Results tagged ‘ Northwest Arkansas Naturals ’
It’s time to end the blogging week by, yes, once again returning to the road. The last post in the series ended with a wonderful hamburger in Tulsa, and from there I drove on to Springdale in order to attend that evening’s Northwest Arkansas Naturals game. Perhaps you already read about it?
The next day, the plan was to drive from Springdale, AR to Springfield, MO — the home of the Springfield Cardinals. My lunch destination was the AQ Chicken House, which received a glowing recommendation from regular reader/grizzled Minor League traveler/esteemed DJ Rex Doane. The problem was that it was early on Sunday afternoon when I got there, and the place was overflowing with a post-church lunch crowd. I felt self-conscious waiting alone for a table amidst this rollicking social atmosphere, and scrapped my poultry-related plans.
I wish I had gotten to know thee, AQ Chicken House!
At this point it became time to improvise, and I settled on this unassuming Mexican place about 10 minutes down the road.
And you know what you get when you go to an unassuming Mexican restaurant? Unassuming Mexican food! This is never, ever a bad thing, especially when the salsa comes in a carafe.
I ordered a beloved old standby, which, in my new gluten-free reality, will only become more prominent. Huevos Rancheros!
Huevos rancheros gave me the strength I needed to complete the drive to Springfield, and I only stopped once along the way. I just couldn’t resist:
I found the items contained within this alleged village to be exceedingly tacky, and, coming from me, that’s saying a lot.
Upon arriving in Springfield, I checked into the University Plaza hotel. The following note was laid out on the pillow, and while some might be turned off by the overt religiosity I was impressed by its heartfelt and genuine tone. A real rarity in this day and age!
The business that brought me to Springfield did indeed prosper, as that evening I enjoyed a very well-attended Springfield Cardinals game. (And, again, you may have read about it.) The next day, my travel between the eternities included a pit stop in downtown Springfield. A reader had recommended that I check out the Springfield Brewing Company, and who am I to defy a reader recommendation?
This was a cool operation, as beer was indeed brewed onsite.
As for me personally, I felt a bit agitated. As I’ve mentioned several times before, this trip came after my celiac disease diagnosis but before I decided to strictly follow the gluten-free diet that such a disease requires. The menu of heavy beers and upscale bar food didn’t include many gluten-free options at all, and I felt bummed out that in the near future (as in, now) my options at such a place would be severely limited.
But, whatever. I was cheating. Therefore, I ordered an excellent dark beer (forget the name) and the “Brewben” sandwich ($7.95, a great deal!)
The Springfield Brewing Company’s website mentions that their establishment is “an anchor to the re-birth of downtown Springfield” and, indeed, this is a downtown area that is decidedly in flux. While there are many empty and dilapidated storefronts, there are also many creative, risk-taking entrepreneurs involved in a bona fide downtown renaissance.
I was just passing through, as I am wont to do, so I don’t know anything about the history of Springfield or the long-term goals of this ongoing revitalization project (if you do, feel free to leave a comment or send me an email). But I do know I enjoyed wandering around a bit, while sporadically documenting what I saw.
I wish I had done more investigating into this “Robert E. Smith” building (no, it was not named after the Cure singer). It turns out that Robert E. Smith is a “nationally known folk and ‘outsider’ artist.”
I heard that this establishment used to sell Philadelphia Hot Dogs:
This is the Springfield Little Theatre, over 100 years old and still staging live productions.
It took all of my will power not to go into this record store, my favorite type of store in the entire history of stores. But, alas, I was on a tight schedule and, therefore, unable to stick it in my ear.
And what a great entrance way!
Fortunately I was pretty well-stocked with new music as it is. I still buy cds (old habits die hard), and on each trip I give three recent purchases three listens each. Obsessive compulsive much? On this trip, the three honorees were:
– Neil Young and Crazy Horse — Americana
– Grinderman — 2 RMX (this song could not be any more awesome, the 2:20 mark is basically what I want all music to sound like always)
– Late Night Tales Vol.2 compilation, curated by Belle and Sebastian
(and, for my own enjoyment when I’m an old man reading this post, the three albums on the April/May Florida trip were Quakers self-titled, Nicki Minaj “Roman Reloaded,” and Unsane “Wreck.” If anyone ever wants to talk about music, you know where to fine me.)
But anyway! The ride from Springfield to Memphis was a long one, and was highlighted by some of the most low-hanging clouds I’d ever seen.
Pork skins and Mello Yello sustained me throughout, as did unexpected tributes to long-ago baseball greats.
And when I arrived in Memphis late that evening, none other than Jefferson Davis was fronting Deep Purple.
And that’s where we’ll leave off for now. (Sorry for using the royal we, which, really, should be reserved for assent-giving French monarchs).
After the non-stop endurance test that was my night in Tulsa, I could’ve used a breather. But there’s no rest for the wicked, as they say, and, independent of that, there’s no rest for self-pitying Minor League Baseball writers either. So straight outta Tulsa I went — and straight into Northwest Arkansas!
That would be Arvest Ballpark, specifically, the home of the NWA Naturals. Upon pulling into the stadium, I told the parking lot attendant that I was with Minor League Baseball’s website. His response?
“That’s close enough to media. You can go in.”
Folks were lined up early on this fine Saturday evening, milling about the general area and planning their point of entry attack.
The reason for this punctual approach was because it was Eric Hosmer bobblehead night. I realized after the fact that I neglected to get a photo of this item, and part of my excuse for that is because bobblehead giveaways are really boring. I’m not knocking bobbleheads themselves (that would be like a prominent pontiff saying he’s not all that into mass), it’s just that as a promotion it involves a bunch of people forming a line and, eventually, being handed a white cardboard box. The bobbleheads themselves are rarely seen.
The vagaries of my schedule had precluded me from attending the night before, when the Naturals staged a promotion I was really and truly interested in: a “What Might Have Been” theme night in which they imagined that they were known as the “Thunder Chickens” (the runner-up in a 2007 “Name the Team” contest). An in-depth piece on the promo, which you will surely read and tell your friends and family about, can currently be found over on MiLB.com. But let it be known that the players took the field in these jerseys:
Meanwhile, Thunder Chickens hats and t-shirts were available in the team store (and only in the team store, in a run of 125 for the hats and 250 for the shirts). When I was there on Saturday, the only hats left were in “off” sizes such as this Bruce Bochy-esque 8.
The shirts were a bit more plentiful.
My first game day duty on this particular trip was to interview pitcher Steven Dwyer in the home dugout. From there I was summoned to the home radio booth to be the interviewee, as part of broadcaster Steven Davis’ pre-game show. This was my third radio appearance in as many stops, and I am currently 5-for-6 on this still on-going trip.
The view from the booth.
As you can see from the photo, Arvest Ballpark is surrounded by, well, not much. The facility, owned by the city of Springdale, AR, was envisioned as the centerpiece of a larger development project that has not yet materialized. So, for better or for worse, coming to Arvest Ballpark simply means coming to Arvest Ballpark. There aren’t any peripheral complementary entertainment options.
Upon finishing my interview (in which, upon review, I found myself to be kind of a jerk) I did a 360 degree lap around the outside of the stadium.
Nobody here but us Thunder Chickens!
I couldn’t help but wonder how the occupants of this home felt, living directly across the street from a stadium.
Now how’s this for a spacious berm? It’s a nice place to relax, for the short term (“Weekend at Bermies”) or long (“Bermanent Vacation”).
To my right (baseball field left), I was pleased to see a team-sanctioned Wiffle Ball game in full swing.
Then it was back inside the ballpark, for a little pre-game wandering prior to the first pitch.
Weighing the options:
The long and (not-so) winding road leads to both inflatables and a playground, depending on which way you take it.
Warming up for the game, as the kids look on:
The National Anthem was pretty cool, as the performer whistled it. (I’ll try to confirm the guy’s name, in my notes it looks something like “Stephen Spino.”)
With the game underway, I took a tour of the ballpark with GM Eric Edelstein.
The “Community Room,” available for your next board meeting.
I didn’t even use the fish-eye effect for this locker room shot:
The weighting game? (Maybe you can come up with something better. Why do I have to do all of the heavy lifting?)
But the subterranean wanderings soon came to an end, in favor of an extended stint at “The Cider Shack.”
Concessions are handled by the Patina Restaurant Group, and the Naturals are the only Minor League team in their portfolio. There is some seriously high-quality stuff on offer, just check out this triumvirate of a bbq brisket platter, funnel dog, and BBQ Nachos.
The brisket is one of several BBQ platters available in the Cider Shack (which, incidentally, is located down the right field line). Everything but the slaw is housemade.
The Funnel Dog is one of the team’s signature items, and has garnered attention across the land in various “crazy Minor League food items” articles that end up plagiarizing off of each other in an infinite internet loop. The story behind it is that one of the grounds crew members wanted a corn dog for his birthday, and since the chef didn’t have corn dog batter he used funnel cake batter instead. It went over well, initially, but it wasn’t until the inspired addition of powdered sugar that it became a sensation.
I wasn’t expecting to like the funnel dog, but it works! Edelstein said that some fans put mustard on it, and I tried it that way as well. The mustard gave a tart counterbalance to the sweetness of the funnel cake, but, ultimately, I decided that I liked it unadorned.
But the piece de resistance was the BBQ Nachos, possibly the best nachos I’ve ever had at a ballpark. This is a work of art: avocado cream sauce, mango, red pepper, scallions, pulled pork, sour cream, and a few other things (my notes at this point in the evening were too sloppy even for me to read, and stained with BBQ sauce).
So, yeah, BBQ Nachos at Arvest Park are now on my “best Minor League food” short list. As soon as I make such a list.
While the food tasting was going on, the Naturals ran one of their nightly adoptable dog promotions. A dog from one of two local shelters is taken on to the field, in the hopes of finding him or her a home. The program has been very successful, and has certainly saved the lives of abandoned pets who would otherwise be euthanized. Edelstein later sent this photo to me, taken last month. He wrote that the dog in the photo “was from the Rogers Shelter so this family took custody at the game and went home with their new family member that day…Pit bulls are so tough to get adopted once they enter a shelter, so this one made me especially happy.“
The Naturals are a very animal-friendly team in general, and I’ll have more on that in tomorrow’s “Farm’s Almanac” piece on MiLB.com. For example — groundskeeper Monty Sowell always comes to work with Ruby, a 12-year-old black lab. In this photo, she couldn’t be bothered to look at the camera and I don’t really blame her.
Ruby is well-known around the ballpark, a bonafide canine celebrity. These items, in fact, are hot sellers in the team store. Ruby dolls!
Lest the evening go totally to the dogs, I adjourned to the press box and eavesdropped on a passionate debate regarding arcane scorekeeping decisions.
While I was up there, the following graphic was displayed on the scoreboard while an instrumental track from founding NWA member Dr. Dre played over the sound system. Coincidence?
This leads to an interesting debate — if you ran the Northwest Arkansas Naturals, would you incorporate “NWA” into your logo in the hopes that the hats and jerseys would be worn as a hip-hop/pop-culture fashion statement? You couldn’t market it as such, obviously (given NWA’s lyrical content, not to mention the acronym itself), but it could be a nice way to boost merchandise revenue. The long-rumored NWA biopic is apparently moving forward, so the group’s exposure is only going to increase…
But I digress, and while digressing the game nearly came to an end. I took this picture of Strike the Sasquatch when the Naturals were on the cusp of victory. Two outs and two strikes in the ninth, and then a pitch that was called a ball that just missed the plate. Strike looked incredulous, but then again this is how he always looks:
But the borderline call merely delayed the inevitable: a home team win.
Afterward, the bat boy hung around to sign autographs (yes, this is really the bat boy).
And with Hosmer bobbleheads in hand and BBQ nachos in belly, the crowd streamed toward the Arvest moon.
Toward the end of the season, several teams are staging “Bobblection” promotions in which fans get to choose either an Obama or Romney bobblehead. Supplies are limited, and the evening’s winner is he whose bobblehead supply runs out first. I’ll certainly be covering these exercises in American democracy as they occur, but in the meantime let’s take a look at even more absurd promotion being staged by the Stockton Ports on June 15th.
Yes, fans will have the chance to sit on the face of either Obama or Romney. These items are unique pieces of political pop culture ephemera and should be valued as such, but the premise is admittedly a little confusing. The thinking here is that you would want to sit on the face of the candidate you DON’T support. Hence, the #SitOnMitt hashtag under Obama and the #BunsOnObama tag beneath Romney.
The promotion inspired a spirited discussion on the team’s Facebook page, with many fans arguing that baseball and politics just don’t mix. But one Kevin Rager delivered the most cogent remark: “in all honestly both are butt munchers,” he wrote.
Partisan politics have always been a fact of American life, but recently the Birmingham Barons hearkened back to a much less divisive era. The annual Rickwood Classic was held on Wednesday afternoon (in which the team returns to its old Rickwood Field home), and this year’s theme was WWII-era baseball. Check out the beautiful posters created for the event, which drew a lot of fan interest when I first posted them on Twitter:
And, more and more often, teams are staging promotions to eras that NEVER existed. On June 8th, the Northwest Arkansas Naturals’ “What Could’ve Been Night” will imagine a reality in which the team went by the name of “Thunder Chickens.”
These t-shirts will be available for this day only:
And here are the chicken-scratch hats. One of these should be sent to Axl Rose so that he can update his wardrobe.
I am missing this promotion by one day (I’ll be visiting the Naturals on June 9), but I hope the team sets aside some Thunder Chickens gear for me. It will be a nice complement to my Bowling Green Cave Shrimp t-shirt.
Finally, you may remember my post about the Quad Cities River Bandits photo jerseys, which will feature a collage of cancer survivors. Last week, the Gwinnett Braves announced that they would be doing a photo jersey promotion as well. Their take on it is that it will be a Fan Appreciation Day promo that features — who else? — the fans.
G-Braves fans will have the opportunity to have an image of their face featured on the back of replica jerseys which will be given out to the first 2,000 fans on that night, courtesy of Coolray Heating and Cooling. The images will be embedded as half-inch squares creating a mosaic in the uniform number 12 on the back of the jersey.
Another unique aspect is that fans will not know if they have been selected to be featured on the jersey. Fans will have to “like” the G-Braves post of the Fan Appreciation Night story to be considered to be featured on the giveaway. Approximately 390 faces will be featured, but fans will have to come to the game in order to see if they have won!
Great stuff, right? I’m always writing about great stuff. It’s what I do.
The previous post on this blog ended with an anniversary logo (the Hickory Crawdads 20th, to be exact), so in the interest of seamless transitions let’s keep that particular train right on a-rollin’:
It should be self-explanatory, but the above mark commemorates the fact that 2012 will be the Northwest Arkansas Naturals’ fifth season. They played their first season way back in 2008, when George W. Bush was president, the price of a postage stamp was a mere 41 cents, and Ben’s Biz Blog was less than a year old.
But enough about bygone eras. Let’s celebrate the future! The Wisconsin Timber Rattlers announced that there will be a nacho stand at the ballpark in 2012, and the team is currently conducting a Facebook poll to determine what the stand should be called. I am pleased to report that my submission of “Nacho, Nacho Stand” is one of the finalists.
I am not pleased to report that, as of this writing, my submission has received all of 16 votes. “Class A Nachos” is currently in first, and, really, that one is not nearly as good as mine or fellow contender “Nachossss.” Biz Blog readers, now is the time to rectify this egregious wrong! Vote HERE! (If I win, I’ll donate my free full-size free nacho grande helmet to charity).
2012 will also be Season 1 for the new-look Swoop, mascot of the South Bend Silver Hawks. When Swoop last appeared in this blog, he was engaged in an intimate moment with a Miss America contest.
But those days of tongue-in-beak insouciance are over. For last week, the Silver Hawks gave Swoop a makeover:
Speaking of the Silver Hawks, they were, to my knowledge, the only MiLB team to run a local TV ad during the Super Bowl. That spot, cinematic in scope, can be viewed HERE.
Of course, a far more common Minor League approach is to engage in a spot of parody. The Frederick Keys did just this, putting their own spin on a FIAT ad (the original can be viewed HERE).
And speaking of the Super Bowl, you’ll no doubt recall that the last post on this blog started with info on the Lowell Spinners us-against-the-rest of the New York-Penn League big game bet.
It was a sizable gamble, and the Spinners lost. Therefore, mascot Canaligator is in for a summer of abject humiliation.
Even more so than usual:
As for me, I’ll be “writing a blog…all summer long.” Don’t you forget about me.
Suffice to say that it’s been a momentous couple of days for the United States and the world at large, with the killing of Bin Laden absolutely dominating the conversation. Not surprisingly, Minor League teams across the country found a way to respond to the news. A brief smattering:
– The Bowie Baysox issued the following missive on Facebook: In response to President Obama’s call of unity and solidarity….the first 300 fans that enter the ballpark receive a mini-American Flag.
– In San Antonio, the Missions wore their camo uniforms as part of an impromptu celebration of the military. It turned out to be quite a game, too, with David Robertson hitting for the cycle as the Missions cruised to a 17-6 victory.
– In an email received just as the blog was going to “press,” the Northwest Akransas Naturals announced that Inspired by the bravery of the Navy Seals in Sunday night’s mission in Pakistan, the Northwest Arkansas Naturals would like to recognize and thank all military members – active and retired – with free tickets to any of the next four home games at Arvest Ballpark, starting Tuesday evening.
– The Altoona Curve offered free tickets to all military members, for games on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. Rumors that Steamer was part of the special ops team have not been substantiated.
The team also remarked, facetiously albeit accurately, via Twitter that “In honor of yesterday’s events, July 4th-born Jared Hughes will be tonight’s starting pitcher for the Altoona Curve.” While Hughes only lasted four innings, the Curve rallied for a 10-9 victory over Harrisburg. This put an end to their streak of 19 straight games alternating a win with a loss (!!!)
The aforementioned Harrisburg Senators are more than just the visiting team in this particular narrative. Yesterday the team made its own announcement: In light of the events of the past 48 hours, the Harrisburg Senators want to say thank you to the U.S. Armed Forces for all that they do….Beginning this Friday, May 6th through the end of the 2011 season all active duty and retired military, Air and Army National Guard, and Reservists and their family receive box seats for only $7.50 (normally $9) with their military ID.
One of the few games going on when the news of Bin Laden’s death broke was a tilt in Tucson between the Padres and Colorado Springs — on Military Night, no less. The team made the decision to announce the news over the PA, resulting in a memorable scene.
“We felt [making the announcement] was an important thing to do,” said T-Pads general manager Mike Feder. “We’ve made a major commitment to reach out to the military; we have very large Air Force and intelligence bases located near us, and there’s a huge National Guard presence as well.”
A more localized case of dedicated team and and fan support involves Bryan Stow, the San Francisco Giant fan senselessly beaten into a coma on Opening Day at Dodger Stadium. His plight has prompted an outpouring of giving, with everyone from Tim Lincecum to Charlie Sheen chipping in with donations to help support Stow and his family during this exceedingly difficult time.
But one of the most substantial and heartfelt fundraising efforts occurred within Minor League Baseball. Stow often worked as a paramedic at San Jose’s Municipal Stadium, and the hometown Giants therefore dedicated the entire month of April to him. Throughout the month the team raised $36,181, and the Triple-A Fresno Grizzlies pitched in an additional $7,181 after holding a fundraising night of their own. That’s $43, 362 combined, which was presented to the Stow family prior to Sunday’s ballgame.
Today, as with every Tuesday, brings a new “Promotion Preview” column. Super Nintendo, bubble gum, mustaches, formal wear, “Charlie Bit Me”, Tiger Blood cocktails, and more. Always more.
And yesterday saw the 2011 debut of “Crooked Numbers“, a monthly compendium of statistical oddities and curiosities. Or, as I like to call it, “an obsessive-compulsive labor of love that I spend way too much time on even though it gets no feedback from anyone, thereby making an already sensitive writer even more sensitive.” That title was rejected by the MiLB.com higher-ups, probably for good reason.
Last week I dedicated a post to the West Michigan Whitecaps’ courageous salute to “The Most Boring Day of All Time.” Read all about it HERE, but in a nutshell the club dedicated Monday night’s game to celebrating the 57th anniversary of April 11, 1954, which a guy with computer knowledge deemed to be the least exciting day of the 20th century.
That makes sense, right?
It better, because I’ve got a video recap to post.
What I like most about this video (outside of the highly awkward seventh-inning stretch) is that it shows the reality of actually staging such a promotion. It’s one thing to talk about what a team will do, but quite another to see it actually happen.
The local news even gave the Whitecaps some coverage, going so far as to include an extended shot of four grown men watching paint dry in the concourse. Fans also had the chance to watch grass grow, as this photo illustrates:
Also on the agenda: The Not-So Dizzy Bat Race, an interview with the “Boring Fan of the Night” on his love of calculus, the “Stand in Place” race, Math Trivia, Human Resources Orientation Videos, Extremely Slow Chicken Dance, and Muzak over the PA all night long.
Moving on to an equally boring matter — I have a new profile pic. Buoy Bill, maker of the Buoy Bat, sent over his product to Buoy Biz Blog headquarters. And let me tell you: I no longer merely buoy-curious, the Buoy Bat made a believer out of me! Perhaps Bowie Baysox fans will be interested?
If you want your product or giveaway item to potentially be featured on this blog, then send me an email. That’s all there is to it, I just like getting mail.
Finally moving on to more exciting news, Nick Van Stratten of the Northwest Arkansas Naturals made a home run-robbing catch over the weekend that received national media attention. The team quickly put together this video celebrating and contextualizing Van Stratten’s accomplishment.
The Naturals also made news with their guarantee that Tuesday’s contest would be a one-run game. It wasn’t (not by a longshot), so all fans in attendance received a complimentary ticket to 4/24′s Easter Sunday matinee.
Alright, that’s all I’ve got at the moment. If somehow you’re still not satiated then go read the new “Promo Preview” or something.
Got a lot on the docket today, starting with an intriguing ticket offer from the Timber Rattlers of Appleton, Wisconsin: The team is offering complimentary ducats to the 400 “displaced Super Bowl attendees” who bought tickets to the game but were unable to watch due to a seating snafu.
The “Super Second Chance” offer is really only applicable to 399 fans, as Timber Rattlers box office manager Ryan Moede was among the “displaced.”
Hopefully the aggrieved individuals in question take advantage of the offer, as it could be the first step toward overcoming the unimaginable trauma they were forced to endure.
But those lucky enough to actually have seats at sporting events now have incentive to tell the world. At least if said seats are located within Waterfront Park in Trenton.
The Trenton Thunder announced their “Tweet Your Seat” promotion yesterday, an initiative that comes equipped with its own URL (tweetyourseat.net). On game days, fans can “Tweet Their Seats” for a chance to win a gift card to the nearby Nassau Inn. Declares the organization:
Include your seat location, tag BOTH the Trenton Thunder and Nassau Inn in your tweet or status update and use the hashtag”#TweetYourSeat”.
We’ll pick one winner and deliver the gift card to their seat during the game! We’ll also post the winner’s name and/or twitter handle on this page….The contest opens at 10am on every game day and runs right up until the first pitch of the game.
This is the first time I’ve seen such a promo in the Minors, but I highly doubt it will be the last. It can easily be adapted to any market, and should help teams build social media followings for both themselves and the sponsor.
Moving from hi-tech to low, details regarding the 16th Annual Rickwood Classic were announced yesterday. The host Birmingham Barons will take on the Chattanooga Lookouts, with both teams wearing 1961-era uniforms. Hall of Famer Gaylord Perry will be the VIP Guest of Honor.
As you’ll no doubt recall, Rickwood Field is the oldest stadium in all of professional baseball. Last year, the Classic was named the top promotion in all of Minor League Baseball.
I’m not sure what the weather’s like in Alabama right now, but in Northwest Arkansas things have been unprecedentedly frigid. Check out Arvest Ballpark, home of the Naturals:
“No doubt about it,” writes Naturals marketing and public relations manager Frank Novak. “I think the people of Northwest Arkansas are ready for some baseball.”
Yesterday, the people of Earth were ready for love, and Minor League mascots across the land helped to deliver some. This picture shows Bernie of the Inland Empire 66ers with some new friends he made.
To that end, today’s post features my 10 favorite photographs from the recently deceased campaign. All of these pictures appeared on this blog at some point during the season, and are presented in the order in which they originally appeared.
Remember — it is better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all. Let’s all take a look at once was:
Snowpening Day — Freezing precipitation prevented the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers from playing their first scheduled home game, causing the players to release their start-of-the-season aggression upon hapless snowmen (note the Rattlers’ scoreboard message, a nice example of thinking ahead).
Catatonic Cauliflower — Jerry “The King” Lawler visited Reading’s FirstEnergy Stadium, leaving no doubt as to his feelings regarding rampaging vegetables.