Results tagged ‘ Lowell Spinners ’

New Military Tributes are in the Cards

This past September I traveled to Louisville in order to attend the Minor League Baseball Promotional Seminar, an annual “idea-sharing” event. And of the many ideas that were shared, one particularly notable one came courtesy of the Lowell Spinners. I wrote about on this very blog:

The Lowell Spinners talked about their military trading card set giveaway, which honors local servicemen and women both past and present. This is an idea that other teams will almost certainly steal for their own promotional schedules.

photo (2)

Excuse the glare

Indeed, my prediction (which was more a statement of the obvious than any sort of bold prognostication), is now coming to pass. We are in promo schedule release season, and teams staging their own military trading card set giveaway in 2014 include the Salem Red Sox, Bowie Baysox, Frederick Keys, Nashville Sounds, and Myrtle Beach Pelicans. When it comes to putting this set together, the precise method varies by team. Here’s how the Salem Red Sox are going about it.

salem

With Opening Day fast approaching, the Salem Red Sox are proud to announce an unprecedented promotion that will offer well-deserved recognition to some of the bravest men and women of the Roanoke Valley. In addition to creating a baseball card set of the Carolina League Champions in 2014, the team will also generate a pack of cards featuring many of the region’s dedicated servicemen and women for a “Military Appreciation Baseball Card Giveaway,” scheduled for Saturday, August 9 at LewisGale Field.

Starting immediately, fans can log onto the Salem Red Sox Facebook page and submit nominations of family members and/or friends who are worthy of inclusion in this one-of-kind creation. Each submission should include the following information:

  • Name with rank
  • Military Branch
  • Height
  • Weight (if wanted)
  • Years of service
  • DOB (if wanted)
  • Hometown
  • A bio about his or her history in the military (preferably 75-100 words)
  • A photo (headshot or full body in dress uniform)

Fans are asked to submit their candidates by March 31. After receiving nominees, all photos will be placed in an album where the “likes” will be tallied, and the 30 photos with the most “likes” will be chosen for this special card set. In the event of a tie, the earlier photo submitted will have the honor of being included as part of this collection. Voting via “likes” will continue through the first half of the season.

The final product will be a collector’s item of 30 cards, with 1,000 decks to be distributed to the first 1,000 fans through the gate on “Military Appreciation Night.”

In the case of the San Jose Giants, the team simply accepted nominations through yesterday (March 12). The team will then select the winners, independent of any voting process, and announce them during March 31’s FanFest event. One winner, however, has already been chosen. Per the team:

San Jose, CA- The San Jose Giants are excited to announce that 95 year-old, World War II veteran Joe Bell has been named the first trading card in their Salute to the Military Trading Card Set, presented byOperation: Care and Comfort. Bell has become an instant star over the past few days after video was taken of him in military uniform spontaneously shaking runners’ hands in front of his house Sunday morning as part of a run to benefit the Pat Tillman Foundation. The video of Bell and the runners has since been viewed and shared on the Internet over one million times.

And here’s that video:

 

The Myrtle Beach Pelicans’ efforts are particularly noteworthy, in that they have teamed up with a local hospice and put together a season-long initiative with a particular focus on WWII veterans. 

Over 11 game dates during the season, the Myrtle Beach Pelicans will feature stories of WWII veterans as a part of a new program called Embrace Veterans, culminating in Military Appreciation Night, presented by Embrace Hospice, which falls on the 70th anniversary of D-Day. The program is working with several different veteran-related non-profit organizations in the Grand Strand to honor veterans who served during WWII.

In addition to their involvement in Military Appreciation Night, Embrace Hospice will be a partner for an additional ten game dates throughout the 2014 season. On each of these nights, the Pelicans will highlight veterans during the game….This will include a video tribute of select veterans…. A representative from Embrace Hospice will throw out the first pitch alongside a local Grand Strand veteran as well. 

On Military Appreciation Night, the Pelicans will give away a Veteran Card Set, presented by Embrace Hospice, featuring a variety of veterans from the Grand Strand….The Pelicans are currently accepting nominations of veterans to be featured on the video board and/or in the card set. To be highlighted on a particular game night with video board feature, the veteran must be a currently living veteran of WWII. Veterans of all U.S. conflicts, whether deceased or living, are eligible for the card set. The Pelicans will make selections for both the video tributes and the card set from the nominees; all decisions on these matters are final. 

I grew up outside of Philadelphia and now live in New York City. If any teams in that general region do a military card set then I’d nominate my grandfather, Jarvis Cooper, for inclusion.

cooper My grandfather, who died in 1996, was a navigator on the B-17 bomber “Judy.” On December 30, 1943 the plane was shot down over northern France, crashing in the woods on the outskirts of the town of Ully St. Georges. Four of the 10 crew members died, and those that didn’t were cared for and housed in secret  by the French Resistance. Eventually, my grandfather and the Judy’s pilot, Glenn Camp, were captured by the Germans while attempting to take a train into Spain. They then spent more than a year in a POW camp, remaining there until the war ended.

Fast forward to September 2011, when the town of Ully St. Georges unveiled a town square memorial honoring the crew of the “Judy.” I was fortunate enough to be in attendance, and the hospitality of the French people who organized the event and hosted me throughout is something that I will always remember.

Photo pour le site List'In MAE

3_31headstonereduxAnyhow, just thought I’d share.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

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

One More Time, with Feeling

As you probably have noticed, the vast majority of content here on the blog in recent weeks has been “On the Road”-related. And, well, there’s going to be plenty more where that came from. Local trips will continue to the extent that time allows, but, also, in addition to that, I’ve got one more blockbuster to share.

Pacific Northwest, here I come!

The Pacific Northwest from space, courtesy Wikipedia

The itinerary is as follows:

8/18: Eugene Emeralds

8/19: Salem-Keizer Volcanoes

8/20: Yakima Bears

8/21: Tacoma Rainiers

8/22: Everett AquaSox

And, the piece de resistance — Ben’s Biz is going international! I am happy to report that I will be observing Julio Franco’s 54th birthday in Canada!

8/23: Vancouver Canadians

I’m not exactly sure how this latest jaunt will play out, but one thing’s for sure. I’m gonna be spending some quality time with this guy:

Vancouver’s Chef Wasabi

Beyond that, you know the drill: should you have any recommendations regarding where to eat and what to visit while I’m in the area, then please get in touch via the comments, email, or Twitter. These recommendations have been absolutely crucial on past trips, and I’m sure that this time around will be no different.

Also, keep in mind that this will be the first larger-scale trip in which I am following a gluten-free diet. Therefore, “designated eaters” would be appreciated at each stop. If you think that this is a role (eating the ballpark delicacies that I cannot) that you can fulfill at any stop along the way then, please, get in touch.

Meanwhile, I have two months of backlogged blog material to get to. I no longer stress out about such backlogs (as part of my longer-term strategy to prioritize permanence over the ephemeral), but nonetheless I might as well get to some of it now. How about this awesome Lowell Spinners commercial, which immortalizes a Spinners-ValleyCats batboy battle that took place at a game I was in attendance for last month?

Let’s see, what else have I got here…

How about this? On July 13, the Lake Elsinore Storm had over 500 people “Tebow” in the outfield as part of a “Night of Fellowship” promotion. Here’s what that looked like:

And speaking of fellowship, Elizabethton Twins general manager Mike Mains recently sent out a mass email regarding a helpful groundskeeping trick that his team employs. I hope that he won’t mind me excerpting it here, as it could help teams as they deal with weather that, in recent weeks, has bordered on the apocalyptic:

We’ve had so much rain that we got a little creative this past week. The fans blowing air under the tarp keeps the air circulating which limits damage to the grass when the tarp is down for long periods of time. The most useful thing we found is when heavy amounts of water forms on the tarp the fans will literally pick up the tarp which will form a bubble and then will force the water to the edges of the tarp which makes it much easier and quicker to push the water off and then remove. I’ve heard of this before but it has really worked for us especially with limited manpower.

The best fans in baseball:

And that’ll be it from me, until it isn’t. Thanks for reading.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

On the Road: Pastry Pugilism and Dirt Dentistry in Lowell

Little-known fact: The Lowell Spinners were the subjects of my first-ever “On the Road” post. The year was 2009, when Barack Obama was president and the price of stamps had just been increased to 44 cents. While that might not be that long ago in the scheme of things there has nonetheless been quite a large amount of  professional and personal growth since then. Simply put — in 2009 I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. And now? Now I have very little idea.

Here’s to growth!

But, in 2009, I did lead my Lowell dispatch with this photo. I still rather enjoy it.

I did not come across that formidable metallic bust of mascot Canaligator on my most recent visit to the Spinners’ LeLacheur Park, which occurred on July 2. But he remains well-represented in other inanimate forms:

That picture was taken three hours before game time, but already there was a hardy band of souls lined up outside of the stadium. Their objective was to ensure themselves acquisition of the evening’s giveaway — a Dom Dimaggio military bobblehead.

Photo credit: Zack Hample

Using my vast industry influence, I was able to procure one of the above items without waiting in line for it. (It has since been given away via my Twitter account. Follow @bensbiz.) Instead I took a lap around the stadium before heading inside, accompanied by Zack Hample and his girlfriend Robin. (As you may recall, this Massachusetts jaunt was motivated by Zack’s attempt to catch a ball dropped 1000 feet from a helicopter.)

It was a beautiful day for such a stroll, as LeLacheur Park is bordered by a pathway that offers pleasing vantage points of nearby woods, waterways, and re-purposed landmarks of an industrial past.

I soon left Zack and Robin to their own devices, and went into the park to conduct a couple of pre-game interviews (including first-round draft pick Deven Marrero and the iconic Spinners clubhouse manager known simply as “Dog Man”). The scene on the field, and in the dugout:

Things soon got pretty crowded in the dugouts, as a local youth team engaged in a Q&A and autograph session with a handful of Spinners players.

In search of open spaces in which to roam free, I bid adieu to this humanity-soaked subterranean lair. But not before snapping a pic of the aforementioned Dog Man. Here he is in conversation with some of his young clubhouse charges.

As soon as I left the dugout, I forgot about my supposed quest for wide open spaces (segue cynicism at its finest). Instead, I dropped off my belongs in the Spinners office and took a picture of one of the more original theme jerseys ever created. From 2006-08, the team dedicated one night a year to being the “Mike Lowell Spinners” in honor of the popular Boston third baseman.

(Meanwhile, I am still hoping for a Lynchburg Ben Hillcats promotion. Any day now, guys. Any day now.)

I then was able to snag an exclusive interview with the copy machine. I said I’d give him some good ink if he provided me with some local color, but he cut the conversation short because he didn’t like my toner. (Later we patched up our differences over a drink. He had a Jameson on Xerox).

Next stop was the Gator Pit, a buffet area that, prior to the start of the ballgame, is only open to season ticket holders, groups, and sycophantic media types looking for a free meal. My kind of place, in other words.

This was the first time I was at a ballpark since I had publicly come out with my (not-so) harrowing diagnosis of Celiac disease. So what to get? I settled on this tasty (but way too meat-heavy) meal of steak tips, ribs and corn on the cob.

The corn on the cob was, of course, gluten-free. No problem there. The steak tips (which were phenomenal) were also good to go, but the ribs were a bit more of a gray area. A Gator Pit employee brought out a bottle of the BBQ sauce, and while I didn’t see anything problematic in the ingredients (like, you know, wheat flour) I really can’t say for sure that they were celiac friendly.

All in all, this was a pretty half-hearted gluten-free meal attempt. But, like I said when I first wrote about the diagnosis — this is going to be a process. And, to tell you the truth, at the time I wasn’t really thinking about how I was going to justify this meal to a reading audience. I was just really hungry, and the game was about to start.

So get off my back, guys (inside my head)! I mean, jeez! Dude’s gotta eat.

But the game really was about to start, so let us slowly back away from this never-ending internal dialogue and instead check out the view from the press box.

Never mind that in the above picture the game is clearly NOT about to start. Gaps in the chronology can be attributed to celiac disease fever dreams. Those are a thing, right? No?

Well, anyway, the game really was about to start. Promise. One of the pre-game entertainment rituals involves mascot Canaligator chasing away his Yankee fan doppelganger, all while an oblivious photographer proves to be be hilariously unable to pick up the action (that guy must be a Yankees fan).

Get out of here, Yankee! On my own personal approval matrix, I consider you to be low-brow and despicable! Go back to your high-falutin big city and get in some stupid argument regarding the urban philosophies of Jane Jacobs versus those of Robert Moses. And give Ernie Anastos my regards while you’re at it!

The aforementioned Zack Hample threw out a ceremonial first pitch, and as an added bonus his name was misspelled on the videoboard.

But in the scheme of things, an ‘h’ where a ‘k’ should be is no big deal. Everybody makes mistahes from time to time. What really mattered at this juncture was that — yes! — the game was about to start! For real this time! Once action was underway, my first order of business was to descend into the bowels of the stadium and prepare for battle.

I had volunteered to suit up as the “Boxing Cream Donut” in the nightly “Mascot Mania Musical Chairs” competition.

Not gluten-free!

This competition, which should be self-explanatory, results in a kaleidoscopic jumble of costumed craziness.

And as is so often the case in life, the action gradually degenerated into unmitigated chaos. Mascot pile-up!

I’m not sure who won, or if anyone won. But the thrill of competition was coursing through my veins; I felt like a gladiator out there. I stayed on the field, daring anyone to come feel the wrath of the Boxing Cream Donut, until a kindly elderly usher handed me a cup of juice and escorted me off of the field.

After that experience, I was finding it hard to leave the bowels of the stadium. This is where the magic happens!

Fortunately I was once again given the opportunity to get into costume, emerging onto the field of play via the entrance down the left field line.

I was “Bristles,” the anthropomorphic toothbrush who cleans the bases while the grounds crew drags the infield behind him.

New OKCupid profile picture

But, strangely enough,  Bristles doesn’t use his titular bristles to clean the bases. Instead, he has a broom. Isn’t that kind of like equipping a dragon with a blowtorch?

Once Bristles’ time on the field was done, this young man demanded a picture. “My Dad is a dentist!” he kept yelling. “My Dad is a dentist!”

His Dad is a dentist!

After removing the Bristles’ costume (but retaining his essence), I wandered over to the Swampland kid’s area (located down the left field line).

One of the top new additions to the Swampland area is Dunk A Yankee, which is exactly what it’s name implies.

But nothing much was happening over there. The Yankee in question was pretty laid back, and hyperbolic anti-Puritan invective did not seem to be forthcoming. So I did what I always do in these situations.

Wander!

It was a beautiful night, after all.

An accurate representation of 21st-century political discourse:

But I could not resist the siren song of the stadium bowels for long. I returned one more time, to find a veritable cavalcade of front office and game day employees.

This time around, I was there to observe a game whose premise I liked quite a bit. A trio of young contestants had been told that they would be participating in a soda-chugging competition, but little did they know that the carbonated beverage in question had been shaken to the point where it would explode in their faces.

In theory at least. The end result was a bit confused and underwhelming, as was my attempt at documentation. But, again, the premise is great, and if there’s one thing I’ll always champion it’s a good premise. If you don’t agree with me on that one, then please leave the premises.

The game soon fizzled out as well, with the visiting Tri-Cities ValleyCats earning the win.

After the game, there were TWO supplementary entertainment options for young fans. Run the bases:

Or take a lap around the field in Thomas the Tank Engine:

I chose the latter option, and since the only other riders at this late juncture were Zack and Robin I was given the opportunity to drive it myself. What a thrill!

I wasn’t the only one driving vehicles around the field. Here’s general manager Tim Bawmann, decompressing with a little groundskeeping work after a long day.

And speaking of groundskeeping, my time at LeLacheur Park finally came to a close after Zack got done speaking with Spinners’ turf tender Jeff Paolino. He was expressing his apologies for any damage that may have been caused by balls landing on the field that had been dropped via helicopter.

Jeff seemed cool with it at this point.

And that is finally, mercifully, all that I have to report from Lowell. Maybe when I visit again in 2015 I’ll finally have some clue as to what it is I’m doing.

Here’s to growth!

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

On the Road: Stop, Drop, and Lowell

I’m not really sure what constitutes a typical week these days, but regardless of the criteria this week was anything but typical. On Sunday afternoon, I embarked on a trip to Lowell, MA with Zack Hample, his girlfriend Robin and his friend Andrew. This jaunt was motivated by Zack’s world record attempt the next morning — his goal was to catch a ball dropped from a helicopter at a height of 1000 feet.

From left to right: Zack Hample, plastic bags of baseballs

I wrote 1800-some words on all of this over at MiLB.com, so if there is anything that you find lacking in this particular narrative then please, by all means, read the story. This blog post is supplementary content, and I do not wish to be redundant. But here’s the gist of it: Zack is the world’s greatest “ballhawk” (having “snagged” over 6000 baseballs at 50 Major League stadiums) and as such is a niche celebrity. He seems to attract fans and detractors in equal measure — the former are in awe of his unparalleled skill within his chosen area of expertise, the latter often characterize him as an obnoxious manchild in the throes of a seemingly endless adolescence.

I’m neither fan nor detractor. As I explain in the story:

I first met Zack in 2003, after answering his Craigslist ad in search of individuals to hit fungoes with in Central Park (strange but true). We were briefly co-workers at MiLB.com in the site’s inaugural 2005 season, and, in fact, it was Zack who first alerted me to a job opening there. So, in writing about this stunt, I am not an impartial member of the media. I am a friend of Zack’s, and in that capacity, played a small role in helping this stunt get put together.

This past offseason, Zack asked me for recommendations regarding which teams might be interested in hosting his record attempt, and the Lowell Spinners were the first that came to mind.

The night before, I stopped in Zack’s hotel room in order to rub some balls (go ahead, make some jokes, it’s all too easy). The folks at Lena Blackburne’s Rubbing Mud had donated a jar of their signature product, which is the same mud rubbed on all Major League Baseballs before they are put into play.

I even rubbed up a few myself:

The next morning started bright and early, as the stunt was scheduled for 7:30 in order to take advantage of optimal wind speeds.  We entered through a LeLacheur Park side entrance, just as the helicopter was landing on the field:

The first order of business was a safety and logistical briefing from stunt coordinator (and aviation professional) Mike Davison. He’s the guy in the dark blue shirt, very serious about his responsibilities.

After the briefing, the spectators (comprised of friends, family, Spinners interns and staff and local media) retreated to the dugout.

Zack, meanwhile, suited up in catcher’s gear donated by Rawlings. In this shot, his mother, Naomi, looks on with concern.

Into the great wide open…

The first drop was from 300 feet, with a softball (in order to set the softball drop world record, of course). The heights then increased incrementally throughout the morning, to 550 to 750 to, finally, 1000. At first visibility was a problem, but all involved soon settled into a groove.

Spinners groundskeeper Jeff Paolino was not a happy camper, as each missed ball created a new divot in his beloved ball field.

I got lucky with this shot –a ball dropped from an official height of 762 feet, just before it landed in Zack’s glove. This turned out to be the highwater mark of the morning.

Zack didn’t get many opportunities from 1000 feet, as the stunt was called off due to increasing winds. This was the closest he came:

In the past, similar world record attempts resulted in a litany of injuries: smashed teeth, broken limbs, etc. All Zack ended up with was a bruised middle finger. And in this shot, the bruise hadn’t even appeared it. All things considered, that’s a pretty clean escape.

Zack, just after the stunt, recounting just how close he’d come to a 1000 foot catch.

But soon enough Zack had to yield the floor to Spinners clubhouse manager (and New England baseball icon) “The Dog Man.” Once the Dog Man gets on a roll, there’s no stopping him.

I’ll have plenty more from the Dog Man — and the Spinners in general — next week. But, for now, that’s gonna do it. For far more context on the world record attempt click HERE. Otherwise, I’ll catch you on the flip side.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Leaving On a Jet Plane

The most pressing thing that needs to be conveyed at this moment in space and time, from a blogging perspective, is this: next week there will be no new blog posts. This is because I’m taking a a week-long respite from Minor League Baseball, in the form of a vacation.

When I return, it will be nearly March. And if it’s nearly March it’ll nearly be baseball season. Therefore, it’ll be time for me to make some plans — where to go, who to see, and how to best cover this multifarious entity known as Minor League Baseball.

Suggestions welcome, and appreciated! Unique content is key, so please get in touch with any knowledge you may have about any particular corner of this Minor League universe.

I look forward to your reply. But, in the meantime, here’s a nice-sized portion of that typical Biz Blog content you’ve come to know and tolerate.

As I’ve mentioned before, we’re in the midst of “promotion unveiling season.” One of the more interesting ones to come down the pike this week comes courtesy of the Memphis Redbirds, who have put an interesting spin on the increasingly prevalent “social media” sub-genre.

Reports the team:

The first 500 fans through the gates that use Twitter can write down their Twitter username, allowing the Redbirds to follow them. Prior to the game, a Twinterview will be held with one of the Memphis Redbirds players. Twitter handles from each player will also be included on their headshots on the Redbirds’ new video board.

Fans will be encouraged to take a photo from where they sit at the ballpark and share it on Facebook. Adding their seat location to the picture caption will give them a chance to win a social media themed prize during the game. One fan will also receive a prize pack that includes a bird watching book, a team-signed hashtag and a box of figurines containing 140 characters.

Not surprisingly, my favorite aspect of this promo is the “prize pack.” I look forward to seeing what a “team-signed hashtag” looks like, and, especially, what sort of figurine characters end up in the box.

My last post had a Valentine’s Day emphasis, but now that particular holiday is firmly in the rear-view mirror. Or, is it? In honor of the Red Sox’s new manager, the Lowell Spinners are hosting their own “Valentine’s Day” on July 14.

Ya gotta love it:

The first 1,000 fans through the gates will receive a pink Bobby Valentine’s Day Spinners’ baseball. Fans who do not receive a baseball will be rewarded with Valentine’s candies and cards so no fan is left lonely on Bobby Valentine’s Day.

 The concourse will feature a Valentine’s card swap area, with Valentine’s available for younger fans to give to each other, leave for their favorite Spinners players or, of course, leave for Bobby Valentine. The area will also have an abundance of Valentine’s Day favorites, including Hershey’s Kisses and NECCO Hearts.

Outside of Valentine’s Day, the Spinners will also salute Bobby Valentine by exploring some of their favorite Bobby V-isms. The concession stand will feature wrap sandwiches, in honor of their inventor, and the team will celebrate Bobby’s fabulous ballroom dancing moves, with a between innings dancing contest.

As I mentioned on Twitter earlier this week, a component that needs to be added to this stellar promo is a mustache giveaway. And all fans in disguise should get in free!

A reasonable question to ask at this juncture is “who cares about any of this stuff? The world is ending!” The Frederick Keys understand such apocalyptic angst, and are therefore staging “Six Months Until the End of the World Night” on June 21.

“We will be paying tribute to what is supposed to be the end of life on earth with our six months til the end of the world celebration. Enjoy survival of the fittest events, last meal eating contests, zombie interns and more!” reported the team. “Oh, and there will be Keys baseball too.”

If the above didn’t satiate your appetite for apocalyptic images, then perhaps this will.

Photo: Laura Brinkman

Yep, that’s Visalia Rawhide mascot Tipper with his ol’ buddy Newt Gingrich at Tuesday’s World Ag Expo.

“Newt Gingrich” sounds like a good name for a Zooperstars character. This beloved troupe of pun-obsessed inflatables are visiting Charlotte on May 26, with five of the characters confirmed. The team has launched a fan poll to determine the final two characters, with the choices as follows:

  1. Manatee Ramirez
  2. Yao Flamingo
  3. Jeff Gordog
  4. Centipete Rose
  5. Mackerel Jordan
  6. Nolan Rhino

A manatee, a clam, and a centipede walk onto a baseball field...

The triumvirate of above characters look like they could be gatekeepers to the afterlife, but fortunately we won’t have to deal with such matters for another six months. In the meantime, all you need is Like!

The New Hampshire Fisher Cats are aiming for 10,000 new Facebook fans this month, and will donate $5000 to New Horizons soup kitchen and homeless if this goal is met. So CLICK HERE and like away!

 

And you know what? That’s going to do it for me. I’ll be back on the blog come 2/27, but in the meantime please meditate on what you like about this blog, what you don’t, and what you’d like to see from it in the future. I’d love to hear it.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

(Nacho) Typical Blog Post

The previous post on this blog ended with an anniversary logo (the Hickory Crawdads 20th, to be exact), so in the interest of seamless transitions let’s keep that particular train right on a-rollin':

Good natured ribbon

It should be self-explanatory, but the above mark commemorates the fact that 2012 will be the Northwest Arkansas Naturals’ fifth season. They played their first season way back in 2008, when George W. Bush was president, the price of a postage stamp was a mere 41 cents, and Ben’s Biz Blog was less than a year old.

But enough about bygone eras. Let’s celebrate the future! The Wisconsin Timber Rattlers announced that there will be a nacho stand at the ballpark in 2012,  and the team is currently conducting a Facebook poll to determine what the stand should be called. I am pleased to report that my submission of “Nacho, Nacho Stand” is one of the finalists.

I am not pleased to report that, as of this writing, my submission has received all of 16 votes. “Class A Nachos” is currently in first, and, really, that one is not nearly as good as  mine or fellow contender “Nachossss.” Biz Blog readers, now is the time to rectify this egregious wrong! Vote HERE! (If I win, I’ll donate my free full-size free nacho grande helmet to charity).

I've had all I can stands, and I can't stands no more!

2012 will also be Season 1 for the new-look Swoop, mascot of the South Bend Silver Hawks. When Swoop last appeared in this blog, he was engaged in an intimate moment with a Miss America contest.

But those days of tongue-in-beak insouciance are over. For last week, the Silver Hawks gave Swoop a makeover:

Speaking of the Silver Hawks, they were, to my knowledge, the only MiLB team to run a local TV ad during the Super Bowl. That spot, cinematic in scope, can be viewed HERE.

Of course, a far more common Minor League approach is to engage in a spot of parody. The Frederick Keys did just this, putting their own spin on a FIAT ad (the original can be viewed HERE).

And speaking of the Super Bowl, you’ll no doubt recall that the last post on this blog started with info on the Lowell Spinners us-against-the-rest of the New York-Penn League big game bet.

It was a sizable gamble, and the Spinners lost. Therefore, mascot Canaligator is in for a summer of abject humiliation.

Even more so than usual:

As for me, I’ll be “writing a blog…all summer long.” Don’t you forget about me.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Groundbreaking News, Familiar Terrain

It’s nearly impossible to comprehend, but I am writing this on a Friday and you are reading on a Monday. Whatever sundry delights the weekend had to offer have since passed, including that inimitable annual Sunday delight that is the Super Bowl.

Thus, the consequences of the following bet are now known to the world:

As the lone Massachusetts-based entity in the New-York Penn League (go figure), the Spinners have made the following wager with no less than seven teams:

The bet, vastly superior to the minute wagers made by city mayors, would find each team’s most beloved figure donning enemy colors for a home stand: each team’s mascot would wear the opposing team’s jersey during a homestand.

Now those are some high stakes! I imagine that some mascots would commit hari-kari before succumbing to such an indignity, but that’s just idle seppuku-lation on my part.

After writing that last line, it took a long time for the applause in my head to die down. Now that it has, let’s look at another team that found a way to commemorate the Super Bowl: the Fresno Grizzlies.

But nothing can top the Super Bowl efforts made by host city denizens the Indianapolis Indians, whose Victory Field environs were totally transformed:

Read all about it on MiLB.com, a website that employs me to write such things.

Another MiLB.com dispatch of note (note: they’re all of note) emanates from Birmingham, as the Barons have broken ground on their new ballpark.

Rendering!

But that’s not the only big Southern League ballpark news. Pensacola has a new ballpark opening in April — it will house the Blue Wahoos, of course — and this facility has now turned on the lights. Here’s the view:

Meanwhile, in Altoona, the Curve are relying on a different sort of energy. This week the team announced that, as the result of a new naming rights deal, Blair County Ballpark will be known as “Peoples Natural Gas Stadium.”

This news sent Twitter all a-twitter (or at least my Twitter feed), with flatulence jokes a-plenty. But, lest we forget, the Lake Elsinore Storm have already staged the preeminent natural gas-related promotion.

And, finally — who wants to see a new logo? Anybody? Okay, at least that one guy over there does.

So here you go: at last week’s hot stove dinner, the Hickory Crawdads unveiled this anniversary mark.

Guess that’ll do in a pinch.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

It’s the Thought That Counts

It was my not my intent for the blog to take such a lengthy midweek hiatus, but the fact of the matter is I had very little material to work with. So I took a deep breath, stepped away from the WordPress dashboard, and waited for my falderal reserve to naturally replenish itself.

Mission accomplished!

Let’s start with a recap of a mission kinda-sorta accomplished, as earlier this week Richmond Flying Squirrels mascot Nutzy took a trip to St. Louis in order to capitalize on the Rally Squirrel mania that has overtaken that Cards-crazed city. Nutzy’s obligations are many, however, so his trip to the Show Me State was necessarily brief. Although he is already imbued with the power to fly, he took an airplane to St. Louis on Wednesday…

just in time for a Game 6 rainout.

What a bummer. But gliding rodents have a natural predilection for optimism, so Nutzy made the best of a bad situation. He posed with fans outside of shuttered Busch Stadium before checking out the sights of St. Louis.

Despite the somewhat anti-climactic nature of Nutzy’s journey, the sheer ridiculousness of a Virginia-based mascot of a San Francisco affiliate visiting Missouri in order to capitalize on mania surrounding the alleged rallying powers of his species generated some national attention. Most notably, the New York Times Bats Blog filed a dispatch in which Nutzy was described as an “eugenically designed über Eichhörnchen.”

Now let’s break that down: Nutzy sounds a bit like “Nazi,” Nazis were German, “eichhornchen” is German for squirrel, and eugenics as a social policy fell into (hopefully permanent) disfavor after taken to extremes by the Nazis. Subtle, perhaps, but this is one of the most nefarious disses ever levied against a mascot! The Richmond Flying Squirrels should boycott the paper of record until they receive a full apology for this sinister insinuation!

But I suspect that Nutzy will find other ways to occupy his time, as waging quixotic campaigns against the Gray Lady just doesn’t seem like his kind of thing. This is, after all, an individual who just last week rappelled down a building.

Rappelling down a building is something I have yet to attempt, but despite the lack of blog content I’ve still been fairly busy this week on MiLB.com “MiLBY Award” content as well as this feature that ran today on the Omaha Storm Chasers and their 2011 season. Give it a read; I chose to focus on the Storm Chasers because their recent transitions help to illuminate core Minor League Baseball operating principles that are often misunderstood.

Apropos of nothing, I’ll close this post with a video that I somehow missed the first time around. It’s of Boss and Moko Moanaroa and their father Joe performing a Maori war dance during a rain delay in Lowell. It’s the endless availability of things like this that make Minor League Baseball such a fun world to be immersed in.

Thank you for indulging this Minor League missive in the midst of such historic times for MLB. Enjoy Game 7 and the weekend in general, and I’ll be back on Monday with some Halloween-based content. If you’ve got something for me, then now’s the time to send some falderal for my reserve.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

10 From ’11

I’m as forward-looking as the next guy (whoever that may be), but nonetheless a longing backward gaze never hurt anyone. Right? RIGHT?

I sure hope so, because recent retrospective tendencies are continuing unabated with this: a look at some of the funniest/strangest/most evocative photos to have appeared on this blog during the 2011 season. It’s a feast for the eyes, so lather up those retinas and dive right in to the unparalleled visual extravaganza that is this post.

And we’ll start with one of my favorite recurring topics: Centenarian Ceremonial First Pitches! On April 7, Violet Smith celebrated her 109th birthday with the Great Lakes Loons. 109! I still can’t get over it. This woman was in high school when the U.S. entered WWI, and has lived long enough to see Franz Ferdinand re-incarnated as a British rock group.

Take Me Out…to the Ballgame!

DOB: April 7, 1902

Segueing once again from centenarians to sky-diving bulls, this picture of the Tulsa Drillers’ Hornsby remains my favorite mascot picture of all time.

The month of May provided what was probably the most famous picture to emanate from the Minor League landscape all year. Mark Gormus of the Richmond-Times Dispatch should be commended for this one, a thrilling snapshot of “Supermom” in action at a Flying Squirrels game.

Credit: Mark Gormus/Richmond Times-Dispatch

He’s not on the same level of heroism as “Supermom,” but who can forget Michael Restovich’s stint as “Cupman”?

Meanwhile, in Visalia, the Rawhide established themselves as the Cal League’s preeminent practitioners of age-based beauty contests. The winner of their “Belle of the Ballpark” competition was 96 years young, and very happy to have emerged victorious.

Photo Credit: Ken Weisenberger

The Rawhide’s Cal League cohorts in Lake Elsinore capitalized on the planking craze in memorable fashion. Here, the inimitable Grounds Crew Gorilla lays it all out atop an oven.

I don’t mean to pry, mate, but how’d you get up there?

Similar posture was utilized by David “The Human Cannonball” Smith when he was shot over the outfield fence at a Lowell Spinners game.

Have You Ever Been Suspended in Air? (Photo Credit: Jon Corneau/Lowell Spinners)

While it would be inconceivable for a player to be shot out of a cannon (at least in affiliated ball), sometimes they do find a way to participate in the promotions. One of the most enthusiastic was Frank Pfister of the Bakersfield Blaze, who gamely chugged away after losing a pre-game “Milk-Off” to members of the aforementioned Visalia Rawhide.

Photo credit: Chris Henstra/Visalia Rawhide

But humor can be milked from any situation. After the Boise Hawks misplaced their helmets prior to a late August ballgame, the team’s hitters were forced to borrow from the opposing Spokane Indians.

I’ll close this post with what may very well be the best photo ever taken of me, the world’s most self-loathing GREATEST Minor League blogger/itinerant solo traveler. Getting pied in the face atop a dugout while Mexican wrestling-enamored interns look on was a definite career highlight. The experience made me glad to be alive; thanks to the Akron Aeros for making it happen.

Minor League Baseball can be a beautiful thing sometimes.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

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