Results tagged ‘ San Antonio Missions ’

On the Road: Mission Complete in San Antonio

Fun fact: Although just 20 years of age, San Antonio’s Wolff Stadium is the oldest ballpark in the eight-team Texas League.

Funner Fact: For the first eight seasons of its existence, Wolff Stadium was the newest ballpark in the Texas League. Its descent from “newest” to “oldest” occurred over a span of just nine seasons; Midland (2002), Arkansas (2007) and Tulsa (2010) built new ballparks for previously existing teams, while Frisco (2003), Corpus Christi (2005), Springfield (2005),  and Northwest Arkansas (2008) began play in new facilities after re-locating from elsewhere.

The Texas League, where change is the only constant!

I arrived at Wolff Stadium after a long drive from Midland, during which I got caught in rush hour traffic. I arrived at the ballpark around 6 p.m. (much later than originally intended), changed clothes in the parking lot, and then snapped this shot of the ballpark’s exterior.

Welcome to the Wolff, man:

1670

1671

Wolff Stadium is located across the street (more or less) from Lackland Air Force base. This base serves as the sole location for Air Force basic training, meaning that impossibly fresh-faced recruits are a common sight at Missions games. The sounds of planes flying overhead has also led some (or at least one) to dub it “The Shea Stadium of Minor League Baseball.” (At Shea Stadium, planes flying in and out of LaGuardia airport lent the ballpark a certain acoustical ambiance.)

1672

I was joined on this evening by one Jon Fischer, a San Francisco-based artist who recently completed a piece in which I am depicted blogging sans shirt.

shirtless

Available for purchase

Jon and I went to high school together (Wissahickon Class of ’97, for those keeping score at home). He was last seen on this blog at a Modesto Nuts game, eating meat-stuffed pretzels. Here he is upon entering Wolff Stadium, brandishing a brobdingnagian team-logo mug that was the evening’s giveaway item. (I now allow myself one use of the word “brobdingnagian” per season. Look forward to seeing the word again in 2015.)

1673

Some stadium views, captured upon arrival. Though it was a Friday, the Missions drew a lackluster crowd due to the fact that the Spurs had a Game 7 playoff game that evening. When you’re a Double-A baseball team, it’s kind of hard to compete with a championship-caliber NBA team in the same market. But what can you do?

1674

1677

1678

1679

The National Anthem was adorable. For maximum enjoyment, listen to this at least 145 times in a row. I did!

I taped that anthem snippet in the press box, a domain occupied by shadowy figures.

1680And while in the press box, I got my first glimpse of iconic Missions mascot Ballapeno. For more on Ballapeno and his arch-rival, Puffy Taco, read my MiLB.com article on the subject. I COMMAND YOU.

1681

I also got my first glimpse of Alex Vispoli, broadcaster for the visiting Frisco RoughRiders. If broadcasters were ranked as MLB prospects in the same manner that players are, Vispoli would be high on the list. (Actually, wouldn’t that be a cool thing to do? But what methodology would be used? It’s a hard thing to quantify.)

1682

My interaction with Vispoli was brief, for the game was ready to begin.

1683

Following standard protocol, I did not settle in to watch the game. I commenced to wandering.

1684

And in the course of that wandering, I soon ran into my designated eater for the evening (you know, the individual who eats the ballpark cuisine that my gluten-free diet prohibits).

1702That’s Darren Smith, who drove in from Austin for the occasion. “I just wanted to see a new ballpark and shoot the [shoot] about baseball,” he told me. Smith currently works for an Austin-area summer camp that specializes in outdoor education, but in a previous life he worked for the MLB  Urban Youth Academy in Compton as well as the Bradenton Marauders during their nascent years of existence.

After talking with the team, it was decided that Darren would sample the “Nacho Dog.” It’s nacho dog, it’s Darren’s.

1685

Have at it, Darren.

1687

1688

Darren was less than enthused with the Missions’ culinary concoction.

“The chili’s not great, the cheese is okay, but the bread is the worst,” he said. “It’s rock hard and cold. [Ballpark sponsor] Mrs. Baird’s is a Texas brand and you’d think they’d use that. The only thing that makes this a nacho dog is the chips, otherwise it’s a chili-cheese dog.”

We then stopped by Tony T’s Ballpark Treats, a third-party vendor, and got their signature Ribbon Fries.

1696

1689

Darren was a fan of these, lauding their look, crispness, and overall flavor.

1691

I loved these (gluten-free!) creations as well. Tony T’s is a winner.

1692

Fischer took the above photo, and he took this one as well. It is perhaps the most succinct summation of my professional career that one can find.

SanAntonioMissions3

Finally, we stopped by another third-party vendor: Augie’s Barbed Wire Smokehouse.

1697

Darren, an expert when it comes to the Austin-area BBQ scene, opted for the brisket sandwich. He said that “In Texas, you know a place has good BBQ if they have a good brisket.”

1699 Fischer, meanwhile, got a Hot Chop sandwich with Serrano peppers.

1700

Oh, and a Frito Pie was involved somehow.

1698

Have at it, guys.

1701

In case you prefer your images of 30-something white men eating to be of the moving variety:

“I’m pretty sure that the bread here is Mrs. Baird’s,” said Darren. “By Texas brisket standards, this is at the level of a Dickey’s [a BBQ restaurant chain]. It’s pretty commercial, there’s no burnt stuff or smoke lines.”

And with that we bid adieu to Darren Smith, a tough but fair designated eater. I then re-commenced wandering.

1703

Some two decades into its existence, Wolff Stadium is in need of a little TLC. This metal fence could use a touch-up, for example.

1705

And this isolated area, located behind the berm, was just a dump.

1715

 

But for the most part, Wolff Stadium gets the job done. It is neither old nor young, just plugging along and maintaining its status as a San Antonio summertime entertainment staple.

1712

1714

1716

Of course, the aforementioned Ballapeno and Henry the Puffy Taco are a big part of the ballpark experience. Here, a gaggle of children chase Ballapeno across the field.

1707

I really wish I had been able to properly capture this moment. Ballapeno, in the act of waving to a young fan, accidentally slapped  her in the face instead. The girl, more shocked than hurt, began to cry. In the below photo, Ballapeno is attempting to apologize, but, you know, it’s hard to apologize when you can’t talk.

But don’t worry about it, Ballapeno, as it was clearly unintentional. Get in touch if you need me to provide a statement exonerating you of any wrongdoing.

1710

 

I was back up in the press box during Henry the Puffy Taco’s nightly humiliation. Not only does he lose every base path race, but the victor then stands upon him and gloats. Once again, my attempt to capture the action was subpar. (Everybody has their off nights, no matter what the job, and I had a blogging off night here in San Antonio).

1717

Humiliated or not, Henry the Puffy Taco still loves to dance.

1720

1719

The game was moving rapidly, leading me to a sort of existential crisis. I’d been out and about and on my feet throughout, but what had I done? Anything? It didn’t feel like much, kind of like those recurring dreams I have where I’m at a ballpark in order to write about it but instead remain stuck in one place. (I really and truly have these dreams on a regular basis.)

But I wasn’t stuck, it was time to move. I had to get to the illuminated truth of this multi-tiered conundrum.

1721

But all I found was that the game was over, and fans were now attempting to throw tennis balls into a chimney. Typical.

1723

1724

1728

This was one case where people actually wanted to come down with the flue, but it was not to be. “Oh my God that was so close. Oh! Oh!”

But, hey, there’s always Run the Bases. 1730 Good night from Wolff Stadium. Don’t forget to get an autograph on your way out. 1733 benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Creating News By Responding To It

Suffice to say that it’s been a momentous couple of days for the United States and the world at large, with the killing of Bin Laden absolutely dominating the conversation. Not surprisingly, Minor League teams across the country found a way to respond to the news. A brief smattering:

The Bowie Baysox issued the following missive on Facebook In response to President Obama’s call of unity and solidarity….the first 300 fans that enter the ballpark receive a mini-American Flag.

– In San Antonio, the Missions wore their camo uniforms as part of an impromptu celebration of the military. It turned out to be quite a game, too, with David Robertson hitting for the cycle as the Missions cruised to a 17-6 victory.

– In an email received just as the blog was going to “press,” the Northwest Akransas Naturals announced that Inspired by the bravery of the Navy Seals in Sunday night’s mission in Pakistan, the Northwest Arkansas Naturals would like to recognize and thank all military members – active and retired – with free tickets to any of the next four home games at Arvest Ballpark, starting Tuesday evening.

– The Altoona Curve offered free tickets to all military members, for games on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. Rumors that Steamer was part of the special ops team have not been substantiated.

The team also remarked, facetiously albeit accurately, via Twitter that “In honor of yesterday’s events, July 4th-born Jared Hughes will be tonight’s starting pitcher for the Altoona Curve.” While Hughes only lasted four innings, the Curve rallied for a 10-9 victory over Harrisburg. This put an end to their streak of 19 straight games alternating a win with a loss (!!!)

The aforementioned Harrisburg Senators are more than just the visiting team in this particular narrative. Yesterday the team made its own announcement: In light of the events of the past 48 hours, the Harrisburg Senators want to say thank you to the U.S. Armed Forces for all that they do….Beginning this Friday, May 6th through the end of the 2011 season all active duty and retired military, Air and Army National Guard, and Reservists and their family receive box seats for only $7.50 (normally $9) with their military ID.

One of the few games going on when the news of Bin Laden’s death broke was a tilt in Tucson between the Padres and Colorado Springs — on Military Night, no less. The team made the decision to announce the news over the PA, resulting in a memorable scene.

“We felt [making the announcement] was an important thing to do,” said T-Pads general manager Mike Feder. “We’ve made a major commitment to reach out to the military; we have very large Air Force and intelligence bases located near us, and there’s a huge National Guard presence as well.”

A more localized case of dedicated team and and fan support involves Bryan Stow, the San Francisco Giant fan senselessly beaten into a coma on Opening Day at Dodger Stadium. His plight has prompted an outpouring of giving, with everyone from Tim Lincecum to Charlie Sheen chipping in with donations to help support Stow and his family during this exceedingly difficult time.

But one of the most substantial and heartfelt fundraising efforts occurred within Minor League Baseball. Stow often worked as a paramedic at San Jose’s Municipal Stadium, and the hometown Giants therefore dedicated the entire month of April to him. Throughout the month the team raised $36,181, and the Triple-A Fresno Grizzlies pitched in an additional $7,181 after holding a fundraising night of their own. That’s $43, 362 combined, which was presented to the Stow family prior to Sunday’s ballgame.


– And now, the moment in which none of you were waiting for: me promoting my own material. It’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it!

Today, as with every Tuesday, brings a new “Promotion Preview” column. Super Nintendo, bubble gum, mustaches, formal wear, “Charlie Bit Me”, Tiger Blood cocktails, and more. Always more.

And yesterday saw the 2011 debut of “Crooked Numbers“, a monthly compendium of statistical oddities and curiosities. Or, as I like to call it, “an obsessive-compulsive labor of love that I spend way too much time on even though it gets no feedback from anyone, thereby making an already sensitive writer even more sensitive.” That title was rejected by the MiLB.com higher-ups, probably for good reason.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

10 From ’10

coffin.jpgThe 2010 Minor League season is now lifeless and entombed, but it is my duty to preserve the corpse so that future generations may gaze upon its sepulchral splendor.

To that end, today’s post features my 10 favorite photographs from the recently deceased campaign. All of these pictures appeared on this blog at some point during the season, and are presented in the order in which they originally appeared.

Remember — it is better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all. Let’s all take a look at once was:

Snowpening DayFreezing precipitation prevented the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers from playing their first scheduled home game, causing the players to release their start-of-the-season aggression upon hapless snowmen (note the Rattlers’ scoreboard message, a nice example of thinking ahead).


Thumbnail image for wisconsin snow 3.jpg

When Ya Gotta GoThe Northwest Arkansas Naturals held a nightly “Adoptable Pet of the Game” promotion this season, and on April 11 the evening’s honored canine broke loose from her handlers…
Thumbnail image for Naturals -- Dog4.JPG
You can guess what happened next

Catatonic CauliflowerJerry “The King” Lawler visited Reading’s FirstEnergy Stadium, leaving no doubt as to his feelings regarding rampaging vegetables.

Thumbnail image for Reading -- lawler_4_23_10_reading3.JPG
Tattooed PerfectionOakland A’s hurler Dallas Braden became a household name upon pitching a perfect game, but soon afterwards returned to Stockton in order to abdominally express his hometown pride.
Thumbnail image for Stockton_Bradentat.JPG

(photo credit: George Steckler/Stockton Ports)

Sweets From the Sky: The Visalia Rawhide dropped candy from a helicopter following an afternoon game in May. Idyllic images resulted.
Thumbnail image for visalia_candy_kids2.JPG
(photo credit: Chris Henstra)

Guacamole-Topped Vengeance: San Antonio Missions fan Randy Neuenfeldt lost a race to the Puffy Taco in 1992. He wasn’t about to let that happen again.
Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Mission_taco_redemption.JPG
A Dignified EveningThis is what happened when Jose Canseco fought a 60-year-old man prior to an Arkansas Travelers game. Your winner, by decision: Gary Hogan!
Thumbnail image for Arkansas_GaryWins.jpg
ConfidenceWe could all learn something from the preternaturally self-possessed young Trenton Thunder fan.
Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for cheer2.jpg
Postgame for PyrosStuntman Ted Batchelor ran around the bases following a Savannah Sand Gnats game. He was on fire at the time.
Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Savannah_Fire_third.jpg
Spitting ImageThe Lake County Captains saluted the almighty watermelon in August, leading to a snapshot most adorable.
Thumbnail image for Lake County_Watermelon.JPG
Of course, feel free to send along your own favorites from the 2010 season. I am, as always, interested in your input.
benjamin.hill@mlb.com
twitter.com/bensbiz

Promo Year In Review, Part Four: Marvelous Miscellany

4.jpg

Over the past three days, I’ve presented my picks for favorite giveaways, theme nights, and celebrity appearances of the year. Nearly all Minor League promos fall into at least one of those categories, but lest anything slip through the cracks I’ve created a fourth and final category. For lack of a better name, I’m calling it “Marvelous Miscellany.”

The following six promos don’t have much in common with one another, save for the fact that they were all exceedingly memorable. But what am I missing? Surely there were many other tough-to-categorize but eminently worthwhile ballpark events that deserve postseason commemoration — let me know!

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

————————————————————————————————————————————–

My six picks, magnanimously presented in alphabetical order.

Birmingham Barons –  Rickwood Classic/100th Anniversary of Rickwood Field

classic_onroofstarterlurks.JPG

Frederick Keys — Volt Night

volt.jpg


Huntsville Stars –
Car Survivor

Thumbnail image for Huntsville_Car2.JPG

Mobile BayBears — Opening of Hank Aaron Childhood Home and Museum

aron.jpg

San Antonio Missions — Puffy Taco, the Re-Match

Thumbnail image for Mission_taco_redemption.JPG

 

Savannah Sand Gnats — Fire Walk Around the Bases

Thumbnail image for Savannah_Fire_third.jpg

What can I say? It’s a random assemblage, but you know what else is random?

Life.

I’m just using this blog to illuminate universal truths. Also, to solicit feedback. Keep your promo suggestions coming, in all categories. You know where to find me.

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

Taco Trauma Turns Triumphant in San Antonio

It took 18 years, but Randy Neuenfeldt has finally defeated the Puffy Taco.

In 1992, 11-year-old Neuenfeldt was selected as the contestant in the San Antonio Missions’ “Puffy Taco Race.”  His task was a simple one — to beat this guacamole-soaked anthropomorphic food dish in a race around the bases. This seemed like an eminently attainable task, considering that the Puffy Taco had never, ever won. Not once. Ever. 

I mean, look at “him”:

puffy taco.jpg
(Shawn E. Davis/MiLB.com)

But this particular night in 1992 was different from all other nights, before or since. The Puffy Taco somehow managed to win.

puff.jpg“As I went around third, the taco was ahead of me,” explained Neuenfeldt, who is now married with two children. “He was goofing around, doing a dance, and he ended up going a little too far and touched home plate ahead of me. The PA guy saw that and ran with it: ‘Ladies and gentleman, you’ve just witnessed history! For the first time ever, the Puffy Taco has won a race!’  Everybody was booing, and I thought they were booing me for losing the race. I was crying as they brought me off of the field.”

But time heals all wounds, and as the years passed Neuenfeldt came to accept and even embrace his status as the only person to ever lose to the Puffy Taco. But he never forgot.

Rick Hill never forgot either. Hill was the frazzled Missions intern who selected Neuenfeldt to participate in the race, and therefore largely responsible for the humiliation that ensued. Last February, Hill wrote a blog post for mysanantonio.com in which he recounted the incident.

“I half-carried, half-dragged [Neuenfeldt] off the field,” wrote Hill. “I offered him another
chance but both he and his parents were too dumbfounded to respond so I
sulked back to my desk.”

The post ended with these fateful words:

“I hope a certain boy who turns 28 this June will drop me a line. I
owe him…another shot at beating the Puffy Taco.”

As luck would have it, Neuenfeldt saw the post and sent Hill an email (subject line: “the boypuffffffff.jpg that lost”). Hill then contacted the Missions, who were more than happy to help right this 18-year-old wrong. They even arranged for Jimmy Gonzalez, the 1992-era Puffy Taco who defeated Neuenfeldt, to reprise his role for the re-match.

Puffy Taco vs Neuenfeldt Part II occurred on Thursday, in front of a robust crowd of some 7200 fans. Over 100 friends and family members came out to support Neuenfeldt, who was wearing a t-shirt that read “I Eat Tacos Like You For Breakfast” on the front and “Run Randy Run” on the back.

Neuenfeldt and his Puffy Taco nemesis competed in several between-inning contests before the main event, building anticipation to a fever pitch. Would things turn out differently in 2010? 

The answer, as always, can be found in the pictures. 

Here’s Neuenfeldt, ready for action:

Mission_taco_thumbsup.JPG 

In the homestretch:

Mission_taco_aroundthird.JPG

Victory!

Mission_taco_redemption.JPG

The Man of the Hour:

mission_taco_celebrity.JPG
 
“Good lord, I was out of breath,” said Neuenfeldt when asked about the race. “Why are the bases so far apart? But it was great to have my shot at redemption, and now there’s a sense of closure.”

The San Antonio media did a commendable job in covering this epochal event, as any cursory Google search will make clear. But it was the aforementioned mysanantonio.com that truly stood out. For far more Puffy Taco coverage, including photo galleries, related links, and an excellently-produced and highly dramatic video, click HERE.   

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

Blogging Bouillabaisse

Thumbnail image for patchwork.jpgWhat should I write about today?

I’ve spilled way too much virtual ink about Valentine’s Day already, and not too much is shaking on the 2010 promotional front. So my only option is this: to systematically exhaust my supply of topics that for some reason or another my moderately-addled mind has deemed “blogworthy.” Topics such as these:

– In Bowie, communications manager Tom Sedlacek dove into a kiddie-pool filled with frigid water. There was a reason for this. Click HERE if you are interested in what motivated such a ridiculous action. Otherwise, just watch:

In Tulsa, the Drillers are having some fun with their brand-new high-powered t-shirt cannon:

The 2010 Triple-A All-Star Game marks the first time that
league-specific uniforms will be worn by respective All-Stars in either
Triple-A or the Major Leagues.

2010ASG.gif

– Finally, the Bowling Green Hot Rods’ website currently features an interview with me. As in Benjamin Hill, the guy typing this sentence right now. Check it out HERE.

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

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 439 other followers