Results tagged ‘ Pawtucket Red Sox ’

Pawsox “Free Brady”; Bisons Intercept

Yesterday evening, the Pawtucket Red Sox announced that Friday’s game on June 10 would be “Free Brady Friday.” This is, of course, a reference to the Infinite Jest of sports scandals, the absurd dystopian opus that just keeps on giving: Deflategate.

As satirical current events-related sports scandal-themed promos go, this one is pretty tame. Fans named “Tom” or “Brady” will be admitted to the game for free, and $13 box seats will cost $12 in honor of Brady’s uniform number (of that $12 ticket price, the PawSox will donate a “quarter back” to the Brady-supported “Best Buddies” charity).

Today, in what is the International League promo equivalent of a rap battle, the Buffalo Bisons played Drake to the PawSox’s Meek Mill. June 11, a doubleheader vs. the Charlotte Knights, is now “Keep Brady Suspended Night” at Buffalo’s Coca-Cola Park.

Keep_Brady_Suspended_640_0rexm4c9_oyoh46zlThe Bisons, calling an audible, have fired back pretty hard with this one. I’m not sure Brady supporters can handle these offensive lines, man. They’re doing everything here short of playing underhanded soft ball. Per the team:

The New England Patriots quarterback has been suspended the first four games of the 2016 NFL season for cheating in a playoff game against the Indianapolis Colts. To show our support for this just and rightful punishment, the ‘Keep Brady Suspended Night’ will feature:

Buy-One, Get-one Free Tickets to anyone that brings a PROPERLY-INFLATED football to be donated to area youth football programs

Accepting UN-DESTROYED cell phone donations for ‘Cell Phones for Soldiers’ charity

A 12.5% discount in the Bisons’ gift shop for anyone that brings a Tom Brady jersey/T-shirt to add to the postgame Fireworks Display
Help us remind Tom of the minimum amount of inflation for footballs,
for you know…once he gets to play again

Scoreboard videos featuring some of sports’ greatest cheaters,
with special video tribute to Patriots’ coach, Bill Belichick

The Bisons go on to state that “If you are named ‘Tom’ or ‘Brady’ you will be allowed into Coca-Cola Field … but will not be allowed to watch the first four innings of game one of the doubleheader. Please, no appeals.”

Here’s hoping the PawSox will soon respond in kind, escalating this promo battle royale into even more rarefied air (or lack thereof). Good thing, though, that the Bisons hail from Buffalo, as nothing has occurred during that city’s long and distinguished football history that anyone could possibly make fun of.

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Return to the Road: New England Fun Spots

Opening Day is less than three weeks away. Believe me, I am aware. But before debuting my 2016 road trip itineraries (coming soonish!), I’d like to finish my series of 2015 “Return to the Road” posts. (These posts, as you probably know, highlight my non-ballpark road trip experiences.)

My fifth and final road trip of the season was a late August/early September jaunt through New England. As you can see, the Vermont Lake Monsters trip was actually a one-off stop in July, but I’m going to write about it as if it was part of this itinerary. It’ll all make sense in the end.

neFrom Norwich to New Britain to Lowell to Pawtucket, this trip was a blur. Regarding those cities I have nothing in my files regarding anything that happened outside the ballpark. It was simply a matter of keeping one foot in front of the other as I mixed metaphors while bouncing from one place to the next.

The only random picture I have from those first four days is this selfie, taken at a Vietnamese restaurant somewhere in the vicinity of Lowell.

Beautiful.

IMG_0320The narrative, such as it is, begins on the morning of September 2. I woke up in Providence, where I stayed after having seen the PawSox the previous evening.

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IMG_0362Early that afternoon, I met my friend Jake for lunch. We were comedy scene pals in NYC, but he abandoned me in favor of pursuing a modeling career in Rhode Island. Go figure.

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Jake and I grabbed lunch from one of the food trucks set up in downtown’s Kennedy Plaza, and then took a seat in this rather idyllic wooded environment.

IMG_0363After lunch, we checked out the local waterways.

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IMG_0366Our time together was brief. Jake had to rush off to a photo shoot, and I had to make my way to Manchester, New Hampshire.

Before leaving Providence, I checked out the site of the proposed downtown ballpark that would replace Pawtucket’s McCoy Stadium. For myriad reasons, this plan has since been abandoned.

What could have been

What could have been

I saw a New Hampshire Fisher Cats game on the night of September 2. The following afternoon, before leaving town, I made a pit stop at a local record store.

IMG_0389Unfortunately, The Music Connection was closed. But now I know where I’m celebrating my next birthday.

IMG_0390I had better luck later on in the day, when I swung by Pitchfork Records in Concord, New Hampshire.

IMG_0396Pitchfork Records had a ramshackle, curmudgeonly vibe. I know I bought something, but, at this late juncture, I can’t remember what it was. Just know that if I bought it, then it had to have been good.

IMG_0398Deeper into the evening, I made a pit stop in Laconia, New Hampshire. You wouldn’t know it by looking at this particular photo, but this building houses one of the world’s largest collections of classic video games.

IMG_0402I had arrived at Funspot, the iconic arcade that was prominently featured in the 2007 documentary King of Kong. Being a weeknight in September, the place was kinda dead.

IMG_0401My photos do not do Funspot justice, but for people of a certain age it is a major nostalgia trip. For people of a younger age than those of a certain age, it is a blast from an unknown and now largely incomprehensible past. Coin-op is dead. Long live coin-op.

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A tribute to Keith Apicary, video game legend:

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And this, I assume, is a tribute to a Minor League Baseball legend:

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I skipped the miniature golf.

IMG_0405But I did try my hand at candlepin bowling. Unlike standard “10 Pin” bowling, the balls and pins are much smaller.

IMG_0410Though I’m a fairly decent bowler, my candlepin efforts were abysmal. You get much less pin action than with “normal” bowling, and I could not get in any sort of rhythm. I was also confused by the fact that one gets three rolls per frame, but a spare only counts if all the pins are knocked down in the second shot. I didn’t get any spares.

Afterwards, I was too frustrated to join — or start — the party.

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Eating Blount and Sipping Del’s in Pawtucket

To see all posts from my September 1, 2015 visit to the Pawtucket Red Sox (this is Part Three) click HERE. To see all of the posts from my August/September 2015 trip through New England, 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 longest baseball game in professional history was played at Pawtucket’s McCoy Stadium. The 33-inning affair began on April 18, 1981, continued into the wee hours of the 19th and was finally, mercifully, completed on June 23. Undoubtedly, this was the most monumental event to ever take place at McCoy Stadium.

The second-most monumental event occurred on September 1, 2015. On that evening, as the PawSox played the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, one Brian O’Connell served as my designated eater.

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All designated eaters should have credentials

As designated eater, it would be Brian’s task to consume the ballpark cuisine that my gluten-free diet prohibits. As you can see from the above picture, he’s in good shape and doesn’t appear to be the sort of guy who gorges himself on concession stand fare. But he was up for the challenge.

“I’ve got no issues with it at all,” he said. “I ate healthy earlier today, so no worries.”

Brian is a Providence native who now lives in nearby Swansea, Massachusetts. He works out of Providence as a legal admin, and is also a soccer journalist whose work appears on the the website nesoccertoday.com. (In my notes this read “anysoccertoday.com,” which would be a good resource for those curious about game times and what not).

Brian’s soccer fandom came about later in life, but he’s been a baseball fan since birth. He played throughout his childhood, and started attending games at McCoy Stadium from the time he was seven years old. He was an intern for the PawSox in 2001, and said that the craziest thing he witnessed that season was this immortal Izzy Alcantara meltdown:

When it comes to their food offerings, the PawSox are significantly less crazy than an enraged Izzy Alcantara. Eric Petterson, the team’s director of concessions, said that the basics are king. Hot dogs, supplied by Kayem, are the number one offering at concourse stands such as these.

020But with all due respect, hot dogs are boring. Brian and I, with crucial assistance from Eric, decided to highlight the PawSox’s regional specialties instead. We began with clam cakes, which Eric called “the quintessential New England fried food. And this is the quintessential way to serve it, in a white paper bag.”

040The clam cakes are supplied by Blount, a Rhode Island-based clam shack with four area locations. The only thing more quintessentially New England than eating Blount clam cakes out of a white paper bag is dipping said clam cakes into a cup of Blount clam chowder.

“It’s way better than the red New York chowder,” said Eric, provincially and accurately. “We started selling it three years ago.”

Brian was excited to try this time-honored combination.

“It’s a good pairing,” said Brian. “The crunch of the clam cakes to go with the thickness of the chowder. It’s like a sauce. One complements the other, perfectly.”

Brian washed down his clam combo with Del’s, a regionally-beloved brand of frozen lemonade. I’m not sure why he looks so concerned about doing this.

043 “Del’s is definitely a southeast New England thing, specifically a Rhode Island thing,” said Brian. “If there’s an official beverage of the state, then it would probably be Del’s. Well, that or coffee milk. I’ve been told that if you go across the state line and ask for coffee milk, they think you’re asking for milk in your coffee. You don’t have to venture far to find people who have never heard of it.”

I was intrigued by this tangent, as I had never heard of “coffee milk” either. And, sorry Del’s, but Wikipedia informs me that coffee milk actually is the official state drink of Rhode Island — “a sweetened coffee concentrate called coffee syrup [added] to milk in a matter similar to chocolate milk.”

We move on from that piece of information to a piece of pizza.

045PawSox pizza is supplied by Portland Pizza, which Brian called “an upgrade over Papa Gino’s.” I’ll let you Rhode Islanders out there (all couple dozen of you) argue that one out.

But no matter what the brand, it’s better to eat pizza off of a plate.

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Despite being an upgrade over Papa Gino’s, Brian said that this slice “left a little to be desired.”

“It could have more flavor,” he said. “It could be a little zestier.”

We were gonna call it a night after the pizza, but Eric suggested that Brian eat some fries.

“Nothing’s number one in front of hot dogs, but the shoestring fries are a signature item,” he said. “You can get a lot for not a lot of money.”

049Brian’s appetite only seemed to be growing. He was a voracious eating machine.

050“The fries are always salty, but they’re some of the best around,” said Brian. “They’re crispy and light at the same time. But now I definitely need a drink.”

After taking a hearty swig of Del’s, Brian gave his final thoughts on the PawSox designated eating experience.

“It was great. I didn’t even know about the clam cakes and chowder. Blount’s is somewhat famous and I didn’t expect that it would be here. That was a good move. They are a super local staple.”

Oh, and speaking of super local staples, Brian suggested that the PawSox should offer the Rhode Island specialty that are Coney Island System hot dogs (also known as “New York System” or simply “Hot Wieners”).

“They’ve got to hire one of those guys who lines ’em all up on his arm.”

The future of PawSox concessions? Brian can dream.

Photo: huffingtonpost

Photo: huffingtonpost

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Nothing But the Real McCoy in Pawtucket

To see all posts from my September 1, 2015 visit to the Pawtucket Red Sox (this is Part Two) click HERE. To see all of the posts from my August/September 2015 trip through New England, 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 previous PawSox post was a lengthy and discursive overview of both team and stadium history, interwoven into a contextualizing “pregame wandering” narrative. No promises, but it is my intent to keep this post — Part Two in the series — short and simple.

It was September 1, 2015 and the PawSox were taking on the Lehigh Valley IronPigs in a Tuesday evening contest. Both teams were out of postseason contention, but the show must go on.

036Let us now take a look to the left. I mean, why not?

037I spent the first several innings of the ballgame in close commiseration with my designated eater (you know, the individual who consumes the ballpark cuisine that my gluten-free diet prohibits). That will be documented in the next post.

By the time I returned to the stands, darkness had descended upon us all.

051I then spent the next couple of innings cataloging the observations of longtime PawSox fans dismayed at the team’s proposed move to Providence. Read all about it.

These conversations were followed by a requisite bout of wandering, which eventually brought me to the outfield berm.

054While on the berm, I captured this select snippet of “God Bless America.”

I thought that the above Vine came out really well, and that people on social media would pick up on it, but that didn’t happen. Oh, well. I’m used to it. I’ll just be out here by my lonesome being brilliant, for however long it takes for the world to catch on. I’m like the Melville of baseball bloggers, and while there are distinct downsides to one’s legacy being posthumous it just shows that I’m ahead of my time.

I no longer have any idea regarding what point I’m trying to make here. Do you have any idea, Paws? 056Yeah, me neither. So let’s just move on to a desultory Tuesday night rendition of “Sweet Caroline.”

Seeking the mental clarity that often results from a new perspective, I made a rapid ascendance to the top of the stadium.  058The PawSox were wrapping up a speedy 10-2 victory over the IronPigs. Rich Hill, who I interviewed a decade ago, struck out nine over seven innings and earned the win.

The game may have been over, but the evening would not be complete without a Groundbreaking and Subversive Ballpark Joke.

On the way out of the stadium, I passed through yet another shrine to the long and distinguished history of McCoy Stadium. As mentioned in the last post, this kind of stuff can be found all throughout the ballpark. It is a living museum, in perpetual celebration of itself.

060Outside the ballpark, I spent a few minutes cruising around in a golf cart with PawSox director of security Rick Medeiros.

065Rick, in addition to being a likable and outgoing guy, is a fellow blogger. Check out his “Rollin’ With Rick” blog, which recently dedicated a post to my evening at McCoy. One of Rick’s long term goals is to dethrone me from my #1″MiLB Pro” ranking on MLBlogs, but I’m ready for the fight.

square-upI’m ready for a metaphorical fight, at least. In a real one, Rick would knock me out no problem.

Anyhow, outside in the parking lot after the game, Rick and I kept tabs on the nightly autograph scrum. I’d never seen this before, but the PawSox have established a separate “kid’s only” autograph line. That’s a pretty cool innovation, as it gives them some separation from the middle-aged adults who comprise the majority of the autograph collecting ecosystem.

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And that just about did it for my one (and thus far only) evening at McCoy Stadium. On behalf of a faded concourse image of Ernie Whitt, I bid you all goodnight.

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On the Rhode in Pawtucket

To see all posts from my September 1, 2015 visit to the Pawtucket Red Sox (this is Part One) click HERE. To see all of the posts from my August/September 2015 trip through New England, 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 fourth stop on my fifth road trip of the season marked the first time that my Minor League travels had taken me to Rhode Island. There is only one Minor League Baseball team in Rhode Island, and that team is the Pawtucket Red Sox. The PawSox, as they are often referred to as, have spent the entirety of their existence at McCoy Stadium.

001As you can see in the above photo, McCoy Stadium is located on Ben Mondor Way. Ben Mondor bought the PawSox in 1977, when their financial situation was dire, and turned the team into one of the most well-regarded operations in the industry. Two of his key employees then, Mike Tamburro and Lou Schwechheimer, went on to log decades of service with the club. Tamburro remains the CEO, and Schwechheimer stepped down as vice president following the 2015 season. The PawSox, all the way around, have been a model of consistency. They operate in the league’s oldest stadium, boast its longest-running affiliation and have a front office core that has been with the club for decades.

But nothing lasts forever. Mondor died in 2010 at the age of 85, and this past February his widow, Madeline, sold the team to a Boston Red Sox-affiliated ownership group which immediately announced its intent to move the team to the neighboring city of Providence. To say that this relocation plan has been controversial would be an understatement. Emotions have run high from the start, and everybody in Rhode Island seems to have an opinion. And, usually, it’s been a negative opinion.

The PawSox relocation controversy was front page news on the day that I visited. This machine was  situated just down the street from the stadium.

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I’ve written plenty about the PawSox in recent months, including articles (HERE and HERE) that originated during this visit. For a fairly up-to-date recap of the situation, click HERE.

To sum it all up: The Paw Sox will be playing AT LEAST two more seasons at McCoy Stadium, and probably more than that (the current lease expires in 2020). This post and those that follow will simply focus on what it is like to attend a game at McCoy. That’s where I was on this low-key Tuesday evening, and that’s where they’ll be for the foreseeable future.

McCoy is located in a scruffy, largely residential area. AMVETS Post 13 is located just down the street. 004This nearby driveway appears to lead directly into the back of the outfield fence.

005The Right Spot Diner, probably the most visible and best-known business in the immediate vicinity of the stadium, serves three meals and day and specializes in “Hot Wieners.” This is a Rhode Island-specific form of hot dog, which, according to Wikipedia, are also sometimes referred to as “Gaggers.” I went in before the game, sat on the counter, and got a hamburger steak with green beans. It just seemed like the right thing to do.

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Moving toward the stadium proper, I was greeted not by a hot wiener but by a cool bear.

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The bear’s name is Paws.

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Okay, resume:

McCoy Stadium is, in a word, venerable. There is a lot of history here, and much of this history is commemorated within the facility’s hallways, stairways, offices and ramps. I would bet that, taken together, no stadium in Minor League Baseball contains more team-specific memorabilia than does McCoy.

011McCoy’s main entrance is located out toward left field, so one of my first views of the playing field proper came from this vantage point. This is a stadium that immediately felt unique. Even after an extensive renovation (in 1999), there is nothing cookie-cutter about it.

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Souvenirs are available on the concourse.

015Many, many souvenirs. There is even an “autograph fishing set,” which, if you don’t already know, will make a lot more sense later in the post.

016On the concourse, one finds an extensive homage to McCoy’s biggest claim to fame. In 1981, the stadium hosted the longest professional baseball game of all time. The game, between the PawSox and Rochester Red Wings, took 33 innings to complete. 32 of these frames were played on April 18 and 19th.

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For what it’s worth, here’s what the team’s 1981 program looked like. None of the three players that this boy is dreaming about — Dave Stapleton, Glenn Hoffman, John Tudor — played in “The Longest Game.”

009Another great “McCoy Stadium Moment” occurred in 1999, when Paw Sox outfielder Michael Coleman went 7-for-7 and hit for the cycle in a 25-2 rout of Norfolk. As this sign notes, Coleman “became the first player in the history of professional baseball to go 7-for-7 and hit for the cycle in the same game.” Coleman played 22 games over part of three Major League seasons (1997, 1999, 2001) and didn’t hit for the cycle over the entirety of his MLB career (he collected eight hits, including one double and one home run).

Baseball is a rabbit hole. I’m always getting lost.

022McCoy Stadium is laden with such signifiers of the past. This painting of a sad-looking Rich Gedman, who did play in “The Longest Game, “is located on the ramp leading to the upper level.

023The view from the top of the ramp. Yep, more Paw Sox-related player signage can be seen from here as well.

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There is a ramp leading from the upper-level aisle into the press box, which looms above and in front of a section of seating. I don’t think that I’d ever seen that before.

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The McCoy broadcaster’s booth, which in 2014 was occupied by Josh Maurer and Will Flemming, has long been a hotbed of future big league talent. I wrote an article about this phenomenon for MiLB.com last offseason (after PawSox broadcaster Jeff Levering was hired by the Brewers), and that article was reprinted in the Paw Sox’s 2015 yearbook.

Pass the mic:

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Notable alumni

Every Minor League broadcaster wants to eventually get to the big leagues. But Pawtucket is a good place to be in the interim, as the listening audience is far bigger than the average team’s.

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McCoy Stadium also has what is considered to be the best press box spread in Minor League Baseball. Several people told me this, and despite the small sample size I would have to concur. If you work in the Minors, then you know how rare it is to get a healthy, balanced press box meal. What a perk.

I was in attendance during a Tuesday night in September, and just like in Lowell the night before I was told that I had picked one of the worst days of the season to visit. I seem to have a knack for doing such a thing.

But the show, it must go on. It always does and it always will. 028 The dugouts at McCoy are located at field level, directly under the seats (the seating bowl begins 10 feet above the field of play). This unorthodox layout has led to the tradition, seen in the photo below, of placing balls and other memorabilia into milk jugs and buckets for the players to sign. This is why the team store sells an “autograph fishing set.”

On a busy day, dozens of fishing apparatuses would be hanging from the railing as their owners waited for a bite from the players down below. But, again, this wasn’t a busy day. 029The fishing occurs at both dugouts. Note that here, on the visitor’s side, most of the hanging items are baseball card albums. 030Time to reel it in, folks, as the game was about to start. The PawSox, following established (but by no means mandatory) protocol, asked me to throw out a first pitch.

Me, thinking about throwing a perfect strike: pitch1Me, throwing a perfect first strike: pitch2Me, posing with a PawSox player after throwing out a perfect strike. pitch3The Paw Sox do it up right when it comes to first pitches, giving each first pitch thrower a commemorative cap and ball as well as a business card including a link to all of that evening’s pregame photos (which is where I got the three seen above).

After throwing out the first pitch, I was directed back into a corridor and, yes. That corridor was packed with memorabilia. 035Now is as good a time as any to “Paws” this McCoy Stadium saga. Stay tuned for the exciting conclusion, which will appear as soon as humanly possible.

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About Last Night: Pawtucket Red Sox, September 1, 2015

This season, when I’m on the road, I’ll be writing an on-the-spot blog post about each Minor League ballpark that I visit. Then, upon my presumed return home, I’ll provide the multifaceted blog coverage that you have come to know and, perhaps, love. Let’s get to it, lest it get to us!

2015 “On the Road” landing page — including complete itinerary — HERE! 

September 1, 2015:  McCoy Stadium, home of the Pawtucket Red Sox (Triple-A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox).

Opponent: Lehigh Valley IronPigs, game time 7:05 p.m.

McCoy Stadium, from the outside: 

001McCoy Stadium, from within: 

IMG_0351Culinary Creation: Clam Cakes in a greasy white paper bag (best when dipped in bowl of Blount’s New England Clam Chowder)

040Ballpark Character: Paw Sox director of security Rick Medeiros, author of the “Rollin’ with Rick” blog.

065 At Random: The line score for the “Longest Game in Professional Baseball History” cannot be captured within a single photograph.

017Your Groundbreaking and Subversive Ballpark Joke of the Day: You know, because there was a long “Paws” before I said his name. Since I feel the need to explain this one, you know it didn’t work.

Next up: 

9/2: New Hampshire Fisher Cats

9/4: Portland Sea Dogs

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Pac-Man’s tour of the Minor Leagues

Hello everyone. The italicized text you are currently reading is courtesy of I, Ben Hill, proprietor of the eponymous “Biz Blog.” Though I have run many “guest posts” on this blog through the years, what you are about to read is something a little bit different. Ashley Marshall, who has been writing for MiLB.com since the 2010 season, has agreed to become a regular contributor to this blog as well as some of my regularly occurring MiLB.com content (such as the long-running “Promo Preview”).  

Therefore, when I am on the road, Ashley can keep you abreast of Minor League Baseball business and promotional happenings that I otherwise might not have had the time or sanity to write about properly. I’m considering this a win-win-win situation: I have a little bit less on my proverbial plate and can produce my “On the Road” material in a timelier fashion. Ashley, a Minor League Baseball renaissance man, gets to write more about an area of the industry that he is interested in. And you, the presumably loyal reader, get more of the material you have come to know and, yes, love. 

So who is Ashley Marshall? No one knows the answer to that question better than Ashley Marshall himself. The floor is now ceded to him, so that he may introduce himself and then, as the title of this post implies, take you on a Pac-Man inspired tour of the Minor League landscape. 

By Ashley Marshall / MiLB.com

profile photo cropHello and welcome to Ash’s Ben’s Biz Blog. My name is Ashley and I’m entering my sixth season as an editorial producer at MiLB.com. You’ll see my name popping up from time to time in this blog as I contribute to the site and help Minor League Baseball’s chronicler of promotions during his road trips.

You’ve probably spotted my byline atop game recaps, prospect primers, league previews and Q&A’s over the past few years. Now you’ll see me pinch-hitting on the top pro Minor League blog on the Internet. Fortunately for Ben’s loyal readers, I share a number of interests with the master of puns himself. We both love viral content, thought-provoking analysis, eye-catching designs and curated information exploring the business side of baseball.

If you follow me on Twitter — and if you don’t, then you really should rectify that right now — you will know that I love anything made from a part of a pig, as well as photography, themed jerseys and all things British. If I could take pictures of a team playing in uniforms depicting the Queen of England eating bacon on a stick, I’d die a happy man. I think a lot of other people would get a kick out of that, too. Lehigh Valley, I’m looking at you.

For my first post, however, I wanted to share something that recently caught my eye, because one Easter egg that didn’t go unnoticed over the weekend was the gem brought to you by Google Maps and Pac-Man.

The concept was simple, the execution flawless. Take existing Google Maps, turn the screen into a playable maze, transform roads and paths into a grid of Pac-dots and guide Namco’s most famous two-dimensional character to glory.

Productivity nationwide took a hit when the browser game went viral. Now it’s about the take another hit. What’s better than helping Pac-Man evade Blinky, Pinky, Inky and Clyde in your neighborhood? How about zig-zagging your way around your favorite Minor League ballparks?

I’ll take you on a virtual tour of Pawtucket, Jupiter, Albuquerque, Great Lakes and Staten Island, while inviting you to find other maps that appeal to your baseball and gaming sensibilities.

1) Guide Pac-Man down S. Bend St, and along Division St. to help him beat the McCoy Stadium level. The running track to the northeast of the stadium presents just one way in and one way out, so make sure you bring a solid gameplan to this Rhode Island task. Red Sox Nation can’t help you here, so you’re all alone at the plate. See Blinky, hit Blinky.

pawtucket red sox map2) Roger Dean Stadium is bordered by back fields to the north, Florida Atlantic University to the south and Abacoa Golf Club to the west. The key to winning this map on Florida’s east coast is successfully navigating the traffic circle joining Central Blvd, Main St and Scripps Way. The Hammerheads may share the ballpark with the Palm Beach Cardinals, but you have this course all to yourself.

jupiter hammerheads map3) Albuquerque’s Isotopes Park sits in the heart of Central New Mexico Community College’s campus. University Blvd SE runs north-south and Avenida Cesar Chavez SE goes east-west, but the intricate combination of adjoining streets make it hard to pass this midterm exam. You’ll be going up and down more often than Joe Girardi in the eighth inning of a one-run game.

albuquerque isotopes map4) Located two hours north of Detroit between Lake Michigan and Lake Huron, Dow Diamond is surrounded by roads of every side that dissect Fournie Park and lead to the Tittabawassee River. Fortunately for Loons fans, you get to avoid Rt. 20 and instead stay on Buttles and State Streets. There are no season-ending trips to the DL in this map.

great lakes loons5) Richmond County Bank Ballpark sits at the north-eastern tip of Staten Island, a stone’s throw from the Hudson River and New York Bay. The four enemies start at the corner of Hamilton Ave. and St. Mark’s Place, giving Baby Bombers fans the chance to gobble up the pellets along the waterfront before Inky and Pinky catch you in a rundown.

staten island mapNow you’ve checked out a few of my favorite MiLB mazes, why not spend a couple minutes finding your own team on Google Maps and seeing if you can get the cherries before your three lives run out. Reach out to me on Twitter @AshMarshallMLB or via email and share a screenshot of a map you enjoyed playing.

ashley.marshall@mlb.com

twitter.com/ashmarshallmlb

Jack of All Trades, Master of One

Last week I wrote a piece on Aaron Goldsmith, who, at the age of 29, has landed a job as the Mariners #2 radio announcer after just six seasons in the Minor and independent leagues. Here’s the “cover” art:

goldsmith

Of course I’d encourage you to read the story, but the reason I’m bringing it up here in this blog forum is because I’d like to share a notable “outtake” from my conversation with Goldsmith. When I asked him his thoughts on why the Mariners hired him (out of 160 applicants), he replied that “first and foremost I hope they liked the way I call a game.”

While this should go without saying, he then remarked about an aspect of his hiring that was perhaps more unexpected.

“I have experience doing things outside of the broadcast booth, social media, creating web content, podcasts and video interviews,” said Goldsmith. “[The Mariners] were very interested in my ideas and thoughts regarding what worked and what hadn’t worked within that realm.”

Major League organizations are far more fragmented and specific in their employee responsibilities than their Minor League counterparts, and Goldsmith won’t be expected to be a technological jack-of-all-trades like he was during his stints with the Frisco RoughRiders (2010-11) and Pawtucket Red Sox (2012). Nonetheless, these skills appeared to have played at least some role in his acquisition of a much-coveted big league job and as such I believe his example in this realm can and should be one to follow.

45

A postage-stamp sized representation of Aaron’s PawSox blog

On a personal level — over the years I have become acquainted with dozens (hundreds?) of Minor League broadcasters and, certainly, Goldsmith was among those who stood out due to his proactive approach to online communication. He started Frisco’s “Riders Insider” blog in November 2010, which almost immediately established itself as one of the most informative and oft-updated blogs in Minor League Baseball. Upon getting hired with Pawtucket Goldsmith began “45 Miles From Fenway,” which in January 2013 was the highest-ranked MiLB team blog (coming in at #23 overall on MLBlogs monthly “Latest Leaders” list).

Success in such endeavors means nothing if you can’t call a baseball game, of course. But, nonetheless I believe that maintaining a strong presence in these supplementary areas (blogs, podcasts, Twitter, Facebook, etc) is a crucial way to increase your visibility and, therefore, your reputation within what is quite possibly the most cutthroat occupation in all of Minor League Baseball.

I’m getting a little uncomfortable up here on this soapbox, so now seems as good a time as any to beat a hasty retreat. But, before I do so, let me reiterate that I am course interested in your opinion on this and all MiLB-related matters.

Especially broadcasters: do you believe that the development of these secondary skills is now a prerequisite of your success? Or can one still rise to the top on game-calling prowess alone?

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Go West, Young(ish) Blogger

The title of today’s post is more than just a belabored play on an already mangled and misattributed quotation. It is also my way of telling you that I’m on the cusp of 2011’s first road trip!

Motivated by wanderlust and an unbeatable rental car deal, I’ll be checking out the new-for-2011 Tucson Padres before moving on to a quartet of California League teams. The itinerary:

May 11-12: Tucson Padres

May 13: Writing/Travel Day (although who knows? Maybe I’ll be able to get to a ballpark by nightfall).

May 14: Lancaster JetHawks

May 15: High Desert Mavericks

May 16: Inland Empire 66ers

May 17: Lake Elsinore Storm

I’m psyched to be making my first California sojourn as a so-called professional, and to once again get behind the wheel of a car after yet another prolonged stint of NYC public transit emasculation. Now comes the part of the post where I earnestly implore YOU to please get in touch with suggestions as to who to talk to, where to visit, what foods to try, etc. I of course have some ideas of what to write about, but as usual much is to be determined. Your feedback is much appreciated.

In particular, let me know if you have any interesting California League stories/memories. It seems like surreal things happen out there on a regular basis.

And driving a car again will no doubt lead to profound sticker shock at the pumps, something I mercifully don’t have to deal with on a daily basis here in NYC. But two teams are doing their part to ease the burden: the State College Spikes and Charlotte Stone Crabs. From the former:

From May 9th through May 20th, the Spikes will provide fans a chance to save at the pump when they take advantage of any one of seven ticket offerings. Highlighting the “Spikes Fuel Perks” ticket promotion, any fan that purchases new season tickets will earn a $100 gas card per seat bought!  


And the latter: 

Throughout the Stone Crabs season, fans will have the opportunity to purchase two reserved seats to any Stone Crabs game, along with two hot dogs, and two sodas for only $26. In addition to the ticket package, fans will receive a complimentary $5 gas card from RaceTrac convenience stores, while supplies last.

In completely unrelated news, I received the following email yesterday from Lowell Spinners groundskeeper Jeff Paolino:

I am reaching out to you to see if there is any way to find out if there are any other Military members who are currently Active or Reserve other than myself working in Minor League Baseball? Reason being, I would like to get a group initiative together throughout  MILB as representatives of both baseball and the Military.

This seems like a worthwhile endeavor, but I was unable to assist. So if you fit the above criteria (or know someone who does) then contact Jeff at jpaolino@lowellspinners.com And spread the word!

And, finally, congratulations to Pawtucket Red Sox announcer Dan Hoard — the new radio voice of the NFL’s Cincinnati Bengals.

Enjoy your weekend! For the next two days, it’ll be all we’ve got!

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

In Which Tweeting Leads to Eating

sandgnat.jpgBelieve it or not, I’ve gotten a little bit (heart)burned out on Minor League food news. But the latest and greatest innovation to come down the pike is interesting not just for its colossal caloric content.

The Savannah Sand Gnats will be serving two brand-new menu items at Grayson Stadium this season, the end result of an interesting case study in fan interactivity and the power of social media. Here’s how it went down.

This past Saturday, CNBC sports business reporter Darren Rovell asked his huge cadre of Twitter followers to come up with “The next great ballpark food.” Impressed by the response, he then decided to compile the suggestions and put them to a vote on his blog. Savannah Sand Gnats director of communications Toby Hyde quickly reached out to Rovell, saying that his team would put the winning items (main course and dessert) on the concession menu at Grayson Stadium.

The polls opened on Monday afternoon and closed 24 hours later, a span of time in which 2500 votes were collected. And the winners are:

Chicken and Waffles (27%) and S’Mores Panini (39%)!candw.jpg

The former was submitted by an attorney in San Francisco, with the stipulation that waffles would be used as buns. The latter, meanwhile, is “Nutella, Fluff, crushed graham crackers on Italian bread, grilled on a panini press.” Not coincidentally, it was submitted by the owner of a panini business.

From start to finish, this whole endeavor lasted less than 72 hours. But in that span of time, the Sand Gnats received national publicity as well as a great new marketing angle — exciting concession items!

Rovell and the Sand Gnats have provided an easily adaptable template, and I find myself crushed by the sheer inevitability of similar promotions happening in the future.

— At this juncture in the blog post, it’s time to stop writing and let some videos do the talking. Yesterday, the Pawtucket Red Sox released episode two of their Scavenger Hunt extravaganza. I am posting this because of the absolutely hilarious performance turned in by the Tae Kwon Do instructor:

Meanwhile, this video from Hudson Valley shows that old-school arcade classics can (and in fact should) be adapted into on-field post-game live-action contests. Bonus points for the onfield host, who flat-out tells a contestant that “dude, you’re terrible.”

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

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