Results tagged ‘ Trenton Thunder ’

Opening Day 2016: New Ballpark Food!

Yesterday, I kicked off the 2016 season with a requisite bouillabaisse blog post. The “bouillabaisse” in such posts is metaphorical, but today all food references are literal. Let’s take a look at some new ballpark eats.

We’ll start with my old pals the Charleston RiverDogs. Longtime food and beverage boss John Schumaker has left the team in order to open his own restaurant, Harold’s Cabin, which is backed by team co-owners Mike Veeck and Bill “Yes, that Bill Murray” Murray. Nonetheless, the RiverDogs, led by food and beverage director Josh Shea, keep on keeping on with innovative ballpark cuisine

This, for example, is no ordinary corn dog. It’s a “Shrimp-N-Grit Corn Dog.”

Shrimp_N_Grit_Corn_Dog_640Also, there’s this: “Biscotti cookie dough with vanilla ice cream, caramel syrup, and Palmetto espresso porter brew.”

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In Akron, my old pals the RubberDucks have unveiled this season’s “Extreme” menu items.

2016_New_Extreme_Menu_Items_

From left to right we have:

The Squealer: Half-pound foot-long hot dog stuffed with pulled pork and cheddar cheese, then wrapped in bacon and deep-fried, and drizzled with barbeque sauce.

The European Vacation: Foot-long bratwurst on a pierogi bun, topped with fiery feta cheese spread and roasted red peppers.

Meet Your Maker Quesadilla: Triple-decker quesadilla with three jam-packed layers-layer one has hot dogs, Texas jack chili, and cheddar cheese; layer two has hamburger and American cheese, and layer three has chicken tenders, poutine gravy, and cheddar cheese.

The Squealer, ready for its close-up:

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In Jacksonville, my old pals the Suns are now under the same ownership as the RubberDucks. Hence, the team’s “FUNdamentally Different” concession approach.

sunsMy best attempt to identify the following items begins now. Moving clockwise:

Buffalo Chicken Bites in a Waffle Cone, Chicken and Waffles, Chicken “Limp” Biscuit (as good as a Korn dog?), Pork and Slaw Dog, Philly Dog. The last item, bottom left, appears to be a plain ol’ hot dog.

Also of note: The Suns have renamed two of their concession stands in honor of local sports icons: Singh for Your Supper (golfer Vijay Singh) and Sweet Tea-bow.

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My old pals the Lakewood BlueClaws have long held a “Pork Roll, Egg and Cheese” mascot race, and this season they’re honoring all three complementary food components in bobblehed form. Nonetheless, my old pals the Trenton Thunder have perhaps taken in the lead when it comes to the prominent category of “New Jersey baseball team most dedicated to the celebration of pork roll.”

This season, the Thunder have a “Pork Roll Paradise” food stand at the ballpark.

rollMoving clockwise yet again, we have:

Oink, Cluck and Moo — a classic pork roll, egg and cheese sandwich. Served, as all Ween fans know, on a kaiser bun.
Thunder Dog — A hot dog with pork roll slices and American cheese on a torpedo roll.
Pig Pen — Chopped pork roll, pulled pork and bacon bits atop mashed potatoes.
Hog Steak — Chopped pork roll with Cheez Whiz on a torpedo roll.

Perhaps inspired by the Thunder, the BlueClaws recently unveiled their own pork roll-inspired creation:

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My old pals the West Michigan Whitecaps are no strangers to attention-getting food items. This year’s Fan Food Vote winner hasn’t garnered the viral acclaim of the Baco or Fifth Third Burger, but nonetheless it exists. Existence is the most important thing.

This is the “Dutch Love” — turkey pot roast, cheese curds and fries in a pita wrap.

dutch

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And here’s a weird one out of Fresno, where my old pals the Grizzlies are offering “Hot Cheetos Dusted Fries”.

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What better place to end than with a weird one? I’ll follow up with an accompanying drinks post in the near future, so if you’ve got something to share on that front then please get in touch. Also, my 2016 road trip itineraries are coming soon. Promise.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

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Opening Day 2016: Biz Blog Bouillabaisse

Oh, boy. The inexorable passage of time has once again brought us face to face with a new Minor League Baseball season. I, for one, am psyched. I, for two, have also been remiss in updating this blog over the past week or so. I have various excuses for this, of varying degrees of legitimacy, but who cares? The drought is over. New content — the lifeblood of the internet, the lifeblood of my existence — begins now.

As the title makes clear, this post will be a full-to-bursting bouillabaisse of delectable Minor League morsels. I’d like to start by noting that, over on MiLB.com, my first “Promo Watch” column of the 2016 season is now live. “Promo Watch” is a tweak on the old “Promo Preview” format, encompassing not just the traditional previews but also reviews and larger promo trend analysis. In today’s column, I highlighted a few 2016 promos that I am looking forward to. They involve previous planet Pluto, President James Garfield and pork roll.

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I’d like to think I’m writing the most consistently (and justifiably) weird stuff in the entire sports journalism ecosystem. But of a less weird variety is this Opening Day Guide, co-written with my colleague Sam “No, I’m not related to Lenny” Dykstra. Read and learn.

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Everybody loves dogs, so everybody will love this: Former Greensboro Grasshoppers bat dog Miss Babe Ruth has accepted a new position with the team.

In this capacity, Miss Babe Ruth (how is she not named “Babe Ruff”?) will “greet fans in the concourse during games and also advertise her new association” with a flea and tick prevention product named BRAVECTO.

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Last season, the Round Rock Express gave away an awesome Willie Nelson bobblehead. This year’s country music honoree is Mr. George Strait.
George Strait Bobblehead

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Remember at the Winter Meetings when I wrote about the complex issues surrounding drone usage at Minor League Baseball games? Well, that’s because, like it or not, drones are here to stay (and not just in the broadcast booth). This season, the Reading Fightin Phils are using them in an official context. This is the “Drone Cam.”

drone

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During the offseason, the Lexington Legends partnered with a local school on “Stache Tank.” This “Shark Tank”-inspired competition asked students, working in teams as part of an economics unit, to pitch a promotional giveaway item as well as a ballpark improvement. Winning student presentations include a slap bracelet giveaway and the construction of a rock climbing wall in right field. Pretty cool idea.

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The Durham Bulls have announced that, on June 9, they will wear “the first Bulls uniform created by a company outside of the sports industry.” It was designed by Durham-based RUNAWAY, which is weird because it seems their focus would be all-caps.

PrintThe jerseys are modeled after the flag of Durham, with “DURM” in the center. DURM is a “term coined by RUNAWAY as an ode to the city’s hard-nosed history.” If you’ve got a hard nose then you should probably go see the durmatologist. 

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In my previous blog bouillabaisse I mentioned that the Sacramento River Cats had installed 472 solar panels and five SMA inverters at their home of Raley Field. The team’s environmentally-friendly endeavors continue apace, with last week’s announcement of River Cats Road Relief. This three-pronged initiative includes a carpool program, which enables cars with four or more passengers to receive free parking.

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New Jersey’s pro baseball scene has gone through some hard times, as three indy clubs have ceased operation. But their pain is the Trenton Thunder’s gain. On Wednesday, the team announced announced that Camden Riversharks, Newark Bears and Atlantic City Surf gear can be exchanged for a free ticket, food voucher and team store discount.

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 The Tri-City ValleyCats don’t start their season until June, but they’re still making good use of their time. On April 14, the team is staging its annual “4 in 24” initiative, in which four local youth fields are renovated within a 24-hour span. This is a great idea.

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I began with dogs, so I’ll end with dogs: The Inland Empire 66ers have installed Minor League Baseball’s first-ever permanent dog park

dogs

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Here’s to the 2016 season! I promise I’ll be announcing my road trip schedules shortly.

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benjamin.hill@mlb.com

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Shaking Off the Rust

Happy New Year! I started this blog in 2007, which means that 2016 is the 10th year in which it has existed. And yet, this blog will not turn 10 years old for another 20 months. This is a real headscratcher, perhaps the blog anniversary equivalent of the Monty Hall Problem.

Or perhaps not. Perhaps, as usual, I simply have no idea of what it is I speak. Perhaps I should move on to an issue of greater substance. Or at least an issue of some substance. I’ll take what I can get. So let’s proceed with the first bouillabaisse blog post of 2016. (This year, I am now 1-for-1 when it comes to spelling bouillabaisse correctly on the first attempt. It’s all downhill from here.)

Yes, it’s 2016. But let’s begin with my favorite team-produced video of 2015, which comes courtesy of the Norfolk Tides.

The Tides, as you’ll recall, unveiled a new set of logos on December 2. These new logos, like almost all new logos, were immediately excoriated by the team’s fan base via the usual social media channels. The Tides, taking a page from the Jimmy Kimmel playbook, took a “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” approach:

And, just out of curiosity, what do you think? Are these logos worthy of excoriation? I, for one, think that the sea horse is pregnant with possibility.

Norfolk_Tides_2016

Moving on from excoriation to exfoliation: Dr Zizmor, a legend of New York City subway advertising, has announced his retirement. I think a “Salute to Dr. Zizmor” promo within the NYC market would be great, but maybe that’s simply because it’s the first week back from the holidays and my brain is not yet up to fully-functioning status. It might never get there.

zizI’ve got no Segway, which is one of the reasons I ride the subway. So let’s get this one hover with and rock and roll on to the next item.

You may recall that, during last month’s Winter Meetings Trade Show, OT Sports was hawking KISS theme jerseys.

kiss_jersey_aj5f4fam_k9hjrzcxKISS theme jerseys will inevitably lead to larger KISS theme promos, and there is a precedent for that sort of thing. Teams thinking of jumping on the 2016 KISS bandwagon can pick up pointers from the Prince William Cannons (1998) and Rancho Cucamonga Quakes (1999); both of these promos were overseen by Pat Filippone (currently president of the Seventh Inning Stretch ownership group). Click on the above links and learn, while coming to terms with the fact that I am unable to close this bit with a good KISS reference. I gave it my Beth, though.

Given their innate desire to never alienate the fan base, Minor League teams are loathe to dive into the murky waters of politics. But Lowell Spinners’ mascot Canaligator already lives in murky waters, so he’s gone ahead and launched a presidential campaign.

canal

Canaligator announced his presidential intent following a Donald Trump rally held at Lowell’s Tsongas Center (yes, a Donald Trump rally was staged at a venue named after a lifelong Democrat). The press release contains this immortal quote:

“Look, I’m just a blue-collar gator who believes in staying in touch with his roots. Lowell is my home. These are the canals I swam in as a hatchling. LeLacheur Park is where I fell in love with baseball. What’s more American than an alligator running for president out of a baseball stadium?” 

Canaligator has long had his own Twitter account, but today he began a separate account solely devoted to his political aspirations. Groundbreaking.

Canaligator has not aligned himself as a member of a specific party. Why is he hiding his long-standing Green Party roots?

Get it? Because he’s green.

From the “I’ve never seen anything quite like this before” department comes this news from the Trenton Thunder:

tt

 

John Fierko, a member of the Trenton Thunder front office during their inaugural 1994 season, has returned to the team as its VP of ticket sales. From the press release:

Fierko was a member of the Thunder front office staff in 1994 when the franchise began operation. Fierko spent four years with the Thunder as Director of Ticket Sales before embarking on a career that saw him spend time with the Philadelphia 76ers, the ECHL, the Trenton Devils, the Lakewood BlueClaws and Comcast Sports Net Philadelphia.

Fierko’s first stint with the Thunder began so long ago, a baby born at that time can now legally drink. Those long-ago babies can not yet rent a car, however. That milestone will not occur until 2019.

I’ll close with an item out of Lexington that is, in a word, great: On Friday, the Legends are inviting six groups of local fifth grade students to the ballpark, where they will compete in a Shark Tank-style competition to develop a 2016 promo item. More info from my best friend, the press release:

After making a visit to the ballpark last fall, students from three classes, working in teams as part of an economics unit, were asked to generate ideas for a Legends giveaway.   Students conducted research, designed products, and then created and conducted surveys of other students, faculty and administrators to get their reactions.

Here’s a picture of some of the kids in brainstorming mode, aided and abetted by Ty Cobb (yes, Ty Cobb).

Ty Cobb and WWB students

Stay tuned to see what these kids come up with. And, other teams: Steal this idea.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

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The RubberDucks Shoot Down Brian Williams

April 27, as you well know, is “National Tell A Story Day.” The Akron RubberDucks, seeking to commemorate this beloved annual occasion, were recently struck with a burst of inspiration: Why not pay tribute to disgraced NBC news anchor Brian Williams, a man who has recently proven himself to be a storyteller par excellence?

And here we go, the first Minor League promo to be inspired by the Lies of Brian, live and direct from the (Sa)Tire City. It is sure to anchor the RubberDucks’ promo schedule, and if you don’t like that they’re doing it, I simply refer to you this piece of apparel that can be found in the team store:

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And now, in the interest of maintaining my own impeccable journalistic credentials, I will now unquestioningly quote the team’s press release at length:

[Brian Williams Pants on Fire Night] will feature an array of storytelling-related fun. Highlights include:

  • First 100 fans will receive a pair of suspenders upon entering Canal Park
  • On-field contests, including “To Tell the Truth” and “Two Truths & a Brian Williams,” also known as “Two Truths and a Lie”
  • In honor of National Tell a Story Day, a fan named Brian Williams will read tall tales
  • A between-inning chance for fans to audition to be the next television news anchor on the video board, with the fan-voted winner’s video sent to NBC
  • A pair of pants from Brian Williams will be burned in a “pants on fire” ceremony
  • Any fan in attendance named Brian Williams will have a chance to throw out a ceremonial first pitch 

I’m guessing that the suspenders will help suspend fans’ belief that such a ridiculous promotion is actually taking place. I would also like to know how, exactly, that the RubberDucks’ plan to obtain a pair of Brian Williams’ pants for the on-field “pants on fire” ceremony. Did they have just so happen to have a pair lying around, right next to Brokaw’s blazer and a pair of Cronkite cuff links? I heard a rumor they also might have a pair of Dan’s underwear, but I’d Rather not go there.

Either way, I’m looking forward to April 27. Here’s hoping the RubberDucks actually go through with this promo, and don’t later claim that the idea had, in fact, been shot down.

Meanwhile, if you’re looking for a more good-natured media-themed Eastern League promo announced in the late afternoon of February 10, the Trenton Thunder would like you to know about this:

jon_stewart_media_wall_3y7u5szp_6h9ohv88

Further strengthening my Pulitzer credentials, I once again defer to the press release in lieu of any journalistic legwork whatsoever:

Last night, Mercer County native Jon Stewart (Lawrence, NJ) announced his plans to leave Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show,” after a historic run as the show’s anchor for over 16 years. Stewart mentioned that he had looked forward to having dinner on a school night with his family and that he had heard from multiple sources that they “are lovely people.”

Your Thunder proudly extend an official invitation to Mr. Stewart to enjoy a game in the family-friendly environment of ARM & HAMMER Park.

Stewart, a well-known Mets fan, is welcome to attend the Binghamton Mets’ only visit to ARM & HAMMER Park during a four-game series beginning on July 23. That weekend the Thunder will giveaway CC Sabathia bobbleheads presented by TD Bank (July 24 to the first 2,000 fans ages 14 and over) and have two opportunities to watch fireworks shows (July 23 and 25). On Sunday July 26, the first 1,000 fans (age 14 and over) through the gate will get a duffle bag, and after the game, kids can run the bases courtesy of TD Bank.

My sources (aka “the voices in my head that compel me to keep writing nonsense long after people have stopped reading”) tell me that the Thunder briefly considered extending a similar invite to Stewart’s The Daily Show predecessor. That idea, however, was Kilborn.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

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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.”

thunder_dog_640_lc8crejg_f3h5rvwg

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

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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.

070

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

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