Results tagged ‘ Quad Cities River Bandits ’

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

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.


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)

The Best of the Rest

rburrdey.jpgIt is deserted here at 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


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

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.


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.

A Most Unique Van-tage Point

qcriverbandits.gifEarlier today, I meandered into HQ, fired up my ossified work-issued laptop (yes, it is literally turning into bone), and began trolling through press releases.

Almost immediately, a news-worthy item caught my eye. It was something that led me to exclaim out loud “This will make a good blog post!”. I love it when that happens. Makes my job easier n’at.

That something was this: Bandits Name the Promotion Finalists.

If you’ll recall, last month the Quad Cities River Bandits announced their “Name theThumbnail image for tiki village.jpg Promotion” contest, in which fans were invited to submit their ideas for promotions that the club could stage at Modern Woodmen Park in 2009. A refresher course on said announcement is available here.

Well, yesterday the team announced their five finalists. Here they are, cut and pasted direct from the press release:


Bandit Wedding – One lucky couple will have the wedding of a
lifetime and get married on the Modern Woodmen Park diamond immediately
before a River Bandits game!

Beverage Batter – If the River Bandits player selected pre-game
delivers a base hit during the contest, everybody in attendance
benefits from beverage discounts for the remainder of the inning!

Elvis Night – A full-blown promotional night dedicated to The King himself!

Rascal Kids Hat Giveaway – What more exciting of a giveaway item can we plan than a kids’ hat featuring the River Bandits lovable mascot Rascal?

Van Down by the River – A few lucky fans each night would have
the opportunity to take in a ballgame from a River Bandits van parked
on the right field berm!

To me, the choice is a no-brainer — Van Down By the River!

The first four promotions are all well and good, but let’s face it: they’ve all been done before, and they are all things that the River Bandits front office would have been more than capable of implementing on their own, without fan involvement.

But “Van Down By the River” is something else entirely, an absurd and totally unique way to watch a game in a stadium that already features plenty of unorthodox seating options. Plus, I believe that it would be the first seating area in Minor League Baseball to be inspired by a Saturday Night Live sketch. That fact alone could inspire many other River Bandits promotions, such as renaming themselves the “Schwing of the Quad Cities” for a day.


And, speaking for myself, I’ve often dreamed of watching Minor League Baseball from the back of a van. In this dream, the van is equipped with an endless supply of Andy Capp’s Hot Fries, and there is a sticker on the back which reads “If this van’s a rockin’, then it is probably because I am playing Black Sabbath at a very high volume.”

Have a great Valentine’s Day weekend, everybody. I’m going to celebrate by taping a rose to my favorite pinball machine.                                     

Week-End Wrap-Up

forest.jpgI have no idea what it stands for, but I keep hearing people around the office say “TGIF”. Can anyone help me out here? My best guess is “Trees Grow In Forests”, but I don’t know why such an obvious statement of fact would be condensed into an acronym and repeated ad nauseam.

Ah, the mysteries of life. Perhaps some things are best left unexplained. Anyways, because I am grateful to a higher power for the fact that it is Friday, I will now end my blogging week with a compilation of news and notes from the world of the Minor Leagues.

Here They Go Again — Those front office folks in Quad Cities are downright irrepressible. Fresh on the heels of the innovative “Pick The Improvement Contest“, the club has announced a new interactive fan initiative. This time it’s the “Name the Promotion” contest. From theqcrb.jpg press release:

“The River Bandits are excited to welcome a large number of wide-ranging
ideas and have set no restrictions to ensure that fans can let their
creative juices flow freely. Promotional ideas could cover a single
game through a theme night or giveaway, take place during a half-inning
break with a game or contest or unfold over the course of the entire
season. The promotion could revolve around the baseball being played on
the field or it could involve concessions or ticketing. The
possibilities are endless.

The first phase of the contest begins on Friday. Fans have the
opportunity to submit their suggestion for next season’s great
promotion online by the River Bandits’ website at
The open suggestion phase of the contest will last until Jan. 30. After
Modern Woodmen Bank and the River Bandits narrow down the suggestions
to a list of finalists, the second phase of the contest will begin on
Feb. 2 and allow fans to vote on the best promotional ideas through
Feb. 13.”

This contest will undoubtedly result in a veritable boatload of promo ideas, running the gamut from brilliant to completely insane to both brilliant and completely insane. As has become my policy, I will refrain from making suggestions of my own.

Thumbnail image for Altoona_Curve.gifTransactions — Moving on, I learned yesterday via this press release that longtime Altoona Curve broadcaster and media relations director Jason Dambach will be leaving the team. In addition to writing a veritable boatload of amusing promotional press releases over the past decade, Dambach had also established himself as one of the best play-by-play announcers in the Minors (a fact that was illuminated by his recent Top 10 finish in the Pittsburgh Pirates’ announcer search). I first met Jason during my 2007 field trip to “Awful Night”, and I wish him well in his new job with the Greenberg Sports Group.

Jumping the Shark, Literally — The Fresno Grizzlies have unveiled the 14th and final episode of their weekly “I Hate the Offseason” web series. For my money, this was the funniest installment yet. Check it out right here:

“I Hate the Offseason” turned out to be a fun and relatively simple way for the Grizzlies to stay in the public eye upon the conclusion of the season, and I wouldn’t be surprised if many teams embark upon similar projects at the conclusion of the ’09 campaign.

And, speaking of conclusions, this post is now done. In closing, email me at if you happen to know what TGIF stands for. 

Bribes and Goodbyes

Thumbnail image for qcriverbandits.gifJust last week, I mentioned the fact that the Las Vegas Wranglers of the ECHL were going to be staging “Blagojevich Night”. As part of this promotion, the team will take to the ice wearing prison uniforms, and an open seat between the player’s benches shall be auctioned off to the highest bidder.

Upon mentioning this item, I lamented the fact that such an imminently promotion-worthy scandal had occurred in the baseball offseason. Because what’s the point of scandal if it can’t be capitalized on by a Minor League Baseball team?

Fortunately, the Quad Cities River Bandits have stepped in to fill the void. Yesterday, the clubbob evans.jpg publicly endorsed Director of Baseball Operations Bob Evans for Illinois’ still-vacant Senate seat. Whether they were moved to take this action as a result of my blog post is beside the point, because I’m just going to assume that they were. Why else would I have gotten into the blogging game anyway, if not to erroneously validate and promote my power and influence within the industry?

I’m sure not doing it for the money, as my paycheck currently comes in the form of concession stand vouchers and discontinued team merchandise.

Anyhow, forgive me these moments of self-indulgence. The 2008 blogging year is reaching its end, and I am finding it hard to say goodbye. So to return to the River Bandits, here are some samplings from yesterday’s press release:


The team is offering the Governor quite a bounty for the
vacant Senate seat, including four club season tickets – featuring private wait
staff delivering food and beverage orders directly to fans’ seats – as well as
two nights in a luxury suite at Modern Woodmen Park, and advertising for the
State of Illinois on the brand new LED ribbon board that will be installed this

“I feel honored that the River Bandits have selected me as
their choice for United States Senator and am confident that I will be a great
asset to the state government,” said Evans, 65, as he spoke from his Moline
home. “As an usher, greeter, concession stand worker, salesman and little
league coach, I’ve worked with Illinois
baseball fans for decades. I know what people want. Also, I’ve worked with a
lot of umpires here at Modern
Woodmen Park
and I know I make better calls than most of them.

So congratulations to the River Bandits for getting in on the action, and using the Blagojevich scandal to generate a little bit of Holiday time publicity. Now, it’s my turn to get in on the act, with the just-conceived “Ben’s Biz Blog-ojevich Promotion.”

The first person to bribe me with complimentary words about my blogging skill will, in return, get a free post on this here blog (600 word max). It can be about anything you want, provided it passes muster with both myself and MLBlogs’ draconian Standards and Practices department.

Well, that’s it for me, guys. I truly thank everyone who has made this blog a regular destination over the past year, and I look forward toward bigger and better things in ’09.

And, this holiday season, remember the things in life that are truly important:

Thumbnail image for Taco In A Helmet-thumb-450x587.jpg

The Art and Science of the Minor League Wish List

wish.jpgToday I must draw my readers’ attention to my Minoring in Business “cover” story, which features the Holiday Wish Lists of 20 (!) Minor League teams.

Folks, this is the kind of content you just can’t find anywhere else, so I hope you appreciate it. I could just as easily be getting paid to write literary essays on the cultural effects of 21st-century social isolation for Harper’s, you know. Lewis Lapham is constantly badgering me to do this.

But, no. The Minor Leagues are my calling, so I must answer the call. Therefore, revel in today’s article, which is chock-full of interesting Holiday requests. There is currently a poll on the homepage, asking fans to vote on their favorites. Your choices include three masterpieces of the Minor League Holiday Poetry genre (Huntsville, Toledo, Quad Cities), as well as a handwritten mascot letter (West Michigan) and a superb doctored photo (Tri-City ValleyCats).

Not included in the Top 5 poll, but still worth checking out, are humorous contributions fromsanty.jpg Reading, Williamsport, and Birmingham. Actually, it’s ALL worth checking out. Do not discriminate.

And I may as well get in on the act as well, and post a Holiday Wish List for this here blog. I refuse to address it to anyone in particular, but I nonetheless believe these things will happen as a result of positive karmic repercussion. I give, so that I may get. Here are the two things that I want:

— More readers! The numbers have been really strong lately, especially for the offseason, but there is still plenty of room for growth. I feel that the subject matter has appeal far beyond “the industry” and Minor League Baseball superfans. The culture and atmosphere of a Minor League Baseball stadium reflects the culture and atmosphere of the community in which it is located. Taken together, these community portraits represent and reflect American culture.

To summarize, and tone down the pretention a notch (sorry Lewis): Minor League Baseball IS America.

— More feedback! There has been a nice uptick in comments as of late, and I routinely receive emails from front office folks and fans alike. But…more please! I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: this blog is a two-way street. The content will only ever be as good as what I am provided with by my readers.

So get in touch, for any reason at all:

An October of Terror in the Minor Leagues, 2008 Edition

countryterror.jpegBen’s Biz Blog moved into its second year of existence this past week. Practically speaking, this means that when I am bereft of blog-worthy material I can simply look back to what I was writing last year and repeat the process.   

And what I was writing about last year at this time was this: Haunted Houses in the Minor Leagues.

Sounds good to me! Here’s a look at two haunted houses that are currently being operated by Minor League ballclubs:

— In Bowie, the Baysox are running “Country Terror”. Given the relatively steep admission charge of $20, one can only assume that this 20-minute indoor adventure is of superb quality. In the Country Terror press release, general manager Brian Shallcross claims that “Country Terror” will “scare your Baysox off!”, which is certainly a claim that cannot be taken lightly. In a further display of the Baysox’s commitment to the Halloween cause, the club has also taken to calling their city of residence “Booooowie”.

But will the Baysox be able to top last year’s extravaganza? The club staged “Blackbeard’s Revenge: The Curse of the Severed Head” in 2007, and it sounded like a doozy:

“After coming face to face with the titular Severed
Head, attendees are invited to tour the Haunted Hospital and then get lost in
the Crazed Chain Maze.”
(source: this fine blog).

— Meanwhile, in Quad Cities, the re-vamped River Bandits are once again working to establish Modern Woodmen Park as a year-round entertainment destination. The theme of the club’sdude!.jpg annual “Field of Screams” spooktacular is “Shoeless Joe’s Revenge.” Seems like a press release quote is in order at this juncture:

“This year’s event is themed around Shoeless Joe Jackson, who was
alleged to have died in 1951. There are those that contend, however,
that he merely faked his own death to escape a life in which he was
known as the villain, returning to Davenport where he fondly recalled
his days of sneaking away from Chicago to enjoy Minor League Baseball
at Municipal Stadium. In a confrontation with an erstwhile young
reporter who caught on to the ruse, Jackson was murdered and buried in
what is now the corn field at Modern Woodmen Park. Every year around
the time of Jackson’s October 31 death, reports surface regarding
paranormal activity coming from the ballpark.”

sjj.jpgI consider myself to be an “erstwhile young reporter” (in fact, I am identified as such on my business card), so there’s no way I’m going anywhere near this one. Shoeless Joe would try to kill me — again! It’s a long story, and one I hope to explain in detail at some point in the near future.

In the meantime, any clubs who are running Haunted Houses of their own are invited to get in touch:

Digestible Digressions

journalist.gifGenerally, I do not like to write posts that contain bite-sized morsels of information on disparate topics. As someone who pretends on a daily basis to be a serious and influential journalist, I take great pains to insure that my unsolicited Minor League PR work is detailed and in-depth. How else can I justify to that I am “special” to them?  

Not today, however. Not today. There are just too many things to write about, and little time in which to do it. So, without further ado, let’s go to the Bullet Points!

— Last week, I wrote a post on the Quad City River Bandits‘ innovative “You Pick the Improvement” contest. After soliciting suggestions over a three-week period, the club is now having fans vote on which of six improvements they would like to see made to Modern Woodmen Park. I voted for “Permanent Playground for Kids”, largely because the temporary play areas of my youth always resulted in heartbreak and disappointment.

— The Corpus Christi Hooks announced last week that they would be holding their own versionolympics.gif of the Olympics on November 15. The Games will feature 14 events, and scored 10-8-6-4-2 for first through fifth place in each event. Here’s more, from the press release: 

Companies may
enter the Games for a $500 fee and the cost per participant is $10, to
be paid by the company or individual. Each athlete receives a t-shirt,
wristband and coupon for a hot dog and Coke. Spectator admission is $2

Kudos to the Hooks for coming up with an innovative and charitable way to stay in the public eye during that baseball-deprived time of year.

— I need to give credit where credit where credit is due, as I found the following bit of information in Ballpark Digest: The Durham Bulls (Class AAA; International League)
opened the doors to
Bulls Athletic Park
to an event, Project
Homeless Contact, designed to bring social
services and the homeless together. Because of its
downtown location,
bull.jpgBulls Athletic Park was the perfect place to
hold the event, with over 400 homeless people
receiving counseling on a variety of services
meant to bring them to a higher level of
stability, including job counseling and housing
assistance. You probably can’t do this during the
season, but for a single event the ballpark worked
beautifully — and showed us all the power of
thinking outside the box in providing worthwhile
community service.

All that I can add to this is that I would love to see more teams follow the Bulls’ lead. After all, it is better to follow a Bull than have a Bull follow you.

— I have more Minor League news at the ready, but as a staunch proponent of the Rule of Threes I must conclude today’s post. I have to get my affairs in order here in NYC, as I will be spending the rest of the week in beautiful Austin, TX, at the Minor League Promotional Seminar. See you there, industry. Drinks are on you.  

A Heartfelt Plea

your_vote_counts_button_3.jpgIt hardly seems possible, but some of you may not have seen my 2008 Year-end Promotions Review. It is located right here.

In the article, I nominated 10 promotions for the coveted title of
“Promotion of the Year”. The winner will be decided by a fan vote,
which means one thing, and one thing only: VOTE!

This means you! Vote! When all is said and done, I would like to see at
least 10,000 votes cast. I think this is a distinct possibility, since
many of the nominated teams have already launched their own promotional

In the early-going, a fierce three-team battle has emerged between the Lancaster JetHawks (Skateboard Giveaway), Fresno Grizzlies (Mascot Showdown) and Quad Cities River Bandits (Tattoo Night). But this one is far from over, and its going to go down to the wire.

So, please, once again: Vote! This is very important to me, as my worth
as a person is entirely based on the success of Minor League Baseball
fan polls.

Don’t let me down, America. 

Gettin' Better All the Time

qcrb.jpgThe Quad Cities River Bandits are coming off a very successful 2008 campaign, in which they aggressively rebranded themselves after several lackluster seasons as the Swing of the Quad Cities. Attendance at Modern Woodmen Park increased by a remarkable 39% as fans flocked to see this new-look ballclub.

Innovations such as these served to increase the club’s profile even further, inspiring some fans to go to extreme lengths to express their devotion. But even though the River Bandits are riding high, they are aware that there is always room for improvement.

But what to improve? That’s for the fans to decide!

The River Bandits are in the midst of a their two-pronged “You Pick the Improvement” contest,showimprove.jpg in which fans will select the next addition to the Modern Woodmen Park experience. Through September 19, the club is asking fans to visit and submit their suggestions. These suggestions will then be whittled down to six finalists, and the winner will be determined through an internet fan vote. The forward-thinking individual who makes the winning suggestion will recieve a pair of 2009 season tickets.

This “Pick the Improvement” concept is a novel one, and I expect other teams to follow suit as the offseason progresses. In fact, I will rip the idea off right now, and let my readers pick which improvement they would most like to see on this blog:

— No more references to this blog being “fine”, “esteemed”, or “up and coming”.
— Somehow, resolve that at least 25% of content is derived from something other than a press release.
— Come to the realization that no one appreciates subtle references to bands I liked in high school and college.
— Stop making pandering and increasing desperate attempts to get vast cadre of loyal readers to leave comments.
— Never again use the ridiculous phrase “vast cadre of loyal readers.”

Your feedback is greatly appreciated!


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