Results tagged ‘ Lowell Spinners ’

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

Musing Mascots in Costumed Contemplation

For mascots, there’s no escaping the spotlight. These mute yet endlessly expressive characters are  the center of attention everywhere they go, and as a result they always need to be “on.”  Pictures are requested, high fives demanded, and antics expected. It’s an exhilarating existence, to be sure, but not at all conducive to moments of quiet reflection and self-analysis.

Yet such moments, while rare, do occur. To capture them on camera is an exhilarating feeling, akin to a landlocked bird watcher getting an glimpse of the elusive Red Phalarope. This is how I felt during a June trip to Lake County, when I was able to capture Captains mascot Skipper in a moment of introspection.

Feeling inspired by this rare bit of photographic luck, I asked readers to please send in introspective mascot photos of their own. This request was met with an enthusiastic response, and the results are contained in this post.

What follows is the most impressive collection of introspective mascot photos that the world has ever seen.

The above individual is Louie of the Great Lakes Loons, whose powers of introspection are far greater than the average bird. Soon after abandoning his dugout perch, he went into the stands and got the fans to join him in a moment of quiet contemplation.

Another city boasting thoughtful birds amongst its citizenry is Toledo. Muddy the Mud Hen is a voracious reader, and can sometimes be spotted at the local library with his beak buried in a good book.

Muddy’s literary endeavors have increased his powers of imagination. Back at the ballpark, he sometimes gets lost in thought while resting his left arm on a railing that doesn’t even exist.

As evidenced by the picture of Skipper at the top of this post, ballpark tunnels represent a good place for a mascot to temporarily escape from the madding crowd. Here’s Phinley of the Clearwater Threshers, patriotically pontificating.

Meanwhile, in Winston-Salem, Bolt takes a moment to reflect before instigating some between-inning hula-baloo.

They say lightning doesn’t strike twice, but I was able to get a shot of Bolt during my visit to Winston-Salem this past July. This one is perhaps less “introspective” than “fatigued.”

While in Winston-Salem, I spent time with not one but TWO blog readers who went on to email me introspective mascot photos. Matt “Possum” Campbell solicited this shot of the Danville Braves’ “Blooper,” who does his best thinking with left hand planted firmly on stomach.


Meanwhile, veteran Minor League wanderer Rex Doane sent in pictures from various far-flung locales. Our journey with Rex begins in Norfolk, where Rip Tide sometimes assumes a near-beatific demeanor.

Then we fly over to flyover country, with this behind-the-back view of Swoop of the South Bend Silver Hawks.

And, finally, we arrive in the modest environs of the Modesto Nuts’ dugout. That’s where Al Almond sometimes goes in order to escape from the nuttiness surrounding him.

Another thoughtful dugout denizen is Fort Wayne’s Johnny TinCap, whose demeanor is never crotchety even if his hobbies sometimes are.

Of course, one doesn’t need to be solitary to be introspective. Over the three seasons that the team has been in existence, Chopper of the Gwinnett Braves has established himself as one of the most empathetic woodchucks in the Minors. Here he is having an on-field heart-to-heart.

Chopper’s upright demeanor is in stark contrast to Millie of the Lowell Spinners. On the last day of the season, this canal-dwelling alligator went deep into her own headspace while sitting on a stadium bench.

Allie’s daughter, Millie, simply curled up in the fetal position in order to think long and hard about the season that had just transpired.

With this concept on the verge of collapse, it seems that I’ll have to call it a day. Of course, keeping sending those introspective mascot photos in. I am totally amenable to there being a second, third, fourth, and even fifth installment of this series.

There will be no sixth installment.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Aiming High in Lowell

Yesterday’s post featured the Lowell Spinners’ world record flossing attempt. But a new day brings a new Lowell Spinners post, and this one concern’s the first-ever “Human Home Run.”

Between games of a doubleheader, David “The Human Cannonball” Smith Sr.  lived up to his self-fulfilling prophecy of a nickname. He was shot from a cannon (positioned behind second base) and landed in a net set up beyond the right field wall.

Credit for Above Three Photos: John Corneau/Lowell Spinners

He landed here:


This stunt is also worth viewing, of course, and fans of this form of visual entertainment can do so HERE.  I’d like to also point out, apropos of something although I’m not sure what, that David Smith, Sr. is 69 years old! (His son, David “The Bullet” Smith, Jr., was originally scheduled to perform the stunt but had to back out.)

The “Human Home Run” is sure to be a “Promotion of the Year” contender, a stunt on par with last year’s “Man Running the Bases on Fire” in Savannah.

What’s next?

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Lowell Leading the League in Flosses

One of 2011’s most intriguing promotions is planned for TONIGHT — the so-called “Human Home Run” in Lowell, MA. Between games of the doubleheader, human cannonball David Smith, Sr. will be shot out of a cannon behind second base and land over the wall in right field.

This stunt is taking place just one week after a similarly unique (yet completely different) initiative. On June 29, 3014 fans engaged in simultaneous dental flossing, a quixotic endeavor on par with last year’s “Salute to Bubble Wrap.” 

While using one long piece of floss would have been hilarious, the Spinners went a far more hygienic route by distributing Glide floss picks. In the middle of the fourth inning, it was synchronized flossin’ time.

The players, upstanding role models that they are, got in the act as well.

Jason Thompson

Swen Huijer

Travis Shaw

Minors Moniker Madness legend Seth Schwindenhammer

Flossing would be an especially apropos activity after witnessing the Memphis Redbirds’ new between-inning competition: The Rendezvous Rib Race.

Participants include BBQ Sauce, Rib, Pulled Pork Sandwich, and Rendezvous Dry Rub Seasoning.

On a more personal level, may I suggest that you Rendezvous with MiLB.com? In addition to a jam-packed new “Promo Preview” column, today marked the appearance of  the latest “Crooked Numbers.” 

This column is a labor of love (my attempt to be the Jayson Stark of Minor League Baseball, basically), and I’d greatly appreciate if those who enjoy it pass it along to like-minded friends. I’ll close with my favorite nugget of info from this month’s column, an item brought to my attention by uber-alert Lancaster JetHawks broadcaster Jeff Lasky:

The more things change…: The Lancaster JetHawks suffered through their worst inning in franchise history June 29, allowing visiting High Desert to plate 13 runs in the second. This nightmarish frame broke the old franchise record of 12 runs allowed in an inning, which had been achieved by Lake Elsinore on May 20, 2007. Lake Elsinore’s Yordany Ramirez hit for the cycle in that ballgame, completing the feat with a triple in the record-setting 12-run eighth inning. Amazingly, Ramirez also appeared in the June 29 ballgame — as a member of the JetHawks’ pitching staff! Ramirez, in his first full season as a pitcher after nine as an outfielder, tossed two scoreless innings long after the damage had been done.

This kind of stuff is catnip for baseball nerds, right? I sure hope so.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Go West, Young(ish) Blogger

The title of today’s post is more than just a belabored play on an already mangled and misattributed quotation. It is also my way of telling you that I’m on the cusp of 2011’s first road trip!

Motivated by wanderlust and an unbeatable rental car deal, I’ll be checking out the new-for-2011 Tucson Padres before moving on to a quartet of California League teams. The itinerary:

May 11-12: Tucson Padres

May 13: Writing/Travel Day (although who knows? Maybe I’ll be able to get to a ballpark by nightfall).

May 14: Lancaster JetHawks

May 15: High Desert Mavericks

May 16: Inland Empire 66ers

May 17: Lake Elsinore Storm

I’m psyched to be making my first California sojourn as a so-called professional, and to once again get behind the wheel of a car after yet another prolonged stint of NYC public transit emasculation. Now comes the part of the post where I earnestly implore YOU to please get in touch with suggestions as to who to talk to, where to visit, what foods to try, etc. I of course have some ideas of what to write about, but as usual much is to be determined. Your feedback is much appreciated.

In particular, let me know if you have any interesting California League stories/memories. It seems like surreal things happen out there on a regular basis.

And driving a car again will no doubt lead to profound sticker shock at the pumps, something I mercifully don’t have to deal with on a daily basis here in NYC. But two teams are doing their part to ease the burden: the State College Spikes and Charlotte Stone Crabs. From the former:

From May 9th through May 20th, the Spikes will provide fans a chance to save at the pump when they take advantage of any one of seven ticket offerings. Highlighting the “Spikes Fuel Perks” ticket promotion, any fan that purchases new season tickets will earn a $100 gas card per seat bought!  


And the latter: 

Throughout the Stone Crabs season, fans will have the opportunity to purchase two reserved seats to any Stone Crabs game, along with two hot dogs, and two sodas for only $26. In addition to the ticket package, fans will receive a complimentary $5 gas card from RaceTrac convenience stores, while supplies last.

In completely unrelated news, I received the following email yesterday from Lowell Spinners groundskeeper Jeff Paolino:

I am reaching out to you to see if there is any way to find out if there are any other Military members who are currently Active or Reserve other than myself working in Minor League Baseball? Reason being, I would like to get a group initiative together throughout  MILB as representatives of both baseball and the Military.

This seems like a worthwhile endeavor, but I was unable to assist. So if you fit the above criteria (or know someone who does) then contact Jeff at jpaolino@lowellspinners.com And spread the word!

And, finally, congratulations to Pawtucket Red Sox announcer Dan Hoard — the new radio voice of the NFL’s Cincinnati Bengals.

Enjoy your weekend! For the next two days, it’ll be all we’ve got!

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

News Explosion!

sloth.jpgThe last couple of weeks were slower than a sloth on a treadmill, but boy oh boy have times changed.

All of a sudden it feels like the season again, with news and notes coming in from left and right and everywhere in between. It’s time to start posting, because the content levels are rising and soon I might drown — alone and forgotten in a remote corner of MiLB.com HQ.

To the Bullet Points!

— The New York-Penn League may not start play for another three months, but that didn’t stop the Brooklyn Cyclones from releasing a picture of their Angel Pagan bobblehead. I’m glad that they took his first name literally as opposed to the surname, because a bobblehead depicting the ballplayer as a hedonistic polytheist probably wouldn’t go over too well.

pagan3.jpg

 — Meanwhile, Brooklyn’s NYPL rivals the Lowell Spinners announced the follow-up to last year’s celebration of Bubblewrap.The team will stage a “Flossing World Record Attempt” on June 29, a promotion recommended by four out of five dentists. My extensive research into this most crucial of topics revealed that previous attempts have involved a huge single strand of custom-made floss.

I’m not sure if this will be the case in Lowell, but either way I recommend that this product serve as the official sponsor.

bubblefloss.jpg

— In other follow-up news, the Lake County Captains are continuing with the Christmas Story themed giveaways that started with last season’s “Skipper Leg Lamp.” On July 23, fans will receive a bobble doll in which Skipper’s nose is stuck to a foul pole. I haven’t obtained a picture yet, but this item is of course a reference to this:

stuck.jpeg

— Another club to recently unveil their 2011 promo scheduleare the newly-rechristened Omaha Storm Chasers. While other teams honor Jimmy Buffet, the Storm Chasers instead pay homage to Warren. The Omaha billionaire and member of the team’s ownership group gets his own road jersey replica giveaway, taking place April 30. Here’s a pic of this Warren piece of memorabilia:

warrenpiece.jpg

— Another notable jersey hailing from the preeminent Midwest is that which the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers will be wearing during Sunday home games. This one is like an undersized fish — total throwback.
ratthrow.png

— In keeping with the jerseys theme, the Charleston RiverDogs will be giving away Roberto Alomar Charleston Rainbow jerseys on July 23. The newly-minted Hall of Famer suited up for the Rainbows in his first professional season, and while I have yet to obtain photographic evidence here’s my best approximation of what it will look like:

rainbow.jpg

But no matter what it looks like, this is sure to be one of the best ROYGBIV-aways of the year!If there’s a support group for those with an over-reliance on puns and wordplay in general, then I should probably join it. I’m not even joking, it’s become an obsession and I don’t think it’s healthy.

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

Promotions: Canonical, Comical, and Climatological

2011 promotional schedules are being released at a rapid clip these days, with highlights aplenty.

But few things in this world are as exciting as unprecedented onfield aerial acrobatics, making THIS Lowell Spinners promo an (exceedingly) early “Promo of the Year” frontrunner.

hhr.jpg

A “Human Home Run” is exactly what you would think it is. Say the Spinners:

spinners.jpg[T]he human cannonball, David Smith, Jr., will be shot from a cannon at home plate over the outfield wall following the conclusion of the Spinners game.

“When it comes to human cannonballs, David Smith is the best of the best,” said Spinners Vice President Jon Goode. “This is an idea we discussed years ago and he saved it for the Lowell Spinners. Five years in the making, this is going to be a night you will not want to miss.”

Human Cannonball-ing runs in the Smith family, as David Sr. currently holds the world record for “farthest cannonball flight” for his 185 ft. shot in 1998. Unless the Spinners move the fences WAY in, Jr’s home run flight at LeLacheur Park will far surpass this.

Regardless, I plan to cover this promotion with the same fervor I devote to human fireballs. Stay tuned.

In Other Promo News:

Yesterday the Reading Phillies announced the latter half of their “Top 20 2011 Promotions.

The team is once again staging a “Tribute to the Crazy Hot Dog Vendor“, and this time one lucky fan will win a 550-pound life-size replica of the man himself. For those keeping track at home, this is the second 550-pound life-size replica giveaway that the R-Phils have announced. Will there be more to come?

Thumbnail image for Reading_CHDV_autographsession3.JPG

— The Lancaster JetHawks have announced a “Stadium Dust Globe” giveaway, in honor of their oft-stormy ballpark weather conditions. I hail them for their creativity, snow doubt this’ll rain supreme in 2011’s giveaway pantheon.

— And speaking of Stormy, the anemometer-ically correct Omaha Storm Chasers mascot is now the star of a new video series. Find out why it’s not easy being green.

Finally, TWO teams have recently asked fans to submit potential 2011 theme songs — the Huntsville Stars and Durham Bulls. I am always happy to feature franchise-specific tunes on this blog. Send ’em on over, please.

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

A New First-Round Draft Pick

twitbird.pngI was on Twitter yesterday, minding my own business, when I came across the following 140-character missive from Iowa Cubs’ director of logistics Scott Sailor:

Coming to Principal Park: Bottoms Up Beer Dispensers. Fills #beer from the bottom of the cup — in one second!

The tweet contained a link to the home page of GrinOn Industries, makers of the “Bottoms Up” beer dispenser. Said page contains a video of one man filling up 44 pints over the course of a minute. Meanwhile, on YouTube, this video of “Bottoms Up” in action has garnered over three million views:

My interest piqued, I re-tweeted Sailor’s tweet and that in turn was picked up by CNBC sports business (and Twitter) guru Darren Rovell. As a result, I gained quite a few new followers as well as the knowledge that people are very interested in bottom-filling beer cups.

But the I-Cubs are the first Minor League team I’ve come across who will utilize this amazing technology (which, for the record, is heavily dependent on magnets). Are there any others out there? I’d like to hear some bottom-filling beer cup anecdotes.

It’s a non-sequitur kind of day, so I’m going to transition without comment to the funniest Minor League video I’ve seen in at least 22 hours. If you’ve ever wanted to know what a baseball zamboni is, or even if you haven’t, the Gwinnett Braves are here to fill you in.

I really am a fan of the above video, as it so ably utilizes the classic “set-up/punchline” format. That’s all that’s ever needed.

Seeking to zig where others zag, I’ll close today’s post with information about a toothbrush bobblehead. Bet you didn’t see this one coming:

bristles.jpg 

The individual seen above is “Bristles”, an up-and-comer within the Lowell Spinners’ ever-expanding pantheon of ballpark characters. The team is distributing just 200 Bristles bobbleheads, available only to “Grand Slam” members of the “Thread Sox Nation” fan club.

Talk about a brush with greatness!

Bottoms-up beer dispensing? Check. Zamboni-themed team produced video? Check. Oral hygiene giveaway item? Check. Puns that inspire anger in the reader and self-loathing in the writer? Check. 

Okay, my work here is done.

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

Requests, Plugs, Thank Yous, and Spandex

simple.jpgGonna keep things simple today, as Thursday’s retort-a-thon wore me out.

To start with, I’d like to bring your attention to the bi-weekly “Offseasoning” features I’ve been writing for MiLB.com. As it’s name would imply, these articles take a look at what a Minor League player is up to in the offseason. Terry Doyle and Wande Olabisi have been profiled thus far, and a piece on Scot Drucker will run next week.

But after that? My supplies are low. So if YOU are aware of any interesting offseason player endeavors then please get in touch with some recommendations. You know where to find me:

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

Offseason endeavors abound these days, because offseason endeavors are all we’ve got. A particularly interesting one involves Lowell Spinners director of corporate communications Jon Goode, who recently co-authored a book with Glen “Big Baby” Davis of the Boston Celtics.

It’s called “Basketball With Big Baby“, and the cover showcases the title character’s formidable head-swiveling abilities:

big baby.png
 

Goode previously authored “Pitching With the Papelbons”, released in 2007.

Moving from an individual endeavor to a group one, the Reading Phillies remain hard at work on their extensive renovations to FirstEnergy Stadium. In this most recent video, the Crazy Hot Dog Vendor shows his gratitude to the hard-working construction crew.
 

More like “Happy Franks-Giving”, if you ask me.

And — hey! — after a one-week absence, it’s time for Gratuitous Video Friday. I’ve been listening to Guns N’ Roses “Use Your Illusion I” all week long, so today I’m going to have to go with their video for “Live And Let Die.”

This video is a non-stop cavalcade of some of the best rock n’ roll outfits of all time. Nothing can top the policeman’s hat-catcher’s chest protector-kilt combo, although the get-up pictured right there in the screen grab comes pretty close.

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:

Lowell_Heidi.jpg

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

Lowell_Eurizone.jpg
Senator Scott Brown (an army of one)

Lowell_Scott.jpg
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:
seagods2.jpg
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
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