Results tagged ‘ Myrtle Beach Pelicans ’

Deep-Fried, Bacon-Wrapped, and Uplifting

When I wrote my celiac disease “coming out” post back in early July, I made clear that I was still ready, willing and able to post any and all Minor League food pictures on this blog. But actions speak louder than words, so let’s kick off today’s post with some deep-fried photography of a decidedly gluten-ous/gluttonous bent.

That would be a fried Snickers bar, just one of many delectable offerings that the Charlotte Knights served as part of a “Fried-day” promotion they ran this summer. The team also served fried Oreos.

And fried S’mores were also on the agenda.


And, yes, fried Zingers.

Knights media relations director Tommy Viola reported that the “Fried-day” items “sold like hotcakes,” leading him to then wonder “Hmm, maybe we should try fried hot cakes.”

A decidedly less appetizing and far more ridiculous food-related item emerged in Fort Myers last month, as the Miracle staged a “Salute to Bacon” promotion. As part of the festivities, the balls used for the evening’s ceremonial first pitch looked like this.

When I posted this picture on Twitter, it inspired former Iowa Cubs media relations director/current PR professional Andrea Breen to get in touch. She wanted to let me know that this item was being sold at the Iowa State Fair:

This delectable item was sold by vendor The Bird’s Nest, and described as follows:

The Bacon Wrapped Eggs is muffin-sized and has a layer of pancake batter, crumbled bacon, a cracked egg surrounded by another strip of bacon, then topped with cheese and cooked to perfection. It will be sold for $2.50.

There’s only one possible transition that I can think of at this point, and that is, of course, to write about sports bras. Last month, the Myrtle Beach Pelicans gave them away as part of a “Ladies Night” promotion. Take it away, press release:

Run support won’t be the only thing providing a lift at TicketReturn.com Field at Pelicans Ballpark Thursday Night.  It’s Ladies’ Night and the Myrtle Beach Pelicans are giving away sports bras, courtesy of Carolina Coastal Plastic Surgery, to the first 200 women 18 and over.

With new sports bras in hand, ladies can then bid on “dates” with eligible members of the Pelicans front office.  All proceeds will benefit the Bruce Dal Canton Fund to support students higher education goals in Horry County.  Winning bidders can date their staff member for the last few innings of the game and then receive a prize pack including movie tickets for a real date night.  Whether or not winners take their Pelicans staff members on those dates is up to them.  In the history of Ladies’ Night, no staffer has been lucky enough for a second date.

While I don’t have any photographs of the sports bras that were given away, let it be known that “Bachelor Quattro” was very much in demand.

Okay, that’s it for me today. I wish I could end with a Zinger, something that would make you Snicker, but I just don’t have any S’more.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Wearing Your Guitar On Your Sleeve, and Other Innovations

I’ve got a healthy-sized stash of odds and ends Florida road trip content, and I’ll get to it as soon as I possibly can. But today’s post will be a good ol’ fashioned bouillabaisse (a word that I can no longer spell on the first attempt) featuring a mere fraction of the Minor League happenings that are fit to “print”. I can only do so much.

Let’s start with the Stockton Ports, who last season found success with their Rolling Stones theme jerseys. This year’s honoree was Johnny Cash, and the team wore — what else? — black jerseys.

Rickey Henderson, in town as an Oakland A’s roving instructor, was into it:

James Garner and his Cash tribute band provided the entertainment, and according to Ports director of marketing Jeremy Neisser they were “unbelievably amazing.”

Jerseys were auctioned off after the game, right off of the backs of those who wore them:

And, finally, what would such a promotion be without themed head shots?

It would be nothing, I tell you. Absolutely nothing.

Meanwhile, in Rochester, there’s a whole lot of something going on. The Red Wings have proclaimed that May is Baseball Month at Frontier Field, and for good reason: 27 games will be played there this month! (Including a sold-out Andy Pettitte rehab start that was moved to Frontier Field from its originally scheduled location of Batavia’s Dwyer Stadium.)

Explains the team:

The Red Wings in 2012 are sharing Frontier Field with the Empire State Yankees while their home of PNC Field in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre undergoes a season-long renovation. A total of 109 games will be played at Frontier Field in 2012.

“The only thing better than baseball is more baseball,” said Red Wings President/CEO Naomi Silver. “This unique season, and month, is one we’ll be taking about for years to come. Everyone will want to say they were a part of it.”

To encourage as many people to take part as possible, the team is incentivizing attendance throughout the month of May (despite spell-check informing me that “incentivizing” is not a word).

Fans attending one game a week during Baseball Month in Rochester will be entered into a drawing for the chance to win the grand prize of a one-year lease on a 2012 Toyota Camry.

Other prizes include lunch with Red Wings coaching staff, spending an inning in the broadcast booth, a team-signed jersey, and much more.

Let’s end with a picture of food! The Myrtle Beach Pelicans are serving “Chicken Bog Balls” at the ballpark this year, which really should be endorsed by legendary poultry consumer Wade Boggs.

Read all about Bog Balls here, and tell ’em Ben’s Biz sent ya. Assuming, that is, that someone asks.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Minor League MegaBytes!

Tuesday’s post began with the Erie SeaWolves and their quest to name a nine-foot tall inflatable fish. But exercises in the assignation of aquatic monikers are certainly not exclusive to remote corners of the Keystone State.

In Pensacola, the fledgling Blue Wahoos are currently staging a “Name the Mascot” contest. I’m not sure if this mascot is himself a fish, but at the very least his silhouette looks a tad platypus-ian.

The six finalists are as follows: The six finalists are: Blu, Capt. Catch, Salty, Sinker, Ono (Hawaiian for Wahoo), Kazoo.

I’d advise against the name Ono, because then the mascot will immediately be blamed if the team stops functioning well as a group. (Although, the team could give away “Plastic Ono” figurines).

Moving on to another news item with aquatic undertones — Did you know that season 3 of the HBO show Eastbound and Down was filmed in Myrtle Beach, with baseball scenes taking place at Pelicans stadium? It’s true, and the Pelicans are capitalizing by selling “Myrtle Beach Mermen” merchandise (or “Mermerch,” as I like to call it). 

Officially licensed “Mermerch” is also available at myrtlebeachmermenjerseys.com, a site that gets extra alliteration points for referring to Mr. Powers as “mercurial.” Visitors to the site are greeted with the following image, which looks like a hallucinating sailor’s interpretation of a ’70s era Seattle Mariners logo:

The show wrapped up filming for the third season just last month, and Pelicans broadcaster Joel Godett spent some time on the set as an extra:

Extra! Extra!

Godett thoroughly recapped the experience on his blog, which can be seen HERE.

As you can see, the crowd was really into it:

While MB Mermen gear is all well and good, it’s another piece of MB clothing that really has caught my attention.

The Montgomery Biscuits are now offering this spiffy little number in adult sizes.

Butter Up!

People are giving Bill Simmons flak because he didn’t wear a tie when he interviewed Obama, but it is my promise to you that if I ever snag a POTUS exclusive I will show up at the White House wearing the above item (also: a fanny pack, flip flops, Akron Aeros gym shorts, and a Reading Phillies’ Richie Ashburn-style fedora. I’ve got this all planned out).

And since I’m on the “MB” theme (I didn’t plan on this theme, it’s just that my mind cannot be stopped and is in fact threatening to eat me alive as if I was some sort of anthropomorphic biscuit), my latest Minoring in Business article appeared today on MiLB.com.

It’s on the Florida State League and Spring Training, and can be seen HERE.

Next week I plan to get a bit more substantive on the blog — as it’s 2012 planning time! As always, I look forward to your suggestions as to where I should go and why.

But, for now, I’ll close this blogging week by providing an  happy update on a tragic situation from a few weeks back.

Lake Elsinore Storm mascot Thunder’s stolen quad has been recovered!

Reports the team:

Lake Elsinore Storm mascot Thunder is happy to have his quad back but it looks like it will need a little bit of help before he can come roaring out for game day festivities.
Last Wednesday, the team filed a police report with the local sheriff’s department that the mascot’s quad had been stolen.
After Director of Mascot Operations Patrick Gardenier retrieved the quad from the Riverside Sheriff’s station on Sunday it was found to be a bit more damaged than expected.
“They painted it all black and walked away with the ignition, the tail light, and the wheels are not aligned properly,” said Gardenier. “I hope we can get it fixed in time for the Major League exhibition game.”

In honor of this positive development, I would suggest that the Storm offer a special four-game “Quad Ticket Pack.” A portion of each sales will go to Thunder’s quad refurbishment.

And with that, another Minor League promo idea disappears into the Biz Blog vortex. Never to be spoken of again.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

The Year in Ballpark Food, Part II

Yesterday’s culinary compendium included copious coverage of ballpark food and regional cuisine, focusing on trips I made to Arizona, California, Ohio and Indiana.

The journey continues today, with a heavy emphasis on what may have been my favorite road trip of 2011: the Carolinas. It all started at Joseph P. Riley ballpark, the home of the Charleston RiverDogs. This is a team that has provided me with plenty of food-based news items through the years (Homewreckers! Pickle Dogs! Pig On A Stick!), and I was excited to finally make my first visit.

The team was ready for me.

Back Row: Pickle Dog, Boiled Peanuts, Palmetto Beer, Kitchen Sink Nachos Front Row: Pimento Pickle Burger, RiverDog (topped with cole slaw, mustard-based BBQ sauce, pickled okra), Pig on a Stick (foot-long corn dog wrapped in bacon).

Not the best photo, I know, but hopefully indicative of the RiverDogs’ bountiful array of creative food options. Oh, and a Philly Cheesesteak Brat eventually made an appearance.

Here’s a better view of the top-loaded “Kitchen Sink Nachos,” which are served in a pizza box.

But I focused my efforts primarily on the Pickle Dog, making sure to grip the pickle firmly from the rear so that the hot dog would not slip out.

The next day I drove to Myrtle Beach (home of both the Pelicans and the Mermen),  and en route I stopped for lunch at “Hog Heaven BBQ.” Apparently, what passes for heaven in the mind of a pig is an afterlife of eternal cannibalization.

Dismayed and confused by this concept, I instead opted for some crab.


I was admonished by various quarters for ordering seafood at a BBQ joint, and I understand those criticisms. But here in NYC a platter such as the above is (relatively) hard to come by, and I have no regrets. None!

I stayed with the seafood theme at that night’s Pelicans game, ordering up some fried clams.

The following afternoon, en route to Kinston, I went to a BBQ joint and actually ordered some BBQ. Bart’s was the name.

BBQ pork platter, with hush puppies, french fries, cole slaw and a personal pitcher of sweet tea

At Grainger Stadium that evening, I followed the recommendation of GM Ben Jones and ordered a Philly Cheese Steak, North Carolina style. “Magnifique!” is what I imagine a French fan of Carolina League baseball would say upon biting into the following:

Are there any French fans of Minor League Baseball out there? What a rare subset of fans that must be.

Much less rare is the sight of a Bojangles fried chicken joint in the state of North Carolina. As I was making my way from Kinston to Durham, I patronized the following establishment.

Being a man of perpetual movement, at that night’s Durham Bulls game I ordered a Doritos-brand “Walking Taco.”

That’s nacho typical taco, but it provided all the sustenance I needed until the following morning’s stop at Biscuitville.

Less than two hours later, I patronized another regional fast food chain: Cookout. I’ve since heard from many Cookout aficionados, all of whom insisted that milkshakes should be purchased. Duly noted, but this time around I ended up with a Cheerwine float.

One of the highlights of the following day’s travels was lunch at Zack’s Hot Dogs, a Burlington, N.C. institution.

Since I’m always a proponent of a balanced and healthy diet, the hot dog lunch was followed by a bologna burger at that evening’s Danville Braves game.

The last stop on the Carolina excursion was Winston-Salem. A pre-game meal was obtained a Bibb’s BBQ, located a proverbial hop, skip, and jump away from BB&T Ballpark (domicile of the Dash). And what a meal it was:

That’s about all she wrote from the Carolinas; but fortunately I was able to squeeze one more trip into the 2011 campaign: Maryland, home of the crab pretzel!

More specifically, the home of the cheese and crustacean-laden snack seen above was Aberdeen’s Ripken Stadium.  But perhaps an even more anomalous ballpark treat is that which can be found at Hagerstown’s Municipal Stadium: pickled beet eggs!

The Hagerstown Suns experienced some drama this past season, when a light pole fell onto the field during a storm. This is where the light pole used to stand…or is it? Maybe this mark was made by a huge pickled egg!

Or maybe a huge Krumpe’s donut used to lie on that spot! After the game I went to nearby Krumpe’s Do-Nuts (open 8 p.m. to 2 a.m.) and picked up a few.

My trip, as well as my season of traveling, ended the next day in Delmarva. Needless to say, I did not leave Arthur W. Perdue Stadium on an empty stomach.

That was dinner, consisting of a “Chessie Dog” (half-pound frank with cheese, onions, peppers), Crab Dip (with three bread dipping sticks), and a Scrapple sandwich. But there’s always room for dessert, especially when it’s as appealing as the concoction known as “Sherman’s Gelati.”

And that, as they say, was that. I hope you enjoyed, or at least tolerated, this trip down recent memory lane. It provided me yet another opportunity to revive a season which is in actuality dead as the proverbial doornail, and for that I am grateful.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Recapping A Confabulous Weekend in Myrtle Beach

As mentioned in the previous post on the blog, I spent this past weekend at the 2011 Minor League Baseball Promotional Seminar in Myrtle Beach.

The above photo encapsulates why it can be difficult to cover these sort of events: pictures of hotel conference rooms trade show mingling just aren’t very exciting. Nonetheless, it’s important for me to socialize with those in the industry, and to get a gauge on promotional techniques and concepts that may be popular in 2012 and beyond.

I wrote about the seminar in two MiLB stories, which can be found HERE and HERE. Unbiased third parties report that interesting information abounds in these fact-laden Myrtle Beach missives.

One of the topics touched upon is the Lake Elsinore Storm’s Grounds Crew Gorilla, winner of the 2011 “Golden Bobblehead” for “best in-game promotion.” The Gorilla made a cameo appearance at the seminar, attacking attendees with pool noodles and overturning the speaker’s table. My best attempt to document this chaotic moment:

Certainly, the Grounds Crew Gorilla was one of the highlights of my May visit to a  Lake Elsinore Storm game.

Meanwhile, at the Trade Show, Trampolines USA was selling their “Pony Hops.” These things swept through the Minor League landscape last season, and I imagine that there will be even more teams using them in 2012.

The roster of the mighty Skillville Group was on display as well, bathed in beatific blue light.

But I think this mascot was my favorite part of the trade show, a costumed creature available to the highest bidder during Saturday night’s silent auction.

At the time I took this picture, the Danville Braves were the highest (and only) bidder. I’ll have to check to see if they won, because I’d love to see this dazed and confused character at an Appalachian League baseball game.

On Sunday night, there was an industry outing to Ripken Baseball’s Myrtle Beach Baseball complex. My lens was dirty in the following photo, but I like the effect.

This marks the second time this month I was at a Ripken Baseball youth complex, with my first outing taking place in conjunction with an Aberdeen IronBirds game.

According to my hastily-scribbled notes (the only kind of notes I’ve ever made), the Myrtle Beach complex is a 10-month a year operation and devoted almost exclusively to youth, high school and collegiate baseball tournaments. There are three regulation-sized diamonds and five youth size, all on synthetic turf.

Here’s Griffith Field, where an estimated 2500 games have been played over the past six years.

All synthetic everything, even the “dirt.”

A few more shots of the surroundings, some of them taken from the back of a moving golf cart.

From there the festivities moved on to Myrtle Beach’s BB&T Coastal Ballpark, home of the Myrtle Beach Pelicans. I had visited there in late July, but was happy to be back.

Upon entering, we were greeted with some very welcome sights.

1. Popcorn and boiled peanuts!

My two best friends

2. Beer, as poured through the Bottoms Up beer dispenser (yes, they fill from the bottom. Magnets are key). Needless to say this was good marketing, using this product in full view of curious (and endlessly thirsty) industry decision-makers.

You may recall that when I was in Myrtle Beach I interviewed noted groundskeeper Chris “Butter” Ball, during which he observed that he keeps “extreme banker’s hours” in the offseason.

Well, this offseason might be a little different:

Coming in 2012: New Playing Surface!

A buffet-style meal was set up in the right field picnic area, while down the left field line attendees could play corn hole and test their arms at the speed pitch.

As is too often the case, the demands of attending and covering an event such as the seminar leaves little time for exploring the area. But I’d like to close with this shot, as it features a business that has found a way to carry on amidst Myrtle Beach’s proliferation of neon-hued dining palaces and soul-destroying theme bars.

Harry’s Breakfast Pancakes — RIP Harry!

Next time I got to Myrtle Beach, this will be first on my list of places to check out.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Return to the Road: A Lowcountry Landmark and Coastal Cuisine

When I’m on the road visiting Minor League ballparks, time is short and the days are long. I do my best to document as much as I can, but inevitably much of the non-baseball related content gets lost in the shuffle.

But my pledge, as always, is to get to it eventually. After all, one of the joys of going on Minor League road trips is that they provide a reason to explore towns large and small that one otherwise not think to visit. In this regard, Minor League Baseball serves as a portal to a near infinite array of distinctly American experiences.  I just wish I could experience more of them!

With all this in mind, here are some leftover observations and images from my recent trip through the Carolinas.

Day One — Charleston

As mentioned in my post on the RiverDogs, I was fortunate enough to fire my first shot of the road trip at Fort Sumter.

I was only able to visit for about 20 minutes, but obviously this a must-see for American history buffs. The first shots of the Civil War were fired on this waterfront locale, by Confederate troops seeking to drive the U.S. army out of the fort.

That was 150 years ago. Here’s what the fort looks like today.

That was all I was able to do when it came to extraneous Charleston excursions. That I night I attended the game, getting stuffed with hot dogs before dressing up as one, and the next day it was off to Myrtle Beach.

For those who have actually explored Charleston — what places would you recommend visiting, and why? Feel free to send pictures, if applicable.

Day Two — En Route to Myrtle Beach

Always in a rush, I am, on these trips, but, regardless, I greatly enjoyed the comparatively leisurely paced drive to Myrtle Beach. As opposed to an efficient but homogeneous interstate route, the trip is made onl Route 17 aka “The Coastal Highway.” The road is awash with basket vendors and BBQ joints, and I stopped for lunch here.

Welcome to  Hog Heaven BBQ, possessing an exterior brandished with this unforgettable image.

The restaurant’s motto is “Where it’s not just BBQ”, and I took that to heart. While the $6.95 lunch buffet was reasonably priced and well-stocked, I couldn’t resist the chance for some fresh crab. The meat contained therein tasted heavenly, leading to a level of contentment comparable to that felt by a heavy-lidded pig cannibalizing itself in the afterlife.

Before

After

But as for Myrtle Beach proper, what I’ve written about the experience is all I’ve got. What’d I miss?

Onward, to North Carolina!

Day Three — En Route to Kinston

Traveling from Myrtle Beach to Kinston meant another strong dose of Route 17. On this leg of the trip, the lunch stop of choice was Bart’s BBQ.

A BBQ pork plate (vinegar based sauce), hush puppies, cole slaw, crinkle cut fries, and a pitcher of tea for under $10. A truly excellent bargain.

While this is all I have from Day 3, things picked up considerably over the following four days. Still to come: two classic stadiums, a baseball museum, fast food joints, a massive low-brow shopping emporium, and various incarnations of Cheerwine soda.

I’ll get to it eventually,

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

On the Road: At Home Amongst the Tourists in Myrtle Beach

The Myrtle Beach Pelicans do not play in a typical Minor League market. Not by a long shot.

On the plus side, Myrtle Beach is a region inundated with tourists and therefore the team can market themselves to an ever-changing fan base with ample discretionary income. But, conversely, there is a lot of competition for that entertainment dollar (Helicopter Rides! Ripley’s Believe it or Not! The Carolina Opry!)

I mean, there was some sort of amusement park right outside of  my hotel.

Abandoned Ship!

The Pelicans’ BB&T Coastal Field, built in 1999, fits right into the beachy environs.

Upon arriving at the stadium, I did a few player interviews with my trusty Flipcam. I realize these might not be the best, quality wise, but I do enjoy being able to get a sense of who the players are as people (and hope you do as well). And, almost to a man, they are very friendly and generous with their time.  This go-round, I spoke with the uber-convivial trio of Barrett Loux, Jared Hoyer, and  Robbie Ross.

And did you know that the Pelicans have three outfielders named Jared on their team? For the sake of obscure baseball fact junkies such as myself, I hope that one day they all play out there together at the same time.

But I digress. After talking to the players, I ran into my good friend Duffman.

Oh Yeah!

Duffman was one of many costumed characters at the ballpark, as part of the Pelicans’ “Superhero” theme night. It was also, appropriately enough, Thirsty Thursday.

While the concourse was empty in the early going, the beer lines were packed.

And for good reason — time was a wastin’!

Suggested prank: turn clock on the outfield wall back three hours

As part of the pre-game “festivities”, I did both a pre-game radio interview and then an on-field Q&A with Pelicans media relations director/radio announcer Tyler Maun. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — hearing your own voice on a delay over a stadium loudspeaker is a highly disconcerting experience.

Maun and I took turns making ridiculous faces.


The pre-game activities also included Catwoman interviewing a local baseball coach.

While outfielder Travis Adair took it upon himself to learn a new trade. Maybe he had wanted a better view of Catwoman?

Meanwhile, mascot Splash burst onto the field to a roar of applause.

Pelican do spirit

During the exchange of the line-up cards, the umpires moderated a spirited debate between Pelicans manager Jake Wood and Blue Rocks skipper Brian Rupp about the proper way to wear one’s uniform pants.

Incidentally, after making my way back into the stands the mother of field umpire Ben Leake (on right) introduced herself to me and suggested that I do a piece on Minor League umpires. I told her that I already have — here it is, Mrs. Leake.

Once our country had been properly saluted, the game got underway. As I am wont to do in such situations, I commenced to wandering.

Sweet Carolina League All-Star game duds in the team store:

Business was booming at the “Pitcher’s Mound” and the “Bullpen Grille.”

Just past the Grille was this classic bit of Americana, the game within the game:

An ownership group led by Chuck Greenberg bought the Pelicans prior to the 2007 campaign, a transaction that led to a more creative and regionally appropriate ballpark atmosphere. For instance, what had once been bleacher seating down the right field line is now the “Contract Data Beach.”

Bleachers remain in left field, however.

But I’m a man of discerning tastes, disdainful of the hoi polloi. Therefore, I made my way to an ultra-exclusive seating area: the groundskeeper’s balcony perch overlooking right field.

While there, I interviewed noted turf-tender Chris “Butter” Ball. Read it on MiLB.com! Please!

To get to Butter’s lair, one must pass underneath the Pelican bullpen. I did so hastily, wary of the projectiles being endlessly spit forth from that particular area.

Having safely arrived back among the rabble, I ordered my dinner for the evening: a fried clam strip basket. I was told that the team has been offering a lobster sandwich this season, but Thursday was end of an eight-game homestand and they were nowhere to be found.

So fried clams it was.

The fried clam strips were great — perfect breading to clam ratio and possessing an excellent crispness. The fries, however, were a bit on the bland and mushy side.

And speaking of mushy (but never bland), I was then moved to order some boiled peanuts. In a nutshell: I love these things. Absolutely love ’em. When I was in Alabama last year I bought a microwavable pouch of boiled peanuts at a gas station, but in the northeast they’re next to impossible to find.

As I enjoyed the various comestibles, I took in some of the game (for a change).

The Pelicans’ staff did a great job with the Superhero theme throughout — a nice touch was that each home player was assigned a super hero scoreboard graphic and theme song.

While Superman was at-bat, Batman was in the stands and signing autographs galore. His energy never Wayne-d when it came to this task.

My attempts to document the nightly crab race were similarly blurry. My suggestion — add an elderly crab to the race and name him “Grandfather Claws.”

Green Crab did not win, but at least he got some face time with Poison Ivy.

More importantly, the home team ended up with a come-from-behind victory.

But as you are no doubt well aware, the end of a game does not mean the end of the evening. Deuce the canine mascot came out for a “victory lap,” and disappointed me by not even defecating once.

Deuce was followed by the post-game launch-a-ball…

which was followed by fireworks…

which was followed by kids running the bases.

Only then was it time to go home. And home, in this case, was located next to an endlessly pendulating pirate ship.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Wilco Warmly Welcomed in Kane County

Let’s start this blogging week where the last one ended — in Kane County IL, home of the Cougars.

The team staged a fireworks show following Saturday’s game, which in and of itself is of course nothing new. But what set this particular show apart was that it was accompanied by the music of local alt-country heroes Wilco.  Cougars director of public relations Shawn Touney, who estimates that he’s seen over 200 fireworks shows during his time with the team, writes that Saturday’s show was “real, authentic Americana at its finest.”

It’s easy to say “Who cares? Fireworks are fireworks,” but that’s missing the point. The Wilco-themed show generated local and national press (yes, I just linked to myself), and the band promoted it to their 400,000+ fans on Facebook. Wilco also sent over shirts and tote bags to be distributed at the ballpark. Writes Touney:  “[W]e asked fans walking by our Customer Service Booth if they had heard of Wilco. Many had not and gave us a quizzical look….The ones who were enthused at the mere mention? They got a free t-shirt and/or reusable grocery bag.”

The endless variety of music available on the internet, and the ease with which it can be obtained, has led to an unprecedentedly fragmented pop landscape. As such, there are many bands (like Wilco) who have built up large followings without quite becoming household names. The Cougars’ success with their Wilco show will hopefully inspire other teams to think beyond “Popular” and “Patriotic” soundtracks, instead recognizing artists that can be easy to overlook in a mainstream sports context. Music fans are nothing if not passionate — why not tap into that passion and establish some “indie cred” in the process? (Just keep it family-friendly, of course. Maryland has a rich doom metal history, but I don’t think we’re going to see a “Salute to Spirit Caravan” night at a Bowie Baysox game anytime soon.)

Perhaps the ultimate in fan-friendly is Myrtle Beach Pelicans pitching coach Brad Holman, who has made a habit in recent years of serenading fans with his signature ballpark tune.

It is called, appropriately enough, “The Loyal Fan”. Here he is in Myrtle Beach last week, backed up by an easily-distracted cadre of players. Great stuff!

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Innovations, Incendiary and Otherwise

sugenight.jpgFireworks displays are a tried and true Minor League Baseball entertainment staple and an absolutely crucial component of most promotional schedules. Nonetheless, I don’t write about them often because there quite simply isn’t much to say.

Still, I have to note the following: The Toledo Mud Hens will be staging 31 (!!!) fireworks shows this season — Starting May 6, the team will launch pyrotechnics after every weekend night game as well as a midweek display on June 22.

Can any team top this total? The runner-up, so far as I can tell, is the Reading Phillies with 29 shows. 

Keeping with the topic of fireworks, the Kane County Cougars (employers of “Mr. Kaboom”) recently unveiled theircougars.gif Fireworks Theme Night Music for the entire 2011 season. In addition to generic entries such as “patriotic” and “popular”, the team will also be staging explosive tributes to Star Trek, Harry Potter, Wilco, Coldplay, and Star Wars. But my favorite fireworks theme night that I’ve come across hails all the way from Jupiter, as the Hammerheads will be cranking out the AC/DC on July 2. If any other teams have released such info then make sure to send it my way. 

And speaking of fire, I’d like to note that stuntman Ted Batchelor will be taking his act to Myrtle Beach on April 9. As you’ll no doubt recall, Batchelor is the peerless individual who ran the bases while on fire in Savannah last season. I have it on good authority that Myrtle Beach won’t be the only ballpark in which he appears this season, but don’t want to steal the thunder from any teams who have yet to announce an imminent Batchelor appearance.

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Myrtle Beach has a few other noteworthy promos on the schedule — notably the first-ever “Eastbound and Down” theme night as well as a “Salute to Rec Specs” celebration. Hopefully this image will make its way on to the scoreboard that evening:

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But those who enjoy more narcissistic promotional endeavors will thrill to what the Fresno Grizzlies are giving away on April 9 — the Self-Bobblehead T-Shirt. Put it on and get to noddin':

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It goes without saying that posts such as today’s are the result of long hours perusing team’s promo schedules, a task that sometimes yields unexpected hilarity. Case in point: On July 30, a team that will remain anonymous is staging “Tribute to Michael Jackson” along with a “Boy Scout Sleepover.”

Oops…

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

A Quartet of Gastronomical Pursuits

lobby.jpgWhen it comes to covering concessions, I make no concessions. I will scour the furthest reaches of the internet in search of Minor League food news, so that you may read about it within the comfort and safety of this blog.

Here are four items of interest, which, taken together, amply illustrate the democratic ideals that are at the heart of the Minor League Baseball experience.

West Michigan Whitecaps Want Ideas! For the second straight year, the Whitecaps are asking fans to suggest new Fifth Third Ballpark menu items.In 2010, this endeavor yielded the Yooper sandiwch as well as the spectacularly-named Declaration of Indigestion:
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Sez the team: The food idea submissions will be whittled down to approximately 10 finalists, and starting February 22 fans will be able to vote for their choice on the new 2011 concessions items. Voting will take place on the Whitecaps website, whitecapsbaseball.com, and will end March 4. The winning entry will be on the menu for all fans to enjoy.

Clash of the Concessions in Durham: The Durham Bulls are offering fans the chance todurhamb.gif “create, select, and win” a new food item to be served at the ballpark in 2011.

Sez the team: Clash of the Concessions will allow fans to submit their ideas or recipes from now until February 18th for a new food item at the DBAP for the 2011 season. The Bulls will select the three best ideas, then make them available for the fans to sample and vote on at Fanfest on March 4th and 5th at the ballpark. The winning submission will become the new featured item at the ballpark this summer and the person who made the submission will win a season’s worth of the new food item!

The press release doesn’t specify what constitutes a “season’s worth”, however. My guess is that the Bulls will use the highly complex formula of 1×72, in which one represents the food item and 72 represents the number of home games on the schedule.

Myrtle Beach Pelicans Want ‘Home Run Recipes: The Pelicans have announced a contest that will be overseen by food and beverage director Brad Leininger, who “is inviting his colleagues to submit recipes that would appeal to
baseball fans. The dishes much be quick and easy to prepare and simple for hungry Pelicans fans to consume while sitting in a stadium seat. Recipes that exhibit regional flair are encouraged.”

Leininger will select five finalists, who will then go head-to-head at a competition held at the stadium. The winner receives Pelicans tickets and merchandise, as well as advertising in prominent local news publications. 

My suggestion would be a deep-fried hard-boiled egg:

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Sacramento River Cats To Stage Celebrity Chef Night: The River Cats unveiled their chefhat.jpgjam-packed promo schedule yesterday, and to my eyes June 11’s “Celebrity Chef Night” was the one that stood out. Details are scant at this point, but the team does note that “Celebrity Chefs will take over a concession stand.”

My guess is that this night will be part of an emerging trend in 2011, one inspired by the Frederick Keys quite amazing “Volt Night” last season.

Got a lead on interesting 2011 concession items? Drop me a virtual line:

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

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