Results tagged ‘ Myrtle Beach Pelicans ’

On the Road: Four Dudes and a Lot of Food in Myrtle Beach

To see all my posts from my May 10 visit to the Myrtle Beach Pelicans, click HERE. To see all of my posts from my May 2016 Carolinas Road Trip, click HERE. To see all of my “On the Road” posts, click HERE. If interested in seeing posts covering a visit to a particular team, search for that team’s name in the blog search bar (it’s to your right).

Prior to embarking on my Carolinas road trip, I did not receive any designated eater volunteers for my evening with the Myrtle Beach Pelicans. “Don’t worry,” said the Pelicans (I’m paraphrasing here). “We’ll take care of it.”

Take care of it they most certainly did. Via Facebook, the Pelicans recruited not one but FOUR designated eaters. Not only that, but these four designated eaters got to enjoy a four course (one per inning) concession standvaganza that took the designated eating concept to bold new terrain. Pelicans food and beverage director Brad Leininger and his ballpark kitchen crew are masters of the craft.

I met my four designated eaters at a picnic area located down the first base line, just after the game was underway. Our location was within spitting distance of the “Clark and Addison Grille”, one of many Cubs-themed modifications to the ballpark in the wake of the Pelicans affiliating with Chicago’s National League affiliate prior to the 2015 season.

092When I arrived at our designated location, the designated eaters were already enjoying a variety of cold, canned alcoholic beverages. It was “Craft Beer Tuesday” at TicketReturn.com Field, and, furthermore, the Pelicans had just become the first professional team to add buckets ($30) and growlers ($25) to the daily beverage menu.

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Left to right: cans of Terrapin RecreationAle, Oskar Blues IPA and Palmetto Lowcountry Pilsner

This quartet, from left to right:

Thomas Robinson — A Myrtle Beach native who now lives in-between Myrtle Beach and Wilmington, North Carolina. Thomas is a big baseball fan and, while not yet a Pelicans season ticket holder, he said “I’m going to be.”

Chris Lizio — After working for the Pelicans in 2015 as a production assistant, Chris transitioned to a digital broadcast assistant position at nearby Coastal Carolina University.

Rich Johnson — For over two decades, Rich has hosted The Fishing Line program on New York-area TV and radio. He also spends ample time in the Myrtle Beach area, and particularly enjoys watching the Pelicans on dollar beer nights. “My record is 12,” said Rich. “I don’t drive, of course.”

JD Hewett — JD is a childhood buddy of Thomas; the two played baseball together growing up and now regularly attend Pelicans game. JD, who now lives in Little River, South Carolina, works alternately as a commercial artist, furniture reconditioner and hot dog vendor (selling to a whitewater rafting clientele from the riverbanks of Robbinsville, North Carolina).

The first inning was dedicated to the Pelicans’ Chicago-centric variations of ballpark favorites.

We’ll start with Thomas and Chris.

Thomas, as you saw, had the Chicago Dog. I promise there is a hot dog in there somewhere. It’s just submerged underneath green relish, sport peppers, tomato, a pickle spear, celery salt and who knows what else.

096“It’s awesome,” said Thomas. “The peppers have a good kick and I like the hotness.”

Chris had a “Chicago Deep Dish Pizza Burger.” As the name would imply, it’s a burger featuring a deep-dish pizza bun. I don’t have a standalone quote from Chris regarding this item, which I assume is because his mouth was full.

097Before moving on to Rich and JD, I’d like to give a shout-out to the house made chips that accompanied these items. Thick, crispy, seasoned with Old Bay and accompanied by a dipping sauce whose specifics I forget but which were nonetheless complementary to the overall flavor package.

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Rich and JD, you’re up.

The Double Play Dog is an Italian sausage topped with Italian roast beef and peppers.

099“It’s excellent,” said Rich. “I don’t think of beef on sausage but the two flavors really balance nicely. It’s not in your face. It creeps up on you. It’s got a great kick that dissipates fast, like a chili pepper. It doesn’t linger until the next bite.”

The Polish Sausage is self-explanatory, with the titular meat topped generously with sauteed onions and peppers. I’m going to assume that my lack of a specific quote on this item was once again due to mouths being full. (The vegetable array seen behind the Polish Sausage was universally ignored, the only item all night to receive no interest. Make of that what you will.)

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Everybody was having a great time, and that was only the first course. Beer break!

103Second Inning — Seafood, eat it.

Next up for the boys was an array of coastal cuisine: crab cake, fried clams and fried shrimp along with a heap of fries. The boys were pleased.

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The Pelicans’ crab cakes are sourced from the aptly-named Crab Cake Lady, who operates out of Murrels Inlet, South Carolina.

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In a Facebook post of his own, Rich said that the crab cake may have been the “best thing he ate all night. Tangy, delicious and not much filler at all.” The fried clams and shrimp received general approbation as well, with lack of greasiness and ample meat within the breading cited as distinct positives. Thomas said that the clams were “as good as anything you’ll find in Calabash,” claiming that that particular North Carolina locale set the gold standard for local seafood.

JD is a huge Motorhead fan — just check the shirt — so I thought it was fitting that he was the one who found the “devil shrimp.” #RIPLemmy

IMG_1316Third Inning: 

Bog Balls, a South Carolina specialty, consist of chicken, rice and sausage  mixed together into a ball and fried. They are served with a Sriacha mayo dipping sauce and, as I later learned, are gluten-free (!)

112Chris said that the fried pickles “might be my favorite thing in the ballpark.”  But nonetheless, he made a beeline for the chicken waffle bites. They are fried in waffle batter and come with a side of syrup.  (The sweet potato fries, dusted in cinnamon sugar, were similarly sweet.)

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Thomas went ahead and grabbed the fried bologna sandwich, remarking that “a big cut of bologna is the best way to go. Who doesn’t like a big bologna?” He then made a suggestion to Pelicans food and beverage director Brad Leininger. “Y’know what’d be good on this bologna? A fried egg.”

115With so much food being eaten and so much being said about it, I was finding it hard to keep track of everything that was going on. This Facebook Live video, posted by the Pelicans, illuminates the general scene during this time. These guys were really living it up, in a sort of collective disbelief over how well they were being treated.

Finally, mercifully, we came to the end.

Fourth Inning: Dessert

118Thomas, Chris, JD and Rich were now enjoying birthday cake, chocolate and mint chocolate chip ice cream in a waffle cone bowl.

117But Rich was particularly enamored with this root beer float.

119“I remember being a kid at the Jersey Shore, getting my first kiss to “Light My Fire” and all that. We’d get root beer floats just like this. This is the real deal.”

And then there was funnel cake.

120Chris is a funnel cake man. 
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And lest we forget, a peach bellini made an appearance. JD said that “It reminds me of a Seagrams wine cooler.”

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Postscript: I’ve been recruiting ballpark designated eaters for nearly four years now, beginning shortly after I was diagnosed with celiac disease. Just like anything related to one’s job, I sometimes get cynical about it. It adds a lot of extra work at an already busy time of year, and, truly, you can only ask a guy how a hot dog tastes so many times before it gets a little boring. But I still love the concept, because it gives me a chance to meet people, at every ballpark I visit, who I otherwise wouldn’t. I love getting to tell their stories. And my own cynicism is often trumped, as it was in Myrtle Beach, by the almost giddy enjoyment of the designated eaters themselves. Brad Leininger and Pelicans staffers such as Jen Borowski, Kristen Call, Hunter Horenstein, Andy Milovich (and others, I’m sure) put a lot of effort and coordination toward creating an experience that was truly memorable for all involved.

Rich: The food was so great, I’m not gonna eat for two days. At the gym tomorrow, I’ll be in slow motion.

Chris: This made it even harder to decide what to eat here. Everything is so good.

JD: I couldn’t ask for a better evening at the ballpark. It was great hanging out with you and these guys, and watching Rich drink.

Thomas: This was the best experience I ever had at a ball field. I played ball, but this was the best.

Thanks, guys. It really was a lot of fun.

***

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

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On the Road: Shooting, Rolling and Singing in Myrtle Beach

To see all my posts from my May 10 visit to the Myrtle Beach Pelicans, click HERE. To see all of my posts from my May 2016 Carolinas Road Trip, click HERE. To see all of my “On the Road” posts, click HERE. If interested in seeing posts covering a visit to a particular team, search for that team’s name in the blog search bar (it’s to your right).

As mentioned in my previous post, my whirlwind day with the Myrtle Beach Pelicans was overseen by the indefatigable front office duo of Jeffrey Draluck and Hunter Horenstein.

For the record, Jeffrey and Hunter later decided that their collective nickname would be “Hans and Franz Jefenstein.”

During the ballgame itself, Hunter was my point man. He ably oversaw the most massive designated eating experience in the history of this blog — a four-man, four-inning effort that will be documented in the next post. When all that was said and done, it was the fifth inning, and there was still much on the agenda. For reasons I can no longer quite ascertain, we began the inning while wandering around the home bullpen area.

Pelicans on their perch.

124Hunter pointed out that one downside of this bullpen setup is that it isn’t visible from the press box, meaning that those covering the game have no way to tell who is warming up. He also said that while walking past the clubhouse door, it is always a good idea to keep one’s hand out in front in a defensive gesture. You can get clobbered if someone opens it from the inside while you’re walking by. The more you know.

125Oh, wait. I do remember why we were out this way. I had been invited to ride along during the nightly ritual that is shooting t-shirts out of a massive 12-barrel t-shirt gun. Jen Borowski, the Pelicans’ senior director of community development, is an expert T-shirt markswoman. I left the shooting to her and was content to just hang out in the passenger seat while trying to look cool.

IMG_1320Riding around the field while shirts are getting shot is a lot of fun.

The view from center field.

IMG_1321Hunter and I then made our way to the third base dugout, so that I could compete in an oversized dice-rolling competition. Along the way Hunter saw an usher by the name of Bob and said “How ya doin’?”

“If I was doing any better, I’d be twins,” replied Bob.

I laughed at Bob’s remark, but upon further reflection I realized I have no idea what it means.

Anyhow, this was the oversized die I was tasked with rolling.

IMG_1324The specifics of this contest have been lost to the annals of time, but I got two rolls and an opponent on the first base side got two rolls as well. I won. That’s the important thing. And I won because my form was flawless.

Photo: Larry Kave

Photo: Larry Kave

The next stop was the press box, so that I could spent an inning on the Pelicans radio broadcast. John Vittas is on the left and Scott Kornberg is on the right. They join a distinguished legacy of Pelicans broadcasters that includes Nathan Barnett (now engaged in a futile quest to get me to visit his current Frisco RoughRidgers locale) and Tyler Maun (now an MiLB.com co-worker and widely beloved co-host of the Show Before the Show podcast).

126Kornberg kindly vacated his seat so that I could spend some time chatting with Vittas.

I was on the air during the top half of the seventh inning and immediately went from the booth to a press-box window so that I could lead the crowd in singing, “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” Footage of this rousing rendition may exist, but I can no longer find it. But I did find this photo (credit Larry Kave) on the team’s Facebook page.

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Back on the concourse, I spent a few minutes chatting with longtime gameday employee John Glover. Glover is, in a way, the heart of the franchise. He’s been with the team since the beginning and for years has manned the guest service kiosk. He knows everybody, and everybody knows him.

128Glover, originally from what he calls “the real New Jersey” (Bayonne, to be exact) has a military background and used to teach survival courses in the Air Force. He has a kind, calm demeanor and told me that, when it comes to his time with the Pelicans, “I’ve never had a job I’ve enjoyed so much in my life.”

As the game wrapped up, I spent some time with Pelicans president Andy “Milo” Milovich. He showed off this beach area that, while empty on this Tuesday night, is often used as a group party area.

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Milo told me that if a sorority books the beach area, they get to take part in a pre-game “Field of Dreams” of sorts and run out onto the field with the players. I imagine that the players don’t have much of a problem with this.

We then walked over to Grissom Plaza, on the left field concourse, which was turned into a “Mini-Wrigley” after the Pelicans became a Cubs affiliate. Note the ivy. (And my apologies for the poor quality photo.)

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As Milo and I wandered about, the Pelicans put the finishing touches on a 5-2 victory over  the Winston-Salem Dash. My evening at the ballpark didn’t end there, however, as almost all of the front staff and assorted hangers-on stuck around for an impromptu post-game party at the groundskeeper’s shed. Moments like those are what makes working in Minor League Baseball special, and it says a lot about the Pelicans front office culture that nearly everyone wanted opted to hang out despite having just worked a 14-hour day and with another 14-hour day on the horizon. (And then another. And another.)

This account must end on a sad note, however, as the seemingly inseparable “Hans and Franz Jefenstein” have been separated from one another. Jeffrey has recently taken a position with the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, leaving Hunter to ride the dinosaurs alone.

Stay strong, guys, and never forget the good times.

***

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

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On the Road: A Long Day’s Journey Into Night in Myrtle Beach

To see all my posts from my May 10 visit to the Myrtle Beach Pelicans, click HERE. To see all of my posts from my May 2016 Carolinas Road Trip, click HERE. To see all of my “On the Road” posts, click HERE. If interested in seeing posts covering a visit to a particular team, search for that team’s name in the blog search bar (it’s to your right). 

I’m used to arriving at the ballpark before the game begins, but more than seven hours before the game begins? This was my situation when I visited the Myrtle Beach Pelicans.

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At the request of the team, I showed up at TicketReturn.com Field in the late morning so that I could get the “full Myrtle Beach experience.” Pelicans staffers (and best buds) Hunter Horenstein and Jeffrey Draluck were my designated tour guides, and over the course of the afternoon, we did everything from touch horseshoe crabs to play putt-putt to fly in helicopters. These intrepid adventures in rapid-fire tourism have been documented in an MiLB.com article, which touches on the Pelicans and their unique situation of operating a Minor League team within a vacation-based market.

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Hunter and Jeffrey, my dino-riding Myrtle Beach tour guides.

By the time Hunter, Jeffrey and I made it back to the ballpark, I was exhausted and just about ready to call it a day. But the day had just begun! We entered the ballpark through the backdoor, which gave us the chance to check out the team locker rooms. The Pelicans are in their second season of Cubs affiliation, and this relationship is made readily apparent throughout the entirety of the players’ domain.

073Even the bathroom stalls are Cubs-branded. Use the stall on the left if you need to “drop a Maddux.”

075The Cubs have assigned a nutritionist to work with the Pelicans players on-site. Therefore, healthy “shot” options are always at the ready.

078The clubhouse was empty because the players were warming up out on the field.

079What’s up, Jeffrey Baez?

080The Pelicans were established in 1999, operating first as a Braves affiliate (1999-2010) before transitioning to the Rangers (2011-2014) and, now, the Cubs. In that time quite a few players have traveled the “Road to the Show.”

082One such player was Mike Hessman, who slugged 23 home runs for the Pelicans in their inaugural ’99 campaign. Hessman went on to hit 433 homers in the Minors, the most of all time. If I have a reason to mention him, however gratuitous, I will.

With the gates open and game time approaching, I returned to the out-of-doors. It was a pleasant evening, if a bit overcast.

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In the dugout, I did my first-ever “Facebook Live” interview with Pelicans broadcaster Scott Kornberg.

It was then time to deliver a ceremonial first pitch. For good luck, I had my ball autographed by Splash.

088Splash’s John Hancock increased my confidence that my imminent offering would be straight and true.

And, of course, it was.

You’ll just have to take my word for it.

You’ll also have to take my word for it that there will be plenty more blog posts to come from Myrtle Beach. And by “plenty,” I mean “two.” Stay tuned.

***

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

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About Tuesday Night: Myrtle Beach Pelicans, May 10, 2016

This season, when I’m on the road, I’ll write an on-the-spot blog post about each Minor League ballpark that I visit. Then, upon my presumed return home, I’ll provide the multifaceted blog coverage that you have come to know and, perhaps, love. Let’s get to it, lest it get to us!

May 10: TicketReturn.com Field, home of the Myrtle Beach Pelicans

Opponent: Winston-Salem Dash, 7:05 p.m. start time

TicketReturn.com Field, from the outside:

086TicketReturn.com Field, from within: 

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Culinary Creation: Uh, where to begin? This was one of four courses, served to four designated eaters. Chicken and waffle bites, fried bologna sandwich, chicken bog balls, fried pickles, sweet potato fries. Stay tuned for a full report.

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Ballpark Character: Randy the vendor

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At Random: That’s not a T-shirt gun; this is a T-shirt gun.

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Your Groundbreaking and Subversive Ballpark Joke of the Day: 

Up Next: 

May 12: Columbia Fireflies

May 13: Carolina Mudcats

***

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

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Umpire Aficionado Living the Dream in Myrtle Beach

It’s a slow time of year for Minor League Baseball, but that doesn’t mean that nothing is happening. Something is always happening. Today’s something is out of Myrtle Beach, as the Pelicans have announced that they are helping one of their employees “fulfill [a] lifelong dream.”

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That staffer is Justin Fletcher, an intellectually challenged autistic individual who began working with the club as a custodian in 2014. As you may be able to infer from the above photo, the “lifelong dream” in question is Justin’s desire to be an umpire. To that end, the Pelicans are sending him to Vero Beach tomorrow. On Wednesday and Thursday, Justin will attend classes at the Major League Baseball Umpire Training Academy. Some snippets from the press release:

Fletcher…. [is] the first person at the Vocational Rehabilitation of South Carolina to earn a custodial certification. Following his morning and afternoon work at TicketReturn.com Field, Fletcher attended nearly every home Pelicans game, quickly displaying a love for the Carolina League’s umpires by imitating the men in blue in the stands behind home plate.

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“Justin has always said for years now he wants to be an umpire,” said his father Allan Eoff. “And when he found out that (Pelicans assistant general manager) Mike Snow and the staff of the Pelicans were helping his dream come true, he was ecstatic. From that day on, it’s been baseball every day, outside, inside and in his sleep. His mom and I even hear him calling balls and strikes in his sleep. He also only asks for gifts that would outfit an umpire.”

As part of his two-day training, Fletcher will receive a mask, chest protector and shin guards while also spending time in the classroom to work towards completing his umpire education.

“(Pelicans general manager) Andy Milovich told me about this young man at their ballpark who just loved umpiring and loved talking to the umpires that visited Myrtle Beach during the season,” said Minor League Baseball Director of Umpire Development Dusty Dellinger. “After meeting Justin and hearing others tell stories about him dressing up in his umpiring shirt and mask and making calls from the seats behind the plate, I knew we had to bring him to the academy for a few days and give him a taste of what umpiring is really like. I hope he enjoys the experience.”

An alum of Socastee High School in Myrtle Beach, Fletcher was able to meet a few of his umpiring idols prior to games during the Pelicans’ 2015 championship campaign. 

justin3Here’s a video of Justin in action, which displays the degree in which he is able to emulate his Major League umpiring heroes.

He’s like a 21st-century Mark Grant.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

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2015 Promo Schedule Highlights: Early Returns

I’ve been spending a lot of time recently looking at Minor League Baseball promotional schedules, as it is imperative that I know what’s going on once the season is underway. And if there’s one that I can say about Minor League Baseball promotional schedules, it’s this: They are not created equal. This post is dedicated to sharing the highlights off of some of the best 2015 promotional schedules I have perused thus far.

Fresno’s Pacific Coast League club, entering the first season of its “Growlifornia” marketing campaign, is calling this “the most comprehensive and diverse promotional schedule in the history of the club.” The Grizzly details:

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Highlights include the Fresno Philharmonic Brass Quintet playing Star Wars music on Star Wars Night, the social experiment that is “Pay What You Want Night” and, most crucially, a Biz Markie “Sing-A-Long” during which the eccentric hip hop icon will lead the crowd in a stadium-wide rendition of “Just A Friend.” (Here’s hoping there will also be time for the Biz to do his version of “Bennie and the Jets.” Because I need to prove how cool I am, I’d like to note that I have a Biz Markie “Bennie and the Jets” flexi-disc 7″ that was included within the second issue of the Beastie Boys’ Grand Royal magazine.)

And as if all of the above wasn’t enough — and isn’t it? — on Monday the Grizzlies unveiled their March Madness-style “Fresno Famous” bobblehead tourney. This is a great initiative, and clearly a lot of work was involved in order to make this a “thing.”

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After careful perusal of the bracket, I have decided to endorse the “Waving Lady on 41” as my choice for the Fresno Famous bobblehead. Read all about her.

Remember last season when Myrtle Beach Pelicans general manager Andy Milovich sang “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” while undergoing a prostate exam?

Milovich’s stunt garnered national attention and kickstarted an “Ice Bucket Challenge”-style in-game prostate exam trend within the industry. And now, on June 21st, the Pelicans are giving away this Father’s Day “Bobblefinger.” Note the sponsor:

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Perhaps the Lehigh Valley IronPigs should be credited with an assist on this one, as the club has already established a tradition of giving away foam fingers on “Prostate Exam Awareness Night.”

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Another highlight of the Pelicans’ promo schedule is July 26’s “Christmas Vacation in July.” The first 1000 fans receive a “Cousin Eddie-style alpine hat,” and the team will be wearing these Griswold-inspired jerseys.

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Hey, Pelicans, you play in a tourism-centric town. As part of this promo, you should offer special discounts to fans visiting from Chevy Chase, Maryland.

Meanwhile, in Altoona, the always-innovative Curve have unleashed an array of superbly creative bobbleheads modeled after some of their most distinguished recent alumni.

Tony “Elementary” Watson:

Tony Watson SherlockStarling Marte brings the “Partay”:

Marte PartayAnd while no photos are available, this is worth noting as well:

Yeah, yeah. I know:

While individual visuals are not available, I would also like to nod in the general direction of the Potomac Nationals. Their promo schedule is spectacular:

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The P-Nats’ exceedingly verbose press release includes this passage on bobbleheads:

[Giveaways include] a Steven Souza Jr. “The Catch” figurine commemorating his no-hitter clinching web gem behind Washington Nationals RHP Jordan Zimmermann on the final day of the 2014 regular season (Saturday, June 13th), a Michael Taylor “Flattop” Major League Debut bobblehead with faux hair (Saturday, June 20th), a Wilson Ramos hybrid half-man, half-buffalo “Buff-A-rine” (Sunday, July 5th), The Goonies 30th Anniversary “One-Eyed Willie” bobblehead (Saturday, August 1st).

That Goonies promo is sure to be one of the most ballyhooed theme nights of the year. As you can see in the top left corner of the above graphic, Corey Feldman (who has probably aged a bit since that photo was taken) will be in attendance. There will also be the aforementioned “One-Eyed Willie” bobblehead, as well as theme jerseys and a post-game screening of the film.

And, not to be lost in the (truffle) shuffle, there’s this:

The P-Nats will also be hosting tentative “body improvement” nights including Hair Removal Night, Tattoo Appreciation Night, and Skin Tag Removal Night.

I’ll end this post with a Trigger warning: On June 18, the Round Rock Express are giving away this awesome bobblehead featuring Willie Nelson and his guitar:

WillieNelsonBobbleheadbenjamin.hill@mlb.com

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Deflated Balls, Good Cause

There’s been a lot of chatter lately regarding “Deflategate.” Unless you are living under a rock and/or don’t care about extremely trivial matters, then you are no doubt already familiar with this latest and greatest NFL controversy. It revolves around allegations made against the New England Patriots and their coach, Bill Belichick, who have been accused of gaining an unfair advantage in last Sunday’s AFC Championship game against Indianapolis via the use of improperly inflated balls.

This scandal, ridiculous yet captivating, calls out for a satirical response from a Minor League Baseball team. Yesterday evening, after a little Twitter prompting from yours truly, one team answered the call: The Myrtle Beach Pelicans.

On Wednesday, April 15, the Pelicans will be staging #DeflateCancer Night at their home of TicketReturn.com Field. The aim, as the team puts it, is to “tighten the grip on testicular cancer.”

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This promotion, simply put, is brilliant. Minor League Baseball at its best. Tire service checks? Free ball inflation? A Rocky Mountain Oyster eating contest? A deflation ceremony? An apropos Breeders reference? It’s all here, along with much, much more. Let’s go to the press release:

In light of the NFL and New England Patriots “Deflate-gate” scandal, #DeflateCancer Night will focus on raising awareness for testicular cancer and feature an inflatable baseball giveaway to the first 1200 fans through the gates. Eleven of every 12 fans will receive a deflated ball, while one in every 12 will receive a “properly” inflated ball.

When fans arrive at the ballpark, they will be greeted by a variety of ball-related promotions. Any fan who arrives in a vehicle with a Massachusetts license plate can request a complementary tire-pressure check from service technicians from Tire Town, who will also be on-site passing out free tire pressure gauges to fans.  

The Pelicans staff will offer free ball inflation at Gate 1 to fans that bring deflated balls in need of inflation. If they wish to donate their deflated (but functional) balls (footballs, beach balls, basketball, volleyballs, and soccer balls), the Pelicans will donate them to the Boys and Girls Club of the Grand Strand.

Once inside the ballpark, fans can take advantage of concessions discounts on meatball sandwiches, chicken bog balls, roasted and boiled nuts, and of course, discounted hot dogs as a part of the yearlong Weiner Wednesday promotion. The team also plans to conduct a Rocky Mountain oyster-eating contest between Pelicans Vice President and General Manager Andy Milovich and one “lucky” fan as a between inning game. Fans can also take deflated hot-air balloon “rides” at the park.

The Pelicans will also pass out balloons to fans during the game to engage in a communal deflation ceremony while playing the “Deflate-gate” press conference of New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick on the left field video board.

Music for the night is sure to feature famous ball-related tunes like “Great Balls of Fire,” “Cannonball,” “Wrecking Ball,” and “Balls to the Wall.”

Important to note for concerned parents, the Pelicans have opted not to invite the New England Patriots equipment manager to run the Kids Zone. The bounce house, speed-pitch, and obstacle course will, as always, be inflated to the specified safety levels outlined in their respective manuals.

Finally, the Pelicans plan to formally invite Walt Anderson and his officiating crew from the AFC Championship Game to inspect the game balls prior to first pitch.

Word from Splash, the Pelicans mascot, is that Mugsy, the Salem Red Sox mascot, has been hatching plans to film the Pelicans practices prior the three-game series, which begins on April 13 at TicketReturn.Com Field at Pelicans Ballpark.

“In honor of the New England sports tradition, the choice of a night in which the Boston Red Sox affiliate was in town was the obvious choice for this night,” explained Milovich. “To be able to promote awareness of such a serious disease so early in the season, while having some fun in the process is what we are all about.” 

#DeflateCancer Night is one of the nights in the Pelicans’ Strike Out Cancer series, a six-night series devoted to raising awareness and money to fight different types of cancer. The series was a great success in 2014.

Kudos to Andy Milovich and the Pelicans staff for once again showcasing their formidable brainstorming skills, and for once again tying it all in to a good cause. As you may recall, Milovich has ample experience with this sort of thing:

Meanwhile, word on the street is that at least one other Minor League team will be announcing a #DeflateGate promo today. Stay tuned…

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

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The Offseason is Over, the Season is On

Opening Day is upon us! Long-time readers of this blog know that my sentiments regarding a new baseball season can be summed up in four words.

I’ve got plenty to share with you over the coming weeks — a couple of “Return to the Road” posts, a couple of “Why I Love…” guest posts, and, of course, the reveal of my 2014 road trip itinerary (I’m going on four trips in 2014, with the first one kicking off HERE on April 28).

But it’s Opening Day! What better way to start the season than with a good old fashioned full-to-bursting bouillabaisse post? Doesn’t the mere thought of that make you want to dance?

In Lansing, meanwhile, the Lugnuts are asking  “Guess What Day It Is?” They do not mean Opening Day, however.

camel

The Lugnuts, in their own words:

Every Wednesday home game at Cooley Law School Stadium is Hump Day, with half-off drinks from 7 to 8 p.m. and a special appearance from Humphrey, a live camel!

Humphrey’s night will begin by delivering the first pitch baseballs out to the field. Afterward, he’ll saunter over to the west gate for pictures and petting. Lugnuts fans will also have the opportunity to win a camel-ride.

Other activities include a Hump Day t-shirt toss and a special “On the Hump” trivia segment featuring Lugs pitchers.

Limited-edition Lugnuts Hump Day merchandise is currently available at the Nuts and Bolts store.

Hump_Day_tees_ogt64gz6

I just hope that Humphrey the camel toes the line when he’s on the field. Any untoward protrusions could be embarrassing.

Prior to first pitch deliveries, be they camel-related or otherwise, the playing field will be bustling with batting practice activity. When such activity concludes, time is of the essence. Think any Minor League teams will be able to operate at a greater speed than that displayed by the University of Tennessee?

But, of course, there are going to be times when no games are going on and the playing field is entirely deserted. During these occasions, unwanted nocturnal guests may see fit to make a visit. But not in Fort Wayne, who have a coyote on the case.

Another way to ward of unwanted guests: continuous on-field aerial surveillance!

Ballpark opponents aren’t necessarily unwanted guests, as their presence is a necessary component of the competitive experience. Last season I wrote about the Harrisburg Senators, who allow male fans to express their disdain for the visiting team via the time-honored act of urinating on the logo. I happy to report that, in 2014, the Senators have combined all of their Eastern League opponents, putting them all on blast via one urinal cake.

Pee on them all indiscriminately!

As we embark on yet another Minor League Baseball season, please remember: I remain the greatest of all time.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

New Military Tributes are in the Cards

This past September I traveled to Louisville in order to attend the Minor League Baseball Promotional Seminar, an annual “idea-sharing” event. And of the many ideas that were shared, one particularly notable one came courtesy of the Lowell Spinners. I wrote about on this very blog:

The Lowell Spinners talked about their military trading card set giveaway, which honors local servicemen and women both past and present. This is an idea that other teams will almost certainly steal for their own promotional schedules.

photo (2)

Excuse the glare

Indeed, my prediction (which was more a statement of the obvious than any sort of bold prognostication), is now coming to pass. We are in promo schedule release season, and teams staging their own military trading card set giveaway in 2014 include the Salem Red Sox, Bowie Baysox, Frederick Keys, Nashville Sounds, and Myrtle Beach Pelicans. When it comes to putting this set together, the precise method varies by team. Here’s how the Salem Red Sox are going about it.

salem

With Opening Day fast approaching, the Salem Red Sox are proud to announce an unprecedented promotion that will offer well-deserved recognition to some of the bravest men and women of the Roanoke Valley. In addition to creating a baseball card set of the Carolina League Champions in 2014, the team will also generate a pack of cards featuring many of the region’s dedicated servicemen and women for a “Military Appreciation Baseball Card Giveaway,” scheduled for Saturday, August 9 at LewisGale Field.

Starting immediately, fans can log onto the Salem Red Sox Facebook page and submit nominations of family members and/or friends who are worthy of inclusion in this one-of-kind creation. Each submission should include the following information:

  • Name with rank
  • Military Branch
  • Height
  • Weight (if wanted)
  • Years of service
  • DOB (if wanted)
  • Hometown
  • A bio about his or her history in the military (preferably 75-100 words)
  • A photo (headshot or full body in dress uniform)

Fans are asked to submit their candidates by March 31. After receiving nominees, all photos will be placed in an album where the “likes” will be tallied, and the 30 photos with the most “likes” will be chosen for this special card set. In the event of a tie, the earlier photo submitted will have the honor of being included as part of this collection. Voting via “likes” will continue through the first half of the season.

The final product will be a collector’s item of 30 cards, with 1,000 decks to be distributed to the first 1,000 fans through the gate on “Military Appreciation Night.”

In the case of the San Jose Giants, the team simply accepted nominations through yesterday (March 12). The team will then select the winners, independent of any voting process, and announce them during March 31’s FanFest event. One winner, however, has already been chosen. Per the team:

San Jose, CA- The San Jose Giants are excited to announce that 95 year-old, World War II veteran Joe Bell has been named the first trading card in their Salute to the Military Trading Card Set, presented byOperation: Care and Comfort. Bell has become an instant star over the past few days after video was taken of him in military uniform spontaneously shaking runners’ hands in front of his house Sunday morning as part of a run to benefit the Pat Tillman Foundation. The video of Bell and the runners has since been viewed and shared on the Internet over one million times.

And here’s that video:

 

The Myrtle Beach Pelicans’ efforts are particularly noteworthy, in that they have teamed up with a local hospice and put together a season-long initiative with a particular focus on WWII veterans. 

Over 11 game dates during the season, the Myrtle Beach Pelicans will feature stories of WWII veterans as a part of a new program called Embrace Veterans, culminating in Military Appreciation Night, presented by Embrace Hospice, which falls on the 70th anniversary of D-Day. The program is working with several different veteran-related non-profit organizations in the Grand Strand to honor veterans who served during WWII.

In addition to their involvement in Military Appreciation Night, Embrace Hospice will be a partner for an additional ten game dates throughout the 2014 season. On each of these nights, the Pelicans will highlight veterans during the game….This will include a video tribute of select veterans…. A representative from Embrace Hospice will throw out the first pitch alongside a local Grand Strand veteran as well. 

On Military Appreciation Night, the Pelicans will give away a Veteran Card Set, presented by Embrace Hospice, featuring a variety of veterans from the Grand Strand….The Pelicans are currently accepting nominations of veterans to be featured on the video board and/or in the card set. To be highlighted on a particular game night with video board feature, the veteran must be a currently living veteran of WWII. Veterans of all U.S. conflicts, whether deceased or living, are eligible for the card set. The Pelicans will make selections for both the video tributes and the card set from the nominees; all decisions on these matters are final. 

I grew up outside of Philadelphia and now live in New York City. If any teams in that general region do a military card set then I’d nominate my grandfather, Jarvis Cooper, for inclusion.

cooper My grandfather, who died in 1996, was a navigator on the B-17 bomber “Judy.” On December 30, 1943 the plane was shot down over northern France, crashing in the woods on the outskirts of the town of Ully St. Georges. Four of the 10 crew members died, and those that didn’t were cared for and housed in secret  by the French Resistance. Eventually, my grandfather and the Judy’s pilot, Glenn Camp, were captured by the Germans while attempting to take a train into Spain. They then spent more than a year in a POW camp, remaining there until the war ended.

Fast forward to September 2011, when the town of Ully St. Georges unveiled a town square memorial honoring the crew of the “Judy.” I was fortunate enough to be in attendance, and the hospitality of the French people who organized the event and hosted me throughout is something that I will always remember.

Photo pour le site List'In MAE

3_31headstonereduxAnyhow, just thought I’d share.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Tis the Season of Transition

Minor League Baseball, a topic I  find myself writing about on a regular basis for whatever reason, has been in the throes of the offseason for nigh on several months now. But the throes of the offseason will soon give way to the throws of pitcher to catcher, shortstop to first baseman, and outfielder to designated cutoff man. Yes, the season is nigh, and signs of its imminence have been appearing at a disconcertingly rapid rate.

In Appleton, Wisconsin, the Timber Rattlers have released a series of cinematic videos in order to convey the simple message that, yes, the season is coming. No longer can, or should, you avoid it.

Another sure sign of Spring is the release of the promo schedule, an event which has been happening at a fast and furious clip throughout the world of Minor League Baseball. Promo schedule announcements usually come in the form of a press release, but this season the Myrtle Beach Pelicans took a different route and the world is better for it.

Since the release of that absurdist short film masterpiece, the Pelicans have added yet another initiative to their promo schedule.  This is definitely the first press release to have been written with the aid of a “Travoltify Your Name” widget:

MARLEY BORFES, S.C. (MARCH 4, 2014) – In honor of John Travolta’s mumbled introduction of “Adele Dazeem” on Sunday at the Oscars, the Marley Borfes Nicholas are electrified to announce that Thursday, April 17 will be Travolta Tribute Night at TicketReturn.com Field at Pelicans Ballpark when the Nicholas host the Dominic Warshington.

Or, the translated version, if you prefer:

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (MARCH 4, 2014) – In honor of John Travolta’s mumbled introduction of “Adele Dazeem” on Sunday at the Oscars, the Myrtle Beach Pelicans are electrified to announce that Thursday, April 17 will be Travolta Tribute Night at TicketReturn.com Field at Pelicans Ballpark when the Pelicans host the Potomac Nationals.

The rapidly-encroaching 2014 campaign is also forcing grounds crews to get creative. Unremittingly harsh wintry weather continues to do damage on playing fields across the land, but the Toledo Mud Hens have come up with a solution.

photo: Andrew Weber

photo: Andrew Weber

So what’s going on here? The Mud Hens were kind of enough to explain:

The ‘big thaw’ is underway at Fifth Third Field, to help prepare the playing surface for Mud Hens Opening Day on April 4. Because of mother nature’s wintry wrath there’s a layer of ice roughly 16 inches deep on the field, and Sports Turf Manager Jake Tyler is taking an unusual step to try to get that ice melted away.

Jake and his grounds crew have created a temporary ‘hot zone dome’ by using the rain tarp, putting snow around the edges and then using heaters to pump heat underneath the tarp. The heaters are pumping an estimated one million BTU’s inside the temporary dome, which is cranking up the heat to around 70-72 degrees inside. The focus, initially, is on the infield portion of the field, but the dome will be moved to other portions of the field over the next week.

Under the dome:

photo: Andrew Weber

photo: Andrew Weber

Thanks for your continued support of Blaine Boofd Blog.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

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