Results tagged ‘ theme jerseys ’

(One Day) On the Road: Returning to Reading

The Reading Phillies were one of the highlights of last year’s Pennsylvania-centric road trip, as I was able to witness (and participate in) the team’s extensive tribute to the iconic Crazy Hot Dog Vendor. I even got the opportunity to dress up as his “apprentice” and throw a few hot dogs into the crowd myself.

This year’s tribute to the Crazy Hot Dog Vendor took place on Sunday (July 10), and once again I was in attendance. Looking back on it, I’m not sure this was the best idea — I wasn’t on any particular assignment, just motivated to get out of New York City and see some Minor League Baseball.  In all honesty, I’m half insane this time of year — either overwhelmed by Minor League Baseball or beating myself up because I’m not.

So off I went. And this time, I made sure to arrive in Reading in time to visit the town’s star attraction: The Pagoda.

This is a quirky place with a quirky history, but nonetheless a beloved area landmark. As all-knowing Wikipedia reports, The Pagoda was “completed in 1908 at a cost of $50,000, it was intended to be the hotel/restaurant centerpiece of a luxury resort. When plans for the rest of the resort were abandoned, the 7-story wooden building and 10 acres  of land were donated to Reading as a public park in 1911.”

The main attraction are the views:

Inside the main entrance of the Pagoda is a small cafe and gift shop. For $1, one may trudge up all 87 steps to the top floor.

I would have liked to hang glide from the Pagoda to FirstEnergy Stadium, but that option is no longer available. It was nonetheless a painless 10 minute drive, and upon arriving I checked out the stadium’s refurbished exterior. As you may remember, the 60-year-old facility underwent a $10 million renovation this past offseason.

It was a full two hours before game time, and the place was already jumping. The Reading Phillies do a phenomenal job (better than any team I’ve ever seen) when it comes to making the ballpark a pre-game entertainment destination. Upon entering the “Vist Financial Plaza”, there is a carnival-esque concourse area packed with concessions, games, a bar, and performance stage.

But I made a beeline for the seating area behind home plate, as members of the team’s “Kid’s Club” (aka “Future Crazy Hot Dog Vendors) were participating in a Question and Answer session with theme jersey-wearing pitchers Austin Hyatt and and Derrick Loop.

Questions included “How do you know what time it is to hit?”, “After you hit someone, do you feel bad?”, and “Do you guys ever get to go to ‘real’ Phillies games?”

After Hyatt and Loop departed, out came the man himself:

It was around this time that I dropped my camera onto the concrete. It wasn’t a high drop or particularly hard landing, but nonetheless the screen froze and it was rendered unusable.

The lack of a camera, compounded by my general confusion over exactly what I was hoping to accomplish in Reading in the first place, led to a bit of an existential crisis. When a blogger breaks his camera, does he cease to exist?

The answer, in this case, was yes. After touring the ballpark, sans camera, with media relations director Tommy Viola I stuffed my credentials in my pocket and spent the remainder of the evening simply watching the ballgame. It was kind of nice, actually.

But this post shall continue, thanks to these photos from R-Phils team photographer Ralph Trout.

Joe Esposito

Freddy Galvis

The Crazy Hot Dog Vendor’s legion of “future vendors” received free t-shirts, and later got to perform on the field.

See that suspiciously big-headed individual in the middle of the above shot? That’s the “life-size 550-lb Crazy Hot Dog Vendor replica,” awarded to one lucky (?) fan after the ballgame.

The aforementioned “VIST Financial Plaza” is highlighted by a performance stage. If you’re lucky, the mascot band will be playing.

Truly, the R-Phils know how to pack ’em in.

Toward the end of the ballgame, I decided to see how my camera was doing. The good news was the screen was no longer frozen, but the bad news was that the batteries had drained. I snapped one quick photo before it shut off for good.

And that, as they say, was that.

Tautologically yours,

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

West Michigan Celebrates Alien Cultures, Foreign Lands

Tonight is “Thrifty Thursday” in West Michigan, featuring a plethora of food and beverage discounts.  It is also “Space Alien Night.”

And judging by the looks of jersey the team is wearing, it looks like they might want  offer a special on hamburgers and Jim “Beam.”

“Space Alien Night” appears to be an ambitious endeavor, as the team has the following events planned:

Pregame interview with an alien…Video clips and music from famous alien movies…Inflatable Aliens decorating the ballpark and given away as prizes…Space alien jerseys for the team and alien costumes for the staff…Recreation of the mashed potato sculpture from Close Encounters of the Third Kind…A $5 reserved seat offer ($4.50 off the normal price) to anyone that lives on Jupiter Ave….Alien themed promotions on the field…An alien autopsy display…We will reveal the answer to the meaning of life, the universe and everything…Alien trivia.

I like that penultimate initiative, thrown in there like it’s no big deal: “We will reveal the answer to the meaning of life, the universe and everything.” Of course, the best way to advertise such a spectacular event is through a series of absurdist no-budget comedic vignettes.

The WhiteCaps are strong proponents of the absurd comedic video, as evidenced by this recent ad for “Japanese Baseball Night”:

Japanese Baseball Night was more than just a celebration of dubious b-movie dialogue that may or may not have been of Japanese origin in the first place. Promotions manager Brian Oropallo writes that

We served some hot dog sushi, played Japanese music and baseball highlights, had a Japanese announcer for the starting lineups and an inning of PA announcing and, as seen in the video, some animal mascots from Japanese league teams. The balloon launch was the highlight of the evening.

Ah, yes, seventh-inning stretch balloons. Just one of many, many, many things I have written about through the years. Here’s how it looked:

In closing, I once again urge you to send me your introspective mascot photos.  Since self-respect is an “alien” concept to me, I will continue to beg for them until I have attained at least 10.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

From the Internet to the Ballpark: Celebrities, Jerseys, and Scandals

Road Trip content has dominated these virtual pages over the past week and a half, and I’ve still got a few odds and sods to share from my Ohio excursion.

But that can wait. A formidable blog backlog has been brewing in my content cauldron, which is now threatening to boil over. Time to start ladling out the info before it’s too late!

Let’s start with some significant news out of the Pacific Northwest. The Eugene Emeralds opened up the season last week, and highlighting the Opening Day roster was  Domingo Ayala. This ageless superstar is proprietor of the Domingo Baseball Academy and a YouTube sensation, and received a call-up before even playing a game. Still, he made a mark during his brief time in Eugene.

Says the team:

Domingo Ayala’s visit was short and sweet for the Eugene Emeralds. After suiting up for the Emeralds opening night at PK Park, Ayala put on a hitting clinic in batting practice, showing fans why he is the 5-time homerun champion.  This guy can literally do it all. Not only did he throw out the first pitch, but he also had time to sign autographs mid game, take pictures with fans, and even announce the Boise Hawks lineup.

 Domingo was very laid back when he heard the news from Ems Manager Pat Murphy that he would be moved up from Rookie Ball. “I thought it maybe be a week or maybe two, but it no surprise me that it happen sooner,” Ayala said.

Ayala’s brief appearance captivated the attention of the local media, as evidenced by this story that ran on KEZI News. And with good reason, as this guy is one of the most outsized characters to ever (almost) play in the Northwest League.

And speaking of characters, or in this case the limited use of them, the Lehigh Valley IronPigs paid tribute to Twitter as part of their recent “Social Media Night.” Players wore Twitter-themed jerseys, one of which was signed by the team and auctioned off through the micro-blogging website. Fan tweets were displayed on the videoboard throughout the game, and the elusive “Twitter Bird” was even in attendance.

In the next picture #PIGSAFE would have been a more appropriate hashtag.

Jerseys were auctioned off after the game, with the winning bidders getting to meet the player who had worn it.

And, finally, the elusive Twitter bird.

I”ll close the blogging week by mentioning that the State College Spikes asked fans to submit “Weiner Pics” during Monday’s game.

And, wouldn’t you know it? One fan was brave enough to do so. That’s new frankfurter mascot “Colonel Mustard,” barely visible through the fuzz.

And despite my constant focus on such lowbrow material, I’d like to reiterate once again that I remain committed producing quality articles as well. Please check out this piece on baseball’s longest game, and let me know what you think.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

One Thing, Led, Another

My recent post on the Lake Elsinore Storm experience included many photos, including shots of the team kitchen as well as the easily-angered Grounds Crew Gorilla. But never did it occur to me that I’d soon be posting a photo of the Gorilla in the team kitchen.

And yet here we are:

For reasons unknown and perhaps best left unexplained, the Grounds Crew Gorilla has gotten into the international youth fad known as “planking.” The Storm have posted a photo set on Facebook entitled “Gorilla Planks the Diamond.” Here’s a few more:

The word plank brings to mind nautical discipline which brings to mind John Paul Jones, the “father of the American Navy” but also the name of the bass player in Led Zeppelin.

And here we are. Yesterday was the West Michigan Whitecaps’ second annual “Led Zeppelin Night”, Led Zeppelin II as it were.

And when it came to theme jerseys, the song remained the same. Once again, the team took the field in these:

Note: Not a player

The Whitecaps have also done “Pink Floyd Night”, and other bands that have been celebrated in such a fashion around the Minors include the Grateful Dead, Beatles, and Rolling Stones.

This leads me to make the following demand, which like all my demands will be aggressively ignored.

Nonetheless: Do a Creedence Clearwater Revival Night! CCR are easily one of the greatest rock bands of all time and deserve Minor League Ballpark immortalization.

Abbreviations such as “CCR” are prevalent on Twitter, a mode of communication that encourages extreme brevity. And as part of the Lehigh Valley IronPigs “Social Media Night”, the team will be wearing the first Twitter-themed jerseys in Minor League Baseball history.

As part of the promotion, the team is asking fans to change their Twitter and/or Facebook profile pics to the following image:

Those who do so will be eligible to win game tickets and an autographed Ryne Sandberg baseball.

Let me close with a final demand — Read Crooked Numbers!!!

It would mean a lot to me if you did so. I spend way too much time on that column, but it’s a labor of love.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

A Love That Will Never Wilt

The last time one of Reading’s racing vegetables appeared on this blog was when Cauliflower endured a humbling clothesline takedown courtesy of Jerry “The King” Lawler.

Cauliflower is a fighter, but his equally nutritious compatriot Broccoli is a lover. On Saturday, this flowery green romantic sprinted into the stands immediately after winning that night’s Vegetable Race. He made a beeline for one special lady, in order to express his love eternal:

I am not one to use the word “adorable” very often. But, seriously, these pictures are adorable:

Reading_BroccoliProposal2.JPG

Reading_BroccoliProposal1.JPG

Broccoli is in fact R-Phils client relationship manager Jon Muldowney, who went Muldowney on one knee in order to propose to Ms. Michelle Reffner. She said yes despite his overt “stalk”er tendencies.

Meanwhile, the R-Phils are currently preparing for Sunday’s tribute to the inimitable Crazy Hot Dog Vendor.

crazyhdv.jpg

The team will take the field wearing these uniforms, which just might be the most ridiculous theme jerseys of the 2010 season.

Reading_CHDV players.JPG

I seem to have misplaced my information regarding who the above players are,
but, nonetheless, they are players. They are also television stars:

I am worried that I may be neglecting other stories in the field of vegetable betrothal and vertically-striped theme jersey celebrations. Please get in touch with info pertaining to these subjects, as well as info pertaining to just about anything else. I want it all. 

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

A Zoso Night At the Ballpark

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Whitecaps Primary.JPGThis past Thursday was “Led Zeppelin Night” in West Michigan, as the rock n’ roll loving Whitecaps paid tribute to one of the genre’s all-time heaviest hitters.

I just studied Led Zeppelin’s entire discography and yet the only other potential headline I could come up with for this post was “Whole Lotta Glove”. So with wordplay opportunities already exhausted there’s nothing left to do but get to the point.

And the point is that on this special evening the team took the field in Zeppelin-themed jerseys.

zepjerz.jpg

Friends:

West Michigan -- Zeppelin2.JPG 

Tea For One:

West Michigan -- Zeppelin3.JPG

Led Zeppelin IV:

West Michigan -- Zeppelin4.JPG

Hats Off…

West Michigan -- Zeppelin Anthem.JPG

The Song Remains the Same:

West Michigan -- Zeppelin Anthem2.JPG

The game featured “Good Times Bad Times”, but ultimately the Whitecaps avoided a “Heartbreaker” and emerged triumphant in an 11-inning nailbiter. The highlights:

For those scoring at home, this marks the second time in as many seasons that the Whitecaps have enjoyed a walk-off victory on a rock and roll theme jersey night. In 2009, Pink Floyd was the honored group:

white caps pink floyd.JPG 

I am used to my Minor League jersey suggestions being “uniformly” ignored, but I’d still like to mention that Black Sabbath, Aerosmith, and Creedence Clearwater Revival would all be excellent candidates for a similar such promotion. And don’t even get me started on Weird Al.

Finally, the Lake County Captains are one of two Cleveland-area teams staging a “Please Stay Lebron” Night on July 1. I’ll certainly be providing more info on this in the near future, but among other things the team will be changing its name to “LeLake LeCounty LeCaptains.”

lecaptains.JPG 

Hopefully the evening will include plenty of James Gang played over the PA.

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

Taking Stock of Quad's Going On

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for curtains.jpg‘Tis the season for promo schedule unveilings, a time of year that ranks very highly in the Ben’s Biz Blog Pantheon of Seasons (an authoritative list I wrote whilst bored during the sleepy winter of 2006).    

According to my calculations, 72 of the 120 full-season affiliated clubs have released their promo schedules, with more being added to the list every day. A few heavy promotional hitters have weighed in over the last 24 hours, whom we shall now pay more attention to:

Stockton PortsLike West Michigan before them, the Ports have jumped into the world of rock ‘n roll theme jerseys. On May 29th, the club will honor a mostly-forgotten act from across the pond who called themselves “The Beatles”. Other highlights include promotional appearances from Brady Bunch-er Christopher Knight (May 21) and legendary hurler Vida Blue (June 14), but what stood out for me the most was this: A Grant Desme bobblehead giveaway on “Faith Night” (as you probably know, Desme announced his retirement in order to join the priesthood. This despite a stellar 2009 campaign in which he was named the Ports Player of the Year).

My first impression was that the bobblehead might feature Desme in a priestly get-up, but Ports media relations manager Kristin Pratt quickly set me straight:

“Grant’s in his home Ports uniform…We had his bobblehead night originally scheduled on July 30th as a stand-alone promotion. However, things got shuffled around, he landed on Faith Night, and we think it’s pretty fitting.”

desme.JPG

Quad Cities River BanditsThis promo schedule goes on for a long time, as close to eternity as one can get without becoming infinite…Salutes to Grilled Cheese, Conspiracy Theories and the ’85 Chicago Bears…Stan Musial and Bert Blyleven Bobbleheads…The return of Tattoo Night and the Mega-Candy Drop…etc, etc, ad nauseam.

But I have to give a special shout out to the “Circle of Life” long weekend, which the team describes accordingly:

For one long weekend, the Bandits will celebrate a quartet of momentous
life occasions…On
oldmanbaby.jpg Friday, May 7th, the River Bandits will
host “Maternity Night”, with all expectant mothers being welcomed with a
free lamaze class, craving stations on the concourse, and a grand prize
of a maternity package, including baby furniture and accessories. On
Saturday, the River Bandits, along with the Quad-City Times and the
Lucier Family, will award the inaugural Keith Lucier Memorial
Scholarship and award one deserving student a free year’s tuition at the
University of Iowa. On Sunday, the team will give away a Bandit
Wedding, with the winner announced on May 9th and the ceremony to be
held at the ballpark on August 20, and on Monday, the River Bandits will
complete the Circle of Life by giving away a free all-expense-paid
funeral!

All of the above promotions have been done before, in one form or another, but this marks the first time I have seen a club make a journey from the cradle to the tomb over the course of four consecutive home games. Bravo, and hopefully an addition to next year’s schedule will be “Mid-Life Crisis Night.” All fans sporting a ponytail and/or driving a convertible get in free, and the individual with the largest age discrepancy between himself and his girlfriend/wife gets to sing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” while backed up by a Jimmy Buffet cover band (it goes without saying the night would be sponsored by a company within the pharmaceutical industry).

rosenblatt.jpgOmaha Royals2010 will mark the O-Royals 42nd and final season at Rosenblatt Stadium, and their promo schedule is anchored by three significant giveaways that commemorate this bittersweet event. Observe:

— Johnny Rosenblatt Bobblehead, honoring the former Omaha mayor for whom the facility is named (first 1,500 fans, May 22).

— Rosenblatt Stadium Canvas Painting (first 1500 fans, June 13)

— Final Game featuring Replica Wooden Seat Giveaway (first 2,500 fans, September 2). 

I’ve got more. Boy do I ever got more. But more is something I want to leave them wanting, so the words are going to stop now.

Just like that.

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

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