prevented me from attending Day Three of the Seminar, during which various promotional awards were handed out.

The winners, determined via attendee voting.

Best Theme Night/Overall Promotion: Brooklyn Cyclones — Jersey? Sure! Night

Best Non-Game Day Promotion: Clearwater Threshers — Hops For Hospice
Best In-Game Promotion: Lehigh Valley IronPigs — Battlefield Challenge
Best Green Promotion: New Britain Rock Cats — Green Team

But more importantly, only 16 hours remain to vote for MiLB.com’s “Promotion of the Year” semi-finals! Choose your favorite in each of four categories, or simply follow the example of “HappyB” and complain about “rediculous” omissions in the comments section.

And, finally, please note that new content has kept on coming regardless. Check out the offseason’s first “Minoring in Business” column, which takes a look at high-profile PDC changes throughout the Minors.

Or, even better, read through 2010’s final edition of”Crooked Numbers”. It details many of the strange and absurd events that occurred on the playing field throughout the month of September, and I really appreciate those who take the time to read it.

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

Determining the Best Before Heading West

seminar.jpgIn a matter of hours I will be flying into the modern-day Gomorrah that is Las Vegas, with the express purpose of attending the Minor League Baseball Promo Seminar.

The bad news is that, unlike last year, I was not asked to speak at the seminar. Therefore, I won’t have the opportunity to share my (alleged) expertise with a large audience. But the good news is that, unlike last year, I was not asked to speak at the seminar. Therefore, I will not be eaten alive by anxiousness and self-doubt while preparing for an inevitably anti-climactic speech to my peers.

I’ll file a number of stories from Vegas regardless, and if time allows I’ll keep on keeping on with the blog as well. And if you’re going to be there I of course want to meet/re-connect whilst getting the latest scoop on your promotional wheelings and dealings.

And, not coincidentally, the start of the Promo Seminar coincides with my comprehensive “Promo Year in Review”article on MiLB.com. Please check it out, and if so inclined link and re-tweet widely. 

That would mean a lot.But I know that, at the end of the day, you are reading this blog for the pictures. I’ll oblige.

I recently received a small stash of photos from the always-reliable Lowell Spinners, who are pioneers in the genre of “Having a bobblehead honoree pose in front of an army of his or her bobbleheads.”

It is a very worthwhile genre.

NESN’s Heidi Watney:

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Mike Eruzione (Captain of 1980 U.S. Olympic team)

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Senator Scott Brown (an army of one)

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And since I’m already featuring a Red Sox affiliate, I’ll close with this truly a-maize-ing shot of a corn labyrinth incorporating Portland Sea Dogs mascot Slugger:
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Before shuffling off to Vegas, let me reiterate: Vote for your favorite promotions of the year!
And now it’s time to head to Sin City.
benjamin.hill@mlb.com
twitter.com/bensbiz

Bribes and Goodbyes

Thumbnail image for qcriverbandits.gifJust last week, I mentioned the fact that the Las Vegas Wranglers of the ECHL were going to be staging “Blagojevich Night”. As part of this promotion, the team will take to the ice wearing prison uniforms, and an open seat between the player’s benches shall be auctioned off to the highest bidder.

Upon mentioning this item, I lamented the fact that such an imminently promotion-worthy scandal had occurred in the baseball offseason. Because what’s the point of scandal if it can’t be capitalized on by a Minor League Baseball team?

Fortunately, the Quad Cities River Bandits have stepped in to fill the void. Yesterday, the clubbob evans.jpg publicly endorsed Director of Baseball Operations Bob Evans for Illinois’ still-vacant Senate seat. Whether they were moved to take this action as a result of my blog post is beside the point, because I’m just going to assume that they were. Why else would I have gotten into the blogging game anyway, if not to erroneously validate and promote my power and influence within the industry?

I’m sure not doing it for the money, as my paycheck currently comes in the form of concession stand vouchers and discontinued team merchandise.

Anyhow, forgive me these moments of self-indulgence. The 2008 blogging year is reaching its end, and I am finding it hard to say goodbye. So to return to the River Bandits, here are some samplings from yesterday’s press release:

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The team is offering the Governor quite a bounty for the
vacant Senate seat, including four club season tickets – featuring private wait
staff delivering food and beverage orders directly to fans’ seats – as well as
two nights in a luxury suite at Modern Woodmen Park, and advertising for the
State of Illinois on the brand new LED ribbon board that will be installed this
spring.

“I feel honored that the River Bandits have selected me as
their choice for United States Senator and am confident that I will be a great
asset to the state government,” said Evans, 65, as he spoke from his Moline
home. “As an usher, greeter, concession stand worker, salesman and little
league coach, I’ve worked with Illinois
baseball fans for decades. I know what people want. Also, I’ve worked with a
lot of umpires here at Modern
Woodmen Park
and I know I make better calls than most of them.

So congratulations to the River Bandits for getting in on the action, and using the Blagojevich scandal to generate a little bit of Holiday time publicity. Now, it’s my turn to get in on the act, with the just-conceived “Ben’s Biz Blog-ojevich Promotion.”

The first person to bribe me with complimentary words about my blogging skill will, in return, get a free post on this here blog (600 word max). It can be about anything you want, provided it passes muster with both myself and MLBlogs’ draconian Standards and Practices department.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

Well, that’s it for me, guys. I truly thank everyone who has made this blog a regular destination over the past year, and I look forward toward bigger and better things in ’09.


And, this holiday season, remember the things in life that are truly important:

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In Lieu of Logos

nologo.jpgI consider logos and uniforms to be part of the Ben’s Biz Blog beat, and when it comes to that area of my expertise there is much to report.

Yet, I keep putting it off. My heart is not into it. It’s sort of like when you listen to the same album over and over, to the point where you get sick of it. Some distance is then needed, so that the album’s pleasures may reveal themselves yet again.

Yes, that’s how I feel about logos right now. Distance is needed. Therefore, I shall instead bring you up to speed on a variety of other important matters. Such as these:

– Via the excellent Gameops.com editor’s blog, I was alerted to the fact that the Las Vegaswranglers.png Wranglers of the East Coast Hockey League are staging Blagojevich Night on January 30th. The details:

The Wranglers will unveil special new vintage prison uniforms, complete
with horizontal black and white stripes.  Each player will also have his
own prison number assigned to him, and as if all that wasn’t enough, now for
the piece de resistance.

There will be an open seat between the player’s benches that will be
auctioned off to the highest bidder, a la Obama’s vacant seat in the
Senate.  (NBCChicago.com)

Congratulations to the Wranglers for coming up with this, but it always pains me when such promotion-worthy scandals occur in the dead of winter. In order to establish their dominance over the rest of the sporting world, baseball teams should stage “ripped-from-the-headlines” promotions in the offseason as well. When it comes to such gimmickry, the idea results in far more publicity than the execution.   

– My MiLB.com colleague Lisa Winston has an article on the site today that is well worth reading. Entitled “Trying Times”, it hammers home the point that Minor League ballplayers often have to deal with precarious financial situations. Many of the people reading this blog are already aware of this, but its always good to be reminded that the majority of people who play sports for a living are far from wealthy.

Somewhat on topic, I’d highly recommend reading Steve Fireovid’s “The 26th Man” It provides a lot of insight into the day-to-day hardships associated with simultaneously being a Minor Leaguer and a family man. And, please, never hesitate to get in touch with Minor League Baseball book recommendations:

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

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– Finally, many of you may remember this post of just two days ago, in which I went up on my soapbox in order to tout the innovation and resiliency of the Minor Leagues in tough economic times. Well, today this press release caught my eye*, in which the Missoula Osprey mentioned that all season ticket holders will receive a free “popcorn and a pop” at each game. Now, this in and of itself is a very small news item. But, it is indicative of the sort of promotion that will become more and more “pop”ular as teams seek to lure fans through the turnstiles during these tough economic times.

*you know how painful that can be

Now It Can Be Revealed

vegas.jpgFor confidential reasons related to my health and safety, I was forced to remain coy about where I spent my time from Sunday-Thursday. But now that I am back within the warm and comforting embrace of New York City, I can tell you that I was in Las Vegas in order to attend the Baseball Winter Meetings.

While the Winter Meetings of the popular imagination revolve around wheeling and dealing at the Major League level, in reality this is just a small portion of everything that goes on. The Minor Leagues are very well represented as well, and of course it is the Minors that are of interest to me.

Last year, I wrote a comprehensive Winter Meetings journal. This year, in the interest of brevity and also in the interest of retaining my readership, I will condense this coverage into capsule form.

Monday — Spent the majority of the day at the annual Bob Freitas Business Seminar, invegas2.jpg which select Minor League front office members and other industry luminaries shared their expertise. For my money (if I had in fact paid to attend), the highlight of the seminar was the afternoon roundtable discussions. The roundtables were divided into three 1/2 hour sessions, but there were 14 presenters overall. Therefore, it was imperative to choose wisely.

First, I watched Rob Hackash of the Reading Phillies speak about “Sparking Media Coverage From the Dead of Winter On”. The focus of this was largely on the R-Phils’ Valentines Day promotion, in which mascot Screwball delivers flowers and game tickets to lucky ladies throughout the region. This was followed by Casey and Jason of Plan B Branding, who enthusiastically delivered an idea round-up entitled “So a shark, a groundskeeper, and a used car salesman walk into bar…” I can’t recall the punchline to this set-up, but in my mind it involved the shark needing CPR from the used car salesman. Either way, the title effectively conveyed Plan B’s knack at utilizing orchestrated chaos for fun and profit at the Minor League level. Finally, I watched Scott Carter (accomplished marketer and dancer for the Fresno Grizzlies) speak about “Repeat Customers: The Cheap and Easy Success Strategy.” Essentially, Carter laid out a series of objectives geared toward transforming the casual ballpark visitor into a bona-fide super fan. (step one: book Billy Zabka).

Monday evening was filled with the usual Vegas hi-jinx, such as watching “Cash Cab” in the hotel room and going to bed early.

trade.jpgTuesday: On the professional level, most of my day was spent traversing the labrynthian corridors of the mammoth Baseball Trade Show. As someone who writes about promotions year-round, I always enjoying seeing what new giveaway items are being peddled by the various vendors in attendance. My favorite this year was the flipbooks being offered by Coyote Promotions, in which teams can have their memorable moments immortalized through the magic of self-propelled fast-moving still photography.

But, the trade show is exhausting. In addition to constantly being on one’s feet, there is the nagging feeling of being eyed up by vendors as they decide whether or not to launch into a sales pitch. I’m probably not worth talking to, unless someone is interested in getting a plug on one of the internet’s finest Minor League business blogs. On second thought, this definitely makes me worth talking to. I wield influence like a caveman wields a club. 

Tuesday night I took a bus three miles east on Tropicana to the Pinball Hall of Fame. 220pinball.jpg machines from all eras of pinball history, and all in excellent condition. This place is a labor of love, and an absolute must for anyone who enjoys pinball. I, obviously, love pinball. In fact, email me at any time in order to talk about pinball.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

Wednesday — Early in the afternoon I spoke with Minor League President Pat O’Conner on his plans for 2009. This conversation was then deftly combined with select quotes from O’Conner’s Opening Session speech on Monday, and turned into this journalistic masterwork. On Wednesday evening, I had the pleasure of attending the Minor League gala at the Pure Nightclub. The invitation called for “upscale club attire”, and it was quite a spectacle indeed to see each attendee’s interpretation of these dress specifications (khakis and an untucked and wrinkled collared shirt seemed to be the general consensus). This event, which likely resulted in the most disparate male to female ratio in the history of Pure Nightclub, was nonetheless a good time and a great networking opportunity.

Acting on a tip from someone who knows about such things, I ended the evening at the Peppermill Lounge. This place was great, especially in contrast to the faux-opulence and barely disguised customer contempt that characterizes so many other businesses on the Las Vegas strip. Enjoying a cigar and a double bloody mary while sitting around a flaming pool (!) was the perfect ending to the Vegas experience.

slots.JPGSo, in summary, when in Vegas visit the Pinball Hall of Fame and the Peppermill Lounge. Oh, and “Slots A Fun” has $2 blackjack at all times. That’s about all I can help you out with.

Addendum: I must say that, throughout the week, I was surprised by the number of people who referenced this blog as the primary reason they know who I am. So, if you know me, get in contact with me. Or, if you don’t know me, still get in contact. This blog is a two-way street, and the more anecdotes, photos, and news items that get sent my way, then the better the content. Upwards and onwards toward world domination!

Incidentally, this blog ranked #49 among MLB Pro Blogs in the number of visitors from Opening Day to the present. While it means a lot to me have beaten my long-time blogging nemesis Torii Hunter, there is still a long ways to go. Please, keep spreading the word…

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