Results tagged ‘ Midwest League ’
Part One of my “On the Road” Wisconsin Timber Rattlers blog post ended as my “On the Road” blog posts so often do — with a toilet paper first pitch.
Please note that my toilet paper first pitch (part of a much larger “Salute to Paper” promotion) was delivered in proper overhand fashion. As soon as it reached its intended destination, I hustled up to the concourse in order to start a prolonged food and beverage portion of the evening, as that’s just what it is that I was put on this planet to do. I guess.
I started things off with my first-ever #Cupdate, a new ballpark initiative spurred on by Pedro Golkin’s eloquent pleading in a recent guest blog post. I’m new to the #Cupdate game, and as of yet I’m failing to provide the cup stats and folklore that some enthusiasts demand. But I can tell you upfront that the Timber Rattlers are a cup force to be reckoned with as this is one uber-collectible piece of drinkware.
This offering features photos of the three former Timber Rattlers who made their MLB debuts in 2012. If you can name this triumvirate of former T-Rats before scrolling down, then your brain (like mine) is filled with useless knowledge that probably gets in the way of forming meaningful relationships.
But, anyway: the three players featured are the alternate reality law firm of Thornburg, Peralta and Henderson.
As I awoke from this cup reverie, I looked to my right and there before me were a pair of wildly gesticulating gentlemen.
These two individuals were the evening’s “Designated Eaters,” who are recruited at every ballpark I visit to sample the ballpark cuisine that my gluten-free diet prohibits. That’s Kyle Lobner on the left, who, in addition to running the exemplary Milwaukee Brewers-focused “Brew Crew Ball” blog, serves as an alderman for Appleton’s 13th district. On the right is Kevin Kimmes, an MLB Fan Cave Top 52 finalist, “Cream City Cables” blogger, and PA announcer for the Green Bay Bullfrogs of the summer collegiate Northwoods League.
These guys had credentials, and, also, they had food.
Front and center is the Fang Burger, named after the Timber Rattlers’ anatomically incorrect snake mascot and featuring jalapenos, cajun mayo, cajun seasoning and pepper jack cheese. On the top right is mac and cheese on a brat, which is itself on a pretzel bun. And then, lest we forget we’re in Wisconsin, there are deep fried cheese curds.
Have at it guys!
Kyle was enamored with, but not blown away by, his mac and cheese-topped selection. He called it “good” and praised the “strong flavor” of the brat, but keep in mind that in addition to his local politicking and professional blogging Kyle runs a macaroni and cheese-centric blog. He is a 21st century renaissance man, and really knows his stuff.
I apologize for my inadequate photographic representation of the Fang Burger, but Kimmes was able to paint a picture with his words.
“There are two huge beef patties in here, and you have to unhinge your jaw like a snake to eat it,” he said. “For me, it’s not totally over the top but the average person? It packs a serious bite. And I love the brininess of the pickled jalapenos.”
As for me? Hey, thanks for asking. While I had to go sans-bun, the Cher-Make brand brats are indeed gluten free.
Look, you can keep the bun. That brat was so good that the only way I can think to describe it is by unhinging my jaw while banging wildly on the key board
If I could make like Cher I’d turn back time and eat a whole lot more Cher-Make brats!
Yes, I am the greatest of all time and, yes, I have much more to write about. As Kyle, Kevin and I were waxing rhapsodic about foodstuffs intern Shaun Marshall — who got stuck with blogger-wrangling duties for the two days in which I was in town and did a fantastic job — dutifully informed me that my presence was soon needed on the field.
I was a contestant in a between-inning contest and, well, I’ll let you decide what was going on here.
Obviously, I was blindfolded with toilet paper and tasked to find a stash of toilet paper on the field via the crowd’s “Warmer/Colder” exhortations. I failed miserably.
Fang was all like “It was right there, bro” and then I was like “Yeah, whatever, like a snake with four limbs is going to make me feel bad about myself.”
Back in the relative safety of the concourse, I perchanced to notice the team’s nacho cart. As you may recall, the Timber Rattlers named this cart after soliciting fan votes on Facebook, and my Village People-inspired submission of “Nacho Nacho Stand” lost out to this:
I should have gone with “Life’s a Chip and Then You Die.” (After all, you can’t spell “nachos” without Nas.)
But while nachos weren’t in my future, cheese curds were. The non-fried variety are gluten-free!
Fresh cheese curds Vine! https://t.co/nVMSTebIWJ
— Benjamin Hill (@bensbiz) June 22, 2013
Meanwhile, Kevin and Kyle had re-located to the concession area down the third base line in order to, yes, consume more food.
Hey guys, welcome back!
This dynamic duo had procured a “Triple Oinker” sandwich and cut it in half, giving each of them a 1.5 Oinker.
For those keeping score at home, this sandwich consists of pork chop, bacon, pulled pork and nacho cheese. Double-K, as I had taken to calling them at this point, really enjoyed it:
Triple Oinker! https://t.co/G86KHsBvZR
— Benjamin Hill (@bensbiz) June 22, 2013
“It could have been one-note, but there’s a great mix of flavors and it’s really delicious,” said Kimmes.
At this point in the narrative things get a little fuzzy, but soon I found myself out behind the stadium. There were ribs in the passenger seat of a van and I ate them furtively like a scared chipmunk.
Attached to the van was a trailer and in the trailer was the Bratzooka. It is to bratwurst firing what t-shirt guns are to whatever it is that t-shirt guns do. As you can see, I really enjoyed myself!
(The three pictures below were taken by T-Rats creative director Ann Mollica, who does fantastic work with a camera that looks to be about the size of a Bratzooka.)
And let me tell you — that thing can really launch brats! The technique is to basically shoot straight in the air with only a slight angle, as a direct brat hit in the face of an unwitting fan could be cataclysmic. (That’s how Maude Flanders died, almost.)
And that wasn’t the only vehicle to be found on the field during the evening. An inning or so later, this occurred:
And then there’s this:
Yep, a good old-fashioned bullpen cart, new this season. Relief pitchers have the option to ride in it to the mound, but I was told that, thus far, the peer pressure had been too severe for anyone to actually do it.
I was up for it, though!
— Benjamin Hill (@bensbiz) June 22, 2013
This car brakes for dancing grounds crew:
I would like to thank the T-Rats’ fluorescent outfield squadron of game day parking crew employees for their bullpen cart hospitality!
Next to the bullpen cart is — wait for it — the bullpen. And in the bullpen the relievers were making money hand over fist via their innovative “Make a Quarter Get a Ball” initiative.
Another failure. https://t.co/VmYHQ9Z2PS
— Benjamin Hill (@bensbiz) June 22, 2013
The next day I interviewed three denizens of the Timber Rattlers bullpen about this game, and the end result is this really funny (if I do say so myself) MiLB piece that YOU MUST READ.
While I wait for you to read the aforementioned MiLB.com piece, I’ll amuse myself with a few non sequiturs.
The sepulchral press box:
Digital standings board:
The aftermath of a promotion in which rolls upon rolls of toilet paper are given away:
Oh, hey, look — there was a game going on and people were watching it.
Nice arms, snake:
And, finally, fireworks from the best seat in the house. I really nailed this shot, if I do say so myself.
I was just kidding about “finally,” as after the post-game fireworks there were post-game run the bases. Why not!?
But would you believe that I attended the next night’s Timber Rattlers game as well? And that it was just as action-packed as this one? It’s true! But in the interest of writerly sanity, I’m going to recap that game as the final post of this current road trip. So, yeah: Wisconsin, Beloit, Great Lakes, Lansing, West Michigan, South Bend and then back to Wisconsin.
I hope that makes sense and, until then, fear the snaki:
Hey, it’s Opening Day! No fooling!
The time for fooling was Monday, of course, and as usual there were several Minor League teams who attempted to prank their fans. The Lowell Spinners helped to spread a rumor that, due to concerns about the weather, the Boston Red Sox’s home opener was being moved to LeLacheur Park, while the Bowling Green Hot Rods claimed that the team would take a cue from the 1976 Chicago White Sox and begin wearing shorts on the field. But the day’s winner was the Tennessee Smokies, who were able to convince some of their more gullible Facebook fans that they were re-branding themselves as the “Tennessee Browns.”
Meanwhile, in South Bend, one of the Silver Hawks’ most recent improvements to Coveleski Stadium only sounds like an April Fool’s prank. But this somewhat emasculating visitor’s locker room is gloriously, hilariously real:
When I first heard about this bold stadium “improvement,” I thought it might indeed be a joke. But Silver Hawks president Joe Hart confirmed in an email that “as you can see, they certainly are pink. It is the entire locker room, bathrooms, hallways, showers and even pink urinals and sinks.”
Yes — pink potties!
“The idea came from our owner, Andrew Berlin,” Hart went on to write. “[It] just came from wanting to be a little different and give people something fun to talk about. I know the University of Iowa did it years ago to the visiting locker room for football and we had just never heard of it being done for baseball. We figured if we can get people talking about the Silver Hawks across the country than it is a success.”
Oh, this will get people talking all right. My thoughts immediately turned to the visiting teams themselves — I can see many players and coaches thinking this is absolutely hilarious, but won’t there be some who consider this radical redecoration an affront to their dignity?
“We are not too worried,” wrote Hart of potential negative reactions. “I am sure we will hear some comments but it really is something done in fun. We just wanted to make sure when the visiting teams remembered their time in South Bend.”
And thus concludes the first post of the 2013 season, the sixth in the history of this blog and my ninth whilst in the employ of MiLB.com.
Minor League Baseball — it is happening again!
Before the 2011 season began, I solicited suggestions regarding where I should travel this season. And one answer that I heard time and time again (via blog comments, Twitter, Facebook, and email) was “the Carolinas.”
This area is, simply put, a hotbed of Minor League Baseball.
Fueled by this feedback, I cobbled together the best itinerary I could muster given the vagaries of schedule, budget, and time constraints. And that itinerary is this:
7/20: Charleston RiverDogs
7/21: Myrtle Beach Pelicans
7/22: Kinston Indians
7/23: Durham Bulls
7/24: Burlington Royals
7/25: Danville Braves (okay, not technically the “Carolinas”)
7/26: Winston-Salem Dash
As usual, I will be doing my absolute best to chronicle the experience through MiLB.com stories, blog posts, Flipcam interviews, photo galleries, and highly aestheticized daguerreotypes. And, as usual, I will do my best to ward off anxiety attacks through the power of positive thinking.
And now comes the part of the post in which I earnestly implore you to GET IN TOUCH! Recommendations and information related to the ballparks and surrounding areas are much appreciated, and while time is always limited I do my absolute best to follow up on all the information I receive. There is some flexibility in regard to what I can write about, and your local knowledge often leads to unique content I wouldn’t be able to provide on my own.
But before I get too wrapped up in the future, let me return to the past with some ODDS and ENDS from my recent Ohio-Indiana road trip. I am happy to report that I was able to squeeze in a visit to Toledo’s world-famous Tony Packo’s — Hungarian purveyors of hot dogs, chili, and pickles.
There’s no wait staff at this joint, you just walk in and give your order to the uber-efficient and boisterous folks behind the counter.
I ordered a hot dog with Packo’s famous chili, paprika dumplings, and a side of “Pickles and Peppers.” That turned out to be a bit redundant, considering the generous amount of pickles that came with the hot dog.
While eating, I contemplated the rows and rows of signed and laminated hot dog buns on display. A sampling:
My next stop was Fort Wayne, and upon leaving that fine city I decided to pay a visit to the grave of Johnny Appleseed. But when I arrived at Johnny Appleseed Park, I found that it was a massive hiking, biking, and camping area comprising a very large amount of land. It was raining, no one was around, and no signs for the grave were in sight.
So I gave up on my mission, but the consolation prize was this photo of a road sign honoring former Fort Wayne mayor Harry Baals.
In summation: I tried to find Johnny Appleseed’s grave, but all I got was a photograph of this lousy street sign.
Sadly, the only other non-baseball excursion I was able to fit in came at the end of the trip. En route to Akron I stopped at Ravenna, OH, the town where I lived from birth through (nearly) age 2. When I got there, I was pleased to discover the town was in the midst of a classic car show and all-around civic celebration.
Upon returning to NYC’s comforting embrace, I took stock of my latest round of road trip swag.
Meanwhile, I just keep on getting things in the mail. Like this Bob Feller “Van Meter” bobblehead from the Iowa Cubs.
And the awesome Stockton Ports’ Jeremy Barfield “Rocket Arm” and Dallas Braden “Bobble Belly” combo.
For whatever reason, the Jeremy Barfield “Rocket Arm” has it in for the Dallas Braden “Bobble Belly.” As I looked on with horror, Barfield advanced on Braden and then fired a rocket shot right at his belly.
The moral of the story is don’t mess with Jeremy Barfield “Rocket Arm.” He will destroy you.
Like 3D Television, light beer, and marriage, Minor League Baseball home run derbies are often far better in theory than they are in practice. The thrill of seeing emerging baseball superstars belting balls out of the park often gives way to a monotonous string of foul balls and harmless outfield flies.
In order to avoid such an underwhelming spectacle, the Quad Cities River Bandits — hosts of the recent 2011 Midwest League All-Star Game — put an entirely new twist on this year’s Derby. One glance at the field should tell you just how different this particular contest was.
As River Bandits marketing and promotions manager Shelley Heward explained in an email:
What the home run derby became was a hitting contest with over 50 targets and prizes scattering the outfield, ranging from a River Bandits-themed van, sponsor banners, cutout beer bottles and even a dunk tank with Hooters girls ready to splash down…. We even gave away $2 beers when a batter hit the cardboard beer cutout which sent the crowd racing to the concession stands.
The team invited category leaders from each division, including home runs, batting average and stolen bases, and points ranging from one to 15 were awarded for various hits and points were deducted for foul balls and swinging strikes. Each player represented a fan and a charity. The fan received prizes as their player hit targets.
This culminated in a highly entertaining event with four on-field emcees, a charity receiving over $2,500 in donations and the event coming down to one final swing that had the fans on their feet. While the final hit did not result in a home run, it was still good enough for the player to win and get mobbed by his teammates.
Derby winner Travis Witherspoon and his designated fan.
In conclusion, Heward writes that:
The River Bandits redefined the home run derby with this event, involved local media, fans, charities and gave not only the All-Star players, but also thousands of fans, a memory that will not soon be duplicated.
Thanks to Heward for writing a detailed enough email that all I had to do was cut and paste. I’ll close today’s post by once again mentioning that, apropos of nothing, I am currently soliciting introspective mascot photos such as the one seen below.
I will not stop soliciting these until I have at least 10 (the current count is three), so please do your part and send ‘em to me.
I suppose it should be fairly evident by now (especially after the Fort Wayne post), but when I’m on the road I say “Yes” to anything that the teams might ask me to do. I call it the “participatory approach”, mainly because I like how those words sound together.
And in Lake County, I most definitely took the participatory approach. The team was uber-hospitable to me from the get-go, a welcoming attitude perhaps best embodied by this ego-stroking media credential.
I needed the boost, honestly, as it rained heavily throughout the four-hour drive from Fort Wayne to Lake County (just outside of Cleveland). In fact, this was the scene as I pulled into the stadium.
But this was the last hurrah for inclement conditions, as almost immediately the sun started to shine and the birds began to chirp One of my first acts of the evening was to “assist” with the tarp pull.
Let me note the following: tarp pulls are hard work! Similar to when I put on a mascot suit last season, I immediately was hit with a newfound respect for how difficult it must be to do on a daily basis.
With the tarp removed, the following realization finally hit home: It’s going to be a great night for baseball, after all.
And do you know what makes a great night for baseball even better?
It was “Thirsty Thursday,” and the Captains offer one of the best (and most creative) Minor League drinking bargains around. For one hour prior to game time, the team offers 10-cent beers. These dime brews (Budweisers, all) are sold in five ounce cups and available at Castaways Bar (in left field). Fans may buy up to 10 beer tickets, but may only redeem two at a time.
The 10-cent price is a tongue-in-cheek tribute to one of the most infamous promotions in baseball history: the Cleveland Indians’ “10 Cent Beer Night” in 1974. My favorite sentence from the well-worth-reading Wikipedia entry on the fiasco: A large number of intoxicated fans – some armed with knives, chains, and portions of stadium seats that they had torn apart – surged onto the field, and others hurled bottles from the stands.
But unsettling indicators of pervasive post-industrial societal decay were nowhere to be found on this particular evening.
Serenity ruled, so I stepped behind the counter and spent a half-hour pouring beers for early-arriving imbibers.
It was a pretty simple operation. Bud was poured from kegs into pitchers, and from pitchers into the 5 ounce cups. From there it was a matter of repeating the simple mantra of “drop two, take two” (drop two beer tickets in the bucket, take two beers).
And, novelty aside, this is still a tremendous bargain — the equivalent of a 20 ounce beer for 40 cents!
I was soon instructed to put down my pitcher so that I could become one. Yes, for the second time on this trip (and fourth overall) I had the honor of throwing out the first pitch. But once arriving on the field there was some time to kill, so groundskeeper Dan Stricko put me to work watering the infield.
I believe that I’m displaying improper technique in the above photo, as the hose should in fact be wrapped around my back. And speaking of improper technique — time for the first pitch.
In this photo, I am patiently waiting for ebullient on-field host Andrew Grover to finish introducing me to the crowd.
It was a strike, I tell you. A strike.
And it was now time to get the game underway.
The evening’s “Play Ball” kid went dead silent when it became time to perform his assigned task of yelling “Play Ball!” After about 15 seconds of silence, Grover adopted a falsetto voice and uttered the game-starting phrase himself.
Number #45 in the above picture is hitting coach Jim Rickon, who I interviewed prior to the game. Rickon is an aspiring inventor, with his latest creation being the Bat Jack. Check it out HERE, and tell them Ben’s Biz Blog sent ya.
Update! Check out this MiLB.com article about Rickon and the soon-to-be mentioned Cole Cook.
A grip trainer would perhaps have been helpful for my next endeavor — participating in a between-inning “Minute To Win It” contest. My task was to extricate every tissue from a box of Kleenex, one at a time and using one hand.
In 60 seconds.
And I did it! With just one second to spare! This was the most challenging and dramatic between-inning contest I’ve ever been a part of, and I’ve been basking in the memory of it ever since. Update! And now I can re-live it again and again! Here’s the video:
This led to a far less successful endeavor, in which me and three 20-someting male fans (some might call them “bros”) participated in the Team Trax race against a team of interns.
We dubbed ourselves “Team Dime Beer”, then ran like a group that had far too many of them. The guy in the back (not visible in the above pic) immediately steamrolled into the guy in front of him and we went down like dominoes as the interns methodically made their way to an easy victory.
Team Trax are one of the newer offerings from the excellent Gameops.com, and more info on can be found HERE. Company founder Jon Cudo happened to be in attendance at the game; it must have been painful for him to see his creation utilized so poorly. But it’s always good to see Cudo — he contacted me for an interview back in 2007, a key step in my slow realization that I might be able to write about this kind of thing for a living.
Quote from the interview: [B]eing based in NYC I rarely get to see what I’m writing about, which is frustrating and something I hope to change as the years go on.
And now I’m actually getting to participate in what I’m writing about — thank goodness for the inexorable passage of time! Which, on the particular evening, soon brought us to the “Sheetz Hop-A-Long Poniez” race. The team has put the video up on YouTube:
In retrospect, I should have continued with the “sideways hop” strategy. But congrats to the winner, who taunted me repeatedly about it for the rest of the evening. I think he said his name was Jay Milo.
In the middle of the fourth inning I ascended atop the third base dugout, and once again felt the unique agony that comes with not being able to aim a t-shirt throw properly. I hammed it up, delayed my throws, picked my target, and…missed. Both times. I’m sorry I let you down, fans I was aiming for.
No pictures of this failed effort exist. Immediately afterward, I was ushered up to the broadcast booth for an inning on the air with announcer Craig Deas. I had already done a pre-game interview with Deas for the “Captains Warm-Up Show”, so this time around I simply provided “color commentary” about a game I hadn’t watched at all up until that point.
A highlight of the conversation centered around pitcher Cole Cook, who I had interviewed earlier in the day. Cook’s father Peter MacKenzie is a well-known character actor, and among his many credits is the sitcom Herman’s Head (Cook used to visit his father on set, and during downtime would actually play inside Herman’s head. This is the greatest thing I have ever learned about any ballplayer ever).
To any Fox executives who may be listening, PLEASE release Get A Life on dvd!
Between that and my Weird Al plug in Fort Wayne, I was very pleased with my on-air performance during this trip (and please email me if you’d like to discuss anything at all related to Get A Life).
The commercial break in the broadcast booth provided a chance for some between-inning sustenance in the form of a hot dog slathered in world-famous Bertman’s Ballpark Mustard. Clevelanders are crazy about this stuff — and for good reason.
And — jeez — during the inning break there was a marriage proposal on the dugout! I would have loved to cover that as well but one thing I’ve learned on these road trips is that you can’t do it all. The days are stuffed to the gills.
And speaking of being stuffed to the gills (yeah, I’m just gonna play this segue off like it was an accident), it was soon time for the nightly Fish Race!
I was the blue fish, and eked out a victory over green and red (not pictured) that may or may not have been pre-arranged. Also, the photo above might not be to “scale.”
After changing out of my fish costume, I stuck around the right field area and snapped what I may believe may be the most introspective mascot photo of all time.
But Skipper soon snapped out of his mental reveries. For it was his duty to lead a gaggle of youths across the field as part of a nightly “Fun Run.” I tagged along, but as it turned out the whole thing was a blur.
With the game winding down, I ducked into the team store in order to pick up a Captains shirt.
The change of clothes was necessary, as I was slated to be a special guest in a post-game high school home run derby. Assistant general manager Neil Stein threw me batting practice in the cages located beyond right field, and it’s fortunate no footage exists of this because I started out by whiffing on five straight pitches.
I shagged balls in the outfield while waiting for my turn, watching kids about half my age pummel it out of the park. When it came time for me to bat I performed better than I had in the cage, in that I least made contact with all 10 swings. But it generally wasn’t very solid contact, and the best of the bunch was an opposite field “shot” that traveled an estimated 265 feet.
Maybe I needed a Bat Jack?
So, yeah, all this (and more) happened in the span of a little more than three hours. Huge thanks to the entire Captains staff for such an enjoyable and action-packed experience — I only wish that I had had more time to spend there.
But there’s still more to come from “the road.” Stay tuned, and thank you for reading. Please continue to do so, while spreading the Ben’s Biz gospel to any and all interested parties.
So much has been experienced this week in Ohio, and there is still much more to come. I’m in Mahoning Valley right now, fresh off an epic night with the Lake County Captains that will be a lot of fun to document. Saturday finds me in Akron, and then on Sunday I can finally return to NYC’s comforting embrace.
But thoughts of the Big Apple need to be set aside in favor of documenting my time in the birthplace of Johnny Appleseed.
I spent Tuesday and Wednesday in this fine metropolis, with the former evening being among the most exhausting and memorable that I have ever spent in a Minor League ballpark. It was a military appreciation night doubleheader, and the team went out of their way to offer an all-encompassing ballpark experience.
An extensive write-up of the evening is available RIGHT NOW at MiLB.com, featuring a photo gallery and video links. I’ll link to the videos from here as well.
After a practice session with the Bad Apple Dance Crew (in preparation for an in-game infield dragging performance), I hustled up to the broadcast booth and spent the second and third innings on the air with broadcaster and blogger extraordinaire Dan Watson.
We did the second inning on radio and the third on television (the TinCaps broadcast all of their home games on local cable). Watson, to his credit (or detriment) often picks up on the pop culture references I scatter around this blog and as such gave me ample room to riff on important topics such as the impending release of Weird Al’s “Al-Pacalypse.”
I was also a guest on Watson’s podcast, a discussion that allowed me to pontificate on who I am, what I do, and why I do it. This is often hard to explain (the evolution of my entire career can perhaps best be summarized as “making it up as I go along”) and opportunities to do so are appreciated. You can check out the podcast HERE.
Immediately thereafter I was hustled to a table on the concourse in center field for the Qdoba Burrito Eating contest. Myself, Private Griffith and Caleb had one minute in which to eat as much of a chicken burrito as we could. I totally eviscerated the thing and made a mess, but was declared the winner.
I was paired with a season ticket-holder named Michelle soon thereafter, and the two of us were tasked with catching foot-long sandwiches atop a Subway banner. The sandwiches (in actuality a pair of t-shirts inside a Subway wrapper), were shot across the outfield from a t-shirt gun.
Michelle and I went 0-for-3 at our assigned task.
Between games of the doubleheader, there was a National Guard swearing-in ceremony.
Shortly thereafter, I was one of a seemingly endless string of first-pitch participants. No pictures seem to exist of my ceremonial offering, but let me assure you that it was a strike.
This segued into the main event, an infield-dragging dance performance as a member of the Bad Apple Dancers. We shook our proverbial moneymakers to Miley Cyrus’ “Party in the USA.”
Afterward, we posed for the following photo.
Next up was a “Guess the Attendance” contest, in which I stood atop the dugout with on-field host Brad Shank (seen in the above pic on the far right) and failed to guess the evening’s correct attendance. I was then whisked outside the stadium into the outfield groundskeeping area to participate in a “Hamster Ball” race.
These things are bizarre — you enter into them while they are still deflated, and then a leaf blower is inserted. Soon you find yourself in a disconcerting spherical plastic echo chamber, propelling yourself down the third base line with the single-minded intensity of a domestic rodent.
By the time the second game ended, it was past 11:30 p.m. But was it time to shut things down? Of course not!
The TinCaps first staged the standard “Launch-A-Ball” contest. Activate your hula hoops!
You’d think that all this would have given me more than my fill of the TinCaps experience, and you’d be correct. Nonetheless, I returned the next day and spent the majority of the ballgame on a extensive food tour with culinary director Scott Kammerer. An article all about it has already appeared on MiLB.com. Read it!
I indeed sampled everything pictured. Clockwise from bottom left: Apple Dumpling, Cincinnati Chili Dog, Brisket Sandwich, Philly Cheesesteak, Turkey Leg. It was uniformly delicious, but Brisket Sandwich with Apple Dumpling for dessert would be my recommended pairing.
As the game was winding down I got a chance to catch up with Tug Haines. A New Jersey native, Haines is spending the entire season on the Minor League trail and documenting it on his website Casual Fan. This is an endeavor well worth supporting.
Video links should be added to this post shortly, and some further Fort Wayne odds and ends may appear throughout the next week. But, for now, I must humbly sign off.
Last week I made the observation that the Tucson Padres’ new logo would be the last unveiled this offseason.
What I meant to say was that it would be the last primary logo unveiled this offseason. Because, of course, new logos cannot and will not be stopped. Not now and not ever. The latest to be unleashed upon an unsuspecting public is this:
And — what’s this? — the logo is NOT I repeat NOT the work of either Studio Simon or Plan B Branding. According to the press release: The logo was designed by Francis Santiquilani of FS Design. Santiquilani also designed the new River Bandits logos in 2007.
While I recover from this shocking news (a logo not designed by Plan B or Studio Simon? Is this even possible?), let me divert your attention with my new favorite photo in the always-entertaining category of “Bobblehead Honoree Posing With His Or Her Bobblehead.”
Let’s hear it for pitcher Mike Zagurski and the Lakewood BlueClaws!
But I digress…
February is nearly upon us, and you know what that means — Valentine’s Day! I’ll do a comprehensive post on Minor League V-Day initiatives in the near future, but for now I’d just like to share the most romantic desktop wallpaper ever created.
If that won’t put your special someone in the mood then I’m afraid nothing will.
If you’re not familiar with the name “Randy Wehofer”, then you will be soon. The aspiring thespian plays baseball announcer Jack Jeffries in the upcoming movie “Sugar”, and gives a startlingly realistic performance (for much more on “Sugar”, including a movie trailer, see today’s article in MiLB.com).
Wehofer’s dedication to his role was so extreme that he spent the last decade preparing for it. He logged nine seasons as the broadcaster for the Midwest League’s Burlington Bees before moving on to the Iowa Cubs prior to the 2008 campaign. In perhaps the greatest coup in Ben’s Biz Blog history, I was able to land an exclusive interview with Wehofer.
So, without further ado, a glimpse into the mind of one of Iowa’s most buzzed-about actors:
Ben’s Biz: You bring a method actor’s intensity to your role as play-by-play announcer Jack Jeffries. Did this make you difficult to deal with on the set? Any Christian Bale-style freakouts?
Randy Wehofer: Working in minor league baseball for 10 years, I’ve grown very accustomed to a specialized and pampered lifestyle and while on set, I demanded that things worked exactly like a real game. I was especially pleased when the guy who played the visiting manager changed his lineup five minutes before shooting the scene and didn’t tell anyone so we could scramble in the press box to figure out who was coming to the plate. When we shot the road scenes, they were sure to bring me a cold hot dog in the fourth inning when I couldn’t possibly have time to eat it or enjoy it. I really appreciated the way the crew went out of its way to keep me in my comfort zone.
BB: The pressures of fame and fortune can be hard to deal with. Now that you are a celebrity, what steps are you taking to insure that you keep a level head?
RW: I don’t want to make other people jealous, but since word has spread about the movie, I’ve noticed that my wife Joanie and I get better tables at restaurants and the other day I even got a card that says my 14th haircut is going to be FREE. I try to take all of this in stride, though, and remember how hard it must be for all of those guys that work in the big leagues, but haven’t been in a movie.
BB: Do you think players will be jealous of you this season, because fans will be asking you for autographs instead of them?
RW: I’m actually hoping that one of the veteran players might take me under his wing and teach me the ropes when it comes to signing autographs. I’ll need to know what kind of pens to use for glossy photos as opposed to baseballs and how to avoid cramping up on hot days. If all goes well, I’m hoping this experience could put me in the running for a future spot as a roving autograph instructor for a Major League organization.
BB: What will be the next step for you as an actor? Will you be accepting additional roles as a baseball broadcaster, or are you looking to go against type?
RW: In the future, I do want to show my range as an actor so I’m actively seeking roles as a public address announcer, the guy who takes your order in a drive thru, or do a guest spot in a kids show as the guy who reads the morning announcements in a school. I don’t know if I’m ready for it yet, but someday I’d really love to play a baseball broadcaster in an animated feature. I think it would be awesome to be a cartoon.
BB: You are listed in the movie’s credits as “Randolph Wehofer”, as opposed to “Randy”. Is this a bid to be taken more seriously, comparable to when Mark Wahlberg stopped using the name “Marky Mark”?
RW: It was really a ploy to try to have my name take up as much room on the screen as possible during the credits. When I was filling out the form to be in the movie, I actually listed my middle name and a phonetic pronunciation guide for my name as what I wanted included, but they edited it down to just my full first and last name.
BB: Early buzz is that you are a front-runner for a “Best Supporting Actor” Oscar in 2010. Have you started working on your acceptance speech?
RW: I hate to correct you on your own blog, Ben, but I’ve actually been told that my performance is so noteworthy that they’ve created a new category for “Best Athletic Supporting Actor” – and I’ve been told that I will be the only one nominated in that category, so I like my chances. I’d like to thank all the people that made this possible and hope everyone really likes “Sugar.”
(See Randy Wehofer in “Sugar”! The film opens in NYC and Los Angeles this Friday, and nationwide on April 24)
Throughout the week, this fine blog will run interviews with
representatives from the nominated teams, in an effort to shine some
light on their promotional strategies and philosophies.
Yesterday’s featured club was Eastern League nominee the New Hampshire Fisher Cats. Today, we move into America’s heartland in order to highlight the Peoria Chiefs. All answers are courtesy of Chiefs broadcast and media manager Nathan Baliva. All questions are courtesy of me.
Prior to the season, had your team ever been nominated for a
MacPhail Award? If so, ever won it?
NB: We were the Midwest League recipients after the 2005 season, but to the
best of my knowledge we have never won the MILB award.
How would you define your team’s promotional philosophy?
NB: “Your Home for Summer Memories!” is our organizational slogan, as
we try to give
our fans something to remember each and every time they enter
O’Brien Field. Each year we try to expand and build upon the traditions we have
established in the past while also starting new ones that our fans will
What were some of your biggest promotional successes from
NB: We played a regular season game at Wrigley Field in Chicago
in front of a MWL record crowd of 32,103 fans while also garnering national
attention. Our free hot dogs and peanuts nights on Wednesday increased our
average attendance on Wednesday nights more than 1300 from last season. We also
brought in local and national celebrities such as Hall of
Famer Bruce Sutter, Illinois
basketball coach Bruce Weber, Bradley soccer coach Jim DeRose, Jason Earles
from Hannah Montana, Illinois State
basketball coach Tim Jankovich and former Illinois
basketball player and ordained minister Roger Powell. We also drew over 6,000
fans on average for our 12 fireworks shows, which each featured a Pitch-In for
Charity. Our Jimmy Buffett Night was a sell-out yet again this season with a
post-game concert by Coco Loco and the Chiefs players/coaches all wore Hawaiian
jerseys that were auctioned for charity after the game.
Any misfires, mishaps, or ideas that just didn’t work?
NB: We had a Classic Car Cruise scheduled that was a first time
event for us that failed to take off the way we anticipated. The logistics were
tough and hopefully will we have them corrected for the next try.
What are your favorite sports promotions of all time?
NB: The White Sox Disco Demolition comes to mind. The St. Paul
Saints with a Bud
Selig tie giveaway after the MLB All-Star game tied in 2003.
And Jay Buhner look alike night in Seattle
where fans could shave their heads.
In a perfect world, what sort of promotions would you like
to stage in 2009 and beyond?
NB: We have a few tricks up our sleeves for 2009 and in a
perfect world they would lead to 70 sellouts for us here in Central