Results tagged ‘ Mahoning Valley Scrappers ’

Undead? More like “Fundead”

Halloween is just one week away, so today’s post on the Mahoning Valley Scrappers’ August 30th “Zombie Survival Night” works on two fronts: In addition to being the latest in my seemingly never-ending series of posts detailing 2012 promotions, it is also seasonally apropos!

Family-friendly entertainment at the ol’ ballyard, that’s what this was:

Details on this internal-organs-consuming promotion were provided by Scrappers marketing and promotions intern Annie Stoltenberg, who has since returned to school at Texas A&M.

“Anyone dressed as a Zombie got in free,” wrote Stoltenberg. “It was also our ‘Buck Night’ with $1 tickets, $1 hotdogs and $1 12oz beer and drinks!”

That’s her on the right, zombie appearance obtained via the following method: “They applied a latex mask and then makeup, fake blood, painted our teeth, and had us gargle with fake blood to alter our appearance.  We tore and ripped our own clothes.”

GD Effects – Special Effects Makeup provided staff and fans alike with a look that just screamed “zombie.”

More like “Die Orange”

Stoltenberg notes that “Zombie music” was played throughout the game on the concourse, but this could have been any number of things. The Zombies? White Zombie? The Cranberries’ “Zombie”? I would have used the occasion to blast this:

But anyway…Prior to the game, the team staged a “Pregame Zombie Crawl, led by the Last Ride Hearse.”

Between-inning games included zombies chasing the pony hoppers, a brain eating contest (featuring gummy brains), a zombie obstacle course, and zombie movie trivia.”Winners of said games were awarded “Zombie Survival Kits” featuring staples such as matches, flares, water bottles and batteries.

And, finally, “Zombie Survival Tips” from the movie Zombieland were posted around the concourse.

That’s all I’ve got, zombie-wise, but let’s keep this post rolling right along. Have you ever wanted to hear the earnest rapping efforts of a top pitching prospect? Well, then check THIS out. “This,” in this case, is the track “Let It All Go” by D-Backs right-hander Trevor Bauer.

Oh! And how about this? Let it be known that Mitt Romney fully endorses the Stockton Ports’ efforts to have fans sit on his face:

The letter is addressed to Ports director of marketing Jeremy Neisser, and reads in part: Your support is extremely encouraging, and while I maintain this busy travel schedule, it is nice to reflect on the generosity and thoughtfulness of individuals such as yourself.

If that isn’t worth raving about, then I don’t know what is. Take it away, Harrisburg Senators!

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

The Year in Ballpark Food, Part 1

I never set out to be a food blogger, and, really, I’m not. Nonetheless, food is a important component of the Minor League experience, and throughout my travels this past season I did my best to document ballpark comestibles in particular as well as regional cuisine in general.

Today’s missive (which went live at lunchtime for a reason) is the first of what will be a two-part compendium of the 2011 season’s food-based posts and photos. As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section and via email: What are your favorite Minor League ballpark foods, and why?

What follow are some of mine, presented in the order in which they were consumed.

My first 2011 road trip began in Tucson, home of the T-Padres. And what better way to enjoy Kino Stadium’s sunset views than with a plate of nachos from ballpark vendor El Charro? Nothing too fancy, but the freshest of ingredients combined with from-the-oven homemade tortilla chips helped to distinguish this particular platter.

The following afternoon, a reader recommendation led me to local institution  El Guero Canelo. The specialty there is the “Sonoran Dog,” which I described as a “hot dog is wrapped in bacon and topped with cheese, salsa, onions, tomatoes, beans, mayonnaise and who knows what else. All of this was safely ensconced in the specially-crafted (and delicious) roll and served with a roasted pepper on the side.”

After a fleeting highway encounter with the still-elusive Biz Girl, I made my west to territories occupied by the California League’s South Division entities. One of the highlights of this leg of the journey came in Lancaster, where I was able to enjoy a non-photo shopped encounter with the JetHawks’ delectable “Sweet Po-Tater Tots.”

Maple Syrup Dipping Sauce!

The Sweet Po-Taters were a mere appetizer, for then came the so-called “Stealth Burger:” a hamburger topped with pulled pork and onion rings. It was a formidable affair:

There's a burger under there, promise.

The Stealth Burger looked downright microscopic in comparison to the Brobdingnagian creation that was served to me in Lake Elsinore. Behold the Storm’s “Homewrecker,” perhaps best explained in t-shirt form.

Suitable for sharing

The following month I traversed the great state of Ohio (with a detour in Fort Wayne, IN). The first stop on this particular Minor League journey was Toledo, where appropriately-named concessions manager Corey Pleasant laid out a stunning pre-game feast.

Here we have Greek Nachos (gyro meat and pita chips), Pulled Pork Nachos, and “Bases-Loaded Fries.”

But that, of course, was not all. Here’s the “Muddy Dog,” topped with chili, cheese, and onions.

And this artisanal creation is the “Bloomin’ Bacon Burger,” a 1/3 lb. grilled Black Angus beef burger topped with crispy strips of bacon, deep fried onion rings, American cheese, and bistro sauce on a fresh Kaiser bun.

And, of course, no visit to Toledo is complete without a stop at the legendary Tony Packo’s.  I visited the Birmingham location before heading west to Fort Wayne, ordering a hot dog with chili, Paprika Dumplings, and a side of “Pickles and Peppers.”

After Toledo, I attended two ballgames at the Fort Wayne TinCaps’ Parkview Field. The majority of the second evening was spent with culinary director Scott Kammerer, who gave me a thorough tour of the team’s concession offerings. The tour resulted in an MiLB.com article, as well as this stunning image:


In addition to the hallucinogenic turkey leg seen above, highlights included delectable brisket sandwiches…

Philly-style cheesesteaks…

and a hot dog with “Cincinnati Chili” (the TinCaps’ best attempt to emulate the famous Skyline recipe).

The TinCaps are named after Johnny Appleseed’s iconic headwear, so this Apple Dumpling dessert was a fitting (and inspired) addition to the menu.

From Fort Wayne, I made my way back to the Buckeye State in order to visit the Lake County Captains. Food took a back seat to on-field participation during this jam-packed visit, but this was where I first became aware of the Cleveland-area phenomenon that is “Bertman Ballpark Mustard.”

Bertman’s Mustard: Responsible for the most delectable condiment globules around.

From Lake County it’s a veritable hop, skip and a jump to Mahoning Valley. It was Opening Day for the short-season Scrappers, and I celebrated the return of New York-Penn League baseball with the one-of-a-kind “Warsaw Wings.”

Deep-fried pierogies smothered in hot sauce!

A necessary cool-down soon came in the form of Handel’s Ice Cream. The flavor was called “Scrappy’s Favorite” — caramel ice-cream with bone-shaped chocolate-covered pretzels.

The Ohio excursion ended in Akron’s Canal Park, a location not lacking in death-taunting culinary options. After an exhausting evening that included a pie in the face and a stint in a dunk tank, I had both the following items placed before me.

On the left is the “Nice 2 Meat U Burger,” two 1/3rd pound patties, two hot dogs, bacon, cheese, and onions.

The sauerkraut-covered creation on the right is the “Three Dog Night,” a hot dog stuffed inside a brat stuffed inside a kielbasa.

And, let’s not forget: Bertman Mustard on top of it all!

Stay tuned tomorrow for Part 2 of this food-based season retrospective, featuring a bevy of offerings from South and North Carolina as well as the doom metal capital of the world (the state of Maryland, in other words).

Until then, send me your photos and anecdotes related to your favorite ballpark foods and regional creations. I’ll be right here waiting for you.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Red, White, and YouTube

We are careening toward what is sure to be an eminently enjoyable Holiday Weekend, and strenuous acts like “reading things on the internet” don’t hold much appeal at the present moment.  So allow me to take you on out of the work week with a cavalcade of recent video masterworks to emanate from the Minor League landscape.

Let’s start with the one Minor League team that will NOT be celebrating July 4th: the Vancouver Canadians. Our neighbors to the North produced a Major League-spoofing commercial that is rapidly attaining viral status.

If that somehow hasn’t satiated your desire to see Minor League productions of Major League, then check out this recent “One-Minute Movie” put together by the Mahoning Valley Scrappers.

Staying within the always rich topic of “Ohio-based Minor League parody”, the Akron Aeros are promoting an upcoming appearance by soap star Patrick Drake by putting words into his mouth.

The next day the Aeros’ are trying to appeal to a younger segment of the female fan demographic with their “Princess Tea Party.” Mascot Orbit is doing his best to learn the proper etiquette.

The Aeros’ Eastern League compatriots Trenton Thunder don’t need to worry about selling tickets to this weekend’s slate of games, thanks to the presence of rehabbing superstar Derek Jeter. But not even Hall of Fame-bound Bronx icons possess the charisma of the team’s endlessly effervescent Bobby Baseball.

Also in possession of copious charisma if Montgomery Biscuits pitcher Chris Archer. Thursday is “Ladies Night” in Montgomery, and one lucky lady will win a date with the dashing right-hander:

Not as desirable to the ladies is new Frederick Keys’ mascot “Frank Key.” The freakishly large cranium might have something to do with that.

But the true indicator of any Minor League video’s success is how it plays in Peoria. And this one, from the hometown Chiefs, has been viewed plenty of times within the fine Illinois metropolis.

I’d say that the above definitively proves that rhythm is not a prerequisite of professional baseball success. Also not a prerequisite of professional baseball success: being human.

It’s not just a lazy stereotype, it’s the capital T Truth: Anatomically incorrect snakes take their celebrity airport pick-ups very seriously.

And that’s gonna conclude the blogging week. Enjoy the Holiday, and I’ll see you right back here at this very URL on July 5.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

On the Road: Hope Springs Eternal in the Mahoning Valley

Please note that this chronological blog narrative is about to go slightly askew, momentarily skipping past a memorable Thursday in Lake County in favor of a more straight ahead post documenting Opening Day in Mahoning Valley.

Yes — Opening Day. The New-York Penn and Northwest Leagues kicked off their 76-game seasons on Friday, bringing Class A Short Season baseball to the masses. The Scrappers are in the former circuit, despite not residing in either New York or Pennsylvania (as any follower of the Pacific Coast League can tell you, geographical designations can be quite liberal in the world of Minor League Baseball).

I arrived at Eastwood Field before the gates opened, and took in the calm before the storm.

It’s an idyllic setting, but don’t be fooled. The ballpark (built in 1999) is located behind a mall, and clustered among a seemingly endless array of big box retailers and chain restaurants. The drive to the stadium from my hotel wasn’t on any actual roads — I just took a right at the Home Depot, drove past a shopping center and movie theater and — voila! Baseball.

Here’s the view from behind the ballpark.

Soon after arriving, I did a series of interviews for a story on MiLB.com. As part of my ongoing quest to assure you that I am not “just” a blogger, I implore you to read it HERE.

One of the individuals I interviewed was Tony Mansolino, making his debut as hitting coach of the Scrappers after retiring as a player last season.

It was good to see Tony again — in 2008, I did a story on his children’s book “Dreams Will Come, Dreams Will Go.” It has gone on to sell 1000 copies independently and he is hoping for a wider release.

But this was Opening Day; the dream of baseball had come true once again in the Mahoning Valley. If you can come up with a worse segue than that, then I’d like to hear it!

The gates were opened, and the fans came streaming in.

Scrappy, the only chain-wearing mascot in Minor League Baseball.

Scrappy is prominently represented in the team’s logos. I was familiar with this design:

But the team wore this one, which kind of bites.

Take your pick at the “Pet Store”:

Scenes from the stadium, as the first pitch drew nearer and nearer.

Pitcher Kyle Vetter and outfielder Aaron Siliga were amiably signing autographs in the kid’s “Fun Zone.” I was surprised that Siliga was out there, given that he was in the starting line-up and the game was going to begin in less than 30 minutes. You’ve got to love Minor League, for that and 3.2 million other reasons.

haha -- your uniform says "crappers"

Ceremonial first pitch…

National Anthem…

And, finally, BASEBALL!

Baseball’s all well and good (the best, even), but I had a thick cache of Dawg Dollars burning a hole in my pocket.

In Dawg We Trust? E Pitbullus Unum?

I strongly considered getting an item that could be liberally doused with “Scrappy’s favorite sauce”:

Or perhaps that could be chased with canned tequila:

But instead I opted for the timeless combo of Warsaw Wings, Nachos Supreme, and Pepsi.

In which "Supreme" means "both cheese and salsa."

Warsaw wings are simply deep-fried pierogies drenched in hot sauce. Delicious, but not for the faint of heart. A closer look:

Dessert was courtesy of Handel’s, a very well-regarded (and delectable) Ohio-based ice cream purveyor. I opted for “Scrappy’s Favorite” — caramel flavored ice cream with chocolate covered bone-shaped pretzels (not to be confused with “Scrappy’s favorite sauce).

As the sun set, the ballpark took on a new character. One more nuanced and refined. Genteel, even.

The Scrappers ended up losing to the fearsome Jamestown Jammers, but that didn’t stop the festivities from continuing. Launch-A-Ball included human targets both living (an intern standing on the mound with a garbage can and catcher’s mask) and inanimate (a cardboard Grady Sizemore).

And this? It gave way to fireworks.

And once the pyrotechnics were complete, it was finally time to call it a night.

An endless expanse of asphalt awaited us all.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

A Day In the Life

tomorrow.jpgTomorrow, as it’s been said, is only a day away. And tomorrow’s tomorrow, when it becomes the present, presents a bountiful array of enticing presents to fans gracing Minor League ballparks with their presence.

Wishing to continue my reign as a preeminent prescient promotional prognosticator, I now present this truncated list of just what, exactly, is taking place tomorrow. Taken in toto, it serves to illuminate the the voluminous vitality of the Minor League landscape.

I know many of you would like to punch me in the face after reading the above two paragraphs, but you can’t. I’m light years away, and ensconced in bubble wrap. 

To the list!

Hank Conger Bobblehead Giveaway (Arkansas Travelers) — In honor of the switch-hitting backstop who suited up for the team in ’08 and ’09.

William Seward Bobblehead Giveaway (Auburn Doubledays) — In honor of NewThumbnail image for seward.jpg Yorkstate’s 12tgh governor, who suited up for the commonwealth from 1839-1842. He later served as Secretary of State under Abraham Lincoln. Now he’s a bobblehead.

Three World Record Attempts (Bowie Baysox) — As detailed in this week’s “Promotion Preview” column, the Baysox are attempting to reach new heights in the categories of “Most People Sitting on a Whoopee Cushion”, “Most People Doing ‘The Twist'”, and “Most People Engaged in Simultaneous Air Guitar.”

Farmer Axle Bobblehead (Bowling Green Hot Rods) — It’s “Agriculture Night” in Bowling Green, hence a giveaway featuring a tractor-driving mascot.

Lumberstock (Clinton LumberKings) — An all-day festival featuring live music, cornhole tournaments, and plenty of food and drink. “Wood”n’t you like to go?

hooks.jpgRetro Jersey Giveaway (Corpus Christi Hooks) — An inimitable item mimicking the ’80s incarnation of parent club the Houston Astros.

Ryan Dempster Theme Jersey Auction (Daytona Cubs) — Proceeds benefit the Ryan and Jenny Dempster Family Foundation.

Buster Posey Bobblehead (Fresno Grizzlies) — If you want one of these then you better Buster move to Chukchansi Park.

Jimmy Hart Appearance (Lexington Legends) — The “Mouth of the South” attempts to devour Applebee’s Park.

Ladies Night w/ Rafe Hernandez (Mahoning Valley Scrappers) — The “Days of Our Lives”rafe.jpg star visits Eastman Field, delighting fans with hourglass figures.

Jacoby Ellsbury Bobblehead (Pawtucket Red Sox) — Free to the first 4000 fans age 14 and under. Or at least those, like Ellsbury, who can pass for 14.

Hacksaw Jim Duggan and Jerry Lawler Appearance (Richmond Flying Squirrels) — Because two legendary grapplers are always better than one, unless they gang up on you.

A few odds and ends before closing up shop:

– A new “Farm’s Almanac” feature is up now, about the Frederick Keys’ “Volt Night” and executive chefs in Minor League Baseball. “Volt Night”, in which Top Chef’s Bryan Voltaggio manned a concession stand, was a huge hit in Frederick (attracting a near-sellout crowd on a Tuesday night). The Baltimore Sun ran an excellent recap and photo gallery of the event.

volt.jpg 

– For sheer wordplay lunacy, it will be hard to top the Huntsville Stars’ September 6 promotion. The game will be preceded by the “Okra Win-Free Labor Day Marathon”. 103 people will split the duties of running the race (no one will “win”, see?) and okra will be a side dish in the steak dinner following the race. Plus, an invitation has been extended to Oprah Winfrey, who once ran a marathon. The entire event should be soundtracked by THIS.

– Finally, from the “Why Didn’t I Think of That” department, the Lancaster JetHawks have passed along word that they’re planning a “90210 Night” promotion for September 2. Get it? 9/02/10. It’s been right there in front of us, all along.

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

Much Ado About Clustering

around the horn.jpgToday’s topic of choice doesn’t lend itself to many jokes, but that’s okay. Jokes can wait.

For today I would like to draw attention to the “Around the Horn” ticket package, which is being offered by the Cleveland Indians and four of their Minor League affiliates. Here’s how it works:

The Around the Horn Ticket Package has been created to allow local fans the opportunity to enjoy a baseball game at each of the Cleveland Indians affiliated professional baseball venues in the region at a discounted price and with exclusive benefits.

Packages will be sold by the Cleveland Indians and their Northeast Ohio Minor League Affiliates, Akron Aeros, Lake County Captains and Mahoning Valley Scrappers as well as the Columbus Clippers in Central Ohio.

The Indians are one of several big league clubs who in recent years have taken steps toohio.jpg consolidate their Minor League operations, so that affiliates are located as close as possible to the Major League facility. This practice, sometimes called “clustering”, is beneficial for several reasons. It provides the parent club with an increased ability to monitor the farm system, while prospects have much fewer travel hassles after receiving promotions or demotions. And, most importantly for the purposes of this conversation, it gives fans the opportunity to actively root for the entire farm system.

In this particular case, it means that those who live in Ohio’s northeast quadrant can easily experience five levels of Indians baseball (out of six overall, with the lone exception being Class A Advanced Kinston). The “Around the Horn” offer is the first attempt I’ve seen to explicitly make clear the fan benefits of “clustering”, and I hope it’s not the last.

ne.gifA few other obvious candidates include Philadelphia, Baltimore, New York (both Mets and Yankees), Boston, and Pittsburgh. Click HERE for a list of Minor League teams grouped by MLB affiliation, and start plotting your own organization-specific 2010 itinerary.

In other news…Over the past week, we here at MiLB.com have been continually updating our story on how Minor League teams have been pitching in to help with the Haitian relief efforts. Today, reports have come in from both Albuquerque and Everett on how their efforts fared. Check it out HERE and HERE.

Finally, today’s Gameops.com blog post raises an interesting possibility for Minor League teams: fan-created ad campaigns. Click HERE for more info.

And, apropos of nothing, I’ll close with this excellent Conan O’Brien quote from Friday’s farewell show. Words to live by, in 2010 and beyond:

Please do not be cynical…Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard, and you’re kind, amazing things will happen.

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

Potential Is Realized

My list of “potential blog topics” has become exceedingly unruly, thanks to my tendency to fill every square inch of notebook paper before flipping over to a fresh sheet. The page is so crowded that I can barely read my own writing anymore.  

Therefore, time is of the essence. I must share as many of these “potential blog topics” as I can, before they are lost forever due to poor notebook maintenance.

So let’s do this!

As Seen On TV, Literally — Hey, look: the Fresno Grizzlies recieved a small dose of sweet, sweet nationwide exposure as a result of their “As Seen on TV Night” relay race.

Traficant Do It — The Mahoning Valley Scrappers put their name into action when they were forced to scrap September 2’s “Traficant Release Night.” For those who don’t keep up onTraficant.jpg Ohio’s sordid political scandals, James Traficant is a former congressman currently in jail as a result of a whole slew of felonious offenses related to corruption and general sleaziness. The Scrappers’ promotion was meant to acknowledge (and perhaps satirize) Traficant’s upcoming release from prison, but not everyone in the community was on board with the idea. After receiving a virtual mountain of complaints the team wisely put a kibosh on the whole thing. In its place? “Valley Pride Night” — a celebration of area businesses, attractions, and individuals that is sure to be far less divisive than a corrupt politician with a staggeringly bad toupee.

A Great Need, Fulfilled — The simmering feud between Akronites and Birminghamians will soon get an outlet, as whatifsports.com will be running a simulated seven-game series between the Eastern League Aeros and the Southern League Barons.

The theme song for this promotion should be a parody of Mary Poppins’ Chim Chim Cher-ee“: Sim Sim Series, Sim Sim Series, Sim Sim Series/A Sweep is as lucky, as lucky as can be.” I didn’t even have to change that second line at all!

Outside of My Jurisdiction — I cover the world of affiliated Minor League Baseball. You know this. But I still receive emails from individuals and organizations within other subsections of the sports marketing landscape, many of whom are staging promotions that could most certainly be described as “Minor League Baseball-esque”. Like this — “Jon and Kate Plus Eight Family Night” at Washington state’s Skagit Speedway:

Skagit Speedway will ensure the ultimate fun for “Jon & Kate Plus 8 Night” families by banning all paparazzi and tabloid reporters from the facility for the evening. Families are encouraged to video their own reality show at the event and upload the experience to YouTube.

I also recently recieved a promotional email from a big league club, something that does not happen very often. So, hey, check it out — everyone who buys a “special event ticket” for the San Francisco Giants’ upcoming “Latino Heritage Night” receives a limited-edition Carlos Santana bobblehead:

San Francisco -- Santana Bobble.JPG

This One Blows — I included the Northwest Arkansas Naturals’ “Kazoo World Recordkazoopy.jpg Attempt” in the August 11 edition of “Promotion Preview”. The club has since sent out a press release announcing that 3000 fans participated in a group rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”, thereby establishing a new world record. While I congratulate the Naturals on their efforts, I wonder if they will be able to have their achievement validated by the Guinness Book of World Records. As I learned while researching this article, breaking a world record is much easier said than done.

Switching Things Up — Ambidextrous pitching prospect Pat Venditte is regularly profiled in the national media, by artisans and hacks alike. The most recent feature aired this Tuesday on ESPN’s E60 program — and included footage of Venditte while he was with the Charleston RiverDogs. This gave the club the opportunity to boast that they would be on national television on back-to-back nights, as on Wednesday the RiverDogs’ Homewrecker Hot Dog appeared on the Travel Channel’s Man vs. Food.

The lesson here is simple — ambidextrous pitchers and giant frankfurters never fail to get the national media’s attention. Teams lacking these attributes should rectify the situation immediately.

That will be it for me this week. Thanks, as always, for reading and emailing.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

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