Results tagged ‘ South Bend Silver Hawks ’

Return to the Road: A Three-Sided Midland Perspective

Thus far, this ongoing “Return to the Road” series has highlighted outside-of-the-ballpark trip highlights from Appleton, WI to Beloit, WI (but barely) to Midland, MI. Midland is where we are going to remain, as we begin today’s fourth and final post in the series.

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I awoke in Midland on Wednesday, June 26, and had a little bit of time to explore after checking out of the hotel. After all, that evening’s destination of Lansing (home of the Lugnuts) was just a short drive away. My partner in these explorations was writer Matt LaWell, who shadowed me during this trip as part of a book he is writing on Minor League Baseball. We began in downtown Midland, which included the periodic table-influenced “H Hotel” and its attendant eateries “Table restaurant” and the “Zinc Cafe.”

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The heart of downtown Midland, and certainly its most recognizable landmark,  is “The Tridge,”

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The Tridge, built in 1981, is what its name implies: a three-way bridge (built at the confluence of the Tittabawassee and Chippewa Rivers). A Farmer’s Market is located nearby (it wasn’t open on the day I visited), and a variety of cultural events are held in and around this area as well. It’s all very scenic and well-maintained, and we were fortunate enough to have visited on a beautiful day.

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This statue, simply title “Couple,” features its titular individuals gazing upon the Tridge in perpetuity.

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After a little bit of wandering, we came upon the similarly-titled “Family.”

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Unfortunately, a certain subset of Midland’s public statue-viewing public can’t keep their hands to themselves.

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A little bit of local history, courtesy of a rock.

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These idyllic early afternoon wandering were much enjoyed, but soon enough it was time to depart not just the Tridge but Midland itself. Farewell county courthouse, I hardly knew ye!

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From here on out, my outside-of-the-ballpark content from this week-long Midwest League excursion is exceedingly minimal. As previously mentioned, I attended that night’s Lansing Lugnuts game (and wrote about it HERE and HERE and HERE). Unfortunately, there was no time to explore Lansing proper, as I had to get up bright and early the next morning in order to appear on Grand Rapids radio. That was the first act in what turned out to be a full-to-bursting West Michigan Whitecaps experience, which was chronicled HERE and HERE and, yes, even HERE.  My time with the Whitecaps turned out to be so full-to-bursting that I didn’t get any real chance to explore Grand Rapids, either, although on the way out of the city Matt LaWell and I stopped at an eatery recommended by then-Lansing Lugnuts broadcaster Slavko Bekovic.

This eatery was called “The Winchester.” As a Brooklyn resident, I am quite familiar with this sort of establishment: a locally-sourced nouveau American bistro with self-consciously hip sensibilities.

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Here’s a picture of Matt LaWell at the bar. I only wish his well-manicured mustache was visible, as well-manicured mustaches are just the sort of thing one would expect to see at such an establishment.

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If you’ve got $40 to spend on a hamburger, then you’re everything that is wrong with America. But if this is wrong, maybe you don’t want to be right….

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All in all the Winchester had a very impressive menu, and “GF” designations are always much appreciated by celiac disease-afflicted individuals such as myself.

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An order of chicken wings and polenta fries turned out to be way more food that I bargained for.

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Sorry for the anti-climax, but this is all I’ve got and my Midwest League 2013 content well is now officially dry. (From Grand Rapids it was on to South Bend and my time visiting the Silver Hawks was chronicled HERE and HERE. Unfortunately, time constraints were such that no explorations of South Bend proper were able to take place.)

Therefore, this particular “Return to the Road” series is going to end with a picture of chicken wings and polenta fries. Isn’t that always the case?

In any case —  I’ll “Return to the Road” again before the offseason is through, in order to cover August’s trip to the West Coast. Gotta milk the material for all it’s worth!

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

On the Road: Synagogues, Sausages, and Psychological Warfare in South Bend

This Midwest League trip featured two teams in Wisconsin, four in Michigan, and then, finally, one in Indiana. That lone Indiana entity  was the South Bend Silver Hawks, occupants of Stanley Coveleski Regional Stadium (known as “Coveleski Stadium” for short and “the Cove” for shorter). The Cove was but a 10 minute walk from my hotel, and betwixt the two locations one can find what is (allegedly) the world’s largest chocolate store.

I did not have time to visit.

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But outside of said chocolatier, the walk to the stadium was rather barren.

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But, soon enough, out in the distance, on the horizon, the Cove appeared to me like a vision before my unbelieving eyes.

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I walked toward this inflatable creature with awe-filled reverence.

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I was so overwhelmed by its sheer immensity.

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This back entrance is one of many additions and improvements that have been made to the Cove over the last two years, some funded by the city and others funded by new owner Andrew Berlin. By all accounts the 26-year-old stadium had taken on a feeling of neglect and decay in recent years, but these days it is imbued with a spirited sense of revitalization.

Shockingly, opposite the back entrance one can find a front entrance. I walked over in that direction so that I could document one of the most well-marked handicapped access curbs in Minor League Baseball.

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As you can see, it was a really beautiful evening in South Bend! Why wasn’t I aware of this beauty at the time that I was documenting it? Why do I only see such beauty retroactively? Why am I still writing instead of posting a picture?

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I was on the field in order to conduct an interview in the visitor’s dugout.

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This interview, like most interviews I do, was tinged with a patina of ridiculousness. I grilled Bowling Green Hot Rods catcher Geoff Rowan on the Silver Hawks’ pink visiting locker rooms, and he was a good sport about it.

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The results of this interview can be read HERE.  As for the pink locker rooms, we’ll get to those in a moment. But first, Silver Hawks president Joe Hart gave me a brief tour of the concourse and the many recent improvements and additions to be found therein.

Outdoor suites with waitress (or waiter) service:

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The Silver Hawks have installed lava heaters all around the concourse and a fire pit in the outfield , but such heat-providing amenities are of no use in the summertime. On the other end of the spectrum, there are fans for the fans.

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There is also an outfield splash area, complete with changing room.

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Did I mention that it was a beautiful day?

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The outfield “Party Patio,” featuring four person tables separated by lava heaters. This kid, he appears to be waving at me.

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In the above photo, there are two interesting buildings of note. In the background is a massive Studebaker factory, now shuttered, that at its peak employed 21,000 people. In front of that is old Union Station, which has since been converted into a private data center run by Global Access Point. 

This is the back view of the back entrance, with Hart reporting that the team is still working to educate fans on the existence of this entrance. Currently 35% of fans enter the stadium through the back, with the remaining 65% remaining staunch front entrance way adherents.

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Fun Zone!

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Tiki Hut!

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A whole bunch of stuff!

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But perhaps most worthy of gratuitous exclamation points is the abandoned synagogue-turned-team store located in left field. I’ve already written a feature about it on MiLB.com that I’d encourage you to check out, but as you can see it’s a most eye-catching structure (note the star of David on the far left).

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Beneath a refurbished chandelier, fluorescent t-shirts implore its potential wearer to consider his or her hawksomeness factor.

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Not sure where this falls on the delightfully irreverent/irredeemably tacky divide, but I have a feeling it’s closer to the latter of the two.

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The upstairs portion of the store, used as a storage area and not open to the public, is presided over by mannequin sentinels.

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This might be the best picture I took all evening:

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The mannequin sentinels were kind enough to allow me to document their daily view.

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Beautiful views, both inside and out.

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At this point the game was underway, so Hart and I and various other members of our impromptu entourage visited the pink visiting locker rooms. As mentioned before this is something that I’ve already written about, so for more context and commentary please click HERE.

Manager’s office:

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Trainer’s room:

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Lounge area:

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Bathrooms! Showers!

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And finally, the luxury and splendor of the Silver Hawks’ home digs.

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And with that, we moved on. Moving on is what life is all about.

It’s (not so) lonely at the top.

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Down and up, up and down. Soon enough we were back on the concourse, for what turned out to be a prolonged exploration of the food and beverage choices. The evening’s scheduled designated eater, a local radio DJ, was a no-show after getting stuck in Blackhawks championship-related traffic on the way back from Chicago. In his place stepped co-worked Carl Stutsman, a native of Elkhart, Indiana who currently serves as the assistant program director at “Michiana’s News Channel” 95.3 WTRC.

As the “designated eater,” it was Carl’s job to consume the ballpark cuisine that my gluten-free diet prohibits. Like designated eater Keirsh Cochran in Lansing, Carl had opted to bring his girlfriend to the game. But unlike in Lansing, Carl’s girlfriend, Paige, chose to remain anonymous.

Welcome, Carl — already in action!

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The Silver Hawks are a client of Professional Sports Catering, the Lansing-based MiLB concessionaire whose offerings were well-documented during my time with the Lugnuts. Well, it’s time to document some more! In the above photo, Carl was biting into a “jalapeno popper” burger, one of the selections available at Burgertopia.

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Damn you, gluten! That thing looked good and I would have loved to have had one.

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“It’s not overpowering, and the cheese really smooths everything out,” reported Carl. “The burger is cooked to a perfect medium rare and, oh, by the way, the pretzel bun is the best part.”

This portion of the evening was overseen by Silver Hawks food and beverage director Ben Hayes (one of two Ben Hayeses in Minor League Baseball, along with the president of the New York-Penn League). Hayes, like his PSC counterpart Brett Telder in Lansing, is extremely passionate about his job and seemed delighted to have the opportunity to showcase his work.

I didn’t get a good picture of Hayes, unfortunately, but he’s clearly a regular at the gym and speaks at a fast pace with relentless energy and enthusiasm. He would make a GREAT infomercial pitchman, and I request that he star in a series of offseason videos highlighting the Silver Hawks food options. So, anyway: Ben Hayes ladies and gentleman.

Ben Hayes:

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“It’s fun knocking out the basic stuff for large groups of people, no doubt about it, but working with high-end ingredients is the best,” said Hayes at one point, shortly after extolling the virtues of a “deconstructed ceviche” he made for team owner Andrew Berlin. “I can put jalapeno caviar on top of a hot dog!”

In the above photo Hayes is about to dish out some selections from the team’s new stir-fry stand. General Tso’s and Mongolian (Ribeye) Beef,

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As modeled by Gutsman:

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Ballpark Chinese is certainly a unique offering, but even more unique is what Hayes came back with next: Duck sausage with Cajun seasoning, produced in nearby Middlebury.

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Those in the know put Stanz Belgian Style Mustard on their duck sausage.

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Gutsman raved about the sweet and spicy taste of the duck sausage, and soon I was able to as well as Hayes brought one over sans-bun. And, sans-bun, you can perhaps get a better sense of how good this thing looked.

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DISCLAIMER: Even if it was sans-bun, I am not 100% sure if the above sausage was gluten-free. Sometimes temptation gets the better of me in such situations, and I’m sorry.

Either way, I look like a moron holding holding this Stanz-drenched duck sausage.

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It seemed that everytime I looked across the table at Carl, he had somehow acquired more food. Kettle corn! Regular popcorn! Philadelphia Steak Nachos!

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The Philadelphia steak nachos were perhaps not completely authentic, in that provolone was the cheese of choice (as opposed to Whiz).  Nonetheless, they looked delicious and Carl and Paige certainly seemed to enjoy them.

But Carl — or more accurately, Hayes — could not be contained. Next up was a Mac and Cheese Dog. Carl praised the “fluffy” mac and steamed bun, but nonetheless reported that “the hot dog is the best part.”

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Like Keirsh Cochran before him, Carl was a skinny guy who could really pack it in.

As he did so I experimented with unorthodox flavor combinations, as legs paraded by in the background.

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But all good things must come to an end. Thanks to Hayes for the culinary hospitality, and thanks to Carl for wolfing it all down.

Carl signs off:

The ballgame was moving on with remarkable alacrity. There was nothing left to do now but document a beautiful evening as it turned into a beautiful night.

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Glow sticks for sale:

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This concourse bubble machine was extremely popular. The kids couldn’t get enough of it!

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Out there by the bubble machine, I spent six seconds of my life providing a #cupdate. Mind you, this is six seconds of my life that I’ll never get back.

Panorama!

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Almost as soon as the game was completed, the stadium’s lighting situation changed dramatically. This…

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changed to this. Glowsticks and fireworks!

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But that’s not all, because that is never all. Run the bases, kids. Run those goshdarn bases.

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South Bend was my last stop on this road trip, and I guess at this juncture I was starting to get a little loopy.

And as my evening in South Bend progressed, things only got loopier. I swear, that bus followed me across the Midwest.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

The Silver Hawks Go Pink

Hey, it’s Opening Day! No fooling!

The time for fooling was Monday, of course, and as usual there were several Minor League teams who attempted to prank their fans. The Lowell Spinners helped to spread a rumor that, due to concerns about the weather, the Boston Red Sox’s home opener was being moved to LeLacheur Park, while the Bowling Green Hot Rods claimed that the team would take a cue from the 1976 Chicago White Sox and begin wearing shorts on the field. But the day’s winner was the Tennessee Smokies, who were able to convince some of their more gullible Facebook fans that they were re-branding themselves as the “Tennessee Browns.” 

Meanwhile, in South Bend, one of the Silver Hawks’ most recent improvements to Coveleski Stadium only sounds like an April Fool’s prank. But this somewhat emasculating visitor’s locker room is gloriously, hilariously real:

Pink_SilverHawks1When I first heard about this bold stadium “improvement,” I thought it might indeed be a joke. But Silver Hawks president Joe Hart confirmed in an email that “as you can see, they certainly are pink. It is the entire locker room, bathrooms, hallways, showers and even pink urinals and sinks.”

Yes — pink potties!

PinkPotty_SilverHawks1“The idea came from our owner, Andrew Berlin,” Hart went on to write. “[It]  just came from wanting to be a little different and give people something fun to talk about. I know the University of Iowa did it years ago to the visiting locker room for football and we had just never heard of it being done for baseball. We figured if we can get people talking about the Silver Hawks across the country than it is a success.”

Oh, this will get people talking all right. My thoughts immediately turned to the visiting teams themselves — I can see many players and coaches thinking this is absolutely hilarious, but won’t there be some who consider this radical redecoration an affront to their dignity?

“We are not too worried,” wrote Hart of potential negative reactions. “I am sure we will hear some comments but it really is something done in fun.  We just wanted to make sure when the visiting teams remembered their time in South Bend.”

Mission accomplished!

And thus concludes the first post of the 2013 season, the sixth in the history of this blog and my ninth whilst in the employ of MiLB.com.

Minor League Baseball — it is happening again!

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

(Nacho) Typical Blog Post

The previous post on this blog ended with an anniversary logo (the Hickory Crawdads 20th, to be exact), so in the interest of seamless transitions let’s keep that particular train right on a-rollin':

Good natured ribbon

It should be self-explanatory, but the above mark commemorates the fact that 2012 will be the Northwest Arkansas Naturals’ fifth season. They played their first season way back in 2008, when George W. Bush was president, the price of a postage stamp was a mere 41 cents, and Ben’s Biz Blog was less than a year old.

But enough about bygone eras. Let’s celebrate the future! The Wisconsin Timber Rattlers announced that there will be a nacho stand at the ballpark in 2012,  and the team is currently conducting a Facebook poll to determine what the stand should be called. I am pleased to report that my submission of “Nacho, Nacho Stand” is one of the finalists.

I am not pleased to report that, as of this writing, my submission has received all of 16 votes. “Class A Nachos” is currently in first, and, really, that one is not nearly as good as  mine or fellow contender “Nachossss.” Biz Blog readers, now is the time to rectify this egregious wrong! Vote HERE! (If I win, I’ll donate my free full-size free nacho grande helmet to charity).

I've had all I can stands, and I can't stands no more!

2012 will also be Season 1 for the new-look Swoop, mascot of the South Bend Silver Hawks. When Swoop last appeared in this blog, he was engaged in an intimate moment with a Miss America contest.

But those days of tongue-in-beak insouciance are over. For last week, the Silver Hawks gave Swoop a makeover:

Speaking of the Silver Hawks, they were, to my knowledge, the only MiLB team to run a local TV ad during the Super Bowl. That spot, cinematic in scope, can be viewed HERE.

Of course, a far more common Minor League approach is to engage in a spot of parody. The Frederick Keys did just this, putting their own spin on a FIAT ad (the original can be viewed HERE).

And speaking of the Super Bowl, you’ll no doubt recall that the last post on this blog started with info on the Lowell Spinners us-against-the-rest of the New York-Penn League big game bet.

It was a sizable gamble, and the Spinners lost. Therefore, mascot Canaligator is in for a summer of abject humiliation.

Even more so than usual:

As for me, I’ll be “writing a blog…all summer long.” Don’t you forget about me.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

The Big, the Old, and the Beautiful

Me: Today I have a really big news item to share with all of you.

You: Well, how big is it?

Me: 3600 feet.

You: [Blinks incomprehendingly]

Look, I don’t know why you’re confused. I really do have a 3600-foot news story to share.

This!

The above is a rendering of the scoreboard that, in March, is scheduled to be installed at AutoZone Park in Memphis. Per the team:

The scoreboard will be the largest HD board in minor league baseball at 3600 square feet (60’ X 60’). The current largest belongs to the Buffalo Bison, standing 80’ x 33’ (2640 square feet). The Redbirds video board also beats several of the NFL team boards installed by Daktronics. The board is made up of 1,440,000 pixels and weighs over 20 tons.

Indeed, it was just last season that the Bisons’ laid claim to the oft-contentious title of “biggest scoreboard in Minor League Baseball,” but it now appears that the Redbirds are wresting it from them. But for how long? There’s always someone out there lurking, just waiting for that opportunity to claim the throne. For now, however, pixellated supremacy belongs to Memphis.

Congrats.

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Let’s move on from big news to old news. In fact, this is some of the oldest news I’ve ever had the pleasure of reporting. Regular readers of this blog are well aware that each of the past two Minor League seasons have included a centenarian first pitch.

In 2010, 102-year-old Chris Nocera fired a strike for the Round Rock Express.

Then, last season, 109-year-old Violet Smith threw one down the middle prior to a Great Lakes Loons game.

DOB: April 7, 1902

But 2012 will usher in a new age of elderly first pitches: that of the supercentenarian!

On March 31, Shelby Harris of Rock Island, IL will turn 111 years old. Five days later, he’ll throw out the first pitch at the Quad Cities River Bandits home opener! Harris is the oldest man in America, and it’s fantastic that the River Bandits have extended the invite and that he’s in good enough shape to do it.

Harris celebrating his 110th (photo: http://www.army.mil)

—And now let’s move on to news from the department of “It was bound to happen eventually.”

The Lancaster JetHawks, a Houston Astros affiliate in the state of California, have put together a promotion inspired by the exploits of a Colorado quarterback who first made a name for himself in Florida.

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Details:

After last weekend’s thrilling overtime victory against the heavily favored Pittsburgh Steelers, [JetHawks mascot] KaBoom has convinced the JetHawks Front Office to put together a special “Tebow Tuesday” Promotion that gives JetHawks fans the opportunity to buy 15 tickets for only $15.

The Tebow Tuesday Promotion will activate if the Denver Broncos can pull off another upset this weekend against the New England Patriots. The package will only be available next Tuesday, January 17, and includes 15 undated ticket vouchers for any JetHawks home game in April. In addition, any fan who wears their Tim Tebow Jersey to the Tuesday, April 17, game against the High Desert Mavericks will have the opportunity to throw out a ceremonial first pitch and take a picture “Tebowing” with KaBoom on the field prior to the game.

According to my records, this is the first Tebow-related promo in Minor League Baseball since the Fort Myers Miracle announced (and were later forced to rescind) “What Would Tebow Do?”

And now, apropos of nothing, let’s end with a photo. This shot depicts one of the perks of being a mascot: being on the receiving end of sensuous acts initiated by Miss America contestants.

Silver Swoop of South Bend is one lucky bird:

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

It’s A 1-Derful World

As everyone is well aware, today is 11/11/11. This marks the only time in our lifetimes that the date will be represented with six ones across the board, and — of course! — anomalous occurrences should be celebrated.

Within Minor League Baseball there is an established precedent for numerically-inclined (and often absurdly intricate) date-related promotions, so this morning I monitored my Twitter and Facebook feeds with an unwavering sense of purpose. And Minor League Baseball, once again, did not disappoint. Some highlights of my searching:

The South Bend Silver Hawks offered fans a package, in which 11 tickets could be obtained for $11 between 11 and 11:11 a.m. Later, the team reported to me via Twitter that 24 of these packages (a total of 264 tickets) were sold.

– Perhaps inspired by the Silver Hawks, the Gwinnett Braves made the exact same offer at the last minute. “FANS- this just in- 11 tickets for $11!! You have until 11:11 AM to call in!” read the post on the team’s Facebook page.

In Asheville, the Tourists offered a deal that was good for all of one minute. At 11:11, all hats and t-shirts were available for $11.11 at the team’s “Tourist Trap” store (five hardy but certainly not tardy souls took them up on it).

– Somewhat similarly, the Daytona Cubs offered a 2011 team hat for $11 all day. And with the purchase of said hat, fans received a coupon good for $5 off a new 2012 logo hat. (As you may recall, the D-Cubs recently unveiled a new logo).

Finally, in State College (where nothing else of note is going on), the Spikes amply demonstrated their Facebook power. At 11:11, the team posted the following: 

‎’LIKE’ THIS POST FOR A CHANCE TO WIN! We need 111 people to LIKE this post!

If our goal is reached by 5 p.m. then we will randomly select one of the participants as the winner of TWO FREE SPIKES TICKETS and a MICHAEL ROBINSON SIGNED BALL (former Penn State QB and current NFL player). Happy 11/11/11!

As of this writing (2:30 EST), a whopping 164 people have already clicked the like button on the above missive. Impressive!

As I am writing this, 11:11 has yet to arrive on the West Coast. However, I have not come across any PST teams doing anything similar. Is this time zone disdainful of detail-oriented numerical promotions? Say it ain’t so!

And look at that! It ain’t so! At 11:11, the Fresno Grizzlies announced the following: For one day only, on Friday November 11, fans can get 11 Field Box vouchers for just $11 each (normally $16), as well as $11 in Grizzlies Bucks for FREE – that’s a $187 value for just $121!

Clearly, Minor League Baseball is #1.

In news of a non-sequitur nature, did you know that mascots have the power to create earthquakes?

What a load of bull.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Musing Mascots in Costumed Contemplation

For mascots, there’s no escaping the spotlight. These mute yet endlessly expressive characters are  the center of attention everywhere they go, and as a result they always need to be “on.”  Pictures are requested, high fives demanded, and antics expected. It’s an exhilarating existence, to be sure, but not at all conducive to moments of quiet reflection and self-analysis.

Yet such moments, while rare, do occur. To capture them on camera is an exhilarating feeling, akin to a landlocked bird watcher getting an glimpse of the elusive Red Phalarope. This is how I felt during a June trip to Lake County, when I was able to capture Captains mascot Skipper in a moment of introspection.

Feeling inspired by this rare bit of photographic luck, I asked readers to please send in introspective mascot photos of their own. This request was met with an enthusiastic response, and the results are contained in this post.

What follows is the most impressive collection of introspective mascot photos that the world has ever seen.

The above individual is Louie of the Great Lakes Loons, whose powers of introspection are far greater than the average bird. Soon after abandoning his dugout perch, he went into the stands and got the fans to join him in a moment of quiet contemplation.

Another city boasting thoughtful birds amongst its citizenry is Toledo. Muddy the Mud Hen is a voracious reader, and can sometimes be spotted at the local library with his beak buried in a good book.

Muddy’s literary endeavors have increased his powers of imagination. Back at the ballpark, he sometimes gets lost in thought while resting his left arm on a railing that doesn’t even exist.

As evidenced by the picture of Skipper at the top of this post, ballpark tunnels represent a good place for a mascot to temporarily escape from the madding crowd. Here’s Phinley of the Clearwater Threshers, patriotically pontificating.

Meanwhile, in Winston-Salem, Bolt takes a moment to reflect before instigating some between-inning hula-baloo.

They say lightning doesn’t strike twice, but I was able to get a shot of Bolt during my visit to Winston-Salem this past July. This one is perhaps less “introspective” than “fatigued.”

While in Winston-Salem, I spent time with not one but TWO blog readers who went on to email me introspective mascot photos. Matt “Possum” Campbell solicited this shot of the Danville Braves’ “Blooper,” who does his best thinking with left hand planted firmly on stomach.


Meanwhile, veteran Minor League wanderer Rex Doane sent in pictures from various far-flung locales. Our journey with Rex begins in Norfolk, where Rip Tide sometimes assumes a near-beatific demeanor.

Then we fly over to flyover country, with this behind-the-back view of Swoop of the South Bend Silver Hawks.

And, finally, we arrive in the modest environs of the Modesto Nuts’ dugout. That’s where Al Almond sometimes goes in order to escape from the nuttiness surrounding him.

Another thoughtful dugout denizen is Fort Wayne’s Johnny TinCap, whose demeanor is never crotchety even if his hobbies sometimes are.

Of course, one doesn’t need to be solitary to be introspective. Over the three seasons that the team has been in existence, Chopper of the Gwinnett Braves has established himself as one of the most empathetic woodchucks in the Minors. Here he is having an on-field heart-to-heart.

Chopper’s upright demeanor is in stark contrast to Millie of the Lowell Spinners. On the last day of the season, this canal-dwelling alligator went deep into her own headspace while sitting on a stadium bench.

Allie’s daughter, Millie, simply curled up in the fetal position in order to think long and hard about the season that had just transpired.

With this concept on the verge of collapse, it seems that I’ll have to call it a day. Of course, keeping sending those introspective mascot photos in. I am totally amenable to there being a second, third, fourth, and even fifth installment of this series.

There will be no sixth installment.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

So That You May Now Know the Newest News

tucson.jpgThose who work for Minor League Baseball teams have no say whatsoever when it comes to trades, free agency, and player development. Nonetheless, the flame of the industry’s hot stove is just as scorching as that which emanates from the Majors. It’s just heating up a different pot is all. 

One big piece of news was made official yesterday, with the announcement that the franchise formerly known as the Portland Beavers will be playing in Tucson in 2011 (and, perhaps, beyond). More on that can be found HERE, and rest assured I’ll be providing updates on that situation as it progresses.

And as an aside — when I first started this blog a man by the name of Benny Hill wouldbenny.jpg periodically email me his thoughts on the Tucson Sidewinders. You still out there, Benny? Your name is my name too, and I’d like to hear what you think about yesterday’s announcement. 

Far more prevalent than franchise re-location are identity overhauls, featuring new logos and, in some cases, new team names. The Lake County Captains released their new marks on Wednesday, and the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers continue to churn out numerically-obsessed promotional videos in anticipation of November 12’s grand unveiling.

On an even greater scale is the Omaha Royals, who will be announcing the results of their “Name the Team” contest on November 15.

I will say once again that my choice is “Omahogs.”

As for that which has already happened, the newly re-christened Jackson Generals have unveiled the logo for the 2011 Southern League All-Star Game. As with the Lake Captains logo, this is a Studio Simon effort: 

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Moving from logos to stadium renovations, the South Bend Silver Hawks have announced that Coveleski Stadium will be getting a $10 million facelift. 

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There will be improvements galore, but my favorite is this: “Huge fire pit for those cold days in April and May.”

Speaking of improvements, the Toledo Mud Hens are making available a customized Firefox add-on browser.

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Sez the team: The add-on is complete with a scrolling Hens’ news ticker, video and image updates, Hens’ downloads, and much, much more!

Are any other teams doing this? The Mud Hens are the first I’ve seen.

Finally, while I do my best to ignore Christmas-related endeavors until after Thanksgiving, the first item of the Williamsport Crosscutters’ “Eight Weeks of Cutters” gift guide caught my eye (and you know how painful that can be).

It’s the Boomer plush doll!

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And — hey! — I almost forgot: It’s Gratuitous Video Friday! Today’s selection is an old promo for “Mary Hartman! Mary Hartman!”, one of the most funny, subversive, and ahead of its time TV shows ever made.

Hey Sony! Release more “Mary Hartman! Mary Hartman!” on DVD!

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

Back To Life, Postponing Reality

abysss.jpegI enjoyed my jaunt out to the Midwest, and am grateful to all who took the time to read about it. It was a suitably jam-packed end to a jam-packed season.

But that’s the real issue here: we’re dealing with the end times.

A handful of teams are currently immersed in the playoffs, but that’s just a postponement of the inevitable. The offseason — that endless abyss! that unfathomable void! — has opened up its voracious maw and will soon consume us all.

But not yet. I’ve got plenty of in-season content left over, carefully pickled and preserved, and I intend to dole it out sparingly.

Starting…now!

Since we’re on the topic of “the end times”, check out the so-called “Aqua-palypse” that recently befell Gwinnett County’s Coolray Field. This was the culmination of a season-long bullpen vs. promo crew battle, and none were spared:

And then there’s this, a kilt-wearing skipper:

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That’s Mark Haley of the South Bend Silver Hawks, participating in the Ronald McDonald House “Men in Kilts” fundraiser. He wore the outfit during August 27’s ballgame in order to raise money and awareness; further info can be found at meninkilts.org (don’t make the same mistake I did and type in meninkilts.com. This will lead you to a Vancouver-based window and gutter cleaning service).

I’ll leave you with photos of two unique late-season giveaway items. The St. Lucie Mets gave away a custom Banana Phone (inspired by the Raffi song of the same name, an unlikely ballpark standard at St. Lucie’s Digital Domain Park):

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In Bowling Green, the iconic “What Could’ve Been” Cave Shrimp made a triumphant return in 2010. This time as a stoic figurine:

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We live in the age of the mash-up, and if this thoroughly 21st-century concept ever makes its way to the Minor Leagues then I would like to make the following suggestion:

Cave Shrimp Banana Phone Giveaway.

That thing could blow some minds, and if some graphic-design wiz out there could send me a conceptual drawing I’d really appreciate it.

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

Pictures Tell the Story

800px-Photographer.jpgA post earlier this week was dedicated to the preponderance of top-quality videos that had recently arisen from the vast Minor League landscape. But lest anyone think I’m giving short shrift to the still image, today’s entry will feature a few of the many photos I have recently received.

So let’s, as they say, get to it.

Yesterday was Earth Day, spurring teams across the country to spout their environmental bonafides in fortuitously-timed press releases. But only one club is currently featuring both a power-generating hamster as well as a fanatical wearer of an all-encompassing green body suit.

That club would be the Fort Myers Miracle:

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Sez the team:

Sparky makes appearances nightly to run in a hamster wheel…for a half-inning the entire ballpark is energized thru his swiftness. If Sparky slows down the lights on the scoreboard may dim.

While Sparky is running to his little heart’s content, the newly introduced “Green Guy” keeps the inside of the stadium clean.

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Let’s move from Southwest Florida to South Bend, Indiana. There, the Silver Hawks staged their annual “Halfway to Halloween Night” promotion. The evening featured discounted admission to those in costume, such as these characters:
 
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That Pirate up there on the right was the winner of the costume contest, marking the first time since 1992 that the Pirates were able to win anything. His “booty” was a pair of round-trip airfare tickets, which he gripped with gusto:

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This youngster was proclaimed the winner in the youth category, and for good reason. This is the embodiment of rock ‘n roll swagger right here:

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Regular readers of my weekly “Promotion Preview” column (and aren’t you all?) will recall Bowie’s “Outdoorsman Night”, a salute to fresh air recreational activities. Cold weather put somewhat of a damper on the proceedings, but nonetheless the show went on. Here’s a ballpark image you don’t see every day:

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Baysox media relations director Tom Sedlacek, who sent these pictures, writes “I’m not exactly sure what this race was, but contestants had to put on all the camo gear and run.” Sounds reasonable enough to me!

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Sedlacek also wrote that “neither contestant in the duck call competition actually knew how to use the duck call.” There is something about this image that saddens me.

And when I feel down, there’s only one thing that can lift my spirits: baseball-themed adolescent folk art. The Bowling Green Hot Rods staged “Art Night” earlier this month, which was highlighted by a calendar giveaway featuring youthful interpretations of the Bowling Green Baseball experience.

I don’t know what it is, exactly, but this drawing in particular really speaks to me:

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Kudos to this young artisan, may he (or she) go on to a creative career of colossal consequence.

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

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