Results tagged ‘ Lowell Spinners ’

One More Before Hitting the Road

pa.jpgFirst things first, I am on the cusp of my third road trip of this 2010 season. As a Pennsylvania native who now lives in NYC, this one includes some pretty familiar territory:

July 10 — Lakewood BlueClaws
July 11 — Reading Phillies
July 12 — Williamsport Crosscutters
July 13 — State College Spikes
July 14 — Triple-A All-Star Game @ Coca-Cola Park (home of the Lehigh
Valley IronPigs)
July 15-17 — Attending Keystone Mascot Camp, culminating in performance at Harrisburg Senators game
Juy 18 — Harrisburg Senators (sans mascot costume)

As always, feel free to get in touch with travel recommendations as well as suggestions as to what I should call this trip. The Keystone Krawl? Pennsylvania Perambulations? Northeastern Navigations? I got nothin.’

But it’s not about me, or what I’m doing. At least it shouldn’t be. With that in mind, here’s a formidable array of content that has nothing to do with yours truly.

– The Tennessee Smokies are one of many teams to have staged a Michael Jackson tribute night this season, but theirs stood out for one simple reason: Zombie Dancers!

This is certainly the most painstaking “Thriller” recreation to take place in the Minors this season:

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Meanwhile, the Trenton Thunder’s July 4th entertainment consisted of the ultra-American combination of a Strong Man Competition and Apple Pie Eating Contest (in addition to the requisite baseball and fireworks):

The club hosted the final event of the Liberty Strongman Challenge: The Atlas Stones

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And then there was this:

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The Hudson Valley Renegades recently held a “Jim Joyce Redemption” promotion, featuring plenty of fake mustaches, “Whack An Umpire” games (as opposed to the usual “Whack an Intern”), Umpire Impersonation Contests, and Umpire bloopers and arguments displayed on the videoboard.

Portrait of the Umpire As A Young Man:

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The Lowell Spinners recently welcomed a most intriguing between-inning performer: Al Milar the Human Knot. This flexible Australian is like a cross between Rubberboy and Mad Chad.

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Spinners director of media relations Jon Boswell reports that the Human Knot is highly entertaining and very affordable. Give Jon a call if you want more info. Twice I tried to embed THIS VIDEO of the Human Knot in this post, and twice it disappeared. I’m giving up.

But not before mentioning that THIS is occurring in Little Rock, as I type this. I wish I was there.

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Okay, I think that’s enough content that has nothing to do with me. Here’s to the negation of the self!

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

Freedom of Choice

Thumbnail image for Lowell-Logo.gif2009 saw a glut of politically-themed bobbleheads, from Obama in Brooklyn to Robert Byrd in West Virginia to Hilary Clinton in Quad Cities to Joe Biden in Delaware.

Well, now the Lowell Spinners are getting in on the act. The team announced today (via Twitter) that TWO bobbling politicos will be featured on the 2010 promotional calendar: Massachusetts senior Senator John Kerry and junior Senator Scott Brown. Photos of these sure-to-be coveted items have not yet been released, but if you close your eyes and think real hard I’m sure you can conjure up a fairly accurate image in your mind.

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And, no, this is not just a belated April Fool’s joke.

Democrat vs. Republican often feels like a choice between Vampire vs. Werewolf, which conveniently leads me to my next item:

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Fans can now VOTE (via Facebook) on which of the above jerseys they’d like to see the Fresno Grizzlies wear on Twilight Night, which will be taking place on June 26th. The jerseys will be auctioned off for charity after the game, with proceeds benefiting the Central California Blood Center.

Right now Team Jacob is enjoying a 30-vote lead, but this thing is far from over. My guess is that Edward comes out on top, simply because anything involving a “count” naturally favors vampires.

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

April Fool's: The Aftermath

aprilfools.pngJust in case there is still any confusion: The two items detailed in yesterday’s post were both April Fool’s pranks. The Lowell Spinners will NOT be giving away Yankee bobbleheads this season, and suspended University of Oregon quarterback Jeremiah Masoli will NOT be suiting up for the Eugene Emeralds.

If you were fooled by either of these stories, then take solace in the fact that you are not alone.

The Emeralds’ Masoli prank ignited no small amount of controversy. The team sent its press release out at 10:40 p.m. on March 31st, and all three local newscasts reported the story on their 11 p.m. broadcasts.

This triumvirate of tricked televisors are less than pleased. KEZI currently has a story up on their website with the blunt headline of “Eugene Emeralds Lie About Masoli Playing For the Ems.” From the corresponding story, written by an irrationally furious Michelle Dapper (who goes on to refer to herself in the third  person):

“For obvious reasons, we here at KEZI were skeptical, so KEZI sports director MichelleThumbnail image for eugene.jpg Dapper called and asked it was an April Fool’s joke. The PR spokesperson said no….When we asked the team’s general manager on Thursday why they would lie about an April Fool’s joke when called on it, he said ‘If we had told the truth, it wouldn’t have gotten any play.'”

KMTR took a far more jovial tone, remarking that the Ems’ joke “Swung for the fences and hit a home run.” Meanwhile, the local Register Guard newspaper has written up a thorough postmortem on Masoli-gate, which includes the ominous quote:

“It’s a major breach of trust between local media and a professional
sports team,” KVAL news director Jenny Kuglin said. “I think it will
affect how we treat information we receive from the Ems in the future.”

 
Regardless of how one feels about the appropriateness of the joke, such reactions might make other teams think twice before pulling such stunts. But for my money, the wisest (and funniest) reaction came from University of Oregon coach Chip Kelly, who could not have cared less about the Emeralds’ shenanigans:

The above video is part of an entertaining article on the matter that also includes an interview with Ems director of media relations Onalee Carson. Check it out HERE

Thumbnail image for spinners.jpgThe Spinners got their share of attention as well, thanks to the announcement that the notoriously anti-Yankee ballclub would be giving away a series of New York-themed bobbleheads.

Spinners media relations director Jon Boswell had to deal with a large number of aggravated and/or confused fans, writing the following in an email:

“We’ll do just about anything to steal some thunder from our full-season brethren on the eves of their opening days. I received a few angry responses, including one anonymous gentleman who left a voicemail simply stating ‘Bucky bleeping Dent…Take your head out of your bleeping [posterior].'”

Boswell went on write that “aside from the mixed results on Facebook, including one
fan who couldn’t understand why we would select Yankee ‘scrubs who had caused so much pain and suffering to Red Sox fans’…most people found the humor in the promotion.

One entity that found humor in the promotion was the mighty Associated Press, who pickedap.jpg up the story and distributed it nationally. This marks the second time this offseason that the Spinners haven’t gotten play via the AP, showing that the club is well ahead of the curve when it comes to cracking the mystical code that determines what Minor League items get coverage and which don’t.

Regardless, now that April Fool’s is out of the way we can all once again concentrate on serious news. You know, the things that really matter, like pickle dogs, 63-year-old players, and scantily-clad bobbleheads. And thank goodness for that.

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

A Full Slate of News

Got a couple of very interesting and completely unexpected news items to share with you today, so let’s dispense with the small talk and get right to it.

Let’s start in Lowell, MA, as the Spinners have announced a baffling new series of bobblehead giveaways. The Red Sox affiliate, usually known for their vociferously Anti-Yankee stance, will be honoring legendary Bronx Bombers throughout the season:

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The press release announcing this stunning (albeit promotionally savvy) about-face reads in part:

The Spinners, known for their anti-Yankee approach to promotions, are
turning the tables on their popular Yankee Elimination Promotion to
honor great moments in the Red Sox arch-rival’s history.

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“Over the past decade we’ve done bobble heads of everyone from
Pesky to Williams to Papelbon and Youkilis,” said Spinners Vice
President of Communications Jon Goode. “We’ve exhausted all of our
alumni currently playing for the Red Sox, so after years of contentious
phone calls and e-mails in response to our Yankee Elimination Promotion,
we opted to stay the baseball route with great Yankees moments.

“We are excited to honor the greatest rivalry in all of sports.”

The Spinners will salute baseball’s greatest winner, Derek Jeter,
July 1, when the first 1,000 fans will receive a bobble head
commemorating Jeter’s memorable catch made the same date in 2004, as
Jeter sacrificed his body diving headfirst into the stands to snare a
pop fly against the Red Sox.

“It is one of the all-time memorable plays in the Red Sox/Yankee
rivalry,” said Goode. “Add in the respect we have for Jeter and this was
a no-brainer.”

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The Spinners will next turn to July 8 when the hero of the
Yankees 1978 one-game playoff, Bucky Dent, is honored with a pinstriped
bobble.

The series will continue with back-to-back bobble heads July 31,
as the Spinners remember the 2003 trading deadline acquisition for the
Yankees of Aaron Boone, and August 1, as we look back at Thurman Munson
on the anniversary of his epic fight with Carlton Fisk.

“We hope our great fans will show appreciation for these great
moments in baseball history,” said Goode. “We know our fans treasure
each bobble head and we hope these are no different.”

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– Meanwhile, in Eugene, the Emeralds have announced that suspended University of Oregon quarterback Jeremiah Masoli will be “keeping his arm fresh” by pitching for the team this season. 

More info on this unorthodox acquisition once again comes courtesy of the press release:

Masoli recently plead guilty March 12 to a misdemeanor burglary charge involving a theft at a campus fraternity house in January. He was then suspended for the entire 2010 season.

Masoli, while in suspension, while still need to keep his throwing arm active for his reunion with the Ducks in 2011 — and with the Ems’ move from Civic Stadium to the University of Oregon’s PK Park, the opportunity seemed obvious.

“We’re just happy to help,” said Emeralds general manager Allan Benavides. “With all the new things happening with the Ems this season, what a way to cap off the excitement with Ducks superstar Jeremiah Masoli pitching for us this season!”

Front office executives expect season ticket sales to soar with the news of the Ems’ new addition. Even with little baseball experience, Masoli holds the keys for the Emeralds in 2010. Coming out of the bullpen, the Ems look to use Masoli’s power arm to shut down opposing Northwest League batters.”

There is sure to be plenty of controversy surrounding today’s announcements, as they both buck conventional wisdom in a major way. Rest assured I’ll be following every twist and turn, in order to deliver it to you straight.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Mascot Love We Deliver

I stand before you today in order to deliver Minor League mascot Valentine’s Day photos.

The public has demanded them, and I am certainly not one to ignore the pleas of the populace. Therefore, that is precisely what this post shall be dedicated to. But first, a quick request…

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Inspired by the copious snow that has been deposited all over the country as of late, I have decided to do a story on extreme weather and the groundskeeping challenges it presents. In addition to teams that have recently been hit with snow, I’d be interested in speaking with anyone who has had to deal with drought, flooding, hurricanes, and, of course, locust plagues. I’ll most likely have to contact teams individually today and tomorrow, but that’s a hit-or-miss proposition. Consider this post an invitation to get in touch — benjamin.hill@mlb.com

Okay, we now return to regularly-scheduled programming: Minor League mascot Valentine’s Day photos.

Because, as you surely know, there was a lot going on. And how can I lead off with anyone but Boomer, who is surely the suavest mascot in Minor Leage Baseball? Here, Boomer spreads some joy to the youth of Williamsport:

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Boomer’s not the only mascot named Boomer. There’s also Boomer of the Trenton Thunder, who is not at all terrifying, not the least little bit:

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In Lowell, the Spinners sent out a star-studded caravan to a local elementary school, where Valentine’s Day cards were made. These cards were then delivered to a VA hospital (apparently, Canaligator and crew got hungry along the way):

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In Portland (ME), Slugger made the rounds on behalf of the Sea Dogs:

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The Gwinnett Braves sent out the ever-seductive Chopper, who never fails to impress the ladies:

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Buster “rose” to the occasion in Lakewood:

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Sandy the Seagull swooped into a Brooklyn elementary school:

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A very endearing video of Sandy’s delivery can be viewed HERE.

But how could I close anywhere other than in Reading? As usual, Screwball did his thing:

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But this year, fans had options. For the Crazy Hot Dog Vendor was also pressed into service. Here’s how it went down:
 

Now if that wasn’t romantic, then I don’t know what is. I mean, seriously, I don’t. Can anyone help me out here?

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

A Discussion Involving Homebody Bobbles, Elderly Even-Toed Ungulates

canalbobble.jpgNine days ago, when the Earth was young and men were men, I wrote on the topic of the Lowell Spinners’ “Search for the Missing Canaligator.” I wrote about it RIGHT HERE, in fact. 

The premise was simple: the team hid a special Canaligator bobblehead somewhere within Lowell city limits. Then, a series of clues was incrementally released. Said clues revealed the wayward bobblehead to have remarkably little ambition, as most were focused on how Canaligator likes to stay indoors and hang out near the ballpark.

And, lo and behold, he was hiding at the team gift shop. A fan with a most detective-like name, Matt Savage, was the first to roust the Canaligator bobblehead from its hiding spot. In exchange for these Herculean efforts, he will be rewarded with four tickets to the team’s upcoming alumni dinner, every bobblehead the team gives away in 2010, and the opportunity to throw out the first pitch at a game next season. Not too shabby. Not too shabby at all.

In other news, the Lehigh Valley IronPigs recently announced that they have formed a “club” for the team’s more aged supporters — The Silver Pigs. I almost wish I was 29 years older, just so I could call myself a “Silver Pig”.

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Membership to this esteemed institution costs $25, and includes a t-shirt, seat cushion, an invitation to play some bingo, and a ticket to Silver Pigs group night on August 31 (complete with ballpark tour).

I am hoping that South Bend institutes a similar program, just because they could call it the Silver Silver Hawks. Obviously, it takes very little to amuse me these days.

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

Triple Scoop

triplescoop.jpgAs part of my ongoing effort to “go with the flow” in all aspects of
existence, I will now attempt to combine a triumvirate of seemingly
disparate topics into a cohesive whole. Wish me luck.

– The Lakewood BlueClaws
announced yesterday that they will be hosting three “Nine Innings of
Networking” events in 2009. Geared toward those in the local business
community, these promotional nights feature a pre-game buffet, business
card raffles, guest speakers, and, of course, the opportunity for some
schmoozing. The BlueClaws commitment to the idea is evident, as the
team has already set up a separate “Nine Innings of Networking” web page and Twittter account

And speaking of committing to an idea…Last season, the Bowie Baysox generated publicity for themselves by staging the “Search for the Golden Wieters”.
What happened was this: the team hid a special edition bobblehead of
super-prospect Matt Wieters somewhere in the community, and challenged
fans to find it through a series of website clues (spoiler alert: it
was in the library).

The “Search for the Golden Wieters” was,
quite obviously, a good idea. A good idea that was destined to be utililzed by
another club. And the club that is utilizing the ideas, as of right now, is the Lowell Spinners. On Monday,
the Lo-Spins (only I call them that) announced their “Find the Canaligator”
contest. Clues will be left on the website every Monday and Thursday,
and the sleuth who locates the hidden Canaligator bobblehead recieves a
massive 2010 Spinners prize pack.

And speaking of Boston Red Sox affiliates…Yesterday
the Portland Sea Dogs announced that they are selling what they
proclaim to be “The Ultimate Baseball Gift”. What could such a gift be?
Click HERE to find out. Hah, no, just kidding. Click HERE.     

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

On Location In Lowell — the Sequel

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(Lowell’s motto is even embossed on its trash cans)

Earlier in the week, I crafted a post that detailed my time at LeLacheur Park — home of the New York-Penn League’s Lowell Spinners.

But my time at the ballpark represented just one aspect of my Lowell getaway, as I was also able to spend time in the city itself. This was easy enough to do, as my base of operations was the Brew’d Awakening coffee shop in the heart of downtown Lowell. I took advantage of that establishment’s strong coffee and even stronger internet connections, en route to cranking out articles and blog posts of unparalleled irrelevance excellence.

Fortunately, I was able to wrest myself away from the unforgiving monster that is my laptop long enough to go on some explorations. Most notably, on the afternoon of July 8 I received a one-on-one guided tour of the city courtesy of the Greater Merrimack Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau.

This tour gave me much-needed perspective regarding Lowell’s history, and how it came to be the city it is today. And, perhaps most importantly, it helped to contextualize the Spinners’ baseball experience.

Why the team is called the Spinners in the first place? And why their logo is a baseball bat wrapped with yarn?

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Lowell was founded in the 1820s, and played an important role in America’s Industrial Revolution. The city is named after Francis Cabot Lowell, an industrialist who spearheaded the campaign to turn the area into an all-in-one textile manufacturing center. Raw cotton shipped from the South was transformed into fine cloth through the processes of carding, spinning, and weaving.

Hence, the Spinners.

While Lowell is no longer a manufacturing epicenter, there are many purveyors of yarn and fine cloth in the downtown area. There is also a quilt museum, which, if I was my Mom, I most certainly would have visited.

The Spinners’ Mascot is Named “Canaligator”. Why?

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Visiting Lowell dashed my naive hope that the city would be full of alligators. As it turns out, alligators do not live in New England at all. Their personalities do not generally mesh well with the Puritanical stoicism that characterizes the region’s human population. “Canaligator” is instead a nod to the fact that Lowell boasts the largest system of canals in the United States. These canals were used as a direct source of power for the mills.The canals are well worth checking out, and guided tours are available. I took such a tour:

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Lowell has a lot of charm and personality due to the way that its industrial past meshes with the post-industrial present. Today, many of the mills have been converted into condos. Pretty cool place to live, right?

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This walkway leads straight to LeLacheur Park. Somehow, I was able to get lost on said walkway on my return home from the stadium that night.

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One of the boarding houses where New England farm girls were housed after re-locating to Lowell:

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A look at the mills on display at the American Textile History Museum:

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Statue of painter James Whistler, one of Lowell’s most famous natives (Jack Kerouac was born here as well):

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And, finally, one of the most charming gas station signs that I have seen in a while — Haffner’s in downtown Lowell. Their motto? is “It Kicks”:

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I’d like to thank Lowell Spinners GM Tim Bawmann for arranging the tour, and Kristen Deveau of the Greater Merrimack Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau for providing it.

It occurs to me that this is the sort of thing I should do more often. After all — the only way to truly understand a team is to b
e able to understand the community in which it plays.

Don’t worry, though. I’ll be back tomorrow with video of a flatulent mascot, or something along those lines. I’ve got a paycheck to earn and a reputation to uphold.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

On Location in Lowell

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As regular readers of this blog may recall, I spent a week in New England earlier this month. During my time in this beautiful part of the country, I was able to visit both the Lowell Spinners and Vermont Lake Monsters. I was not “on assignment”, per se, just motivated by the desire to visit that which I write about.

What follows are a variety of observations and images from the nights of July 7 and 8 at Lowell’s LeLacheur Park.

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On both nights, I enjoyed a pre-game dinner in the so-called “Gator Pit”. This picnic area primarily services season-ticket holders, those attending a game as part of a group outing, and free-loading media types:

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Vegetarians Beware:

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As for the stadium itself, one has room to maneuver. The open concourse provides plenty of vantage points from which to view the game.

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The Spinners are one of the best draws in the New York-Penn League, with a sell-out streak that I believe dates back to the late 19th century. But during the two days I was in town the weather was horrible. Mid-afternoon downpours led to soggy conditions, and the temperature was in the low 60s. Needless to say, it did not feel like July. But that did not deter appearances by INTERNATIONAL SUPERSTARS.

On July 8 (as well as the 9th), the national anthem was sung by Cassandra De Rosa. She is a cousin of Spinners vice president of corporate communications Jon Goode — and also a bona-fide Italian pop superstar. Check out her website HERE.

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This woman was big time, but nonetheless had no problem posing for a picture with the suit-wearing assistant general manager of the visiting team (Tri-City’s resplendent Vic Christopher) and a making-it-up-as-he-goes-along baseball writer:

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When it comes to game presentation, the Spinners definitely ascribe to the “more-is-more” philosophy. Hardly a moment goes by without a sound effect, video clip or song snippet. These guys are really on their toes:

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And, of course, the mascot is a big part of the action. I can’t recall the premise here, but here’s Canaligator-as-Superman:

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The team also provides an ever-changing roster of “Spinner-tainment”. One of the acts when I was in town was this grandmaster of “Simon Says”. In a sing-song drill sergeant cadence, he systemically eliminated those who did not do what Simon said.

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The first night I was in town, I threw t-shirts into the crowd while riding in the Spinners’ Scooby Doo-influenced “Mystery Machine.” I was not pleased with my performance. I had four t-shirts to throw, and got rid of them much too quickly. I spent the
final 30 seconds of my ride feeling quite ashamed, as the eager, enthusiastic crowd stretched out their arms toward me in anticipation of what I could no longer provide.

Spinners fans, please forgive me.

The following video comprises the first footage ever shot with my new “Webby” camcorder (meaning, of course, that there is nowhere to go but up). It contains a variety of Spinners moments — including exclusive Mystery Machine footage —  and concludes with the special gift bestowed upon me by Spinners media manager Jon Boswell, left over from the club’s recent Politically Incorrect Night:

Big thanks to editing maestro Joe Pisch for putting together the above video, and big thanks to the Spinners for their hospitality. At this point I’ve learned not to promise a specific timetable when it comes to this blog, but rest assured there is more to come from Lowell.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

Now It Can Be Revealed

Last week’s post on the Lowell Spinners’ “Politically Incorrect Night” was extensive, but I nonetheless left out the most controversial and shocking aspect of the promotion:

Apropos of nothing, the first 1500 fans received a BOS. What is a BOS, you ask? Uh, well, the “B” stands for bag. Here, a young fan checks out the contents of said bag:

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As for what was in the bag? Well, uh, hopefully this will explain:

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Yeah, that is what you think it is. Plastic poo. Now that I have performed my civic doody by providing this information to the masses, I can log off this computer for the first time in what feels like forever. Good night.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

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