Results tagged ‘ Toledo Mud Hens ’

Traveling Through the Annals of Time and Space

The reasons that I write this blog are multifaceted, and hopefully you read it for multifaceted reasons as well. But, since the beginning, one of the primary reasons for its existence has been to highlight new ideas within the world of Minor League Baseball. Therefore, I’d like to share a very cool new idea with you:

The Stockton Ports have a new page on their website that allows fans to browse through an assortment of game day programs and scorecards from the 1940s, ’50s, and ’60s. Currently 12 such historical documents have been uploaded, using a digital publishing platform called Issuu. Click on the above link for access to all 12 documents; what follows is my attempt to embed a game day program from 1969. Wish me luck!

I am now operating under the assumption that the above embed was successful. (I won’t know for sure until I hit “publish.”) Regardless, please know that page eight of the game day program which you may or may not see above contains a picture of Ron Shelton when he was a member of the Ports. Shelton has gone on to a successful career as a movie director, and, surely, his time in Stockton must have had some influence on his 1988 classic Bull Durham. 

And surely, the Ports’ decision to share historic team publications in an easy-to-access manner will have a wide influence on the world of Minor League Baseball. Those things are really fun to look at, and the ads alone are worth the price of admission.

Note: I am now aware that my embed attempt was unsuccessful. Please know that I tried, and please click on the above link. 

My segue game is weak today, but here goes: while the above Ports’ initiative involves that which occurred a long time ago, the below photo involves something THAT NEVER HAPPENED AT ALL.

Mr. Freedman, a long-time contributor to my criminally overlooked “Crooked Numbers” column, tweeted the above picture because the Toledo Mud Hens were in fact the losers of the 2006 Championship Showdown. (As all sports fans know, the Tucson Sidewinders beat Toledo by a score of 4-2.) This makes that t-shirt the Minor League Baseball equivalent of Chicago Bears Super Bowl XLI Champions apparel, which is almost certainly being worn somewhere in Africa as I type this.

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Photo: World Vision

My segue game is now non-existent. In fact:

nosegwayHere’s a video. It made me laugh.

nosegway

Finally, here’s a link to an interview I did recently. I never say no to interview requests, so get in touch if you’re into that sort of thing.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Tis the Season of Transition

Minor League Baseball, a topic I  find myself writing about on a regular basis for whatever reason, has been in the throes of the offseason for nigh on several months now. But the throes of the offseason will soon give way to the throws of pitcher to catcher, shortstop to first baseman, and outfielder to designated cutoff man. Yes, the season is nigh, and signs of its imminence have been appearing at a disconcertingly rapid rate.

In Appleton, Wisconsin, the Timber Rattlers have released a series of cinematic videos in order to convey the simple message that, yes, the season is coming. No longer can, or should, you avoid it.

Another sure sign of Spring is the release of the promo schedule, an event which has been happening at a fast and furious clip throughout the world of Minor League Baseball. Promo schedule announcements usually come in the form of a press release, but this season the Myrtle Beach Pelicans took a different route and the world is better for it.

Since the release of that absurdist short film masterpiece, the Pelicans have added yet another initiative to their promo schedule.  This is definitely the first press release to have been written with the aid of a “Travoltify Your Name” widget:

MARLEY BORFES, S.C. (MARCH 4, 2014) – In honor of John Travolta’s mumbled introduction of “Adele Dazeem” on Sunday at the Oscars, the Marley Borfes Nicholas are electrified to announce that Thursday, April 17 will be Travolta Tribute Night at TicketReturn.com Field at Pelicans Ballpark when the Nicholas host the Dominic Warshington.

Or, the translated version, if you prefer:

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (MARCH 4, 2014) – In honor of John Travolta’s mumbled introduction of “Adele Dazeem” on Sunday at the Oscars, the Myrtle Beach Pelicans are electrified to announce that Thursday, April 17 will be Travolta Tribute Night at TicketReturn.com Field at Pelicans Ballpark when the Pelicans host the Potomac Nationals.

The rapidly-encroaching 2014 campaign is also forcing grounds crews to get creative. Unremittingly harsh wintry weather continues to do damage on playing fields across the land, but the Toledo Mud Hens have come up with a solution.

photo: Andrew Weber

photo: Andrew Weber

So what’s going on here? The Mud Hens were kind of enough to explain:

The ‘big thaw’ is underway at Fifth Third Field, to help prepare the playing surface for Mud Hens Opening Day on April 4. Because of mother nature’s wintry wrath there’s a layer of ice roughly 16 inches deep on the field, and Sports Turf Manager Jake Tyler is taking an unusual step to try to get that ice melted away.

Jake and his grounds crew have created a temporary ‘hot zone dome’ by using the rain tarp, putting snow around the edges and then using heaters to pump heat underneath the tarp. The heaters are pumping an estimated one million BTU’s inside the temporary dome, which is cranking up the heat to around 70-72 degrees inside. The focus, initially, is on the infield portion of the field, but the dome will be moved to other portions of the field over the next week.

Under the dome:

photo: Andrew Weber

photo: Andrew Weber

Thanks for your continued support of Blaine Boofd Blog.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Hey Hey My My the 2013 Season Will Never Die

On Tuesday night the Omaha Storm Chasers emerged triumphant in the Triple-A Championship Game and the Idaho Falls Chukars won the Pioneer League title. And that, folks is all she wrote. There are no more Minor League Baseball games until April 3, 2014 and April 3, 2014 is a somewhat imposing 197 days away.

It is now the offseason, then, but with one exception: this blog! This post, like the last one and like the next one and like the one after that, will be devoted to material that I wasn’t able to get to during the season due to my peripatetic lifestyle. It’ll be random, but it will be educational, and it will be fun. I insist.

Let’s start with a community-minded initiative that, in my opinion, every team should do a variation of. On June 8 the Tri-City ValleyCats staged “Show on the Road,” in which they brought the Minor League Baseball game day experience to a local youth field. The ValleyCats, in partnership with Hannaford supermarkets, picked a league that “exemplifies sportsmanship” and that league turned out to be the not-so-pithily named East Greenbush-Castleton Youth Baseball League.

Per the team’s ‘Cats Corner blog, the event “featured pregame entertainment, live team introductions, a live performance of the national anthem, and in-game promotions including fan favorites such as the Mayors’ Race, T-Shirt Tosses, Pony Hops and more.”

A few pics from that post:

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Ceremonial introductions

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T-Shirt Toss

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A triumvirate of racing mayors

And so it went. I’m going to momentarily assume that I have any sort of influence in this industry and once again insist that all teams do this in 2014 and beyond.

And now for something completely random: this article (and video), which my Mom brought to my attention, profiles veteran Ocean City (New Jersey)  PR man Mark Soifer. Soifer’s irreverent, absurd and always family-friendly promotional philosophies should resonate with anyone who works within Minor League Baseball.  For example: He once staged a wet t-shirt contest, in which participants competed to see who could throw a wet t-shirt the farthest.

Moving on, here’s a Tweet that is both self-explanatory and awesome.

Finally, back in June I received an email from David Perahia of BobblesGalore. It read, in part: 

I thought this may be a bobble that your readers would get a kick out of. We just came out with this item, only 90 were produced and each one is serial numbered.

It is the first bobblehead ever produced with 5 Mascots on one base, it is also the first bobblehead produced of the Washington Nationals new racing president – William Howard Taft.

0024-Washington-Nationals-Racing-Presidents-5-My-Pic

 

Five presidential mascots, one bobblehead base. Some of the greatest achievements in human history are taking place right before our eyes, and we should never forget that.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Space N’ Vaders at the Ballpark

“Star Wars Night” promotions, an idea first conceived by the West Michigan Whitecaps, have become an annual staple throughout the industry. I’m not a fan of the films (blasphemy, I know) but there is absolutely no disputing the fact that “Star Wars Night” results in a high level of fan engagement which, in turn, leads to some fantastic ballpark visuals.

For proof of all this, let’s take a look at the Toledo Mud Hens (semi) recent “May the Fourth Be With You” extravaganza.

The team advertised festivities such as the following, bullet-pointed for your pleasure:

  • LED Light Stick Giveaway (first 2,000 fans)
  • Appearances by Star Wars characters, including Darth Vader, Chewbacca, Storm Troopers, and more
  • Star Wars costume contest (with prizes!) and on-field parade
  • Chewbacca to throw out ceremonial first pitch
  • Star Wars-themed food and beverage items
  • Star Wars sound effects and music throughout the game
  • Kazoo Giveaway (first 5,000 fans) to be used in a Star Wars ‘kazoo-along’ prior to postgame fireworks
  • Star Wars-themed “May the Fourth Be With You” postgame fireworks

And, indeed, such festivities did occur. Here are some gems from the team’s Facebook page:

Hey, Yoda, turn around and look at the camera!

There you go:

If the above six pictures were worth approximately 6000 words, then this video recap should be good for about 35k more (I did the math). Chewbacca toes the slab!

Finally, the team asked fans to provide a caption for this first-pitch photo (as the video above amply illustrates, Chewy fired a strike).

The results were decidedly mixed, as they often are with this kind of thing (one fan simply wrote: “I was in the elevator with him!”) I think my favorite was “The San Diego Chicken has really let himself go.”

Before I shuffle off of this mortal coil (that’s slang for “end a blog post”), I’ll share a video of (relatively) recent vintage.

This one, produced for Richmond’s “Flying Squirrels Insider” show, is great. Broadcaster Jon Laaser instructs Giants catching prospect Tommy Joseph on how not to build upper body strength and being unready at the plate.

“You gotta get noodly with the legs!”

And since we’re kinda-sorta on the topic of “amateur attempts to do the job of a professional,” here’s an audio link to my inning on the air with Brice Zimmerman of the Fort Myers Miracle. I’m actually kind of proud of it, because if you’re going to fail you may as well do so spectacularly.

Listen HERE, and, please, let me know if you have any advice on how I could do a better job next time.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

And I Was Like “Bay Bay Bay Bay Bay Bay”

The latest and therefore greatest era in Southern League history kicked off last night, as the Pensacola Blue Wahoos played the first game of their incipient existence. And while you’d think the team hasn’t been around long enough to have any enemies, you’d be wrong.

Pensacola is the proverbial hop, skip, and a jump away from Mobile, home of the BayBears, and proximity breeds contempt. This contempt has now manifested itself in the form of the “Bay to Bay Series.

Sez the press release:

The Mobile BayBears and Pensacola Blue Wahoos are proud to announce their rivalry in the inaugural “Bay to Bay Series.” Fans can expect several rivalry themed events at both ballparks this year, including BayBears fans versus Blue Wahoos fans in-game contests, promotions and series leader boards.

The Bay-to-Bay Series is the very first joint-sponsored, event-based rivalry program in Minor League Baseball. Hank Aaron Stadium in Mobile and Maritime Park in Pensacola are just one hour apart from each other.

The uber-snazzy logo seen above was designed by Brandiose, who were responsible for both teams’ logos in the first place. I do wonder, however, if Mobile fans are upset that Pensacola is the “home” team while the BayBears are clearly “second”ary.

You may remember a recent post in which I heaped praise upon the Charleston RiverDogs for their latest “Be Your Own Fan” initiative, featuring marketing initiatives geared to nine unique groups of fans. The Fort Myers Miracle, who are part of the same ownership group, have now done the same.

The eight categories of Miracle fans are as follows: the prospect, the fanatic, the family, the foodie, the brewskie, the retiree, the opportunist and the event seeker.Here’s how it looks, in action:

And now that it’s a new season, I imagine that you may need something new to read (that reasoning doesn’t really make sense, but just bear with me).

Wisconsin Timber Rattlers’ broadcasting/blogging dean Chris Mehring has posted his club’s 2012 intro songs. These posts are always a fascinating glimpse of the zeitgeist, and illustrate the diverse backgrounds of Minor League players.  (I do find it hard to believe that Seth Miller chose “What Is Love” on his own volition, however. And, for what it’s worth, I find “Narcissistic Cannibal” to be a far better song title than actual song.)

Meanwhile, from Kentucky, we have the what I believe to be the first blog from a Minor League host mother perspective. Check it out, while I sit here and wish that there was a similar program for underachieving bloggers.

I’ll close with — what else? — dessert. These “Mini Apple Pie Bites” are available for consumption at Toledo Mud Hens games this season.

Baseball sold separately.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

The Year in Ballpark Food, Part 1

I never set out to be a food blogger, and, really, I’m not. Nonetheless, food is a important component of the Minor League experience, and throughout my travels this past season I did my best to document ballpark comestibles in particular as well as regional cuisine in general.

Today’s missive (which went live at lunchtime for a reason) is the first of what will be a two-part compendium of the 2011 season’s food-based posts and photos. As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section and via email: What are your favorite Minor League ballpark foods, and why?

What follow are some of mine, presented in the order in which they were consumed.

My first 2011 road trip began in Tucson, home of the T-Padres. And what better way to enjoy Kino Stadium’s sunset views than with a plate of nachos from ballpark vendor El Charro? Nothing too fancy, but the freshest of ingredients combined with from-the-oven homemade tortilla chips helped to distinguish this particular platter.

The following afternoon, a reader recommendation led me to local institution  El Guero Canelo. The specialty there is the “Sonoran Dog,” which I described as a “hot dog is wrapped in bacon and topped with cheese, salsa, onions, tomatoes, beans, mayonnaise and who knows what else. All of this was safely ensconced in the specially-crafted (and delicious) roll and served with a roasted pepper on the side.”

After a fleeting highway encounter with the still-elusive Biz Girl, I made my west to territories occupied by the California League’s South Division entities. One of the highlights of this leg of the journey came in Lancaster, where I was able to enjoy a non-photo shopped encounter with the JetHawks’ delectable “Sweet Po-Tater Tots.”

Maple Syrup Dipping Sauce!

The Sweet Po-Taters were a mere appetizer, for then came the so-called “Stealth Burger:” a hamburger topped with pulled pork and onion rings. It was a formidable affair:

There's a burger under there, promise.

The Stealth Burger looked downright microscopic in comparison to the Brobdingnagian creation that was served to me in Lake Elsinore. Behold the Storm’s “Homewrecker,” perhaps best explained in t-shirt form.

Suitable for sharing

The following month I traversed the great state of Ohio (with a detour in Fort Wayne, IN). The first stop on this particular Minor League journey was Toledo, where appropriately-named concessions manager Corey Pleasant laid out a stunning pre-game feast.

Here we have Greek Nachos (gyro meat and pita chips), Pulled Pork Nachos, and “Bases-Loaded Fries.”

But that, of course, was not all. Here’s the “Muddy Dog,” topped with chili, cheese, and onions.

And this artisanal creation is the “Bloomin’ Bacon Burger,” a 1/3 lb. grilled Black Angus beef burger topped with crispy strips of bacon, deep fried onion rings, American cheese, and bistro sauce on a fresh Kaiser bun.

And, of course, no visit to Toledo is complete without a stop at the legendary Tony Packo’s.  I visited the Birmingham location before heading west to Fort Wayne, ordering a hot dog with chili, Paprika Dumplings, and a side of “Pickles and Peppers.”

After Toledo, I attended two ballgames at the Fort Wayne TinCaps’ Parkview Field. The majority of the second evening was spent with culinary director Scott Kammerer, who gave me a thorough tour of the team’s concession offerings. The tour resulted in an MiLB.com article, as well as this stunning image:


In addition to the hallucinogenic turkey leg seen above, highlights included delectable brisket sandwiches…

Philly-style cheesesteaks…

and a hot dog with “Cincinnati Chili” (the TinCaps’ best attempt to emulate the famous Skyline recipe).

The TinCaps are named after Johnny Appleseed’s iconic headwear, so this Apple Dumpling dessert was a fitting (and inspired) addition to the menu.

From Fort Wayne, I made my way back to the Buckeye State in order to visit the Lake County Captains. Food took a back seat to on-field participation during this jam-packed visit, but this was where I first became aware of the Cleveland-area phenomenon that is “Bertman Ballpark Mustard.”

Bertman’s Mustard: Responsible for the most delectable condiment globules around.

From Lake County it’s a veritable hop, skip and a jump to Mahoning Valley. It was Opening Day for the short-season Scrappers, and I celebrated the return of New York-Penn League baseball with the one-of-a-kind “Warsaw Wings.”

Deep-fried pierogies smothered in hot sauce!

A necessary cool-down soon came in the form of Handel’s Ice Cream. The flavor was called “Scrappy’s Favorite” — caramel ice-cream with bone-shaped chocolate-covered pretzels.

The Ohio excursion ended in Akron’s Canal Park, a location not lacking in death-taunting culinary options. After an exhausting evening that included a pie in the face and a stint in a dunk tank, I had both the following items placed before me.

On the left is the “Nice 2 Meat U Burger,” two 1/3rd pound patties, two hot dogs, bacon, cheese, and onions.

The sauerkraut-covered creation on the right is the “Three Dog Night,” a hot dog stuffed inside a brat stuffed inside a kielbasa.

And, let’s not forget: Bertman Mustard on top of it all!

Stay tuned tomorrow for Part 2 of this food-based season retrospective, featuring a bevy of offerings from South and North Carolina as well as the doom metal capital of the world (the state of Maryland, in other words).

Until then, send me your photos and anecdotes related to your favorite ballpark foods and regional creations. I’ll be right here waiting for you.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Musing Mascots in Costumed Contemplation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There will be no sixth installment.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Answer Me This

Over the weekend I received an email from a reader named Robert, a self-described “non-traditional student” who is currently enrolled in a sports economic class and working on a term paper.

Robert asks a question that, in various forms, I myself have often wondered. He writes:

[Is there] any current information, research or ideas of where to look for information concerning attendance numbers as possibly influenced by promotions and/or a winning team on the field?

My reply was, essentially, “no.” But what I’d like to know from Minor League Baseball employees who read this blog is this:

– What promotions were your most demonstrably successful, in that attendance was significantly higher than on a comparable date on the calendar?

– What, if any, correlation have you found between a winning team and attendance?

I realize that these questions can be hard to answer, because there are so many variables at play (weather, the day of the week, competing entertainment options, etc). But to the extent that a particular promotion’s efficacy can be analyzed, I’d like to hear about it. What worked, and why?

And as for that second query, one of the defining characteristics of Minor League Baseball is that an affordable family-friendly entertainment experience trumps the product on the field. But the extent to which this is true varies by market, and I’d like to hear instances in which the team’s success truly mattered at the box office. Anecdotally speaking, I haven’t visited too many teams in which the crowd was significantly invested in the final outcome.

So, please, take a little of that precious Offseason Down Time (TM) and send me an email with your thoughts and observations. As always, I can be reached at benjamin.hill@mlb.com

And speaking of the offseason, the premier edition of my bi-weekly “Minoring in Business” feature ran on Friday. It’s an interview with veteran mascot Brad Collins (currently with the Kansas City Royals), who has some strong opinions on what teams can and should do with their mascot programs.

Infiltrate and overtake

And on a similar topic, my “Offseasoning” feature will make its 2011-12 debut soon. This bi-weekly MiLB.com offering profiles how players spend their offseasons, with an emphasis on unusual jobs and hobbies. Know a player who should be featured? Then get in touch!

Coming Soon

I’ll close with an item from the always reliable “apropos of nothing” category. Is this the best corn maze in all of Minor League Baseball? I would say “Yes. Yes it is.”

The Tigers and the Mud Hens: Celebrating 25 years of mutual dependence.

The above maize-terpiece is Farmer Charley’s latest creation; fans of the genre are advised to travel immediately to Monroe, MI in order to see it in person.

And that’ll be it for me on this Monday evening. Apologies for the slow blogging pace as of late, but stay tuned for long-awaited posts such as “2011’s Best Photos” and the long-delayed “Introspective Mascots, Vol. 1.” Your patience shall be rewarded a thousandfold.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

The Beginning is the End is the Beginning

I apologize for last week’s blog hiatus, and can only hope that absence did indeed make the heart grow fonder (as opposed to withered and discolored). My brief time spent abroad was a truly memorable and meaningful experience, and one I hope to blog about when time allows. Among (many) highlights, I made my French television debut!

But now it’s time to get back into the proverbial swing of things, via an even more proverbial headfirst dive into the frigid deep end of Minor League Baseball’s Olympic-sized swimming pool. The primary issue that we’re all dealing with right now is that the season is, in fact, over (save for the waning days of the playoffs, of course).

And when something ends, the natural instinct is to take a look back on what has transpired. This translates to season postmortem highlight videos aplenty, in locales as diverse as Fresno, Brooklyn, and Tucson. But I’ll feature this one from the Binghamton Mets, who summarized not just the season but their entire franchise history in the span of 60 seconds.

But for a truly unique season wrap-up, let me direct you to this missive from the Tr-City Valleycats: Mayor’s Race Analytics. This post should do for regionally-specific mascot race analysis what Moneyball did for oversimplified and premature obituaries on the occupation of professional baseball scout.

Writes the team:

In recent years, sabermetrics have revolutionized the study of baseball and other sports. Many other fields have also been influenced by statistical analysis, including politics and elections, to name a couple. But somehow, one very important area has been overlooked by the emerging field of analytics: politicians racing at sporting events.

Click the above link for more. And, for the record, I’ll always publicize blog entries that include apropos references to the 1876 Presidential election. Keep that in mind when emailing me.

But no matter how one parses the numbers, one fact about the Minor League life is universal: You’ve got to keep entertaining until the end. Nowhere was this more clear than in Gwinnett County, as the G-Braves kept things moving even in the midst of what turned out to be a season-ending rain delay.

And what is it about the Gwinnett Braves and end-of-season waterworks? It was just last season, after all, that loyal readers of this blog were thrilling to THIS.

The G-Braves finished just out of postseason contention, robbing them of the chance to participate in that most time-honored of playoff rituals: Politician Bets!

The Eastern League Finals are currently taking place, with the Richmond Flying Squirrels and New Hampshire Fisher Cats in a 1-1 series tie. And so much is on the line! Take it away, press release!

RICHMOND, VA – Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell and New Hampshire Governor John Lynch have agreed to a friendly wager on the Richmond Flying Squirrels vs. New Hampshire Fisher Cats Eastern League Championship Series. Governor Lynch has wagered that if Richmond wins, he will send Governor McDonnell a gallon of pure New Hampshire maple syrup. Should New Hampshire win, Governor McDonnell will send Governor Lynch a gift basket of Virginia Diner specialty peanuts, the official peanut of the Flying Squirrels.

Governor McDonnell, expressing his love of of peanuts to a rapt Skyler Stromsmoe

But even enemies must sometimes put aside their differences and work together, as evidenced by this hilarious photo sent to me by an embedded Northwest League contact.

Yes, that would be an in-game ensemble of Boise Hawks jersey and Spokane Indians helmet. Apparently the Hawks flat-out “forgot” where their helmets were just prior to a late August ballgame.  A search ensued, and in the meantime the hapless Boise batters were forced to go to the plate wearing the cranium-protecting duds of their avowed adversaries.

(And, pleasing only myself, I just included the phrase “In the Meantime” in a bit about helmets.)

I’ve got so much more to share, and of course I’ll be doing just that in the coming weeks/months/years/eternal re-incarnated existences. But for now I’ll close with this, which I wish I had known about in time to include in my final “Promotion Preview” column of the season.

2011’s first, best, and only transvestite bobblehead:

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Everything Old Is New Again

It Is Happening Again.

Those words, spoken so hauntingly by the Twin Peaks Giant (click the link!), have been echoing through my mind recently. Several seemingly unique events that have taken place this week that in fact have precedent in the not-too-distant past. Let’s take a look:

A rather amusing story came out of Toledo today, involving the almost-but-not-quite theft of one of the bronze statues located behind the Fifth Third Field scoreboard. Here are the statues in question, photographed during my trip to Toledo this past June.

But, as the Toledo Blade reports, on Sunday night the girl in pigtails on the far left was reported stolen:

Mud Hens employee Ken Westenkirchner called the police and filed a theft report. The Arts Commission of Greater Toledo, which manages the city’s public art, prepared for a media blitz to publicize the heist and bring the perpetrators to justice….

What Mud Hens officials and the arts commission did not know, however, was that the little girl in pigtails was safely stowed in a police property room. In the early morning hours of Saturday, two Toledo police officers discovered the statue about 20 yards from its original location. They booked it into a property room for safekeeping, according to their report…..

Apparently, nobody bothered to tell the Mud Hens or the art commission. 

Later in the article, Toledo police speculate why the statue was removed in the first place.

Detective Tonya Rider said the bolts that anchored the statue to the sidewalk had been damaged. “I don’t know if it was a prank, if it got too heavy to carry,” she said. “I don’t know what the circumstances were. Maybe it was a case of buyer’s remorse.”

This saga comes on the heels of the near-tragedy that befell the Greensboro Grasshoppers last month, when the statue of iconic dog mascot Miss Babe Ruth went missing. Here’s a picture of the statue, in happier times.

Three days after the theft, Greensboro police caught the culprit and returned the statue (damaged paws and all) to NewBridge Bank Park.  Seeking to make lemonade out of this thoroughly sour situation, the team then auctioned off the returned statue on eBay. The winning bid was $1025, with the proceeds donated to the Greensboro Police Department’s Canine Unit.

Moving on the inanimate to that which is imbued with life, it is also worth noting that this has been a fertile week for player performances of the National Anthem. A YouTube of Charlotte catcher Adam Ricks playing the anthem on his guitar was featured in Tuesday’s post, and yesterday Altoona pitcher Phil Irwin belted it out at at Blair County Ballpark. Check it out on the team’s Facebook page.

Mr. Irwin

A more random and unexpected instance of history repeating itself can be found in State College, which recently had its second comical base-stealing managerial ejection in as many years. It would be near impossible to top the original, when Spikes manager Gary Robinson autographed first base and awarded it to a young fan.

Fast forward nearly one year later — to yesterday. This time the ejected manager was Leo Gomez of the visiting Aberdeen IronBirds, who uprooted third base and walked across the diamond with it before unceremoniously tossing it aside. Spikes first baseman Alex Dickerson then played groundskeeper, jovially returning the base to its intended location. Check it out HERE.

Finally, there’s Jerry “The King” Lawler, a wrestling icon who has become a regular on the Minor League Baseball appearance circuit. When he last appeared on this blog he was knocking out a cauliflower, but his current adversary seems to be anyone with the gall to steal a crown from a perpetually smiling fast food mascot. This one comes courtesy of the Frederick Keys:

Thank goodness for conveniently placed concourse folding chairs. I don’t know what Jerry would do without them.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

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