Results tagged ‘ Modesto Nuts ’

A Mass of Cots-tumed Characters

I’m going to assume that, at this point in time, you have already thoroughly scoured my post on 2014 road trip itineraries. (If you haven’t, then please click HERE). Thanks to all who have provided feedback on that post; more is always encouraged via benjamin.hill@mlb.com  and twitter.com/bensbiz

But enough about me! Did you know that, in recent weeks, several new Minor League mascots have made their debut? I am sensing a profoundly ambivalent response to that query, but soldiering on in the face of ambivalence is what I do best. Therefore, let’s start with Chico of the El Paso Chihuahuas, who I will be able to meet in person on April 29th. Say what you will about the Chihuahuas name/logo/overall branding efforts, but one thing they are definitely not is bashful. Chico, who came into the world without even a scintilla of an origin story, is IN YOUR FACE.

(This, and all Chico photos, courtesy Peter Svarzbein/El Paso Chihuahuas)

chico3

Let’s back up a little…

chico 1

From the rear. This photo could in no way be misconstrued.

chico2

I do my best to refrain from lazy “only on the internet” phrases such as “nightmare fuel,” but there’s no doubt that Chico has a bit of an edge too him. He’s got red eyes, a dog collar necklace, and a cockeyed, teeth-baring grin, three presentational elements that are rarely associated with the Minor League mantra of family-friendly entertainment.

El Paso Chihuahuas — on the cutting edge, or missing the mark? I have a feeling that Chico doesn’t care what your opinion is, whatever it is. He will be performing for a fan base that includes Pauly Shore and Cheech Marin (really!), so chances are that he’ll fit in just fine.

Peter Svarzbein/El Paso Chihuahuas

Peter Svarzbein/El Paso Chihuahuas

Meanwhile, a couple thousand miles to the northeast, the Akron RubberDucks have unveiled “Webster.” 

websterreveal_2_6tj5e348_ik38gt57

And, yes, let’s get this out of the way. As noted by more than one of my Twitter followers, Webster appears to be Minor League Baseball’s version of “Poochie,” the superfluous Itchy and Scratchy sidekick whose cynical conception and even more cynical demise was the subject of a classic Simpsons episode.

poochie

It turns out that, in the flesh, Webster is downright endearing. Chances are slim that he will die on the way back to his home planet, I look forward to meeting him when I visit Akron on July 18.

Out in Modesto, Al the almond and Wally the walnut have long held things down on the mascot front. You’d think that the team would be content with displaying their pair of nuts at every home game, but, no, they want more. Get ready for a female pistachio!

Pistachio_MW_8coe2gyh_zbkadjov

Like all female pistachios, this one needs a name! Fans are invited to choose among Penny, Patty, Shelley, Bella, or Polly, but why isn’t “Ms. Tachio” one of the options? I need to start a consulting company so that such wordplay opportunities are always taken advantage of within the industry. I would be good at this, and you know it.

Finally, in Little Rock, the Arkansas Travelers have unveiled not one and not three but yes two mascots: Ace and Otey. Sez the team:

Ace is a native Arkansan who grew up rooting for the Travelers. He proudly served his country and upon returning to the Natural State competed and won the Mascot Tryout. With a name like “Ace” of course he is a pitcher and stands at a very menacing 7′ 2″ tall and weighs 501 pounds with a size-36 hoof.

From the Travs’ Opening Day Facebook photo album:

ace

At 7’2″, Ace’s height is even greater than former Arkansas Traveler Loek Van Mil!

loek

This, also from the Travs, might be one of my favorite mascot bios in recent memory.

Initially the idea was for just one mascot, but when Ace introduced the Travs and Hughes Agency to his best friend “Otey the Swamp Possum” during the interview process all bets were off. Just like Ace, Otey is also native to the state hailing from Southeast Arkansas. He grew up watching Travs games with his family from underneath the stands at Little Rock’s Ray Winder Field. Otey, who was named after former Traveler infielder and groundskeeper R.C. Otey, claims that he is the Travelers’ “Good Luck Charm”. In fact Otey believes that his superstitions helped the Travs win the 2008 Texas League Championship even though their 62-78 regular season record was the worst for a champion in Texas League history. Otey stands a stout 5 feet tall, he is a fan of second base and the “phantom double play” and his favorite number is .984, which was R.C. Otey’s career fielding percentage.

And with this memorable bio comes a very memorable mascot.

otey

Okay, let’s back it up just a bit…

otey2

Otey inspired a brief burst of snark and faux-outrage from amateur hour internet hyperbolists, but so what? As Otey’s bio makes clear — and this is something I learned firsthand when I visited in 2012 — the Travs and their fans have a strong nostalgia for their colorful Ray Winder Field past.  So much so, the beer garden at their current home of Dickey-Stephens Field is named after a well-known and often well-lubricated fan who would slide, in shorts, into a popcorn box base. Otey should fit right in.

And with that, it’s time for me to hook slide on out of here.

hook

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Return to the Road: From One Record Store to Another

I’ve spent the past several days working on season-opening content for MiLB.com, including the first Promo Preview column of the season. Working on season-opening content led me to the realization that the season is ready to open, which led to the realization that I really had better finish writing about my last road trip of 2013! Will today be the day that I finally finish writing about last season. Read on to find out! 

Today’s “Return to the Road” missive is the third in a series, and it picks up where part two left off: in Modesto, Calif., home of the Nuts. The previous night I had witnessed the Nuts play at John Thurman Stadium, and the plan for the day was to head north to Stockton to check out the Ports. Before departing Stockton I met with my compatriots from the night before, so that we could partake in a breakfast meal at Mediterranean Market and Grill in Modesto. For the record, this was the first dining establishment I ever visited that had filing cabinets in the men’s room.

004

Also for the record, my compatriots Joe and Bonnie Price and Jon Fischer. I first got to know the Prices in 2011 when Joe, a religious studies professor, sang the National Anthem at over 100 Minor League Baseball ballparks. Jon, who I have known since seventh grade, is an artist and teacher living in San Francisco. (He has recently featured me in one of his works, blogging without a shirt on).

Anyhow, thumbs up to the Mediterranean Grill. It was on the pricey side, but the food was on point.

003

From left to right: Joe Price, Bonnie Price, Jon

Before leaving Modesto, I followed standard operating procedure and visited a local record store. Welcome to Salty’s Record Attic.

005

I was immediately charmed by Salty’s, which was chock-a-block with used vinyl, cds, paperbacks, and pop culture ephemera.

006

008

009

Unfortunately, Salty’s prices were uniformly exorbitant (even when factoring in the sale discounts, seen advertised above). I’m not sure what their clientele is, but I wasn’t about to pay $25 for a used LP I could easily get for $10 or less in NYC. But it was a charming spot, and the woman working there was friendly, so I didn’t leave empty handed. In my hands, in place of the emptiness, was a Bob Wills record and a copy of George Plimpton’s Paper Lion. (Although, now that I’m looking again at the above picture, I have to ask myself why I didn’t buy The 10cc Story). 

The visit to Salty’s represented my final order of business in Modesto. The next stop was Stockton, located just 30 miles away. Would it be magnificent, as advertised?

017

The drive north was a breeze, and I spent the afternoon touring some of Stockton’s cultural highlights with city sports development director Tim Pasisz serving as my tour guide. My favorite stop was certainly the Wat Dharmararan Cambodian Buddhist Temple. The spacious outdoor grounds of the temple boast dozens of larger-than-life and dazzlingly colored statues that together illustrate the life of Buddha.

032

 

My time exploring the city with Pasisz was chronicled in this MiLB.com story, and that evening I attended the Ports game. Would you believe that, before moving on to my next destination or Reno, I managed to visit a record store?

011

How’s that for a cliffhanger ending? More to come from the West Coast, eventually, but tomorrow’s post shall deal with more timely matters…

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Return to the Road: Visalia, Modesto, and Fresno In-Between

Welcome to the latest installment of “Return to the Road,” in which I re-trace my steps during my third and final road trip of the 2013 campaign in order to bring you all of the non-ballpark content that’s fit to print. The previous post in the series began in amid the vast expanse of Bakersfield and ended at Visalia’s Lamp Liter Inn, surely one of the quaintest team-affiliated hotels in all of Minor League baseball.

The Lamp Liter still issues honest-to-God keys, and the room signage was a definite blast from the past.

001

006

005

The on-site diner was similarly retro:

007

Before leaving Visalia I headed downtown and took a stroll. Most of the Central Valley California towns I visited on this trip were rough-around-the-edges and possessed an air of general economic despair, but the core of Visalia I found to be surprisingly vibrant. A brief photo tour, starting with a record store that was, unfortunately, closed on Mondays (marking the second day in a row my attempts to visit a local record store were thwarted).

009

010

011

013

014

017

I was very taken with Visalia, but my momentary illusion that it was some sort of small town utopia quickly received a reality check.

016 Finally, a bit of history, delivered via the time honored method of plaque-on-boulder.

012

I didn’t get any lunch in Visalia. My next stop was Fresno, and in that city my first order of business was to go on a brief tour of notable area taco trucks. This tour, arranged by members of the Fresno Grizzlies front office, was covered extensively on MiLB.com. In brief, I had a really good time!

022

My time at that evening’s Fresno Grizzlies game has also been extensively documented. Among many highlights of my time at the ballpark was my encounter with this particularly committed “designated eater” (ie, the individual recruited at each ballpark to consume the gluten-free cuisine that my celiac disease prohibits).

116

The next day I made a pit stop at E. Olive Street in Fresno.

003The motivation for this pit stop was the same as so many other pit stops that I make while on these road trips: I had been tipped to the existence of an independent record store.

004

This particular record store was called Spinners. Welcome!

007

006

I picked up a few moderately-priced used classic rock LPs (Michael Nesmith, Humble Pie, Black Oak Arkansas), bantered with the friendly clerks for a bit, and then was on my way out of Fresno.

Next stop: Modesto, home of the Nuts. As is my standard operating procedure on these trips, I entered the ballpark while waving to my fans while riding atop a ’59 Corvette.

IMG_8518-001

You can read all about my evening with the Nuts HERE. Part three of this series will pick up with my wanderings the next day in Modesto. A visit to a record store may have been involved.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

On the Road: Nutting but a Good Time in Modesto

When I am on these Minor League road trips I have become accustomed to showing up at a ballpark and being told “Too bad you’re here on a [insert day of the week]. Our best days are [insert different day of the week].” But when I arrived at Modesto’s John Thurman Field on a recent Tuesday, Nuts GM Mike Gorrasi took this familiar sentiment into bold new territory.

“Of the 70 games in which you could have attended, this would have been my 70th choice,” he said.

This is because Modesto schools, due to some Un-American-seeming directive that may or may not have a valid justification behind it, were starting the very next day. When the first day of school looms families aren’t exactly inclined to take the kids to a Minor League Baseball game, but the sparse attendance certainly didn’t detract from my time at the ballpark. Far from it! John Thurman Field is a relatively no-frills facility, but regardless of whether or not the school year is looming ominously it’s certainly worth visiting and I hope that the remainder of this post adequately justifies this sentiment.

I didn’t have a compass on me, but I’m pretty sure that I entered the stadium while walking in a westerly direction.

008I’m a man of the people, and these inherently populist tendencies generally cause me to reject overly opulent surroundings. But the Nuts had set aside a suite for me, and who was I to disagree?

010

012

Meanwhile, next door in the press box, onfield emcee Michael “Mike on the Mic” Smith was deep in conversation with a man who was asleep. Nothing can stop Mike on the Mic!

013 Down on the lower level, the scene was luminous.

015

At this juncture I was with Nuts front office staffer Robert Moulette, who told me “I have to escort you to your chariot.” The meaning behind this cryptic statement shall soon be revealed, but until then please enjoy the photos I took while being escorted to said chariot.

016

017

018

Moulette and I then passed beyond the left field fence, where the chariot was revealed.

A 1959 Corvette! The Nuts had arranged for me to ride the Corvette en route to the mound for a ceremonial first pitch.

021

023

025

The Corvette came out of left field, but this first pitch delivery method didn’t come out of left field. As famously depicted in the 1973 George Lucas film American Graffiti, Modesto is a hotbed of classic car culture and every year the city hosts an “American Graffiti Car Show and Festival (George Lucas was the grand marshal at this year’s edition). The Nuts, for their part, annually host a Graffiti Night promotion and as such they have copious contacts within the classic car community.

The owner and driver of the car was a friendly, soft-spoken man by the name of Gene Carranza. He told me that cars were a post-retirement hobby of his, and that he’d restored the Corvette himself. I felt like a doofus being driven around like some sort of beauty queen or politician, but this was a great experience and certainly a very memorable way to be transported to the mound.

photo: Joe Price

photo: Joe Price

The first pitch itself was not so memorable, as I bounced it (I am now suffering from a full-on case of ceremonial first pitch Steve Blass disease).

IMG_9570On the plus side — the first pitch led to this memorable photo op: ceremonial first pitch catcher Brian Humphries (or at least I think that’s Brian Humphries), me, Al Almond, Wally the Walnut.

IMG_9572

The game was about to begin, and on a more representative night the ballpark would have looked like this.

DSCF6250 - Copy

Don's Mobile Glass Party Deck (3)

But all things considered, the crowd wasn’t too sparse. Maybe 69 nights are better (they generally are), but it was a beautiful evening and time for some California League baseball.

036

Some Modestans opted to spend their evening amid the company of smaller balls, however.

035

With the game underway, I retreated to the private suite so that I could rendezvous with the evening’s designated eaters (you know, the individuals recruited to consume the ballpark cuisine that my gluten-free diet prohibits).

Welcome, Joe and Bonnie Price!

037

You may remember Joe from one of my Fresno dispatches, when he sang both the first and fourth stanzas of the Star Spangled Banner. He sang the National Anthem in Modesto as well and then went on to Stockton the next day and did it again. In the above photo he and Bonnie are wearing “Anthem Tour” shirts, which commemorate their season-long 2011 road trip during which Joe sang the National Anthem at over 100 ballparks.

But with singing duties complete, Joe and Bonnie were now free to sample the finest cuisine that John Thurman Field has to offer. They were joined in this endeavor by Jon Fischer, a good friend of mine dating back to middle school who showed up in Modesto simply so he could experience the ramshackle nightly improvisation that is the Ben’s Biz traveling roadshow. Jon now lives in San Francisco, where he teaches, curates art shows, blogs about his various creative endeavors, and wears t-shirts that display startling amounts of chest hair.

038

Within moments, this unlikely triumvirate of gluten-tolerant suite denizens was faced with the following.

IMG_8527

Have at it, guys.

041

As for what they were having at, the Super Pretzel is a jumbo pretzel whose negative space is filled with a variety of meat toppings (BBQ chicken, pulled pork, and tri-tip).  Chili and nacho cheese is served on the side, resulting in an “appetizer” that could serve as a meal and then some. The general consensus was that the meat toppings were well-seasoned and appropriately succulent, and the flavor of the chili surprisingly complex given that it was served in a plastic cup like some standard-issue condiment. The pretzel didn’t fare as well in the taste testing, however, as its best days (or day) seemed to be behind it.

“The pretzel is a little dried out,” said Jon.

“You’re not supposed to hear yourself eat it,” added Bonnie.

But on the whole the Super Pretzel was positively received, because on the holes were very tasty toppings. Pretzels have been a hard thing for me to give up in these post-gluten days, but there was no time to mourn. Because in addition to the Super Pretzel there was this:

As that comically inept Vine more or less conveys, this was nothing more and nothing less than bacon on a stick. Or, more specifically, bacon with brown sugar, maple syrup, and BBQ sauce. A product of Modesto’s Greens Market, it is thick, juicy, tender and altogether spectacular, one of the best concession items that I sampled all season. I’m sorry that I didn’t get a photo with just the bacon because my presence, it only detracts.

043

Leaving Joe, Bonnie and John within their luxury digs, I headed back down to the concourse in order to investigate a certain piece of signage.

046

This feline radio station mascot is surprisingly apprehensive and contemplative looking, not as fiercely resolute as one would expect. This KAT, like mainstream country in general, seems to suffering from an identity crisis. (The formula: pay hollow lip service to the legacy of Hank Williams while creating music that sacrifices Hank’s emotional complexity in favor of uber-condescending “pick-up truck, chewing tobacco, swimming hole and bonfire party” pop constructs that sound as if they were written by city slickers who’ve made a living on the conceit that the rubes don’t know any better. Rise up!)

And speaking of signage, here’s a concession stand pricing rundown. (The Super Pretzel was a suite-only item, I believe, while the bacon on a stick is available elsewhere in the facility.)

047

My lackluster signage investigations didn’t last for long, as I soon returned to the field of play.

048

049

And — look! — it’s Mike on the Mic!

050

051

Mike’s name may not be original, but he is.

“I’m aware of two other Mike on the Mics [in Minor League Baseball], but I consider myself to be the most unique,” said Mike, now in his fourth season. “I’m just a man of the people, and make sure everyone’s having a good time. I have more energy and enthusiasm than anyone I know.”

Mike and the on-field promo crew had invited me to be a part of the next on-field promotion, launching t-shirts into the crowd via slingshot. This is an activity that I deeply enjoy.

053

054

057

IMG_9604

Al and Wally were on the field with me, but apparently they are a couple of omniscient nuts. The legume duo were up in the suite when I returned, engaging in one of their patented mascot dance parties.

They were also engaging in what can only be described as shenanigans.

058

059

Being force-fed bacon on a stick by an anthropomorphic nut isn’t exactly my idea of a good time (although it is pretty close), so I headed back out for a bit more wandering and almost immediately ran into this character.

060

That’s ballhawk Nick Badders, a Bay Area native who was on his way to snagging a career-best 13 baseballs on the evening. I had never written about a Minor League ballhawk before, so I rectified that situation by composing an MiLB.com piece about Nick and his hobby. You can read that HERE, and then you can go ahead and check out Nick’s account of the evening HERE (he even has a Vine video of me bouncing my ceremonial first pitch).

After interviewing Nick I was re-joined by Mike on the Mic, who was once again including me as part of the between-inning proceedings.

065

I was a contestant in a videoboard trivia contest. A clip from a movie (American Graffiti, naturally) was shown on the screen, and I was then tasked with answering a question regarding what it was that I had just seen.

071

The answer, I did not know, so there was nothing to do but grin and bear it as I suffered what was approximately my 125th ballpark failure of the season.

075

Still single, ladies.

Back in the suite I alleviated my frustration via the consumption of pulled pork on a tapioca-based gluten-free bun.

082

You can see Bonnie enjoying some St. Louis-style ribs there in the background. Jon, meanwhile, was enjoying them in the foreground.

080

Simply the chest

The ribs were a popular item, and Bonnie, pointing to a stain on her shirt, lauded them for their “decorative appeal.” Joe, meanwhile, raved about the this chicken wrap.

083

“One of the good things about the wrap is that it’s not simply lettuce, it’s radicchio,” he said. “It adds more body and flavor and adds a crunchy nip to it. Not a full bite, just a nip.”

Given that the Nuts are named the Nuts I was expecting the Nuts to have voluminous amounts of Nuts throughout the ballpark. This wasn’t exactly the case, although they did produce these limited edition delicacies when they hosted the 2011 California vs. Carolina League All-Star Game.

085Our ragtag group soon migrated next door so that Joe and I could lead the crowd in a poorly-documented but satisfying-in-the-moment rendition of the seventh inning stretch.

088

I then stuck around for an inning on the radio with Nuts broadcaster Alex Margulies.

089

By the time I returned to our palatial estate, said ragtag group was well into a dessert of “chimis” (cheesecake, raspberry and dulce de leche) and baked smores.

IMG_8553 (1)

092

My documentation skills were starting to wane at this juncture of the evening, but please let it be known that Bonnie exalted the Raspberry Chimis above the Dulce De Leche because the latter was “sweet on top of sweet” and hence too sweet.

Also let it be known that a baseball game transpired during the course of all of this nonsense. The hometown team, desirous of victory, emerged with just this.

093

And with the cessation of play comes the cessation of this blog post. Take it away, Mike on the Mic!

Thanks, Mike on the Mic. Ben on the Blog is now over and out.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Musing Mascots in Costumed Contemplation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There will be no sixth installment.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

It’s Sometimes Sunny Outside of Philadelphia

The more things change, the more things stay the same.

Last year, Jerry Lawler visited Reading’s FirstEnergy Stadium and delivered a devastating clothesline to a foolhardy cauliflower. You may recall the image, seeing how it was indelible.

This year’s notable wrestling guest was Sunny, famed diva and member of the WWE Hall of Fame. And this time, the clothesline victim was Evil Candy (a longtime nutritional adversary of Cauliflower).

Sunny was joined by noted ECW grappler “The Blue Meanie.”

Being interviewed by Channel 69:

Prior to the game, Sunny and the Blue Meanie visited the R-Phils’ clubhouse. This picture is disintegrating right before our eyes, a reminder of life’s ephemeral nature.

While in the locker room, Sunny must have taken a liking to R-Phils backstop Tim Kennelly. In a post-game interview with R-Phils director of media relations Tommy Viola, Sunny refers to the “so-cute” Kennelly as her “future ex-husband” and expresses a desire for some personal coaching (the Blue Meanie, meanwhile, reveals himself to be a fan of Matt “Roast Beef” Rizzotti).

And, quite fittingly, this star-studded “Tribute to Wrestling” featured some actual wrestling. This was the ballpark scene after the game.

And since we’re on the topic of “2011 incarnations of promotions I also covered in 2010″,  it is worth noting that the Modesto Nuts have once again staged a “Mascot Dance Party” featuring the inimitable Al and Wally.

Last season, Al was the lucky recipient of a one-on-one lesson with dance instructor Taelor Fernandez. This year, it was Wally’s turn to learn from the beautiful Ms. Fernandez.

Those lessons have really paid off.

And since we’re on the topic, you should really be aware that a new bat dog-based dance craze is sweeping through Trenton. Teach me how to Derby!

But if those moves are too complicated, then maybe you should check out what’s on offer out there in Lancaster, CA. Whip it good!

All this dancing is making me realize that I need to up my game, as the only move I ever mastered was limping to the side like my leg was broken. Please help me, Taelor Fernandez.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Nuts On Wheels, Loons On Ice, and Baseball on the TV

During this slow time of year, you better believe that if a new logo comes my way I’m going to lead with it.

Today, that new logo is this:

nutsmash.jpg

The above mark will serve serve as the official logo for the 2011 California/Carolina League All-Star Game, which you now know will be taking place in Modesto.

Some background info, from the press release:

The logo pays homage to the annual Graffiti month held every June in Modesto in honor of the classic film American Graffiti by filmmaker and Modesto native George Lucas. The logo features the Nuts mascots, Al the Almond and Wally the Walnut, in a classic car reminiscent of the 1950s.

Ah, yes, The Modesto Nuts and American Graffiti. I believe I wrote about that once. It is also worth noting that the Nuts’ commitment to the films of George Lucas has extended to the Sci-Fi franchise for which he is best known. Observe:

But back to the matter at hand: the Logo. Like the previous All-Star logo discussed on this blog, it was designed by the wunderkinds at Plan B Branding.

And since we’re talking about 2011 events, yesterday I was heartened to see one of the first promotional announcements of the upcoming season: The Great Lakes Loons will be staging six nights in honor of the Detroit Red Wings.

hock.jpg

The team reports:

The series, a fresh spin on the Loons successful Tigers Legends Series, will include six Loons home games paying tribute to former Red Wings greats. Three of the games will include a visit from Detroit Red Wings greats and three games will include a commemorative bobblehead of Red Wings legends.

Sounds like a excellent idea, although one question remains: What’s the difference between a “great” and a “legend”?

Such questions can be put on ice, however, for there are currently far more pressing concerns in the world of sports. Questions such as: Where I am going to watch the World Series?

Fans of the Round Rock Express needn’t worry. In honor of their big league affiliate Rangers making it to the Fall Classic, the Express are inviting fans to watch the game in style.

watch.jpg

Sez the team:

The Express will be hosting a Watch Party for every game of the Fall Classic in the Intel Club at the Dell Diamond. Our luxury, VIP club spans nearly 4,000 square feet and offers more than 22,000 square inches of flat-panel TV screens,
making it the perfect spot to witness Rangers’ history!

Sounds like a pretty great Watch Party, if you ask me. I’m sure it will be better than the last one I went to, as I was pressured into a buying a counterfeit Rolex that broke four days later.

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

Still Recapping, Moving Images

busted.jpg

If you thought I was done recapping the 2010 season, then you thought sensibly.

You also thought wrong. 

One (self-imposed) task remains, and that is to dedicate a post to the best team-produced videos that appeared on this blog in 2010. This is an entirely subjective task, of course, but it is indisputable that the following videos you are about to see possess ample comedic chops. 

In reviewing the year that was, I came to the realization that my favorite videos of the season had the following three things in common: They featured players, they were short (under two minutes) and they were funny.

No team was better at combining the following three criteria than the Peoria Chiefs, who put out videos featuring boy bands, models, and karaoke superstars. But my personal favorite paid homage to the sweet sounds of Motown.

The Tulsa Drillers were able to provide great insight into the culture of the bullpen, whose denizens are free to focus on matters follicles.

In Everett, meanwhile, the players were more concerned with that which resided above the upper lip.

And since we’re talking about players, I would be remiss if I didn’t include the masterwork of Reading Phillies sluggers Tagg Bozied and Matt Rizzotti.

The Charlotte Stone Crabs also used players to great effect throughout the season, as part of their “This Is Stone Crabs Baseball” ad series. This one, starring Isaias Velazquez, was my favorite.
 .

Velazquez has good reason to be upset, and as this video amply illustrates it is not wise to mess with Minor League Baseball players. Behold, the “aqua-palypse” that took place in Gwinnett County.

Of course, a good Minor League video doesn’t necessarily need to feature the players at all. Lakewood BlueClaws intern “D-Bo” made a name for himself this season with a series of videos designed to highlight upcoming promotions. Here’s a sample, with sight gags a-plenty:
 

Amazingly, I’ve gotten this far without posting a parody video. Let’s rectify that immediately, by checking out the Binghamton Mets unique take on “Twilight”.

But nothing inspires parody more than early ’90s West Coast gangsta rap, as evidenced by these two works of art.

The above video was produced by the Peoria Chiefs, bringing this post full circle. But before closing this one out, I have just one more thing to announce:

It’s Peanut Butter Jelly Time!

Boy oh boy is it ever.

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

Almonds Play In the Cantina While Ex-Presidents Inflate and Rodents Rappel

As part of my increasingly desperate attempts to provide content from when Minor League Baseball was still being played on a daily basis across the country, please enjoy this triumvirate of pictures from the Modesto Nuts’ “Star Wars Night”.

Modesto_StarWars1.JPG
Modesto_StarWars2.JPG
Modesto_StarWars3.JPG
The club promoted the evening with this video, which if nothing else shows how easily a pair of anthropomorphic nuts would fit into the cantina band line-up:

And I’ll be honest here: the last time I featured a “Star Wars Night” on this blog I ended up with about 4.2 billion hits. Plenty of people were kind enough to link to it, often with remarks like “check out these hilarious pictures!”

That’s something I’ve learned over the years — pictures are key. Writing, not so much. That’s why I would never waste upwards of one hour each day agonizing over pun construction. Of course not. That would be stupid.

But what certainly isn’t stupid is a giant inflatable mascot created in honor of a former team president. Behold inflatable Chuck Domino, unveiled during the Reading Phillies’ Hall of Fame Night on August 31:

Reading_Domino2.JPG
Reading_Domino1.JPG

But the Reading Phillies, like almost everyone else, have moved on to offseason concerns. The team is currently providing a series of video progress reports as FirstEnergy Stadium undergoes a $10 million renovation project. Here’s Chapter 1:

Domino, meanwhile, is now Chief Executive Manager of the Richmond Flying Squirrels. Today, the Squirrels announced that Nutzy the mascot plans to rappel down a 25-story building next month.

For charity, of course. Sez Nutzy:

Help send me Over the Edge and for Special Olympics Virginia. That’s right…I’m hoping to rappel off a 25-story building in downtown Richmond this October! In order to take on this challenge and join other fearless Special Olympics fans on the roof, I must first reach my fundraising goal. With your help I’ll be dangling from 400 feet up in no time!

Richmond -- Nutzy actual front.JPG

The thought occurs to me that Nutzy should be kept far away from Modesto, as he would probably attempt to store that team’s pair of anthropomorphic Nut mascots within the confines of his cheeks.

But such abstract concerns can wait — the playoffs are still going on! Get pumped, Northwest Arkansas fans. Get pumped.

No matter how where you are in your particular baseball journey — postseason, offseason, or otherwise — I thank you for your continued patronage of this blog. You keep looking at the pictures, and I’ll keep writing. It’s a nice little symbiotic relationship we have going here.

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

Coast to Coast Canned Meat Carving

Spam.jpgOne might think that I’ve already fulfilled my Spam Carving blogging quota for the 2010 campaign, and that additional posts on the subject would be gratuitous at best and offensive at worst.

Well, one would be wrong. For I have received a copiously detailed missive from the wilds of Northern California, documenting in painstaking detail the canned-meat sculpting competition that was recently staged by the Modesto Nuts. This momentous event made it clear that Spam Carving can thrive within West Coast ballparks, far removed from its Reading, PA origins.

Nuts’ director of marketing and public relations Christa Parr explains that the competition was comprised of five one-person “teams”, who had “20 toothpicks, a knife, a fork, salt and pepper packets, and 30 minutes to make their greatest Spam carving epiphany a reality.”

This Spam competition, like all others, began with the sound of the preservative-laden product oozing out of its restrictive confines:

Modesto_Spam_sound.JPG

And after the 30 minutes of intense artistic concentration were up, here is what had been created.

Team 1: “I’m With the Band”

I call this a “Spamplifier”:

Modesto_Spam_Team1.JPG

Team 2: “The Party House” 

Parr notes that this work was created by a 10-year-old, who thoughtfully constructed a house-sized giant next to said house.

Modesto_Spam_Team2.JPG

Team 3: “The Mystery (Meat) Machine”

It may be unclear from the picture, but the artisan behind this one actually constructed roadside scenery (including trees and a billboard).

Modesto_Spam_Team3.JPG

Team 4: “Spam Stonehenge”

Parr relayed an anecdote about how an onlooker criticized Spam Stonehenge, noting that it “had been done to death.” I’d like to think that I contributed to this perception, having featured a “Stonehenge-looking thing” in a previous Spam carving blog post.

Modesto_Spam_Team4.JPG

Team 5: “Untitled”

My own title for this is “Lobster God”.

Modesto_Spam_Team5.JPG

I would have voted for “Lobster God” as my favorite, but unfortunately I was not in attendance. As it turned out, The Mystery (Meat) Machine earned top honors, with Party House edging out Spam Stonehenge in a closely-contested race for second.

80% of the competitors, along with 80% of the Spam creations:

Modesto_Spam_GroupShot.JPG

That’ll do it for this, my latest round of Spam Carving coverage. I’ve got some excellent, non-Spam content lined up for the next two days, but after that the well is dry. Fill it up!

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

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 444 other followers