Results tagged ‘ West Michigan Whitecaps ’

In the Absence of Whipped Cream: Other Delights

Everything’s Cyclical is what I named my (now-defunct) bike shop, but these two words apply to Minor League blogging as well. And in accordance with the natural rhythms of that particular cycle, it is now time for me to write a bit about ballpark food.

In comparison to past seasons, there haven’t been any media-baiting monstrosities unveiled as a means to generate interest in the coming baseball campaign. But, as always, there are some new concession stand items vying for your attention (and mine).

Down in Southwest Florida, the Fort Myers Miracle have premiered the Breakfast Brat (topped with bacon, egg, and a “drizzle” of maple syrup).

That looks like a wonderful concoction, but surely it’s not enough to satiate the appetite of the hungry blog reader. So for dessert, let’s head to that delicately-combined triumvirate of state names known as Delmarva. The Shorebirds are offering a “super-pretzel” this season, one that’s the size of five mortal pretzels and comes equipped with three toppings.

Apparently it is so tempting that the photographer ate some before taking the requisite glamor shot:

The team asked fans to give this pretzel a name, a query which generated an amazing 130 responses.

Some suggestions, such as “This does not look appetizing at all,” were not as clear and concise as the team would have liked. But many were, and among these “Pretzilla” was my favorite. My suggestion: Love Me Dough.

UPDATE: In response to a flurry of reader inquiries, I contacted the ShoreBirds in order to determine just what the above three toppings are. Your answer: Chocolate, strawberry, and cream cheese. AND THAT’S NOT ALL! The team is also offering a “savory” version of the pretzel, with toppings of pizza sauce, garlic butter, and nacho cheese.

Meanwhile, the Quad Cities River Bandits have asked fans to vote on what 2012’s new concession item will be. The choices are:

  • Chorizo Corn Dog
  • Mashed Potato Sundae
  • Smoked Turkey Leg
  • Deep Fried Pork Tenderloin
  • Fried Ravioli with Marinara
  • QC Steak Sandwich with BBQ Sauce & Cheddar Cheese

My choice is an emphatic one: the Chorizo Corn Dog. But, as is so often the case, my opinion has proven to be too esoteric. The QC Steak Sandwich is currently in first (voting ends today!), with the Chorizo Corn Dog a distant fourth.

Basically, I just wanted to write about a Chorizo Corn Dog. And it was all for naught.

This coulda been you, chorizo.

One team that is no stranger to fan voting are the West Michigan Whitecaps,  who, as is their custom, had fans vote on 10 potential new food items. As always, there were some interesting contenders.

How about some Scotch Eggs, followed by a deep-fried root beer float (ice cream sandwich dipped in root beer batter and deep fried)?

In college I used to call the above combo the “breakfast of champions,” but since then I’ve learned to consolidate. Now I just stick to deep-fried Scotch. But neither above the above two items will be on the 2012 menu. That honor goes to…well, I’ll let the team make the announcement, as they have done so in cinematic style.

Yes, the Westside Po’  Boy: sports kielbasa, pierogies and sauerkraut smothered in marinara sauce and loaded on a hoagie roll. It replaces last year’s winner “Chicks With Sticks” (celery, carrots, and hummus) which was — the horror! — actually good for you. Clearly, healthy eating at the ballpark is a concept that the American populace is not quite ready to embrace.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

An Inspiring Display of Heart

The Memphis Redbirds “Organ Donor” jerseys” got a lot of attention both here and elsewhere, and for good reason — very few professional baseball teams, if any, have ever taken the field while decked out in innards-exposing uniform tops.

It all went down on Saturday, with the Redbirds earning a 5-2 victory over the far more conservatively-dressed Tucson Padres. Prior to the ballgame, backstop Nick Derba modeled these awareness-raising duds in the dugout.

Credit for each of the next six photos: Allison Rhoades/Memphis Redbirds

Whether on the mound, at the plate, in the field, or in the dugout, the Redbirds really showed a lot of heart.

 

And at the end of the day, everyone learned a valuable lesson. Whether black or white, bald or hirsute, smiling or grimacing, we’re all the same on the inside.

Credit for all organ jersey photos: Allison Rhoades/Memphis Redbirds

But in another, far more accurate sense, we are not all the same. Some of us are way better dancers than others, as evidenced by this amazing video featuring touring ballpark performer B-Boy McCoy going toe-to-toe with preternaturally gifted Whitecaps hurler Alex Burgos.

And on the topic of artistically precocious Minor League ballplayers, here’s a clip of Charlotte Knights catcher Adam Ricks shredding his way through the National Anthem prior to last Thursday’s ballgame.

But for every triumphant moment in life, there is one of defeat. This sobering lesson was brought home earlier this week, with the news that Mark Hamburger had been knocked out of this this year’s (still-ongoing) Minors Moniker Madness tournament by none other than Shooter Hunt.

This despite the fact that Hamburger and his Round Rock Express cronies had put together some truly excellent campaign videos. Click HERE for one. And HERE for another. And then watch one more below.

And you know what goes well with a large helping of Hamburger? A side of corn on the cob, that’s what. We’ll end today’s blogging (mis)adventures with Cedar Rapids’ unflinching look at the harrowing aftermath of anthropomorphic vegetable bathroom usage.

Ending on a high note, as always.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

West Michigan Celebrates Alien Cultures, Foreign Lands

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

In-vest-ing in the Ridiculous

We live in a strange and unpredictable world, but amidst the daily uncertainty there are aspects of our existence that remain reliable and consistent.

For example, at least once a year the Fort Myers Miracle will attract national media attention by staging satirical sports promotion. Some recent highlights:

2010: Dress Like Craig Sager Night

2009: What Would Tim Tebow Do Night? (later rescinded)

2007: Billy Donovan Night (MiLB.com’s “Promotion of the Year”)

And let’s not forget “Mike Tyson Ear Night”, “The World According to Sir Charles”, and “Don’t Be A Bengal, Be A Good Citizen Night.”

And then there was what took place last night — “Rest the Vest,” poking fun at the signature sartorial stylings of scandal-soaked Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel.

Details:

The new coach of the Buckeyes presumably will not wear sweater vests on the sidelines; so it’s time to retire them. Fans are encouraged to bring their sweater vest and place it in the retirement bin near the front gate of Hammond Stadium.

The Miracle want everyone to enjoy the “Rest the Vest” Night and even though you might not have a favorite sweater vest, if you have a tattoo then you also benefit.

Some pictures from the evening:

This all leads me to a bigger question — are topical but not necessarily locally-connected promotions worth doing? The Miracle obviously think so — after all, it put them in the national spotlight yet again. Google “Fort Myers Miracle Jim Tressel” and see for yourself.

But I’ve spoken to quite a few Minor League employees who don’t see the point in staging a promotion that lacks a local connection. If it doesn’t energize and engage the hometown fans, then why bother? National attention is all well and good, but not at the expense of alienating or exasperating the fans showing up at the ballpark on a regular basis.

It’s not all so cut and dry, of course, and this is perhaps an issue worth exploring in further depth. But, for now, thrill to the sight of a costumed Bat getting hit with a ball.

As far as I can tell, the ball went into Buddy’s mouth and stayed there. The pitcher and the catcher were wholly unconcerned, however, retrieving a new ball without so much as a second glance.

But you may want to give this photo gallery a second glance, seeing as it features images from the West Michigan Whitecaps’ “Led Zeppelin Night.”

Moving on from a uninspired segue to no segue at all, I recently came across the between-inning innovation that is the Team Trax logo race.I have yet to see one of these in action, but definitely seems like something that could catch on.

Let’s hear it for teamwork!

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

One Thing, Led, Another

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

And yet here we are:

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

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

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

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

Note: Not a player

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

The Sky’s the Limit

To begin today’s post, I’d like to share one of the greatest mascot photos of all time:

That sky-diving bull is Hornsby of the Tulsa Drillers. Jumping out of an airplane (why not?) was one of his last acts before undergoing a thorough overhaul. As part of an effort overseen by Mascot Doctor (and original Phillie Phanatic) Dave Raymond, the Drillers hired a full-time performer and and re-did the costume.

Meet Hornsby 2.0:

I think a good way to publicize the new Hornsby would be to make a video of him in a sushi restaurant eating soup, accompanied by the sounds of 2 Live Crew. The video would be called “Miso Hornsby.”

Never mind, sorry, strike that from the record. It’s just that if you can’t please everyone you’ve got to please yourself. And speaking of guardin’ parties, the 550-pound Ryan Howard Garden Gnome recently presided over the Reading Phillies humdinger of an Opening Night celebration.

A $10 million offseason renovation project always results in an extra-festive atmosphere!

Duck!

Ostriches!

Disco Briscoe!

But for many teams, the pomp and pageantry of Opening Day soon succumbs to cold, hard, reality. Emphasis on the cold. The Wisconsin Timber Rattlers are snowed out today, and yesterday evening West Michigan Whitecaps played a ballgame despite this being the scene earlier in the day:

But in the team’s own words: “If there’s snow on the field, play ball!”

Such frosty weather can be hazardous to mascots as well, as the Lake County Captains latest “Christmas Story”-themed giveaway dramatically illustrates. On July 23, one year after the “Skipper Leg Lamp“, the team is distributing this:

Keep Your Nose to the Foul Pole

Yes, Skipper’s nose magnetically attaches itself to the foul pole.

That’s all for me today, but before I go let me note that there is a NEW PROMOTION PREVIEW column and that FEEDBACK IS APPRECIATED! I want to be the Big Meech of Minor League Baseball writers, but instead feel like Hoover because all of my writing occurs in a vacuum.

I’m sure this has nothing to do with belabored, obscure, and obsessive compulsive wordplay.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

The Bored and the Buoy-tiful

Last week I dedicated a post to the West Michigan Whitecaps’ courageous salute to “The Most Boring Day of All Time.” Read all about it HERE, but in a nutshell the club dedicated Monday night’s game to celebrating the 57th anniversary of April 11, 1954, which a guy with computer knowledge deemed to be the least exciting day of the 20th century.

That makes sense, right?

It better, because I’ve got a video recap to post.

What I like most about this video (outside of the highly awkward seventh-inning stretch) is that it shows the reality of actually staging such a promotion.  It’s one thing to talk about what a team will do, but quite another to see it actually happen.

The local news even gave the Whitecaps some coverage, going so far as to include an extended shot of four grown men watching paint dry in the concourse. Fans also had the chance to watch grass grow, as this photo illustrates:

Also on the agenda:  The Not-So Dizzy Bat Race, an interview with the “Boring Fan of the Night” on his love of calculus, the “Stand in Place” race,  Math Trivia, Human Resources Orientation Videos, Extremely Slow Chicken Dance, and Muzak over the PA all night long.

Moving on to an equally boring matter — I have a new profile pic. Buoy Bill, maker of the Buoy Bat, sent over his product to Buoy Biz Blog headquarters. And let me tell you: I no longer merely buoy-curious, the Buoy Bat made a believer out of me! Perhaps Bowie Baysox fans will be interested?

If you want your product or giveaway item to potentially be featured on this blog, then send me an email. That’s all there is to it, I just like getting mail.

Finally moving on to more exciting news, Nick Van Stratten of the Northwest Arkansas Naturals made a home run-robbing catch over the weekend that received national media attention. The team quickly put together this video celebrating and contextualizing Van Stratten’s accomplishment.

The Naturals also made news with their guarantee that Tuesday’s contest would be a one-run game. It wasn’t (not by a longshot), so all fans in attendance received a complimentary ticket to 4/24’s Easter Sunday matinee.

Alright, that’s all I’ve got at the moment. If somehow you’re still not satiated then go read the new “Promo Preview” or something.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

No Reason To Get Excited

There are a lot of interesting Minor League promotions scheduled to take place during the first week of the season, from 3D Videoboards to chicken-selling hip-hop stars to the immortalization of snowman decimation.

But to me, the promotion that stands out the most is the one that’s trying to stand out the least. For on April 11, the West Michigan Whitecaps will  be celebrating the 57th Anniversary of the “Most Boring Day in History.”

This soporific salute was inspired by the NPR show All Things Considered, but not merely the existence of the show itself. In a segment that aired this past November, co-host Robert Siegel interviewed computer scientist William Tunstall-Pedoe on the latter’s non-explosive assertion that April 11, 1954 was the least significant day of the 20th century (Tunstall-Pedoe had reached this conclusion after conducting a query through the “True Knowledge” search engine he had invented).

This was all the Whitecaps needed to hear, as the club set about planning a tedious tribute to the 57th anniversary of history’s most boring day. According to Whitecaps director of media relations Mickey Graham, interminable innovations on this most monotonous of Mondays will include the following:

Bueller...Bueller...

Fans will not be asked to sit on the edge of their seats (that’s too dangerous)

Our on-field host, whose day job is a high school math teacher, will lead the fans in solving math problems

The Dizzy Bat Race will be the leisurely ‘Walk to Second Base Race’ – no spinning, falling down or running allowed.

Our ball toss will become a ball handout

Batters will be announced in a monotone “Ben Stein” voice

Fans will be encouraged to “watch the grass grow” as the game progresses

Our IT manager will present to the fans a tutorial on how to properly use your desk phone

We will paint a wall before the game and give everyone the opportunity to watch the paint dry

Boring movie clips will be shown throughout the game on the video board

Elevator music will be played over the PA system

Thank goodness that all this boredom will be balanced out by nine innings of cold-weather Class A baseball on a Monday night! And if even that somehow fails to inspire, then fans can up the excitement by indulging in the Whitecaps’ super-exciting new concession stand addition:

Chicks With Sticks!

It’s gonna be a long evening…

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Give ‘em Healthy Eating

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Whitecaps Primary.JPGThe West Michigan Whitecaps have been a major player on the concessions scene in recent years, unleashing colossal monstrosities such as the Fifth Third Burger and the Declaration of Indigestion upon the world.

So when the team held its annual fan vote to determine 2011’s new food item, it seemed a safe assumption that the winner would be something meaty and/or massive. Walking Spaghetti, perhaps? Meat Salad and the Bologna Lollipop also appeared to be strong contenders.

But…no. In a stunning repudiation of all that the Minor Leagues have come to stand for, the winner was none other than the irreverently-named “Chicks With Sticks.”

Vegetables!

Thumbnail image for Chicks with Sticks.JPG

More specifically, Chicks With Sticks is a healthy option consisting of fresh sliced vegetables with a hummus (made from “Chick” peas) or optional ranch dipping sauce.

While I’m surprised that this won a fan vote, healthy eating options at the ballpark are nothing new. Even the Akron Aeros, best known for their new line of meaty behemoths, recently announced their “Farmer’s Market” concession stand, featuring veggie burgers, turkey hot dogs, hummus and chips, fruit platters, veggie platters and salads.

A quote from Aeros food and beverage director Jason Kerton sums up the strategy here:

“The Akron Aeros will offer a caloric counter-balance to our “extreme” menu items and full lineup of innovative carnivorous creations, with offerings of a lighter fare.”

Nonetheless, recent news out of Durham is more in line with what we’ve come to expect from the Minors. The Bulls will be serving “The Bulldog” in 2011, an all-beef hot dog wrapped in bacon and cheese and blanketed in soft pretzel dough.

bulldog.jpg

Along much more ridiculous lines, Charleston RiverDogs announcer Danny Reed has, uh, announced that he will be attempting the “Slammer Pizza Challenge”. This endeavor is described as a gluttonous pizza quest featuring a team of two people attempting to polish off a 28-inch Gilroy’s pizza with five toppings of the team’s choosing, which can weigh in excess of seven pounds.

And, guess what? He needs a partner! Those interested in joining Mr. Reed’s noble pursuit have until May 23 to apply.

dreed.jpg

I’m pretty sure that Gwinnett Braves mascot Chopper would be up to the challenge, but right now he has bigger concerns. Nudity alert!

And — hey! — it’s Friday. That means its time for me to end the blogging week with a gratuitous video of my choosing.

And what I choose is this:

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

That Which Makes the Belly Bobble

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for ports logo.gifApologies for the recent lull in blog activity. I have been in a world of silent screams and fever dreams that I am still trying to fully extricate myself from.

But even in the winter of my discontent, I must post some of dis content that has accumulated. Not surprisingly, it revolves around promotions and food.

Let’s start with the Stockton Ports, whose 2011 promo schedule includes two top-notch giveaway items. The first immortalizes one of the most memorable recent moments in franchise history.

This:

bradenbell.jpg

The individual seen above is Oakland A’s hurler Dallas Braden, a native Stocktonian who threw a perfect game last season. Soon after accomplishing the feat, he visited the Ports’ Banner Island Ballpark and showed off his hometown area code tattoo — you can take Dallas out of the 209, but you can’t the 209 out of Dallas!

On July 17th, the Ports will give away the “Dallas Braden Bobblebelly”. According to the team, this item “features a smiling Dallas Braden lifting his shirt to reveal his “209” tummy tattoo and wiggling at the waist.”

Read more about it in last week’s “Minoring in Business” feature.

The Ports have also immortalized 2010 alumni (and current limo driver) Jeremy Barfield in similarly idiosyncratic fashion: by giving the rocket-armed outfielder a literal rocket for an arm.

July 8 is the Jeremy Barfield Rocket-Arm Figurine Giveaway. It may or may not have been inspired by this sketch.

barfield.JPG

And now what you’ve all came here for: food news! As they did last season, the West Michigan Whitecaps are asking fans to vote on which of 10 potential new food items should appear on the Fifth Third Ballpark concession menu next season.

A video tour of the items can be viewed HERE, courtesy of Whitecaps promotions manager Brian Oropallo and the ladies of the local eightWest television program. Otherwise, read on for photos galore.

The most bizarre would have to be the Duck, Frog, Hot Dog.

Duck Hog Frog Dog.JPG

The “Meat Salad” consists of “Beef brisket, hot dogs, pulled pork, pulled chicken, gyro meat, Johnsonville bratwurst and hamburger.”

Meat Salad (3).JPG

A “Bologna Lollipop” is self-explanatory:

bologna lollipop.JPG

The “Big O” isn’t (it’s “pulled pork, beef and boneless chicken wings plus two layers of Provolone cheese on a hoagie roll, smothered in jalapenos, potato wedges and barbeque sauce, and topped with an onion ring”)

Big O.JPG

The “Chicks With Sticks” will surely garner a lot of protest votes from those looking to rebel against the meat-mania currently overtaking the Minors.

Chicks with Sticks.JPG

But the current frontrunner is “Walking Spaghetti” — a 16-inch loaf of garlic bread with a pound of spaghetti, a pound of cheese, meatballs, and a quart of marinara sauce:

Walking Spaghetti (3).JPG

It’s only 5,630 calories — why not order two?

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

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