Results tagged ‘ Tennessee Smokies ’
As you surely recall, my last post had a cliffhanger ending. I was at the Tennessee Smokies game, the National Anthem had concluded, and the game was about to start.
So what happened then? In this, part two of my Smokies blogging saga, all will be revealed.
In a shocking twist, the ballgame began very shortly after the anthem’s conclusion. At this juncture, I found myself in the right field berm area and my vantage point was as follows:
Thus began a lap around the stadium’s (almost) 360 degree concourse, heading plateward.
Well, it almost struck, at least. A member of the visiting Barons, I’m not sure who, flailed at a pitch, lost his grip, and sent his bat hurtling into the stands. This photo shows the immediate aftermath, as ushers and director of entertainment Ryan Cox (white cap, uber-stylish shirt) survey the scene as concerned Barons look on from the visiting dugout. The bat was retrieved by the long-haried gentleman at the back of the shot, some 12 rows deep.
All’s well that ends well, as no one was hurt. In the photo below GM Brian Cox (not be confused with Ryan Cox, sitting right next to him) is in the process of retrieving the bat from the fan. Following standard protocol, the fan was eventually given a different bat in return.
A choice quote:
[The bat] was clamped on my leg, so I swiped it off with my glove and it ended up on the ground opening and closing its mouth at me. I could see the fangs. It was super-creepy, worse than a spider or a rat, just nasty.
What an awesome tangent that was! I call this the “best Minor League Baseball blog of all time” because it is, and if someone could give me a “Best Blog” award along with, like, $750,000 in cash I’d really appreciate it.
But to return to the narrative at hand, all I can tell you was that the rest of my lap around the stadium perimeter wasn’t very eventful.
Although, I did witness an earnest conversation between Cox and the Statue of Liberty. He was gently trying to tell her that “Salute to Huddled Masses” night wasn’t a very good idea for a promotion, especially since Huddle House wasn’t interested in sponsoring.
I might have heard that conversation wrong, but my hearing was about to get a whole lot worse. For it was I who had been recruited to suit up as “Clucky Jacobsen” in the Smokies’ nightly Chicken Race, a costume that comes complete with a stiflingly hot, senses-obscuring rubber mask.
The Chicken Race, in which a group of kids chase Clucky across the outfield, is a long-standing Smokies tradition. The rules:
I wrote an MiLB.com article about my Chicken Run experience, and it turned out to be one of my favorite things I’ve ever written in a professional context. Click the link to read it — please — and then return here to the blog for the following supplementary pictures:
Mingling with the masses
Upon changing back into my civilian attire, I convened with my designated eater (for those new to this blog: I have recruited a “designated eater” at each ballpark I visit, to consume ballpark delicacies that my gluten-free diet does not allow).
Frederick Love, ladies and gentleman!
Love, who grew up in Seattle, is no stranger to the world of stiflingly hot ballpark costumes. After graduating from college, he went on to suit up as Louie for the Bowie Baysox and Hornsby for the Tulsa Drillers. His current mascot gig is as “Chilly” for the Knoxville Ice Bears of the SPHL, and his sister, Baylor, works for the Smokies as a group sales representative.
In the above photo, Love is sitting outside the Double Play Cafe with a Buddy Bailey Burger (named after the Smokies’ alliterative manager) and an order of BBQ Pork Nachos.
The Buddy Bailey Burger — 1/2 pound beef patty, cheddar cheese, onion, lettuce, tomato — was the main event, and Love dug right in.
“It has a sweet smell, very appetizing, and I wanted to get the first bite in right away,” said Love of the Buddy Bailey Burger. “I threw a little ketchup and mayo on there, and it all mixes together well. The burger is well cooked, very juicy with a lot of flavor.”
As for the nachos, Love had had those before.
“They’re one of the best things they have here,” he said. “They’ve got a perfect smoky taste.”
As he spoke, various food products raced by on the field.
We had, at this juncture, entered into the latter third of the ballgame.
Both man and beast remained vigilant as the game entered its tense final inning. (WATCH on Vine)
Despite a late rally, the Smokies went down in defeat. This was their sixth loss in a row, part of an agonizing streak that had earlier included three straight shutouts followed by a 12-11 defeat. But win, lose, or draw, it doesn’t matter. It was Friday, and that meant fireworks were a comin’.
The pyrotechnics display was enjoyed by Soppets and non-Soppets alike.
It was past 10:30 at this point, but it’s Friday night and who cares about bedtime? The kids, they then ran the bases.
Being too old for such shenanigans, I instead went on a search for impromptu works of art. (WATCH)
All that was left to do now was take a walk back to my hotel room. The Hampton Inn and Suites, it beckoned me. (WATCH).
Good night from Sevierville!
Like their Southern League cohorts the Mississippi Braves, the Tennessee Smokies are that rare Minor League entity that identify themselves by state as opposed to city or region. But, unlike the Mississippi Braves, the “Smokies” team name actually denotes the region of the state in which they play. If teams throughout the Minors took this approach, it would result in entities such as the Pennsylvania Lehighs, the Arkansas Northwests, and the Florida Palm Beaches.
This is all a convoluted way of saying that the Smokies play in Tennessee’s Smoky Mountain region (located in the far eastern portion of the state, Sevierville to be precise), and that their team name is unorthodox. So, yes, with that out of the way:
Welcome to Smokies Park, home of the Smokies, and, also, home of a Smoky Mountain visitor center!
I arrived at Smokies Park a bit later than I was aiming for, due to a GPS/common sense snafu in which I drove to a “Stadium Drive” in Knoxville instead of the one in Sevierville. It wasn’t until I made a turn onto “Peyton Manning Pass” that it occurred to me that I may have driven to the University of Tennessee’s Neyland Stadium instead.
They don’t pay me the big bucks for nothing.
Within half an hour I was in the correct location, and totally psyched because the team hotel (WATCH) was located within walking distance from the stadium (the second-most important hotel amenity, behind a good internet connection). As I jauntily strolled through the parking lot in the fashion of R. Crumb’s “Keep On Truckin’” character, the first fans I passed were these guys.
“Hey, that’s the blogger,” said the cornholer in red to his cornholing companion. The cornholer in red turned out to be Frederick Love, who had volunteered to be the evening’s designated eater (the designated eater is an individual I recruit at every ballpark, to eat the concession foods that my gluten-free diet does not allow). Psyched to be recognized so quickly in the evening, my walk became even jauntier. Even what appeared to be copyright infringement couldn’t slow me down.
Expect a call from Fresno, Grainger band.
A nice crowd had gathered out front for this fireworks Friday, a gathering comprised of humans and bizarrely-colored bear alike.
I made a quick stop in the press box upon arrival.
To the right of these gentleman, taking up nearly an entire wall, is this cartoon tribute to late Smokies beat writer Nick Gates.
Gates covered the franchise from their 1972 inception as the Knoxville White Sox (Knox Sox!) all the way through the 2010 season, when health issues forced him to retire. He died in 2012 at the age of 62.
For a variety of reasons — the ailing state of the newspaper industry chief among them, as well as the team’s ability to easily disseminate information themselves — Minor League beat writers are an increasingly rare species these days. It was a great gesture by the Smokies to pay tribute to Gates and the nearly lost era of journalism that he represents.
Another touching tribute can be found behind home plate, as the team has installed a permanent seat in honor of POW/MIA American servicemen.
The POW/MIA seat came about as part of the club’s annual “Tribute to Heroes” promotion (the 2013 iteration of which took place Saturday, the day after I was in town). It pre-dates similar efforts not just in Minor League Baseball (Lowell, Mobile), but also the more heralded efforts of the New England Patriots as well.
All of this is to say: the Smokies were at the forefront of the POW/MIA empty ballpark seat trend, which is slowly gaining traction around the world of professional sports as a simple and eloquent way to honor those who are not with us.
A seat-based tribute of a different sort can be found in the right field section of the berm seating area.
These seats, rickety as a Pittsburgh rock n’ roll house party, are from the team’s former home of Bill Meyer Stadium in Knoxville. The Smokies played there from their 1972 inception as the Knoxville White Sox (Knox Sox!) through 1999, but the stadium itself opened in 1955. I hadn’t been familiar with Mr. Meyer, but he enjoyed a long career in baseball, most of it based in the Minors. He played one game as a member of the 1913 Cubs and, 39 years later, skippered the worst Pittsburgh Pirates team in franchise history.
Speaking of notable managerial campaigns…
As you may recall, Ryne Sandberg managed the Smokies in 2009, the second stop in a Cubs organization managerial journey that began in Peoria and later continued on to Triple-A Iowa. Having a Hall of Famer manage the club is a big deal, obviously, and “Sandberg Alley” is where the fans would line up for pre-game autographs.
As Smokies Director of Entertainment Ryan Cox explained to me, “This wasn’t [Sandberg's] first rodeo. He’d sign there in front of the dugout for 10-15 minutes before every game, and then it’d be ‘Okay, I’ve got to go.’”
“When the umps walked to home plate for the manager’s meeting, that was his cue to exit,” added team president Doug Kirchhofer. “If he didn’t do it that way, he’d be there all night. There’d be no end in sight. He would do it on the road, too, and throughout the season I heard from a lot of teams that they were very appreciative of that.”
You may recall my post on the Smokies’ Sandberg Alley, which included this picture of the ribbon-cutting ceremony:
The following season the Iowa Cubs adapted the “Sandberg Alley” idea. I was there. I took these pictures. I am omniscient.
One blog post, so many digressions! To return to the narrative at hand, I was a honored to be one of the guests on assistant general manager Jeff Shoaf’s pre-game show.
This interview was broadcast live over the stadium PA, and as usual I struggled a bit with hearing my words booming back at me. I guess you get used to it, but I do not like the sound of my voice unless it is rapping the Humpty Dance at a Koreatown karaoke joint.
You could say that hearing my voice is hard to “bear,” but you’d only say that in order to facilitate a lazy segue to a picture I don’t remember taking.
I do remember the National Anthem, however, as performed by the
Fresno Grainger Grizzlies band. The bombs bursting in air were punctuated by actual bomb-like air bursts.
Folks, my loquaciousness has gotten the best of me. This post is gonna have to be a two-parter.
I just wrote a big two paragraph introduction that, upon further reflection, was little more than anxiety-ridden self-indulgence. Who needs that noise? Forget all that, and let’s get to the good stuff. We now join this blog post, already in progress.
So many things have happened! Are happening! Will happen! All the time! I don’t know where to begin, but I do know when.
Last month, I gave ample virtual ink to the Stockton Ports’ “Presidential Seat Cushion” giveaway.
As I wrote at the time:
One side of the cushion features presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney, while the other is of Democratic incumbent Barack Obama. And the fans are being asked to sit on the face of the candidate that they do not support.
The promotion got a robust media response, and when the gates opened the fans were ready for some face sitting action. This elderly woman was handed her seat cushion by a banana:
On the other side of the age spectrum was this young fella, now traumatized for life due to prolonged exposure to presidential seat cushion caricature.
Meanwhile, this crew was all over the political spectrum.
Another notable June promotion, and one that I also featured prominently in Promo Preview, was the Frederick Keys’ “Six Months to the End of the World Night.” As the name would imply, it was an evening of apocalyptic proportions.
To the images!
Zombies abounded at the ballpark — as promotions manager Brandon Apter noted “We’re going to keep the emphasis on family fun, but that’s not very easy when there’s blood all over your face.”
“Take Me Out to the Ballbrain”
And how’s this for a deliciously morbid between-inning promotion? A “last meal” eating contest.
Apocalyptic imagery has been everywhere in recent weeks. If you haven’t seen this terrifying/hilarious video of a Tennessee Smokies tarp pull gone awry, then it’s well worth the short time it will take to rectify that.
122,000 views and counting for “Tarp-Nami” — and no one got hurt!
And then there was the storm that swept through Yakima on July 8, which wreaked havoc throughout the stadium. Boise Hawks broadcaster Mike Safford was a witness to the carnage, and sent along the following email:
Here is a look at Yakima’s BP cage after it took a wild ride down the street in last night’s thunderstorm…
It was found on Pacific Avenue in Yakima after the storm.
I’m not sure that anyone could have curtailed a calamitous event such as the above — not even Spiderman. Last I saw that guy, he was wandering around the visiting dugout during a Charlotte Knights game.
It is of course not something that I can control, but I’ve received several complaints this offseason regarding the relative paucity of new logo unveilings.
And, indeed, times have been tough (especially when compared to a particularly fertile 2010-11). This year’s crop has been limited to the Daytona Cubs, new franchises in Pensacola and Grand Junction, and two Blue Jays affiliates (Dunedin and Bluefield) who responded to changes made by the parent club. The rest have been anniversary marks, All Star Games logos, and various subtle tweaks.
But if it’s logos you want and logos you demand, I’ll do my best. For example, the Billings Mustangs recently unveiled a logo celebrating 60 seasons of professional baseball.
In honor of the club’s 60th Season, the Mustangs, in association with Studio Simon, have developed a 60th Season commemorative logo, which will be featured on multiple applications and platforms throughout the season. The logo will serve as a sleeve patch for both the home and road jerseys, and it will also be available on team merchandise and souvenirs.
Keep in mind that there have been a few small gaps in Billings’ baseball history, which is probably why the words “Since 1948″ don’t appear on the logo. That would be confusing, as would the slogan “Celebrating 60 Mostly Consecutive Years of Baseball Since 1948.”
The Rancho Cucamonga Quakes will be sporting new uniforms in 2012, and it’s easy to find “fault” with them. The logo remains the same, but the team is emphasizing its affiliation with the (relatively) nearby Los Angeles Dodgers.
Arguably the most noticeable change will take place on the numbers in the uniform, as the 2012 uniforms will feature the Quakes’ customary “fault line” running through the middle of each digit, giving it a unique and truly “Quake” look.
An addition to the 2012 uniform will feature a red number on the lower left-half on the front of the jersey, which is also a popular feature of the current Dodgers’ uniform.
Quakes’ jerseys will have sleeves in 2012, a change from the sleeveless style worn in years past. The jersey will no doubt be “Dodgerized”, as the left sleeve will feature the traditional “LA” logo.
Missing from the pants this year will be any piping down the sides, as the new pants will be solid white, also emulating that of the Dodgers’ home pants.
I’ve put my weekly Twitter Round-Up on ice for a bit, as I’m not sure if people were getting/enjoying the concept. But I remain committed to that form of social media, and hope that @BensBiz slow march to 1500 followers transitions into a tidal wave to 10 million. I mean, let’s be honest here, I’m worthy of far more followers than I have.
One new Twitter account that should be of interest to readers of this blog is @milbstaffprblms — a compendium of, you guessed it, Minor League staff problems. A few samples:
the shoes under your desk covered in orange clay and the mildewy smell that accompanies them
I would like to note that I am not the one running this account, despite my (subtle) presence in the @milbstaffprblms avatar.
Update! And, wouldn’t you know it, @broadcastrprobs has now emerged. Follow that one too!
Let’s end the week, as we often do, with a video. This one hails from Tennessee, land of the Smokies, and is to be lauded for its commitment to absurdity. (Another Update! Episode Two of the McGinty and Cunningham series is out, and can be viewed HERE.
Commitment to absurdity: a Ben’s Biz Blog guiding principle since 2007. Thanks for reading.
Hello, and welcome to the latest and therefore greatest era in Ben’s Biz Blog history.
As you may or may not have noticed, the entire MLBlogs network has transitioned from Typepad to WordPress. This switch in blogging platforms has not been without growing pains, but like the Davies brothers on treadmills the Kinks are being worked out.
Minor League Baseball news waits for no blogger, however, so I’ll put aside my anxiety and dive right into the fray. I have two lead items for today, both hailing from indestructible subgenres of the Minor League experience: mascots and logos.
On the costumed character front, the Tucson Padres have jumped out of the frying pan and into the friar. Behold this spectacular seminarian, a dimpled deacon with a haircut that’ll bowl you over:
Sez the team:
The Tucson Padres are excited to announce the “identical long lost twin” of the Swinging Friar, the San Diego Padres mascot, is here in Tucson.
Weird, you’d think that a friar would be more likely to have a fraternal twin. Regardless, this missing mendicant needs a name and that’s where you come in. The team is currently accepting submissions, at firstname.lastname@example.org as well as their official Facebook page. A few fans have already suggested “Friar Tuc”, and while I like that in theory it would lead to rampant pronunciation confusion.
Moving on to the world of logos, the Bowie Baysox hope that you’ll fall for this one hook, line, and sinker:
Reminiscent of pitching greats such as Steve Trout and Catfish Hunter, this logo will be worn by the team during each and every Friday home game. Explains the team:
The fish is a combination of the rockfish or striped bass and the Oyster toadfish. Those two species were selected because both thrive in a healthy Bay. In conjunction with the new logo, the Baysox have partnered with the Chesapeake Bay Trust to help raise funds for the independent, nonprofit grant-making organization.
The logo was designed by the Philadelphia-based 3601 Creative Group, proving that there are other fish in the sea besides Plan B Branding and Studio Simon. Baysox fans are split in their opinion of the new look, with many registering disapproval on Facebook. I recommend that the team compile these dissenting views under the headline “Friday Fish Fried!” Surely the Friar would approve, based both on name similarity as well as day of the week dietary restrictions.
It’s time to bring this first post of a brave new era to an end, but not before mentioning the Tennessee Smokies’ “Deal of the Century.”
In celebration of the 100th anniversary of professional baseball in East Tennessee, the team is selling Opening Day tickets for a dollar (100 cents). But this deal is only available for 100 hours, starting yesterday at 1 pm and extending through Thursday at 5 pm. Act now!
And, please, let me know if you are having any issues with this blog (finding old entries, post layouts, missing photos, etc). I will do my best to rectify.
Tomorrow’s post will be the last of 2010, and dedicated to holiday content. But that’s in the future. What’s in the present is the year’s final blog bouillabaisse — time to throw it all in a pot and stir it up real good!
To begin, I’d like to highlight an intriguing job opportunity: The Tulsa Drillers are currently searching for a full-time Mascot Coordinator and Performer. Do you have what it takes to be the next Hornsby?
The Drillers are currently in the process of revamping Hornsby, and have hired “mascot doctor” Dave Raymond (the original Phillie Phanatic) to assist with the process. And while the club is listing the mascot coordinator position as an internship, they are also making it clear that the potential for full-time salaried employment exists for 2012.
It’s good to see mascots get this kind of respect. Having a talented and dedicated performer in the furry suit can help a team’s marketing efforts immeasurably and lead to far greater visibility within the community.
And speaking of talented performers, check out the latest dispatch from Slugger of the Tennessee Smokies:
But with all due respect to Slugger, others out there are displaying a little more ambition in their offseason endeavors. The Tri-City ValleyCats recently announced their “4 in 24 Project,” in which they’ll renovate four local youth fields in the span of just 24 hours (!!!)
The renovations will take place in early April of 2011, with work scheduled around the clock. In order to bring the selected fields to game ready conditions, each one will have new sod placed in their infield while also seeing their pitchers mound and homeplate areas re-built.
I’ll be keeping my eye on this one like a crossbow hunter keeps his eye on a deer. And — what a coincidence! — that leads me to my next topic: Hawkins Gebbers is the latest player to be featured in the “Offseason With the AquaSox” series. If you’ve never seen a Minor League player exhibit his crossbow skills before…well, that’s about to change:
Those who work in the game of baseball quickly become accustomed to the following question: “So, what do you do during the offseason?”
The short answer, and one that seems contrary to popular belief, is “A lot.” While it’s easy to assume that the offseason immediately kicks off a months-long vacation for those who work in Minor League Baseball front offices, the reality is that baseball is a year-round business.
So, what are you doing during the offseason? Let me know, because I’m planning an MiLB.com article that will answer this question, from the perspective a variety of Minor League folks. This article might make it easier for you to justify your offseason existence to friends and family, so please get in touch via the usual channels and we’ll set something up.
As for me, what I’m doing these days is compiling blog posts with the last of my stray in-season material. For example, did you know that the Trenton Thunder front office defeated the Lakewood BlueClaws front office in their annual “Battle For 195″ softball game? It’s true! They got a trophy and everything.
Pictures related to inter-office softball matches usually cause my blog traffic to skyrocket, but to be on the safe side I’ll pack this post with even more scintillating content.
Remember when I visited the Iowa Cubs, and noted the long lines that would form at “Sandberg Alley” prior to every home game? Well, Ryne Sandberg managed the Double-A Tennessee Smokies before advancing to Iowa, and there was a “Sandberg Alley” there as well.
The team officially re-named the aisle leading to the home dugout “Sandberg Alley”, and had a ribbon cutting to memorialize the event:
Some addresses cannot be found via your GPS:
Eager Smokies fans awaiting their brush with greatness:
Birmingham Barons — 100th Anniversary of Rickwood Field: 37%
Arkansas Travelers — Jose Canseco vs. Gary Hogan: 34%
Lancaster JetHawks — Robert “Hoot” Gibson Bobblehead: 22%
Fresno Grizzlies — Twilight Night: 5%
July 10 — Lakewood BlueClaws
July 11 — Reading Phillies
July 12 — Williamsport Crosscutters
July 13 — State College Spikes
July 14 — Triple-A All-Star Game @ Coca-Cola Park (home of the Lehigh Valley IronPigs)
July 15-17 — Attending Keystone Mascot Camp, culminating in performance at Harrisburg Senators game
Juy 18 — Harrisburg Senators (sans mascot costume)
As always, feel free to get in touch with travel recommendations as well as suggestions as to what I should call this trip. The Keystone Krawl? Pennsylvania Perambulations? Northeastern Navigations? I got nothin.’
But it’s not about me, or what I’m doing. At least it shouldn’t be. With that in mind, here’s a formidable array of content that has nothing to do with yours truly.
– The Tennessee Smokies are one of many teams to have staged a Michael Jackson tribute night this season, but theirs stood out for one simple reason: Zombie Dancers!
This is certainly the most painstaking “Thriller” recreation to take place in the Minors this season:
The club hosted the final event of the Liberty Strongman Challenge: The Atlas Stones
And then there was this:
The Hudson Valley Renegades recently held a “Jim Joyce Redemption” promotion, featuring plenty of fake mustaches, “Whack An Umpire” games (as opposed to the usual “Whack an Intern”), Umpire Impersonation Contests, and Umpire bloopers and arguments displayed on the videoboard.
Portrait of the Umpire As A Young Man:
The Lowell Spinners recently welcomed a most intriguing between-inning performer: Al Milar the Human Knot. This flexible Australian is like a cross between Rubberboy and Mad Chad.
Spinners director of media relations Jon Boswell reports that the Human Knot is highly entertaining and very affordable. Give Jon a call if you want more info. Twice I tried to embed THIS VIDEO of the Human Knot in this post, and twice it disappeared. I’m giving up.
But not before mentioning that THIS is occurring in Little Rock, as I type this. I wish I was there.
A common water cooler topic amongst baseball fans with access to water
coolers and the inclination to use them is this:
“If you were a
professional baseball player, what would your walk-up music be?”
Tulsa Drillers recently put that question to members of their own front
office, resulting in a quick and funny YouTube video:
A good friend of mine, whose name rhymes with “Chess Varese”, will explain things from here:
Now through the end of March, we’re giving you the chance to win
$1,000 by correctly guessing which Smokies will be starting on Opening
Night…April 14. You will only need
to guess which nine players will be starting in the field (and which
position in the field you think they will be starting at); you do not
have to also guess where these nine players will be batting…Now we know that our 2010 24-man roster won’t be announced until early
April. So a little research may be involved on your end to come up with
the nine Smokies players you think will be starting on Opening Night.
This contest works for three reasons:
1. It involves the promise of cold, hard cash.
2. The promise of such cash will spur fans to familiarize themselves with this year’s crop of players.
3. This desire to learn about the players will serve as an incentive for fans to check out the team’s web, Facebook, and Twitter pages for more information about what’s been going on in Spring Training.
It’s a chain reaction of positive publicity that once again proves that money is the be all and end all.
– I apologize. Here it is this late in the post and I haven’t written anything about food. Let me rectify this grave oversight by mentioning that the Toledo Mud Hens unveiled their new 2010 food items yesterday. This highlight of this array of culinary delights is the Fifth Third Fanatic Freeze, consisting of 15 scoops of ice cream and an array of toppings.
This massive concoction will be served at a concession stand with the peculiar name of Casey’s Creamery/Taco Hut. In my humble opinion, this establishment needs to start serving THIS immediately.
You don’t even need to click on the above link to know what it will be. It’s Taco In A Helmet. I always link to Taco In A Helmet. It’s just what I do. And — look! — here it is yet again:
There is no escape from Taco In A Helmet.