Results tagged ‘ Wisconsin Timber Rattlers ’

Meat, Fire, Bobbleheads, Silence, and Announcers

As a hardened veteran of the anthropomorphic pork beat, I’m rarely phased by any of the news which emanates from this durable sub-genre of the Minor League Baseball experience.

But the Lehigh Valley IronPigs are really taking things to the next level. First came the announcement that “Barbie Q” had been added to the team’s stable of meat racers:

Barbie-Q will be racing against Hambone, Chris P. Bacon, and Diggity this season, and despite her newness on the scene she has already been granted a rare form of immortality:

This mammoth installation is called — what else? — Mt. Porkmore. On Tuesday the team asked fans to come up with a caption for the above image, and while many of the respondents didn’t quite seem to grasp the concept of “making a joke”, there sure were some good ones.

I think my favorite was “Do you smell what the rock is cooking?”, but one Dave Johnson deserves special mention for his submission of “We should give Dave Johnson from Bethlehem, PA some free Iron Pigs tickets.”

UPDATE: The team has since chosen a winning caption. One that is, in my mind, thoroughly “meaty”-ocre:

“Don’t take them for granite.”

But Pork isn’t the only thing cooking in the Keystone State. On Tuesday, the State College Spikes announced that Ted Batchelor would be making a Friday (July) the 13th appearance at the inimitably named “Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.” I’ve written about Ted Batchelor quite a bit on these virtual pages, but in case you need a visual refresher:

I have always been and always will be an advocate of the quixotic endeavor, and greatly appreciate that Minor League Baseball as an industry supports them as well. Batchelor’s goal is to be lit on fire in all 50 states — why not help him out?

Moving on to that which is only metaphorically incendiary, the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers have released the first in a series of videos promoting their Opening Day bobbleheads. I believe this is the first time that “Kill Bill” has been parodied within the Minor League landscape:

I also believe that, with this, the Omaha Storm Chasers have become the first team to make an online video stylistically inspired by the classic film era.

I’ll close with this random bit of uber-impressive information:

You may recall that way back in April I wrote about a post which mentioned the four Pacific Coast League announcers that had called at least 2500 games.  Eight months after the fact, Toledo Mud Hens director of public relations/broadcaster Jason Griffin wrote in with this:

Jim Weber has been calling Mud Hens games since 1975…he has called 4,720 Toledo games in a row without missing a SINGLE broadcast…if you assume a game of 2:40 that is 45,312,000 seconds of play-by-play.

Whoa! Has any active Minor League broadcaster been able to log that many seconds? Please write to me in September with your answers!

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

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What Goes Around Comes Around

It is happening again.

This time around, the “again” that is “happening” are two staples of the Minor League Baseball winter time news cycle: Valentine’s Day mascot delivery and snow-covered field photos.

My days of exhaustively documenting all mascot delivery offers throughout the Minors have long since passed, as I need to maintain a facade of professional growth and momentum. Nonetheless, it remains my duty to note some of the more intriguing developments in the field. For instance, the Lehigh Valley IronPigs remain the only team that offers “Pork-o-Grams” to their fan base.

Two Pork-O-Grams packages are offered, but I would opt for “Package B” as it includes both a dozen roses and a pair of pig noses. Also, I can’t help but wonder if Diggity (pictured above) is related to the self-cannibalizing fellow who has long served as the logo for Lehigh Valley-based Yocco’s Hot Dogs.

Meanwhile, I’ve got to give the proverbial head nod to the Trenton Thunder. So far as I can discern, they are the first club to include a charitable component along with their mascot Valentine’s Day delivery package. 

The $150 package includes a dozen roses, a night in a luxury suite, and “as an added “heartfelt” bonus, a 25 ticket donation will be made in your name to the Trenton Thunder Charities Tickets For Kids Program.

And now we must move on the snow-covered field photo, an enduring staple of the Minor League Baseball offseason experience. These pictures of vast white expanse are meant to convey a sense of longing, for what has been and, yes, what will be.

The current kings of this subgenre are the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, with announcer/media relations man Chris Mehring leading the charge. Last week, as Appleton WI was blanketed by snow, his Rattler Radio blog was updated by the hour with new snow-covered pics. Here’s a 4 p.m. specimen.

If there’s snow on the ground you can’t play ball, so alternate forms of recreation are needed. Fort Wayne TinCaps mascot Johnny overcame his feelings of cold-infused melancholy by dusting off the ol’ American Flyer.

And speaking of melancholy, this is certainly the feeling pervading the city of Denver after the Broncos lost to the Patriots this past weekend. The loss also scuttled the JetHawks’ planned “Tebow Tuesday” promotion, detailed in Friday’s post. That’s a disappointing turn of events, to be sure, but at least it’s the first Tebow promotion to NOT result in a cease-and-desist letter.

For example:

And that’s going to be it for today — stay tuned tomorrow for the eagerly anticipated (?) third installment of “A Quarter Century After the Cardboard.”

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

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Moving Right Along

I didn’t do a blog post yesterday because I was lacking a proper lead story to give it that necessary “oomph” right on out of the gate.

I’m still lacking one. But since silence equals death in the blogging game, carry on I must. So how about a late-arriving introspective mascot pic to start things off? This one features Rascal of the Harrisburg Senators, sharing a heartfelt moment with the team’s director of stadium operations.

The offseason is a particularly good time in which to engage in such idle contemplation, but not if you’re a sentient piece of commemorative bronze. As documented in a two-part blog post, “Millsy” the Carolina League Championship Trophy has been feverishly taking in the sights of Frederick (home of the Keys, 2011 Carolina League victors).

“Although I have come back to the town that I have enjoyed so much, it has been lonely sitting in the office since September 16th, when the Keys won the title,” writes Millsy, perhaps the world’s only literate trophy. “I took it upon myself to escape the inner sanctums of the Keys front office to go on adventures of my own around Frederick and now you get the chance to see them!”

Thus far, the highlight of Millsy’s adventures has been a pilgrimage to the final resting place of Francis Scott Key.

A more traditional way to pass the time during the offseason is to create an Office-influenced offseason video series called — wait for it — The Offseason. The Wisconsin Timber Rattlers were the first to launch such an endeavor, and the most recent to follow suit are the State College Spikes. Episode One, commence!

While the aforementioned Timber Rattlers have retired their version of The Offseason, the team continues to break ground in the lucrative field of recurring Minor League offseason videos. As previously noted, this year’s initiative is a series of “Spot the Difference” videos. On this, the latest installment, I was able to spot exactly one difference. A truly pathetic showing.

Meanwhile, we are just a few short hours away from the unveiling of the Pensacola Blue Wahoos logo — what will almost certainly be the most notable and attention getting mark of the offseason. While awaiting this momentous occasion, may I suggest that you pass the time with a bit of “Mascot Donkey Basketball?”

I’ll see you on Monday, the first weekday of the “Wahoo Cool” era of Minor League Baseball.

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

Keep On Taco Truckin’

As you are most likely aware, the polls for the 2011 MiLB.com “Promotion of the Year” are currently open (and will be for another nine days — it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon).

Because an informed electorate is the bulwark of democracy, I made sure to provide links to as many of the nominees as possible. But one promo that I didn’t link to was Fresno’s “Taco Truck Throwdown” a situation that I will now rectify by featuring it right here and now.

This and all taco photos: Fresnotacos.com

In a post on the “Yardwork” team blog, the Grizzlies described the promotion as follows:

After an extensive search of the Valley, seven local trucks from Fresno, Fowler, Madera and Sanger were invited to Chukchansi Park to take place in the competition, which took place on the final Thirsty Thursday of the season. The buzz surrounding the event picked up as it got closer, generating stories throughout the Fresno media. The local ABC, NBC and FOX affiliates, as well as local radio and a whole smattering of local blogs previewed the event. With the news out on the Throwdown, a stunning crowd of 10,287 swarmed the concourse from the moment gates opened to the general public at 6:05, all the way until 20 minutes after the game had ended. 

The Grizzlies offered two taco ticket packages:

  • Deluxe Taco Package: $18 — includes four tacos, a ticket to the game and a Taco Truck Throwdown T-shirt.
  • Super Taco Experience: $23 — includes eight tacos, a ticket to the game and a Taco Truck Throwdown T-shirt.

Those who purchased one of the above packages were able to choose from the following vendors:

At the end of the Throwdown, winners were named in both the “Judge’s” and “People’s Choice” category.

From what I can gather from reading about this online, the only problem with the promotion was that it was too successful. The lines were long, and those wishing to sample all of the vendors found themselves in an oft-futile race against time. Some logistical improvements could be made, no doubt, but overall this seems to be a no-brainer to return in 2012.

It also seems to be a no-brainer for other teams to adapt this concept to their market. As the Grizzlies demonstrated, such a promotion can generate copious media coverage and resultant increased attendance. But who knows? I also thought that the Frederick Keys’ 2010 “Volt Night” food extravaganza would be adapted by other markets, but thus far none have done so.

Guess my blognostication skills need some work.

Regardless, let me again reiterate that there is plenty of time to vote for the MiLB.com Promotion of the Year. If you work for a team that is nominated, why not mount a promotional campaign? It can make all the difference in the world.

Finally, I concluded yesterday’s post with what I thought might be the best corn maze in all of Minor League Baseball. But one of my informants has since gotten in touch, arguing that THIS is better.

You be the judge.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Red, White, and YouTube

We are careening toward what is sure to be an eminently enjoyable Holiday Weekend, and strenuous acts like “reading things on the internet” don’t hold much appeal at the present moment.  So allow me to take you on out of the work week with a cavalcade of recent video masterworks to emanate from the Minor League landscape.

Let’s start with the one Minor League team that will NOT be celebrating July 4th: the Vancouver Canadians. Our neighbors to the North produced a Major League-spoofing commercial that is rapidly attaining viral status.

If that somehow hasn’t satiated your desire to see Minor League productions of Major League, then check out this recent “One-Minute Movie” put together by the Mahoning Valley Scrappers.

Staying within the always rich topic of “Ohio-based Minor League parody”, the Akron Aeros are promoting an upcoming appearance by soap star Patrick Drake by putting words into his mouth.

The next day the Aeros’ are trying to appeal to a younger segment of the female fan demographic with their “Princess Tea Party.” Mascot Orbit is doing his best to learn the proper etiquette.

The Aeros’ Eastern League compatriots Trenton Thunder don’t need to worry about selling tickets to this weekend’s slate of games, thanks to the presence of rehabbing superstar Derek Jeter. But not even Hall of Fame-bound Bronx icons possess the charisma of the team’s endlessly effervescent Bobby Baseball.

Also in possession of copious charisma if Montgomery Biscuits pitcher Chris Archer. Thursday is “Ladies Night” in Montgomery, and one lucky lady will win a date with the dashing right-hander:

Not as desirable to the ladies is new Frederick Keys’ mascot “Frank Key.” The freakishly large cranium might have something to do with that.

But the true indicator of any Minor League video’s success is how it plays in Peoria. And this one, from the hometown Chiefs, has been viewed plenty of times within the fine Illinois metropolis.

I’d say that the above definitively proves that rhythm is not a prerequisite of professional baseball success. Also not a prerequisite of professional baseball success: being human.

It’s not just a lazy stereotype, it’s the capital T Truth: Anatomically incorrect snakes take their celebrity airport pick-ups very seriously.

And that’s gonna conclude the blogging week. Enjoy the Holiday, and I’ll see you right back here at this very URL on July 5.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Home Field Advantage

This past Thursday, the Tri-City ValleyCats embarked upon their “4 in 24″ project. This ambitious and worthwhile involved the renovation of four local youth baseball fields over the span of 24 hours. Here’s a collage of “after” pictures, taken from an excellent blog post re-capping the event.

The project was spearheaded by the team, and done in coordination with an array of corporate sponsors and community volunteers. As the ValleyCats explain:

Part of our mission as the Capital Region’s professional baseball team is to act as a steward for the game. The 4 in 24 project was a great way to further this initiative by giving back to the community that has supported us since 2002…The biggest challenge that we faced was the sheer size of this project. The ValleyCats organization has renovated a number of fields over the years but completing four within twenty four hours required a well-coordinated effort and a lot of coffee. Each of the leagues and sponsors provided volunteers that were crucial in moving things along.

The field work included “cutting out the entire infield grass, raking and grading the dirt, leveling the playing surface, laying out brand new grass and rebuilding the entire pitchers mound and home plate areas.” The aforementioned blog post includes a plethora of “before and after” photos. Here are two:


An even more current example of MiLB altruism can be found in Durham, as the Bulls are collecting food and clothing for those victimized by the recent tornadoes in North Carolina. The team offered free tickets to Wednesday’s matinee contest for all fans donating five canned goods or a bag of clothing. Here’s the resultant scene on the concourse:

As is often the case in April, poor weather is wreaking havoc throughout the world of Minor League Baseball. Yesterday’s post included snow-filled photos and video from West Michigan, and today the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers have postponed their ballgame due to an excess of the white stuff.

This picture appeared on announcer Chris Mehring’s “Rattler Radio” blog today.  It appears that the grounds crew workers may be preparing to pelt the broadcast booth with snowballs.

Meanwhile the Quad Cities River Bandits are currently playing a ballgame despite these conditions outside of the stadium (this photo originally appeared in the Peoria Chiefs “Playing in Peoria” blog).

Such is life when you play in a ballpark built on the banks of the Mississippi, but extensive renovations of recent vintage (including berm seating that doubles as a floodwall) have done much to mitigate the damage.

I’ve gotten through this post without a single joke attempt, a rarity in the world of Ben’s Biz Blog. It feels kind of good, actually, so I’ll end this before the urge to pun-tificate becomes unbearable. Thanks, as always, for reading.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Moving Forward In Reverse

My original plan was to devote today’s post exclusively to food (shocker, I know), but you know what they say about the best laid plans:

They are often interrupted by a reversible hat!

The Altoona Curve announced their new logos and uniforms earlier this offseason, and the shape-shifting item seen above represents the final piece of the puzzle. Remarks the franchise:

[T]he Altoona Curve’s new home cap is believed to be the first in Minor League Baseball to feature a specially-designed, rally cap lining. When the Railroad Red cap with the new Engineer head logo is turned inside out, a bright orange lining with large black eyes is displayed to simulate the look of popular Curve rally mascot, Al Tuna.

The cap is the work of Plan B Branding, who are understandably excited by their latest innovation. I chatted briefly with company co-founder Jason Klein over IM yesterday, but all he wrote was “Al Tuna! Al Tuna!” before my connection gave out. But perhaps that’s all that was needed.

Al Tuna! Al Tuna!

But in case you were wondering, the players themselves won’t be wearing the rally caps. Curve manager PJ Forbes told the Altoona MirrorI can emphatically say no. But it is a nice touch for the fans, and it’s another way to get the fans involved, which is what it’s all about.” Which reminds me, why isn’t there a “Come to the Park in Your PJs” night on the Curve promotional calendar? It would be a great way to honor the manager while getting the fans involved. And that’s what it’s all about!

Speaking of getting the fans involved, the Huntsville Stars are going to be broadcasting games in a most interesting fashion this season:

The Stars will be replacing the traditional radio broadcast with a live web show for every home game.  The webcast, “The Living Room Show”, will bring a different level of entertainment to the ballpark, putting the broadcast in the hands, and seats, of fans. Ryan “Pokey” Hayden, a former voice of Troy University athletics, will host the show and keep things rolling. He’ll also be in charge of calling the play-by-play, and it won’t be from the press box. Hayden will be seated on a couch in the seating bowl, calling the game with the people who love it most: the fans.

I’m definitely interested to hear (and see) how this turns out. It could be the future of Minor League Baseball broadcasting, or it could be a crazy and quickly-forgotten anomaly. But it won’t be both. I’d also curious to hear YOUR thoughts. Yes, you.

Believe it or not, I have not embedded a video since MLBlogs made its momentous conversion to WordPress (who, according to the logic of Rob Neyer, must be doing something wrong). That situation is going to be rectified right now, with a video that just happened to fall into my lapse. Courtesy of the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, here’s the offseason condensed into 118 seconds.

But the offseason, in real time, was approximately 4.2 billion years. I, for one, am glad that it ends tomorrow. It’s time to not enjoy life in a whole new way!

Oh, and that food-related post is coming soon. I think I’m going to call it “Appetite For Destruction” because how is it possible that I have never written a post with this title?

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Every End Is A New Beginning

There’s just a little more than a month to go before Opening Day. Truly, the clock is ticking on the offseason:

Omaha_clock.jpg

That was the scene in Omaha recently, as a flatbed truck pulled into brand-new Werner Park whilst toting a gigantic clock featuring Vortex the stormcloud. So what this is, essentially, is a Time Vortex. Are the Storm Chasers attempting to reach out to the Dr. Who fans in the house?

Meanwhile, in Wisconsin, “The Offseason” has officially come to an end. The Timber Rattlers unveiled the last episode of their weekly series today, and it’s a doozy. In addition to skillfully referencing a recent hit comedy (“Brat Tub Time Machine”), it explains mascot Fang’s strange anatomy AND features a character who happens to go by the name of “Ben Hill.” What an honor:

Over on MiLB.com, “Offseasoning” has come to an end. This was a bi-weekly column profiling players’ offseason jobs and activities, and the final installment features current free agent, Twitter champion, and all-around nice guy Michael Schlact.

I’m hoping to soon do a few articles in the “Offseasoning” mode, but this time featuring Spring Training. Let me know if you are aware of any interesting stories taking place in Minor League camp.

But while some things are coming to an end, others are just beginning (sunrise, sunset, etc etc). This is the case in Pawtucket, as the Red Sox have just unleashed a whodunit “Scavenger Hunt” onto the world.

Yes, the villain in this adventure is a gorilla wearing a Yankees hat. The Paw Sox will release clues each week that will guide fans toward a “Golden Soft Toss” ball redeemable for team-related prizes.

Earlier this week I noted some of the interesting giveaways the Altoona Curve have on tap for this season. There’s more where that came from, as yesterday the team released their Theme Night schedule. The highlight is “What We’re Watching Wednesdays,” explained as such in the press release.

lockelocke.jpgThe first “What We’re Watching Wednesday” will take place on May 4 vs. Akron and lampoon the now retired ABC phenomenon “LOST”. The team’s working title of “LOST – Locke & Locke” plays off of 2010 Curve pitcher Jeff Locke, who actually was a huge fan of the cult series, and the mysterious character John Locke from the show itself.

After attempting to decipher the mysteries of the island, the Curve will try their hand at crime solving on June 8 vs. Erie with “NCIS/CSI: Curve, Pa. – Lawglenn.jpg & Order SVU” night. Other “What We’re Watching Wednesdays” include “How I Met Your Mascot” on June 15 vs. New Britain, “Glenn’s Kitchen” (which will place Curve Manager of Concessions Glenn McComas in the role of Chef Gordon Ramsay) on June 29 vs. Reading, “Lawn Stars” (starring Head Groundskeeper Brian Soukup) on August 17 vs. New Hampshire and “Only in Curve, Pa. with Bill the Comic Guy” on August 24 vs. Richmond. That should “Git ‘R Done” for the WWWW theme series.

There might be remarkable parity in Major League Baseball these days, but no one tops the Minors when it comes to parody.

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

Snowman Decimation Immortalized (and Other Seasonal Happenings)

If there’s one thing that we can all agree on, it’s that a lot of snow has fallen from the sky this week. For Minor League teams, it can be tough to capitalize on a weather phenomenon so antithetical to ideal baseball conditions. But that doesn’t mean they’re not going to try!

The Wisconsin Timber Rattlers are certainly capitalizing, as now is a most apropos time to unveil a snow-themed Opening Day bobblehead. 

It’s Scooter Vs. The Snowman!

scootersnow.JPG

This truly unique item was inspired by the Rattlers’ Opening Day snowout this past season. With no game to play, the players took to the snow-covered field in order to let off some steam. And during this unsupervised free time, Scooter Gennett unleashed a brutal attack upon a hapless snowman.

wisconsin snow 3.jpg 

And now, that moment has been immortalized for all time! The “Scooter Vs. The Snowman” bobblehead will be given away to all fans attending Opening Day at Fox Cities Stadium on April 7. Hopefully it will inspire a “player vs. inanimate object” bobblehead subgenre.

Gennett’s snowman attack took place more than nine months ago, but fans of the now will be gratified to know that there are plenty of more recent snow-covered ballpark photos floating around the internet. My colleague Danny Wild has done the world a tremendous service by compiling many of them in an MiLB.com photo album, but it’s the ones from Spokane that really stand out.

Avista Stadium will be hosting an outdoor junior hockey league game this weekend, resulting in a fairly stunning ballpark transformation. 

spokane1.JPG

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A far more informal winter sport conversion can be found at Joseph L. Bruno Stadium, as Tri-City ValleyCats assistant general manager Matt Callahan recently took to the outfield slopes. Do not try this at home (assuming your home is a Minor League Baseball stadium).  

And then there’s snow-covered FirstEnergy Stadium in Reading, a 60-year-old facility in the midst of an extensive $10 million renovation project.

readingren.JPG 

The snow has temporarily slowed down the pace of the project, giving stadium denizen Ryan Howard Garden Gnome a rare opportunity for wintertime solace and reflection.

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It’s like the old saying goes: There’s snow place like gnome!

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

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