Results tagged ‘ Pacific Coast League ’

Return to the Road: Nashville Sights Before Nashville Sounds

Yesterday’s post detailed my visit to Nashville’s Third Man Records. Upon the conclusion of this late morning jaunt, Tyler and I swung by Gabby’s Burgers for lunch. (Tyler, as you may recall, is a Nashville local who, among other life accomplishments, served as my designated eater at that evening’s Sounds game.)

I was familiar with Gabby’s Burgers, having already visited there (thanks to a reader tip) during my 2013 visit to Nashville. I was happy to be back.

IMG_0180I must have taken the above picture after leaving Gabby’s, as when we got there there was a line out the door. It’s an unassuming place — get your place in line, place your order, find a place to sit, wait for your number to be called, retrieve foodstuffs, consume.  IMG_0176Regarding the “Answers to Common Questions” on the wall above the grill, my favorite is the second from the right:

NO

We don’t serve beer. 

I just don’t want to deal with the headaches.

Being gluten-free (I have celiac disease, remember?), it can be tough to get a good burger on the road. But at Gabby’s, you simply have to order it jazz-style. Nothing quite connotes the improvisatory, exploratory nature of jazz quite like meat wrapped in a lettuce bun.

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Anyhow, these burgers (and fries) are great — greasy (but not too greasy), salty, well-seasoned, decently-proportioned and all-in-all satisfying. If you’re in Nashville I’d highly recommend a trip to Gabby’s, which sits in the shadow of the Sounds former Greer Stadium home.

After lunch, I parted ways with Tyler and poked around downtown Nashville for a bit. IMG_0181The Bridgestone Arena, home of the Predators, has a separate entrance for a what I assume is a sizable portion of the fan base.

IMG_0182Here’s the arena, in full part:

IMG_0183My wanderings soon brought me to the Country Music Hall of Fame.

IMG_0184My take:

I would have loved to spend a few hours at the CMOF (that’s what people call it, right?), but the time I had available didn’t justify the required expenditure. It would have been great to learn about Taylor Swift at the Taylor Swift Education Center, for instance.

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No caption, just a Blank Space

Basically, I just wandered around the Country Music Hall of Fame lobby. Or, as I like to call it, a spacious atrium.

IMG_0189Hatch Show Print, an iconic Nashville print shop, is located on the premises. Vintage baseball advertisements were among the many things for sale.

IMG_0187For lack of a better term, they were also selling hipster Bibles.

IMG_0186I ended up buying these two classic CDs at the CMOF gift shop.

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The clerk told me that he used to play Rubber Room at closing time as a way to clear people out of the store. To each his own, I guess. I’d never leave when this is playing.

Back outside, I admired statues.

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IMG_0194I would have visited this museum devoted to Johnny, but I didn’t have the…money.

IMG_0196The John Seigenthaler pedestrian bridge is anything but, as it offers great views of the Nashville skyline. (Previously known as the Shelby Street Bridge, the structure was renamed in honor of journalist and first amendment crusader John Seigenthaler.)

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Storm clouds were beginning to roll through, an ominous sign for that night’s scheduled baseball action (the game was called in the second inning).

IMG_0198Finally, I hoofed it on over to Broadway. This is the most touristy section of the city, what Beale Street is to Memphis. With time running out, I decided to make a brief stop at the Ernest Tubb Record Shop.

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This establishment has a great marquee, and the display at the back of the store (an homage to the still-ongoing Midnight Jamboree) adds a lot of character.

IMG_0205But as for the records themselves, this store was lousy. Understocked, with a selection comprised of overpriced (and generally not hard to find elsewhere) CDs.

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But I don’t want to end on a negative note. I loved being in Nashville, and this is the only way I’ll rag on such a great city.

Thanks for reading this penultimate series of “Return to the Road” posts. There’s still more to come in that regard (from my New England trip), which should segue nicely into the reveal of my 2016 travel itinerary.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

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Return to the Road: Third Man, a First Person Account

August 4, the final day of my sprawling ballpark road trip through the South, was spent in Nashville. My primary objective in the Music City was to check out First Tennessee Park, the new home of the Nashville Sounds. Stadium visits are always the primary objective.

But the secondary objective, as always, was to explore the city to the extent my limited time frame allowed. In this regard, I received a major assist from Tyler Glaser. Tyler, who works at Grimey’s Records as well as the historic Belcourt Theatre, had volunteered to be my designated eater at that evening’s Sounds game. Utilizing some local connections, he also set up a tour of Third Man Records. Third Man is the music shop/record label/house of curiosities/recording studio/performance space established by Jack White. The company began in Detroit; the Nashville branch opened in 2009.

Third Man is located on 7th Avenue South, in a rather unassuming location.

001 (2)The open-to-the-public portion of Third Man consists of two rooms.

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005Restoring turn-of-the-20th century coin-op entertainment is a Third Man specialty.

This is the Scopitone, which plays music videos on 16mm sound film. Third Man co-founder Ben Blackwell, who gave Tyler and me a tour, said that this is the only Scopitone in operation and that they had to “Frankenstein it together.” He went on to say that maintaining it is a “nightmare.”

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16mm films at the base of the Scopitone:

IMG_0170“Fully automatic” Photobooth:

IMG_0173This is the “Voice-o-Graph.” One can step inside and record anything they want direct to vinyl. Blackwell said that customers do “marriage proposals, jokes, whatever.” More ambitiously, Neil Young recorded his 2014 LP A Letter Home on the Voice-O-Graph. And let’s not forget that Weird Al and his band stopped by and recorded this.

Records, all released by the Third Man label, are available as well. (I, forever and always, am a fan of Mudhoney.)

008Blackwell described the whole Third Man operation as “Simple DIY on a large scale.” Our tour continued throughout the entire facility, but unfortunately cameras were no longer allowed. The “Hipster Willy Wonka” vibe (as I heard one person refer to it as) continued throughout. We passed thorough a graphic design station (staffed by four full-time designers) and a recording studio featuring live direct-to-acetate recordings. If my notes are to be believed, the studio uses a Rupert Neve 5008 console and the signal is sent to a 1955 Scully Lathe.

The musicians who record at Third Man set up in a literal “Blue Room”, augmented by soft lighting, carpets and taxidermy.

Ben’s Biz solo record, coming soon:

thirdmanphoto My notes include a lot of other interesting tidbits from my time at Third Man, but a lot of it is out of context and kinda hard to convey without accompanying photos. A few random notes:

— The operation is bigger than it looks from the outside. Third Man Nashville has grown from two to 27 employees since it opened in 2009, and has expanded to include the building next door (which had been an auto body shop).

— All Third Man Record order fulfillment is done in house; when Jack White’s Lazaretto LP came out they shipped 25,000 in a single week.

— A “super-top secret” master tape storage room is located on the premises, climate-controlled and fire-proof. In the (increasingly likely) advent of the apocalypse, it’s possible that Third Man recordings will survive and perhaps even thrive in a post-human reality.

Anyhow, thanks to Tyler for setting up the tour and Ben for showing us around.

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StormChasers’ Four Day Frenzy: Night Three

The Omaha Storm Chasers’ “Four Day Frenzy,” in which the front office staff combined to work 84 straight hours at Werner Park, took place from Monday through Thursday of this week. Throughout the week, StormChasers staffers chronicled their collective “Four Day Frenzy” experience in the form of journal entries on this blog. This is the fifth installment; to read all of the journal entries, click HERE.

Four_Day_Frenzy_ARTICLEToday’s post, covering the Frenzy’s third and final overnight shift (February 17-18), comes courtesy of media relations and website manager Andrew Green.  

Well, this was it. The night I was most anxious about, the so-called “graveyard” shift. At least I can say I’ve had some experience pulling all-nighters: college (of course), a Midnight Madness game several years ago and even the night before Opening Day last year (a game that was rained out, because of course). So I felt up for the challenge. I also considered it a “Spring Training” of sorts for myself, in preparation for the long hours that come with the Minor League Baseball season.

We got started promptly at 9 p.m., working to finish stuffing the remaining full-season ticket packages. An eclectic mix of music was played throughout the evening, ranging from Bone Thugz ‘N’ Harmony to Creedence Clearwater Revival [Editorial note: CCR is the greatest American rock band of all time.] So, clearly, all over the spectrum. We also discussed movies, referencing many of Will Ferrell’s cinematic masterpieces in the process. At one point “Dust In The Wind” came on the Bluetooth speaker and we all thought of  “Blue” Pulaski.

I wish I could say stuffing tickets was a very easy, pleasant experience. However, the dreaded (and painful) paper cuts began to (literally) cut into my work. I’m what you would call a “gamer,” however, and this is the Four Day Frenzy, so there was absolutely NO WAY I was going to let these paper cuts keep me from accomplishing my task. I “played through” my injuries, as tough as they were at times, to help knock out the remaining full-season ticket boxes.

But we were not done there, however, we still had plenty of half-season and mini-plan ticket boxes to stuff and prep. Once again, there was no way I was going to let these paper cuts get in my way. In the words of the great Shane Falco: “Pain heals. Chicks dig scars. Glory…lasts forever”.

We pressed on and finally reached the epic moment that was the final mini-plan package. As I sealed my last envelope I raised my arms to the sky and even let out a “WOO!”…and proceeded to get dunked on by ticket sales executive Andy Baker. He slammed a foam ball into a mini-basketball hoop held above me by senior group sales executive Ryan Worthen. I’ll have to plan my revenge on them soon…

The final task of the evening was filling the Storm Trackers packages, which were completed as our shift came to an end.

Millions around the Midwest were probably waking up around that point, many of whom had one thing on their minds: Today’s the day. Royals pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training TODAY!

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

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StormChasers’ Four Day Frenzy: Day Three

The Omaha Storm Chasers’ “Four Day Frenzy,” in which the front office staff combined to work 84 straight hours at Werner Park, took place from Monday through Thursday of this week. Throughout the week, StormChasers staffers chronicled their collective “Four Day Frenzy” experience in the form of journal entries on this blog. This is the fourth installment; to read all of the journal entries, click HERE.

Four_Day_Frenzy_ARTICLEThis post, written by StormChasers multimedia producer Cody Allen, covers Day Three of the Four Day Frenzy. Or, if you want to get technical, hours 48 through 58. 

Hour 48: The sun breaks over Werner Park and it is now Day Three of our Four Day Frenzy — Community Day. As I walk through the back door of our front office I’m greeted by the faint sound of coffee being brewed, as I prepare myself for the trip around Omaha that I would soon be beginning.

Hours 49-51: Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary, my first stop of the day. I arrive at the school early, find a parking spot at the end of the lot and proceed to close my eyes for as long as I can. Now, some might think that a 23-year-old man trying to take a nap in his car at an elementary school would be frowned upon. But, for me, after less than five hours of sleep from the night before, I was willing to take my chances.

After failing to gain any extra Zs in my car, I was joined at King Elementary by [team president] Martie [Cordaro] and [community relations manager] Megan [Burdek]. We were ushered to a kindergarten class room and, after waving his wooden bat at the kids, Martie finally settled down and read the children a few stories about baseball.

Hours 52-54: After leaving King Elementary we were quickly on to our second destination of the day: the Open Door Mission. After spending a good amount of time getting lost on the way, I finally found my way to the Open Door Mission’s kitchen. Upon entering, I noticed four Storm Chasers hats (belonging to Martie, Megan, group sales executive Alex Jerden and special events coordinator Shawn Fitzpatrick) as well as a Pittsburgh Steelers jersey (belonging to a Pittsburgh Steelers fan). After scooping up some potatoes and pasta and snapping a few pictures, it was on to our third and final stop: The Ronald McDonald House.

Hour 55: BREAK TIME!!! Before heading out to the Ronald McDonald House it was time to fill up on gas and food. All in all this hour was pretty uneventful. However, to keep with my formatting, I didn’t want anyone to call me out for skipping Hour 55.

Hours 56-58: On my way to the Ronald McDonald House I only got slightly lost, so by the end of the day things seemed to be looking up for old Cody Allen. Once again I was joined by the great Megan Burdek and the head chef for the evening, Jason “Vito” Kinney. We immediately got put to work preparing Baked Lasagna Roll-Ups. Personally I’m more of a fan of Fruit Roll-Ups but I can always go for some Italian food.

Once all the components of the meal were prepped we created an assembly line of noodles, ricotta filling and sauce to begin the roll-up process. Midway through the pasta assembly we gained a few extra helping hands from the full Cordaro clan. Before we knew it, dinner was being served and all that was left to do was wash the dishes and wrap up the leftovers.

RECAP: In all honesty, today was truly a rewarding day. There were times today when I felt joy — like revisiting kindergarten life for a few hours, or helping prepare food for those who don’t have the time or resources. There were also times today when I was humbled, thinking about those who were less fortunate than myself, who struggle to find their next meal. But the one feeling that stayed with me throughout the day was thankfulness.

Not only was I thankful for the things I have in my life, and the things I sometimes take for granted, but I was also thankful for the people who help those less fortunate on a daily basis. For them, every day is Community Day.

More Four Day Frenzy posts are forthcoming. Until then, I remain:

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

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Storm Chasers’ Four Day Frenzy: Night Two

The Omaha Storm Chasers’ “Four Day Frenzy,” in which the front-office staff is combining to work 84 straight hours at its Werner Park home, is taking place now. Throughout the week, the Storm Chasers’ front office will be chronicling its collective “Four Day Frenzy” experience. This is the second installment; to read all of the journal entries, click HERE.

Four_Day_Frenzy_ARTICLEThis post, the second of the day, covers the overnight shift as Feb. 16 gave way to the 17th. It was written by Adam McLaughlin, the Storm Chasers’ social media and creative manager. 

We did it. Our group set a Werner Park Four Day Frenzy record by stuffing a total of 93 ticket boxes during our overnight shift, besting the previous record of 86 that was set … the previous night.

It took a few hours, but I personally consumed two Valentino’s pizza slices and two Mountain Dew Kickstarts. Most everyone in the group had at least one coffee, Red Bull and 5-Hour Energy to keep them going through the night and on into the morning.

Early in the night, some of us shot a new “This is SC” commercial in the style of “This is SportsCenter.” It featured our mascots, Stormy and Casey, “prank calling” our ticket operations manager, Zach Daw. With great work from multimedia producer Cody Allen, we were able to get that out the same night, and it seems to have been received well.

The commercial:

At 1: 45 a.m., we offered a free pair of tickets to our followers on Twitter, available to the first person to stop by the ballpark.

We received quite a few interested parties, which was surprising given that it was 2 a.m. on a Tuesday night. About an hour later, one Joshua Gear arrived and claimed his prize. #StirUptheStorm.

Ticket Giveaway Winner

Ticket operations manager Zach Daw, awarding free tickets to night owl Joshua Gear

Another big highlight from the night: #4DayFrenzy became a “Top Local Trend” on Twitter! This is great news for us, unless there is another Four Day Frenzy event going on in Omaha that we are not aware of.

Top Local Trend Twitter

As the sun began to rise and our shift entered the final stages, it dawned [pun intended?] on all of us that there were now only 50 days until Opening Day at Werner Park. It sounds like plenty of time, but it will surely go by fast and there is still a lot left to do to ensure a successful season. Before you know it, baseball will be back.

Check in throughout the week for more Storm Chasers’ Four Day Frenzy updates. Until then, I remain: 

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

instagram.com/thebensbiz

Storm Chasers’ Four Day Frenzy: Day Two

The Omaha Storm Chasers’ “Four Day Frenzy,” in which the front office staff is combining to work 84 straight hours at their home of Werner Park, is taking place now. Throughout the week, the Storm Chasers’ front office will be chronicling their collective “Four Day Frenzy” experience. This is the second installment; to read all of the journal entries click HERE.

Four_Day_Frenzy_ARTICLEToday’s post, covering the events of February 16th through 10 p.m., comes courtesy of ticket sales executive Andy Baker and senior group sales executive Ryan Worthen. 

Andy: Wow. It is hour 37 of the 84-hour 4-Day Frenzy extravaganza. Ryan and I are “reporting” to you after our Tallboy Tuesday trivia night inside the VIP Club. Everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves. The new $5 Tallboy Cans were a hit and I’m looking forward to Tuesday Nights at Werner Park this season. I haven’t been with the Storm Chasers for very long, and when I was first told about this event I thought it was insane. Going through it, though, it’s definitely sick.

Ryan: I was in the first full staff meeting where the subject of Frenzy came up. I honestly don’t remember my initial reaction, but I guess nothing shocks me anymore. Perhaps my old age began creeping up on me these past few seasons.

Andy: Tuesday started as a normal day for me. I was on the phone, visiting with folks interested in learning more about this season’s ticket opportunities. The group that was stuffing tickets overnight on Monday came in at 4 p.m. and participated in a four-hour promotion informing fans about a special one-day only ticket package promotion. They could receive a free gift by signing up today.

Ryan: We should mention that tonight’s “Graveyard Shift” is trickling in now. They will stuff thousands of ticket envelopes and boxes until seven in the morning. Last night the group totaled 108 boxes. Not sure that tonight’s crew has it in them, as a few of them are first timers.

Andy: I’ll be one of those rookies, but I’m not on the overnight shift until tomorrow. I’m still new to the MiLB game, and learning things every day.

Ryan: I know one thing you learned today.

Andy: Yeah, so tonight’s event was held in the VIP Club. The trivia teams were enjoying the new drink specials, etc., and hot dogs and brats were also sold. Then one young member of the staff (who was called out for being born before 1991), acting under some misguided assumption, brought out chips and salsa as a surprise dish. To be fair, we both partook and wanted the chips for ourselves. However, chips and salsa in a full bar never go unnoticed. Indeed, the entire VIP Club ended up wanting to taste some of the chips and salsa. It was a huge hit out of nowhere.

Ryan: We ran out of chips.

Andy: Lesson learned. The trivia came to a good finish, with the eventual second-place team coming back from the bottom of the standings. Congrats to “A View from the Box Seats”.

Ryan: Random questions were also featured, which gave everyone present a good challenge and, at times, a good laugh. There were quite a few teams present, and all of the attendees gave the club a season-like atmosphere.

Trivia bros

Trivia bros

Andy: Both of us were security for the event, fancy earpieces and all (like the Secret Service, but different]). We were doing simple things, such as making sure that contestants didn’t use their phones and making sure that they got their money’s worth in food and drink the whole night. On that note, it is our time to wrap up our evening shift. We are going to try to be up by 8 a.m., in anticipation of our 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. graveyard shift Wednesday night.

Ryan: I’ll be in bed by 11.

Andy: Pray for us, and Go Chasers!

Check in throughout the week for more Storm Chasers’ Four Day Frenzy updates. Until then, I remain: 

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

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instagram.com/thebensbiz

Storm Chasers’ Four Day Frenzy: Day One

Only in Minor League Baseball. 

That five-word phrase applies to a lot of the strange things that go on in the industry, and it definitely applies to what the Omaha Storm Chasers are up to this week. “Four Day Frenzy” is taking place now, during which the front office staff is combining to work 84 straight hours at their home of Werner Park (located in the Omaha suburb of Papillion).

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The 84-consecutive hours of work is — what else? — an homage to the .384 average posted by Storm Chasers outfielder Jose Martinez in 2015 (a modern-day Pacific Coast League record). It is also a way for the Storm Chasers (a long-time affiliate of the defending World Champion Kansas City Royals) to capitalize on the excitement surrounding the imminent start of  Spring Training.

The Storm Chasers’ front office has agreed to keep a journal chronicling their collective “Four Day Frenzy” experience, which may very well be a chronicle of their collective descent into madness. Time will tell.

This, the first installment, is courtesy of director of marketing and communications Rob Sternberg. 

Four Day Frenzy: February 15. Day Shift

It’s just before 9 p.m. in the suburbs of Omaha, and the first “overnight team” rolls into the ballpark to chants of “Four Day Frenzy! Four Day Frenzy!” Alex Jerden and Brandon Simmons from our group sales department were on their way in, while mascot coordinator Taylor Edmonds was on his way home. Taylor joined in this impromptu rally cry, along with a few other exhausted staff members. Even after a long day, the enthusiasm was contagious, and for a moment I considered heading back in and joining the first of the three overnight teams. They will be reporting to the Werner Park ticket office to stuff 2016 Storm Tracker Boxes (for 72-game package holders) with tickets and parking passes until 7 a.m.

It is moments like these when I think of how incredible it is to be part of a Minor League Baseball staff. It’s an environment that instills an unmatched work ethic from sports marketers on any level. It’s a platform where you can take an offhand idea, like we did a few months ago, and build a four-day event in the middle of February that garners camaraderie and momentum that will carry our organization through these last dog days of winter and through Opening Day.

That said, in the middle of all that fun, my moment of night shift enthusiasm somehow subsided. There will be other opportunities to join in over the next three days, as each night a different team clocks in. The game we promote is a marathon, not a sprint, and we’ve still got over 70 hours to go.

The “Four Day Frenzy” that inspired the impromptu parking lot chants includes the overnight shifts as well as a multitude of daytime promotions and events at Werner Park. The frenzy will last until Thursday at 8 p.m.; the 84-hour total pays homage to the record-setting .384 batting average of Storm Chasers Outfielder Jose Martinez in 2015. Each day highlights some of the value promotions at Werner Park, including Wiener Wednesday (25-cent full-sized Hebrew National Hot Dogs), Thirsty Thursday and the all-new Tallboy Tuesday.

There are also events like today’s Gameday Staff Job Fair, which featured a celebrity drop-in by Storm Chasers Skipper Brian Poldberg. Over the next three days, Trivia Night, Senior Bingo and a Spring Training Skills Competition for kids ages 5-12 headline the promotions.

4DF Day 1 (2)

A job seeker at the Job Fair

Wednesday will feature the Storm Chasers staff participating in community relations activities like serving lunch at the Open Door Mission and dinner at the Ronald McDonald House. Storm Chasers fearless leader, president Martie Cordaro, will also be reading at a number of elementary schools in the morning.

Day one was a success. The building is still standing, at least as of this writing. We welcomed in a record number of applicants to our annual Job Fair. Our media relations manager Andrew Green scheduled front office staffers to meet with at least five local media outlets interested in seeing what this madness is all about. The Storm Front team store filled up with with fans capitalizing on dynamically priced gear. And the Werner Park ticket office officially welcomed in a still untotaled number of new 2016 Ticket Package holders, who were inspired by the storm that’s been stirred up thus far.

We’ll look to keep the ball rolling through the night and into tomorrow. The social media baton will be passed around as we continue through the week. Follow the updates, posts, tweets, and snaps to see if, and how, we’re surviving.

#StirUptheStorm

Check in throughout the week for more Storm Chasers’ Four Day Frenzy updates. Until then, I remain: 

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

instagram.com/thebensbiz

On the Road: Gourmet Nachos and Hot Chicken in Nashville

To see all posts from my August 5, 2015 visit to the Nashville Sounds (this is Part Three) click HERE. To see all of the posts from my July/August 2015 trip through the Deep South, click HERE. To see ALL of my “On the Road” posts (going back to 2010), click HERE.

2015 “On the Road” landing page HERE!

As mentioned in the previous installments of this series, the Nashville Sounds (Triple-A affiliate of the Oakland A’s) proudly serve the local specialty that is “Hot Chicken.”

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They also serve a host of unique high-quality concessions at the “Band Box” in right field.

027028My designated eater — you know, the individual who consumes the ballpark food that my gluten-free diet prohibits — for this evening at First Tennessee Park was Tyler Glaser.

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On the Road: Truncated and Deflated in Nashville

To see all posts from my August 5, 2015 visit to the Nashville Sounds (this is Part Two) click HERE. To see all of the posts from my July/August 2015 trip through the Deep South, click HERE. To see ALL of my “On the Road” posts (going back to 2010), click HERE.

2015 “On the Road” landing page HERE!

When I visited Nashville’s Greer Stadium in 2013, the Sounds were expecting me:

1261Two years later, I once again visited Nashville and, once again, the Sounds were expecting me. Specifically, Sounds creative services manager Alex Wassel was expecting me. Here he is in the team’s front office digs, on the upper level of their new home of First Tennessee Park.

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Let’s take a closer look at Alex’s calendar for August 5. Clearly, he had written this down months and months before my arrival.
064Yes! Continuity! This is “Ben Hill in Tha House, Part Two.” Not only was it my second visit to Nashville, but this is also the second post in this series detailing my visit to the Sounds’ new home of First Tennessee Park. Part One contained a detailed overview of my pregame tour of the ballpark. As we begin Part Two, “Tha House” was about to open.
IMG_0207Any moment now, hordes of Nashvillians would be swarming into First Tennessee Park. Once inside, they would be able to gaze upon the wonder of the guitar scoreboard.

IMG_0210Perhaps they would gaze upon the wonder of the scoreboard while playing a spirited game of cornhole at the Band Box Bar.

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Or maybe they’d simply gaze at this sign on the back of the batter’s eye, lost in nostalgic reverie regarding all of the professional baseball that had previously been played at this site.

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Regardless, it was sure to be a beautiful evening at the ballpark. The tarp, which had resided contently upon the field throughout the afternoon, had been removed. All was beautiful. All was well. Nothing could, or would, go wrong. Of this I was sure.

IMG_0212With the hordes now unleashed, it was time for me to bid adieu to Alex and his front office surroundings. But not before documenting a Sounds’ collector’s cup that happened to be in the vicinity. Hey, #cupdate fiends — here’s your #cupdate!

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Barry Zito — Major League star turned retiree turned 2015 Nashville Sound turned improbable late-season 2015 Oakland Athletic — is on this cup. #Cupdate!

069Downstairs, the hordes were streaming in. Booster the Hot Chicken was there to greet them.

IMG_0213Booster is a “hot chicken.”

IMG_0215“Hot chicken” as in, a spicy form of fried fowl that originated in Nashville. It is now a ballpark specialty, and I’ll include details on it in the next (and last) post of this Nashville Sounds blog series.

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In short order, Booster and I made our way down onto the field. It was time for “Belle of the Ballpark” to begin, a beauty pageant for women 60 and older sponsored by Baby Boomer-centric radio station Hippie 94.5. Host Barry explained to the pregame crowd that, throughout the course of the evening, the contestants would be judged based on personality, appearance and crowd reaction. Then, one would be declared “Belle” of the ballpark. That has a nice ring to it.

071One of the contestants waves to the crowd:

074Meanwhile, the players warmed up…

077…while Booster rallied the hordes.

Soon enough, it was time for the National Anthem.

080And after the National Anthem? All that’s left to do, really, is “Play Ball.”

081Soon after the game began, I rendezvoused with my designated eater (you know, the individual who consumes the ballpark cuisine that my gluten-free diet prohibits). That, again, will be detailed in the next post.

But here’s the thing: It started raining almost as soon as the game began. And it kept on raining for a while. The game went into a delay in the first inning, and was suspended after less than an hour. It was kind of baffling that the game was called so quickly, especially since the rain was never torrential, stopped within a half hour of starting, and the field is capable of draining 10 inches of water per hour. But no baseball was the new reality. That evening’s game between the Sounds and Redbirds would not be played, and there would be no Belle of the Ballpark.

But so be it: At least one day I can tell my grandkids that I witnessed the first rainout in the history of First Tennessee Park. That’s gotta count for something, right? (Let’s overlook the fact that, to the best of my knowledge, I don’t even have kids.)

But the proper historical perspective didn’t settle into my brain space until later that evening. My immediate reaction was frustration, which caused me to deliver the evening’s Groundbreaking and Subversive Joke in a state of duress. I said “rain delay” when I meant “rainout,” but it’s too late to change things now.

Eh, whatever. Just stay tuned for the next post. There’ll be some photos of Hot Chicken. Or, as I and no one else likes to call it, fiery fowl.

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On the Road: My First Look at First Tennessee Park in Nashville

To see all posts from my August 5, 2015 visit to the Nashville Sounds (this is Part One) click HERE. To see all of the posts from my July/August 2015 trip through the Deep South, click HERE. To see ALL of my “On the Road” posts (going back to 2010), click HERE.

2015 “On the Road” landing page HERE!

The ultimate stop of the year’s penultimate road trip was Nashville, home of the Sounds. I last visited the Sounds in 2013, not long ago at all, but there was a valid reason to make a return trip.

New stadium!

015First Tennessee Park, the front entrance of which resembles a hockey arena, replaces Greer Stadium. Greer, built in 1978, had a ramshackle charm that I really enjoyed. It was also a bit of a dump, and not up to the standards required by current Minor League Baseball facilities. For confirmation of Greer’s “dump” status, just ask veteran members of the Sounds front office. They all have (usually hilarious) Greer horror stories, as it was a generally dis-a-Greer-able place to work.

First Tennessee Park is located north of Greer Stadium, in downtown Nashville, built on the same site where Sulphur Dell Ballpark (operational from 1870 to 1963) once stood. I arrived many hours before game time, parking in a nearby lot which may or may not have been a legitimate place to park.

011“Is this a Sounds parking lot?” I asked a game day food service employee walking in the direction of the ballpark.

“Well, we use it,” was the reply.

Good enough for me!

The weather forecast on this Tuesday afternoon was ominous; the cloud cover was thick and heavy rains were expected. When I arrived the tarp was on the field, but the presence of a tarp could not deter a pregame walking tour. In this endeavor, Sounds vice president of operations Doug Scopel served as my guide.

048

The guitar scoreboard was the most iconic feature of Greer Stadium and, as you can see in the above picture, First Tennessee Park features guitar scoreboard 2.0.

024Doug noted that the main body of the scoreboard is the equivalent of 860 32″ televisions. Note, also, that the line score is displayed on the guitar’s bridge and that each fret is made up of a separate screen.

“That’s the biggest question we got,” said Doug. “‘Are you bringing the guitar?’ It’s part of Nashville Sounds baseball, we had to have it.”

As a reference point, this is what the original guitar scoreboard at Greer looked like.

oldboard

The tour began in earnest in the outfield concourse, where the view of the field looked a little something like this:

021I should note at this juncture that I’ve already written a recap of my First Tennessee Park tour, which ran on MiLB.com. As always, in the interest of minimal redundancy, I shall quote directly from that article whenever it is appropriate to do so.

Like, right now:

The facility is largely surrounded by barricaded dirt lots at the moment, but change is imminent. The land adjacent to the facility is owned, variously, by the state of Tennessee, Metro Nashville and private developers (including the Sounds’ ownership group). Much of the development to come, including condominiums beyond left field and a parking garage beyond right, has been spearheaded by [Sounds owner Frank] Ward and his sons, Chris and Tim. 

constructIn the below picture, the darker colored concrete is part of a preexisting greenway that ran through the municipal parking lots that once dominated (and still exist) in the area.

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Doug said that the long-term plan is to alter the location of the concourse fences in order to make this portion of the greenway accessible to the public on non-gamedays. (There will also be an entryway to the ballpark via a culdesac from Fourth Avenue, which will accommodate fans arriving from the still-under-construction parking garage in the photo seen above.)

Fans of this series of concrete-based photos will thrill to this loading, which is somehow wide enough to accommodate two tractor trailers parked side-by-side.

025This sign, on the back of the batter’s eye, pays homage to Sulphur Dell. It is an approximation of the sign that once stood outside of the ballpark, which hosted 94 seasons of baseball.

023Again, from my MiLB.com piece:

“The reason our mayor and our owner came to this site is because it brings development, and it brings baseball home,” said Scopel. “This was Nashville’s baseball home for 93 years. … We wanted to find ways to educate and honor the 93 years that had come before.” 

sulphurdell

Most visibly, Sulphur Dell is commemorated via the rust-colored “Baseball’s Most Historic Park” signage located behind the batter’s eye in center field. Furthermore, all directional signage within the stadium is accompanied by a photo of a Nashville player who made his mark playing at Sulphur Dell. For instance, this concourse sign highlights the prodigious two-way talents of 1902 Nashville Vol Hugh Hill.

042

Hugh Hill: No relation to Ben

Moving toward right field, one finds the “Band Box.” Take it away, previously written article:

[The Band Box] is a concession and general hangout area in right field created in partnership with Nashville-based Strategic Hospitality (whose Nashville portfolio includes a half-dozen restaurants that are, for lack of a better word, hip).  

“The specific thought was to create a spot for the young-adult crowd,” said Scopel.

The Band Box includes a full-service bar, sprawling lounge furniture, ping pong tables, and, in what must be a Minor League first, a shuffle board table.

029The sound system in the Band Box operates separately from the PA system, giving fans even more opportunity to completely ignore what’s going on in the ballgame.  030And, yes, the above italicized text didn’t lie. There is indeed a ballpark shuffleboard table!

032Within the Band Box’s right field seating area, patrons can attract the attention of their servers by raising the mail flag attached to each table. These tables, consisting of four seats apiece, cost $70. There are 27 tables, total.

033For the last time, a quote from my MiLB.com piece:

First Tennessee Ballpark is LEED (Leadership in Environmental and Energy Design) Silver Certified, and perhaps the most visible element of this green approach is the cistern located in right field. Rainwater runoff from the roof and storm water drain is pumped into the cistern, and the water is used for irrigating the playing field.

“It’s about reusing the water that’s already here, so that we’re not taking fresh water all of the time,” said Scopel. 

035

I’m not sure if the Sounds will install another cistern next to the one seen above, but it’s generally agreed that one cistern deserves another. (Cisterns that leak and thus fail to collect rainwater are called “Twisted Cisterns” because “they’re not gonna take it.”)

The concourse is composed of ultra-smooth MMA flooring, which stands for “methyl methacrylate” and not “mixed martial arts.” The concession stand seen below, one of four on the concourse, is called “Sulphur Dell Slices.” I’ll cover some of the concession offerings later in this series.

041

First Tennessee Park has four “Field Suites” behind home plate, each of which accommodate 40 people. They are available on a per-game basis.

046

While the Field Suites are pretty cool, they do make a significant chunk of seating unavailable to fans who might wish to sit behind home plate.
047The playing field is situated 17 feet below street level, meaning that the dugout, seen below, is situated even lower. Also, these must be the widest dugouts in all of Minor League Baseball. (They weren’t designed to be this wide, but mistakes happen.)

051Whilst strolling through the ballpark’s ever-pleasant bowels, Doug and I passed the indoor batting cage.

050But soon it was back up to the concourse and into the team store.

053This throwback jersey honors the Volunteers (or “Vols”), denizens of Sulphur Dell from 1901-63.

055This jovial moment in Vols history is commemorated upstairs, in the owner’s suite.

057Also upstairs is the “Tequila Cuestion Club Lounge,” which offers views of the field or, if you turn in the other direction, views of a concession area.

060The view of the field, at this juncture of the afternoon, included the removal of the tarp. Things were looking up!

062Would there be a game on this gray Tuesday evening in Nashville? Stay tuned to find out!

061

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