Results tagged ‘ Trenton Thunder ’

Pictures of Food

I’ve recently dedicated a post to showcasing new mascots that can be seen around the Minors; today’s post will focus on that other integral aspect of the Minor League Baseball experience: the food.

Let’s start with the El Paso Chihuahuas, who play their first-ever ballgame at brand-new Southwest University Park on April 28. Concessions at the new facility will be provided by Ovations, who unveiled the ballpark menu last month. Fairly thorough coverage of some of the more unique items can be found HERE and HERE among other places, including an awesome looking beef brisket “Salpicon Salad” that very well may be gluten-free (fingers crossed, I’ll be there on April 29 and 30 and will find out for sure).  I contacted the team in the wake of their concessions unveiling, and Ovations’ Jeff Hanauer responded with the following pictures. And that is what you’re all here for, what you’re always here for: the pictures. Let’s proceed.

The Pico de Gallo will be included with many of the Chihuahuas’ Mexican-themed offerings. It looks outstanding, and this picture is suitable for framing.

PicodeGallo

Alligator bites with jalapeno cornbread (an El Paso specialty?)

Alligator Bites

The Chihua Dog, with bacon, beans, and jalapenos:

ChihuaDog

The Dudley Dog, a foot long and a half a pound, topped with chile con queso and pico de gallo:

DudleyDog

A few of the many “Juarez Dogs” that will be available:

JuarezDogs

This sandwich is called, “From Philly, with Love”.

FromPhillywithLove

The Flamethrower, a half pound burger with ghost peppers, jack cheese, deep fried jalapenos, and chipotle ranch sauce:

Flamethrower

Of course, no discussion of ballpark food is complete without the requisite White Michigan Whitecaps mention. Following in the footsteps of the Fifth Third Burger and the (gluten-free!) Baco, this year’s premier addition is the Auger Dogger. It is a deep-fried hot dog on a stick, surrounded by potato chips. Here’s hoping that this, too is gluten-free:

auger

More notable concession additions, per the Whitecaps:

Pretzilla Bacon Cheeseburger (a pretzel bun with a one-third pound hamburger patty, bacon and cheese).

Coaches’ Sandwich – In honor of the three Whitecaps coaches, who hail from Australia (Andrew Graham), Texas (Mike Henneman) and Cuba (Nelson Santovenia), this sandwich includes two slices of ham, Hormel barbeque pulled pork, pickle shreddies, Swiss cheese and shrimp served on a sub bun.

Tony Gates Venison Burger – Named after the 97 WLAV local radio personality who is passionate about the outdoors and is an avid hunter, this venison burger on a bun and will be served at the Steak Cart behind home plate.

Over in Kannapolis, the Intimidators have unveiled some notable new additions. This one is self-explanatory, but I’ll explain: a 64 ounce serving of loaded nachos, served in a batting helmet.

helmet

Also of note is the Dale’s Mater sandwich, a favorite of Dale Earnhardt (for whom the Intimidators are named). It is, quite simply, a tomato sandwich with Duke’s mayonnaise.

The Trenton Thunder have unveiled a new signature item, one with a distinctly New Jersey flair. The Thunder Dog is “a jumbo sized Black Bear Franks hot dog wrapped in American cheese and famous Trenton pork roll and served on a torpedo roll.”

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Also new in Trenton is the “Mega Nachos” stand, which can (and should!) be gluten-free. Sez the team:

Another new addition on the first base side is Mega Nachos, where fans can build-their-own nachos from a variety of toppings including: cheese, queso, chili, steak, chicken, pulled pork, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, jalapenos, salsa, guacamole, sour cream, and olives.

The Thunder have long had a Chickie and Pete’s stand at the ballpark, but these Philly-area purveyors of sandwiches and (gluten-free!) crab fries are now in Wilmington as well:

And, hey, for those of you who consider gluttony to be a virtue: the Frederick Keys have recently announced a rather considerable eating challenge. Think you can do it? If so, what’s wrong with you?

Finally, in Fresno, the Grizzlies are now serving a “Grizzly Egg.” Per the Fresno Bee, it’s a “cream cheese-filled deviled egg, wrapped in bacon, baked and drizzled in buffalo sauce.” This thing better be gluten-free, because it looks awesome!

GRIZZLIES

And that’s all of the food news I have to share with you, at least for the next couple of days. In the meantime, please know that I am writing up a storm over at MiLB.com:

New Promo Preview leads with the Louisville Bats Corky Miller #FeartheStache t-shirt.

New Farm’s Almanac takes a look at team-branded beer throughout the Minors.

And, as always, much more to come! There’s a reason that I say that I am the greatest of all time: because it’s true.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Bouillabaisse III: The Search for More Material

Each of the last two posts on this blog were full-to-bursting bouillabaisse blasts, but those who thought that I was out of Minor League news and notes to share THOUGHT WRONG. A final scouring of my myriad notebooks and spreadsheets has brought even more items to light, and thus it is now my duty to shine this light unto the world.

Let’s begin by re-stating a proven fact, and that is that Ben’s Biz Blog is the greatest Minor League Baseball blog of all time. While this should be common knowledge, I nevertheless work tirelessly to disseminate this message to all corners of the known universe. Enter the Hickory Crawdads, who last week issued a press release in which they welcomed fans to leave a message on their office walls prior to renovation:

Renovations are already underway at Crawdads Stadium, but fans can visit the ‘Dads old front office one last time this week and leave a personalized message on the walls. Join Conrad and the rest of the front office staff by inscribing a favorite memory, a goodbye, or simply well wishes, and have your message shared on the Crawdads Facebook page.

I humbly asked the team, via Twitter, to please make note of my blogging supremacy and, happily, they assented. If it’s written on a South Atlantic League front office wall, then you KNOW it’s true!

In perhaps slightly more meaningful Minor League indoor art news, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders are staging an innovative mural painting contest. An excerpt from the press release:

[The RailRiders] and Lackawanna County are sponsoring an indoor mural competition for the entrance of the Mohegan Sun Club at PNC Field. The mural will be unveiled on Wednesday, April 2 at the annual “Meet the RailRiders” event. Experienced mural artists are invited to submit designs capturing the essence of baseball, community and Northeastern Pennsylvania.

Three finalists will be chosen by a selection committee before the public votes on the winning design from Feb. 14-24. The winning artist(s) will paint the mural during the month of March. All supplies and materials will be provided, including scaffolding. The winning artist will receive a cash award of $5,000 to paint the mural and two RailRiders 2014 season tickets.

Rest assured that I will be following this contest as it develops, but in the meantime: What other Minor League Baseball stadiums feature murals? I, like a painter who has lost his inspiration, am drawing a blank.

No segue!

nosegway

“This post is going to the dogs” sounds like something that I’d write if I was completely and totally devoid of inspiration. But I’m not, at least not yet, so instead just let me inform you that some canine content is imminent. Did you know that the El Paso Chihuahuas have sold merchandise in all 50 states, in advance of ever playing a game?  Team-produced infographics, like sleeping dogs, don’t lie!

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In other news, the Chihuahuas are now selling “pawtial” season ticket plans. I am apparently alone in thinking they should have found a way to utilize the phrase “season yip-ets.”

And then there are the Trenton Thunder, who have welcomed a new bat dog into the fold. This puppy, son of Derby and grandson of Chase (R.I.P.), needs a name and in this matter your assistance is requested.

3_generations_of_bat_dogs_480_62rhrjtv_404zaf7q

I voted for Mo.

nosegway

My readership is largely comprised of Los Angeles culinary scenesters with Midwestern roots, so I apologize that many of you are familiar with the following bit of news:

Restaurateur Susan Feniger has opened the Mud Hen Tavern, which, according to the Los Angeles Times, is “a neighborhood bar with ‘gourmet pub and comfort food’ inspired by the chef’s memories of going to Mud Hens baseball games in Toledo, Ohio.”  The menu looks great, and it’s immediately apparent that the chef attended Mud Hens’ games during that brief period (’75-’77) when tuna ceviche and pumpkin ravioli were available at the concession stand. 

nosegway

I’ve never seen a team do this before:

Fans of the Quad Cities River Bandits can own a piece of history with a commemorative 2013 Midwest League Championship ring in a limited-time sale. Until Feb. 1, fans may purchase rings that match the ones earned by the team’s players and staff, and each fan may personalize the championship hardware with his or her last name on the side of the ring.

RingOrder480x380_5wjt7q29_nn2nbir1

For $295, it can be yours! That would be a good investment for those looking to impress women, because nothing (and I mean nothing) impresses the fairer sex like a Midwest League Championship ring. I am speaking from experience.

Or am I?

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Passing the Torch to the Offseason

With a few exceptions, I’ve dedicated the month of October to writing about in-season endeavors that I did not get around to writing about during the season itself. So I guess it’s fitting that here on All Hallow’s Eve, also known as the last day of October, I have finally exhausted my supply of in-season content. The only thing left in my “potential blog items” Excel spreadsheet involved Jacksonville Suns infielder Derek Dietrich and that time that he performed a post-game juggling exhibition. Seriously.

dietrich_wf_8jfymoxr_r4fngz49

“Derek Dietrich Triples and Juggles Torches” — you know, just another day at the ol’ ballyard.

Dietrich, a 24-year-old infielder who logged 57 games with the Miami Marlins this season, pulled of the above feat during August 13’s game against Birmingham. But that wasn’t the only time he took the field in order to toss dangerous items about. Here he is throwing some knives around, potential trip to the disabled list be damned.

And that’s all folks! There is no more in-season content to be had from me (unless, you know, you want to send me some). Therefore, I suppose that now is as good a time as any to bring this to your attention:

The Trenton Thunder have won the 2013 “Promo of the Year” MiLBY Award, for their “Chase the Bat Dog Retirement Party.”

promo_480_gw7tfif3_l8vazmpt

Read the article HERE, which will be my last piece of content recapping the 2013 campaign.

But since I’m on the topic of MiLB.com content — the final “Crooked Numbers” column of 2013 ran earlier this month, and can be read HERE. After the column ran, I was alerted to this exceedingly entertaining and exquisitely “crooked” article by Aberdeen IronBirds broadcaster Jacob Rasch, on “The Oddities of a Suspended Game.” The article details the head-spinning specifics of a game that took some 33 days to complete, and is a must-read for anyone who enjoys the deep wellspring of absurdity that is baseball. Among the many nuggets contained therein, my favorite is this:

The starting pitcher, Austin Urban, struggled in the first half of the game. In four innings, he had given up 8 runs on 8 hits, including the Calderon grand slam. But in the resumption of the game, Urban was given a chance to atone.

“The suspended game fell on my day to pitch, so I got to go back out there,” Urban explained. “In the month that it took to get that game restarted, I made some big adjustments, and I approached it as a completely different start.”

Urban, given the opportunity to keep his team in the game, shut down the same Yankee lineup he had struggled against the month before. In the four innings he pitched after the game was resumed, Urban gave up only 1 hit and 3 walks, striking out 4.

Urban’s final line is strange to say the least: 8 innings pitched, 9 hits, 8 runs (all earned), 6 walks, and 6 strikeouts. All told, he threw a staggering 156 pitches, a number that would seem impossible if there weren’t a 32-day break in between pitch number 72 and 73.

Stump your friends! In 2013, no professional pitcher threw more pitches in one outing than Austin Urban’s 156.

And this concludes Ben’s Biz Blog post #998.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Personnel Carousel

Minor League staffing changes don’t necessarily make for the most compelling content, but in recent weeks there have been some notable proclamations which are deserving of wider dissemination.

In Lakewood, it was recently announced that the BlueClaws will be losing the only general manager they’ve ever known. Geoff Brown had served in that role since November of 1999 (17 months before the team played their first game), but he’ll soon be taking a new position within the Rutgers University athletic department.

For those who like their news in simplified visual form:

brownclaw

Per the team:

“This is a bittersweet day for me,” said Brown. “For 13 years, this has been my home and my second family. Leaving Lakewood and the BlueClaws was certainly a difficult decision, but the opportunity to work for Tim Pernetti [Rutgers Director of Intercollegiate Athletics] in this new position as they join the Big Ten was something that I could not pass up.”

Under Brown’s stewardship, the BlueClaws have led the South Atlantic League in attendance in all 12 years of their existence. He has won the league’s General Manager of the Year Award on four occasions and the BlueClaws have received the league’s Club Merit Award for excellence in overall operations three times.

And — bam! — right before this post went to “press” the news broke that the BlueClaws have named Brown’s replacement: former assistant GM Brandon Marano. A relative BlueClaws newbie — he was hired “only” seven months before the team played its first game — Marano is a graduate of Rutgers. See how everything comes full circle?

Welcome to the GM clique, Mr. Marano. You will be receiving a key to the executive washroom shortly.

marano

And speaking of the BlueClaws, you may recall that I featured their “Restore the Shore” initiative in a recent post. Well, now that initiative has a notable new component in the form of “Sandy Ovations.”

ovations

Team talk:

The BlueClaws, at all 70 home games in 2013, will honor one company, individual, or charitable organization that contributed to Hurricane Sandy relief efforts, the team announced, unveiling a new 70 Sandy Ovations program.

Organizations will be randomly selected among those that apply or are nominated by others.

“There are so many people that deserve an ovation for their efforts in the aftermath of Sandy, and recognizing them will make for an ovation-worthy moment at every one of our games this year,” said Brown.

Each honoree will receive tickets to that night’s BlueClaws game, a ceremonial first pitch for one representative, recognition on the field between innings, a table on the concourse, a photo with a BlueClaws player, and an interview on the BlueClaws radio broadcast.

But getting back to the topic at hand — Geoff isn’t the only GM with the last name of Brown to be vacating his or her position. Three hours before the BlueClaws made their announcement, the Quad Cities River Bandits let loose with the unfortunate news that Stefanie Brown would be stepping down from her position due to “urgent family responsibilities.”

qc

2012 marked Brown’s fifth year with the River Bandits and first as GM, and ownership made it clear that she will have a role with the team as long as she desires one:

“Stefanie Brown is an incredibly valuable part of the River Bandits and the Quad Cities community, and one of my favorite people,” said team owner Dave Heller. “She is immensely talented and will have as much of a role with the River Bandits organization as she wants, for as long as she wants.”

Meanwhile, the River Bandits are in the midst of searching for Brown’s replacement.

Finally, the Hagerstown Suns have made a unique hire in the form of ex-city mayor Robert Bruchey. The politician, who had been in support of building a new downtown stadium for the team while he was in office, will serve as the Suns’ director of sales, marketing and community affairs. You can read more in this Herald-Mail article, which also includes this file photo of hizzoner.

bruchey

It goes without saying that Bruchey is an anomalous hire in the world of Minor League Baseball. Given his municipal connections and prior team support, it seems like he might be a beneficial guy to have in the front office…

And on that needlessly elliptical note, I’ll sign off for today. But since this was a pretty sober-minded, let me try to briefly rectify that by posting this awesome action shot that the Trenton Thunder shared on Facebook last month (along with the caption of “Yeah, this kid nailed it!”)

karate

Karate Kid is officially the second-coolest youngster to ever attend a Thunder game. For those who may have forgotten, the number one spot is forever held down by the Confident Kid:

confident

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Get the LED Out

Things were a bit slow on the news front over the past couple of weeks, a situation that led to posts where I, you know, used a thesaurus to improve upon 140-characters or less baseball messages.

But no more! Things are really heating up these days (metaphorically), and from this point forward I will have lots to write about. And what I feel it would be prudent to write about today is the sudden glut of new videoboards in the Eastern League. The Akron Aeros, Trenton Thunder and Reading Fightin’ Phils will all be sporting new boards in 2013, and what better time than now to take a look at this triumvirate of LED-based enhancements?

Let’s start with the Aeros, whose new owner Ken Babby was the focus of my latest Minoring in Business column over on MiLB.com. Last week, the team revealed plans for a $1.65 million Daktronics videoboard project. A rendering:

New Akron Aeros Video Board Rendering

The Aeros board is 26′ x 68′, which they note is the “largest main video display in Double-A baseball and unofficially the fifth-largest in Minor League Baseball in LED size.”

A comparison of the team’s old board vs. the new one, in visual form:

Aeros New Video Board Comparison (2)

And, of course, that’s not all. For there will also be a ribbon board.

New Aeros Ribbon Board (2)

But perhaps it would be most apropos for me to show this all to you in video form:

Okay, that’s enough. Let’s move on.

Akron’s new videoboard announcement came right on the heels of Trenton making a similar proclamation. (Over Twitter I declared that the Aeros stole Trenton’s Thunder, which was part of my unsuccessful bid to start an insult war between the two clubs).

Here’s a mock-up of what the Thunder’s recently-rechristened Arm & Hammer Park will be looking like in 2013 and beyond. What I’m wondering is this: How is the shortstop already ranging to his right and preparing to dive? The pitcher hasn’t even completed his delivery!

thunderz

Photos shall be followed by facts, that’s the Ben’s Biz way! This is per the team:

Once installed, the project, which includes the addition of a 21′ x 68′ high density screen in right field, a new 20′ x 16′ display in left field and a new 14′ x 15′ highway marquee will make unprecedented technological advances while enhancing the fan experience at ARM & HAMMER Park.

The centerpiece of the improvement will be the 21’x 68′ world-class video board in right field that totals 1,428 square feet, more than four times larger than the previous video screen.

Other aspects of the project include a new message/data display in left field that will provide superior visibility and a larger and higher definition picture display on the highway marquee found outside the stadium along Rt. 29. The Thunder’s video production will now have replay capabilities, enhanced HD cameras, pitch speed and more.

The third and final EL entity to be featured in today’s entry are the recently re-christened Reading Fightin’ Phils. Their recent $1 million multi-media investment is highlighted by a 30′ x 60′ videoboard that shall feature “the clearest picture of any board in the Minors.”

redzfite

The team’s press release is well-worth checking out, particularly as it includes a bevy (yes, a bevy) of before and after pictures. But in the interest of brevity I shall forgo this bevy, and instead quote judiciously from said release.

[T]he team will be installing a $1 million multimedia video board project at FirstEnergy Stadium with the help of TS Sports of Dallas, Texas in the months leading up to the 2013 season. Once installed, the project, which includes the addition of a 30’x60′ HD10 board in center field, will make unprecedented technological advances while enhancing the fan experience at America’s Classic Ballpark.

“We are very excited to announce this investment into your ballpark,” said Fightin Phils General Manager Scott Hunsicker. “Some may be wondering ‘What was wrong with the existing videoboard?’ and the truthful answer is nothing, but here at the Fightin Phils, we do not believe in leaving well enough alone. We do not believe in the mantra ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’. Instead, we believe in ‘fightin’ for what is best for our fans and ‘fightin’ to provide the best fan experience possible.”

The centerpiece of the improvement will be the 30’x 60′ HD10 video board in center field that totals 1,800 square feet, making it the largest video board among Double-A teams and 4th largest in Minor League Baseball. As just the fifth HD10 board installed by TS Sports, Reading’s will be the largest that TS Sports has ever installed. With superior resolution, the board will be illuminated by the second most LEDs of any team behind the Triple-A Memphis Redbirds.

Of course, the above assertion regarding Reading’s Double-A videoboard supremacy is no longer true as the Aeros have trumped them by a mere 32 square feet. It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there in the world of Minor League scoreboards. A dog eat dog world.

(And, as an aside, Hunsicker’s quote seems to be a tongue-in-cheek commentary on the fan criticism that accompanied the team’s recent name change from the Phillies to the “Fightin’ Phils.)

I’ve been to all three ballparks featured in this post, and it is my opinion that the Thunder were the team that was most truly in need of a new board. Here’s a pic from my visit to Trenton last season, which perhaps can give you a sense of how tiny the old board was. Its visibility was nil, akin to a mosquito perched upon Paul Bunyan.

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And that shall do it for this, the latest and therefore greatest entry in the Ben’s Biz canon.

Apropos of nothing, but I’m currently reading a book of Stephen King short stories and the thought has occurred to me that Stephen King might enjoy this blog should he ever come across it. I hope to one day to receive an encouraging email from him.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

On the Road: Crab Fries, Cheese Balls and Tribute Bands in Trenton

Today’s serialized Trenton Thunder adventure continues just where the last one left off: at a concession stand! At not just any concession stand, but one featuring the Old Bay-doused “crab fries” of powerhouse Philly-area restaurateurs Chickie and Pete’s as well as the New Jersey specialty that is the pork roll sandwich.

As you may recall, I was accompanied at this juncture of the evening by reader/proud Ambler, PA resident Jeff Vervlied. Not only did Vervlied give me a hat representing my hometown Little League, but he volunteered to be the first “designated eater” in Ben’s Biz Blog history (my recent celiac disease diagnosis has rendered much ballpark food off-limits).

And what did I want him to eat? The pork roll sandwich, of course! Pork roll is definitely a northeast thing, and specifically a Jersey thing (one of its most prominent appearances in pop culture is the uber-catchy and not-at-all drug influenced song “Pork Roll, Ham and Cheese” by New Hope, PA’s Ween). Per Wikipedia, it was invented by Trenton’s own John Taylor in 1856 and originally called “Taylor’s Prepared Ham.” But once the 1906 Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 was passed, it no longer met the legal definition of ham. Hence: pork roll.

Taylor is still a prime purveyor of the product, and well-represented amidst the Thunder’s kaleidoscopic jumble of outfield billboard images.

And, finally, here is the pork roll sandwich in all its glory.

Vervlied, the first “designated eater” in Ben’s Biz Blog history, dove right in.

Vervlied made quick work of the sandwich, but his overall reaction to it was non-plussed. “It’s okay,” he said. “Basically just a pan-fried ham. Would I serve it to guests? Probably not.”

Later, in an email, he summed it up like this: “A poor man’s eggs benedict.”

While the pork roll sandwich was obviously off-limits to me (it’s the bread, stupid), Chickie and Pete’s Crab Fries were good to go.

There’s really not much to it, but these things are addictive — crisp, thin, crinkle-cut fries covered in liberal amounts of Old Bay seasoning (hence, the “crab”) and accompanied by a dipping sauce that is, essentially, melted American cheese. While some don’t see the appeal, I absolutely love them. (Last month I missed a large portion of Iron Maiden’s set at the Camden Waterfront because of an insatiable urge to visit the Chickie and Pete’s concession stand).

But enough about the food. At this point, the game (the first of a doubleheader) was in full swing!

As I made my way down the concourse, I walked by one of the more unique souvenir stands in Minor League Baseball…

…and soon made an unsuccessful attempt to catch a t-shirt shot into the stands by “Facilitator of Awesomeness” (actual job title) Cameron Fox.

And, jeez, where does the time go? This game was just flying, and before I knew it a local church choir was singing “God Bless America” as part of the fifth inning stretch (remember, Minor League doubleheaders are only seven innings).

Upon the conclusion of this nightly exercise in mandatory patriotism, I met up with Cameron so that he could facilitate some awesomeness involving me. I was a participant in the “Finish That Song” contest atop the third base dugout, going against an individual by the name of David Menegaux.

Menegaux, whose default disposition seemed to be “bemused,” is a local musician who plays bass in a Van Halen tribute band by the name of Romeo Delight. He asked me if I knew of any Minor League teams who would book his band, and while I couldn’t say for certain I think these guys would be awesome as part of an ’80s rock themed “Thirsty Thursday” promotion. Check them out!

The more I do this job, the more I find that the particular brand of awesomeness I am able to facilitate is making connections such as these. I would absolutely love it if this blog can be the vehicle for getting Romeo Delight a gig at a Minor League ballpark. Who can make it happen? Reading? Wilmington? Lehigh Valley? Brooklyn? Connecticut?

But anyway…I was up first in the “Finish That Tune” contest.

Psychedelic shirt!

Here’s how it played out:

I won the cheese balls! But as soon as I won them, mascot Boomer tried to steal them from me.

I wrested them from his control and, soon, all was forgiven:

a couple of boobs

My first reaction upon winning the Cheese Balls was bittersweet, as I had assumed that I wouldn’t be able to eat them owing to, y’know, celiac disease. But, in perusing the label, I came across the two sweetest words in the English language.

I got 99 ingredients, but wheat ain’t one

Before finally moving away from the topic of Utz Cheese Balls, I want to state that they are a phenomenal snack product. True story — I buy a tub every year on Super Bowl Sunday, and now that I know they’re gluten free this tradition will continue until western civilization collapses upon itself like a white dwarf that has exceeded its Chandrasekhar limit.

Does anyone actually read this blog? No? Doesn’t matter. We’ve gone beyond material concerns at this point. With cheese balls in hand, I went into an area of the stadium that few men dare to tread. This is the base of operations for the promo staff, littered with the surreal tools of the trade.

Hmmm…where have I seen these before?

Oh, right. This is classic:

The funny thing about this room is that it doubles as a location for press conferences when rehabbing Yankees stars are in town. So the next time you see Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Joba Chamberlain et al talking about how their night in Trenton went as they recover from injury, remember that such conversations are taking place amidst the atmosphere seen above.

This picture didn’t come out well, but, hopefully, it illustrates what I’m talking about here.

Derek Jeter — staring at a disembodied mascot head? (photo: AP)

By this point, the first game of the doubleheader was in the books. I briefly stopped in the press box to score some free iced tea, and while there took a photo of the view.

And, back on the concourse, I snapped a scene straight outta Norman Rockwell. A Trenton Thunder employee was writing the game two starting line-ups on the whiteboard, with an eager young fan beside her immediately transcribing them into his scorebook.

The crowd had filed into the park throughout the first game, and at this juncture there were quite a lot of people in the seats.

The starting pitcher for the visiting Harrisburg Senators was Ryan Tatusko, a nice guy who is very accessible via Twitter. (Correction: was accessible. His Twitter account is no longer active.)

Not knowing quite what to do with myself (relaxing and watching a baseball game was clearly out of the question), I met up with Cameron and the promo crew. It was time for the annual mascot race, in which a young fan races against Boomer and Strike.

Boomer we’ve already met, but this is Strike:

The young fan won.

Shortly thereafter came the Dizzy Bat Race, with the contestants awaiting their moment of glory within the sepulchral glow of the dugout tunnel.

And, oh, how glorious it was. The players were really into it, as was the usher atop the dugout.

Feeling dizzy by association, I decided that it was time to eat. I needed something to complement the crab fries I’d had hours before, but what? The Thunder have plenty of food options…

but not much that was gluten-free. But, after a thorough investigation, I found that the St. Louis-style ribs at Boomer’s BBQ were good to go.

They were going to close soon, so my portion of ribs was a heaping one. I can’t say that they were the best ribs I ever had, but they were the most recent.

I washed that down with a cabernet from Hopewell Valley Vineyards (which, incidentally, is located directly behind my Dad’s property outside of nearby Pennington) — my first glass of wine at a Minor League game! Oh, what a milestone in my professional career…

And then, after all that, the rains came. In the sixth inning of the second game of a doubleheader.

Again, not knowing what to do with myself, I wandered into the “Tom McCarthy Radio Booth” and checked in on broadcasters Jay Burnham and Josh Maurer.

Oh, hey guys!

While I was in the booth, the game was called after a delay of just 25 minutes. I barely had had the time to check the latest MLB standings.

As Burnham and Mauer launched into their post-game show, fireworks began to light up the sky. Therefore, auditory adjustments needed to be made.

I barely watched the fireworks, as I was under the gun to produce some quality poetry. Inspired by the book Baseball Haiku, Burnham has instituted a post-game tradition in which he and Maurer write a haiku about the night’s events. The spirits were with me, I suppose, as I dashed off four. Quite graciously, Burnham and Maurer read them all over the air.

singing on dugout/cheeseballs won, life dreams realized/and then the rain came

Boomer and Strike race/their opponent a young girl/of course, the girl won

you can get beer here/but you can also get wine/I had cabernet

Ryan Tatusko/his name has five syllables/Ryan Tatusko

And – finally! — it was then time to go home. My only companion was Utz Cheese Balls. On NJ Transit:

Penn Station

The E and G trains

And, finally, home.

One of these days this will all make sense, I hope.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

On the Road: A Frankfurter Chauffeur to the Bloodmobile in Trenton

As someone who lives in New York City and grew up in the northeast, the Trenton Thunder have long been a team with whom I am familiar. I first attended one of their games when I was in high school (the exact date is lost to the ages, but I almost certainly had a shaved head and was wearing a Beastie Boys t-shirt) and since I started writing for MiLB.com in 2005 I’ve made it a point to visit Trenton’s Mercer Waterfront Park at least once a season.

But here’s the thing — all of these excursions were as a fan. Despite Trenton’s proximity to my base of operations, I never quite found the time to give the team my not-yet-patented “On the Road” treatment.

Until this past Saturday, that is. Showing a level of professional commitment unrivaled in the annals of mankind, I woke up and caught a NJ Transit train running on the Northeast Corridor line. It originated at New York Penn Station and, 91 minutes later, arrived at the recently refurbished Trenton Transit Center. I’m a veteran rider of the Northeast Corridor Line, and have always enjoyed the beautiful ugliness that can be seen along the way. Or is that ugly beauty?

Usually on these trips I make a quick stopoff at Elizabeth, NJ in order to buy a Garment that’s right for me. I absolutely love the style, service and selection of the Pink Room, and wish this was the banner ad currently pulsating at the top of this blog.

But today I was unable to make a visit to The Pink Room, as there was a Trenton Thunder employee waiting to give me a ride from the train station. And not just any employee!

Now THIS is some beautiful ugliness, an intern in a hot dog suit standing in the pouring rain. From here on out, I knew that I was going to have a good day.

Sam Sigal: Trenton Thunder intern; hot dog

It’s only a 10-minute drive from the train station to the ballpark, especially when you’re hot-dogging it. And, wouldn’t you know it? By the time we got there it wasn’t even raining anymore.

Off to the left there were multiple charitable drives that were taking place, as part of the Thunder’s annual “Good Deed Game” promotion.

 Sez the team:

The Good Deed Game will feature a blood drive to benefit the Community Blood Council of New Jersey, a school supplies drive to support the learning center at the East Trenton Chapter of Habitat for Humanity, a non-perishable food drive to benefit the Mercer Street Friends Food Bank, a toiletries drive to support HomeFront, a clothing drive that will benefit the Rescue Mission of Trenton, and new this year, a pet supplies drive to support The Shelter Animal Project.

The promotion included fan incentives, with each donation earning its own reward (read more about it in the press release linked to above).


I did not bring anything to donate, unfortunately, except for that which is within me at all times. To the Bloodmobile!

I was very eager to give blood, because it had been a while — in fact, it was my inability to donate which had led, ultimately, to my diagnosis of celiac disease. To briefly recap: I was rejected from giving blood several times earlier this year, due to low iron levels (ie anemia). And the reason I had anemia was because gluten was damaging the linings of my small intestine, therefore making me unable to absorb iron properly.

So, anyway, it was with some trepidation that I entered the Bloodmobile. I didn’t want to be rejected again!

And I wasn’t! The nurse who tested me said “Cue the Black Sabbath, because you’re an Iron Man!” I then complimented her for making such a well-timed comic remark. “Call me Tina Fe,” she replied.

Or at least that’s how I remember the conversation going. I wasn’t taking notes, on account of the needle in my arm.

Giving blood is really easy — they extracted a pint in six and a half minutes, during which I sat in this comfortable chair and watched the very end of Mystic River (spoiler alert — one of the last shots is of a brooding Sean Penn clapping during a small town parade). I was also treated to some Powerade and a bag of Bugles, the closest thing to a gluten-free snack that they had available (“may contain wheat,” the bag said. “May”?!).

And that’s not all! I also was given a t-shirt AND got to wear an awesome bandage for the remainder of the evening. Everyone should give blood! (Unless, you know, you’re anemic due to an as-of-yet undiagnosed case of celiac disease.)

I felt fine after the blood donation, and as I made my way back outside the game was about to start (Saturday was a doubleheader, with the first game commencing at 5). While there was a steady trickle of fans buying tickets and making their way through the gate, I decided to do a quick lap around the stadium’s exterior before making my way inside.

The ticket-buying public:

The view from the front of Mercer Waterfront Park is thoroughly uninspiring…

but it’s called “Waterfront Park” for a reason. As I made my way around the side of the facility, toward the outfield, the scenery improved considerably.

The Thunder bullpen, quite literally, have their backs to the wall.

The visitors — not so much.

As much as I enjoy taking photos through chain link fences, I decided it was time to finally enter the ballpark. The steps leading up to the concourse are a most imposing sight.

And they lead directly behind home plate.

But, as always, there wasn’t much time to watch the game. Upon entering the stadium, I met up with a Biz Blog reader by the name of Jeff Vervlied. We have corresponded several times over the last year or so, and this correspondence was initially motivated by my casual mention in a blog post that I grew up in the town of Ambler, PA. Jeff lives in Ambler, and his son and daughter are currently students at Wissahickon High and Middle schools, respectively. (I attended Wissahickon throughout the entirety of my public school career, en route to achieving MiLB.com fame and fortune).

I was flattered that Jeff drove all the way to Trenton just to say hello, and even more flattered that he brought along a Lower Gwynedd baseball fitted hat! (This will be it for the Montgomery County name-dropping, promise).

I was an Ambler Junior Baseball man myself, but still happy to represent nearby Lower Gwynedd.

But hat delivery wasn’t the only item on the agenda. There was also this:

And, 1100+ words later, that’s where we’ll leave off. There is still MUCH more to come from Trenton: pork roll, crab fries, mascot heads, hanging strollers, Bon Jovi, Van Halen tribute bands, cheese balls, Ryan Tatusko, grammar errors, Americana, coupon distribution, dizzy bat races, BBQ ribs, local wines, inclement weather, fireworks, an abundance of baseball haiku and the facilitation of awesomeness.

Keep reading and I’ll keep writing, okay?

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

A Bucket of Water from an Overflowing Well

To say I’m overwhelmed these days would be an understatement. I still have all kinds of supplemental material from my recent OKARMOTN road trip, and in addition to that I recently traveled to Lowell to document a world record attempt and attend a Spinners game. I hope to embark on another one-off trip next week, and I also need to finish planning a larger excursion in August. And, of course, there was the recent celiac disease blog post, which has gotten a ton of responses (via comments, Twitter, and email) that I have yet to address. (I appreciate them all, and will respond!)

And, what? It’s July already? I’ll write a new Crooked Numbers column as soon as I can, promise!

As usual, I’m talking almost entirely to myself. I’m tired of that guy, but he’s all I’ve got. But, for you, it’s time to go back to the roots with a quick blog bouillabaisse! So what, of note, has been going on around the Minors?

Too much! Here’s a tiny bit.

Last month, the Connecticut Tigers kicked off their season in the most literal way possible. To the photograph!

Photo credit: Kevin Pataky/MLB Advanced Media

This was a “ceremonial first kick,” one that reportedly fell atop the plate for a perfect strike. Tigers director of community relations Dave Schermerhorn explains:

This is Dave Teggart, who was a four year stud kicker at UConn (School all-time leader in points, field goals in a career, and field goals in a season). He was then one of our interns during the 2011 season.

Recently, he attended Rookie Mini Camp for the Bears and was signed to a contract to attend training camp with the team.

So what do you know? The New York-Penn League had not one but TWO collegiate gridiron stars turned interns last season. The other was Penn State receiver Derek Moye, who I have already written about HERE.

Moye in action:

You also may be wondering why there was a submarine looming behind Teggart in the first kick photograph. Again, I’ll defer to Schermerhorn (who shares his surname with one-half of a widely-used Brooklyn subway stop):

General Dynamics Electric Boat is just about 20 min away and one of our largest sponsors. [S]taff members ride in the sub pregame to throw t-shirts to the crowd. We have a large military presence in the area with the Coast Guard Academy and U.S. submarine base within the same radius.

It is for these reasons that Connecticut’s previous Minor League franchise was known as the “Defenders,” and, prior to that, the Norwich Navigators.

Why am I always going off on tangents? One of these days I’m going to segue from “tangents” into something involving “tan gents,” but that day is not today. Instead, I’ll share a video from the Lake County Captains’ “Cleveland Sports History” promotion, which was held in June.

One of the Cleveland moments celebrated was Armando Galarraga’s 2011 perfect game that wasn’t (the Indians were the opponent in that contest). It’s not the best video quality, but hats off to the Captains for having the courage and creativity to consistently create crazy conceptual promos:

And, hey, If I’m posting YouTube videos then there’s no way this can be ignored! Ricky from Bordentown wipes out not once, but twice, during a most unique between-inning contest in Trenton.

On your mark! Get set! Change that diaper!

Classic. And I’ve got PLENTY more where that came from.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

An Anomalous Date Leads to Phenomenal Deals

Maybe it’s an example of my sticktuitiveness, maybe an example of stagnancy. Probably both. But, at any rate, I am able to begin today’s Leap Year post by looking at what I wrote about 2/29 the last time it rolled around.

So let’s leap to it!

San Jose's got the spirit!

The year was 2008. While most Americans were busy listening to the 10th anniversary edition of the Baha Men’s epochal Doong Spank LP, the Lancaster JetHawks made their presence felt by staging a Leap Year promo. Most notably, all fans with a leap year birthday received a box seat season ticket!

Not to be outdone, the Altoona Curve soon announced a season-long “Leip Year” celebration, all in honor of skipper Tim Leiper.

Leiper the Skipper

This one had the Rainmain-like fixation on numbers that is a hallmark of any good Minor League promotion, including the provision that if any Curve player was batting .366 after April 29’s ballgame, he (or she, you never know) would be awarded $366.

Maybe I’m just jaded, but I don’t think we’ve reached that level of inspiration in 2012. But a lot is going on. Here is a thorough (but by no means authoritative) rundown of who’s doing what how. Said rundown is in alphabetical order, but starting with “N” and then continuing back around through “M.”

Portland Sea Dogs

Most notably, the above deal includes a $29 Citgo gas card.

Trenton Thunder

$17 all-you-can-eat seats, to any game. I’m just not sure who would want to eat seats in the first place, though.

Stockton Ports

More bang for the buck than a bringing an exploding dollar bill along on a deer hunt! $29 gets four tickets to exhibition game vs. Triple-A Sacramento, four ticket vouchers to opening weekend, and two souvenir caps.

Fort MyersMiracle

Interesting twist to this one, in that the $29 ticket packages includes admission to all games falling on the 29th of the month.

Hagerstown Suns


This offer comes with a $29 concession stand credit. Beet eggs included?

Hudson Valley Renegades

Two extra games included with the purchase of a five or 10-game pack!

Huntsville Stars

A $95 savings!

Inland Empire 66ers

Buy a six or 12-game ticket pack, get an additional game free.

Lake Elsinore Storm

Self-explanatory.

This concludes THE MOST COMPREHENSIVE RECAP OF MINOR LEAGUE BASEBALL LEAP DAY PROMOTIONS EVER ASSEMBLED. And yet I still don’t have my own Wikipedia page.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

All Hallow’s Eve, All the Time

This post is being composed during the afternoon of 10/31/11 — what else can I write about but Halloween? This commemoration of the macabre is being celebrated throughout America, so ipso facto its being celebrated throughout the Minors as well.

The usual array of teams (Williamsport, Lake Elsinore, Bowie, et al) have turned their ballparks into haunted houses, but in some cases such an extensive effort isn’t necessary. As the Great Lakes Loons prove with this video, sometimes all you need is a mascot dressed as a ghost, holding an air gun.

But Halloween isn’t just about cheap thrills. In Lehigh Valley, the IronPigs held their fourth annual “Suites and Treats” event for underprivileged and special needs children. This is a cool concept, and to my knowledge the IronPigs are the only ones who do it. From the team’s website:

The event took place on the Club Level with the support of the IronPigs’ suite holders, who took advantage of the opportunity to decorate their suite so the children could go “door-to-door” for a unique “trick-or-treating” experience. In total, all 20 suites along with the outdoor PenTeleData party porches were decorated for Suites-n-Treats.

A few examples, from the team’s Facebook photo gallery:


One of the benefits of staging in-season promotions dedicated to offseason holidays is that said promotion can result in content that can then be used during the holiday in question. Make sense? No?

That’s okay. All I’m really trying to say is that the Fort Wayne TinCaps staged a Halfway to Halloween promotion and aired the following video during the game. And — bonus! — the video is once again fit for public consumption.

Meanwhile, in Trenton, the team’s concern regarding the dangers of trick-or-treating has manifested itself in a somewhat ridiculous public awareness campaign.

These guys have made a video. Click HERE to watch it.

The Wisconsin Timber Rattlers have made a new video as well. It’s not related to Halloween in any way, really, but notable nonetheless. Like life itself, this effort is an interactive game of skill:

Nice work on that one by the T-Rattlers. Similar efforts will help prevent offseason mental atrophy, the effects of which have already begun to be felt.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

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