As I reflect on some of the minor league games I have attended in the past…there are a few games that stand out above the rest. Last year I had the honor of attending a Wilmington (Wilmington, DE- Royals Single A) Blue Rocks game with a few of my closest friends. Little did we know that night we would witness one of the greatest spectacles any baseball crowd had ever witnessed. Never before in my life had I ever thought it was possible for monkeys to be riding dogs in a rodeo. That night expanded my imagination and proved me wrong!
That night at the ballpark the Blue Rocks provided their fans with a monkey/dog rodeo show!
The outfit that provides this entertainment is called “Team Ghost Rider” and they are pretty well known nationally. They travel the country mostly as sideshows in sporting events, sometimes other rodeos. But this rodeo act got their big break performing at the Blue Rocks games and brought the creativity level of a minor league promotion to a whole new level!
Team Ghost Rider is led by a rodeo cowboy named Tim “Wild Thang” Lepard. Tim was a rodeo cowboy who got injured during 1 of his shows and needed another entertainment act to extend his career. According to his website and testimony that I heard at the game his dream as a kid was to “own a monkey.” So I guess mixing his rodeo experience with his dream gave us this original and mind-blowing act that consists of monkeys riding dogs.
Team Ghost Rider’s act is actually pretty impressive. It boggles my mind how Mr. Lepard was able to train monkeys and dogs simultaneously to start a show. It makes me wonder what his house looks like…if there are monkeys and dogs roaming his yard! But Team Ghost Rider consists of usually 3 or 4 dog/monkey pairs where monkeys are strapped to the top of a Collie breed. They then perform tricks ranging from races, to one handed stands by the monkey. The signature of this act is when they monkey/dogs attempt to herd goats throughout the ballpark. This provides for some really hilarious and harmless fun. As a ballplayer I have no idea how one can stay focused when all of this is going on. Although there have been a few incidents of goats roaming too close to the ball players as they’re warming up between innings.
Team Ghost Rider tours throughout the country during the summer, appearing at a few minor league stadiums along the way. If these guys ever venture out to a stadium near you, I would highly recommend you go out and see them. They will provide you with an unforgettable night of entertainment!
People often associate something that is unbelievable with the idea of flying pigs. What kind of feeling would one associate with the idea of monkey-riding dogs?
* A personal video will be included very soon!
Game of the Week:
Hickory Crawdads vs. Greensboro Grasshoppers
Friday, May 4th 7PM- NewBridge Bank Park, Greensboro, NC
For this week’s game of the week I had to look long and hard across the country to find a worthy game. Luckily I was able to find a worthy game in Greensboro, North Carolina in the land of the grasshopper. On Friday Night the Greensboro Grasshoppers will be hosting “Superhero/Villain Night” at the ballpark…probably because of the Avengers movie coming out on the same day.
Superhero/Villain Night is a contest amongst the fans on who can bring the best costume. You can be any superhero or villain you want to be. You can be a stoic hero such as Superman or Batman. You can be a villain such as the Joker or the Green Goblin. You can be an underrated superhero such as Derek Zoolander or Captain Planet. You can probably even make a hero up. Just make it a really cool costume and you might be able to sing the Seventh Inning Stretch at the game!
Can you imagine going to a baseball game and sitting next to Daredevil…or trying to get Catwoman’s number while watching the game? Imagine telling your kids that you saw Iron Man sing the National Anthem! These are memories that are unforgettable and should be cherished haha!
Seriously though what other event can bring comic book fanatics to a baseball game? As a baseball fan I love it when a team’s promotional staff can think of something crazy like this. This is what can make that fair-weather fan’s experience a good one and what can make a huge baseball fan such as myself a memorable one. I hope that the Grasshoppers bring back this promotion next year so that I can participate in the promotion!
If I ever get to attend this game I would only pick the mightiest super hero of them all!
That’s right I would pick the superhero “Steel” perfected by the legend Shaquille O’Neal! I mean what better superhero can you pick then an aspring rapper/actor basketball superhero inside a superhero costume that he got out of the garbage! The synopsis of this very underrated classic is quite compelling. I mean this movie should’ve won an Oscar!
Which hero/villain would you go to the game as?
The Philadelphia Phillies have been dreadful on offense this year. Watching this Phillies team play this year has been a more unpleasant experience then watching Sinbad do stand-up comedy. But luckily for all you local Phillies fans…help has arrived! I would like to congratulate catcher Erik Kratz on being called up from the Lehigh Valley IronPigs! A casual fan may wonder why I am applauding a call-up of a 32-year-old journeyman catcher. But Kratz is an example of what hard work and persistence can bring.
Kratz is a 3-time International League All-Star. He is also a local Philadelphia guy from Telford, PA and went to Christopher Dock High School (my high school). After this call-up I guarantee he has gained celebrity status if he ever walks in there again!
Another reason why I’m writing a blog post to Kratz is because of his dedicated fan base. I would safely assume that his devoted fan club has contributed a good amount of money to the IronPigs box office. I hope Kratz doesn’t get sent down soon but if he does…the IronPigs would be smart to offer him a long-term deal because of his followers! In the words of Kevin Costner: “if you play him…they will come.”
Also even though I think he’s 1 of the better talk show hosts in the city…I got to rip Mike Missanelli of the Fanatic radio station on this one. He spent a long segment ripping the Phillies decision on calling up Kratz and how they should call up Domonic Brown to see what he’s got. Also I can’t really disagree with his logic…I was appalled on how 1 can disrespect Mr. Kratz…the King of the Christopher Dock Alumni! But I guess if I went to Bristol High School…I would feel the need to drink the haterade on a Dock alum! In all seriousness though it’s awesome that Kratz got called up to his hometown team…he definitely deserves it!
Keep your eyes posted for the game of the week post later this week!
Baseball and the Entertainment Industry go together like Kenny Powers and Myrtle Beach. For those of you who don’t get that analogy it means that they go together quite well. There are many TV and Movie productions that have been written about baseball throughout the years. Some have been epic…some have been dull. Some funny…some sad. Some had great acting and storylines…others had the quality of a Steven Seagal movie (I’m talking to you Tom Selleck and Mr. Baseball).
One TV show that has become one of my favorites recently is HBO’s show Eastbound and Down. Eastbound and Down is about a drunken ex-baseball pitcher named Kenny Powers who finds himself in his hometown as a subsitute teacher. Powers desperately wants to make it back to the majors and will do anything to get there. The show chronicles Kenny’s journey as he tries to make it back to the majors…ranging anywhere from his interactions with people in his hometown to his experience in the Mexican Baseball League. The show isn’t for those who don’t appreciate crude and obnoxious humor but it is truly 1 of the better viewing programs out there.
In the third and final season of Eastbound and Down, we watch Kenny as he gets a job as a relief pitcher for the fictional Myrtle Beach Mermen (the really sweet logo above). Myrtle Beach is the Jersey Shore of the South and Kenny Powers is the poster boy for crude red necks everywhere…so it really gives the viewer quite the comedic experience as Kenny navigates himself through the minor league landscape.
What some people may not know is that the Mermen are based off a real minor league team. The team is based off of the Advanced Single-A Myrtle Beach Pelicans Baseball Team. All of the baseball seasons during the 3rd season were filmed at Myrtle Beach’s TicketReturn.com Field and brought a good deal of notority during the offseason. The idea of basing the Mermen off the Pelican’s baseball team actually came from the Pelican’s owner (and Texas Rangers owner) Chuck Greenberg. Greenberg happened to be a huge Eastbound and Down fan and when he heard that the script called for Kenny to move to Myrtle Beach…he knew that he needed to include the Pelicans organization in on the fun. Here’s a transcript for Sports Business Daily’s Interview with Chuck Greenberg, in which he describes his experience with the filming of Eastbound and Down. It’s a good read for Eastbound fans.
For all of you Eastbound fans like myself who think the Mermen gear is really awesome…have no fear it’s available! Here is the Pelican’s official Press Release of the availability of the Eastbound and Down gear as well as the link to their official Pro Shop where you can buy the official Mermen gear.
Rest assured that there will be more Eastbound and Down-related posts throughout the summer as it is arguably 1 of the best pieces of media ever written about minor league baseball…yes it’s better then Bull Durham! I will also be writing a post here or there about another entertainment pieces that are related to minor league baseball.
Keep your guys posted for more Kenny Powers-related posts in the near future!
GAME OF THE WEEK: Akron Aeros vs. Reading Phillies
WHERE: FirstEnergy Stadium, Reading, PA.
WHEN: Saturday April 21st. Festival starts at 4 PM, First Pitch starts at 6:05 PM
One of the more reputable minor league organizations around the country is the Reading Phillies. They have been playing at their home FirstEnergy Stadium since 1951, the oldest stadium in the Double A Eastern League. They’re especially well known around the minor league industry for having one of the more creative promotional teams around. This can either mean crazy/quirky giveaways or really fun events.
Well this Saturday at 4 PM the Reading Phillies will be hosting the First of their Eight Beer Tasting Festivals this year. The beer tasting festival is a 2 and a half hour event with all you can eat buffet consisting of: BBQ Chicken, Sandwiches and Ribs, Hot Dogs, Baked Beans, Mac & Cheese, Corn on the Cob, Pasta and Potato Salad, Lemonade and Pepsi Products. The buffet will be available between 5-7:30 PM.
But of course the main draw for this event is the BEER! From 5-7 PM any baseball fan (21 and over of course) can sample some of the finest brews around the Reading area. I can guarantee there will be plenty of Yuengling as well as some very nice micro brews. The beer brands will differ throughout each festival and I will try and get more specifics for future events. But this event has a special Saint Patrick’s Day theme to it. There will be an Irish Heritage Celebration that will include Irish Pipe Bands and Dancers as well as an Irish Wake to kickoff the event. There will also be an hour-long postgame concert for anyone who wants to hear the Irish tunes after the game. Tickets for this wonderful event are only $25…and that includes a game ticket!
If the beer tasting or all you can eat buffet doesn’t attract you, there is also a very cool giveaway for the game. The first 2,000 fans that attend the game regardless if they attend the beer festival will receive a 32 OZ St Patty’s Day Baseball Mug (image at the top). Well actually it’s more like a really nice plastic cup with a handle but it’s still really cool!
Did I mention that there is an actual baseball game being played? First Pitch is at 6:05 PM where the Akron Aeros (Cleveland Indians Double A) take on the Reading Phillies (Philadelphia Phillies Double-A). The Reading Phils have been playing really well storming out of the gate with an impressive 10-4 record. The team has notable prospects OF Tyson Gillies, C Sebastian Valle and SP Trevor May currently playing for the team.
This game will promise to be a fun event for all whom attends. This is 1 of the reasons why I love minor league baseball. A simple baseball game can be turned into an event, insuring that even the most casual fan can have a good time. I mean where else can you go to an all you can eat/beer tasting festival/baseball game/cultural celebration all in the same night…and pay less then $40 I might add? Not to mention event-themed games are crucial for a minor league organization’s bottom-line because they can attract the casual fan. Minor League games will always have the hardcore baseball fans at their games. Their business hinges on whether or not they can convince the casual fan to attend a game. Events such as Reading’s Beer Tasting Festival/St Patty’s Day Night are 1 way to accomplish that goal. They provide that memorable experience that might possibly entice casual fans into coming to another game in the future…or at least leave them with a slight interest in baseball.
Overall Saturday’s game promises to be a fun event! For all of you non-alcoholic drinkers out there I would still encourage you to attend. The Beer Festival does include a very reputable and tasty All You Can Eat Buffet. The game will also provide plenty of Irish-themed events that promise to provide a festive atmosphere for all involved. I hope that I will be able to attend and if I do, I know I will be coming back with a memorable baseball experience!
NOTE: For information on the game and how to get tickets click here: Game of the Week Info
Promotions: One of the more enjoyable aspects of attending a minor league baseball game. Let’s face it: most casual baseball fans aren’t walking into a minor league stadium without some type of incentive. Minor League games are all about the promotions. Sometimes the promotions can be kid-friendly (Pokemon night). Sometimes they can be wacky (Ryan Howard Garden Gnome). Sometimes they can taste good (Food Fests). The bottomline is that the right promotion will set the tone for your minor league experience and can ultimately determine whether or not a minor league team has a successful season at the box office.
Below are a list of promotions for the area’s minor league teams. These don’t include independent teams such as the Camden Riversharks or the Lancaster Barnstormers. The teams that are listed include: The Reading Phillies (Phillies AA Affiliate), Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs (Phillies AAA Affiliate) and the Lakewood Blue Claws (Phillies A Affiliate). Some of these dates include games that have already been played but might give you a taste of what these organizations give out in the future. I will give my opinions on some of these dates next week but here are the promotions for the rest of the month if you decide to venture out to a game this month. Enjoy!
Reading Phillies Notable April Promotions (Reading, PA)
Thursday April 5th 4:05 PM vs. Portland Sea Dogs: Ryan Howard & Crazy Hot Dog Vendor Bobblehead
Friday April 20th 7:05 PM vs. Akron Aeros: Soup Tasting Festival/Ryan Howard Fleece Blanket
Saturday April 21st 6:05 PM vs. Akron Aeros: St Patty’s Day Beer Festival/ Free 32 oz Mug
Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs Notable April Promotions (Allentown, PA)
Friday April 6th vs. Scranton/WB Yankees: Fireworks/Magnet Schedule Giveaway
Wednesday April 11th vs. Syracuse Chiefs: Ferrous Bobble Belly giveaway
Thursday April 12th vs. Syracuse Chiefs: FeFe Bobblehead giveaway
Friday April 13th vs. Syracuse Chiefs: Friday the 13th night/Fireworks
Sunday April 15th vs. Rochester Red Wings: House Flag Giveaway/ Bring your Dog to the park.
Monday April 23rd vs. Buffalo Bisons: Rich Thompson Bobblehead giveaway.
Tuesday April 24th vs. Buffalo Bisons: Winter Cap giveaway:
Thursday April 26th vs. Scranton/WB Yankees: Ryne Sandberg Bronze Statue giveaway.
Friday April 27th vs. Scranton/WB Yankees: Fireworks
Saturday April 28th vs. Scranton/WB Yankees: 5th Anniversary Commemorative Glass giveaway.
Sunday April 29th vs. Scranton/WB Yankees: Youth cereal bowl and spoon giveaway (17 and under), Free Alpo Dog Food for Bring the Dog to Park day.
Lakewood Blue Claws Notable April Promotions (Lakewood, NJ)
Friday April 13th 7:05 PM vs. Hagerstown Suns: Fireworks
Saturday April 14th 4:05 PM vs. Hagerstown Suns: Knit Winter Hats
Tuesday April 17th 6:35 PM vs. Greensboro Grasshoppers: Senior Day: all seniors eat free and we play Baseball Bingo/Magnetic Schedule Giveaway
Tuesday April 24th 6:35 PM vs. Asheville Tourists: Senior Day/Magnetic Schedule
Friday April 27th 7:05 PM vs. Asheville Tourists: Fireworks
Summer time. Insert any popular song adjective after those 2 words. It’s personally my favorite time of the year. It’s the time of the year where you could sit outside in your underwear and feel comfortable! It’s the time where school is out of session and people just seem happier and more upbeat. It’s the time of year where that annoying noise of the neighborhood ice cream truck doesn’t seem quite so annoying. It’s the time of year where we celebrate our country’s heritage by blowing it up! It’s also the time of the year where baseball reigns supreme. THAT’S RIGHT…BASEBALL!!
Although I enjoy going to Phillies games and Major League Baseball games in general, in some ways they’ve lost what attracted me to baseball so much as a kid. Like most professional sports they’ve become a business, almost corporate to a T. Don’t get me wrong if someone offers me a chance to go to a Phillies game I will go, but there’s something alluring about going to a Minor League Game.
Going to a Minor League Baseball game is almost like stepping into a time machine. What I mean by that is that you still see the purity, the Mom and Pops concessions, the wacky promotions, the family-oriented game that it was in our parents generation. I love visiting different minor league stadiums and just soaking all of that in. It brings back that type of nostalgia that I had when I was 6 and invoke stories of baseball that I’ve heard from past generations. It’s events such as Minor League Baseball games that get me excited about baseball and summer!
This is why I’m writing a “Minor League Blog.” This blog will consist of random minor league tidbits such as: promotional schedules, stadium facts, food dishes, historical facts and some game reviews of stadiums that I hope to visit this year. I hope that you all enjoy reading this and in the words of crotchety umpires everywhere…PLAY BALL!!!