Results tagged ‘ Richmond Flying Squirrels ’

The Return of the Crazy One

Hey hey my my, Ben’s Biz Blog will never die. But it will occasionally fade away so as not to burn out, before bursting back into the spotlight with a new level of luminosity.

So now that I’m saddled up on the blogging horse after a week long absence from the internet stable, how about a high-wattage post of vague symbolism, mixed metaphors, and, of course, all the Minor League news that’s fit to “print”?

Any objectors, conscientious or otherwise? No? Then let’s start with that which matters most: a nine-foot tall inflatable fish needs a name!

This 108-inch Pirate craniate will roam throughout Jerry Uht Park in 2012, inciting Erie Seawolves fans to new levels of ardor. Remarks the team:

The nine-foot tall, inflatable fish character will be unveiled on Opening Day and will accompany the SeaWolves long-time mascot C. Wolf during on-field skits, community appearances and other team events. 

Any suggestions as to what to name the fish? All I know is that if he’s ever hauled to court on charges of piracy, “gill”ty is sure to be the verdict.

And I’ll be honest here — the prominent inclusion of the above piece is news is largely motivated by the desire to once again post one of my favorite Minor League videos of all time. This earring-sporting fish is now part of a ballpark family that includes these characters:

I know what you’re asking me at this juncture —  So, you were gone for a week, and the best MiLB news you have to offer involves the nomenclature needs of a freakish fish? Au contraire! I also have a picture of a very strange groundskeeping phenomenon: watering the snow.

This picture, sent along by reader Peter Golkin (@Pedro_G on Twitter), depicts the scene at Richmond’s The Diamond last week.  So to all you groundskeeping folk out there — is “watering the snow” an actual tactic, or is the above photo merely documenting some sort of equipment malfunction?

I don’t have the time to find the answer myself, because a far more pressing endeavor involves learning the ins and outs of yet another social media platform: Pinterest.

Yesterday, the Durham Bulls offered fans a Pinterest exclusive:

The team announced that  they will add an alternate cap to their on-field uniform set, unveiling the look on the team’s new Pinterest page. To get an exclusive first glimpse at the new cap, visit http://www.pinterest.com/durhambulls.

Pinterest is a virtual pinboard where users can browse, organize, and share photos or “pins” of things they find interesting.  The emerging social network is also known for its popularity among women.  In addition to seeing the team’s new alternate hat, followers of the Bulls’ Pinterest page can view pins on seven boards that include “AdoraBULL Apparel,” “Boys of Summer,” and “America’s Favorite Minor League Team.”  

Popularity among women? No wonder I had no idea…

That’ll be it for me today. But I have a lot of material left to share, as well as ideas and schemes and general brainstorming related to the upcoming season. While I enjoyed taking a week long break from the blog (and this job in general), it was extremely gratifying to return to an email inbox overflowing with thoughtful personal correspondence, random news tips, and promo schedules galore.

Thanks, as always, for giving me something to write about.

Also: anyone know what the title of this post is a reference to?

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

It’s the Thought That Counts

It was my not my intent for the blog to take such a lengthy midweek hiatus, but the fact of the matter is I had very little material to work with. So I took a deep breath, stepped away from the WordPress dashboard, and waited for my falderal reserve to naturally replenish itself.

Mission accomplished!

Let’s start with a recap of a mission kinda-sorta accomplished, as earlier this week Richmond Flying Squirrels mascot Nutzy took a trip to St. Louis in order to capitalize on the Rally Squirrel mania that has overtaken that Cards-crazed city. Nutzy’s obligations are many, however, so his trip to the Show Me State was necessarily brief. Although he is already imbued with the power to fly, he took an airplane to St. Louis on Wednesday…

just in time for a Game 6 rainout.

What a bummer. But gliding rodents have a natural predilection for optimism, so Nutzy made the best of a bad situation. He posed with fans outside of shuttered Busch Stadium before checking out the sights of St. Louis.

Despite the somewhat anti-climactic nature of Nutzy’s journey, the sheer ridiculousness of a Virginia-based mascot of a San Francisco affiliate visiting Missouri in order to capitalize on mania surrounding the alleged rallying powers of his species generated some national attention. Most notably, the New York Times Bats Blog filed a dispatch in which Nutzy was described as an “eugenically designed über Eichhörnchen.”

Now let’s break that down: Nutzy sounds a bit like “Nazi,” Nazis were German, “eichhornchen” is German for squirrel, and eugenics as a social policy fell into (hopefully permanent) disfavor after taken to extremes by the Nazis. Subtle, perhaps, but this is one of the most nefarious disses ever levied against a mascot! The Richmond Flying Squirrels should boycott the paper of record until they receive a full apology for this sinister insinuation!

But I suspect that Nutzy will find other ways to occupy his time, as waging quixotic campaigns against the Gray Lady just doesn’t seem like his kind of thing. This is, after all, an individual who just last week rappelled down a building.

Rappelling down a building is something I have yet to attempt, but despite the lack of blog content I’ve still been fairly busy this week on MiLB.com “MiLBY Award” content as well as this feature that ran today on the Omaha Storm Chasers and their 2011 season. Give it a read; I chose to focus on the Storm Chasers because their recent transitions help to illuminate core Minor League Baseball operating principles that are often misunderstood.

Apropos of nothing, I’ll close this post with a video that I somehow missed the first time around. It’s of Boss and Moko Moanaroa and their father Joe performing a Maori war dance during a rain delay in Lowell. It’s the endless availability of things like this that make Minor League Baseball such a fun world to be immersed in.

Thank you for indulging this Minor League missive in the midst of such historic times for MLB. Enjoy Game 7 and the weekend in general, and I’ll be back on Monday with some Halloween-based content. If you’ve got something for me, then now’s the time to send some falderal for my reserve.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

10 From ’11

I’m as forward-looking as the next guy (whoever that may be), but nonetheless a longing backward gaze never hurt anyone. Right? RIGHT?

I sure hope so, because recent retrospective tendencies are continuing unabated with this: a look at some of the funniest/strangest/most evocative photos to have appeared on this blog during the 2011 season. It’s a feast for the eyes, so lather up those retinas and dive right in to the unparalleled visual extravaganza that is this post.

And we’ll start with one of my favorite recurring topics: Centenarian Ceremonial First Pitches! On April 7, Violet Smith celebrated her 109th birthday with the Great Lakes Loons. 109! I still can’t get over it. This woman was in high school when the U.S. entered WWI, and has lived long enough to see Franz Ferdinand re-incarnated as a British rock group.

Take Me Out…to the Ballgame!

DOB: April 7, 1902

Segueing once again from centenarians to sky-diving bulls, this picture of the Tulsa Drillers’ Hornsby remains my favorite mascot picture of all time.

The month of May provided what was probably the most famous picture to emanate from the Minor League landscape all year. Mark Gormus of the Richmond-Times Dispatch should be commended for this one, a thrilling snapshot of “Supermom” in action at a Flying Squirrels game.

Credit: Mark Gormus/Richmond Times-Dispatch

He’s not on the same level of heroism as “Supermom,” but who can forget Michael Restovich’s stint as “Cupman”?

Meanwhile, in Visalia, the Rawhide established themselves as the Cal League’s preeminent practitioners of age-based beauty contests. The winner of their “Belle of the Ballpark” competition was 96 years young, and very happy to have emerged victorious.

Photo Credit: Ken Weisenberger

The Rawhide’s Cal League cohorts in Lake Elsinore capitalized on the planking craze in memorable fashion. Here, the inimitable Grounds Crew Gorilla lays it all out atop an oven.

I don’t mean to pry, mate, but how’d you get up there?

Similar posture was utilized by David “The Human Cannonball” Smith when he was shot over the outfield fence at a Lowell Spinners game.

Have You Ever Been Suspended in Air? (Photo Credit: Jon Corneau/Lowell Spinners)

While it would be inconceivable for a player to be shot out of a cannon (at least in affiliated ball), sometimes they do find a way to participate in the promotions. One of the most enthusiastic was Frank Pfister of the Bakersfield Blaze, who gamely chugged away after losing a pre-game “Milk-Off” to members of the aforementioned Visalia Rawhide.

Photo credit: Chris Henstra/Visalia Rawhide

But humor can be milked from any situation. After the Boise Hawks misplaced their helmets prior to a late August ballgame, the team’s hitters were forced to borrow from the opposing Spokane Indians.

I’ll close this post with what may very well be the best photo ever taken of me, the world’s most self-loathing GREATEST Minor League blogger/itinerant solo traveler. Getting pied in the face atop a dugout while Mexican wrestling-enamored interns look on was a definite career highlight. The experience made me glad to be alive; thanks to the Akron Aeros for making it happen.

Minor League Baseball can be a beautiful thing sometimes.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

The Beginning is the End is the Beginning

I apologize for last week’s blog hiatus, and can only hope that absence did indeed make the heart grow fonder (as opposed to withered and discolored). My brief time spent abroad was a truly memorable and meaningful experience, and one I hope to blog about when time allows. Among (many) highlights, I made my French television debut!

But now it’s time to get back into the proverbial swing of things, via an even more proverbial headfirst dive into the frigid deep end of Minor League Baseball’s Olympic-sized swimming pool. The primary issue that we’re all dealing with right now is that the season is, in fact, over (save for the waning days of the playoffs, of course).

And when something ends, the natural instinct is to take a look back on what has transpired. This translates to season postmortem highlight videos aplenty, in locales as diverse as Fresno, Brooklyn, and Tucson. But I’ll feature this one from the Binghamton Mets, who summarized not just the season but their entire franchise history in the span of 60 seconds.

But for a truly unique season wrap-up, let me direct you to this missive from the Tr-City Valleycats: Mayor’s Race Analytics. This post should do for regionally-specific mascot race analysis what Moneyball did for oversimplified and premature obituaries on the occupation of professional baseball scout.

Writes the team:

In recent years, sabermetrics have revolutionized the study of baseball and other sports. Many other fields have also been influenced by statistical analysis, including politics and elections, to name a couple. But somehow, one very important area has been overlooked by the emerging field of analytics: politicians racing at sporting events.

Click the above link for more. And, for the record, I’ll always publicize blog entries that include apropos references to the 1876 Presidential election. Keep that in mind when emailing me.

But no matter how one parses the numbers, one fact about the Minor League life is universal: You’ve got to keep entertaining until the end. Nowhere was this more clear than in Gwinnett County, as the G-Braves kept things moving even in the midst of what turned out to be a season-ending rain delay.

And what is it about the Gwinnett Braves and end-of-season waterworks? It was just last season, after all, that loyal readers of this blog were thrilling to THIS.

The G-Braves finished just out of postseason contention, robbing them of the chance to participate in that most time-honored of playoff rituals: Politician Bets!

The Eastern League Finals are currently taking place, with the Richmond Flying Squirrels and New Hampshire Fisher Cats in a 1-1 series tie. And so much is on the line! Take it away, press release!

RICHMOND, VA – Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell and New Hampshire Governor John Lynch have agreed to a friendly wager on the Richmond Flying Squirrels vs. New Hampshire Fisher Cats Eastern League Championship Series. Governor Lynch has wagered that if Richmond wins, he will send Governor McDonnell a gallon of pure New Hampshire maple syrup. Should New Hampshire win, Governor McDonnell will send Governor Lynch a gift basket of Virginia Diner specialty peanuts, the official peanut of the Flying Squirrels.

Governor McDonnell, expressing his love of of peanuts to a rapt Skyler Stromsmoe

But even enemies must sometimes put aside their differences and work together, as evidenced by this hilarious photo sent to me by an embedded Northwest League contact.

Yes, that would be an in-game ensemble of Boise Hawks jersey and Spokane Indians helmet. Apparently the Hawks flat-out “forgot” where their helmets were just prior to a late August ballgame.  A search ensued, and in the meantime the hapless Boise batters were forced to go to the plate wearing the cranium-protecting duds of their avowed adversaries.

(And, pleasing only myself, I just included the phrase “In the Meantime” in a bit about helmets.)

I’ve got so much more to share, and of course I’ll be doing just that in the coming weeks/months/years/eternal re-incarnated existences. But for now I’ll close with this, which I wish I had known about in time to include in my final “Promotion Preview” column of the season.

2011’s first, best, and only transvestite bobblehead:

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

A Wand-erful Night At the Ballpark

For the Kane County Cougars, the Friday leading into July 4th weekend has traditionally been a slow one at the gates. Fans have been reluctant to attend, opting to wait until the team’s Independence Day celebrations.

So this season, they generated excitement by staging a tribute to Harry Potter. ‘Tis the time to do that sort of thing, of course, as the eighth (and final) installment of the film franchise opens on July 15.

Heather Mills, who organized the event, writes that Some of the activities of the night included a wand making station (fans could decorate a dowel rod with markers, crayons, and ribbon), a Harry Potter scavenger hunt, costume parade, trivia contest, and a fireworks show to Harry Potter music….It was quite a hit with fans as we had several hundred show up in costume….We also had the ballpark decorated in the Hogwarts house colors, house banners, and other recognizable things from the books/movies…. Another activity that spontaneously broke out during the night occurred after the kids visited the wand station.  Several kids were dueling each other with magic spells on our lawn area. 

The festivities helped contribute to a strong crowd of 5745, a number of whom battled for on-field costumed supremacy.

Another successful theme night of recent vintage was the Richmond Flying Squirrels’ “Great Outdoors” celebration, sponsored by the Virginia Wildlife Foundation and featuring special guest Josh Harris from the show Deadliest Catch.

I am not familiar with Harris, but apparently he’s quite the celebrity. Flying Squirrels director of promotions Christina Shisler writes that Harris “signed autographs the entire game, tossed a first pitch, led the crowd in take me out to the ballgame and even recorded a PSA for our sponsor.”

An even bigger celebrity is set to be honored in Reading this weekend — the Crazy Hot Dog Vendor. One fan will win a 550-lb replica of the man and his ostrich.

I’ll conclude this blogging week with a simple reminder that, yes, I still need you to send me photos of introspective mascots. Please, this is important to me.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Making Something Out of Nothing

Those with memories exceeding that of a pigeon will recall that two weeks ago the Peoria Chiefs generated a firestorm of national media attention with their “LeBron James Replica Championship Ring Giveaway.”

The joke, of course, was that fans would receive nothing at all.

But giving away “Nothing” is harder than it looks, an endeavor that opens a jumbo-sized philosophical can of worms. The Chiefs dealt with the issue by setting up a display on the concourse and asking fans to imagine what could have been.

Following three photos: Dennis Sievers, Peoria Chiefs

As you can imagine, such a detailed promotion requires the full teamwork of the entire staff. Congrats, guys, for making something out of nothing.

The Chiefs’ promo (chronicled HERE by a local news station) was the harshest attack on LBJ since the 1964 presidential campaign, so let us now lighten the mood and let love in.

On June 17, the Richmond Flying Squirrels took the now familiar “Diamond Dig” promotion to the next level. Director of community relations and promotions Christina Shisler writes:

We hid four rings, three single-knot 14 karat white, yellow and rose gold promise rings showcasing two petite diamonds each, retailing at $451….And then our big prize was a petite estate diamond ring – half a carat, in a beautiful 18 karat yellow gold setting, retailing at $1,895!

 The Diamond Ring was the third one found and when the lady found it, her then boyfriend (and a minute later fiancé!) ran onto the field, got down on one knee and proposed right there on the spot that she found the ring in the dirt.

This is the most adorable in-stadium proposal since Broccoli got down on one knee in Reading last season.

And speaking of Reading, earlier this month thousands of fans arrived at the ballpark early…

in order to receive this:

But the splendor of the Cole Hamels Garden Gnome pales in comparison to the R-Phils’ latest dessert offering:

Very few things are as quintessentially American as eating 24 scoops of Sour Patch Kids-bedecked ice cream out of a full-size batting helmet at a Minor League Baseball game.  Except, you know, actually becoming an American at a Minor League Baseball game. I covered the Toledo Mud Hens’ Naturalization Ceremony on my most recent road trip, and was quickly reminded that the Hens aren’t the only team that have staged such an event.

The Memphis Redbirds hosted a Naturalization Ceremony last July 4th, and are planning on doing so this year as well.

May your children, and your children’s children, enjoy a life of miniature garden gnomes, buried diamonds within diamonds, and satirical celebrations of professional basketball failure.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Non-Stop Promo Power Pack

When I was in Lancaster earlier this month, JetHawks food and beverage director Adam Fillenworth told me that the team was on the cusp of debuting “the smallest hamburger in Minor League Baseball. Such an item would be a tongue-in-cheek rebuttal to the “extreme” concessions that have overtaken the Minor League landscape in recent years, a trend that the JetHawks themselves have participated in (see Burger, Stealth).

My reportage, always free from conjecture and hearsay, was once again accurate. For the team has now unveiled their miniature creation: “The Itty-Bitty Burger.”

The tiny hamburgers in deep fried buns are only available for a limited time. They can be upgraded to a “cheeseburger” (the addition of nacho cheese dipping sauce) and can be served with complimentary sides of ketchup, mustard and relish.

“It seemed like everyone was attempting to out-do each other this year by creating food that didn’t look appealing, so we thought we’d go in a different direction,” JetHawks Food and Beverage Director Adam Fillenworth said.

This development is analogous to the rise of punk rock, a no-frills genre formed in opposition to the over-produced pomposity of ’70s arena rock bands.

A particularly adept Me Decade arena-filler was Bad Company, whose hit “Feel Like Bacon Love” was certainly heard at Richmond’s The Diamond on Wednesday. As you’ll recall, the Flying Squirrels staged a “Tribute to Bacon” featuring an appearance by a local detective with the name of Kevin Bacon.

Detective Kevin Bacon, ceremonial tosser of first pitches

A similarly sizzling promotion occurred last week in Stockton, as the Ports held “Rolling Stones Night.”

A robust crowd of over 5500 fans took in the action on this raucous evening. Some images and explanations:

Air Guitar to "Jumpin' Jack Flash"

Mick Jagger Dance-Off on the Dugout (the contestants weren't able to fit into leather pants)

The "Mick Jagger Funny Face" promo

A.J. Griffin Delivers

Sticking with the Cal League north, let’s head over to Visalia to check out this year’s Helicopter Candy Drop. The name of the promo is truth in advertising: candy is dropped on to the field by a helicopter, and then the children in attendance go on a mad scramble.

Photo Credit: Chris Henstra

Photo Credit: Chris Henstra

But that’s not all that’s been going on in Visalia. The day before the Helicopter drop the Rawhide held a “Belle of the Ballpark Grandma Beauty Pageant.” Broadcasting director Donny Baarns writes that:

The contestants each demonstrated a talent during different half-innings; Doris, the eventual winner, led the crowd in a Rawhide cheer (“Next week I will be 96,” she said, “And I can’t believe I finally made the cheerleading team!”) Another played keyboard and sang “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” The contestants also participated in a “White T-Shirt Contest,” where each was given a basic white Rawhide t-shirt and allowed to decorate it creatively in their own style. The contestants came from local retirement homes, where preliminary rounds where held.

Finalists:

Photo Credit: Ken Weisenberger

And the winner:

96 Years Young! (photo: Ken Weisenberger)

I can’t think of a better image to end the blogging week. Thanks, as always, for reading. And more importantly, get in touch! It can be a difficult thing, this writing game, and your feedback and support is very much appreciated.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Not On the Road: Self-Esteem, Singing, and Pseudo-Celebs

Well hello everybody and how ya been? It’s Ben’s Biz typing on the keyboard again. I’ve got grace, class, style, finesse and debonair. Writing ’bout MiLB promos and hopin’ folks care.

The point of the above Beastie Boy lyric approximation is simply to say that it’s been a while since I was able to kick out a good old-fashioned blog bouillabaisse (and I spelled “bouillabaisse” correctly on the second try, a new record).  I’ve still got some odds and ends from my left coast road trip to share, but today will be all about the here and now in addition to what was recently the here and now but is now then.

For starters, TONIGHT is the Richmond Flying Squirrels’ “Tribute to Bacon” featuring an appearance by Kevin Bacon!

This particular Kevin Bacon has never been immortalized in celluloid, however.

Bacon, a Chesterfield County native for more than 35 years, is currently a detective with the Chesterfield County Police Department….He is a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University with a bachelor’s degree in Administration of Justice.

So that would be just one degree of Kevin Bacon? Perhaps he’ll obtain a Masters one day. Another Flying Squirrels item of note is that this picture of a “superhero Mom” catching a fly ball went viral.

Credit: Mark Gormus/Richmond Times-Dispatch

Name a media outlet, and chances are they ran something on this. For background on how it all came to be, check out this Richmond Times-Dispatch story. 

The following photos didn’t go viral, but they were sent along to me by the Toledo Mud Hens and are well worth a look. The ol’ “gum on the hat” trick is never not funny. This time around the victim is Michael Restovich of the visiting Charlotte Knights.

Another perennial source of Minor League humor comes in the form of mustaches. One of the most prominent facial follicle initiatives currently taking place is the Delmarva Shorebirds’ “Mustache May.” Members of the team and front office are participating, and fans can donate money toward their favorite.

The current leader is none other than trainer Will Lawhorn.

Not at all creepy

You’ve got to have good self-esteem to grow a mustache like that, which is something that Hickory Crawdads mascot Conrad is currently lacking.

HICKORY, NC –In response to SI.com writer Peter King’s column on Mon., May 16, in which Conrad the Crawdad’s self-esteem was questioned, the Hickory Crawdads are introducing a brand-new promotion and ticket deal for the rest of the 2011 season – Conrad’s Self-Esteem Wednesdays!

For every Wednesday home game…fans can receive a discounted $4 box seat ticket just by mentioning “Conrad’s self-esteem” at the Ticket Office.

The Crawdads will then donate $2 from every $4 ticket to Catawba Valley Behavioral Healthcare in support of their ongoing mission to provide behavioral health and support services for those in need in the Unifour community.

I’m sure Conrad will rally from the depths of his despair, something that Akron Aeros fans have become quite adept at doing.

And since I always like to end on a high note, how ’bout these Cedar Rapids troubadours?

Contact me with any kernels of info you may have to disseminate. I’ll be here waiting.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

I Blog in the East, I Blog in the West

…And I come to give you more, and I never give you less….Let’s go!

If you “Look At Me Now” you’ll find me in NYC, but at this time tomorrow I’ll be flying the friendly skies, airbound toward the arid. Look for “on location” blog posts, articles, and interviews the rest of this week into next, as I spend time in Tucson, Lancaster, High Desert, Inland Empire, and Lake Elsinore (and maybe more, logistics permitting).

But before all that, a good old-fashioned blog bouillabaisse of relevant Minor League biz-ness news (and, for the record, never have I spelled “bouillabaisse” correctly on the first try).

This week’s “Farm’s Almanac” is on the Minor League response to the Alabama tornadoes, and can be read HERE. Mentioned briefly in the story, and something I’d like to emphasize here, is that the Burlington Bees are raising money for the family of grounds crew intern Cody Wales, whose home was leveled by the tornado.

The team has been raising money at the ballpark, and checks to benefit the Cody Wales Family can be sent to the Bees front office at 2712 Mt. Pleasant Street, P.O. Box 824, Burlington, IA 52601.

—-

It’s Tuesday, meaning a new “Promotion Preview” column is up on MiLB.com. It was an admittedly slow week for promos, and I am heartened by the fact that next week’s column gives me more than twice as much notable stuff to choose from. I  once again implore you to keep in touch, with info on upcoming promos as well as recaps of those past. I cannot stress this enough! The current soporific state of my inbox leaves much to be desired.

Highlighted in a previous column was the Richmond Flying Squirrels “High Five World Record Attempt,” in which mascot Nutzy attempted to set a new standard for “most high fives by an individual in an hour.” And indeed he did (though yet to be verified by Guinness), slapping palms with 1620 fans.

Featured in last week’s column — and happening TONIGHT — is the Memphis Redbirds’ 30th Anniversary Salute to Charlie Lea’s No-Hitter (Lea now works as a color commentator for the club). The Redbirds are pulling out all the stops with this one, going so far as to tweak an immensely popular viral video.

An event that should have been included, but was instead egregiously overlooked, was the Durham Bulls’ return to iconic Durham Athletic Park yesterday. This video sums up the evening very well:

The Crazy Hot Dog Vendor wasn’t overlooked, but perhaps should have been. As this video points out, the use of the word “vendor” in his job title is blatantly misleading.

But in the end, Minor League Baseball is more about the overall experience than any specific promotion. The Fort Myers Miracle have put together an ad campaign that emphasizes this point very well. My embedding capabilities are lacking in this case, but they can be viewed HERE. And while you’re at it, check out this local newspaper story about the Miracle Bullpen and its trusty Justin Beiber backpack.

And, yes, the story features a photo of Bruce Pugh heading to the bullpen while wearing the backpack — a triumvirate of BPs, and possibly a foursome if he happened to be heading there after batting practice.

I’m now less than 24 hours from saying goodbye to the East Coast.  The next time you’ll hear from me I’ll be writing in an agitated late-night state from some hotel room, binging on Mello Yello and wondering what’s it all for.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Regional Cuisine, Sweet and Extreme

Now that the relentless onslaught of season-opening news has finally subsided, I can dedicate a post to the topic most near and dear to the hearts of Minor League fans everywhere.

Food.

But instead of leading with yet another heart-stopping meat-strosity, today’s post will begin by highlighting a food and beverage innovation that deserves to catch on throughout the land. The Richmond Flying Squirrels are offering a “Tastes of the Eastern League” special this season, in which they offer a concession item inspired by the home city of their opponent.

Here’s the list, with my only complaint being the absence of “Spiedies” when the Binghamton Mets are in town:

Akron, Ohio: Galley Boy – Two cheese burgers topped with a slice of onion and BBQ sauce

An approximation of "The Pittsburgher"

Altoona, Pennsylvania: The Pittsburgher – Roast beef, slaw, cheese, and fries on a hamburger bun

Binghamton, New York: Meatball sub

Bowie, Maryland: Crab cake Sandwich

Erie, Pennsylvania: Pierogies

Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Chicken Cheesesteak Sandwich

New Britain, Connecticut: Funnel Cake with marinara sauce

Manchester, New Hampshire: Fried Fish sandwich

Portland, Maine: Lobster Cake Sandwich

Reading, Pennsylvania: Philly Cheese Steak sub

Trenton, New Jersey: Taylor Pork roll sandwich

Blogger-ly intuition tells me that the Flying Squirrels aren’t the only team promoting league-wide culinary adventures. Are you?

Of course, the Flying Squirrels are offering suitably obscene “Extreme” menu items as well. This is Minor League Baseball we’re talking about, after all.

From left to right we have the Giant Burger (two 6 oz. Certified Black Angus patties topped with a mound of Squirrelly fries covered in BBQ sauce, drenched in cheese, served on a Crustini bun), Trolley Dog (giant hot dog covered with chili and cheese, nestled on top of two fried pickles), and the Golden Gate Burger (Two 6 oz. Certified Black Angus patties topped with a mound of Squirrelly fries covered in BBQ sauce, drenched in cheese, served on a Crustini bun). Thanks to Richmond director of broadcasting Jon Laaser for the copious food info.

Meanwhile, out west, the Lancaster JetHawks are making waves with their “Sweet Po-Tater Tots” (with a side of syrup). Now this is how teams should photographically depict premier concession items! Take note:

The Sweet Po-Taters recently caught the eye of CNBC sports biz reporter Darren Rovell, who tweeted the above pic to his legions of followers. This, in turn, inspired the JetHawks to put out a press release bragging about said Tweet. If only I were influential enough to inspire photo-shopped images such as this:

Remaining in the California League, you may recall this recent picture of the Lake Elsinore Storm’s “Filthy McNasty,” a two-pound burger stuffed with two hot dogs, bacon and cheese….smothered in chili and topped with crispy onion straws.

Well, there’s more where that came from. In a distressingly (or perhaps mercifully) photo-free press release, the team also relays the following info:

Another attraction is the “Home Wrecker”….three half-pound chili dogs topped with one-and-a- half pounds of French Fries, two pounds of chili and three-quarters-of-a-pound of cheese and diced onions….If one person can finish this monster dog in less than 20 minutes, it’s free!

Other new items added to the 2011 Diamond Club menu include: a one-and-a-half pound baked pretzel with dipping sauces named the “Belly Twister”, cheeseburger sliders with soft pretzel buns called “Pretzel Sliders”, a bleu cheese stuffed cheeseburger aptly named the “Juicy Bleusy”, a jalapeno stuffed cheeseburger called the “Cajun Lucy”, a burrito filled with shrimp, fries, guacamole, pico de gallo and cheese named “The Pipeline” and a make-your-own burrito called the “Cardiac Roll.”

Update! Here are up-close-and-personal pics of the “Homewrecker” and “Pretzel Sliders”:

And here’s the Filthy McNasty, about to be devoured:

The Toledo Mud Hens aren’t lacking for pictures either, as the team recently released a captivating online menu featuring their new concession items.

Highlights include Deep-Fried Pickle Spears as well as the “Texas Twist” a 24-oz soft pretzel, measuring one full square foot! Served with honey dijon, spicy & fancy yellow mustards.

Knot bad!

Sorry, that’s going to have to do. Knot bad. They can’t all be weiners.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

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