Results tagged ‘ Tacoma Rainiers ’

Turn the Page, Part One

Have you ever tried to monitor the actions of 160 entities on a daily basis? That’s basically what my job is here at MiLB.com, and please believe me when I say that it can be overwhelming! Keeping track of a such a vast industry exacerbates my already quite pronounced OCD-tendencies, and leads to notebook pages such as the following:

IMG_0022

All of this is to say — it’s time to turn the page! But before doing so, please enjoy this bouillabaisse blog post consisting entirely of news items seen on the above notebook page. Y’know, topics that I’ve kept meaning to get around to but never did (or at least never did outside of the Twitter realm).

So here you go — no segues, just news news news!

Would you believe that the Hudson Valley Renegades have not one but TWO former MLB pitchers on their front office staff? Joe Ausiano (1994-95 Yankees) has long been with the team, and he has now been joined by Rob Bell (who played for four teams over seven big league seasons). Bell, now 36, will serve as a sales account executive.

Hudson Valley: home of Minor League Baseball’s best front office softball team?

The Iowa Cubs have long prided themselves on conducting the most irreverent website polls in MiLB, but decided not to continue with the practice after their site underwent an extensive re-design (as nearly all  team sites have done of late, courtesy of the tech wizards here at MLBAM).

But, rest assured, they went out on top of their poll game!

cubbbs

It’s always about Battle Creek

You may recall my recent post on Minor League Front Office Cliches, in which one of the cliches mentioned was “We wear a lot of hats.” This prompted @Interstate19Cap to reply, via Twitter: “I wear a lot of hats. Haha! I should work in MiLB.”

He also attached a picture of his formidable hat wall. Not quite at a St. Pete level, but close!

hatttz

You may or may not be aware of my most recent “Ben’s Bookshelf” column, which had a Black History Month angle.

bhmbookshelfI recommend all six of the titles shown above (read the article, linked to above), but there’s far more where that came from. Check out this bookshelf pic, sent to me via Twitter by @BeesGal_SLC, and marvel at its thoroughness.

That reminds me — I really should read Curt Flood’s book!

bhmreadz

On the promotion front —  this, from the Altoona Curve, is worthy of attention. April 11 will be BOpening Night, a tribute to batboy Bo Forney who passed away earlier this month at the age of 21.

Bo Forney, with the Dubble Bubble

Bo Forney, with the Dubble Bubble

From the team:

Bo has been an inspiration to many with the way he lived,” said Curve General Manager Rob Egan.  “He had the rare ability to make anybody who came in contact with him feel better.  Bo was such a positive person, loved life, and truly enjoyed people.  We miss him deeply and look forward to celebrating his life on ‘BOpening Night’ and throughout the season.”

A silent auction will take place during BOpening Night with all proceeds from the auction benefitting the American Heart Association.  The auction will consist of game-used items from the Pirates-Curve Exhibition game and will include, in addition to other items, 14-game used jerseys that have been signed by former Curve players /current Pirates players.    

To commemorate the life of Forney, a patch with Bo’s cartoon likeness will be affixed to all bat boys uniforms throughout the 2013 season.  The Forney family will also be in attendance for BOpening Night and will throw out ceremonial first pitches prior to the game.  A moment of silence will be held in Bo’s honor prior to the game as well. 

This reminds me of the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, who last season held a ballpark service for vendor Brock Calmes. Events like these help to illustrate the deep bonds that form within Minor League Baseball ballparks, and just how meaningful the presence of Minor League Baseball within a community can be.

Last week, the Tacoma Rainiers let it be known that anyone willing to purchase 350 Opening Weekend ticket deals would receive this pyramid of Dustin Ackley bobbleheads. I don’t think that anyone took them up on it.

summit

Next I’d like to give a shoutout to Spikes, intrepid mascot for your (or at least someone’s) Rochester Red Wings. He joins Rocky of the Wilmington Blue Rocks as the only mascots (that I am aware of) to take part in a Polar Plunge for charity.

spikes

During all 10 of their Friday night home games this season, the Charlotte Knights will be wearing 1990 throwback uniforms. Luxuriate in this image!

throwback

This initiative was inspired by the fact that 2013 will be the team’s last at Knights Stadium. 1990 was the first. Sez the team:

The jerseys, which were worn by the inaugural Knights Stadium Team in 1990, will now be worn by the current Knights team during the new “Flashback Fridays” series, which is set to commemorate 24 years of history at Knights Stadium.

To return to philanthropic endeavors, the Erie SeaWolves are now at the tail end of their “Drive to Five” initiative. 

drive5

The most pertinent of the details:

Through February 28, the Erie SeaWolves will donate $25 to United Way for each new full-season ticket package purchased. If 100 new season ticket packages are purchased, the SeaWolves will double the contribution – raising $5,000 to help United Way achieve its goal to reduce poverty in our region.

If you’re the kind of person who enjoys detailed analysis of industry-wide attendance figures, then you’re going to love the Number Tamer. Nobody does it better! (Or, if someone does, I’m certainly not aware of it).

As you may be aware, one of this year’s most ill-fated sporting ventures occurred in Williamsport, PA. The Federal Hockey League’s Outlaw franchise set up shop at outdoor Bowman Field (longtime home of the Crosscutters), an idea that may sound cool in theory but turned out to be a unmitigated financial disaster. The team pulled the plug on the season mid-way through, leaving everyone in the lurch, and once this happened the Crosscutters offered a quick response via this local newspaper ad:

Outlaws_Exchange_AD

This seems like a disaster waiting to happen, but nonetheless I encourage you like Lancaster JetHawks mascot KaBoom on Facebook. Here’s why:

kaboom

Speaking of inadvisable mascot feats, here’s a picture of Lake County’s Skipper, immediately after “Tackling the Tower.”

skiiper

“Tackling the Tower” isn’t some sort of euphemism, but an annual stair-climbing event with (of course) philanthropic intent. Good work, Skipper!

And, my goodness, this notebook page still has a lot of stuff on it. This post is gonna be a two-parter.

Everything I do, I do it for you.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbizb

Return to the Road: Glass Menageries and Roadside Reverie

The last “Return to the Road” dispatch ended with some pictures from what I declared to be the swankiest team lodging in all of Minor League Baseball — Tacoma’s Hotel Murano. And from the Murano this post shall begin.

The Murano’s hallways offer guests the chance to view a “private collection of some of the world’s finest contemporary glass treasures.” Each of the hotel’s 24 floors showcase a different artist; I, on the 23rd, was located within the realm of Mr. Hiroshi Yamano.

The Murano’s focus on glass artisans was no mere act of random whimsy — Tacoma is home to the Museum of Glass, in recognition of the influence that artists from the Pacific Northwest have had on the medium. So when I set out to briefly explore downtown Tacoma before heading to Everett, the Museum of Glass was my destination.

Along the way I passed this statue, without stopping to learn who this woman was and what she stood for.

Union Station — formerly a train station, currently a courthouse — had charm, style and panache to spare.

As did the statue out front, entitled “New Beginnings.” It was installed as part of the city’s 1984 centennial celebration, and the man depicted is an early 20th-century railroad passenger with a jaunty step and optimistic world outlook.

Inspired, I strolled through Tacoma’s downtown with the same levity of spirit I imagined the above bronzed passenger to have once possessed.

Finally (and by “finally” I mean “within 5 minutes”) I came to a vantage point which included the conical Museum of Glass as part of the backdrop.

Of course, time is always at a premium when I’m on the road. So as opposed to actually going into the museum, I just checked out the glass specimens lining both sides of a pedestrian bridge that led to the museum.

For tobacco use only

The view from the ground.

Anti-climactic as it may be, that’s all I’ve got from Tacoma. My next destination was Everett, whose team hotel was a Holiday Inn.

I knew I was in the right place when, upon parking, I looked up to see a team bus poking through the trees.

And while this Holiday Inn lacked some of the Hotel Murano’s more memorable amenities (for instance, I was not able to have the Bhagavad Gita delivered to my room), it did boast what is certainly the most wonderful view of any Minor League team hotel.

I attended that evening’s Everett AquaSox game, and wrote like crazy all about it. (In fact, my writing was so passionately incendiary that even the links to it have since burned up.) Time was even tighter than usual the following afternoon, as an international journey (to Vancouver) awaited me. Nonetheless, I spent about an hour wandering about in downtown Everett before getting lunch at a Thai restaurant and then resuming my travels in earnest.

Everett had character, and I’d love to return some day.

Lunchtime! (Use of exclamation mark extremely debatable)

After that it was goodbye to the antiquated signage of Everett…

and hello to Peace Arch National Park, my entryway to Canada.

Think metric? Never!

The cars going in the other direction were fleeing Canadian tyranny

Peace Arch Park was beautifully maintained, and as a big fan of Paul Robeson I enjoyed driving through the locations of one of his most significant public performances. From Wikipedia:

In 1952, African-American singer and activist Paul Robeson, banned from international travel during the Red Scares, performed several concerts at the site. He sang from a flatbed truck on the American side to an audience in Canada.

And would you believe that the Peace Arch was built by Sam Hill, the peripatetic Quaker who constructed the full-size Stonehenge replica which I had visited several days prior? That guy was real go-getter, and as a slow-moving and rapidly-stagnating blogger I can’t help but feel that I’m not quite living up to the high surname standards he established.

Stalled out

It took approximately forever to get into Canada, and I pity those who have to cross the border on a regular basis. I did enjoy the interrogation I received from the border guard, who tried to poke holes in my “Minor League Baseball writer traveling to Canada in order to cover the Vancouver Canadians” alibi.

Guard: And how long have you been writing about the Minor Leagues?

Me: Seven years.

Guard: If you’ve been doing this for that long, then why is this the first time you’ve visited Vancouver?

I explained, as succinctly as possible, that Vancouver was the only Canadian team in the Minors and that, therefore, visiting Canada as part of my job was not, nor was it going to be, a common professional occurrence. (In fact, I was looking at it the highlight of a perpetually uncertain odyssey that began with writing game recaps on the night shift on a part-time, hourly basis. What I wanted to say was “Look, lady, you should be proud of me that I’m here talking to you at all.” I then would have felt an overwhelming sense of guilt for referring to her impolitely as “lady.”)

I’m not sure who’s bored-er at this point — the guard or the straggling few readers who have stuck with this post to the end. So, anyway, yeah: I made it to Canada, and I have the fake money to prove it.

The road will be returned to (at least) once more, with all of the supplemental content that’s fit to post from the wilds of Vancouver. Stay tuned for another installment of the most low-stakes and meandering series of blog posts to be found on the internet…

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Return to the Road: Compromised Fast Food Leads to a Spiritual Menu

I was out of town for the last five days or so, and during my time away the fifth anniversary of the first post in Ben’s Biz Blog history came and went. My original plan had been to commemorate this milestone in some way, but instead it just kind of slipped by whilst on its quick path to complete and total obsolescence.

So, yeah, this blog is now five years old. Celebrate at will. As for me, I’ll just do what I do best: relive the recent past! As you may recall, my last post in the apparently never-ending “Return to the Road” series covered the beautiful scenery to be found betwixt Salem, OR and Yakima, WA. Today, then, picks up in Yakima (home of the since-relocated Bears) and travels northwest to Tacoma (home of the not-going-anywhere Rainiers).

The day started with me following a reader tip: get lunch at Miner’s, an iconic Yakima fast food joint.

I was smitten with this establishment as soon as I arrived, if not a bit confused. Somehow, I managed to bypass the entire drive-thru lane. (And is that a strange location for a house or what? Not sure if I’d want my front lawn obscured by huge fast food menus).

Instead, I ended up in a lot immediately adjacent to a spacious outdoor eating area.

Also spacious: the inside.

I placed my order, was given a number, and then walked approximately a third of a mile away to a back room seating area.

And here, inevitably, is where I end up disappointing you. As much as I’d have liked to, the celiac disease prevented me from ordering a Big Miner Burger. Or any kind of burger. In fact, the bun-heavy and oft-breaded menu made the whole experience a bit fraught for gluten-averse individuals such as myself. So while I’d like to present you with a photo of this 64-year-old establishment’s signature item, instead here are some fries posing amidst an array of dipping sauces and a vanilla milkshake. I do my best.

After that it was time to hit the open road. And I do mean open, and I also mean road.

I would have been content to drive amid such vast expanses for a good 10 hours or so, while listening to the first 33 seconds of this Dr. John song a million times over. The drive was far less than my wished-for 600 minutes, unfortunately, but before re-entering more populated areas I did have the pleasure of stopping at this well-advertised establishment.

And — look! — within this vast expanse of commercial real estate they even cater to afflicted souls such as myself.

I bought an array of groceries. The bottle of Moxie cola was later confiscated at the Vancouver airport, and I have no idea what became of the mustard. None at all. It just vanished on me.

The next destination was the Hotel Murano, located in downtown Tacoma. Of the dozens of Minor League team hotels I’ve stayed in over the last several years this was the most expensive. And also, by far, the nicest. (In fact, I’m still kind of in awe that this was a team hotel.)

The Hotel Murano had an uber-hip intercontinental vibe, complete with Teutonic dance music music pumping in the lobby, but it wasn’t not so exclusive that they won’t enter into an enthusiastic partnership with a Pacific Coast League franchise. (Hotel Murano ads could be seen throughout the Rainiers’ Cheney Stadium).

The nighttime exterior:

The lobby:

A room…

with a view.

Hello Tacoma!

I’m still kicking myself for not having the Bhagavad Gita sent up to my room.

Some of the other in-room signage was less spiritually minded, however.

“Goodnight Tacoma!” said the moron in the Murano.

That moron was me.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

On the Road: On a Different Scale and Off Key in Tacoma

Note: It took all of my willpower not to reference my favorite GNR song of all time in this post’s title.

I visited six teams on this most recent road trip, and five of these teams were members of the aptly-named Northwest League. The one anomaly was the Tacoma Rainiers, who compete in the inaptly-named Pacific Coast League (unless you consider locales such as Memphis and New Orleans to be part of the Pacific Coast).

The Northwest League is Class A Short-Season, comprised of players just beginning their professional journeys. But the PCL is Triple-A, just one level removed from “The Show,” and the mentality of fans, front office staff and players at this level is markedly different.

So I knew going in that the Rainiers would be a whole ‘nother animal, operating on a totally different scale than the likes of Eugene, Salem-Keizer, and Yakima. These differences rang loud and clear as soon as I checked into the team hotel, which offered BY FAR the swankiest (and most self-consciously post-modern) accommodations I’ve ever enjoyed whilst on one of these road trips.

That’s room 2306 (!) of the Hotel Murano, and this was the view:

Hello, Tacoma!

I’ll have more on the Hotel Murano in an upcoming “Return to the Road” post, but for now let’s get to the evening’s primary locale: Cheney (pronounced “Cheeny”) Stadium, home of the Rainiers since 1961 and the recent recipient of a massive renovation (read all about that, and more, in last week’s MiLB.com piece). After getting lost on the way to the stadium (which happens regularly, even with GPS) I arrived at a parking lot which placed me in the rear of the facility.

Unfortunately the above entrance, neatly carved into the landscape, was not the one for me. “Will Call,” world-famous home of the media pass, was at home plate and thus began an arduous journey. Along the way I saw the back end of the stadium’s famous batter’s eye — located a staggering 425-feet from home plate and one of the few features of the old Cheney that survived the renovation intact.

Along the road I came across a species you rarely encounter in the Minors — the ballhawk. These guys were doing their darndest to snag batting practice home runs.

Finally, parched and hallucinating, I arrived at the front entrance. I can’t say for sure what those satellite dish-looking obelisks are above the sign, but they are a publicly-funded art project (Cheney’s renovation was partially funded by public money, and with this came the stipulation that it be decorated with public art).

First order of business was, as it often is, to conduct a few interviews with the good ol’ Flipcam. While waiting for my victims to emerge, I took a few shots of the dugout surroundings.

I interviewed Danny Hultzen first, an affable young TOP PROSPECT who has been a member of the Rainiers for less than two months. (I had actually been in attendance for his final Double-A start, when he took the mound for the Jackson Generals during my aptly but inelegantly named “OKARKMOTN” road trip). This was followed by a clunker of an interview with Italian-born third baseman Alex Liddi, in which I led off with a question about a ridiculous article I wrote about him back in 2006.

Nick Franklin was next up, who I wanted to talk to simply because I’d already interviewed him in High Desert and Jackson. But Franklin, now hip to the awkwardness that ensues whenever I roll into a Minor League dugout, never emerged. He was “busy.” That’s okay, Nick. I was busy, too — taking pictures of scintillating light pole signage (as an aside, those antiquated light fixtures are originally from San Francisco’s Seals Stadium).

I would have relished the opportunity to ketchup with Franklin, so its too bad that he never mustard the initiative to speak with me. Instead, I joined up with director of communications Ben Spradling for a pre-game ballpark tour. Post-renovation, Cheney Stadium is a dramatically different place than it was. Examples of creative re-invention are everywhere.

This berm area, sponsored by Alaska Airlines and featuring blinking blue airport runway lights, used to be comprised of bleacher seating.

This “Backyard BBQ” area was once a batting cage.

And what was once the visitor’s clubhouse is now a secondary ticket office.

Next to this structure is a new group area called the “Home Run Porch,” which sits level with the playing field.

Spradlin and I soon made our way back to the main area behind home plate, where we took the elevator to the topmost floor (otherwise known as the “third”). Once there, he opened an imposing metal gate (with the power of his mind) and we ascended up a darkened stairwell.

This camera well area, not open to the public, has been dubbed “The Bird’s Nest.” The view (and note the batter’s eye, some 425 feet away):

Also offering a prime view is the “Summit Club,” a season-ticket area that was packed with fans eager for some pre-game food and, especially, beverage.

The Summit Club offers views of, appropriately, a summit: Mt. Rainier, for which the franchise is named.

Okay, well, it would have been a great view of Mt. Rainier. But, unfortunately, on the day I was in attendance the mountain was completely obscured by the clouds. I never did get a proper glimpse of it, but such is life.

Doing my best to let go of feelings of disappointment regarding view obstruction, I stopped into the press box just as the game was about to begin (that’s Spradling, my tour guide, in the middle).

As always, the press box was the place to be if you’re a fan of sardonic, quick-witted banter. (Sample bit of dialogue: “Tonight’s ‘Play Ball Kid’ was pretty good. Yesterday’s asked for his line.”)

But with the game now underway, I felt a restless itch that only wandering can scratch. So off I went — to wander! The concourse, although not of the “open” variety, is very spacious. Although this picture was taken later in the evening (My beloved chronology! Ruined!) it does help to illustrate the overall feel of the place.

One of the evening’s promotions was “Firefighter’s Night,” as members of local departments had been invited out to the ballpark. One crew even drove out in this beautiful antique:

Around the bend from this cherry-red beaut was another stadium feature that had survived the renovations intact: the Tacoma Baseball Hall of Fame.

Front and center in the Hall of Fame is a plaque honoring Ben Cheney, a local businessman who spearheaded the drive to get the stadium built.

A more poignant (and noticeable) tribute to Cheney can be found in the seats behind home plate (and slightly up the first base line). A bronzed Cheney can be observed watching the game, surrounded by a small section of original blue stadium seats.

While I was taking pictures of Mr. Cheney, an usher approached and drew my attention to the ground in front of him. There, embedded in concrete, was one of Cheney’s peanut shells.

Meanwhile, PCL baseball was breaking out all around us. The view from the top (note the steep pitch of the seating area, a Cheney staple).

New seats, original grandstand.

The Rainiers hit something like 11 home runs in the second inning, en route to a seven-run frame (you do the math). Exhausted by the offensive outburst, I went back down to the concourse in search of sustenance.

Oh, hey, it’s Rhubarb!

I decided upon the Narrows Catch stand — while there were some seafood on offer (almost always a good thing) the necessity of obtaining a gluten-free option led me to go with what had become a theme on this trip: hot dog, sans bun.

“The Best Hot Dog in Baseball,” to be more specific.

I dressed it up with condiments as well as I could — and it was a very tasty hot dog — but even considering that a bun is usually involved here this seemed like a small amount of food for $7.

While ordering the hot dog, I noticed that the next stand over offered gluten-free Grist Mill beer. Finally, my first chance for a celiac-friendly beer at a Minor League Baseball game!

Or…not.

I’ve gotta say, what followed was a very frustrating experience. I ordered the beer, and even though the menu placard directly behind the woman at the register listed Grist Mill I was told that “We don’t serve beer here.” She then pointed toward all the other places in which I could get beer, apparently not realizing that Grist Mill was only offered in one place and that, if you’re ordering it, you’re doing so for a reason. So I went back to Narrow’s Catch, where I had ordered my hot dog, and was told that Grist Mill was only available at the next stand over — where I had just been! So I went back there, but to a different register, and now the beer was magically available. Except, no. “Sorry, sir,” I was told. “We don’t have a bottle opener.” This was followed by a shrug of the shoulders, as if to say “And we’re not going to look either.”

And…Scene!

Disillusioned, I retreated to a concession stand on the other side of the concourse and got some fries. Those were good.

The evening slowed down a bit at this point, giving me the time to appreciation this high-resolution scoreboard graphic. Konrad Schmidt: a Sal Fasano for a new era.

Meanwhile, Mr. Cheney had found some company.

This game turned out to be a blowout win for the Rainiers (seven-run second innings often lead to such things), but the visiting Reno Aces weren’t completely lifeless. Here’s Josh Bell, in the midst of a leisurely home run trot.

I made one final concessions stop, at this popular and distinctly Pacific Northwest eatery. Baked goods and high end coffee at the ballpark!

I ordered a mocha (for whatever reason, that was my coffee drink of choice throughout the trip).

Throughout the ballgame, firemen (the evening’s guests of honor) had comprised the majority of the between-inning games and contests. Most of these games were quite simple (trivia, push-up contests, etc) and conducted from the top of the dugout by ebullient MC Christy Magana.

Although not a firefighter (at least not in this life), I was asked to be a contestant in a between-game at the end of the seventh inning. I can’t remember what the game was called, specifically, but it was of the standard “Sing for Your Supper”/”Finish that Tune” variety.

Knowing that my pipes would soon be on display in front of thousands, I retreated to the top of the stadium and practiced a bit.

Me “singing”

For those who’ve never done it — being alone in a strange place and knowing you soon have to entertain a crowd with some off-the-cuff stupidity can be a bit nerve-wracking. I’ve done it enough where I’m no longer really nervous, because the number one takeaway is this: In the best way possible, it just doesn’t matter. You can do (almost) anything you want, and it will be fine. Don’t think.

Blogger in need of a makeover, reporting for duty.

The song was “Billie Jean.”

I adopted a falsetto, and then realized I didn’t really know the lyrics. The combination of the ridiculous voice, awkward pause, and mangled lyrics (“I am the one! (pause) I have a son!”) got a surprisingly strong reaction from the crowd. As much as I look like (and am) a doofus, I like the below picture because Christy seems genuinely amused by my idiocy. What can I say? As much as I’m a very reserved person overall, in these sort of situations I really enjoy making people laugh.

That’s enough narcissism for now, and there’s not too much else to report. The game ended unceremoniously, and upon its conclusion I snapped a few pictures of my new interview-avoiding nemesis Nick Franklin. You can never escape the all-seeing eye of Ben’s Biz! (For the record, I have no real issue with Mr. Franklin).

On my way out, I documented some glow-in-the-dark stadium art. Publicly funded! This one is called “Home Run.” The artist is David Franklin (no relation to Nick), and the medium is powder coated aluminum LED RGB fixtures.

All that was left for me to do was to drive upstream back to my place of lodging. The Hotel Murano, its day-glo “M” beckoning from on high, awaited!

twitter.com/bensbiz

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

Separating the Wheat From the Chaff

News is scarce these days, but by using the foraging skills accumulated over a half decade in the Minor League wilderness I’m able to scavenge enough to get by.

Let’s start with a new logo, although “new” might be an overstatement. “Modified” is more like it, and the modifiers in question are the Pioneer League champion Helena Brewers. They went from this:

 

To, well, THIS. I’m working on obtaining a picture of the logo that can be posted here, but as for now none are to be found. But what you’ll notice, of course, is that the “B” has been eliminated. The wheat has been given a more functional task as well, transitioning from a decorative swath to the horizontal bridge between the vertical pillars of the “H”.

The Brewers aren’t going against the grain, in other words.

Writing as a means to stave off loneliness, I carry on — to trick or treating mascots! Last week I wrote about Boomer! being available for this crucial October 31st duty, but also up to the task is Buster of the Lakewood BlueClaws and Durham’s Wool E. Bull.

busterhalloween.jpgBuster’s Halloween services are being auctioned off via eBay, with the current high bid being $119.50. Seven days are left to bid, however, and I’m guessing that this will reach high six figures by the time it’s all over.

The Bulls are taking a different approach, as Wool E. Bull will “surprise” one lucky family on Halloween. To qualify, this family must subscribe to the Bulls e-newletter and have registered for the opportunity.

Finally, it is very much the season for stadium renovations. Two major projects are now occurring on opposite sides of the country, dealing with ballparks that are more than halfway to centenarian status.

Work on Tacoma’s Cheney Stadium is moving right along, and the team’s website offers a construction photo gallery and “construction cam“:

cheney.jpg

Much more info can be found in broadcaster Mike Curto’s latest blog post, where he reveals that his planned “press box destruction tail gate party” was curtailed by the Rainiers’ PCL championship run.

And then there’s Reading’s FirstEnergy Stadium, currently undergoing a $10 million dollar renovation. The latest video progress report, accompanied by a jaunty tune, can be viewed HERE.

Meanwhile, I’m currently soliciting funds for a $10 desk renovation project here at MiLB.com HQ. I need a Scotch tape dispenser and a new pair of scissors.

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

Mike, Mike, and Mics

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for omaha-royals-logo.gifThe Omaha Royals are a team of action. Their latest promotional endeavor illustrates this assertion. The assertion that I just made.  

Team president Alan Stein was listening to venerable sports radio duo Mike and Mike yesterday morning, and his ears perked up upon hearing…this:

After ESPN’s NBA analyst Jeff Van Gundy kiddingly suggested that his
television crew should interview fans about their thoughts on the first
half of a game, Mike and Mike’s producers put together some staged
“interviews” with fans. Mike Golic suggested on the air that somebody
might like that idea and pilfer it.

If there’s one thing that Minor League teams excel at, it’s pilfering ideas. So, you can see where this is going:

money.jpg

At each of the Omaha Royals’ 72 home games this season, the Royals
will use a half-inning break for a “Mike and Mike Fan Mic” – going into
the crowd at Rosenblatt Stadium and asking fans what they think about
the game, how cold their beer is, or whatever else they want to chat
about.

As Golic suggested on air and as Stein recognizes, you should have
to pay for a good idea. So, the Royals are preparing to send a contract
to Mike and Mike at their ESPN home in Bristol, Connecticut offering to
pay them – as Stein termed it in his Kentucky drawl – “a dollar a
holler.” In other words, Mike and Mike’s producers earned them the tidy
sum of $72 this year.

$72 is nothing to sneeze at, because no one wants to handle money with mucus on it. But in all seriousness, I really like the idea of a daily “fan mic half-inning.” It will result in a virtual mountain of comedic moments, intentional and otherwise, and I’m hoping that the highlights of this experiment wind up on YouTube.

Along similar lines, I would like to suggest a recurring between-inning skit in which a front office member dresses up as Wendy Williams and dispenses relationship advice to the fans.

In other news…

– The Wall St. Journal ran an item today on the Peoria Chiefs’ new fantasy baseball initiative (the club is renting out O’Brien Field suites for the purpose of conducting fantasy drafts). Word on the street is that an unnamed influential Minor League “biz”-ness blogger helped facilitate the club’s national exposure…

The Tacoma Rainiers have announced extensive renovation plans for Cheney Stadium. This will be the facility’s first major uplift in over fifty years, and will cost an estimated $30 million. The targeted completion date is Opening Day 2011.     

– But when it comes to stadium improvements, it will be tough to top the Albuquerque Isotopes latest additions:

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How about that Marge Simpson, folks? Give her a hand. Seriously. She needs one.

– February 27th was “National Pig Day”, and the Lehigh Valley IronPigs celebrated by putting single-game tickets on sale. Despite the poor weather, the Lehigh Valley faithful flocked to the event, with the first person in line arriving at 4 a.m.(!)

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This was far better than my personal National Pig Day celebration, which consisted of eating bacon alone in a diner while listening to the man in the booth across from me break off his wedding engagement via cell phone.

I hope everyone enjoys their weekend. Don’t forget that Saturday is National Frozen Food Day, and that Sunday marks 77 years of Monopoly.

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

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