Results tagged ‘ promotions ’

The First of Many

After 365 days, we as a species have finally escaped from beneath 2011’s tyrannical yoke.

Happy 2012!

Not surprisingly, very little news of note emerged during the just-concluded holiday season. But, nonetheless, it is now my duty to get you up to speed. For starters, I am ashamed to admit that the unveiling of a Rookie-level team’s secondary logo somehow escaped my all-seeing eye. The team in question is the Grand Junction Rockies:

As you may recall, Grand Junction’s primary logo was unveiled in November (the team has re-located from Casper, where they were known as the Ghosts). Like the secondary logo, the primary logo is strongly influenced by the parent Colorado club. (And, as more than a few Tweeters/commenters/emailers pointed out to me, it may have been influenced by Pizza Hut as well.)

In any case, both logos were designed by Visual Intent. This marks a rare instance in which a Minor League logo was NOT designed by either Studio Simon or the newly-rechristened Brandiose.

Speaking of rare instances, very few teams offer ticket specials in conjunction with the New Year. But the Fort Myers Miracle have once again done just this, with their annual “Resolution Pack.”

Priced at $20.12 (natch), this overstuffed package capitalizes on January’s mania for self-improvement by offering the following:

*A $10 gift card for your nutritional needs and supplements from Mother Earth Natural Foods
*4-pack of Box Seat Ticket Vouchers to enjoy the Miracle in 2012
*One FREE week membership to Snap Fitness and a FREE training session
*One FREE Matt Booth Boot Camp Adventure
*One FREE financial planning session with Pasquale Evangelista with Raymond
 James & Associates

And with the new year comes HOT STOVE SEASON, when teams stoke anticipation for the upcoming season by hosting dinners highlighted by celebrity guests, giveaways, and memorabilia auctions. The Delmarva Shorebirds are putting a unique twist on the format this season, as the club is hosting a “bloggers roundtable.”

Says the team:

In addition to traditional guest speakers, the Shorebirds will host a roundtable conversation about a litany of topics. Guests will have the opportunity to engage the panelists during the roundtable and throughout the night.

“The new format really lends itself to passionate baseball fans that want to talk about the sport with those that cover it on a regular basis,” said general manager Chris Bitters.

If any teams wish to invite hopelessly obscure superstar blogger Ben’s Biz to a banquet, then shoot me an email and we’ll discuss the specifics of my appearance fee and backstage rider.

Finally, I’d like to offer a hearty congratulations to Scott Carter, the new director of marketing for the Durham Bulls. Carter’s previous Minor League gig was as a VP of marketing for the Fresno Grizzlies, where he implemented trend-setting promotions such as Twilight Night, Tweet-Ups, post-game mascot wrestling, and much more. Looking forward to seeing what he’ll be able to accomplish in Durham, a historic franchise with a strong fan base that competes in an excellent facility.

It was in Durham, in fact, that my current profile picture was taken. I ended up wearing this hat for 43 days straight.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Fractions, Reflections, and Farewells

For the past two decades, the Kane County Cougars have played at Elfstrom Stadium. The facility was named in honor of Philip B. Elfstrom, a former Kane County Forest Preserve president who played a key role in bringing Minor League Baseball to the region.

It was announced on Tuesday, however, that the Cougars had reached a new naming rights deal. For (at least) the next five seasons, Elfstrom Stadium will be known as Fifth Third Bank Ballpark. 

Sound familiar? It should. For Kane County is the fourth Fifth Third Ballpark (or Field) in Minor League Baseball. (The others are located in Toledo, Dayton, and West Michigan.) Clearly, a naming-rights juggernaut is forming.

Fifth Third Bank is headquartered in Cincinnati, Ohio. It’s unusual name is described on Wikipedia as [T]he result of the June 1, 1908 merger of Third National Bank and Fifth National Bank, to become the Fifth Third National Bank of Cincinnati. While Third National was the senior partner, the merger took place during a period when prohibitionist ideas were gaining popularity, it was believed that “Fifth Third” was better than “Third Fifth,” which could be construed as a reference to three “fifths” of alcohol.

At the time, no one could have imagined that the name would go on to inspire the most attention-getting Minor League concession item of the 21st century: West Michigan’s “Fifth Third Burger.

Here’s hoping that the Cougars pick up on this trend, and offer a Fifth Third Brat at the ballpark in 2012 (washed down with 5/3rds of a pint of Leinenkugel).

But regardless of potential new food items, this news out of Kane County means that there are a total of 20/3 Fifth Third ballparks in the Minors (approximately 6.66, for you conspiracy theorists).  How do you feel about this? Is it an example of the increasing homogenization of a traditionally diverse industry? Or a reflection of strength and resiliency during tough economic times?

— A topic that provokes far less ambivalence is blogging, which is obviously one of the greatest things one can do with his or her time.  And for an example of a Minor League team blog at its most impressive, take a look at the “2011 Year In Review” post over at “From the Nest” (the official blog of the Great Lakes Loons).

Contained therein are everything from “Top 10 Games” to “Best Nicknames” to “Fashion Stats” to “Notable First Pitches” to “Goofy Head Shots.

I’ll be honest — Minor League team blogs usually  make me grumpy, as they are often well-intentioned but amateurishly done and eventually abandoned. So when teams go above and beyond I take notice. The Loons’ “Year in Review” is more than a blog post. It’s a statement of purpose, one that could be incorporated into sponsorship proposals and season-ticket renewal letters as an example of just how much the team has to offer.

— And speaking of going above and beyond — the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers have made a tradition of offering highly collectible Opening Night bobbleheads, and 2012 is no exception. As part of a year-long 50th Anniversary of Midwest League Baseball celebration, the team is offering no less than five bobbleheads as part of an Opening Night “All-Fan” giveaway.

Spot the difference:

It is not true that their eyes glow in the dark, or that they whisper in Latin at near-imperceptible volume.

These wide-eyed fellas are united in their ability to arouse distinct feelings of unease, but diverse when it comes to what they represent. Sez the team:

Each bobblehead is decorated with the jersey and cap from one of the following years:

  •    1953 Appleton Papermakers
  •   1960 Fox Cities Foxes
  •   1983 Appleton Foxes
  •   1995 Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (Original home jersey)
  •   2011 Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (Updated home jersey)

All fans attending the game between the Timber Rattlers and the Cedar Rapids Kernels on Thursday, April 5, 2012 will receive one of the bobbleheads at random.  There will be equal numbers of four models of bobbleheads.  However, only 250 of the 1953 Appleton Papermakers bobbleheads will be available as part of the giveaway.

Finally, congratulations to Durham Bulls broadcaster Neil Solondz, who recently got the call-up to the parent Tampa Bay Rays. As you may recall, Solondz was one of three broadcasters profiled in my recent MiLB.com article on broadcasters on the cusp. 

Solondz, farewell.

I’d like to think that I’m a blogger on the cusp. But the question remains: the cusp of what?

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Jumping Into the Fire in Dallas

In yesterday’s post I focused on the Winter Meetings Trade Show, and in today’s article on MiLB.com I spent some time discussing the Job Fair (among other things).

So, in keeping with a style that has come to characterize the fragmented nature of 21st-century discourse, now it’s time for a mash-up! What follows is a post on people who were looking for jobs at the Trade Show.

First and foremost, yesterday I landed an exclusive interview with YouTube sensation Domingo Ayala. He is the self-proclaimed “#1 Free Agent” of the Winter Meetings.

“Multi-year deal is big for me, so maybe 20-25 years and a couple hundred million,” said Ayala. “There’s about 30 teams discussing with me right now.”

Ayala’s stint with the Eugene Emeralds was voted this year’s “Best Celebrity Appearance” on MiLB.com, and Ayala said he’d be amenable to another stop in the Minors to “maybe teach the young guys how to play.”

Baseball superstars of a different sort could be found manning Booth 1101. The vaunted Skillville Group could be found there, whose roster of touring performers includes the Zooperstars, Birdzerk, Myron Noodleman and Breakin’ B-Boy McCoy.

Breakin' B-Boy McCoy is in costume, but can you spot the likes of Myron Noodleman and Harry Canary in this photograph?

The tough economy has resulted in less sponsorship dollars for Minor League teams, which has led to a decrease in touring performers on the schedule. But Skillville impresario (and lead Zooperstar) Dominic Latkovski nonetheless expressed confidence.

“The fans want something above what they’re used to seeing, a national act they don’t see every game and we offer that” he said. “We have a good reputation and always deliver, and feel like we’re the best bet out there.”

Meanwhile, at booth 1404, a new touring act was trying its best to make its presence known: The Fur Circus. Here are three of the primary performers, with an idiotic blogger thrown in for good measure.

Idiot blogger not included

I liked the concept behind Fur Circus, and am looking forward to seeing their show. It was described to me as a “circus gone wrong” as well as a “cross between the Three Stooges and Shrek,” in which a hapless ringmaster increasingly loses control of his subjects throughout course of five in-game acts.

The Fur Circus crew is aware of how difficult it can be to break into the game, and part of their pitch is the extent to which they’ll go above and beyond standard touring act obligations via pre-game media appearances and commitment to fan engagement.

“Pre-game, we’ll let everyone know that the circus is in town,” said Jeremy Legg, one of six performers in the Fur Circus posse. “And post-game, we’ll be there posing for pictures until the last fan leaves.”

An even scrappier post-game touring entity was “The Utility Man” aka Ben Youngerman. This former Trenton Thunder employee didn’t have a booth to his name, instead opting to traverse the corridors in search of a receptive audience.

While with the Thunder, Youngerman developed “about a dozen go-to characters,” including the “wacky food vendor” as well as R & B sensation “Benyonce“. He also stresses that he can develop new characters as needed for theme nights and other special events, and specializes in both on-field skits as well as one-on-one fan interaction. Hence, the “Utility Man” moniker.

Youngerman’s operation is a lean one, and as such he says “his price is cheaper” than other touring acts. Whether this results in a plethora of ballpark bookings remains to be seen, but so far his approach has been a good one.

“You’ve just got to throw yourself into the fire,” he said.

That’s a good way to sum up the attitudes of so many here in Dallas, be they job seekers, Trade Show vendors or members of the media. Therefore, I declare this to be the official song of the 2011 Winter Meetings. All hail a true rock legend.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

It’s A Wrap

In the past I’ve mentioned my desire to focus on the future, but at present I’d like to focus on the past.

All of this is to say is that my various season retrospectives (“look-backs,” as we call ‘em in the biz), have culminated with this: the naming of the Dallas Braden Bobblebelly as 2011’s best promotion.

Art Imitates Life: the Dallas Braden Bobblebelly juxtaposed with the moment that inspired it.

I’ve written about the Bobblebelly plenty already, from this blog post all the way through the article linked to above, and I have no desire to rehash that which has already been hashed. But what I want to elaborate on is just how the Ports’ obtained this honor, as it was certainly no accident. “Promotion of the Year” is determined through fan voting, and from the start the Ports prepared their fan base to be active in this regard. Images of the bobblebelly were first made available through Facebook and Twitter, and on the evening of the promotion itself a #promooftheyear Twitter hashtag was unveiled on the videoboard. From there onward, the bobblebelly was promoted aggressively through social media as the year’s best.

Art imitates life imitates art: Braden posing with fans on the day of the promotion

In other words, the Ports wanted this from the start. The driving force behind the campaign was director of marketing Jeremy Neisser, who came to Stockton from the Arkansas Travelers. The Travs were runner-up’s in last year’s Promo of the Year voting, with their pre-game “Jose Canseco vs. Local Sexagenarian” boxing match losing to the Birmingham Baron’s annual “Rickwood Classic.” Clearly, Neisser wanted to avoid such a fate this time around.

The lesson here is that, like with anything in else in life, “if you want it, it’s yours for the taking.” And this season, the Ports simply wanted it the most.

And to that I say this: “Thanks for caring!”

"I'd love to have my own bobblebelly one day," says one Ports player to another.

The final thing I’d like to mention about the 2011 Promo of the Year voting was that five of the 10 promotions nominated in the “Giveaway of the Year” category (including the Braden Bobblebelly) were created by NYC-based Coyote Promotions.

That could be a coincidence, but it seems to me that when teams venture into uncharted bobble-waters they are more apt to go with Coyote. And such items, owing in no small part to their originality, are more apt to be nominated for post-season accolades. Agree? Disagree?

And speaking of post-season accolades, this blog is done with ‘em. Congrats once again to the Ports’ for emerging victorious, and thanks to everyone who took the time to vote.

Now what?

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Dream the Impossible Dream

Yesterday I made a big to-do about returning to present-day matters, but enough of all that. The present is eternal so there’ll be plenty of time for it later.

Today, I want look to the future. Teams across the country have begun the arduous process of putting together their promotional schedules, which leads to the following question:

What would YOU like to see take place at a Minor League ballpark in 2012? Dare to dream! We can worry about budget and sponsorship constraints later; now is the time to simply put it all out there.

I posed this question on Twitter yesterday, and in doing so provided three dream promos that I’d like to see (in addition to “Weird Al Night,” which goes without saying).

Neil Young Night: Thirsty Thursday theme night with Rust Never Sleeps theme jerseys, Crazy Horse drink specials, vacation giveaways to Buffalo (NY) and Springfield (TX), Neil Young karaoke between-innings (use your best falsetto).

Salute to 3rd Party Candidates: An evening in honor of those who made a political impact outside of the traditional two-party parameters. Fans wearing a whig get in free, food and drink specials in the third inning (including Bull Moose Burgers), Ross Perot look-a-like contest, special “seatbelt seating” area in honor of Ralph Nader, representatives from local third parties manning informational booths on the concourse.

Spibute to the Troonerism: Named in honor of notable malapropist Reverend William Archibald Spooner, a Spoonerism is defined on Wikipedia “as an error in speech or deliberate play on words in which corresponding consonants, vowels, or morphemes are switched.”

Reverend Spooner: "Mardon me, padam. This pie is occupewed. May I sew you to a sheet?"

So what better way to celebrate Spooner’s legacy than with an evening of intentional tongue-twisters: Rome Huns, Piled Witches, a spirited rendition of “Bake Me Out to the Tallgame” and maybe even a Clench Beering Brawl! Spoonerisms all evening over the PA and on the videoboard, team-logo spoons to the first 500 fans in attendance, and free admission to all fans who can successfully define ‘morpheme” at the box office.

And, of course, there are a nearly infinite number of regionally specific promotions that could potentially be staged, honoring people, places, and things indigenous to a specific market. A prime example of this would be a suggestion I received last month from intrepid Minor League traveler Rex Doane, who asked that I lobby the Hagerstown Suns front office to stage “Rondo Hatton Night” in honor of the legendary horror film actor (and Hagerstown native).

What d’ya say, Suns?

Rondo Hatton: A bigger draw in Hagerstown than Bryce Harper?

Please hit me up with some of your own suggestions, via comments, email, and Twitter. No idea too small, no idea too absurd. Let’s get creative and have some fun with this, because why not? Opening Day is still 4000 hours away, and that’s a whole lot of eternal present to get through.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Keep On Taco Truckin’

As you are most likely aware, the polls for the 2011 MiLB.com “Promotion of the Year” are currently open (and will be for another nine days — it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon).

Because an informed electorate is the bulwark of democracy, I made sure to provide links to as many of the nominees as possible. But one promo that I didn’t link to was Fresno’s “Taco Truck Throwdown” a situation that I will now rectify by featuring it right here and now.

This and all taco photos: Fresnotacos.com

In a post on the “Yardwork” team blog, the Grizzlies described the promotion as follows:

After an extensive search of the Valley, seven local trucks from Fresno, Fowler, Madera and Sanger were invited to Chukchansi Park to take place in the competition, which took place on the final Thirsty Thursday of the season. The buzz surrounding the event picked up as it got closer, generating stories throughout the Fresno media. The local ABC, NBC and FOX affiliates, as well as local radio and a whole smattering of local blogs previewed the event. With the news out on the Throwdown, a stunning crowd of 10,287 swarmed the concourse from the moment gates opened to the general public at 6:05, all the way until 20 minutes after the game had ended. 

The Grizzlies offered two taco ticket packages:

  • Deluxe Taco Package: $18 — includes four tacos, a ticket to the game and a Taco Truck Throwdown T-shirt.
  • Super Taco Experience: $23 — includes eight tacos, a ticket to the game and a Taco Truck Throwdown T-shirt.

Those who purchased one of the above packages were able to choose from the following vendors:

At the end of the Throwdown, winners were named in both the “Judge’s” and “People’s Choice” category.

From what I can gather from reading about this online, the only problem with the promotion was that it was too successful. The lines were long, and those wishing to sample all of the vendors found themselves in an oft-futile race against time. Some logistical improvements could be made, no doubt, but overall this seems to be a no-brainer to return in 2012.

It also seems to be a no-brainer for other teams to adapt this concept to their market. As the Grizzlies demonstrated, such a promotion can generate copious media coverage and resultant increased attendance. But who knows? I also thought that the Frederick Keys’ 2010 “Volt Night” food extravaganza would be adapted by other markets, but thus far none have done so.

Guess my blognostication skills need some work.

Regardless, let me again reiterate that there is plenty of time to vote for the MiLB.com Promotion of the Year. If you work for a team that is nominated, why not mount a promotional campaign? It can make all the difference in the world.

Finally, I concluded yesterday’s post with what I thought might be the best corn maze in all of Minor League Baseball. But one of my informants has since gotten in touch, arguing that THIS is better.

You be the judge.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

The Season Never Ends: Victory Laps, Vanilli, and Villains

In much the same way that a bear lives off of its own fat throughout the winter, I am able to survive the lean times by relying on my great storehouse of Minor League content.

Today I’ll dip into that vast reserve in order to bring you a steaming bouillabaisse of words and images from the 2011 campaign (I just spelled “bouillabaisse” correctly on the second attempt, tying my personal best in this category).

Let’s start with our friends in the mountain foothills, that distinguished Carolina League entity known as the Lynchburg Hillcats. Last month, the team staged a NASCAR Night promotion and staged it well.

It all started in the stadium parking lot, with cars from different eras of racing history stationed therein.

Also present was the official pace car from nearby Martinsville Speedway, one of the night’s sponsors.

The evening’s guest of honor was Rex White, a legendary racer who in 1960 won the NASCAR Grand National Championship.

Meanwhile, Danny “Dale Earnhardt” Dudley was named “Best Dressed Fan.”

Between-inning games and contests were centered around the theme. Here, the green flag signals the start of the “Tire Roll”…

…while a white flag indicates the last lap of the Pool Sprint.

Moving from cars to guitars, last month the Reading Phillies welcomed a touring performer I had never before heard of: the Sauce Boss. Not only does this guy play “Florida Slide Guitar Blues,” but he cooks gumbo on stage and serves it to the audience.

The Sauce Boss, smoking pot

Keeping with the song and dance theme, the Fort Wayne TinCaps held a ’90s Night Promotion in August that included innovations such as the following:

– The “92nd”  inning, commemorating Nirvana’s release of “Smells like Teen Spirit” with a “What’s that Smell” onfield promotion.

– The strike-shortened “94th inning”, in which all promotions were stopped in the middle in memory of the MLB strike which began on August 12, 1994.

– The Titanic “King of the World” cam in the 98th inning.

And then there was this:

Even more horrifying is a ballpark character I learned about during the recent Minor League Baseball Promotional Seminar: the New Hampshire Fisher Cats’ “Ram of War.”

This unapologetic villain competes against children in between-inning contests, crushing their dreams and feeding off the screams:

Brilliant. The world of Minor League Baseball needs more bad guys, they make us all look good in comparison.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

A Plethora of Elevated Pursuits

It’s important to stay grounded, but nonetheless it’s become apparent to me that this blog is over-reliant on terrestrial perspectives. In order to shake things up, then, today’s post will feature some aerial views before returning to Earth.

We’ll start things off in flyover country, as the Indianapolis Indians recently staged a pre-game stunt that was (almost) out of this world. A squadron of Navy “Leap Frogs” parachuted into Victory Field prior to August 16’s ballgame, with Rear Admiral Scott T. Craig throwing out the first pitch. What follows is the video of their practice run that afternoon, giving us a bird’s eye view of the arduous journey from air to ground.

Not quite as high-flying, but airborne nonetheless, are our fine feathered friends the Great Lakes Loons. The team staged their annual “Raining Money” promotion on August 5, in which $2000 in one dollar bills was dropped onto the field from a helicopter. This year, the mad cash scramble was preceded by an excellently-produced short film entitled “The Sleepover,” which segued flawlessly into the promotion itself.

Seeking to retain this elevated position for as long as possible, we now travel to Lakewood, NJ. On August 20 the BlueClaws held their annual blood drive, an event preceded by an awareness-raising stint of roof-living by the appropriately-named “Roofman.”

“Roofman” is also known as “Ryan Ragan,” COO of the Central Jersey Blood Center. He spent five days on the roof prior to the drive, which resulted in a prolonged period of local radio and TV news attention. Here he is, in quieter times.

91 people ended up giving blood at the BlueClaws’ drive; meaning that the Roofman’s efforts were simultaneously not in vain and “in vein.” Life sure can be funny sometymes.  And, yes, that was an intentional spelling error in the previous sentence. In the spirit of the blood drive I was attempting to be “typo positive.”

We’ll conclude by focusing on a team whose spacebound aspirations may soon come to an end: the Akron Aeros. This traditionally aerodynamic entity is currently staging an online “re-branding contest,” with voting continuing through September 1.

While the option remains to keep the “Aeros” name, other possibilities include Gum Dippers, RubberDucks, Tire Jacks, and Vulcans. All of these names allude to Akron’s industrial past, primarily its status as a leading producer of rubber.

While I generally like team names that incorporate local history, it is my opinion that the alliterative pizazz of Akron Aeros remains superior to the new contenders. Will the voting public agree? Do you?

For now, things remain up in the air.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

(One Day) On the Road: Returning to Reading

The Reading Phillies were one of the highlights of last year’s Pennsylvania-centric road trip, as I was able to witness (and participate in) the team’s extensive tribute to the iconic Crazy Hot Dog Vendor. I even got the opportunity to dress up as his “apprentice” and throw a few hot dogs into the crowd myself.

This year’s tribute to the Crazy Hot Dog Vendor took place on Sunday (July 10), and once again I was in attendance. Looking back on it, I’m not sure this was the best idea — I wasn’t on any particular assignment, just motivated to get out of New York City and see some Minor League Baseball.  In all honesty, I’m half insane this time of year — either overwhelmed by Minor League Baseball or beating myself up because I’m not.

So off I went. And this time, I made sure to arrive in Reading in time to visit the town’s star attraction: The Pagoda.

This is a quirky place with a quirky history, but nonetheless a beloved area landmark. As all-knowing Wikipedia reports, The Pagoda was “completed in 1908 at a cost of $50,000, it was intended to be the hotel/restaurant centerpiece of a luxury resort. When plans for the rest of the resort were abandoned, the 7-story wooden building and 10 acres  of land were donated to Reading as a public park in 1911.”

The main attraction are the views:

Inside the main entrance of the Pagoda is a small cafe and gift shop. For $1, one may trudge up all 87 steps to the top floor.

I would have liked to hang glide from the Pagoda to FirstEnergy Stadium, but that option is no longer available. It was nonetheless a painless 10 minute drive, and upon arriving I checked out the stadium’s refurbished exterior. As you may remember, the 60-year-old facility underwent a $10 million renovation this past offseason.

It was a full two hours before game time, and the place was already jumping. The Reading Phillies do a phenomenal job (better than any team I’ve ever seen) when it comes to making the ballpark a pre-game entertainment destination. Upon entering the “Vist Financial Plaza”, there is a carnival-esque concourse area packed with concessions, games, a bar, and performance stage.

But I made a beeline for the seating area behind home plate, as members of the team’s “Kid’s Club” (aka “Future Crazy Hot Dog Vendors) were participating in a Question and Answer session with theme jersey-wearing pitchers Austin Hyatt and and Derrick Loop.

Questions included “How do you know what time it is to hit?”, “After you hit someone, do you feel bad?”, and “Do you guys ever get to go to ‘real’ Phillies games?”

After Hyatt and Loop departed, out came the man himself:

It was around this time that I dropped my camera onto the concrete. It wasn’t a high drop or particularly hard landing, but nonetheless the screen froze and it was rendered unusable.

The lack of a camera, compounded by my general confusion over exactly what I was hoping to accomplish in Reading in the first place, led to a bit of an existential crisis. When a blogger breaks his camera, does he cease to exist?

The answer, in this case, was yes. After touring the ballpark, sans camera, with media relations director Tommy Viola I stuffed my credentials in my pocket and spent the remainder of the evening simply watching the ballgame. It was kind of nice, actually.

But this post shall continue, thanks to these photos from R-Phils team photographer Ralph Trout.

Joe Esposito

Freddy Galvis

The Crazy Hot Dog Vendor’s legion of “future vendors” received free t-shirts, and later got to perform on the field.

See that suspiciously big-headed individual in the middle of the above shot? That’s the “life-size 550-lb Crazy Hot Dog Vendor replica,” awarded to one lucky (?) fan after the ballgame.

The aforementioned “VIST Financial Plaza” is highlighted by a performance stage. If you’re lucky, the mascot band will be playing.

Truly, the R-Phils know how to pack ‘em in.

Toward the end of the ballgame, I decided to see how my camera was doing. The good news was the screen was no longer frozen, but the bad news was that the batteries had drained. I snapped one quick photo before it shut off for good.

And that, as they say, was that.

Tautologically yours,

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Up Close and Purr-sonal in State College

“Bark in the Park” nights — in which fans are invited to bring their dogs to the stadium — have long been a promotional staple in Minor League Baseball. The State College Spikes are one of many teams to have staged such an endeavor, with next month’s version expected to draw over 400 canines.

This success led the team to ask themselves a truly daring, and seemingly absurd, question: “What if we did ‘Bark in the Park’, but for cats?”

What resulted was “Purr in the Park,” an evening-long celebration of felines.

I Can Has $1 Hot Dog

Given their innate anti-social tendencies and general aloofness, the Spikes knew going in that “Purr in the Park” was not going to reach the proportions of its barking counterpart. The final cat attendance total was a modest, but still respectable, 12.The cats were granted entry so long as they were on a leash or in a carrier, and were welcome throughout the concourse as well as the right field seating area.

Cats were the focal point of the in-game entertainment, of course. The scoreboard graphics all had a feline theme:

Another apropos “Simpsons” character would have been the “Crazy Cat Lady,” who surely would have enjoyed the team’s meow-centric version of the “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”

The night also included the “Nine Lives Challenge”, in which two hearty combatants participated in challenges such as the “Warm Milk Chug” and the “Kitty Litter Dig.” I particularly enjoyed watching the “Warm Milk Chug,” as the loser in the contest is escorted off the field by a sympathetic gorilla.

But as the Spikes pointed out in their press release, not even “Purr in the Park” could keep canines out of the ballpark: Not only are the Batavia MuckDOGS the Spikes’ opponent on the field, but fans can feast on $1 hot dogs all game long as part of Dollar Dog Monday.

But the Spikes weren’t about to let the Muckdogs steal the spotlight — not on this night! The Spikes scored two in the seventh and three in the eighth before Justin Bencsko homered in the ninth, propelling the home team to a thrilling 7-6  victory. 

It was victory by a whisker; anything less would have been cat-astrophic.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

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