Results tagged ‘ On the Road ’

On the Road: Asparagus, and much more, in Stockton

To see all posts from my August 2 visit to the Stockton Ports, click HERE. To see all posts from my August 2016 “Out West” road trip, click HERE. To see all “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).

Joel Zamora and his son, Fernando, are Stockton natives. Joel is a union organizer now based out of Washington, D.C., while Fernando, an avid fisherman, works at a local Loew’s hardware store.

img_0082Joel and Fernando have attended Ports games for years, and have many memories based around their time spent together at Banner Island Ballpark. But on this particular August evening, they were able to enjoy a brand new experience. Joel and Fernando were designated eaters (the individuals recruited to eat the ballpark cuisine that my gluten-free diet prohibits).

As was the case three years ago, Nick Jackson of Ovations Food Services oversaw the designated eating experience. We began with Sriacha Fries, Baked Potato Fries and, for me, a gluten-free Chicken Caesar Salad.

img_0083The Zamoras began with the Baked Potato Fries, topped with bacon, sour cream, cheese and chives.

img_0084Have at it, father and son.

Joel praised the Baked Potato Fries as “very rich and flavorful” while Fernando said they were “filling, with good bacon flavor.”

Next up were the Sriacha Fries, topped with Parmesan and the titular hot sauce.

img_0085Fernando said that he could taste both toppings equally but that, all in all, these were “more of a snack.”

“Yeah, these were more a snack,” Joel responded. “The Baked Potato Fries, they were more of a meal.”

My Chicken Caesar Salad, enlivened by lemon and Parmesan and generous strips of chicken, was easily a meal in and of itself. In the below photo, the girl sitting behind me is like, “Who is this idiot?”

img_0088As mentioned in my previous Ports posts, Stockton is the asparagus capital of the world. Thus, the Ports often offer asparagus-centric concession items. Deep-fried asparagus is available on a nightly basis and, on occasion, one can get an Asparagus Dog. It’s an Alpine Meats eight-inch hot dog, with an asparagus spear on each side.

The above tweet got an immediate reaction, almost all of it negative.

The Zamoras were undaunted, however.

img_0089“I can’t really taste the asparagus, and I’d prefer to have onions,” said Joel. “But I’ve been all over the country, just like you have, and Alpine is the best hot dog. And they’re made right here in Stockton.”

Fernando was all for the asparagus, saying that it gave the dog “an extra kick.”

“I must have liked that hot dog, because I finished it pretty quick,” concluded Joel.

Well, then how about some Pulled Pork Nachos?


“This is the first time I’ve had nachos,” said Joel. “I’m trying to get into it, but I’m more traditional. I think that the pulled pork takes away from the chip.”

This was, therefore, the lone item to result in a generational divide.

“I understand the concept,” replied Fernando. “I like it. The pulled pork is very flavorful.”

“See, I like the old stuff and he likes the new,” said Joel. “When it’s just cheese and jalapenos, you can taste the chips. You can taste the cheese.”

While father and son were bickering about nacho preference, I laid in to a gluten-free cheeseburger that had been presented to me like a gift from the gods. Never have I looked better.

img_2240Joel and Fernando moved on to the Naan Pizza. There was a bit of kitchen confusion regarding just what was in the Naan Pizza, and whether it was gluten-free, so I don’t feel comfortable going into any specifics. But here’s what it looks like. It’s all about the visuals anyway.

img_0093“The bread’s good, it’s not overcooked and it has a perfect crunch to it,” said Joel.

“Yeah, and there’s not too much sauce. It tastes homemade,” added Fernando.

Once again, Joel and Fernando were able to present a unified front. The great nacho argument of 2016 was already a distant memory.

img_0094As the Zamoras finished their pizza, I obtained a Volcano Splash drink. These are available at the aptly named Volcano Splash stand, provided by an outside vendor. It’s really amazing what dry ice can do to a beverage.

While I was lost in a fog, Joel and Fernando moved on to a dessert of their own.

img_0095As you can see, Fernando’s a chip(wich) off the old block.

img_0096“I’d highly recommend the Baked Potato Fries, the Sriacha Fries, the ice cream and the pizza,” said Joel, summing up his experience.

“My favorite was the the Naan Pizza, the hot dog and the Pulled Pork Nachos,” said Fernando. “I definitely found some new favorites.”

Joel had to leave before the ballgame was over, but Fernando stuck around. It’s a good thing he did, as I remembered that I was in possession of my brand-new official designated eater t-shirts. Fernando became the first recipient.

I’d write Zamora if I could, but that’s all I’ve got. Thanks to Joel and Fernando.


On the Road: Song and Dance in Stockton

To see all posts from my August 2 visit to the Stockton Ports, click HERE. To see all posts from my August 2016 “Out West” road trip, click HERE. To see all “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).

AUGUST 2 (part two) — Could August 2, 2016, possibly go down in history as the most entertaining and action-packed day in the history of Stockton, California?

“Yes,” I would humbly submit. “Yes.”

Kevin Hart may have slightly outdrawn the Ports on this Tuesday evening, but it was nonetheless a very enjoyable night at Banner Island Ballpark. The Ports were taking on the visiting Rancho Cucamonga Quakes — the only Minor League team in all of California that I have yet to visit. (Since they’re the Quakes, I’m sure they’ll find “fault” with my scheduling priorities.)


After spending a few innings with my designated eaters — that, of course, will be documented in the following post — I returned to the press box and logged time on the air with Ports broadcaster Zack Bayrouty.

I don’t know why I look like such a moron in this picture of Zack and I.

Zack was modeling what is known in the business as “broadcaster casual” apparel. His colleagues took note.

There was rarely a dull moment, on the air with Zack or during this Tuesday evening in general. Shortly after taking my leave from the airwaves, I emceed a “Knockerball” contest. These, for the record, are Knockerballs.

img_0100I have no record, and barely any recollection, of my stint as a Knockerball emcee. Just know that I was proudly following in the footsteps of Jerry Springer.

My subsequent stint as a t-shirt slingshot artist is also lost to time. My attempt to “Dance for my Dinner” has been documented for posterity, however. This was easily one of my top three moments of the 2016 season.

Later, I led the crowd in singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” I feel like, all things considered, I am a more talented man than Jerry Springer.

When not participating in between-inning shenanigans, I engaged in the usual: idle wanderings and random conversations.

This is Greg “Kool Papa” Bell, who first spent time at Banner Island Ballpark as a fan. He took an interest in the operation, one thing led to another, and now he’s the Ports’ leading salesperson.

img_2249 This bit of concourse signage explains what, to me, seems like a really good deal.

img_0105As the game wore on, I took the long view.

img_2256While I was in the outfield, a young man walked over and said that he recognized me from This young man was the Ports starting pitcher, James Naile, who had allowed two runs over 5 1/3 innings of work and was now watching the game in street clothes. He described himself as “an innings eater” who “moves around a lot,” and expressed a genuine love for the fact that Minor League Baseball allows him to meet people from all over the country and all walks of life. In my notes, I wrote that Naile is “a real positive guy.”

And he certainly isn’t in any one place for long. In 2016, Naile opened the season with Class A Beloit, where he made nine appearances. He then went to Triple-A Nashville for one start, then back to Beloit for one start, then back to Nashville for another start, then to Double-A Midland for two starts, then back to Beloit for five starts, then up to Class A Advanced Stockton for eight appearances before, finally, returning to Midland for one last start. All told, he went 9-11 with a 3.39 ERA over 28 appearances (26 starts). His ERA climbed along with the level of play (2.66 in Beloit, 3.76 in Stockton, 4.66 in Midland and 5.73 in Nashville). And this was all in his first full season! What a whirlwind.

James Naile: Well-traveled

James Naile: Well-traveled

Despite the sparse Tuesday night crowd, a positive energy prevailed at the ballpark. Between Naile, Kool Papa, blog readers Brian Bice and Pat King, designated eaters Joel and Fernando Zamora and, really, the entire Ports front office staff, I met a lot of friendly and interesting individuals. Despite the fact that it had only been three years since my last visit, it felt eminently worthwhile to be back in Stockton.

Once the game was over — a 3-2 Ports victory — and the fans had filed out, I still had one more thing to do. That thing, of course, was to write and disseminate a Groundbreaking and Subversive Ballpark Joke. This particular joke references the Ports’ long-standing celebration of asparagus, as Stockton is the asparagus capital of the world.

Good night, Stockton.


On the Road: Splashing into Stockton

To see all posts from my August 2 visit to the Stockton Ports, click HERE. To see all posts from my August 2016 “Out West” road trip, click HERE. To see all “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).

AUGUST 2 (part one) — After spending Monday evening in Sacramento, I spent my Tuesday in Stockton. The two cities are a mere 50 miles away from one another, so it was the logical thing to do. Or, maybe it was the least illogical. I had visited the Stockton Ports a mere three years ago, in 2013, but had little to no compunction about a return trip. There’s always more to see, more to learn and more to see. Redundancy is sexy.

The Ports play in Banner Island Ballpark.


Even though more than a decade has passed, there have been (read my lips) no new California League ballparks since Banner Island Ballpark opened in 2005. It is still the newest in the league. One thing I hadn’t realized is that “Banner Island Ballpark” is an “unofficial” name. Per Wikipedia, “The City of Stockton owns the naming rights of the ballpark and until the rights are sold the stadium is officially known as Stockton Ballpark.”

Banner Island has a long professional baseball history, as the Ports website points out:

The Banner Island area is allegedly the home of the Stockton baseball team which played in the late 1800s, in an area known as “Mudville” along the San Joaquin River. Banner Island was once an island in the San Joaquin River delta. Although the area is no longer an island, the name remains.

Yes, Stockton’s 19th-century baseball team played in the “Mudville” area. Some have speculated that Ernest Thayer’s classic poem Casey at the Bat” takes place in Stockton, and I found this theory intriguing. So much so that, immediately upon arriving at the park, Ports general manager Bryan Meadows and I took a field trip to the local Haggin Museum to find out more. You can read about that visit HERE.


archival materials

Upon our return to the ballpark, I took a nice late afternoon stroll around the concourse. The Stockton Arena can be seen looming beyond left field; that evening, the arena would be playing host to comedian Kevin Hart.

img_0068Moving down the first base line, this was the view.

img_0069The area directly behind the ballpark has yet to be developed.

img_0070After rotating my body 180 degrees, I was presented with the following view:

img_0071Stockton is the self-proclaimed “Asparagus Capital of the World.” At the team store, I obtained a t-shirt featuring the Ports’ alternate “Five O’Clock Dock” asparagus logo.

img_0072The Ports’ “Asparagus Night” promo is one of the 10 nominees in this year’s “Promo of the Year” MiLBY category. In 2011, the team won “Promo of the Year” for their Dallas Braden bobblebelly.

Braden, a Stockton native and former Port who pitched a perfect game as a member of the Oakland Athletics, remains a ballpark hero. His number 50 has been retired by the team, though it looks like some big jerk of an outfielder scuffed up this tribute to Braden via inconsiderate spike usage.

img_0074In the Ports bullpen, there has been a long tradition of writing the names of each season’s occupants along the walls. The 2012 team must have been the first in history to feature two relievers named “Doolittle.”

img_0075As the gates opened, I paid a visit to my pal Splash.

In the press box, I met PA announcer Mike Conway. Mike, who has held this position since 2008, proudly displayed his wide gum selection. He always has an ample supply of gum.

img_0079One of Mike’s PA announcer highlights was reading this marriage proposal. Unfortunately, Becca was a no-show at the ballgame.

img_0080As game time drew near, I returned to the warm embrace of my buddy Splash.

img_1844As is often the case, I had been asked to throw out a first pitch.

img_1868With the fond memories of a perfect strike whizzing across the plate (and subsequently fending off the entreaties of scouts interested in signing me), I’ll end this blog post. Of course, there’ll be much more to come from Stockton.


On the Road: Ribs and Donut Burgers in Sacramento

To see all posts from my August 1 visit to the Sacramento River Cats, click HERE. To see all my posts from my August 2016 “Out West” road trip, click HERE. To see all 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).

Heading into my West Coast road trip, I was shocked and borderline appalled that no one had volunteered to be my designated eater in Sacramento. I expect that in smaller markets — your Princeton, West Virginia’s and what have you — but California’s capital city? Perhaps my reach, which I assumed to be vaster than a 1001 galaxies, is less than I thought.

Nonetheless, I still had a designated eater in Sacramento. Two, in fact. They were recruited by the River Cats.

Kyle Moses is on the left, Mike Hager is on the right.


Kyle and Mike are the best of pals. They’re both from Tracy, California (about an hour south of Sacramento) and have been fans of the River Cats ever since the team arrived on the scene in the year 2000. Kyle and Mike grew up together, played with and against one another in various sports and now work together (at Rise Medical Staffing). Oh, and they’re roommates. There’s a picture in their living room of the two of them in their travel team baseball uniforms, hanging out in a Raley Park suite.

And now, they’re designated eaters together, tasked with the job of consuming the ballpark cuisine that my gluten-free diet prohibits. But speaking of gluten-free, the River Cats food and beverage team (led, in this case, by sous chef Ryan) whipped up a few dishes for me.

There was shrimp and broccoli over rice, enlivened with pepper flakes.

img_0005There were also lettuce wraps, with citrus brine turkey, apple cider vinegar mustard and tomatoes.

img_0006I enjoyed both of these items, but the lettuce wrap was particularly excellent, a great mix of texture and flavors. Everything was a blur at this point. The food was being placed before us and taken away at a rate that was making my head spin.

So let’s get back to Kyle and Mike, as they’re the stars of the show here. Or perhaps the real star of the show is this plate of barbecue ribs.

img_0007Have at it, guys:

Kyle immediately praised the sauce, which chef Ryan said was Sweet Baby Ray’s.


“The meat falls right off the bone,” said Mike. “Barbecue is where I can be most critical, but this is prime.”

Mike can be critical of barbecue because Mike is a true barbecue aficionado. He bases road trips around visiting restaurants and does it himself in the backyard. This is a passion he inherited from his father, a regular in barbecue competitions and former manager of a Kinders restaurant (a California-based barbecue chain).

Next up was a turkey cheddar panini (with bacon), served with house made chips and a French onion dipping sauce. Kyle and Ryan can be seen brandishing their paninis in the photo at the top of this post.


“I like the way it’s pressed, it has a nice texture,” said Kyle. “Some places do a mediocre job with that.”

“I didn’t have a problem with it,” said Mike. “Everything was good.”

We then moved on to the piece de resistance, a donut bacon cheeseburger.


Another view:

img_2210Specifically, this consists of a third-pound never-frozen burger topped with two bacon rounds and tomatoes. The donuts are from a local bakery.

While Mike said he liked the “sweet and saltiness,” Kyle said that if he ordered it again then he’d abstain from the tomato.

“If I’m gonna go with something that’s 800 calories, then I don’t need a tomato,” he said. “The meat, bacon and donut is fantastic. I don’t think it gets better than that.”

img_0013And that was it for Kyle and Mike, best friends until the end.

“I’d get everything again,” said Mike. “I’ve never not been satisfied here with what I’ve gotten. I’ve never left Raley Field hungry.”


On the Road: A Heads-Up Approach in Sacramento

To see all posts from my August 1 visit to the Sacramento River Cats, click HERE. To see all my posts from my August 2016 “Out West” road trip, click HERE. To see all 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).

Welcome to the second of three posts concerning the Sacramento River Cats, who play at Raley Field.


I visited the River Cats on a Monday night. Teams hate when I visit on Mondays, as they want a man of my vast influence and prestige to witness them at their best (read: fullest). Some of my Monday evening victims accept their fate. Others, like River Cats marketing manager Emily Williams, resort to blatant acts of censorship when I attempt to document the surroundings.

img_0030To be fair, the River Cats have been at or near the top of Minor League attendance rankings ever since their 2000 inception. In 2015, the first year of their affiliation with the Giants, they drew 672,354 to lead all of Minor League Baseball.

And, regardless, it was a beautiful night in a beautiful ballpark. The game time temperature was 84 degrees, the skies were clear and there was a slight breeze in the air. Fans seeking additional shade had the option of sitting beneath what I believe are the biggest berm trees in Minor League Baseball.


Beyond the berm, there lurks a city skyline view. That’s the Tower Bridge on the left, whose two golden towers combine to form an “au” pair.


My wanderings, at this stage in the evening, didn’t last very long. The River Cats have a nightly “Heads of State” race featuring a triumvirate of California governors: Gray Davis, Ronald Reagan and Arnold Schwarzenegger. (Davis may not be as memorable as the other two, but you may be able to recall him).

I was invited to participate in the race, and chose to run as Ronald Reagan.

As the above tweet describes (albeit with a typo), I won. Here’s the proof (you can also see how close I came to losing my head).

The race itself was tiring, given how top-heavy the costume is and the fact that I’m maybe not in the best shape. But what was really difficult was the race’s aftermath. We entered the stands at the home plate side of the ballpark, trodding up the stairs and then on to the concourse. Thus began a long, slow walk back to our outfield changing area (aka “the groundskeeper’s shed”) during which we were accosted by fans for high-fives and photos. At first I enjoyed this, the way I always enjoy being in a mascot suit of any kind. It’s a surreal feeling, knowing that the “you” that people are interacting with is different than the “you” that is in the suit. It’s a liberating, and exhilarating, sensation, this transformation into a larger-than-life figure who people want to see, know and touch.

But I don’t have the stamina for it. As our walk progressed, a deep, dizzy fatigue set in and along with it an increasing desperation to no longer be Ronald Reagan. If the stands had been a little more crowded, or the weather a little hotter, I think I would have passed out. And, believe me, no one wants to see an unconscious Ronald Reagan sprawled on the concourse of a Minor League Baseball stadium.

Finally, after what seemed like hours but was only minutes, we were able to leave the public eye. I no longer had to be Ronnie. The only thing trickling down was the sweat on my brow.

img_221310 minutes later, I returned to wandering ballpark blogger mode. It was as if nothing had ever happened.

I soon met with River Cats president Jeff Savage, whose late father, Art, bought the Pacific Coast League’s Vancouver franchise and relocated it to Sacramento. The Savage name is synonymous with River Cats baseball. Susan Savage, Jeff’s mom, is the team’s CEO and majority owner. Brent, his brother, works for the team as well. Brent is confined to a wheelchair, and Jeff said that one of the reasons his dad wanted a team in Sacramento was so that Brent “always had a place he wanted to be.”

Raley Field, a privately-owned facility, was built in just nine months and opened in May of 2000. Jeff said that, prior to the stadium’s opening, its West Sacramento location was a desolate industrial area.

“No one in their right mind would come to West Sacramento,” he said. “You just didn’t do it.”

In this ceiling mural, Art Savage can be seen in the top left, wearing a green shirt.


This mural, titled “Here and Now”, has an interesting concept. Sacramento baseball greats are seen mingling with their younger selves.


Prior to the River Cats, Sacramento had hosted a team in the form of the PCL’s “Solons.” Solon is an archaic term for a politician, coined in honor of the Greek lawmaker who went by that name. The Solons’ farewell occurred in 1976.

Since the 2000 opening of Raley Field, the ownership group has made improvements whenever they’ve had the means to do so. A fairly recent upgrade is the Legacy Club, a premium group area which opened in 2015.


In the Legacy Club, you can turn your back to the game to watch the game.


There’s always room for more improvement, such as this undeveloped area deep behind the outfield. Currently, it is a picnic table graveyard which, truth be told, I found very appealing.

img_0043I mentioned this billboard in my previous post but, man, it’s a huge billboard (and sunshade).

img_0046The River Cats introduced “Sac Town” merchandise prior to the season (designed in house), which has proven to be popular in the area.


img_0048I concluded my evening in the press box, as the River Cats wrapped up a 7-0 victory over Salt Lake.

img_2217With the game over, there was only one thing left to do: Write and disseminate a Subversive and Groundbreaking Ballpark Joke.

They can’t all be winners.


On the Road: Surveying the Scene in Sacramento

To see all posts from my August 1 visit to the Sacramento River Cats, click HERE. To see all my posts from my August 2016 “Out West” road trip, click HERE. To see all 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).

My third and final road trip of the Minor League season was a long, sprawling and often counter-intuitive journey, one that started in Sacramento and ended in Spokane. So let’s start at the beginning; Sacramento, California’s capital city and the home of the River Cats. The River Cats, Triple-A affiliate of the San Francisco Giants, have played at Raley Field since the stadium opened in 2000.

img_0002Immediately upon arriving, I met with media relations coordinator Robert Barsanti. He ushered me down a pathway situated betwixt outfield wall and ribbon board, with the net overhead protecting us from batting practice dingers and other skyborne hazards.

img_0004The dusty road led us to the clubhouses, which led me to a scheduled interview with River Cats manager Jose Alguacil. This scheduled interview led to a feature story, which I invite you to read by clicking HERE. Jose, whom everyone calls “Auggie,” is an interesting and likable guy and if he’s not managing or coaching in in the big leagues within three years I’ll eat my hat.

My interview with Auggie led to a pregame meeting with my designated eaters, which will be documented shortly. When the designated eating was complete, I was able to partake in the activity that most truly speaks to the core of my inner being: aimless wandering.

This was the scene from the outfield berm as the Monday evening crowd trickled in. That Roseville Automall billboard, which doubles as a sunshade, may just be the largest sign to have ever been situated in a Minor League Baseball stadium.

img_0018In the visitor’s bullpen, Salt Lake Bees starter Zach Nuding was getting warmed up for a game he would (spoiler alert) lose.

img_0019I think what I was trying to convey with the below picture is that the River Cats have various gardens on the stadium premises, a fine microcosm of the region’s robust agriculture industry.


After admiring the foliage, I followed this ponytailed man down the concourse walkway. When in doubt, always follow a ponytailed man.

img_0021As you can see in the above picture, steel beams on the concourse are enlivened with the vibrant work of young local artists.


This one’s my favorite:


Also enlivening the concourse is this family of River Cats fans living above the team store. I stared at this guy for hours and not once did he put down his binoculars. I bet that, when he looks in the mirror, he sees a human raccoon.


When I returned to this very spot, more than three hours later, the kid’s ice cream hadn’t melted nor had the gentleman taken even one sip of his beer.
img_0023This picture bellow is — let’s face it — kind of lousy. But I include it to point out that California only recently legalized 50-50 raffles and, thus, 2016 marked the first season that the River Cats were able to stage them.

img_0024Speaking of 50-50, last season the River Cats gave away “Barry Zito dual replica jerseys.”


The Oakland/San Francisco split also describes the River Cats themselves, who were affiliated with the former for the first 15 years of their existence (2000-2014).

This third base-side beer garden, in the tradition of great beer gardens everywhere, serves beer and paninis. There may be plans in the works to expand the menu.


I could go on…and I will! But not in this post. I’ll go on in the next one. Stay tuned for much more from Sacramento.


On the Road: “Moose” Meat and Smashed Cupcakes in Burlington

To see all posts from my July 4 visit to the Burlington Royals, click HERE. To see all my posts from my June/July 2016 Appalachian League Road Trip, click HERE. To see all 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 the previous post, the Burlington Royals have a concession stand. All teams do.

img_0165But the B-Royals concession scene is not limited to the above area. There is also a tent. This tent is called “Grill 1986,” a reference to the team’s first season of Appy League existence. The grill itself probably hasn’t been around since 1986. Most grills don’t live that long.

img_0184At Grill 1986 I made the acquaintance of one Justin Moody.


Justin was, of course, my designated eater (the individual who consumes the ballpark cuisine that my gluten-free diet prohibits). He works in Chapel Hill, North Carolina as a paralegeal, but grew up in southwestern Pennsylvania and is, as such, a huge Pirates fan. The first Minor League game he remembers attending was the Greenville, South Carolina-based Capital City Bombers (in 1992 or thereabouts), and he has since visited every park in the Carolinas. Justin’s a regular reader of this blog and said that he “thought it would be fun to join in on your journey, and lend my stomach to you.”

We began with the “Moose Taco”, an item that came into being because the girlfriend of B-Royals’ general manager Ryan Keur thought that was actually the name of Kansas City Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas.

The “Moose Taco”, truth be told, is more like a “Moose Burrito.”


Have at it, Justin.

Mikey Morrison, the B-Royals food and beverage overseer, told us that the contents of the Moose Taco “depends on the day.”

img_0188“Today it’s beef with cheese and jalapenos on the side,” he said. “Originally we would spell [the Moose Taco] like his name [Moustakas], but we made it the Moose Taco so that people would know what it is.”

“The pickled jalapenos give a nice little spice to it,” said Justin. “The meat has got a good smoky sear to it. I think it’s a burger patty that’s been cut up, but it’s really good. It eats pretty easily, the only thing in it is meat and cheese. You don’t get slowed down by lettuce or sour cream or whatever.”

Next up was Funnel Fries, marking the second time in as many days that one of my designated eaters consumed them (see also: Yankees, Pulaski).


Justin cleared his mind and opened his mouth.

img_1987“[The funnel fries] came out nice and warm. Not too oily or greasy, which I really appreciate,” he said. “They’re good and crunchy, with just enough powdered sugar. Sweet, without trying to create a new cavity. Pretty darn good.”

Justin, if you’ve noticed, is pretty darn good at articulating his food thoughts.

The food was washed down with a Red Oak beer, brewed in nearby Whitsett, North Carolina. Morrison explained that the team began offering it at the ballpark in 2015 and that it “quickly became a best seller.”

img_0194Justin described it as a “good red or brown ale…crisp and refreshing on a hot day. It’s got a good malt flavor to it. It’s one of my favorites, actually.”

Another local favorite on offer at the ballpark are cupcakes courtesy of Burlington’s Main Street Cake Shoppe.

img_1992Justin’s wife, Meghan, was also at the ballgame. For most of my time with Justin, she elected to remain in her seat and keep score (not a bad decision at all). But Justin recruited her to come to our grill-side location to help him consume the cupcake.
img_2013Perhaps inevitably, Justin ended up getting his just desserts.

“It’s nice and soft,” said Justin. “I’d say it’s pretty much the perfect cupcake, though a lot of it ended up on my face.”

Indeed, it did.

img_0192Despite suffering this dessert-based indignity, Justin had nothing but good things to say about his designated eating experience.

“There’s nothing wild or outrageous,” he said, of the Burlington concession scene. “Just really good basic ballpark food, and I appreciate that they’re supporting local businesses.”


On the Road: Patriotism and Presidential Candidates in Burlington

To see all posts from my July 4 visit to the Burlington Royals, click HERE. To see all my posts from my June/July 2016 Appalachian League Road Trip, click HERE. To see all 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).

My 10th and final stop on my all-encompassing Appy League trip was Burlington, North Carolina. Burlington is the home of the Royals, Kansas City’s Rookie-level affiliate. The Royals play at Burlington Athletic Stadium.

img_0162Believe it or not, Burlington Athletic Stadium was built in Danville, Virginia (where it was known as League Park). After the Danville Leafs ceased operation in the late 1950s, the ballpark was sold to a group of businessmen in Burlington. It was then disassembled, shipped 40 miles south via train, and reassembled in the spot where it stands today. I wrote an article about this, you can read it HERE.

img_0164I was in Burlington on a Monday. Usually when I visit teams on a Monday I hear all about how I should have planned my visit for some other day. But this was no ordinary Monday. It was July 4, a day to celebrate the birth of our wonderful, troubled, maddening nation. I was reminded that it was July 4 while walking toward the ballpark from the parking lot, as the fan in front of me was wearing a shirt featuring a silhouette of a man holding a gun.

“I’m sorry if my patriotism offends you,” it said at the top of the shirt. “Your lack of a spine offends me more,” it said on the bottom, below the picture of a man holding a gun.

It was surely patriots like this man who, in 1776, fought the British until Royal Concessions were made.

img_0165You may recall, as I may recall, that this was not the first time I visited the Burlington Royals. The year was 2011, and at that point in time the facility was most definitely in need of a few upgrades.


2011 file photo

A few upgrades have indeed occurred.

“Come with me,” said B-Royals general manager Ryan Keur. “I’ll show you.”


The visitor’s clubhouse showers, for example, have been relocated and renovated.

img_0167And…that’s the only example I have from the so-called bowels of the facility. But, believe me, many improvements have been made to Burlington Athletic Stadium over the last five years. The best improvements. It’s unbelievable. Like, these bleacher seats. They were added prior to the 2016 season, replacing bleacher seats that many people said were a disaster.  img_0169

Behind the bleachers was the “Inflatable Experience.”


The Inflatable Experience might result in abrasions, vertigo and joint pain, but it will also result in a “whole lot of fun.” Go hard or go home.


Meanwhile, at the bar, two sandals-wearing bearded gentlemen were attempting to ascertain if they had been separated at birth.


Just around the corner, I ran into Bingo.


Bingo is running for president, and he’s easily the best orange-hued candidate out there. Through a spokesperson, I found out that Bingo is a Democrat who seeks to strengthen relations with the Dominican Republic. He would appoint other mascots (except Danville’s Blooper!) to cabinet positions, and his slogan is “Si, Se Puede” (Yes, We Can!)

Bingo, you have my vote.


The great thing about being Bingo? You never dance alone.

I then made my way onto the field, which is always a beautiful place to be.


The grandstand retains its timeless charm.

img_1974The Royals were decked out in patriotic jerseys, and their patriotism didn’t offend me. I don’t know who that guy is on the far right, but Hubba Hubba!

img_1977The visiting Danville Braves, who played Burlington at home the night before, looked boring by comparison.

img_0179I threw out a ceremonial first pitch prior to the game, but I appear to lack any evidence of this fact. My notes say that my pitch was “way outside” “a perfect, searing strike” and that “number 41 caught it.”

The National Anthem was beautifully performed, but don’t take my word for it.

I spent the first several innings of the ballgame meeting with my designated eater, and that will be documented in the following post. I then witnessed a Baby Race from an up close and personal vantage point.

Soon thereafter, I took in the early evening Independence Day action from a rooftop.


The view in both directions was pleasing.


While on the roof, I visited the press box and spent an inning on the airwaves with Darren Zaslau.

It’s a long way down from the rooftop.


Back at sea level, more or less, I made my way to the front row and spoke with B-Royals fan (and expert heckler) David Horne.


In the above photo, Horne was taunting the bat boy as he made his way across the field.

“Go get it, boy! Hurry! That’s a good boy,” he shouted.

Horne has special taunts for all Appalachian League opponents, including “Stop the chop!”, “Smoke the Jays!” “Spank the Yanks”, “Hose the ‘Stros”, “Wet the Mets” and “Skin the Twins.”

Spending time with Horne reminded me of my 2011 Burlington visit, when fellow ballpark traveler Tug Haines recorded the following bit of classic Appy League heckling.

Danville won, 4-1, in a game that took just two hours and 12 minutes to play.


The ballgame was followed by a concerted attempt to pelt this man with tennis balls.


It was July 4th, after all. What could follow now but fireworks?


The men’s room was not a pretty sight immediately following the game, probably because that macho t-shirt guy I’d seen on the way in had too much to drink and his delicate little tummy-wummy couldn’t handle it. Nonetheless, I made an attempt to document the team’s legendary (in some circles) alumni urinals.

Not pictured: Jim Thome

Not pictured: Jim Thome

While in the bathroom, I quickly wrote and disseminated a Groundbreaking and Subversive Ballpark Joke.

This concluded my time in Burlington, as well as the Appy League in general.

Thanks, guys. I did!


On the Road: Visiting Dan Daniel in Danville

To see all posts from my July 3 visit to the Danville Braves, click HERE. To see all my posts from my June/July 2016 Appalachian League Road Trip, click HERE. To see all 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).

The penultimate stop on my Appalachian League trip was Danville, Virginia, the land of the free and the home of the Rookie-level Braves. The Braves play at American Legion Post 325 Field, often referred to as “Legion Field” because who has time for a 12-syllable ballpark name?

Not me. I barely had time to take a photo before I crossed the street.

img_0110Legion Field is located within Dan Daniel Memorial Park, a city-owned recreation complex.

img_0108Despite the gray skies, a robust crowd was expected at Legion Field on this Sunday evening.


For this was not just any Sunday evening. It was Independence Day Eve. David Cross, longtime D-Braves general manager, was dressed for the occasion.

img_1864Almost immediately upon arriving, I met with Danville Register-Bee writer Jordan Bondurant.


Jordan interviewed me on the field prior to the game, which led to this story (and accompanying video). When we were done talking, I turned around and took a poorly composed photo.


I also took note of that which was occurring atop the dugout.

Mascot Blooper! was decked in his patriotic best, and joined by special guest Captain America. A 5′ 6″, 145-pound Captain America.

img_0117The gentleman in the below photo was selling 50-50 raffle tickets; at the time this picture was taken he reported $301 “in the kitty.”

“Whoo-ee!” he then added, leading me to believe that $301 was a lot to have in the kitty before the game had even begun.

img_0119I spent several minutes pondering the slogan on this team bus, which was parked just outside the ballpark. “Experience!” and “Excellence!” are presented as separate positive traits, but I initially read it as a command to “Experience Excellence!”

img_0122But wait! On the back of the bus it simply says “Experience Excellence”. Is “Experience” now a verb? Or did they simply not have the room for an exclamation point?

img_0124The bus inspired me to experience excellence for myself, by gazing upon this wonderful wall art.

img_0123Blooper!, meanwhile, was gazing upon the field. The evening’s ballgame — between Danville and the visiting Burlington Royals — had begun.

img_0125Like the rest of us, the D-Braves bullpen could only sit back and relax. Chill out. Take in the atmosphere.

img_1872The ballpark was packed, the front office staff was busy, and I didn’t really know what to do with myself. I just wandered around, taking in the various views while trying not to obscure the views of others.



img_0133I spent several innings with Brooke and Mary, that evening’s designated eaters. That has already been documented in a separate post.

img_0136I went on to spend some time (like, three minutes) in the press box. The chairs are yellow.


As the evening wore on, the bleachers got fuller and fuller. The bleachers got fuller because fireworks were to follow.



Tonight’s winning lottery numbers?

img_1889Winning numbers? Maybe. But winning team? No. Burlington won by a score of 3-2.

Many of the Braves players were gracious in defeat, high-fiving fans and signing autographs en route to the home clubhouse.

img_1892The game was followed by fireworks. If there’s one thing I can guarantee regarding my fireworks photos,  it’s that they will be awful.

img_1893But I can also guarantee that my Groundbreaking and Subversive Ballpark Joke, disseminated nightly, will be awesome.

Goodnight from Danville, Virginia.


On the Road: Funnel Fries and Chicken Fingers in Pulaski

To see all posts from my July 2 visit to the Pulaski Yankees, click HERE. To see all my posts from my June/July 2016 Appalachian League Road Trip, click HERE. To see all 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).

This man’s name is Thomas Panek. But you don’t need to call him by his full first name.

“Tom is fine,” he told me.

img_0091Tom was more than fine on this Saturday evening at Pulaski’s Calfee Park, as he had the duty and privilege of being my designated eater (the individual recruited to eat the ballpark cuisine that my gluten-free diet prohibits).

His ballpark dinner was obtained from this concession stand, where one’s chances of getting hit by a foul ball are decidedly slim.

img_0071This is what was obtained. (Not shown: a bag of peanuts with an accompanying brown paper bag for the shells).

img_0080There’s nothing too out-of-the-ordinary in the above photo, though it is an impressive array for a Rookie-level team operating out of an 81-year-old ballpark (albeit an 81-year-old ballpark that has been extensively renovated in recent years).

Before moving to an individual rundown of the items in question, let’s get to know Tom. Originally from Toledo, he now lives in Christiansburg, Virginia and works at Tetra, the Blacksburg, Virginia-based fish food and supply company. At Tetra, Tom makes algae-controlling pond blocks.

“I’m the only one making them, so if you see a Tetra pond block, that’s me,” he said. “I make them in a room, by myself. I love it. We sell a ton of them. I know I make a lot of them.”


Made by Tom Panek

Tom moved to Virginia after meeting his wife, Beth, via an online backgammon game.

“We became friends, I visited her, we dated a little bit and the next thing you know we got married,” he said.


Tom and Beth

“I was a Navy brat,” said Beth, who works in a domestic violence center. “So I said, ‘I’m not moving. If you’re interested in being with me, then come to me.'”

So here we are. All caught up and with Tom about to dig into some funnel cake fries.

img_0081Have at it, Tom.

“They’re good, but not as crunchy as I thought they’d be,” said Tom. “They’re different.”

We then moved on to the nachos.

img_0084“What can you say about nachos?” asked Tom, before proceeding to say something about them. “They’re basic and good. I like when the chips get soggy because the cheese inundates them completely.”

Beth was a big fan of the chicken fingers, saying that they were “really crunchy, with a thick crust and hot, tender chicken. All white meat. They didn’t need sauce. They were flavorful on their own.”

img_0082These, I believe, were called Yankee Fries. They differ from normal fries in that they have a potato chip-like shape as well as eternal dignity and honor of the “Yankees” name.

img_0083I can’t confirm that these Yankee fries were gluten-free, so I shouldn’t have eaten one. I just got caught up in the moment and, hey, we’ve all gotta die eventually.


I would also like to note that I snapped a photo of the team’s collectible cups. This one’s for you, #cupdate aficionados.


Finally, there was dessert. From the following array of ice cream flavors, Tom and Beth selected English Toffee and Classic Cherry.

img_0097Soon enough, check marks on a piece of paper became reality.

img_0096Tom declared the ice cream to be “very tasty, but kind of plain.” Beth said that she was surprised that the English toffee was “a syrup base rather than a topping, but it tastes good.”

Thanks, Tom and Beth, for surveying the Calfee Park culinary scene.