Results tagged ‘ mascot races ’

Thanks for the Memories

Writing a pre-Thanksgiving post on “what I am thankful for” has the whiff of an obligatory elementary school essay assignment, but I want to get something up on this slice of the internet before it all goes (mercifully) dark for the holidays.

And you know what I’m thankful for? That I have a job that puts me in absurd situations on a regular basis. Some highlights from the 2011 season.

Racing as a Taco Bell Hot Sauce packet in Lancaster:

If you can't take the heat...

Winning the “Molar Race” in Inland Empire:

Winning a burrito-eating contest in Fort Wayne:

Emptying an entire Kleenex box in Lake County, in less than a minute:

Pied atop the dugout in Akron:

Exhibiting proper Pickle Dog-eating technique in Charleston:

Manning an HD camera in Durham:

Refereeing a flip cup contest in Williamsport:

Losing a sumo match in Bowie:

And, of course — Rally Banana-ing in Delmarva:

The point of this unbridled exercise in Holiday week narcissism is…well…I guess there is no point. But I do want to issue a sincere THANK YOU to everyone who has supported these absurd endeavors of mine. And it’s never too early to start thinking about the 2012 season — please, get in touch if you have any suggestions regarding Minor League places to go and things to do.  I really do try to say “yes” as much as possible.

Finally, two stories are up today that I’d really appreciate if you checked out. First up is my story on Greg Halman, who was stabbed to death earlier this week. I talked to people who knew him at all stops on his Minor League journey, and did the best I could to write something that went beyond “I’m shocked that his happened” quotes.

Elsewhere, I have a guest column up on Baseball Propectus. It’s a pretty through overview of the Minor League mindset, and I sincerely hope it brings a few new converts into the fold.

Thanks again,

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

Taco Trauma Turns Triumphant in San Antonio

It took 18 years, but Randy Neuenfeldt has finally defeated the Puffy Taco.

In 1992, 11-year-old Neuenfeldt was selected as the contestant in the San Antonio Missions’ “Puffy Taco Race.”  His task was a simple one — to beat this guacamole-soaked anthropomorphic food dish in a race around the bases. This seemed like an eminently attainable task, considering that the Puffy Taco had never, ever won. Not once. Ever. 

I mean, look at “him”:

puffy taco.jpg
(Shawn E. Davis/MiLB.com)

But this particular night in 1992 was different from all other nights, before or since. The Puffy Taco somehow managed to win.

puff.jpg“As I went around third, the taco was ahead of me,” explained Neuenfeldt, who is now married with two children. “He was goofing around, doing a dance, and he ended up going a little too far and touched home plate ahead of me. The PA guy saw that and ran with it: ‘Ladies and gentleman, you’ve just witnessed history! For the first time ever, the Puffy Taco has won a race!’  Everybody was booing, and I thought they were booing me for losing the race. I was crying as they brought me off of the field.”

But time heals all wounds, and as the years passed Neuenfeldt came to accept and even embrace his status as the only person to ever lose to the Puffy Taco. But he never forgot.

Rick Hill never forgot either. Hill was the frazzled Missions intern who selected Neuenfeldt to participate in the race, and therefore largely responsible for the humiliation that ensued. Last February, Hill wrote a blog post for mysanantonio.com in which he recounted the incident.

“I half-carried, half-dragged [Neuenfeldt] off the field,” wrote Hill. “I offered him another
chance but both he and his parents were too dumbfounded to respond so I
sulked back to my desk.”

The post ended with these fateful words:

“I hope a certain boy who turns 28 this June will drop me a line. I
owe him…another shot at beating the Puffy Taco.”

As luck would have it, Neuenfeldt saw the post and sent Hill an email (subject line: “the boypuffffffff.jpg that lost”). Hill then contacted the Missions, who were more than happy to help right this 18-year-old wrong. They even arranged for Jimmy Gonzalez, the 1992-era Puffy Taco who defeated Neuenfeldt, to reprise his role for the re-match.

Puffy Taco vs Neuenfeldt Part II occurred on Thursday, in front of a robust crowd of some 7200 fans. Over 100 friends and family members came out to support Neuenfeldt, who was wearing a t-shirt that read “I Eat Tacos Like You For Breakfast” on the front and “Run Randy Run” on the back.

Neuenfeldt and his Puffy Taco nemesis competed in several between-inning contests before the main event, building anticipation to a fever pitch. Would things turn out differently in 2010? 

The answer, as always, can be found in the pictures. 

Here’s Neuenfeldt, ready for action:

Mission_taco_thumbsup.JPG 

In the homestretch:

Mission_taco_aroundthird.JPG

Victory!

Mission_taco_redemption.JPG

The Man of the Hour:

mission_taco_celebrity.JPG
 
“Good lord, I was out of breath,” said Neuenfeldt when asked about the race. “Why are the bases so far apart? But it was great to have my shot at redemption, and now there’s a sense of closure.”

The San Antonio media did a commendable job in covering this epochal event, as any cursory Google search will make clear. But it was the aforementioned mysanantonio.com that truly stood out. For far more Puffy Taco coverage, including photo galleries, related links, and an excellently-produced and highly dramatic video, click HERE.   

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

Cream Stick Gets Creamed, Video Gets Posted

sherlock.JPGFriday’s post ended on a note of uncertainty, as I lamented my inability to track down video footage of Vanilla getting knocked out during one of the Akron Aeros’ nightly Cream Stick Races.

Fortunately, I have readers who are more technologically adept than I am. Thanks largely to them, the mystery has been solved. Let me provide you with a brief timeline of what has occurred thus far:

– Friday, September 18: I write an end-of-season update on the Akron Aeros’ Cream Stick Race. The post contains a lengthy email excerpt from Aeros director of corporate and suite sales Calvin Funkhouser, who mentions that Cuyahoga Community College student Danny James possesses video footage of Vanilla getting knocked out. Funkhouser recommends that I and my readers “Facebook bomb” James in order to get him to release the video.

My attempts to find James on Facebook are fruitless, however, a fact I mention within the post. 

– I recieve an email early Saturday evening from “Becca in Boston”, a self-proclaimed “loyal fan” of this blog. Becca explains that I all have to do to locate James is search for his name on Facebook, and then filter the results by school. Who knew? Becca stops short of contacting James herself, however, explaining that “I feel a little sketchy saying ‘Hey, this blogger said this other guy said to contact you about a cream stick video.'”

That’s totally understood, Becca. Totally understood.

– On Sunday evening, commenter “Possum187″ takes things a step further by posting a direct link to James’ Facebook page. “I believe this is the video-hoarding Ohioan you speak of” he writes.

– Using the link provided by Possum187, I contact James directly through Facebook. He responds that the video I seek is “on YouTube under Creamstick Gets Creamed.” This represents a major development in The Case of the Missing Cream Stick Video, and I beat a quick path over to YouTube in order to see if James was indeed telling me the truth.

He was! Observe, the long-awaited video of Vanilla getting knocked out:
  
 

Perhaps the video was a bit anticlimactic, considering the build-up, but I found it quite enjoyable nonetheless. It took a lot of work for me to bring it to you, the reader, and I couldn’t have done it alone. My sincere thanks to Calvin Funkhouser, Danny James, Becca from Boston, and Possum187. This may have been the first time you four have been mentioned within the span of a single sentence, but I sincerely hope it is not the last.

Update! — On September 23, Funkhouser wrote in with the following bit of pertinient info:

“For the record, that
was not staged. [Vanilla] was literally out on his feet and they HAD to help him
off the field. Him trying to get up then face-planting on the infield
dirt is my favorite part.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

Cream Stick Conclusions

Thumbnail image for akronaeros.jpgBack in May, I did a post on the Akron Aeros’ rough-and-tumble Cream Stick Mascot Race. In short, this nightly competition featured three costumed characters — Vanilla, Chocolate, and Maple — racing from left field to the first base dugout.

Hilarity, as well as physical injury, often ensued.

Ever since this post ran, I have been deluged by reader emails and phone calls regarding the Cream Stick Race. This email, from “Jason R.” of Palo Alto, CA is representative of what the public has been demanding to know:

Mr. Hill –

I visited your blog after a co-worker of mine sent me a link to your post about that giant Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Fifth Third Burger.JPGhamburger. I loved the photo of the hamburger, and set about scouring your blog for more photos of giant hamburgers. I didn’t find any, and was ready to banish you to the internet netherworld from whence you came when I stumbled upon your post on the Cream Stick Race.

While not nearly as entertaining as a photo of a giant hamburger, the Cream Stick Race piqued my interest to the point where I, a totally not made-up person, am now sending you an email seeking more information. Which Cream Stick won the most races in 2009? And do any impossible-to-access videos exist of Vanilla getting knocked out?

At any rate, here’s hoping that you are one day able to transcend your cultish industry following and become a writer of at least moderate renown.

Sincerely,

Jason R, from whatever town it was that you said I was from

Well, Jason R., you are in luck. For I recently received an email from the best-named front-office employee in all of Minor League Baseball – Akron Aeros director of corporate and suite sales Calvin Funkhouser.

Funkhouser writes:

funk house.jpg

I
know that it’s been a while since my last email, but I wanted to update you on
what was a tumultuous season of Acme Cream Stick races. This season not
only saw its share of grass stains, bruises, and blood, but also ripped pants,
bruised ribs, a nearly broken ankle that required a trip to the ER, and a cream
stick almost getting knocked out on field. 

 

At
the end of the season the three cream sticks were all tied at 22 wins
each. Fortunately the Aeros are in the playoffs which meant a Cream Stick
Championship Race. The course was extended to run around the outfield
portion of the warning track and in the end Chocolate pushed, shoved, and
sprinted his way to the championship.  As you can see in the attached
pictures Chocolate unified the regular season and playoff championships (yes,
those are old school WWF belts). 

And now, the aforementioned attached photos (“attached” presumably meaning that they are in monogamous relationships with other photos):

Akron -- Cream Stick Race 3.JPG

  Akron -- Chocolate Cream Stick Title Belt.JPG

Akron - Three Cream Sticks, Two Title Belts.JPG
The above photos are great, but what I, and Jason R., and many others want to see is this: Vanilla getting knocked out.

Funkhouser provides us only with this tantalizing clue:

If
you want to see the video of Vanilla getting knocked out you’ll need to friend
Danny James from Cuyahoga Community College on Facebook.  He didn’t put
the video on Youtube.  (feel free to print this last line, Dan getting
Facebook bombed would be hilarious).

The plot thickens! Who is this “Danny James” character, and why is he so stingy with his

cuyahoga.jpg

exclusive Cream Stick Race footage? And, incidentally, is the Cuyahoga River still on fire? (despite the fact that I was born in Cleveland, my knowledge of the Cuyahoga begins and ends with Randy Newman).

I, for one, cannot even locate this “Danny James” on Facebook. Is there anyone out there who possesses people-finding skills that are greater than mine? Because I, and my legions of giant hamburger-obsessed readers, will not rest until we live in a world in which Vanilla Cream Stick knock-out videos are readily accessible on YouTube.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

Competition Culminates in Chaos

B_Mets-logo.gifWelcome to this, the first Ben’s Biz Blog post since the conclusion of the regular season. Sooner or later, there will be a day of reckoning when I am forced to come to terms with the fact that I have very little to write about.

But since days of reckoning are painful, I will delay such an occurrence for as long as possible by blogging as if games were still going on. And here’s where YOU come in: send me photos/stories/recaps/anecdotes/animated re-enactments/interpretative dance/hieroglyphics/etc etc etc etc from the 2009 season. When it comes to the postponement of the inevitable my desire is steadfast, but I can’t go it alone.

Yesterday I received an email related to the Binghamton Mets nightly Spiedie Race, which I covered in great detail last season (culminating in a post featuring heartbroken children, inexplicable rooftop cameos, and relievers moonlighting as pink gorillas).

(A Spiedie, for those who don’t know, is an upstate Binghamton delicacy. Essentially, it is marinated cubes of chicken or pork served on a roll).

Well, I am pleased to report that the Spiedie insanity continued unabated into 2009. Heading into the final day of the season, Chef, Marinade, and Spiedie were tied at 21 wins apiece. This set up an epic winner-take-all match, which quickly degenerated into a monstrous theater of the absurd. Observe:

So, to recap: Chef is knocked out by Space Ghost, while Marinade is felled by the tag team tandem of Bingo the Bee and “Clubhouse Manager” (a promising new addition to the B-Mets’ mascot universe). This makes Spiedie Sandwich the 2009 champion, prompting the on-field MC to mumble “My glasses are broken” before his mic cuts out.

A few miscellaneous photos of additional 2009 Spiedie Race action. Here’s a close-up of Chef and Spiedie:

Binghamton -- Spiedie Race chef and sandwich.JPG

Chef tries to cook up a little something, while in the foreground one can detect the presence of a presumably jealous bumblebee:

Binghamton -- Spiedie Race Buffalo Jills.JPG

Heads Together (which was, incidentally, the name of a video store I used to work at in Pittsburgh):

Binghamton -- Spiedie Race Beach Ball.JPG

The post is already quite long, so I should draw it to a close in the interest of parceling out my material more effectively. But, like the Spiedie Sandwich, I am on a roll. Therefore, let’s take a look at another recent Binghamton innovation — “Howl at the Moon Night”. Writes B-Mets director of video production Jon Cofer:

“Our original intent was to set a world record, but Guinness declined our request, so instead we just had our fans howl at the moon to earn the second half of our double-grand finale during the fireworks. Either people really like to howl, or they really wanted that double-grand finale, because it got pretty loud.”

Excellent — until now, I had never envisioned Minor League Baseball stadiums as a place to get in touch with bestial urges and primal instincts. The lesson, once again, is that the possibilities, they are endless…

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

Just Another Footrace Between Alcoholic Beverages

ash.jpgLong-time readers of this blog (they exist!) are aware that I am a big fan of nightly races that take place in Minor League ballparks. More specifically, races that involve recurring costumed characters sprinting through foul territory as if their lives depended on it.

A shining example of this would be the Spiedie Races that took place in Binghamton last season. The drama and intrigue surrounding these battles gradually reached a fever pitch, but a Sopranos-esque anti-climax resulted in far more questions than it answered.

But that was last season. Let’s talk about 2009, because the Asheville Tourists have something interesting going on. I will now defer to an email I received from Tourists broadcaster Ben Levine:

I’m not sure if you’re familiar with
the city of Asheville, but it’s pretty unique and it is known for a few things
in particular. Among them is its reputation for being one of the nation’s hubs
for independent breweries. There are a bunch of local and regional breweries in
and around the area.

This season, [lead broadcaster] Jay [Burnham]
got five of the local breweries to sign on to sell their beers on our concourse
at a ‘Local Beers of Asheville’ stand, and he also got them to sponsor what
we’re calling ‘The Great Asheville Beer Race.’ It’s basically comparable to the
Hot Dog race in Milwaukee and the Presidents racing in Nationals Stadium. We
ordered five different beer costumes and distributed them to each sponsor for
decoration. We will run the races for Thursday-Saturday games, and we use fans
to run the race, offering a brewery T-shirt to the winner.

This sounds awesome. All I need now is some good ol’ photographic evidence. 

beer race 1.JPG

Thanks! Now, I would like to see a picture featuring the gentleman on the far right. Make it happen, computer.

beer race 2.JPG

I just came to the realization that the above picture features a man with a head on his head.

Until next time, I remain,

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

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