Results tagged ‘ North Johnson ’

On the Road: In Gwinnett To Win It

I didn’t utilize the above headline simply because it rhymed, because as a recent comment on this post points out it doesn’t rhyme (unless you want to pronounced “it” as “et”, as I often do).

No, I really was in Gwinnett in order to win it. “It”, in this case, being the “Termites In Your Pants” between-inning contest. This exhibition of bug-catching skill takes place nightly at Coolray Field, and on Saturday I was the chosen contestant.

Before playing, the amicable on-field MC explained the rules.

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In a nutshell, I had to put on a pair of oversized pants and then catch stuffed termites in said pants. These termites were launched into the air via a slingshot wielded by a member of the team’s promotional staff. I was going to be given five opportunities, and had to catch at least three to win.

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And win I did, catching three over my first four opportunities.

You’ve been a great audience. Good night!

I kid, of course. For all we are saying good night to right now are my innate narcissistic tendencies. I’ve got plenty more to include on Gwinnett’s Coolray Field — a truly beautiful facility that offers beaucoup amenities and plenty of room in which to move.

It is also offers one of the best sandwiches you’ll find anywhere: the Knucksie (named in honor of Atlanta Braves knuckleballer Phil Neikro). It was created by executive chef Blake Stembridge, who is “Pro Chef II Certified”. I don’t know what that means, exactly, but I believe this fact illustrates the G-Braves’ proclivity for transcending expectations. Yes, I know I’m a sycophant by nature, but Coolray Field is really and truly an outstanding Minor League Baseball experience.

So anyway, the Knucksie: “House smoked pulled BBQ pork piled high with pickle chips, caramelized onions, two kinds of BBQ sauce, and coleslaw, and served on a toasted corn muffin.”

I got one:

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Now that I’ve talked about food and termites, let’s move on to the stadium itself. G-Braves general manager North Johnson gave me a tour, starting in a private drinking and dining section reserved for members of the “Home Plate Club” (a season ticket seating area located directly behind home plate).

One of the coolest things about the Home Plate Club is that it includes a window that directly looks into the batting cages. When I walked by, Freddie Freeman and Jordan Schafer were getting some work in.

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Moving on, we checked out the home clubhouse and weight room:

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Traveling upstairs, this area gives those watching the game from a suite the chance to eat, drink, and commingle:

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The Best Seats in the House:

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Suite Kitchen:

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The production room featured some state-of-the-art equipment, which this photograph largely fails to convey. I do my best:

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The scoreboard:

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Those who work in Minor League Baseball are used to cramped working conditions, making the G-Braves’ digs capable of inducing considerable pangs of jealousy. Check out the break room and conference room:

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There turned out to be an excellent crowd for Saturday’s game:

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They watched the visiting Scranton-Wilkes/Barre Yankees edge the Braves by a score of 2-1.

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But despite the disappointing result, there was plenty of entertainment to be had (like this between-inning contest in which the contestants had to play dodgeball after running a dizzy bat race):

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Those in the crowded berm area didn’t seem to be paying too much attention to the game anyway, lounging on blankets while the kids played in the truly hallucinogenic inflatables:

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Coolray really is a beautiful park. I was as smitten as a kitten in a mitten sitting with Donner and Blitzen on Thanksgiving.

And when sentences like that pour out of me unprovoked, I know it’s time to call it a night. After playing a little post-game “Launch-A-Ball”, of course:

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Time to get a little sleep before hopping into the rented Mercedes with Texas plates and driving to Greenville.

See you there!

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

Expressions of Grief, Longing, and Expectation

Thumbnail image for mbpelicans.jpgA lot of great Valentine’s Day promotions have been coming down the pike as of late, and I am tempted to put together a post on the subject.

But then I remind myself that it is not yet February, and that Valentine’s Day can wait. But what cannot wait are the following objects of interest, all of which must be dealt with in an expedient manner.

So let the ruthless efficiency begin.

The Minor League Baseball world was rocked (or at least gently nudged) by last week’s news that Myrtle Beach Pelicans GM North Johnson had been hired by the Gwinnett Braves. The Pelicans will not let North go gently into that good night, however, as evidenced by the farewell video that they put together in his honor. This is some serious staff loyalty: 

My favorite part of the video occurs at 2:03, as that has to be the least convincing pantomimed phone conversation that I have ever seen. And I’ve seen a lot.

Following North’s lead, let us now move in a southwesterly direction. Our destination is Tulsa, where the Drillers continue to woo Conan O’Brien. Yesterday, hard-hat wearing team president Chuck Lamson got in on the act. Check it out HERE.

I made reference to Conan’s farewell speech at the end of yesterday’s post, namely the following line: Please do not be cynical…Nobody in life gets exactly what they
thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard, and you’re
kind, amazing things will happen. 

This attitude is personified by Julio Osegueda, the young Floridian who attained celebrity as ajuliogame.jpg result of his enthusiastic questioning of President Obama at a town hall meeting last February. This led the Fort Myers Miracle to offer him a broadcasting gig, a development I covered HERE and HERE. I spoke with Julio before I wrote both articles, and was struck by his positivity and earnestness. That’s why I was glad to see THIS, in which Julio reflects on Obama’s first year in office as well as the changes in his own life.

One thing that Julio and his fellow Fort Myersinians don’t need to worry about is wintry weather, which the Iowa Cubs have experienced in abundance this month. You may recall last week’s pictures of Principal Park covered in ice. Well, now the club has made a commercial that juxtaposes winter woes with springtime bliss:
 

In conclusion, let me point out that the Richmond Flying Squirrels released their 2010 giveaway schedule today. It is highlighted by a Flying Squirrel Cape, so that you too may look like this.

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