Results tagged ‘ Pensacola ’

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

Pensacola Provokes Pedagogical Pursuits

I’ve written in the past about using Minor League Baseball as a tool to teach sports marketing at the high school and collegiate level, and have since heard from several teachers doing just this.

A particularly thorough example comes courtesy of Shawn Crull, who teaches a sports marketing class at Indiana’s Fishers High School. Inspired by this post on Pensacola’s “Name the Team” contest, Crull put together the following assignment:

Your Sports Marketing Company (you create a name) has been approached by the city of Pensacola, FL.  They have been awarded a AA minor league baseball team in the Southern League for 2012. The city has narrowed the nickname choices down to a final six – Redbones, Loggerheads, Blue Wahoos, Mullets, Aviators, and Salty Dogs.  That is where you and your colleagues come into the picture.

After selecting one of the names, the students were tasked with creating a team logo, mascot, uniforms, team website, and promotional events.  Some examples of the students’ work follows, presented as coherently as my file conversion skills would allow.

Update: More student uniform designs, many of them awesome, can be seen HERE. Crull’s own designs are HERE. The Pensacola club has since been named the Blue Wahoos, with Plan B Branding in charge of creating the logos and identity.

Loggerheads Logo

Loggerheads Mascot

Blue Wahoos Logo

Not-at-all terrifying Blue Wahoos mascot

Blue Wahoo Uniforms

Wahoo Opening Day Promotional Plan

Mullets Opening Day Promotion

So there you go –a great way to get students to engage with the proverbial “nuts and bolts” of a career in sports.

Crull wrote that his students really seemed to enjoy this assignment, and hopefully other educators will be inspired to follow suit. What I like best about projects such as these is that they get students thinking about a career in Minor League Baseball and what that would entail. When I was a student, the thought of working in this industry never occurred to me despite the fact that I was a huge baseball fan. A project such as the above may very well have provided the necessary motivation, saving me from years of unfocused occupational wandering in the process.

Thanks to Crull for getting in touch. Who will be next?

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Pickin’ Names and Pitchin’ In

One of the biggest pieces of news from this past offseason was that the city of Pensacola will be hosting a Double-A Southern League team in 2012 (read all about it HERE).

And — surprise! — this team needs a name. Following standard Minor League Baseball operating procedure, a “Name the Team” contest has been devised and today the finalists were announced: Redbones, Loggerheads, Blue Wahoos, Mullets, Aviators, and Salty Dogs.

The Pensacola News Journal,  a co-sponsor of the contest, explains: It’s a group of nicknames with ties to the U.S. Navy (Aviators), fishermen (Salty Dogs), Gulf species (Mullet, Blue Wahoo), endangered species (Loggerheads), and hunting dog (Redbone), also the name of a 1970s rock band.

The reference to Redbone being a ’70s rock band seems a little gratuitous, so I’m going to assume that writer Bill Vilona was already a fan. But beyond that this is pretty much par for the course, a consistently irreverent group of choices with ties to local wildlife and industry as well as the parent club (Redbone, natch).

Voting begins tomorrow at the newspaper’s website, and runs through the 15th. The new name will be announced on the 23rd, at which point “a logo, team colors and slogans will be created.”

Not at all surprisingly, Plan B Branding will be doing the creating.  The well-established logo and ideas company has been through this identity-creation rigmarole before, with successful and highly-publicized entities such as the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, Richmond Flying Squirrels, and Omaha Storm Chasers.

And, apropos of nothing, Pensacola Rigmaroles is a pretty cool-sounding name.

Pensacola will become the Southern League’s second Floridian market, joining the Jacksonville Suns. Yesterday, the team sent out a press release drawing attention the exemplary way in which the team utilized its day off.

The Jacksonville Suns spent their travel day on Tuesday helping victims of last Wednesday’s tornados and severe thunderstorms in Pratt City, Ala., just north of Birmingham.

The Suns volunteered at the American Red Cross’ Pratt City Disaster Resource Center at the Scott School just blocks from where tornados damaged countless numbers of homes. Pratt City lost nearly 1,000 homes due to last Wednesday’s tornado damage.

Photo Credit: Roger Hoover, Jacksonville Suns

Front Row: Jhan Marinez, Luke Montz, Kevin Mattison. Back row L-R: Joey O’Gara, Dan Jennings, Omar Poveda, Benjamin Todd Jealous of NAACP, Peter Andrelczyk, Corey Madden, and Ryan Curry.

Sometimes the segues come easy, and today is one such day. Check out Kevin Mattison in the bottom right hand corner of that picture — clearly he would be right at home at tonight’s “Mustache Mania” promotion. This celebration of upper lip follicle accumulation has been officially endorsed by the esteemed American Mustache Institute.

And speaking of promos, which I am almost always speaking of, we are fast approaching the time of year in which my inbox is inundated with YOUR promo recaps, pictures, and videos. My livelihood depends on just this.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Keys, Kino, Bambino, Reno

At this time of year I feel like I’m manning the laser cannon in Space Invaders, blasting away  at the relentless Minor League news stories falling methodically from the sky like so much alien detritus. No matter how adept my aim, however, I am always destroyed in the end.

But enough with the life metaphors, as Opening Day is approaching and there is simply no room for existentialist fatalism. There’s a new mascot to write about!

The costumed character in question is a relative rarity on the Minor League scene, as he is based on a Key historical figure, one whose martial maritime (mis)adventures inspired our National Anthem. Meet Frank Key of the Frederick Keys, based on Francis Scott Key and sponsored by the Tourism Council of Frederick County:

Frank Key, who joins long-time mascot Keyote at Harry Grove Stadium, will have his own adult fan club. Those who join “Frank Key’s Army” receive perks such as discounted merchandise and concessions, exclusive Q and A’s with staff and players, and the always enticing prospect of “unique fan experiences.”

In other mascot news, Tucson’s recently-unveiled Friar character now has a name: The Kino Bambino.

The team explains this Ruthian character thusly:

The long lost brother of the San Diego Padres’ Swinging Friar roamed the desert and arrived in Tucson for the March 25th Spring Training game. He dazzled the 11,000 fans that day, dancing and waving to screaming fans. The Tucson Padres front office marveled at their luck – the brother of the Swinging Friar showing up just weeks before the season!

Then the only question was – what to call him? After sorting through the hundreds of suggested names, one stood above the rest, the Kino Bambino. His name has a strong connection to the Tucson region, while also honoring the most famous baseball player of all time. The Kino Bambino, and Kino Stadium, are named after Father Eusebio Kino, the man who established 24 missions in the southwestern United States in the late 1600′s.

Quite fitting that a mascot with a religious background would come to the team after wandering in the desert. Kino Bambino is both on and from a mission.

From Keys to Kino to…uniforms? Sure, why not?

The Asheville Tourists unveiled their lunar-based logo some time ago, but it wasn’t until last week that the world got a look at the unis.

Click HERE for more pics, but I’ve got no time for such finger-activated endeavors. For the Reno Aces have unveiled some new gear, time to switch to ALL-CAPS:

Team-issued explanation:

For all road games, Reno will wear a gray and navy cap, which includes a new logo that features the Reno “R.” The team will debut this new cap during the April 5 exhibition game against the University of Nevada at Aces Ballpark.

Also, the Aces will wear an alternate white cap for select home games this season.

But before you can talk about logos, you have to have a name. Pensacola’s Southern League entry will begin play in 2012 (having re-located from Zebulon, NC), and the team is now accepting submissions in a “Name the Team” contest.

The only thing I can come up with is the “Pensacola Wars” and that’s not even funny. But what else is new?

benjamin.hill

twitter.com/bensbiz

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