Results tagged ‘ Pensacola Blue Wahoos ’

The Po’ Boy Becomes a Po’ Man

You guessed it: in a continuation of recent blogging trends, today’s post will cover in-season topics that I didn’t get around to covering during the season itself. And today’s topic is one near and dear to many of your hearts, even though your heart would be much better off without it.

I am talking, of course, about colossally oversized food items. In a move ripped straight out of the Lake County Captains playbook, this July the Pensacola Blue Wahoos debuted a monstrous menagerie of deep-battered seafood that they called “The Battleship.”

battle

Sez the team:

Tasked with creating something out of the box and unprecedented in Minor League Baseball, Blue Wahoos Executive Chef Chris Voorhees and Sous Chef Travis Wilson came up with the Battleship. It is a culinary creation that will tickle the fancy of any seafood loving sports fan.

“It’s like a po’boy all grown up,” said Voorhees.

So why not call it the Po’ Man? We’ll leave that question for another day, so that I may once again have a press release do my job for me:

[The Battleship] features jumbo fresh caught gulf shrimp, fried fresh oysters, two whole fried soft shell blue crabs and lightly fried potato salad “baseballs” with lettuce, sliced tomatoes and lemon tartar sauce all on a foot-long French bread roll garnished with a pair of grape tomato “pegs”.

The sandwich is large enough to feed a small family, but if fans can finish the entire thing on their own in under 11:21 minutes they get their name and picture on the Blue Wahoos Battleship Wall of Fame and an “I sank the Battleship” t-shirt. If they can ‘Sink the Battleship’ in under nine minutes, they get the wall recognition, t-shirt and the sandwich is free. So far the fastest finisher did so in 11:21 minutes, thus setting the benchmark for recognition.

Clearly, this is one game of Battleship that will always end with the call of “I-8.” (Even if what’s being “sunk” more closely resembles a sub.)

And — update! — check out this informative and compulsively readable post on the Battleship, courtesy of the Blue Wahoos’ “Hook, Line, and Sinker” blog.

As most of you know, my days of consuming Brobdingnagian concession stand entities has gone the way of the dodo, thanks to a 2012 celiac disease diagnosis (file under “What can you do?”). For those who may be interested, this summer Alysa Bajenaru interviewed me about my life as a “ballpark celiac” for her “Inspired RD” blog. Alysa also has celiac disease, and as the wife of professional pitcher-turned-coach Jeff Bajenaru she’s spent an inordinate amount of time at the ballpark as well.

ballparkceliac

Read the interview HERE, because I’ve got nothing else to offer today. Thus concludes Ben’s Biz Blog post #995.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Taking a Cruise Down Video Drive

My words are my words and they’ll always be my words, but, let’s face it, my words are best enjoyed when they are used sparingly and in the service of contextualizing pictorial or video content. Today, I’ll focus on doing just this: words minimal, video content ample.

And, in keeping with October’s blogging theme, this video content shall be comprised of that which I didn’t get a chance to cover during the season. We’ll begin with this riveting pre-game ceremony out of Tulsa, in which the Drillers honored the Coon family and their three generations of military service. The eldest member of the family is 94-year-old WWII veteran Phillip Coon (introduced at the 2:05 mark), the last Native American survivor of the Bataan Death March. His first pitch is a truly inspiring thing to behold, and the Drillers deserve a lot of credit for putting together such a moving piece of Independence Day pageantry.

Those in the mood for less poignancy but more parody would do well to check out this, a far different sort of Drillers video:

Moving from the Texas League to the Eastern League, the Akron Aeros produced many a worthwhile video this season. Teams looking to promote the ballpark appearances of dance world celebrities would do well to follow this comedic template:

And then there’s Cole Cook, who, in addition to pitching for the Aeros this season, took part in a series of videos highlighting his surrealist sensibilities. Cole’s father (actor Peter Mackenzie) had a starring role in the surrealist early ’90s Fox sitcom Herman’s Headwhich perhaps helps to explain how he came to be involved in these sort of farcical enterprises:

And — hey! — look at this. In 2011 I turned the tables on Cole Cook by interviewing him. Yes, the interviewee became the interviewed:

Our downward descent of the Minor League ladder now brings us to Fort Wayne, home of Johnny Appleseed and, therefore, also the home of a Minor League Baseball team whose name references Johnny Appleseed. As part of the Tin Caps’ “’80s Night” promo, they produced this hilarious bit of performance art. Let it serve as proof positive that Minor League ballplayers are far less self-conscious than their big league counterparts:

Finally, you may recall that this past offseason I made productive use of my time by putting together a post featuring every “Harlem Shake” video produced by a Minor League team. That fad came and went, of course, but kudos to the Pensacola Blue Wahoos for being the only (so far as I know) to do the “Harlem Shake” IN-GAME.

Once again: Minor League ballplayers are less self-conscious than their big league counterparts.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Asparagus: The Details

As this will be the last post of November, I may as well lead it off with the topic that always dominates this soon-to-be-expired stretch of the calendar: new logos. It was helpfully pointed out to me earlier this week that I had neglected this recent entry to the alternate logo canon. And what an entry it is:

This one’s courtesy of the Stockton Ports, who will sport this character on their cap during each and every Friday home game next season. The team explains thusly:

The Ports new logos honor Stockton’s heritage as the largest in-land port in California and the Asparagus Capital of the World. A new character, 5 O’clock Dock, is the centerpiece of the identity, brandishing his baseball tattoos and asparagus club.

My favorite line in the press release, however, is the one that notes that the Ports have become “the first professional sports team to use Asparagus green.” Congrats on that accomplishment, guys, but considering the team name and asparagus theme I am disappointed by the failure to incorporate an aromatic “P.”

In other California League headwear news, the Lake Elsinore Storm announced last month that they are now selling 20th anniversary throwback hats that commemorate the team’s original look.

The Storm’s current “eye” logo has long been one of the most popular marks in Minor League Baseball, and that logo can be traced back to designs such as the above. (The eyes used to be part of a larger “Storm” motif, see?) Perhaps that’s a lesson for other clubs — take a particularly striking element of your current logo, then isolate and amplify. Sometimes a minimalist approach can work wonders.

I’ve been posting less videos on this blog than I have in the past, partially because Twitter has become a good forum for that and partially because watching too many of them makes me feel as if my life is slipping away in slow motion right before my eyes.

But, that said, I wanted to single out this recent Fresno Grizzlies production because it is one of the best videos I have seen in quite some time. For one, it highlights a simple and memorable trick that should be part of every mascot playbook. For two, the production is great. (That is certainly not a given when it comes to team-released offseason videos.)

watch?v=vciUTJruLdk&list=UUwivBU_T238VXsk2Kn0dqDA&feature=plcp

Was the fan who got his hat stolen planted there by the team? Almost certainly. Does it matter? Not at all.

And since I’m posting videos, how ’bout this? In Pensacola, the Blue Wahoos have transformed their ballpark into a so-called “Winter Wonderland.” That’s not easy to do in the Florida panhandle!

Skating rink, toboggan slide, jumbo board games, Santa Claus, and more:

watch?v=lnk5UkapEBo&list=UUhxFRSBTWX4fjt5addCXz4A&index=2&feature=plcp

Finally, I’ll close with the following: the basketball trick shot dudes of Dude Perfect visited Frisco’s Dr Pepper Ballpark because of course they did. All of human history has led us to this moment.

And that’s all I’ve got for today. I’ll see you in Nashville next week, should you be in Nashville next week.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Return to the Road: Panhandle with Care

If you haven’t done so already, please check out yesterday’s post. It details my upcoming road trip itinerary, and your feedback (where applicable) is always appreciated. But enough about the future, we’re here today to take a trip through the recent past: my final, once and for all, for-real-this-time, last dispatch from my recent trip to Florida.

image from justflorida.org

Today’s post is devoted to my second, and final, day in Pensacola. The day started as they so often do on these road trips, with me writing in a hotel room while wishing I could be out exploring the area instead. And during this writing session, I heard about the death of Adam Yauch. To put it succinctly, I am a huge fan of the Beastie Boys and Yauch in particular was a role model. I busted out crying when I heard the news, and wrote this post on the Lakeland Flying Tigers while in tears. 

But I wasn’t about to spend the day crying alone in a hotel room, as that was one of my New Year’s resolutions. My first destination was an establishment that was recommended to me many times over and, without question, is Pensacola’s most famous restaurant: McGuire’s Irish Pub. I was psyched to go here, just from reading the menu online, and it didn’t disappoint.

The inside was downright hallucinogenic, but a bit hard for me to capture given the low lighting and my generally reserved attitude regarding photo-taking. But check out the ceiling, adorned with thousands and thousands of dollar bills.

If cameras could do acid, this is what all photos would look like:

And, no, I didn’t “Kiss the Moose” (a time-honored McGuire’s tradition). Given that I was there alone on a midweek afternoon it just didn’t seem appropriate. Next time, maybe?

I started off with the Senate Bean Soup, which, as detailed in the menu linked to above, is 18 cents at all times (but $18 if it’s the only thing that you order).

I followed that up with a ludicrously oversized portion of corned beef and cabbage. The strips of corned beef were arrayed in a circle around a softball-sized lump of cabbage, and complemented with carrots and a creamy dipping sauce. Even the bartender, who is presumably used to serving such things, expressed surprised by how big the platter was.

It was a decent meal, but could’ve been better (the corned beef was a bit tougher than I would’ve preferred). I finished all the meat and carrots, but couldn’t make it through the cabbage. It was the most cabbage I’ve ever had on a plate in front of me, ever, and while I love the stuff there’s only so much a man can take. (This is a metaphor).

And, incidentally, the bartender had been to a Pensacola Blue Wahoos game the week before and expressed a lukewarm opinion. Her primary beef was “$9 beers,” and when I disagreed with her assessment (I had attended on “Thirsty Thursday” the night prior) she relented somewhat and declared herself one of those “typical pessimistic Pensacola people.”

And with that excellent and seemingly unwitting use of alliteration, all was forgiven.

At this point, time, as usual, was in short supply. But I figured that to spend two days in Pensacola and not go to the beach was some sort of criminal offense. So I just started driving toward the water, and soon saw a sign for “Gulf Islands National Seashore.”

This was a beautiful area, no doubt, but the National Seashore didn’t really have a beach area to speak of. I didn’t have time to seek out the white sands that Pensacola is known for, however, due to the fact that I was scheduled to interview Jim Riggleman prior to the evening’s Blue Wahoos game. (Why is Jim Riggleman always foiling my aquatic opportunities? In 2005 he was a celebrity lifeguard at a blogger’s swim meet, and disqualified me on the grounds of being too pale.)

The above anecdote is of course not true, but pictures don’t lie. Some views from the National Seashore:

It was then back to Community Maritime Park, for my second Blue Wahoos game in as many days. The view from the dugout, sitting next to broadcaster Tommy Thrall and director of sports turf management (aka “groundskeeper”) Ryan Sayre while waiting for the aforementioned Riggleman.

It really was a beautiful day for baseball.

But it was a beautiful day for a lot of things, and just before the game got underway I decided that I would have to briefly escape the ballpark environment. It might have been a mirage, but while driving into the stadium I saw something that piqued my interest to the utmost degree…

So as Blue Wahoos fans streamed toward the ballpark from downtown, I walked in the opposite direction toward something I hoped that I had not imagined. Past the railroad tracks I went…

and…YES! My eyes had not deceived me. There it was, in all its glory. A Crawfish Festival!

Options were plentiful…

Beautiful woman, second from right

But I knew what I wanted — boiled crawfish, plain and simple.

Sorry, dude.

For the uninitiated. Don’t forget to suck the head!

Still reeling from the corned beef, I ordered a so-called “snack pack.”

And went to work. Eating crawfish is a labor-intensive, but deeply satisfying experience. You’ve really got to work for those tender morsels, and not be deterred by all the accompanying junk (yes, another metaphor).

(And while I really enjoyed all of this, I’d like to note that I was the only solo adult in attendance, the only one in a collared shirt, the only one with a notebook, the only one taking pictures of what he was eating, and the only one who didn’t make it to the beach that day because of Jim Riggleman-related obligations. I’m still learning how not to be self-conscious…)

Finished!

The sun was setting as I made it back to the ballpark, a beautiful scene.

A sold out crowd, as seen from the press box.

Down on the concourse I met team owners Quint and Rishy Studer, and spoke with Quint for a bit about his relentless commitment to customer service. That’s all detailed in this MiLB.com article, and of course a more straight-up blog post on the Blue Wahoos can be found HERE.

Also on the concourse, I met fan relations director Stewart Roberts. At every home game, he wheels around the concourse and, as he put it, “gets people pumped up.” A great job to have!

But, jeez, scoreboard graphics guy, way to kick a man when he’s down:

The Blue Wahoos lost, but that didn’t really seem to dampen the spirits of the fans. It was a Friday night, the weather was beautiful, and the beers, contrary to the claims of a local bartender, were less than $9. I stayed at the ballpark until the crowd thinned out.

Soon enough, even the prevalent pedicabs ran out of customers.

And, finally, mercifully, there was nothing left for me to do. The road trip ended for me as they always do — alone, in a hotel room, taking pictures of myself posing with boiled peanuts that had been recently purchased at a gas station.

Good night, folks, and thanks for sticking with me throughout the entirety of this Florida road trip narrative! And while it seems irrelevant to dedicate a Minor League Baseball blog post to Adam Yauch…this one is, anyway. Thanks for everything.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Looking Toward the Next Trip Before Returning to the Last

Today’s post will finally, once and for all, mark the end of my Florida road trip content. And it’s about time, right? I returned from the Sunshine State more than three weeks ago, and next week I’ll embark on my next journey of the 2012 campaign.

Yes, another MiLB road trip! Let’s focus on that for a moment.

From pink to orange to Missouri to dark green and then back to orange.

Here’s where I’ll be going. (As usual, chime in with suggestions regarding places to go, people to meet, establishments in which to eat, etc.)

June 7 — Oklahoma City RedHawks

June 8 — Tulsa Drillers

June 9 — Northwest Arkansas Naturals

June 10 — Springfield Cardinals

June 11 — Travel (should be in Memphis that evening)

June 12 — Memphis Redbirds

June 13 — Jackson Generals

June 14 — Arkansas Travelers

So, there you have it: Eight days, seven teams, four states, two leagues, one making-it-up-as-he-goes-along writer. Any ideas on what I should call this trip? Some pithy name that nicely represents the general region? Let me know.

And now, without further ado, it’s time to put a wrap on Florida. The previous, and penultimate, post of this “Return to the Road” series ended in DeFuniak Springs. From there it was just an hour drive to the final destination of Pensacola, a short trip that included my final appearance at a Florida rest stop. This boldly emblazoned truck was in the parking lot:

Soon enough I was in Pensacola, a city that felt unlike all the others I had visited on this trip. In a word, it felt distinctly “southern,” and my immediate reference point, Minor League market-wise, was Mobile (where I visited in 2010, to see the opening of the Hank Aaron Childhood Home and Museum). (One piece of wisdom I heard during this trip was that “in Florida, the further north you go the more southern it gets.” I would concur.)

I arrived in the early afternoon, and spent an hour or so wandering around the downtown area.

Free parking, so long as you back in at an angle.

St. Michael’s Church, serving the Catholics of Northwest Florida for over 230 years.

Cannibal Corpse had played Vinyl the night before (!), with Steve Earle scheduled for the following evening. (It was an eclectic venue, as Lil Kim had an upcoming show as well. I wish all of the aforementioned artists were together on one bill, and then went on to record an album produced by Rick Rubin).

This barber shop had all sorts of memorabilia in the window, and I made a (failed) promise to myself that I would get a haircut there the next day. But the only picture of mine that really came out features this wonderful sign.

Downtown’s Palafox Place was lined with bars and restaurants…

For lunch, I followed a reader recommendation and stopped in at a dark and spacious bar and restaurant called Hopjack’s. They have a lot of beer.

I had a sense of deja vu as soon as I looked at the menu, with the emphasis on artisanal pizza and duck-fat fries bringing to mind a place I’d been to twice when in Mobile. That place was, in fact, another Hopjack’s. There are three of them total.

Blackened shrimp and peppers fold, with duck fat frites.

I spent that evening at the Pensacola Blue Wahoos game, and you can find my post on that HERE.

But you know what? I spent the entire next day in Pensacola as well, and still have a lot left to share. So rather than let this post get more unwieldy than it already is, I’ll renege on my oft-repeated claim that the Florida content will end today.

It’ll end tomorrow. Promise.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

On the Road: Soaking Up the Scene in Pensacola

Seeing five Florida State League ballparks in five days was a whirlwind, but the concluding event of this latest (and therefore greatest) road trip was yet to come. I left Daytona on Wednesday afternoon (after making a cameo at that morning’s “education day” D-Cubs game), and then embarked on a travel day that ended within the not-so-scenic environs of the DeFuniak Springs Super 8 Motel.

And on Thursday, traveling further west along the Florida panhandle, I reached my final destination: Pensacola, home of the Southern League’s Blue Wahoos. I have a lot of random material from Pensacola to share in the near future, but for the sake of clarity, brevity and my own self-imposed timetables this post shall focus on Thursday’s doubleheader at brand-new Community Maritime Park. (Consider this a companion to Tuesday’s MiLB.com piece. Please).

The parking lot is to the right of this vast expanse of grass, and it’s purposefully small. The idea is that people will bookend their Blue Wahoo experience by drinking, dining, and socializing in downtown Pensacola — located about a 10 minute walk from the ballpark — and on both nights I attended people were indeed streaming in via foot, pedicab, and shuttle bus. (Again, there will be more on all of that in a future post.)

But at this early juncture, I more or less had the stadium to myself.

The man in the full uniform leaning against the cage is former Cincinnati star Eric Davis, now a Reds roving instructor. And on the far right there is Pensacola manager Jim Riggleman, who in 2011 left the Washington Nationals in a cloud of controversy. That’s not something that he’s inclined to elaborate on these days, but I did get the chance to interview Riggleman in the clubhouse the next day.

(Other Blue Wahoos who were subjected to my Flipcam stylings were Donnie Joseph, Ryan LaMarre, and Didi Gregorious. My interviews with the latter two included questions regarding the Cannibal Corpse show that had taken place in Pensacola the night before. A simple search for these players names on MiLB.com will yield the interviews).

But the star of the show at Community Maritime Park is, quite simply, the view of Pensacola Bay (beyond which lies the Gulf of Mexico).

The above picture was taken from the team’s Hancock Bank Club. Admission to the “club” is sold as a season ticket, and food is part of the package. There are no suites at Community Maritime Park, so this is about as “exclusive” as the stadium gets.


I was in the Hancock Bank Club as part of a stadium tour being provided by Blue Wahoos executive VP Johnathan Griffin. At one point I dropped my pen onto the stadium’s lower level, and for that faux pas I blame my earlier consumption of this.

That’s the Blue Wahoo, the only ballpark drink I’ve ever seen that features moonshine as a prominent ingredient. (And the strawberries resting on top had been soaked in the stuff!)

Drinks such as the above are available at Mulroy’s Bar, located on the concourse behind home plate. Nearby, one can also find plenty of beer options:

And the team even has its own beer on draft, called “Ono.”

Another bit of liquified branding is the team’s own bottled water (both the beer and water will soon be sold outside of the ballpark as well).

The people of Pensacola seem to enjoy their drinking, is all that I’m getting at, and this trait is consistent with beach towns nationwide. Hot weather and lots of time on the white sand can result in a powerful thirst. And speaking of the people of Pensacola, at this point they were streaming into the ballpark en masse. (It was a sell-out crowd, and as this post progresses, you’ll see more and more folks in the ballpark.)

The view from the right field concourse, both facing the field…

and away from it.

There are no general admission seats, but $5 gets you into the park and provides access to anywhere on the (approximately 270 degree) concourse as well as the grass berm. The preponderance of open space lends itself to a relaxed atmosphere even when the park is full.

The previous night’s game had been rained out, and along with it a planned “Superhero Night” promotion. The team re-scheduled it for the next day, and this young fan came prepared.

The area behind (and adjacent to) the center field scoreboard is currently unutilized, but Griffith imagines it as a beach-themed party area.

Community Maritime Park is just a portion of a larger “live-work-play” downtown development project. This amphitheater, which includes access to the Blue Wahoos’ outfield concession areas, will be completed in time for a Charlie Daniels concert next month.

I soon took a trip to the press box, to join Tommy Thrall and Andrew Green for an inning on the radio.

My recent moonshine consumption may have led to an even greater propensity for puns than usual, and perhaps the audio will one day surface. Later in the evening I noticed that the broadcast was playing at a fairly substantial volume in the men’s restroom — I can only hope that I said something that made a man laugh as he was urinating, for this is my lone goal in life.

And speaking of the restrooms, they have their own attendants stationed outside.

This is all part of a relentless emphasis on cleanliness and customer service, and a large part of team owner Quint Studer’s business philosophy (more on that in the MiLB.com piece). Even after the novelty wears off, I imagine that Community Maritime Park will remain one of the cleanest and friendliest parks in MiLB.

But the novelty hasn’t worn off yet, of course, and on these trips I’m always looking for novelty — especially in concessions.

Food and beverage director Mark Micallef had handed me a large wad of “employee bucks” prior to the game, and I intended to make use of them. Playing off of the nautical theme, concessions are can be found on both the “Port” and “Starboard” sides of the stadium.

I had spoken with executive chef Chris Voorhees before the game, and was intrigued by both the 1/3rd-pound “Heater Burger” and the much-touted Shrimp Po’ Boy. But I couldn’t pass up the “Sea Dog” — a foot-long breaded cod topped with cole slaw, tartar sauce, and the team’s signature “Wahoo Sauce” (house-made, it’s kick determined by how long it had been left to marinate).

I loved this thing for two — nay, three — reasons:

1. The cole slaw was tart and fresh. It had a bit of a crunch to it, and was far better than the uninspired mush found at diners nationwide.

2. The breading was light and crisp, and the fish within tender and flaky

3. It was seafood. Burgers and hot dogs are all well and good, but I was burned out on them at this point and glad to try something new. And this was my first stop in Florida where seafood had been on the concession menu! Strange, considering that it’s Florida and all.

Dessert was to be found at the shaved ice stand located on down the third base line, which offered dozens of flavors. I went with “Frog in a Blender” simply because it was called “Frog in a Blender,” but amphibious innards were nowhere to be found. Instead it was a mix of lemon-lime and watermelon flavoring.

And while nothing I ordered was in need of additional condiments, let it be known that the Blue Wahoos are well-stocked.

At this point my narrative, which barely existed in the first place, peters out. So let me close with a final array of photos, depicting the nighttime atmosphere of Pensacola baseball on a Thursday night.

The night ended as these nights always do — with Launch-a-Ball! (I must note, however, that Launch-a-Ball and Thirsty Thursday doesn’t necessarily mix. Play had to be stopped on two occasions due to a ball being thrown onto the field, and in the latter instance it was while closer Donnie Joseph was delivering a pitch with two outs and two strikes. To whomever threw it: there is a special circle of hell waiting for you, one in which the flip-flops pinch your toes, the Sublime cd skips, and the Natty Ice is served at room temperature).

This concludes round 1 of Road Trip blog coverage. There is still much more to come over the next week or two, much of it focusing on that which occurred outside of the ballparks. So, please, keep coming back and, even more importantly, if you like this sort of thing then please spread the word.

Ben’s Biz Blog post #800 now terminates.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

On the Road: Sunshine On My Shoulder

In two weeks hence, I’ll be embarking on Road Trip #1 of the 2012 Minor League campaign. While there may be slight tweaks to the itinerary, here’s where I’ll be spending my time:

Except none of the places I’ll be visiting are highlighted on the map. I just liked the way it looked. Here’s the itinerary:

April 27: Clearwater Threshers

April 28: Fort Myers Miracle

April 29: Charlotte Stone Crabs

April 30: Lakeland Flying Tigers

May 1: Daytona Cubs

May 2: travel (but hopefully I can take in the 10:30 a.m. D-Cubs game in “fan” mode)

May 3-4: Pensacola Blue Wahoos

I’ve been agonizing over the specifics of this itinerary, as I am wont to do. The Florida State League’s propensity for 10:30 a.m. games at this time of year quite often threw a wrench into my plans, as did my desire to spread myself out geographically. I’ve never been to Florida in a so-called “professional” context, but this will certainly give me an ample dose of the Sunshine State.  The Blue Wahoos, in their inaugural season, are what first motivated me to head south, and while it would have been easier to travel from Pensacola into Alabama (and beyond) the need to hit new locales before repeating old ones led to the schedule you see above.

And now comes the requisite “tell me what to do/who to talk to/where to eat” queries. As always, I will do my best to experience as much as I can while, somehow, maintaining all of my writing requirements and, as an added bonus, not going insane. It’s a lot of fun while it’s happening, and even more fun when it’s over!

But I’m just allowing myself to get overwhelmed. I really and truly do love these trips — this is the third year I’ve been doing them (after a few tentative baby steps in 2009), and each year I learn a little bit more about how to go about it. They are, like everything, a work in progress, and the enthusiastic response I’ve received (from readers like YOU) has gone a long way to insure that they keep happening.

What I look like at the end of a road trip.

But here I am, with my mind on the Florida heat and fun in the sun in general. It’s easy to forget that the reality is much different in other parts of the country. Take the Helena Brewers, for example, who tweeted out the following picture of their ballpark last week along with the observation that “This is why we are shortseason.”

Indeed!

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

And I Was Like “Bay Bay Bay Bay Bay Bay”

The latest and therefore greatest era in Southern League history kicked off last night, as the Pensacola Blue Wahoos played the first game of their incipient existence. And while you’d think the team hasn’t been around long enough to have any enemies, you’d be wrong.

Pensacola is the proverbial hop, skip, and a jump away from Mobile, home of the BayBears, and proximity breeds contempt. This contempt has now manifested itself in the form of the “Bay to Bay Series.

Sez the press release:

The Mobile BayBears and Pensacola Blue Wahoos are proud to announce their rivalry in the inaugural “Bay to Bay Series.” Fans can expect several rivalry themed events at both ballparks this year, including BayBears fans versus Blue Wahoos fans in-game contests, promotions and series leader boards.

The Bay-to-Bay Series is the very first joint-sponsored, event-based rivalry program in Minor League Baseball. Hank Aaron Stadium in Mobile and Maritime Park in Pensacola are just one hour apart from each other.

The uber-snazzy logo seen above was designed by Brandiose, who were responsible for both teams’ logos in the first place. I do wonder, however, if Mobile fans are upset that Pensacola is the “home” team while the BayBears are clearly “second”ary.

You may remember a recent post in which I heaped praise upon the Charleston RiverDogs for their latest “Be Your Own Fan” initiative, featuring marketing initiatives geared to nine unique groups of fans. The Fort Myers Miracle, who are part of the same ownership group, have now done the same.

The eight categories of Miracle fans are as follows: the prospect, the fanatic, the family, the foodie, the brewskie, the retiree, the opportunist and the event seeker.Here’s how it looks, in action:

And now that it’s a new season, I imagine that you may need something new to read (that reasoning doesn’t really make sense, but just bear with me).

Wisconsin Timber Rattlers’ broadcasting/blogging dean Chris Mehring has posted his club’s 2012 intro songs. These posts are always a fascinating glimpse of the zeitgeist, and illustrate the diverse backgrounds of Minor League players.  (I do find it hard to believe that Seth Miller chose “What Is Love” on his own volition, however. And, for what it’s worth, I find “Narcissistic Cannibal” to be a far better song title than actual song.)

Meanwhile, from Kentucky, we have the what I believe to be the first blog from a Minor League host mother perspective. Check it out, while I sit here and wish that there was a similar program for underachieving bloggers.

I’ll close with — what else? — dessert. These “Mini Apple Pie Bites” are available for consumption at Toledo Mud Hens games this season.

Baseball sold separately.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

From 0-60 in 495 Words

The nationwide fraternity of Minor League mascots added its newest member this past Friday, as the Pensacola Blue Wahoos unveiled this fella to his presumably adoring public:

You may remember that I wrote about this Blue Wahoo a few weeks back, when he was nothing more than an artist’s rendering in search of a name. He has since been bestowed with a moniker, and will forevermore be known as “Kazoo.” Interestingly, the Blue Wahoos are referring to Kazoo as a “fictional aquatic creature” despite the fact that he clearly exists.

The Blue Wahoos are entering their inaugural season, but thanks to the inexorable passage of time they’ll eventually be celebrating anniversary seasons of varying degrees of importance. And when they do, there’s a good chance that they’ll put in a call to Studio Simon. I was recently alerted to the fact that this Louisville-based logo powerhouse has had a hand in three recent anniversary marks, celebrating seasons from 10 to 20 to 60.

Let’s review:

Aberdeen IronBirds, 10th Anniversary

I’d say that the above image is pretty much the definition of “self-explanatory.” So let’s move on.

Fort Myers Miracle, 20th Anniversary

Whereas the IronBirds mark needed no explanation, the above logo has a bit of a backstory. Dan Simon, the man behind the Studio Simon brand, reported in an email that:

The Miracle mark features the script font, and the teal and yellow color palette, that the team sported when they first moved from Miami to Fort Myers in 1992.  In fact, the team wore those colors for at least several campaigns before the move, which means that it was them, and not the team formerly known as the Florida Marlins, who deserve credit for officially bringing teal onto the baseball branding landscape.

But wait, there’s more:

As part of their 20th anniversary celebration this season, the Fort Myers Miracle will be wearing throwback uniforms  from 1992, their first year in Fort Myers after their move from Miami (a move necessitated by the fact that the Florida Marlins were taking over the Miami territory, starting in 1993).

The Miracle will be wearing the teal and yellow caps and jerseys for every Friday and Saturday home game during the 2012 season.  There will be a season-long jersey auction that will conclude at the final home game on September 1, when the highest bidders will win the jerseys.

A portion of the proceeds from that auction will benefit the Dave Clark Foundation, which as Simon notes, should “make you ‘Glad All Over.‘” That one deserves a high 5!

Billings Mustangs 60th Anniversary

I did write about that one already, but the above image is superior to that which I had before. And here at Ben’s Biz Blog, you know we only settle for the very best.

One thing is bothering me, though: is there a word for “60th anniversary”? If this was a 50th anniversary then I’d have the chance to drop “quinquagenary” and 75 brings the opportunity for “dodranscentennial.” But, for now, I’m at a loss for words.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Minor League MegaBytes!

Tuesday’s post began with the Erie SeaWolves and their quest to name a nine-foot tall inflatable fish. But exercises in the assignation of aquatic monikers are certainly not exclusive to remote corners of the Keystone State.

In Pensacola, the fledgling Blue Wahoos are currently staging a “Name the Mascot” contest. I’m not sure if this mascot is himself a fish, but at the very least his silhouette looks a tad platypus-ian.

The six finalists are as follows: The six finalists are: Blu, Capt. Catch, Salty, Sinker, Ono (Hawaiian for Wahoo), Kazoo.

I’d advise against the name Ono, because then the mascot will immediately be blamed if the team stops functioning well as a group. (Although, the team could give away “Plastic Ono” figurines).

Moving on to another news item with aquatic undertones — Did you know that season 3 of the HBO show Eastbound and Down was filmed in Myrtle Beach, with baseball scenes taking place at Pelicans stadium? It’s true, and the Pelicans are capitalizing by selling “Myrtle Beach Mermen” merchandise (or “Mermerch,” as I like to call it). 

Officially licensed “Mermerch” is also available at myrtlebeachmermenjerseys.com, a site that gets extra alliteration points for referring to Mr. Powers as “mercurial.” Visitors to the site are greeted with the following image, which looks like a hallucinating sailor’s interpretation of a ’70s era Seattle Mariners logo:

The show wrapped up filming for the third season just last month, and Pelicans broadcaster Joel Godett spent some time on the set as an extra:

Extra! Extra!

Godett thoroughly recapped the experience on his blog, which can be seen HERE.

As you can see, the crowd was really into it:

While MB Mermen gear is all well and good, it’s another piece of MB clothing that really has caught my attention.

The Montgomery Biscuits are now offering this spiffy little number in adult sizes.

Butter Up!

People are giving Bill Simmons flak because he didn’t wear a tie when he interviewed Obama, but it is my promise to you that if I ever snag a POTUS exclusive I will show up at the White House wearing the above item (also: a fanny pack, flip flops, Akron Aeros gym shorts, and a Reading Phillies’ Richie Ashburn-style fedora. I’ve got this all planned out).

And since I’m on the “MB” theme (I didn’t plan on this theme, it’s just that my mind cannot be stopped and is in fact threatening to eat me alive as if I was some sort of anthropomorphic biscuit), my latest Minoring in Business article appeared today on MiLB.com.

It’s on the Florida State League and Spring Training, and can be seen HERE.

Next week I plan to get a bit more substantive on the blog — as it’s 2012 planning time! As always, I look forward to your suggestions as to where I should go and why.

But, for now, I’ll close this blogging week by providing an  happy update on a tragic situation from a few weeks back.

Lake Elsinore Storm mascot Thunder’s stolen quad has been recovered!

Reports the team:

Lake Elsinore Storm mascot Thunder is happy to have his quad back but it looks like it will need a little bit of help before he can come roaring out for game day festivities.
Last Wednesday, the team filed a police report with the local sheriff’s department that the mascot’s quad had been stolen.
After Director of Mascot Operations Patrick Gardenier retrieved the quad from the Riverside Sheriff’s station on Sunday it was found to be a bit more damaged than expected.
“They painted it all black and walked away with the ignition, the tail light, and the wheels are not aligned properly,” said Gardenier. “I hope we can get it fixed in time for the Major League exhibition game.”

In honor of this positive development, I would suggest that the Storm offer a special four-game “Quad Ticket Pack.” A portion of each sales will go to Thunder’s quad refurbishment.

And with that, another Minor League promo idea disappears into the Biz Blog vortex. Never to be spoken of again.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

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