Results tagged ‘ Quad Cities River Bandits ’

On the Road: Cash Crops and Backdrops in Quad Cities

Today marked the penultimate game on the 2010 Minor League Baseball schedule, but I’m not about to let the imminent cessation of play cramp my style.

No, I’m going to keep on rolling — all the way to the banks of the Mississippi River. All the way to Modern Woodmen Park, home of the Quad Cities River Bandits.

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Modern Woodmen Park, formerly known as John O’Donnell Stadium, was built in 1931. But thanks to extensive renovations and a proactive ownership group it has aged gracefully — think Helen Mirren as opposed to Joan Rivers.

But the stadium is located right next to one of the mightiest rivers of them all, the mighty Mississippi. The Centennial Bridge, which connects Davenport (Iowa) with Rock City (Illinois), serves as one of the best backdrops in all of Minor League Baseball.

The bridge, from the outside of the stadium.

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While, to the left, one can see Davenport’s Wells-Fargo Building.

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Wells-Fargo is all well and good, but that was as far as I was willing to go in that direction. River banks are far more appealing than those concerned with matters fiduciary.

And once inside, I soon set my gaze upon the Centennial.

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The above pic came out well, but in all honesty I didn’t have my “A” game tonight when it came to photography and the ability to craft the evening’s events into a coherent narrative (perhaps I did a better job in this MiLB.com story, which contains info not contained here).

My spirit remains indefatigable, however, so I’ll gamely “press” on:

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As the above photo illustrates, the River Bandits logo is incorporated into nearly every aspect of the stadium signage. The suites, concession areas, restrooms (“Bandits” and “Banditas”), and even the janitor’s closet are all adorned with the silhouette of a partially-obscured raccoon.

The aggressive re-branding effort is courtesy of Main Street Baseball, who took over ownership of the River Bandits after the 2007 season. Led by Main Street president Dave Heller and River Bandits GM Kirk Goodman, they team has spruced up the ballpark experience in a variety of ways.

For starters, a gravel pit next to the the third base bleachers was converted into an honest-to-goodness cornfield.

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The above photo was taken just before the starting line-ups. When the players are announced, they emerge from the cornfield and take their position.

During the game, the corn field serves as the home bullpen backdrop.

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And see the seemingly random streaks of yellow on the bleachers to the left? When that section is empty, the words “Let’s Play Ball” can be seen by passing motorists on the Centennial Bridge.

This huge billboard, located behind the videoboard, is also for the benefit of bridge-crossing automobilians.

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Of far more interest to an individual actually in the stadium is the “Tiki Village” located in right field, a tropical-themed drinking establishment.

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Much better pics of the Tiki Village can be found in this blog post, including this classic shot of two gentleman on the “Tiki Bed”.

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The mattress has since been removed, however, so the bed is now more akin to a standard-issue gazebo.

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Walking from right field toward left, the Tiki Village gives way to a recently-installed nine-foot berm that doubles as protection against a flooding Mississippi River.

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The area also includes what Goodman called “Memorial Row”. This plaque commemorates Dorothy Wulf, a John O’ Donnell Stadium regular who was named Quad Cities’ “Fan of the Century” in 2000.

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Wulf’s plaque is located next to a glass-encased boulder, signed by veterans who took part in the “Wounded Warrior” program across the river at Rock Island Arsenal.

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Behind the berm area, one could see munitions experts of a different sort. These guys were in charge of the evening’s post-game fireworks.

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They were going to have to wait. Quite unexpectedly, the stadium was hit by heavy rainfall.

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The concourse quickly became a mob scene:

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Although business remained slow at the Moline Market (the concourse concession stands are each named after one of the Quad Cities, others include the Bettendorf Bakery, Davenport Diner, and Rock Island Grill).

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Some took refuge in the team store, others in the Mediacom Lounge:

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While packed earlier in the game (with German dignitaries from Davenport’s sister city!), the surprisingly spacious events area was now deserted.

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Maybe the visiting Germans and the local politicians and business leaders entertaining them were hip to the fact that action was about to resume.

For resume it did.

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Despite the delay, the game still ended before 10, with the River Bandits eking out a 1-0 win.

And then came the fireworks, as promised. I am never able to capture satisfactory firework photos, however, so this portion of the evening will be left up to the imagination.

More like fire-don’t-works, am I right?

No?

I’m still going to bed. Goodnight from Room 144 of the Clarion Inn.

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

Here I Go Again On My Own

neb.jpgThe season is coming to a close, and I’m happy to report that I’ll be closing it out in style. For in a matter of hours I’ll be traveling to Omaha, the first stop in a five-day Midwestern road trip.

To the itinerary!

9/2 — Omaha Royals (their last-ever game in Rosenblatt Stadium!)
9/3 — Iowa Cubs
9/4 — Burlington Bees
9/5 — Quad Cities River Bandits
9/6 — Kane County Cougars

Feel free to get in touch with any content suggestions or inside tips regarding the teams/cities in question. And if you’ll be at any of these games, please say hello. As always, I’ll be the guy in the shirt.

And not only will tomorrow be the Omaha Royals’ last game at Rosenblatt Stadium — it mayoroyals.jpg be their last home game as the “Omaha Royals.” In conjunction with their 2011 move to nearby Sarpy County, the organization is currently staging a “Name the Team” contest. Over 400 names have been suggested thus far, let’s go to the press release:

Names relating to the weather and to the military have been leading the way so far. Some of those suggestions include Storm, Hail, Heat, Blizzard, Twisters, Bombers and Commanders. Some fans have just tweaked the name to vary slightly from Royals, suggesting Monarchs and Kings. Other fans, no doubt sad to see the demise of Rosenblatt Stadium following the 2010 season, have submitted the team name Blatts for
consideration.

I would like to suggest a return to the moniker employed by the city’s long-defunct Western Association franchise: the Omahogs.

And while I am excited to be visiting the Iowa Cubs on September 3, I’m disappointed that I will not be in attendance for September 5′s giveaway: the Player to Be Named Later Bobblehead.

Finally, one of the sport’s most unsung characters gets his due:

later.JPGMy “potential blog topics” notebook page is overflowing at the moment, and I apologize to all who have sent me material that I have not yet been able to feature. I’ll get to it, just like I am getting to this:

A parody video in which a G-Funk classic is repurposed as a celebration of a California League baseball team. It’s Bo’z N Da Hood with “Nothin But A Storm Thang”:

The lyrics to “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” are incorporated into one of the verses in the above video, but for a truly unique interpretation check out this adorable dispatch from Lansing.

It’s a good thing that Ryan was in Lansing and not West Michigan, because he would probably have been terrified by first pitch honoree Ronald McDonald:

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(photo credit: Emily Jones)

Sweet dreams! I’ll be sending out dispatches from the Midwest as soon as I can.

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

Dizzying Feats Inspire Dizzying Claims

Today I perchanced to notice a most boastful Facebook update, courtesy of the San Antonio Missions. 

“Check out the greatest Bat Race of all time!”, it read. My job being what it is, I checked it out immediately. And here is what I saw:

Now this is a great bat race, to be sure. Excellent, even. But as a responsible journalist, it is my job to temper the breathless hyperbole of blinkered partisans in favor of a more fact-based historical approach.

Because in 2008 the Quad Cities River Bandits unleashed a video entitled “Best Dizzy Bat Race EVER”:

Have San Antonio’s infield tumblers succeeded in their Mission to overtake Quad Cities’ crowd-endangering best bros? Or is the River Bandits’ claim of best EVER still valid?

America will be the judge.  

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

Taking Stock of Quad's Going On

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for curtains.jpg‘Tis the season for promo schedule unveilings, a time of year that ranks very highly in the Ben’s Biz Blog Pantheon of Seasons (an authoritative list I wrote whilst bored during the sleepy winter of 2006).    

According to my calculations, 72 of the 120 full-season affiliated clubs have released their promo schedules, with more being added to the list every day. A few heavy promotional hitters have weighed in over the last 24 hours, whom we shall now pay more attention to:

Stockton PortsLike West Michigan before them, the Ports have jumped into the world of rock ‘n roll theme jerseys. On May 29th, the club will honor a mostly-forgotten act from across the pond who called themselves “The Beatles”. Other highlights include promotional appearances from Brady Bunch-er Christopher Knight (May 21) and legendary hurler Vida Blue (June 14), but what stood out for me the most was this: A Grant Desme bobblehead giveaway on “Faith Night” (as you probably know, Desme announced his retirement in order to join the priesthood. This despite a stellar 2009 campaign in which he was named the Ports Player of the Year).

My first impression was that the bobblehead might feature Desme in a priestly get-up, but Ports media relations manager Kristin Pratt quickly set me straight:

“Grant’s in his home Ports uniform…We had his bobblehead night originally scheduled on July 30th as a stand-alone promotion. However, things got shuffled around, he landed on Faith Night, and we think it’s pretty fitting.”

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Quad Cities River BanditsThis promo schedule goes on for a long time, as close to eternity as one can get without becoming infinite…Salutes to Grilled Cheese, Conspiracy Theories and the ’85 Chicago Bears…Stan Musial and Bert Blyleven Bobbleheads…The return of Tattoo Night and the Mega-Candy Drop…etc, etc, ad nauseam.

But I have to give a special shout out to the “Circle of Life” long weekend, which the team describes accordingly:

For one long weekend, the Bandits will celebrate a quartet of momentous
life occasions…On
oldmanbaby.jpg Friday, May 7th, the River Bandits will
host “Maternity Night”, with all expectant mothers being welcomed with a
free lamaze class, craving stations on the concourse, and a grand prize
of a maternity package, including baby furniture and accessories. On
Saturday, the River Bandits, along with the Quad-City Times and the
Lucier Family, will award the inaugural Keith Lucier Memorial
Scholarship and award one deserving student a free year’s tuition at the
University of Iowa. On Sunday, the team will give away a Bandit
Wedding, with the winner announced on May 9th and the ceremony to be
held at the ballpark on August 20, and on Monday, the River Bandits will
complete the Circle of Life by giving away a free all-expense-paid
funeral!

All of the above promotions have been done before, in one form or another, but this marks the first time I have seen a club make a journey from the cradle to the tomb over the course of four consecutive home games. Bravo, and hopefully an addition to next year’s schedule will be “Mid-Life Crisis Night.” All fans sporting a ponytail and/or driving a convertible get in free, and the individual with the largest age discrepancy between himself and his girlfriend/wife gets to sing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” while backed up by a Jimmy Buffet cover band (it goes without saying the night would be sponsored by a company within the pharmaceutical industry).

rosenblatt.jpgOmaha Royals2010 will mark the O-Royals 42nd and final season at Rosenblatt Stadium, and their promo schedule is anchored by three significant giveaways that commemorate this bittersweet event. Observe:

– Johnny Rosenblatt Bobblehead, honoring the former Omaha mayor for whom the facility is named (first 1,500 fans, May 22).

– Rosenblatt Stadium Canvas Painting (first 1500 fans, June 13)

– Final Game featuring Replica Wooden Seat Giveaway (first 2,500 fans, September 2). 

I’ve got more. Boy do I ever got more. But more is something I want to leave them wanting, so the words are going to stop now.

Just like that.

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

Article Addendums Are Inevitable

Thumbnail image for vid.jpgIn case you missed my “Tweet” on the matter, I would like to point out that on Wednesday a very important article appeared on MiLB.com.

This article was important for one simple reason: I wrote it. It dealt with how Minor League Baseball teams are making videos and posting them on the internet, and included a variety of examples. Read it HERE, I beg of you.

And now, just as I had suspected, I am being deluged with emails from teams who were excluded from the article (it is my understanding that any number greater than one represents a “deluge”).

First, I heard from the constantly overachieving Quad Cities River Bandits, who recently debuted a weekly video series entitled “There Is No Offseason” (for those keeping track at home, this joins Fresno’s “I Hate the Offseason” and Omaha’s “My Offseason Life Is Average” in the pantheon of vides with “offseason” in the title). Here’s the debut episode:

Quad Cities’ web site features a well-organized “Bandits: On Demand” Multimedia page in which the discerning browser can peruse a wide variety of team videos. I suggest that you go to there, which is HERE.

But first I must share “I’m On A Berm”, the River Bandits’ parody of Lonely Island’s “I’m On A Boat.”

This is one of two “I’m On A Boat” parodies from the Minor Leagues, with the other being Hudson Valley’s “I’m On A Field”. Which do you like better?

 
The second half of today’s email deluge arrived courtesy of the Greensboro Grasshoppers, who have a weekly offseason video series of their own entitled “It’s Always Hoppin’ Fun With the Grasshoppers”. Witness:

Those seeking more Grasshoppers videos can end their quest simply by clicking HERE. And while I’m on the topic, I’d like to point out that canine mascots Miss Babe Ruth and Master Yogi Berra have been entered in Hallmark’s “Cutest Dog of the Season” contest. I’m voting for Yogi, simply because of THIS.

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

River Bandits Make A Permanent Impression

Thumbnail image for QCRBlogo.jpgThe Quad Cities River Bandits held their first-ever Tattoo Night promotion in 2008, in which they somehow convinced 28 fans to get team logo tattoos in exchange for ’09 berm season tickets.

A full write-up of that promotion can be found HERE. I found it truly remarkable that so many people got tattoos, and ended up choosing the promotion as one of the year’s 10 best.

But the River Bandits have shown themselves to be a team that does not rest on past successes. In 2009 they staged another “Tattoo Night”, and this time enticed 42 fans to go under the needle (an increase of 50% over the previous season).

According to my calculations, in which I added one number to another number, that makes 70 residents of the Quad Cities who now sport team logo tattoos. If the club continues to stage this promotion while enjoying an annual growth rate of 50%, then approximately 720 fans will receive tattoos in 2016. Within another decade, the number of fans desiring tattoos will exceed ballpark capacity.

Like humanity itself, this promotion is unsustainable from a long-term perspective. But I’ve learned that very few people care about long-term perspectives. What they do care about are pictures, and I’ve got a couple to share.

A tattoo of a criminally-minded nocturnal woods creature on one’s forearm symbolizes a cunning nature:

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An inter-locking “QC” simply denotes a love for the Quad Cities. Or perhaps Queen Catherine of Aragon, the first wife of Henry VII.

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Those who got tattoos at this year’s promo, which took place last month, did not recieve ’10 berm season tickets. Rather, they will recieve free admission on a per-game basis, needing only to display their tattoo at the ticket window. Let’s hope that no one chose to get inked in any “objectionable” areas. That could result in some traumatized team employees, for sure.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

How Sweet It Is

QCRBlogo.jpg(Update: Now w/ Video! All you have to do is scroll down!)

What do you get when you combine 800 kids, 100 pounds of candy, and 100 pounds of marshmallows?

Until yesterday evening, the answer to this question existed solely in the realm of the theoretical. This is not surprising, because who would ever have the wherewithal to create a situation in which each of these three things existed in the same moment of space and time?

The Quad Cities River Bandits, that’s who.

Yesterday, the team staged the first-ever “Mega-Candy Drop”. This sounds like something out of a Japanese game show, but it instead took place on the pristine playing surface of Modern Woodmen Park.

The premise was simple. From the press release (or click HERE for the “Promo Preview” writeup):

The [Mega-Candy Drop] will open with a helicopter from Rotor View Helicopters, piloted by Jay Brent, making its way over Modern Woodmen Park to drop candy on the outfield so that it rains lolly pops and gummy bears! Then, once he is finished, all of the youngsters, who will be separated by age, will have a chance to run to a specific part of the field to grab as much candy as they possibly can. But the fun does not stop there. While the happy children gather their sweets, the helicopter will do another flyover to drop marshmallows from high above – making it rain puffy white goodness!

Thanks to my ability to send solicitous emails, I have obtained pictures from this historic event. I don’t think they do justice to what it must have been like to experience this first-hand, but they nonetheless provide a small window into a world that most of us have only dreamed of:

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And now, let the evidence transform from photographic to visual. Here’s a whimsical look at the evening. soundtracked by the smooth vocal stylings of the inimitable Willy Wonka:

If anyone is aware of any other helicopter-assisted confection disbursement events going on in the Minor Leagues, then please do not hesitate to get in touch.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

California to Iowa to Maryland to Michigan to New Mexico

Sometimes, a recap of a Minor League promotion merits its own standalone post. That was certainly the case yesterday. But, sometimes, I must consolidate several disparate promo recaps into one cohesive whole.

That will certainly be the case today.

To begin, let’s stick with yesterday’s theme by taking a brief look at the cow-milking contest that was staged during the Visalia Rawhide’s “Ag(riculture) Day”. I don’t think that any further explanation is necessary.

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The above shots reminds me of my favorite Nicole Kidman movie — “The Udders.”

Last week, I dedicated a post to the West Virginia Power and their difficulty in obtaining a shipment of Barack Obama bobbleheads from US Customs. I have been assured that the Quad Cities River Bandits will not have the same problem with their politically-themed bobblehead.

On June 27, the club will be distributing bobbleheads featuring Secretary of State Hilary Clinton decked out in a River Bandits jersey:

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As it turns out, Hilary isn’t the only global superstar sporting River Bandits’ gear these days. Check out this screenshot from Lil Wayne’s “Every Girl” video:

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Lil Wayne would have fit right in with the Bowie Baysox and their “Sunglasses At Night” world record attempt that was held a few weeks back. Unfortunately, the Baysox fell short in their bid for nocturnal eyeshade immortality. Fortunately, those who participated in the stunt nonetheless seemed to enjoy the experience:

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Another recent promotion “of note” was the West Michigan Whitecaps’ “Pink Floyd Night.”

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In the bottom of the 12th inning, Brandon Douglas scampered home with the winning run after Ben Guez struck out on a wild pitch. Celebrations ensued:

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And the party extended well into the night, thanks to the Whitecaps’ post-game Pink Floyd Laser Light Show:

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In closing, I would like to make a note of the following information. From the Albuquerque Isotopes web page: 

Always a fan favorite, the second and final 50-Cent Hot Dog of the 2009
season was a huge success once again. In fact, it was record-breaking.
With a season-high 11,010 fans in the stands, 37,669 hot dogs were
consumed trumping the old record of 35,468 set back on June 11, 2003…That means that each fan averaged 3.4 hot dogs each.

Now, what I would like to know is this — Is the Isotopes’ new team record also the all-time record for all of Minor League Baseball? Let me know if you possess any info on this subject.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com
 

Inside the Announcer’s Booth With Randy Wehofer

randy.JPGIf you’re not familiar with the name “Randy Wehofer”, then you will be soon. The aspiring thespian plays baseball announcer Jack Jeffries in the upcoming movie “Sugar”, and gives a startlingly realistic performance (for much more on “Sugar”, including a movie trailer, see today’s article in MiLB.com).

Wehofer’s dedication to his role was so extreme that he spent the last decade preparing for it. He logged nine seasons as the broadcaster for the Midwest League’s Burlington Bees before moving on to the Iowa Cubs prior to the 2008 campaign. In perhaps the greatest coup in Ben’s Biz Blog history, I was able to land an exclusive interview with Wehofer.

So, without further ado, a glimpse into the mind of one of Iowa’s most buzzed-about actors:

Ben’s Biz: You bring a method actor’s intensity to your role as play-by-play announcer Jack Jeffries. Did this make you difficult to deal with on the set? Any Christian Bale-style freakouts?

Randy Wehofer: Working in minor league baseball for 10 years, I’ve grown very accustomed to a specialized and pampered lifestyle and while on set, I demanded that things worked exactly like a real game. I was especially pleased when the guy who played the visiting manager changed his lineup five minutes before shooting the scene and didn’t tell anyone so we could scramble in the press box to figure out who was coming to the plate. When we shot the road scenes, they were sure to bring me a cold hot dog in the fourth inning when I couldn’t possibly have time to eat it or enjoy it. I really appreciated the way the crew went out of its way to keep me in my comfort zone.

BB: The pressures of fame and fortune can be hard to deal with. Now that you are a celebrity, what steps are you taking to insure that you keep a level head?

RW: I don’t want to make other people jealous, but since word has spread about the movie, I’ve noticed that my wife Joanie and I get better tables at restaurants and the other day I even got a card that says my 14th haircut is going to be FREE. I try to take all of this in stride, though, and remember how hard it must be for all of those guys that work in the big leagues, but haven’t been in a movie.

BB: Do you think players will be jealous of you this season, because fans will be asking you for autographs instead of them?

RW: I’m actually hoping that one of the veteran players might take me under his wing and teach me the ropes when it comes to signing autographs. I’ll need to know what kind of pens to use for glossy photos as opposed to baseballs and how to avoid cramping up on hot days. If all goes well, I’m hoping this experience could put me in the running for a future spot as a roving autograph instructor for a Major League organization.

BB: What will be the next step for you as an actor? Will you be accepting additional roles as a baseball broadcaster, or are you looking to go against type?

RW: In the future, I do want to show my range as an actor so I’m actively seeking roles as a public address announcer, the guy who takes your order in a drive thru, or do a guest spot in a kids show as the guy who reads the morning announcements in a school.  I don’t know if I’m ready for it yet, but someday I’d really love to play a baseball broadcaster in an animated feature. I think it would be awesome to be a cartoon.

BB: You are listed in the movie’s credits as “Randolph Wehofer”, as opposed to “Randy”. Is this a bid to be taken more seriously, comparable to when Mark Wahlberg stopped using the name “Marky Mark”?

RW: It was really a ploy to try to have my name take up as much room on the screen as possible during the credits.  When I was filling out the form to be in the movie, I actually listed my middle name and a phonetic pronunciation guide for my name as what I wanted included, but they edited it down to just my full first and last name.

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BB: Early buzz is that you are a front-runner for a “Best Supporting Actor” Oscar in 2010. Have you started working on your acceptance speech?

RW: I hate to correct you on your own blog, Ben, but I’ve actually been told that my performance is so noteworthy that they’ve created a new category for “Best Athletic Supporting Actor” – and I’ve been told that I will be the only one nominated in that category, so I like my chances. I’d like to thank all the people that made this possible and hope everyone really likes “Sugar.”

(See Randy Wehofer in “Sugar”! The film opens in NYC and Los Angeles this Friday, and nationwide on April 24)

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

The Best of the Rest

rburrdey.jpgIt is deserted here at MiLB.com HQ, apparently because today is a holiday.

Presidents’ Day? Really? I had never heard of such a thing. If a holiday has not been commemorated with its own Peanuts special, then I refuse to observe it. So in lieu of spending the day in my pajamas in honor of Abraham Lincoln, I would like to return to that which I discussed on Friday — the River Bandits’ Name the Promotions Finalists.

After writing this post, I got in touch with River Bandits director of broadcasting and media relations Ben Chiswick, and asked if he could share some of the fan suggestions that didn’t make the cut. Chiswick’s response:

Here are some of the other goofy ones that didn’t quite make
it to the list of finalists:

 

- One hungry fan suggested offering food specials at the
concession stand based on

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that night’s opponent. For example, some sort of
honey drink when we play the Burlington Bees or Chinese food when the Dayton
Dragons are in town.

-A Name the Smell contest.


- We got some interesting suggestions for giveaway items such
as diapers, commemorative sand bags or an iPod Touch.


- An exhibition game featuring a World Series rematch between
the Tampa Bay Rays and the Philadelphia Phillies. (Sounds like a good idea to
me!)

Most of these promotions are logistically impossible, but I still commend the fans who suggested them. After all, it is better to shoot for the stars and miss than it is to aim at the ground and hit it.

Or something like that.

In closing, I would like throw my (metaphorically) hefty weight behind the idea of opponent-inspired concession specials. I started to brainstorm some Midwest League possibilities, but they were embarrassingly unfunny. Please let me know if you come up with anything.

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I know you’re out there, too. Last week established a new “Ben’s Biz Blog” record in the all-important “returning visitors” category, so thank you very much for your recurring patronage!

Finally…Please get in touch with stories and pictures related to Valentine’s Day in the Minor Leagues. I’d like to do a post on this within the next day or two. In fact, I WILL. So don’t be left out.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

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