Results tagged ‘ St. Lucie Mets ’

On the Road: Getting Some Bang for the Buck in St. Lucie

To see all of my posts from this visit to the St. Lucie Mets (this is Part Three) click HERE. To see all of the posts from my April 2015 Florida trip, click HERE. To see all of my “On the Road” posts (going back to 2010), click HERE.

We’ve reached the final installment of this St. Lucie trilogy, which could mean a lot of things, but in this case only means one thing: It’s Designated Eater Time!

You know the drill by now, but if not: The Designated Eater is an individual I recruit at each ballpark I visit, and this individual is tasked with eating the ballpark cuisine that my gluten-free diet prohibits.

In St. Lucie, this individual was Jay Meyer.

045Jay, originally from New York, moved to Boca Raton when he was 5 years old. He’s been a Minor League Baseball fan for over 20 years, going back to the days of the Fort Lauderdale Red Sox, but the St. Lucie Mets have long been his favorite squad. As you can see from his shirt, he has St. Lucie team pride.

Jay graduated from Florida State University medical school and is doing his residency at West Virginia University in Morgantown. His ultimate goal is to be a pediatrician. He said that he had been “going through baseball withdrawal” in Morgantown, a situation that should be alleviated next month when the New York-Penn League’s Morgantown Black Bears begin their inaugural season. Nonetheless, Jay says that the Sunshine State is where his heart is.

“Eventually, I want to come back home to Florida,” said Jay. “It’s what I know.”

OK, time to set the culinary scene with my evocative words and even more evocative pictures. Jay began his designated eating journey here, near the Tiki Bar.

027Just around the corner from the Tiki Bar, there is this concession stand.

046It was Buck Night — or was it Dollar Night? — at Tradition Field. Jay took full advantage.

Yep: Five hot dogs, five bucks. Jay was pleased with this arrangement.

038Specifically, these are Nathan’s Hot Dogs.

“They’re good. They’re Nathan’s,” said Jay. “It’s not the same as the [original] New York Nathan’s [in Coney Island], but for $1 you can’t lose. But it doesn’t have the same texture, the same skin, as the original Nathan’s. But it’s still good.”

Jay also enjoyed, or at least tolerated, an order of Nathan’s fries (he can be seen holding one such fry at the top of this post). My attempt at a closeup didn’t work so well, but here you go:

050“The fries are not as good as [the original] Nathan’s,” said Jay. “I like ’em more crunchy and hard.”

While Jay was indulging in his hot dogs and fries, I went and procured myself a Taco in a Helmet. At $6, the Taco in a Helmet is kind of a hard sell on dollar night, but dollar-night promos rarely include a decent gluten-free option and that’s what I was looking for.

Tortilla chips topped with ground beef, salsa, jalapenos, sour cream, lettuce and shredded cheese, modeled by a 30-something baseball writer who is — yes, ladies — single once again.

037Taco in a Helmet — ready for its closeup.

041When you’re done, turn it around and  — Bam! — souvenir.

044Speaking of souvenirs, here’s a #cupdate for all you cup-collecting fiends who will otherwise hound me day and night with your cup-related requests.

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043Finally, dessert! I don’t think I’d ever seen this at a Minor League ballpark before.

049The above photo depicts “Dirt in a Hat” — chocolate pudding with Oreo crumbles and Gummy worms.

051“I like it. It’s good, a perfect way to end the game,” said Jay. “It’s a good combo, the Oreos and the pudding are crunchy and creamy and then there’s the sweetness of the worms. It’s a win-win.”

And that’s when Jay and I parted ways, as he was enjoying the sweetness of the worms.

053Thanks for everything, Jay. You performed your designated eating duties with aplomb and verve.

And thanks for everything, St. Lucie. I really enjoyed my evening at Tradition Field.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

instagram.com/thebensbiz

On the Road: Characters and Coupons in St. Lucie

To see all of my posts from this visit to the St. Lucie Mets (this is Part Two) click HERE. To see all of the posts from my April 2015 Florida trip, click HERE. To see all of my “On the Road” posts (going back to 2010), click HERE.

Hello, and welcome back to this “live” report from Tradition Field, home of the St. Lucie Mets.

001The previous dispatch in this series covered an array of pregame sights and sounds. Now, we remove the “pre” from the equation. It is officially game time here in St. Lucie (and, no, it’s not Larry David Lookalike Night).

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Further down the third-base line, fans can watch the game from the comfort of the Tiki Bar.

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I am never able to watch the games I attend, however. There is always wandering to do. An early bout of wandering this evening occurred alongside St. Lucie Mets general manager Traer Van Allen, who, over the years, has accumulated a 520-strong collection of bobbleheads.

“After spending this long in the industry, it’s really taken on a life of its own,” he told me. “I give them all a home. I don’t care what team it is.”

025Let’s take a quick look.

While Traer collects bobbleheads with an indiscriminate flair, there is of course an inevitable St. Lucie bias. The “Banana Phone,” for example:

023If you’re wondering why a Banana Phone would be honored in collectible figurine form, then you’re wasting valuable brain space. But, nonetheless, I’ll satiate your assumed curiosity via the posting of this excerpt of my 2010 “Promo Preview” column that explained the phenomenon:

St. Lucie Mets (Florida State League)
Banana Phone Giveaway, Sept. 6

All season long, the St. Lucie Mets have played Raffi’s “Banana Phone” whenever the opposing team makes a call to the bullpen. The fan base has responded to this unorthodox musical choice, doing improvised banana phone dances in the aisles and, in extreme cases, bringing bananas to the ballpark. Now everyone can get in on the act as the team will be giving away custom-designed banana phones on Monday. These cheerful anthropomorphic bananas feature a (non-functional) keypad on its belly and are sponsored by Humana. Therefore, it’s the Humana Banana Phone. Don’t let the opportunity to procure one of these items “potassium” you by.

So there you have it.

Moving on to another notable St. Lucie bobblehead in Traer’s collection, here’s “Mary Lou.”

022Mary Lou, a long-time St. Lucie Mets game-day employee, is unofficially known as the “world’s oldest intern.” A retired General Motors test driver from Michigan, Mary Lou began working for the team in 1997 and has done everything from maintenance work to running in-game promos to picking players up from the airport to, yes, wearing the mascot suit.

(Trigger Warning: This photo depicts a mascot without its head on.)

026I caught up with Mary Lou later in the evening. A St. Lucie Mets legend!

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Upon emerging from Traer’s lair of bobbleheads, I struck up a conversation with Gayle and Jack Fishbein. They’re the fans with the candy.

028I wrote a feature on the Fishbeins for MiLB.com. Again with the relevant excerpt:

Gayle and Jack always bring full-to-bursting Ziploc bags of candy to the ballpark, distributing them to the players as they’re warming up and socializing on the field prior to the start of the game. From Dubble Bubble to Tootsie Rolls, Starburst to Laffy Taffy, they’re equipped to meet the sweet-toothed desires of every St. Lucie Mets player.

No one, least of all Gayle and Jack, would argue that candy is good for the players’ health. But baseball players are known for their oral fixations, and candy is a far superior alternative to chewing tobacco. Tobacco products are banned in Minor League Baseball, but some players maintain the habit nonetheless. Gayle and Jack want to make sure that there is always an alternative, however. As the St. Lucie Mets players move up the Minor League ladder, and, perhaps, make it to the Major Leagues (where tobacco is still permitted), the Fishbeins hope the candy habit will take precedence over the far more dire possibility of being addicted to tobacco.

Oh, and here’s Grace, a familiar figure at Tradition Field.

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What’s that sign say, Grace?

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Next up on the evening’s agenda was to meet my designated eater (you know, the individual who consumes the ballpark food that my gluten-free diet prohibits). His name is Jay Meyer, and my next post will be dedicated to his exploits.

045By the time Jay and I had parted ways, it was raining heavily and the tarp was on the field.

055The deluge caused some fans to head for the exits. Because that evening’s “K Man of the Game” had indeed struck out, fans were entitled to a coupon good for a free Taco Bell taco. This brave employee was on hand to make sure that these fans got what they were entitled to.

The game was official at this point — the Mets had a 7-3 lead over Brevard County in the bottom of the fifth — but the show must go on. After a 59-minute rain delay, the tarp was taken off the field. The cessation of play had given way to the resumption of play.

058And, we’re back!

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With very little to do at this point, I rambled back to Mulligan’s Bar and Grill and cracked wise amid the desolation.

I then introduced my self to a concession stand lizard. I had never seen one of those before.

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Finally, I helped myself to a front-row seat so that I could read up on the latest dugout news.

060A pair of rehabbing New York Mets pitched the eighth and ninth inning for St. Lucie: Vic Black and then Bobby Parnell.

Here’s Bobby!

Finally, some four hours after the ballgame began, it ended.

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St. Lucie’s handshake line culminated with a man wearing slacks designed to highlight his well-toned posterior.

065And to all those fans who left during the rain delay — you lose! After play resumed St. Lucie crossed the 10-run threshold, meaning that fans who stuck it out to the end received both the “‘K’ Man of the Game” free taco and a “10 Run Rule” free chicken sandwich.

068Whether you enjoy eating such fast food fare is beside the point, it’s just the principle of the thing. Never leave a game early. You never know what you’ll miss out on.

Like, you know, a Banana Phone Call to the Bullpen!

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

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On the Road: Meeting the Mets in St. Lucie

To see all of my posts from this visit to the St. Lucie Mets (this is Part One) click HERE. To see all of the posts from my April 2015 Florida trip, click HERE. To see all of my “On the Road” posts (going back to 2010), click HERE.

Stop number six on my season-opening Florida road trip was Tradition Field, home of the St. Lucie Mets. Like most Florida State League ballparks, Tradition Field doubles as the Spring Training home of the parent club.

Therefore, it is big. Very, very big.

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Tradition Field opened in 1988; it has since been extensively renovated. The facility has been known as Tradition Field on two non-consecutive occasions, making it the Grover Cleveland of Minor League ballparks. The Tradition Field moniker was first used from 2004-09, the result of a naming rights deal with the 8200-acre master planned community known as Tradition, Florida. This was followed by a three year-stint in which the stadium was known by the far clunkier name of Digital Domain Park, but prior to the 2013 season Tradition, Florida re-assumed the name.

Maybe it was all part of their master plan?

My master plan was to get to the ballpark early enough to do a few clubhouse interviews, related to the previous night’s Jackie Robinson Celebration Game in Vero Beach (which featured St. Lucie as the “home” team).

This was my view as I lurked awkwardly outside of the clubhouse while waiting for media relations manager/team broadcaster Adam MacDonald to corral my victims subjects.

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One of the individuals with whom I spoke was St. Lucie Mets pitching coach Phil Regan. Regan, 78, made his professional baseball debut as a member of the 1956 Jamestown Falcons. (That season, he pitched 229 innings. Can you imagine a 19-year-old prospect handling that kind of workload in today’s game?)

I ended up turning my conversation with Regan into a standalone MiLB.com feature, as this is a guy who has many, many stories to tell. I barely scratched the surface.

dodgertown_960_bjt7w58s_mmz7l2s3Conversations complete, MacDonald and I took a stroll around the area.

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About Last Night: St. Lucie Mets, April 16, 2015

This season, when I’m on the road, I’ll be writing a short, on-the-spot blog post about each Minor League ballpark that I visit. Then, upon my merciful return home, I will provide the exhilarating blog coverage that you have come to know and, perhaps, even love. So let’s get to it, lest it get to us! 

April 16, 2015 — Tradition Field, home of the St. Lucie Mets (and also the Spring Training home of the New York Mets).

Opponent: Brevard County Manatees, 6:30 p.m. start time.

Tradition Field, from the outside:

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Tradition Field, from within:

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Culinary Delight: Taco in a Helmet! ($6)

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Waiting for the Punch-Vine (my nightly attempt at telling an “original” ballpark joke in six seconds):

At Random: Her name is Grace, and she loves the Mets.

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Last Song Played Over the PA: Taio Cruz, “Dynamite”

Next Up: Brevard County Manatees — TONIGHT — April 17!

4/18: Jacksonville Suns

4/19: HOME SWEET HOME

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

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About Last Night: Jackie Robinson Game in Vero Beach, April 15, 2015

This season, when I’m on the road, I’ll be writing a short, on-the-spot blog post about each Minor League ballpark that I visit. Then, upon my possibly  triumphant return home, I will provide the exhilarating blog coverage that you have come to know and, perhaps, even love. So let’s get to it!

April 15, 2015 — Holman Stadium, located within the historic Dodgertown complex (Spring Training home of the Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers from 1948 through 2008).

Event: Jackie Robinson Game, between the Brevard County Manatees and St. Lucie Mets. Robinson trained at Dodgertown throughout the bulk of his career, and even hit the first home run at Holman Stadium.

Holman Stadium, from the outside: 

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Holman Stadium, from within: Some 6,000 people were in attendance, a huge crowd by Florida State League standards, no matter what the context.

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Culinary Delight: I skipped my usual food coverage, given that this was a one-time event. But here’s a shot of one of the main food and beverage areas. You can imagine how cramped this became once some 6,000 people were in the ballpark.

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Waiting for the Punch-Vine (my nightly attempt at telling an “original” ballpark joke in six seconds):

At Random: Old signage is the best kind of signage.

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In Conclusion: Thanks, Jackie.

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Next Up: St. Lucie Mets. Tonight! April 16!

4/17: Brevard County Manatees

4/18: Jacksonville Suns

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

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New Looks for the New Year

The Year in Blogging 2013 now commences, with post #899 in Ben’s Biz history. This post shall begin, as they all do, with a far shorter introduction than the over-the-top soul searching that was initially written and then mercifully deleted.

Let’s begin by looking at some new logos that may or may not have slipped through the cracks of your radar (btw, one of my New Year’s resolutions is to employ more mixed metaphors). New logos such as that which will be sported by the St. Lucie Mets in 2013 and beyond:

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The above picture is taken from the team’s Facebook page, as a supposed “new uniforms” article on the team’s website simply links to a blank promotion schedule. Fortunately the local TC Palm is there to fill in the information void, as their article included the following quotes from Mets director of Florida operations Paul Taglieiri.

“We wanted to stay with what the big club was doing and also add our own touches to it,” he told the paper. “I love the orange. We moved the black away from the uniform, and it really has a Florida look to it. And I love Florida Mr. Met — it gives us our own identity as our own team.”

Taglieiri also noted that the Mets considered a total identity overhaul, but decided that a continued alignment with the parent club would be a more prudent course of action.

“We thought about getting away from the Mets and every time we considered something new like the St. Lucie Squid or the Salamanders or the Sand Sharks, we just coming back to the Mets,” Taglieri said. “That’s what Port St. Lucie is. We felt it would have done us an injustice. It made sense to stay with the Mets and change up the look a little bit.

So there you have it.

Another team that changed up their look a little bit was the Peoria Chiefs, a move precipitated by their affiliation switch from Chicago to St. Louis.

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The team has issued a press release detailing the triumvirate of new hats and jerseys that shall be sported in 2013. Read it HERE, and check out corresponding PDFs that show both the hats and the jerseys.

And, finally, how about a good old-fashioned anniversary logo? The Frederick Keys would like you to know that they are now old enough to rent a car:

Keys_25th

I’ll end this post with one of many videos I somehow didn’t get around to posting during the season. This one, in which a locomotive confirms its Montgomery baseball allegiances, is a 23-second classic that I will have to link to since I am having some embed problems at the moment.

Watch it HERE. I command you.

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benjamin.hill@mlb.com

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

St. Lucie Has Nothing But Glove For Michael

st. lucie.gifI am knee-deep in that which I do not understand, attempting to figure out the ins and outs of my new Sony “Webby” camera. Once this task is complete, Ben’s Biz Blog will elevate to a new level of coverage — original photos and video direct from my various Minor League wanderings. Please, contain your excitement.

So, yes, posts on Lowell, Vermont (and, very belatedly, Lehigh Valley) are coming very soon. In the meantime, I thought I’d share some pictures and info from the St. Lucie Mets’ recent “Michael Jackson Tribute Night”. From the press release:

Fans were treated to a completely Michael Jackson-themed
night as the Mets staff and mascot, Slider, donned white gloves and sunglasses.
Anyone wearing a white glove received free admission to the game as did anyone
named Michael or Jackson. The game was tipped off by a very special line-up
exchange as Mets manager Tim Teufel, Palm Beach Cardinals manager Tom Spencer,
and both umpires all exchanged handshakes in white gloves. In addition, the
players’ usual walk-ups songs to the plate were replaced by the hits of Michael
Jackson…The standard in-field contests were replaced or tweaked to
follow the Michael Jackson theme. “Mets Trivia” became “MJ Trivia,” the “Frozen
T-Shirt Contest” became the “Frozen PJ Contest,” and musical chairs was played
by the “Jackson 5,” who fittingly wore afros as they circled the chairs. But
perhaps the most entertaining contests were the “King of Pop” soda-chugging
contest and the “Moonwalk Mania”-a dance-off on top of the Mets’ dugout
.

And now we move on to visual evidence. Here’s the line-up exchange:

St. Lucie -- MJ tribute 1.JPG

 
St. Lucie -- MJ Tribute 2.JPG


It is fitting that Tim Teufel was the manager, as the former New York Metropolitan was known to have a signature dance move of his own. From Wikipedia:

Throughout his career, Teufel was also known for his batting stance,
the “Teufel shuffle”, in which he wiggled his hips back and forth
before the pitcher’s delivery.

Teufel was also a threat on the microphone, as anyone who remembers his rap on the 1985 classic “Metsmerized” can attest:

“I’m Tim Teufel, Let Me Begin/By Saying I Was Once A Twin/I Made the Move and it Just Feels Right/I’m been Metsmerized and I See the Light.”

Michael may have been the King of Pop, but Teufel is the King of Rapping Florida State League Managers. That’s got to count for something, right?

At any rate, this photo illustrates why I should really make a point to visit St. Lucie sometime: 

St. Lucie -- MJ Tribute 3.JPG 

 I just love dog mascots!

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

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