Thursday, December 07, 2006

Winter Meetings are winding down

ORLANDO – Baseball’s winter meetings are closing down. I’m sitting in the spot previously occupied by ESPN’s set. They vacated the area last night. I’m about 20 feet from the Christmas tree that yesterday served as their back drop. is still broadcasting from across the room. Looks like XM satellite radio is starting to break down their set. Maybe can do a netcast next year in Nashville.

It’s a cloudy day in Orlando and despite being in the center of the magic kingdom, the hotel feels a bit dreary.

The big news fluttering through the media is that the Cardinals are reportedly interest in talking with the Huge Headed One. Barry Bonds and Albert Pujols in the same lineup? Chris Carpenter could win 30 games.

The other big news of the day was the Rule V draft. None of the players from my book, The Funniest Thing I’ve Ever Seen: More than 100 crazy stories from minor league baseball, switched teams.

The biggest name to move was troubled Tampa farmhand Josh Hamilton, who was selected by the Cubs and traded to the Reds. Hamilton was the first overall pick in the 1999 amateur draft by Tampa. Since then, then five-tool outfielder has injured his back in a car accident, reportedly became addicted to cocaine and alcohol, and was suspended for violating Major League Baseball’s substance abuse policy. Hopefully a change of scenery will allow him a fresh start.

Also, just saw a report that Cardinals GM Walt Jocketty is not interested in Bonds. Still a fun rumor.

Going to head on over to the set before heading back down to the lobby. I’ll post a full wrap up of the meetings tomorrow.


Winter meeting trade show free-for-all

NOTE: This post originally appeated on Dec. 6. Technical issues forced this re-post.

Closing day for the trade show portion of the winter meetings is a treasure hunter’s delight. I spent most of Wednesday on the show floor looking for the next big promotional giveaway - a feature story will be posted in the coming days on

The trade show contains everything you’d need to start a baseball team – from turf to bleachers to scoreboards to concessions to promotional giveaways. There were even some minor league players in the booths. Any company that has even a remote baseball inclination is there showing their wears.

They bring all their cool stuff to Orlando, but many don’t want the hassle of taking it home, so the final hours of the show turn into one big giveaway. Bobbleheads were being snapped up faster than they could nod yes. The New Era baseball cap rack was nearly picked clean. Various minor league front office personnel were running around grabbing anything with a cool logo on it.

Ran into one job seeker who I’d talked with a couple times during the show who said this was the best day of his life. Earlier in the day he’d received a job offer with the Texas Rangers ticket office and now he was walking the trade show floor with an Oakland A’s trash basket filled with mini baseball bats, pennants and hats.

The show is noticeably thinning out. While more deals were made today than on the first couple of days, the lobby isn’t nearly as crowded. Didn’t get to see Bonds, but did talk with ESPN’s Steve Phillips.

The former big league-GM-turned-analyst said he enjoys the winter meetings more as a commentator because there isn’t as pressure to make a big splash. That was before he got the on-camera brush off from Bonds. Can’t wait to see him again to ask whether he’s changed his mind.

More soon.


Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Baseball's Winter Meetings Day 1: Gammons owns the lobby - repost

NOTE: This post was originally published on Dec. 5.

ORLANDO – Baseball’s Winter Meetings really get interesting when the day’s scheduled events conclude and everyone heads to the lobby for cocktails and conversation.
loves the odd mix. Jim Leyland spent about an hour being congratulated by seemingly everyone in baseball for leading the Tigers run to the World Series. Agents were everywhere, many of them shadowed by their free agents – a la Jerry Maguire.

The best dressed people at Baseball’s Winter Meetings are the unemployed. Nearly 500 young, jobless baseball hopefuls show up at the Baseball Winter Meetings in their new suits, hoping to land front office jobs with minor league teams.

The most amazing guy to watch, though, is Peter Gammons. The Boston Globe and ESPN reporter owns the Baseball Winter Meetings. The lobby is Gammons’ domain. He can’t walk five feet without an agent, reporter, general manager or fan stopping him to talk.

Still, the winter meetings are not his favorite time of the year.

“It doesn’t beat the World Series or Spring Training,” Gammons told me shortly after one of his updates for ESPNNews.

The Winter Meetings continue to grow and Gammons says the expansion has taken away some of the fun.

“It’s getting out of control because there are too many people and the general managers don’t come out to the lobby,” he said. “They just sit in their room. It’s too big. You don’t talk about the game anywhere near as much as you used to.”

That’s it for day one. I’m heading to the convention floor for tomorrow’s updates. As always, any new updates will be posted immediately.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Oddly-dressed bobbleheads, Gammons, Veeck and more

ORLANDO - Day one of baseball’s winter meetings. In a morning session designed to stimulate minor league promotional ideas, the Eastern League’s Trenton Thunder announced a new twist on bobbleheads.

Starting this summer they are going to distribute bobbleheads featuring the likeness of major leaguers who played for their competitors.

When the Thunder hosts the Binghamton Mets on June 5th, the first 2,000 fans will receive a David Wright figure dressed in a Binghamton uniform. On June 17, fans will receive Ryan Howard bobblehead dolls. Howard will be depicted wearing a Reading Phillies uniform.

“In our market in Trenton, between Philly and New York, we’re right there embedded with Yankees fans, Mets fans and Phillies fans,” Trenton’s Brad Taylor said. “A couple people thought it was kinda funny that we’re giving away something with someone else’s name on it, but that went away in two seconds.”

Most sessions seemed to break for lunch early, leaving a who’s who of baseball front offices wandering the lobby. Had lunch at a table next to Peter Gammons. He looks great. Steve Phillips just walked by with a TV crew. Already bumped into favorite Mike Veeck twice.

The convention floor opens in a few hours. Can’t wait to see the new promotional stuff.


Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Myers shines with glove and bat

I was searching through some minor league baseball stories tonight when I came across this headline: Myers keys triple play, offense for Barons.

Birmingham shortstop Mike Myers, a good friend of, turned in one of the best nights of his professional career.

It started early. With no outs and runners on first and second in the first inning, Tennessee's Jesus Cota hit a ground ball to short. Myers scooped it up, tagged the runner heading to third, stepped on second base and threw on to first in time to get Cota.

The triple play was the first for the Barons since the early days of Gerald Ford's presidency.

Myers continued his big night when he stepped into the batter's box. Entering the game with a .244 average, Myers smacked three hits and drove in a run as the Barons defeated the Smokies 5-3.

A back injury slowed Myers during his first few professional seasons. He's finally healthy and is looking like he may develop into a quality utility player for the White Sox. This season he's done everything but catch and pitch for the Barons. His versatility and speed are smilar to Cincinnati's Ryan Freel.

One big play won't make a minor league prospect's career. It will, sometimes, make the higher-ups within the organizatin take notice of a player. This may be the break that gets Myers career rolling. hopes he is able to build some momentum.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Hats off to Toledo takes pride in highlighting the best minor league promotions in our "Promotion of the Day" segment. We also enjoy following up pn those events.

The Toledo Mud Hens' Hilarous Hat Night was selected as our Promotion of the day for August 3. Our Mud Hen friends sent us some pictures of the event.

The Mud Hens gave away hats ranging from the normal to the surreal to the first 2,000 fans entering the ballpark. Regulation baseball caps were everywhere, along with the occassional velour covered, zebra striped hat and a few metallic blue ones.

Congrats to Toledo for a successful promotion.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Featured player Smith involved in trade

While Bobby Abreu was the big name involved in Sunday's trade deadline deals, the player who caught my attention was Matt Smith. I sat down with Smith in Birmingham in 2004 and he told me a story which was included in my book The Funniest Thing I've Ever Seen: More than 100 crazy stories from minor league baseball.

Smith is on his way from the Yankees to the Phillies. wishes him the best of luck. Enjoy Smith's contribution to my book.

Mom Always Said, “Don’t Play Rough In The Shower”

Matt Smith is an example that not all baseball players are illiterate jocks. The Birmingham Barons pitcher left Southwest Missouri State in 1999 without a degree when he became the New York Mets 18th-round draft choice.

He’s already gone back and earned his business degree, which he may put to use in a baseball front office when he retires. Smith hopes that day is a long way away.
Smith has just finished stretching for the evening’s game against Jacksonville. As a short reliever he doesn’t have to worry about mentally preparing for the game for another four or five hours, giving Smith plenty of time to think about his other hobbies: golf, weightlifting and reading.

“Lots of guys read,” Smith said. “You’d be surprised how many guys sit down on a bus ride and pull out a book. You get tired of watching the same old videos over and over.”

Though Smith does not come across as religious, he is enthralled by books about the Bible – including Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code.” A product of Marquette Catholic High School in Alton, Illinois, Smith has traveled to Rome and visited Vatican City. He says books like “The Da Vinci Code” that deal with Bible codes bring another interesting perspective to religion.

Smith got a little clubhouse perspective in 2002. His call up to Double-A was a blessing until a couple of shower incidents had Smith searching for divine intervention.

Matt Smith: I came up to Birmingham from Winston-Salem and this guy named Jake Meyer was in the bullpen. We’re in West Tennessee the first night and we got rained out. We were all getting in the shower. I’m taking my shower and Meyer dumps a bucket of ice water on me and says, “Welcome to the bullpen.”

The next day another pitcher, Brian West, who played football at LSU, came up to me and said, “You’re not going to let him get away with that, are you?”
I said, “All right, we’ll get him back.”

He said, “Jake usually takes a shower at 5:00 (p.m.) before the game. Get a bucket of ice water and throw it on him in the shower. Once you do it, just run back to your locker and act like you don’t know what’s going on.”

I go around into the shower, nail him with the water and sprint back to my locker. There was this wooden shampoo [holder] in the middle of the shower. As soon as I threw it, I heard this big crash in the shower. I was like, “What was that?”
Everybody starts looking in the shower and starts yelling for the trainer, Joe Geck. They’re like, “Joe come out here to the shower.”

I’m sitting at my locker wondering what the hell’s the matter.

Two guys are carrying [Meyer] out of the shower. He has blood pouring down and he’s soaking wet. He has blood coming down from his hair. He has real dark hair and it looks like he has this real big gash in his head.

They went to the manager and said, “We have to get him to the hospital. We have to get him stitched up.” I thought he was going to kill me.

Wally Backman, our manager, comes out. “What the hell is going on?” he starts [yelling]. “You guys have been messing around all year. I knew something would happen. Who did it?”

Everybody points at me.

I said, “Wally, I didn’t mean to do anything.”

He starts chewing my ass – getting in my face about doing stupid stuff. I was like,
“God, I’m going [to be sent] home.”

Jake starts getting up and he’s looking at me like he’s going to come at me. The guys are holding him back.

Wally says, “Let him go. He’s got to do what he’s got to do.”

So he comes at me. Then he puts his hand out and puts a tube of fake blood in my hand.

Everybody just lost it. They have pictures. I was so happy. I was so in shock I didn’t know what was going on. I was just so relieved. I didn’t care about the whole [payback] thing. It was the most elaborate, choreographed prank I’ve ever heard of.

Friday, July 28, 2006

"C" is for Cool Promotion

Charleston's "Let Them Eat Cookies" promotion was a success, and we have the pictures to prove it.

The RiverDogs held the promotion to protest Sesame Street's decision to cut back on Cookie Monste's cookie intake. The show figured Cookie was setting a bad example for today's overeating kids.

Charleston thought Cookie should be allowed to do what he does best – eat cookies. After all, the "C" doesn’t stand for Celery Monster.

The picketing (photo) was well received, and the fans went wild for the cookie eating contest. But putting kids in those inflatable sumo wrestling costumes and having them chase a cookie around the field was pure genius. is glad teams like Charleston are out there to poke fun at the politically correct.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a date with Mrs. Fields.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Saints honor Gaedel with walk-a-thon

You may remember that chose St. Paul's Tribute to Ed Gaedel as Saturday's Promotion of the Day. Now we have the pictures.

The Saints, one of the teams owned by a partnership headed by Mike Veeck, honored one of the craziest stunts played by Mike's father, former Chicago White Sox owner Bill Veeck.

Veeck signed midget Ed Gaedel and used him as a pinch hitter. Predictably, Gaedel walked on four pitches. The next day, in the best interest of baseball, the commissioner banned midgets.

St. Paul decided to see how a team of midgets and dwarfs would fair in today's game. Saints television announcer, former Boston Red Sox pitcher Dana Kiecker, took the mound with the Saints regulars behind him and attempted to pitch to the miniature batsmen. The Saints cut the promotion, well, short, after Kiecker walked all nine men he faced.

Kiecker then served up some batting practice fast balls, which a few of the Gaedel stand-ins hit. What did this prove? Nothing, really. But wouldn't major league baseball be a little more interesting if there were more midgets playing? Come on Bud, do it for the little people.

By the way, the Saints also retired Gaedel's number, 1/8, noting that no Saints player will ever wear that number again. Nice touch.

Twin Cycle: West Michigan's Michael Hernandez pulled off a rare feat last night. For the second time this season Hernandez hit for the cycle. It was the third time a Whitecaps player hit for the cycle this season. Mike Holliman also notched a single, double, triple and home run on July 9.

Saints honor Gaedel with walk-a-thon

You may remember that chose St. Paul's Tribute to Ed Gaedel as Saturday's Promotion of the Day. Now we have the pictures.

The Saints, one of the teams owned by a partnership headed by Mike Veeck, honored one of the craziest stunts played by Mike's father, former Chicago White Sox owner Bill Veeck.

Veeck signed midget Ed Gaedel and used him as a pinch hitter. Predictably, Gaedel walked on four pitches. The next day, in the best interest of baseball, the commissioner banned midgets.

St. Paul decided to see how a team of midgets and dwarfs would fair in today's game. Saints television announcer, former Boston Red Sox pitcher Dana Kiecker, took the mound with the Saints regulars behind him and attempted to pitch to the miniature batsmen. The Saints cut the promotion, well, short, after Kiecker walked all nine men he faced.

Kiecker then served up some batting practice fast balls, which a few of the Gaedel stand-ins hit. What did this prove? Nothing, really. But wouldn't major league baseball be a little more interesting if there were more midgets playing? Come on Bud, do it for the little people.

By the way, the Saints also retired Gaedel's number, 1/8, noting that no Saints player will ever wear that number again. Nice touch.

Twin Cycle: West Michigan's Michael Hernandez pulled off a rare feat last night. For the second time this season Hernandez hit for the cycle. It was the third time a Whitecaps player hit for the cycle this season. Mike Holliman also notched a single, double, triple and home run on July 9.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Cuban defector Marti is St. Louis Cardinals mystery man

The story of Cuban defector Amaury Marti became one of the most difficult and rewarding articles I've ever written.

I'm always interested to talk with people like Marti who are willing to risk everything to come to America. When I walked into Palm Beach's clubhouse four hours before the Cardinals Florida State League game, a smiling Marti eagerly put down his lunch to give his first interview as a professional baseball player.

The St. Louis Cardinals’ prospect glowed when talking about baseball, but didn’t realize just how interested I was in his escape from Cuba. At first he gave only cursory details about his time in Cuba and his escape.

When it came to talking about the harrowing 21-hour boat trip out of Cuba, a visibly upset Marti couldn't talk anymore. Through translator and teammate Jaime Garcia, I asked Marti if he wanted to take a short break. He said he might be ready to talk about the ordeal in a month or so.

We moved on to other subjects, but I quickly realized Marti was too shaken by the memories of the escape to concentrate on any of my questions.

I left the Cardinals clubhouse feeling as bad as I've ever felt after an interview. My intention was to celebrate Marti's trip to freedom. I should have, but didn't expect the tale to be so painful for Marti to tell.

After spending parts of the next three days in the Cardinals clubhouse, Marti and I eventually talked baseball. I never mentioned the defection again, and he didn't bring it up. Some day I hope to sit down again with him and hear the rest of story.

Many other characters emerged in this tale. Shreveport's Bob Flori is probably still angry he didn't get more money from the sale of Marti's contract. Former Elmira manager Greg Keagle spent the spring of 2006 as SUNY-Albany's pitching coach, but left in the summer to join the automobile industry. Marti's agent, Michelle Deaguirre, has been chased out of hotels by Cuban baseball security guards.

St. Louis Cardinals prospect Jaime Garcia also showed poise uncommon in a 19-year-old. Garcia volunteered to act as translator and didn't mind the role even on the day he was scheduled to pitch. A few weeks later, Garcia was in Pittsburgh as a Cardinals representative in the Futures Game. If Garcia keeps that demeanor on the mound, and in the starts I've seen he has, Garcia has a bright future ahead.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Canseco is nuts, but entertaining

It's the good news and the bad news. Jose Canseco continues to talk.

The Juiced One reportedly named some more steroid users to George Mitchell's committee investigating steroid use in baseball. But that was only the start. Canseco also reportedly offered to help the investigation, acting out his own little version of good cop/bad cop.

That Canseco truly cares about cleaning up the game is laughable. He wants to gain publicity, soak in the limelight, and wring as much money out of a broken baseball career as possible.

That is sad. And entertaining. I've said it before, I'm willing to milk Canseco's antics for all they are worth. Which is why I almost fell off my chair with glee when The Master Injector announced plans to make a movie about baseball's steroid scandal. It got better. Canseco announced that if former slugger and positive steroid tester Rafael Palmeiro wanted to talk about his experiences, Canseco would bring him into the movie as a consultant.

Amazingly, Canseco still has time to play baseball. The Sultan of the Syringe is hitting .313 with a home run and four RBIs in five games with the Long Beach Armada. From the Golden Baseball League to the silver screen, Canseco is one colorful character.

A familiar name: Last night the Milwaukee Brewers called up Anthony Gwynn, son of former San Diego Padre Tony Gwynn. The younger Gwynn was hitting .305 with 55 runs scored and 35 RBIs for the Triple-A Nashville Sounds. If the son is anything like the like the father, it will be's pleasure to follow his major league career.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Tourists auction thrown base

Asheville made the best out of manager Joe Mikulik's massive tirade. Last month profiled the minor league manager's magnificent meltdown. His zany antics, including a dive a base toss and a homemade mud pie, gained worldwide attention when they were featured on SportsCenter.

The Tourists asked Lexington for the base Mikulik threw during his meltdown so they could auction it off for charity. Philadelphia resident Tom McGowan's $1,700 big was the highest, but McGowan didn't want the base. He told the tourists to keep the money, but give the base to the next highest bidder.

Turn's out the second place bidder, Craig Boyce, didn't have a place to put the base. He decided to pass it on to the third place bidder, a local tavern called Hannah Flanagan's Irish Pub, where it will be displayed for the town to visit.

McGowan, who had recently visited Asheville and fell in love with the team, added a significant donation, bringing the auction's gross to $5,000.

The Tourists hope the auction brings some closure for Mikulik, who was suspended seven games for his outburst, but they realize his meltdown will live on in minor league baseball lore.

"We've joked about it, but he's kind of over all the attention," Asheville assistant general manager Chris Smith said. "It's tough on him. He'd like to put it behind him. We realize it's going to stay with him until he wins an ESPY next year."

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Altoona is great at being awful considers Altoona's Awful Night promotion to be one of the top five recurring promotions in minor league baseball. The Curve held their fourth incarnation of the Awful Night – deemed Beating A Dead Horse – on Thursday night.

gave away some marginally useful items (the bottle of glue was a nod to the dead horse theme) and some things both useless and horrific. When general manager Todd Parnell was told he needed his gallbladder removed, was his first thought concern for his health or that the used organ would make a great door prize?

Overweight male staffers dressed in skimpy cheerleader outfits, David Hasselhoff songs blared from the PA, and liver and onions was the food special. You've got to be pretty good to be this bad.

Just ask Reading. A former Reading staffer told me yesterday they tried to copy Altoona, but their Awful Night was truly, well, awful. The highlight came when the Reading mascots switched heads, scaring the bejesus out of children and sending many of them home in tears.

Congrats to Altoona. We can't wait for the fifth edition.

Of All-Stars and Men:
How about ESPN putting the WNBA All-Star game up against the Triple-A All-Star game on ESPN2. Remove political correctness from the equation and ask yourself this question: How can ESPN continue to give priority to a dying league (overall attendance has declined every year since 1999 and TV ratings continue to head south) and not cover minor league baseball?

Triple-A and Double-A baseball players are step away from the bigs. The WNBA doesn't approach the quality of the NBA's Development League. Yet the WNBA gets their highlights on SportsCenter, serving as a Pavlovian signal for any viewer with a conscience to go grab a beer.

The end of the WNBA All-Star game where the teams let players take turns trying (and failing) to dunk set the league back fifty years. ESPN, stop wasting our time with this worn out novelty act and give us the top plays, promotions and antics from minor league baseball.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Atlantic League settles it on the field

The Atlantic League got it right.

The league used MondayÂ’s scheduled off day as a mini-playoff. Long Island hosted Atlantic City with the North DivisionÂ’s first half title on the line. A Long Island win brought the title to Central Islip. A Ducks loss gave the crown to Bridgeport.

Fervent readers will recall the dilemma that faced the Florida State League a couple of weeks ago. FSL teams are not required to make up missed games, which set up a situation where Brevard County almost won the East Division despite having fewer wins than Palm Beach.

Faced with the same situation, the Atlantic League said, Play Ball! Long Island scored first, but trailed 3-2 after five innings. The Ducks bats came alive late, giving them 9-4 victory and the title.
congratulates the Ducks on their title and commends the Atlantic League for settling it on the field.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Futures Game too short

Why is the Futures Game seven innings?

Since its inception, the minor league all-star game has been truncated. That doesn't mean it can't change.

Unlike regular season games, this exhibition is designed to showcase as many young talents as possible. It's counterintuitive to shorten the game. If anything, the game should be lengthened. Two seven-inning doubleheader? That I can understand.

What makes this worse is that the lone representative from the Florida State League, World pitcher Jaime Garcia, didn't get into the game. The poise shown by the 19-year-old Palm Beach Cardinal on the field and inside the clubhouse belies his age. It would have been interesting to see how he fared against Triple-A hitters.

St. Lucie manager Gary Carter was the most visible FSL face at the ballpark. The Hall-of-Famer managed the U.S. to an 8-5 victory. Carter also ended the game with reserves on his bench.

Two more innings – six more outs per side – would have made the Futures Game a regulation ball game. wants to know: Is that too much to ask?

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Here's the windup and the hitch

There will be a wedding following Saturday's Brooklyn Cyclones game. The staff isn't sure whether this is one of the best promotions or one of the most ridiculous.

Neither Dave Kerpen or bride-to-be Caroline Fisher have any real affiliation with the Cyclones. To pay for their wedding, they got sponsors. A local bank, for example, paid for the rental of the stadium.

They are giving away bobbleheads of themselves to fans who attend the game. A nice gift or egomaniacal? They're bringing their own ideas, such as a sponsored bridal bouquet toss, for between inning promotions. Wedding cost saver or a lot of extra work?

And they are really asking for trouble by inviting a bunch of New Yorkers they don't know to the wedding but not to the reception.

It seems more like a radio station publicity stunt than a joyous occasion. Awesome or ridiculous, the wackiness of the idea will make it part of minor league lore.

Anyone want to bet the memory of the event outlasts the marriage?

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Canseco saga has possibilities

The baseball world may not be a better place with Jose Canseco in it, but it certainly is more interesting.

Canseco played just one game in his return and has already struck out three times, given some weird steroid hot-potato speech, compared Major League Baseball commissioner's office to the Mafia and been traded.

Baseball purists are trying their best to ignore the Jose Canseco Fiasco. At, we revel in the idiocy.

Canseco played for the San Diego Surf daisy of the independent Golden Baseball League, a six team league which features a traveling Japanese team.

After his 3K debut, Canseco requested a trade. The Juice reportedly didn't realize his nine year old daughter would be living with him this summer. The trade to the Long Beach Armada allows Canseco to live in his Los Angeles house, making it easier to look after his daughter. Or is it the other way around?

Is this whole situation good for baseball? Probably not. But think of the potential.

Some team has to give away free juice boxes when the Pumped One comes to town. How about bringing few lucky fans onto the field to practice heading balls over the outfield wall? Certainly a Madonna look-a-like contest/kissing booth isn't out of the question.

It's hard to imagine Canseco's comeback lasting very long. He'll pull an appendix or tweak a tonsil. Can't recover quickly from something like that without a little needle knocking.

And in the Golden Baseball League, at least he's not taking a spot from some kid who has a legitimate shot at reaching the major leagues. Maybe the attention he brings to the Golden Baseball League will make the league financially viable.

If that's the case, it's worth putting up with his antics – and even reveling in them.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Fireworks cause attendance explosion

It's a wonder what pretty explosions in mid air can do. Jupiter had its two biggest nights of the season on Monday and Tuesday, mostly because of fireworks displays.

On any given Monday night, counting the amount of fans in the stands at a Jupiter game is relatively easy. On July 3, Jupiter drew more than 6,000 fans. Four the fourth, Jupiter packed its house. There haven't been that many people in Roger Dean Stadium since the big league teams flew north.

The Hammerheads milked the nights for all they could. The entire staff worked both nights. They charged for parking. Normally that would draw a raspberry from, but there may have been 100 cars that drove to the ballpark just to watch the fireworks. Can't fault them for making money off of people who never entered the gates.

The fans were treated to a couple of good games. Both went into extra innings which turned out to be a good thing because in both instances the ninth inning ended well before darkness set in.

The electric atmosphere in the ballpark caused multiple staff members to remark about how nice it would be to have a crowd every night.

If the last few days in St. Lucie are any indication, that won’t happen. The Mets, who play 40 miles to the north, lit their fireworks on Saturday night, drawing a little more than 4,000 fans. The expected crowd for July 4? They were hoping for 400.

No jail for candy:
We are happy to report that there were no arrests for excessive candy giving last night in Boise. The Hawks celebrated Idaho's 116th birthday by breaking an arcane state law that prohibits any person from giving away a bag of candy that exceeds 50 pounds. The Hawks presented a trivia winner with a 51-pound bag of candy. Everyone was allowed to walk away.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

FSL settled on the field

Good news to report from the Florida State League. The East Division's first half title was decided on the field.

Brevard County, which lost four games to rain outs, had the potential to claim the title based on its winning percentage despite winning fewer games than either St. Lucie or Palm Beach. The Manatees drew within one game of the top spot after a Monday night victory over the Mets, but couldn't draw any closer.

St. Lucie eliminated Brevard the next night, and rallied late Wednesday night to win the East by one game over Palm Beach.

The Cardinals closed the first half by winning 10 of 11, and they were one strike away from winning all 11. The Cardinals, who stood to win a tiebreaker with the Mets, were waiting in their clubhouse when they heard the Mets had claimed the crown.

The West Division also went down to the final day. Dunedin lost to Tampa, but still won the title when Fort Myers was unable to take advantage of the opening.

The FSL was lucky the titles were claimed on the field. That won't always be the case. Late summer in Florida carries rain almost every day. The league should adopt some of the fixes offered in an earlier blog. Time to stop relying on luck.

This can't be good:
Saturday night's game at Fort Myers and the scheduled Hurricane Awareness Night promotion were rained out. Yikes.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Immigration worthy of its own night

One of the benefits of sifting through all the minor league promotions is that I'm occasionally inspired to create promotions I'd like to see.

My latest creation: Illegal Immigration Night.

The way I see it, there are plenty of ways to go with the promotion. How about a free ticket for any fan that arrives at the ballpark in the trunk of a car?

The ballpark can offer amnesty to any fan who scales the outside gates to gain entrance to the ballpark, provided "immigrant" works for an inning doing a job that no one at the park wants to do (scrapping gum off the concourse walkway). Of course, the teams would have to place minute man-like centenaries armed with water pistols along the border to deter potential border crossers.

A team could offer citizenship in the means of a lifetime pass to the ballpark for any baby born at the park.

And, during the seventh inning stretch, instead of singing Take Me Out To The Ballgame fans can recite the oath of citizenship.

Now that's a promotion worthy of a green card. looks forward to covering this event.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Rain is good for Manatees

Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose and sometimes it rains. – Nuke LaLoosh, Bull Durham.

In the Florida State League, rainouts can be just as good as wins. With two games remaining in the first half of the season, Brevard County stands to benefit greatly from games they didn't play.

Because of rainouts, the Manatees will play four fewer games than rivals St. Lucie and Palm Beach. If the Manatees end the season in a virtual tie with Palm Beach, Brevard will be given the crown based on winning percentage.

This has Palm Beach fans a little steamed. Rightly so.

The disparity in rainouts is peculiar on several levels. The county of Brevard was so dry during the first half of the season that it was under a fire watch. The Manatees even had to move the location of their fireworks for fears that they could start a fire.

Sure, Florida received plenty of rain over the past month, thanks in large part to Tropical Storm Alberto. Brevard couldn’t play back-to-back games because of rain that came with Alberto. Palm Beach, just an hour south, managed to play three games during that same two-day span.

Did Brevard call rainouts to improve their chances of winning the division? Probably not. Had the Manatees won the four games they missed this season, they would be leading the division instead of relying on mathematicians.

But that doesn't change the fact that the title may be decided as much by games that weren't played instead of those that were.

With the amount of rain that annually hits Florida, the league should schedule at least one extra day during the All-Star break to ensure there is time to make up at least one game. In addition, the league needs to change the rule so that the team with the most wins in a half claims the crown. At least that will give teams extra incentive to play games that otherwise might not be considered financially lucrative.

The FSL is in the middle of a fantastic pennant race. It needs to take measures to make sure the title is determined on the field.
will let you know how this race ends.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Boggs excites with bid for perfect game

Palm Beach pitcher Mitchell Boggs sure knows how to impress the brass.

The Cardinals starter carried a perfect game into the ninth inning before settling for a complete-game one-hit shutout as Palm Beach defeated Jupiter 4-0 in Florida State League action.

Boggs reached near perfection infront of many top Cardinals officials, including general manager Walt Jocketty.

Boggs was in total command all night. He struck out 11 and allowed few hard hit balls.

Jupiter's J.T. Restko led off the ninth with a bloop single to center to end Boggs' bid for a perfect game. Boggs struck out the final three batters he faced to give the Cardinals the victory.

I was in the Jupiter broadcast booth for the final innings of the game and I must say it was one of the most exciting baseball nights I've witnessed. Jupiter broadcaster Jeff Grant could barely contain himself in the late innings. And as deflating as it was to see the perfect game slip away, the Palm Beach clubhouse was hopping after the game.

Boggs, who said the closest he's ever come to a perfect game before Wednesday night was a no-hitter when he was 9, didn't give much thought to having Jocketty present for his performance. He did, however, think about his parents, who were in town from Duluth, Ga., to see the game.

Congrats to Boggs and keep an eye on Palm Beach. The Cardinals were left for dead when they fell six games back with two weeks remaining in the first half of the season. Wednesday's win and St. Lucie's loss to Vero Beach left the Cardinals two back with four games remaining in the first half. Stay tuned…

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Edmonton gets anthem right

If you attend as many minor league baseball games as I do, it's hard not to become a bit disillusioned with the presentation of our National Anthem.

It’s not a very good song to begin with. America the Beautiful is much better. But that likely won't change anytime soon. So we’re stuck with it.

Nowadays the Star Spangled Banner is most memorable when a star mangles the Banner. Think Carl Lewis and, no, he never really made it up to us. Around the minors, the moments before the game tend to turn into second-rate American Idol wannabe's trying out for stardom. Note to all of you: the song was never meant to take five minutes.

Given all that, there was a fantastic rendition of the National Anthem preformed last night in, of all places, Canada. Paul Lorieau sang our anthem – many in Edmonton join in – then started Oh Canada.

Instead of making himself the star attraction, he let the fans take over the song. The result is passionate, far more moving than any anthem I've heard over the past five years. It's worth tuning in early to a hockey telecast just to hear it. Unfortunately, there is only one more possible game in Edmonton and that won't even happen if Edmonton can't win the next game in Carolina.

I hope it happens. salutes the fans of Edmonton and hopes that minor league ballparks take Edmonton's lead and realize that simple is often the most beautiful.

If you'd like to see the performance, copy this link into your browser:

Monday, June 12, 2006

Rocket circus a little calmer

Roger Clemens made his second minor league start last night for Double-A Corpus Christi. He looked sharp, allowing just two hits in six innings of work.

Clemens treated this start like work, not the comeback party he threw for himself in Lexington. Clemens’ first start in Kentucky launched a media circus. Clemens fed the frenzy by spending so much time in Lexington.

Sure, he wanted to spend some time with his son. Can’t blame him for that. And he rewarded Lexington for putting up with the craziness by more packing the house to a tune of 150% capacity. He also furnished the club house with couches, televisions and computer games. The young Legends players probably appreciated the four days of free food the most.

There were no reports of this type of generosity coming out of Corpus Christi. Clemens undoubtedly picked up a nice post-game spread. The meal may be the only mark Clemens left in the Texas League. He spent more time between his two minor league starts in Houston with his future team than in Corpus Christi.

The next stop on the Clemens minor league tour is Round Rock. The Express, located just outside of Austin, Tex., already draw well. The ballpark should be nuts when The Rocket comes to town.

Good Bye Moe: Noted major league prankster Moe Drabowsky died Saturday. He had been sick with multiple myeloma. Drabowsky's best prank came when he gave Bowie Kuhn, at the time the commissioner of baseball, a hot foot. A master of voice imitations, Drabowsky also popularized the fake phone call to the opposing team’s bullpen. Drabowsky will be missed, but his antics will always be with us.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Biggest gamble in AC may be eating Surf food.

I was standing in the Atlantic City press box when director of media Chuck Betson noticed me and started wondering who I was and what I was doing in his press box.

I introduced myself and told him that at, we were constantly looking for interesting and bizarre stories.

He paused, smiled at me, and said, “How about a hot dog wrapped in a Twinkie?”

“You have my attention,” I said.

The Surf's crazy fare was inspired by the Krispy Krème burger in Gateway. That's cool. Could minor league baseball be on the verge of a food war?

The recent trend in major league and minor league cuisine has been the addition of regional foods at concession stands. The Surf Burger is Atlantic City's attempt to incorporate boardwalk funnel cakes into their ballpark menu.

But they are also elevating their creations to include the bizarre. If other teams follow Atlantic City and Gateway’s lead, we my need to start a weekly food column on That would be cool.

In the meantime, here are some of our suggestions.

In Bowie, a burger that uses soft shell crabs as buns. In
In New Orleans, a gumbo topped with a bratwurst, with a slice of pizza for dipping.
In Tucson, a footlong hot dog wrapped in rattlesnake meat.

That’s a good start. Let's hear some other ideas.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Minor league teams bedeviled by 666

Happy Beast Day!

Knock it off. Today's date has nothing to do with Satan. It has nothing to do with religion. It will, however, cause crazy people to do nutty things. That should be celebrated.

No, the world isn't going to end today. I defy any doomsayer to prove me wrong. (They can’t – if they’re right, we’ll all be dead.)

That being said, I'm a little disappointed with the way minor league teams are underplaying 6-6-06. Potomac is conducting a salute to the No. 6, which was almost good enough to earn’s Promotion of the Day award.

Fort Myers
earned the award by hosting a Halloween celebration – and even those masters of promotion had to tone down the celebration. The Miracle were asked by a few area churches not to celebrate the calendar anomaly. They complied.

That's a shame, because this really has nothing to do with religion. At best, it's about horror – the made up kind. The kind that causes teenagers to jump into each others arms to protect themselves from Freddy Kruger. And stupid people. Face it, those who believe the world will end are basically hoping there is no tomorrow. If only…

6-6-06 was begging for promotions such as:

The first pitch being thrown out by four guys on horseback.
Free admission for anyone who can make their neck rotate 360 degrees.
Free admission for anyone 666 years old.
A projectile vomiting contest between innings.
Iron Maiden singing the National Anthem.

That's just a few quick thoughts. Remember 6-6-6, it's not just a number, it's the area code of the beast. Which, by the way, makes 6-06-06 the full house of the beast.

More tomorrow – if we last that long.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Goelz trades bats for hoses

A few people have asked recently why we include independent leagues on To those who continue to wonder, I give you Jimmy Goelz.

The Long Island shortstop decided to play one more year in the Atlantic League, in part, so that he could be on a team with younger brother Bryan. That itself is a good story – see Roger and Koby Clemens.

Jimmy Goelz's season ended Sunday afternoon. He walked away from baseball to become a fireman. Four years ago, Goelz applied to become one of New York City's Bravest. He was accepted last week and reports this week.

Goelz went out in style this past weekend. He drove in the Ducks lone run on Saturday and picked up what will likely be the final RBI of his career on Sunday.

The Atlantic League, Northern League, Can-Am League and the American Associations are full of players like Jimmy Goelz who are looking for one more summer with the game they love. These leagues, even more than the affiliated leagues, contain players who simply want to play baseball.

That is a big reason why these leagues continue to flourish. It doesn't matter to the fans that the players may not be on the fast track to the major leagues. They just appreciate the game being played with verve.

We will continue to cover the Atlantic League. In fact, we will revel in it.

So, good luck to Jimmy Goelz. And, by the way, Goelz spot on the roster will be filled by Juan Gonzalez. Yep, that Juan Gonzalez. More on that later.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Minor league umpires settle strike, but questions remain.

I've been trying to figure out which side "won" the minor league umpires' strike and I have to admit I'm still a bit perplexed.

The umpires settled the strike earlier this week, agreeing to an extra $100 per month across all levels and what amounts to about an extra $90 per month in their meal money. The per diem will increase in each of the contract's five years.

The numbers don't sound like a lot, but then again, the umpires really weren't asking for much. The top minor league umpires barely make $15,000 and rookie league guys are down in the $5,000 range.

So the extra hundred is at least statistically significant. But the extra salary barely covers the increase in their health care deductible – a point the umpires were eager to make during the strike.

It looks like the sides were arguing over a small sum, which begs the question, why was there even an argument? Minor league baseball is making more money than ever. And even if it wasn't, it was certainly in Major League Baseball's best interest to have the professionals behind the plate.

Look no further than the game in Birmingham last month where the Barons pulled their team off the field because they felt the umpires had lost control of the game as an example of what could happen with inexperienced umps. Major league clubs have too much invested in their players to let something like that happen.

In addition, I've had several managers and scouts tell me the strike zone inconsistencies made it difficult to evaluate how well their players were progressing – especially pitchers.

From the management side, it just seems more cost effective to have paid the minor league umpires to be there at the start of the season.

They say all good deals leave both sides a little upset. That's probably the case here. It's just hard to image this deal took so long.

Minor league umpires will return to the field no later than June 12. Each individual league sets the date. Florida State League commissioner Chuck Murphy doesn't expect them back before the 12th because the league needs the time to work out administrative and travel difficulties.

Those of us who revel in some of the craziness caused by the replacement umpires have a few games left with the high schoolers calling balls and strikes. If lucky, we may get one more performance like the confusion in Jupiter on Wednesday.

Come the 12th, however, I think everyone will be pleased the men in blue will be back to normal

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Minor League Announcer is Reading’s Iron Man

The man least interested in Reading's salute to Public address announcer Dave Bouman was the guest of honor himself.

During numerous interviews leading up to his special day Bouman told reports that he was honored Reading thought enough to celebrate the milestone, but that it was really nothing special.

“For me, I'm just a guy who does his job," Bouman said. “I show up and do my job. It's no big deal, but they want to have some fanfare about it.”

For the last 28 years Bouman's job has entailed sitting in a tiny press box and telling fans who was batting, who was pitching and what special promotion was coming. That amounts to 2,000 consecutive home games. Well, about that many anyway.

Late last season Reading officials attempted to calculate exactly how many consecutive games it was for Bouman. They couldn't determine an exact number, but are certain that 2,000 falls sometime this week.

Their best estimate had Tuesday being the day, so that's when the Phillies' chose to honor Bauman.

Regardless of the date, Bouman has become an institution in cramped FirstEnergy Stadium. All within the organization are amazed at Bouman's streak.

“When I got here in the 1988 season, I learned that we had a PA announcer who, at that point, hadn't missed a game in nine years,” Reading general manager Chuck Domino said. “I thought that was an accomplishment. Here it is 19 years later and he still hasn't missed a game.”

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

A taste of the majors

Playing at RFK stadium excited the minor league players even more than I thought it would. Before the start of their half of the major league/minor league double-header, the minor leaguers walked around the Diamond Club with their eyes as wide as dip cans, soaking in the tatmosphere that permeates a major league ball park.

I was expecting to meet at least a couple of players who didn't want to play at RFK because they wanted their first game in a big league stadium to be with a big league club. If there was a player who felt that way, I didn’t run into him.

To a man, the players echoed the sentiments of Potomac's Tom Wilson.

"It's awesome," Wilson said. "I just cant wait to get on the field and work. It just makes you want to work harder. You’re so close. It gives you a sense of urgency."

The only really disappointed player I could find was Potomac’s Steve Mortimer. A regular with the P-Nats, Mortimer was unable to play because of a broken middle finger on his right hand.

"It's a big-time buzz kill," Mortimer admitted. "But I’m glad to be here. I’m happy to be with my teammates. Even though I'm hurt and I'm not going to get on the field, I'm extremely fortunate."

The afternoon produced a couple of memorable moments. Both teams dressed in the same locker room – the one used by the D.C. United soccer team. When they entered the locker room, players circled the lockers searching for Freddy Adu's stall.

When the players took the field for warm-up stretching, the P-Nats went to left field, while Salem took right field. Potomac sat in the third base dugout, but its bullpen staff walked out to the bullpen behind the rightfield wall. This caught Salem's pen off guard. At they start of the game, Salem relievers headed out to the right field pen, before turning around and heading to left.

One of the drawbacks of playing the game less than an hour after the big league contest between Boston and Washington was that the Stadium crew didn't have much time to clean. The wind kicked up shortly after the start of the minor league game, blowing in a trash storm from the right field bleachers.

The teams took a little extra time between innings while the staff and grounds crew cleared the field.

Other than that, the promotion was successful enough that members of the Potomac front office sad they plan on making the major league/minor league promotion a yearly event.

For more information on this and other fun minor league baseball stories, check out

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Replacement umps lose control in Birmingham

Striking minor league umpires finally have an incident to support their claims.

Birmingham Barons
manager Chris Cron pulled his team off the field after three bench clearing episodes in Saturday’s Southern League game against Jacksonville. Following the third dust-up, White Sox director of player development Dave Wilder walked onto the field and reportedly told the replacement umpires they would never work in the league again.

Both Cron and Wilder were concerned that the replacement umpires had lost control of the game and feared the players would get hurt. The striking minor league umpires have contended all along that the presence of replacement umpires would be most noticeable during difficult situations. In this instance, it appears they were right.

Now, I've never been accused of being a pro-labor zealot, but it's time for major league baseball clubs to step in and get this strike settled.

Triple-A umpires make a base salary of about $15,000 per year. Lower level umpires can make as little as $5,000. They are striking in search of higher base salaries and a larger per diem.

In fairness to minor league baseball officials, they thought they had struck a deal when they left the bargaining table a couple of weeks ago, but the Association of Minor League Umpires vetoed the deal. They decided the proposed raise wasn't enough.

It's time to get back to the negotiating table.

Brawls happen in all levels of baseball and it's ridiculous to believe even the best umpires in the world can eliminate them.

But from a strictly financial viewpoint, wouldn't it be worthwhile for major league clubs to step in and double the minor league umpire's salary if that would cut down the probability of Saturday’s events happening again?

They certainly have the money. And it's cheaper than having one bean ball war injuring a multimillion-dollar prospect.

In a related note, is reporting that Durham's Delmon Young has been suspended 50 games for throwing a bat at a replacement umpire.

To read more about minor league baseball, go to

Monday, May 08, 2006

Let down in Buffalo

So our Promotion of the Day for Sunday on was a special secret announcement from the Buffalo Bisons. We had big hopes for this one. Adding a live Buffalo to its stadium seemed like a real possibility. But the Bisons brass settled on adding a female mascot with some sort of singing career.

It's possible in this age of American Idol that the world needed one more singing woolly creature, but it seems like Bisons simply chose to follow the herd with this one. In about a year or two, this new mascot will probably marry the old mascot. We won't bat an eye.

Bisons mascots are off our radar. At least until they get the first mascot divorce.

Keeping a new mascot secret - let the silence begin. Starting.... Now!

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Brevard County named Organiation of the Month

Awarding the Brevard County Manatees the Organization of the Month was one of the easiest choices ever. The afternoon I spent in Brevard was one of the most enjoyable ballpark experiences I've ever had.

The attention to fun isnoticeablee as soon as you enter the park. General Manager Buck Rogers - yes Buck Rogers is the general manager of a team that plays at Space Coast Stadium - didn't grow up as baseball insider. He was a fan who said, I think we can do better. Rogers then backed up his talk.

He eventually brought his wife into the baseball business and now his daughters are on the stadium's staff. Making sure families have fun at the ballpark has turned into a family affair.

I can't wait to see what stunts they pull the rest of the year.

Read more about the craziness of minor league baseball at

Monday, May 01, 2006

Simon Says promotion falls short

Though the extra-inning game may have cost Lakeland a shot at the world record, it probably made the promotion more successful.

Lakeland Tiger
fans had to wait through two extra innings Friday night before they got their shot at breaking the world record for the largest game of Simon Says. They certainly lost some of their younger fans, but the delay meant that the game was played during a Tampa television station's late newscast.

Twice during its newscast the station went live to Joker Marchant Stadium to see how the Simon Says game was progressing. I suspect the Tigers front office will gladly trade the record for that kind of free publicity.

Lakeland GM Zach Burek is looking into another record breaking attempt later this season, possibly during the Florida State League's All-Star game. Maybe I’ll participate in that one.

For more information on the event, check out the story on

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Independent Atlantic League opens tonight

The independent Atlantic League opened it's season weekend. The league doesn't get much publicity outside the northeast, but it is worth watching.

Every year, major league clubs pluck players from the Atlantic League to fill their rosters. In years past Rickey Henderson, Jose Canseco and Ruben Sierra have jumped from Atlantic League teams to the show. Former Chicago Cub Henry Rodriguez is off to a hot start for the Long Island Ducks. He may be the next to go.

I spent a day at the Atlantic League's spring training site in Lakeland, Fla. Seven teams take over the Detroit Tigers spring training site, living in on campus dorms and practicing on back fields. The Florida State League's Lakeland Tigers play on the main field.

The spring training games draw sparse crowds - mostly family and friends. It's a shame, because fans have the ability to interact with players, many of whom are former major leaguers. There were a few savvy autograph seekers wondering around, but for the most part players and coaches wandered the campus in peace. I wouldn't be surprised to see attendance at the Atlantic League's spring training increase steadily over the next few years.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

MLB umpires join picket line

Regardless of which side you favor in the minor league umpires' strike, the events of this week are mostly positive.

To a man, the striking umpires I've spoken with are eager to get back to work. Minor league officials keep saying they want the umpires back. Managers and players are looking forward to the consistency professional umpires bring to the field.

The strike's profile was raised significantly Tuesday morning when major league umpires joined the minor leaguers walking a picket line in Hagerstown, Md. More media attention can only help the striking umpires' cause. Strikes are pretty pointless if no one knows you're striking.

But the bigger news is that both sides have agreed to meet with a federal mediator in Cincinnati on Wednesday and Thursday. It will be the first time the two sides have talked since the start of the season.

Don't get overly optimistic. Both sides still seem pretty far apart, but at least they are willing to open a dialogue.

In the mean time, feel free to send me some of the more bizarre umpire-related screw-ups you've witnessed.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Major affinity for minor leagues

I enjoy meeting fans who are just insane. The Drostens weren't crazy. They just truly love minor league baseball.

How else would you explain holding season tickets for two differnt franchises. Sure, their Daytona tickets are free. They were two of 17 fans who received season tickets for life when they got tattoos featuring the Daytona Cubs logo.

Pat went first, putting the logo just above her left ankle. Ed put his on his left shoulder blade.

The Drostens are the first fans profiled on, but they won't be the last. I'm looking forward to meeting diehard fans from around the nation. We are working on putting a fan area on

By the way, I was introduced to the Drostens by Brevard County general manager Buck Rogers. What a wild show Rogers and his crew put on. Look for an article about the zaniness that envelopes Space Coast Stadium in the coming weeks on

Read about the Drostens passion on

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Bobby Darula Update

I've tried to follow the careers of all the people I interviewed for The Funniest Thing I've Ever Seen: More than 100 crazy stories from minor league baseball. One of those stories finally has a happy ending.

Those who've read The Funniest Thing I've Ever Seen probably remember Bobby Darula's stories. His unforgettable utterance to an umpire is the book's second story and his stalker story are truly unforgettable.

I interviewed Darula in early May of 2004. At the time Darula was a little preoccupied. His brother, Joseph, was a marine serving in Fallujah during one of the most violent battles of the Iraq war. It seemed newscasts led with rising body counts from that region every day. Darula hadn't heard from his brother in three weeks.

The good news is that Joseph Darula made it home safely and is working in the stock market.

As for Bobby, he will start the season in the Atlantic League playing for the Bluefish; Bridgeport, Connecticut's minor league baseball club. The outfielder had a strong 2005 season with Triple-A Ottawa, hitting .311 and stealing 17 bases in 109 games. He waited too long to sign with an affiliated club – trying to play one team's offer against another, eventually losing all offers.

The Greenwich, Ct. native seemed content to be starting the season near his hometown. Those of you who know him should plan on seeing him early in the season. If he puts up numbers similar to last season, he won’t be there very long.

Read more about minor league baseball at

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Aronson last man talking in 20 inning marathon

The trip to Fort Myers earlier this week was well worth it.

I went to talk with Miracle play-by-play man Sean Aronson who, a few nights prior, had just called a 20-inning baseball game all by himself. He still looked a little tired. I first met Sean a couple years back when I was working on my book, The Funniest Thing I've Ever Seen. He was helpful then and was even more helpful this time, though he could have used a day off.

The night I was there the Miracle, a Mike Veeck-owned club, were having one of those crazy promotions - a salute to the doughnut. Fans received doughnuts as they entered the stadium, fun facts about the doughnut were posted around the stadium and other doughnut-related promotions were held on the field between innings. The team shied away from using a doughnut instead of a baseball for the ceremonial first pitch. I'm not sure why. I was looking forward to that one.

In any event, I had a great time in Fort Myers and look forward to getting back there later in the season. Those guys get it.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Let's Play 33

I can't even fathom it, really. I mean, 33 innings? Come on.

Today marks the 25th anniversary of the start of the longest game ever, a 3-2 Pawtucket victory over Rochester in 33 innings ( ). Wow.

Think about all the ridiculous things about that game. Rochester center fielder Dallas Williams went 0-for-13. That's a three-day slump wrapped up in one game. Not to be out done, the Paw Sox Russ Laribee struck out in eight of his 11 at-bats, possibly inspiring a new promotion: two-for-one golden sombrero night.

Jim Umbarger pitched 10 innings of scoreless relief for Rochester, yet didn't factor in the decision. Losing pitcher Steve Grilli was not a member of the Red Wings when the game started.

Can you imagine working the hot dog stand for that one? How long did they serve beer? How pissed was everybody (players and fans) with Wade Boggs' game tying hit in the bottom of the 21st?

Finally, ask yourself this: How long would you have stayed? And how drunk would you have been?

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Borders demotes himself

When I first saw the Vero Beach Dodgers roster, I figured Pat Borders was likely the son of the former major leaguer. Wrong. It was the 1992 World Series MVP, himself.

Borders was offered a spot with the Dodgers’ Triple-A squad in Las Vegas, but asked to be sent to Single-A Vero because it was close to his home in Lake Wales, Fl. The Dodgers obliged, no doubt excited to have Borders work with the younger catchers in their org.

Despite being twice the age of most of his teammates, Borders is starting to fit in. He’s not sure that’s a good thing. During our interview ( ), Borders was anxiously checking the clubhouse door to make sure his teammates weren’t planning some shenanigans for the interview.

He smiled when asked about kangaroo court, figuring it will be the first chance for his younger teammates to skewer him. Borders should worry. One player told me after the game that there is something brewing, but refused to give any details.

Whatever happens, Borders will take it with a smile. And I suspect whoever pulls the first prank will eventually have to deal with the man who is starting his 24th season in professional baseball. I bet he knows a comeback or two.