Results tagged ‘ Lowell Spinners ’

On the Road: Fresh, Hot and Simple in Lowell

To see all posts from my August 31, 2015 visit to the Lowell Spinners (this is Part Three) click HERE. To see all of the posts from my August/September 2015 trip through New England, click HERE. To see ALL of my “On the Road” posts (going back to 2010), click HERE.

2015 “On the Road” landing page HERE!

Let’s get this requisite introductory paragraph out of the way as quickly and painlessly as possible:

At nearly every ballpark I visited this season, I had a designated eater. These individuals, hardy souls with good appetites all, are tasked with consuming the ballpark cuisine that my gluten-free diet prohibits. At LeLacheur Park, home of the Lowell Spinners, my designated eater was Joe Beauregard.

Joe is a real nice guy.

IMG_0453In addition to being a nice guy, Joe is a Lowell native who now lives in nearby Chelmsford. He works in the sporting goods industry, selling products to local youth sports programs, and is a big sports fan himself. He’s also a family man, and two of his three sons were with him at the ballpark: 13-year-old Joey and seven-year-old Braden. (Middle child Jared, 11, opted to stay home).

As for why he wanted to be a designated eater at a Lowell Spinners game, Joe’s answer was simple and inspiring.

“If there’s eating involved, then I can do it. I’ve got the size and I’ve got the ability. I’ve been training all of my life for this opportunity.”

Okay, but what to eat? When it comes to their concessions, the Spinners prefer to keep it simple. In the past they’ve offered regional specialties like lobster rolls and alluring grotesques such as the Homewrecker Hot Dog, but currently their strategy is to focus on the basics and to do the basics well.

In other words: Keep It Simple, Stupid.


The above picture of the Canaligator Cafe was taken earlier in the evening. But it was at this same concession stand — or one just like it — where Joe and I procured an array of food.


First up was the cheesesteak, which in Lowell is apparently called a “Steak and Cheese.” That, to me, is kind of like calling a hot dog a “Dog and Hot,” but whatever.

Steak and Cheese, so be it.

IMG_0447Have at it, Joe. This is your time to shine.

“It’s flavorful. There’s enough cheese and enough steak, so it’s a good steak and cheese,” said Joe, whose logic was impeccable. “I recommend it.”

Alright, then. So how ’bout some garlic fries?

IMG_0448“I like the garlic, it’s got some flavor,” said Joe, a man who likes flavor.

We also got an order of the spicy fries, which were — you guessed it — spicy. Seven-year-old Braden gave one a try, kinda sorta.

IMG_0455Braden looks pretty laid back in that photo, but the only quote I have from him regarding the Spicy Fry experience is anything but laid back: “Spicy! Water!”

Water procured, we then moved on to item number three: A slice of pizza.


Joe, declaring himself a “Chelmsford guy,” immediately pegged this as Sal’s Pizza. Sal’s is a Massachusetts-based chain.

“They do a nice job with North End [Boston], Sicilian-style pizza,” said Joe. “Their’s a Sal’s outside of Fenway, and one in the [TD] Garden.”


Sal, folding in front of the field.

Having recovered from his Spicy Fry experience, Braden posed for a pizza pic alongside his Pops. It turned out great.

IMG_0458Cheese and steak, check. Two kinds of fries, check. Slice from a regionally known pizza chain, check.

All that was left was dessert. For that, we obtained a serving of deep-fried Oreos from a concourse kiosk located behind home plate.

IMG_0459Joey, Joe and Braden. Beauregards enjoying a bite.

IMG_0460“I love the surprise in the middle — the Oreo!” said Joe, apparently forgetting that this item was clearly labeled as a Deep-Fried Oreo. “I mean, fried’s good anyway, but when you get the Oreo? Hello!”

Hello and goodbye, unfortunately, for once dessert is done then what else can there be? Thanks to Joe and his small entourage of friends and family for an enjoyable couple of innings at the ballpark, sampling  the best of the basics.


On the Road: Dancing Ushers and Retiring Icons in Lowell

To see all posts from my August 31, 2015 visit to the Lowell Spinners (this is Part Two) click HERE. To see all of the posts from my August/September 2015 trip through New England, click HERE. To see ALL of my “On the Road” posts (going back to 2010), click HERE.

2015 “On the Road” landing page HERE!

From the Spinners perspective, August 31 was not an ideal time for me to visit. Not only was it a Monday night, but school was now back in session. And if you know Minor League Baseball, you know that when kids are in school then parents are far less inclined to take them to the game.

But, hey, the show must go on.

IMG_0432UMass Lowell, whose campus is just across the street, was back in session as well. Here, it looks like a small group of students were check out the game for free from the top of an adjacent parking garage.

IMG_0438The Spinners had lost the previous night’s game, as well as three of their past four. Seeking to switch things up, they wore their red road jerseys despite the fact that this, obviously, was a home game.

I’m not sure if Scooby Doo, tasked with throwing t-shirts out of the Spinners’ Mystery Machine, was wearing a jersey at all.

IMG_0433Run-on sentence alert:

Shortly after the game began I was escorted into the bowels of the stadium so that I could suit up as a Minion and then participate in the team’s nightly “Minion Wipeout” obstacle course race.

IMG_0445While in the facility bowels, I passed the time by taking pictures of Hudson Valley Renegade players in the on-deck circle. Between them and me was some sort of waste bin.

IMG_0441As for the Minion Wipeout, it entailed running through cones and running over a balance beam and dodging water balloons as well as over-sized  boxing gloves. I’m not sure if the race was documented but please know that I won and, thus, the greatest minion of all time.

Costumed tomfoolery was also taking place on the concourse. This dragon attended the game along with a local martial arts academy, whose students had given a pregame performance.

But one doesn’t necessarily need a costume in order to draw attention to his or herself. This is Bob the Dancing Usher, who stays true to his name on a nightly basis. By dancing.

Bob,a Vietnam veteran, spent 30 years working for the Marblehead (Massachusetts) post office. He said that he began dancing on the dugout in 2005 or 2006, “on a whim.”

“I just got up there and got everyone clapping,” he said. “I just love it. I’ll yell, I’ll clap, I’ll scream. And I’m an old man. I’m 69….I’m bragging a little bit, but when people call the box office they’ll say ‘Hey, I want to sit in Bob’s section.’ Hey, if it sells tickets, it sells tickets!”

Bob, getting ready to dance:

IMG_0341 Bob, not dancing.

IMG_0470I also spent some time speaking with the one and only Dogman, longtime Spinners clubhouse manager (and former hot dog vendor) who retired at the end of the 2015 season.

IMG_0464I wrote a story about the origin and evolution of Dogman for You can read the story HERE, which includes one of Dogman’s favorite jokes to tell the players:

“I just tell ’em, I tell ’em, ‘Hey! The Red Sox are gonna change their name this year, to the Nylons. They’ll get more runs!'”

And since I’m on the topic of long-time team employees — Tim Bawmann, Spinners general manager, was celebrating his 50th birthday. The team’s new videoboard wished him well.

IMG_0461Tim celebrated his birthday by doing laundry in the visitor’s clubhouse until four in the morning (true story).

It is definitely a season of transition for the Spinners. In addition to Dogman, longtime Spinners media relations director Jon Boswell has moved on to a job at the UMass Lowell. I wish Jon well, but it’s a bummer that he’s no longer in the world of Minor League Baseball.

Oh, and the Spinners are currently for sale. Drew Weber, who has owned the team since its 1996 inception, wants to spend more time with his grandchildren in New York.

Meanwhile, returning to the on-field action of August 31:

The Spinners must have been thinking of changing their name to the Nylons. After eight innings, they were down by a score of 12-6.

IMG_0465I wouldn’t call a six-run deficit a “blowout”, but it was a wide enough lead that the Spinners decided to conserve the bullpen and have a position player pitch the ninth. That position player? First baseman Tucker Tubbs.

I spent a few minutes eavesdropping on Tubbs as he warmed up, and he continually mentioned that his “breathing was off.” But once he got out there, Double-T did all right. Though he allowed three singles, no Renegades crossed the plate in the frame and Tubbs is now the proud owner of a 0.00 ERA as a professional pitcher.

When it comes to my “Groundbreaking and Subversive Ballpark Joke of the Day,” I am the proud owner of a 1.000 batting average.

And that just about did it for my night with the Spinners. The Renegades won the game, youthful fans ran the bases, tennis balls were tossed at various targets and then everyone went home.

IMG_0469Goodnight from LeLacheur Park, a place where you can read the media notes while using the urinal.

IMG_0322I remain number one,

On the Road: Milling About in Lowell

To see all posts from my August 31, 2015 visit to the Lowell Spinners (this is Part One) click HERE. To see all of the posts from my August/September 2015 trip through New England, click HERE. To see ALL of my “On the Road” posts (going back to 2010), click HERE.

2015 “On the Road” landing page HERE!

The third stop of my end-of-season jaunt through New England was Lowell, home of the Spinners. I’d been here before. Twice, in fact. The first was in 2009, when I was but a young man and still figuring out this whole “traveling America through Minor League Baseball” thing. I used the occasion of a family wedding in New Hampshire to rent a car and drive to Lowell, marking the first time I’d ever visited a ballpark specifically as “Ben’s Biz.” That was six years and 30 pounds ago.


2009 file photo from my trip to Lowell

I next visited Lowell in 2012, this time accompanying my pal Zack Hample (yes, that Zack Hample) as he attempted to set the World Record for catching a baseball dropped from the highest, uh, height. During that visit, I dressed up as both a toothbrush and a boxing donut. That was three years and 30 pounds ago.

2012Which brings us to this present narrative, featuring me at my oldest and fattest. LeLacheur Park, home of the Spinners, is still looking good, though.

IMG_0416LeLacheur Park’s brick facade is consistent with Lowell’s dominant architectural theme. During the industrial revolution the city was a major hub of textile production — the Spinners name is a reference to the process by which yarn is produced — and many of the mills are still standing. Some have been converted into lofts and retail establishments and the like.

The stadium is located across the street from UMass Lowell. I attended the game on Monday, August 31, and school was back in session. This meant that parking was more scarce than usual, but what can you do? (To assist with the situation, Spinners gameday employees were stationed in the vicinity of the ballpark wielding “Ask me about free parking” signs.)

IMG_0419Upon entering the stadium, I immediately faced the sun and took a picture.

IMG_0421It’s probably better not to face the sun. Here’s the view from the third base side, complete with background smokestacks. Note, also, the train parked on the warning track, which is available for free pre-game rides.


A closer look at the view beyond right field.


This sign, posted on the concourse, highlights what may have been the greatest moment in New York-Penn League history. (It’s fitting that this occurred in the NYPL, or “Nipple,” league.)


Udderly ridiculous.

I also spotted this dry cleaning ad on the concourse. Subliminal advertising, or is it just me?


I soon ran into Spinners general manager Tim Bawmann, who told me to get my camera out and document what he was about to do. What he did was this.

IMG_0420Tim is hugging his 17-year-old son, Elijah, who was manning a concourse ice cream stand. Hugging Elijah was a pregame ritual this season for Tim, and getting hugged by Tim was a pregame ritual for Elijah. (Incidentally, Tim was celebrating a milestone birthday on this low-key Monday evening. The big 5-0.)

The Spinners really are a family affair. The team’s three mascots — Canaligator, Allie-Gator and Millie-Gator — are husband, wife and child. When this mascot family was introduced prior to the game, Allie pushed out Millie in a wheelbarrow. I don’t think there was a reason for this. Why would you need a reason?

IMG_0428In the above photo, one can see a portion of the “Foul Ball Fun Zone” located in left field. It includes a strong assemblage of various games and attractions.

IMG_0436Panning out a bit, note that the Foul Ball Fun Zone is located adjacent to the No Fun Dumpster Zone. Eagle-eyed observers will see that Dogman, the Spinners iconic clubhouse manager, is lurking amid the dumpsters. Dogman will be featured in the next post.

IMG_0435Speaking of the next post, it’s coming soon! Hopefully it will be a high-energy affair, sorry that this one was a little Lowell.

About Last Night: Lowell Spinners, August 31, 2015

This season, when I’m on the road, I’ll be writing an on-the-spot blog post about each Minor League ballpark that I visit. Then, upon my presumed return home, I’ll provide the multifaceted blog coverage that you have come to know and, perhaps, love. Let’s get to it, lest it get to us!

2015 “On the Road” landing page — including complete itinerary — HERE! 

August 31, 2015:  LeLacheur Park, home of the Lowell Spinners (Class A Short-Season affiliate of the Boston Red Sox).

Opponent: Hudson Valley Renegades, game time 7:05

LeLacheur Park, from the outside: 

IMG_0416LeLacheur Park, from within: 

IMG_0328Culinary Creation: Rail good food: pizza, fries and a steak and cheese sub.

IMG_0450Ballpark Character: The one and only Dogman.

IMG_0464At Random: Happy birthday to Spinners general manager Tim Bawmann, who turned 50 on Monday. Here, as part of a pre-game ritual, he hugs his son Elijah. IMG_0420Your Groundbreaking and Subversive Ballpark Joke of the Day: One day, all of America will recognize my genius.

Next Up: 

9/1: Pawtucket Red Sox

9/2: New Hampshire Fisher Cats

9/4: Portland Sea Dogs

Minor League Teams to Do All Sorts of Ridiculous Things

Oh, man. Today has been one of those days. Minor League promotions are being announced at a fast and furious clip, and I can barely keep up with it all. Let’s start with the Frisco RoughRiders (recently rebranded and under new ownership) who have announced a “Full House” theme night on June 12:

A bit more info, from the RoughRiders:

“Full House” themed videos, skits and games will entertain fans throughout the night.  Additionally, the Riders will hold a contest where one lucky fan will win a free trip to San Francisco.  A spectacular fireworks show will follow the game, accompanied by classic music from the ’90s. 

You Oughta Know, however, that the RoughRiders are not the only team to be hosting “Uncle Joey” at the ballpark this season. The Richmond Flying Squirrels are doing the same on April 14. There was originally another person included in the below image, but I cut it out:


It is also worth noting that the Flying Squirrels have a “Many Faces of Robin Williams” theme jersey on their promo schedule, but no images of that have yet been released. Stay tuned.

Another notable promo that needs accompanying pics — pronto! — is the Charleston RiverDogs “Bobble Boobs” giveaway during August 22’s “Breast Cancer Awareness Night.” This item, which really perks up the team’s schedule, was announced this morning. I immediately got excited:

No one seemed to find this joke funny, either, but per usual I am undeterred:

The RiverDogs also announced a “Bill Murray Tune Squad” jersey giveaway on April 25. Murray, of course, is the team’s co-owner and “Director of Fun.”


In case you need a “Tune Squad” reference point (full disclosure: I did):

Meanwhile, the Lowell Spinners unveiled this. Maybe the evening will also include a free Buffet, featuring “Cheeseburgers in Paradise” and “Insufferable Drunk Baby Boomers”:

And, not to be missed, the Spinners have also announced that a “Balking Dead” zombie bobblehead will be part of the promo calendar as well:


Finally, ICYMI (I don’t have time to type “In Case You Missed It”), the Jackson General unveiled these a-Baum-inable Wizard of Oz theme jerseys on Friday:

Ben’s Biz Blog: Still the original, still the best, still inexorably encroaching upon middle age while writing about some of the most ridiculous stuff imaginable.

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.


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.

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.

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.

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.


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!

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, 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 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.


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