Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Mitchell report can't burn what the needle can't find

The needle can't burn what the needle can't find
And the money won't save what the money can't hide
And part of me is safe and part of me is lies

- Seven Mary Three

When Seven Mary Three front man Jason Ross penned these lyrics, he most assuredly wasn’t thinking about baseball. Though several members of the group are avid baseball fans – especially minor league baseball – Ross is not.

He does, however, take some level of pride when people hear his songs and apply their own interpretation. No one would argue the whole of Needle Can’t Burn is about baseball, but sometimes little tidbits removed from the whole just seem to work.

Consider applying it to the recently released Mitchell Report detailing steroid use in baseball. Step over the obvious needle reference. The underlying causes of baseball’s out-of-control steroid problem are money and safety. While Ross has shown a preoccupation with the emotions, ideas and feelings we hide from others; in this case the motivation for hiding information was fear.

Some of those fears are quite rational. The Dugout has talked with more than one player who suggested that some players felt they needed the extra boost just to keep up with what others are doing.

Other fears couldn’t be more juvenile. At what age do kids learn to keep bad deeds to themselves to avoid getting in trouble?

Either way, this report could have made Major League Baseball’s worst fears come true. Turns out baseball had nothing to be scared of.

Now that the Mitchell Report is finally available, do can anyone honestly say they know more about steroid and HGH use in baseball? Were there any really surprising revelations?

Most of the big names in the report had already been rumored to be friends with the needle. While it’s impressive that Mitchell was able to implicate every major league club while using so few sources, most of the allegations barely reach the level of gossip.

Essentially, the report only reinforced anecdotal evidence that lots of players were doing lots of things, some of which were even legal. The biggest nugget The Dugout takes away from the report is that pitchers were just as busy plunging as hitters. So while some hitters’ stats were inflated by their own drug use, it seems safe to assume that others were diminished because they faced pumped-up pitchers.

Who benefited the most? Well, the cheaters did. And so did the owners. And so did the fans, who reveled in watching the grand game turn into an amped-up stickball match.

And let’s not forget the owners, who clearly looked away from the syringes, focusing instead on new television contracts and increased attendance.

Follow the money. Know that the era was tainted. Push for stronger testing programs and penalties. Invest money to find a test for HGH, which currently is undetectable in the blood stream.

In a few years some retired player with more credibility than Jose Canseco will write a book naming more players who juiced. But by then they will barely be footnotes used to sell books. Most of the hard evidence, if it ever existed, will have long been incinerated.

The more time passes, the more difficult it will become to discover where the needle hides.

One not so big name: Howie Clark was the only player featured in The Funniest Thing I’ve Ever Seen, More than 100 crazy stories from minor league baseball to be named in the Mitchell Report. The Dugout met Clark in 2004 while he was playing for Syracuse. His story may not be the funniest in the book, but it’s a different way to end this not so humorous steroid story.

The Dog Day Of Summer

Even though Howie Clark has played major league baseball for the
Baltimore Orioles and Toronto Blue Jays, he will likely be best
remembered as the man who played all nine positions in a single game
for the Double-A Eastern League’s Bowie Baysox in 1996. Now a
member of the Triple-A Syracuse Sky Chiefs, a Toronto affiliate,
Clark’s career has taken a path he didn’t foresee on that September

Clark played for Baltimore’s Triple-A affiliate Rochester Red
Wings in 2000, but didn’t have a job in 2001. He signed with the
Yucatan Leones of the Mexican League and was surprised by how
much he enjoyed his south-of-the-border experience.

“It’s different than the [affiliated] minor leagues because there’s no
where to [move up],” explained Clark, who equates the league’s level
of play in between Double- and Triple-A. “There’s no farm system.
You play to win. If you play well the town’s happy, the owners are
happy. Everyone’s happy. If you don’t play well you risk getting sent
out of there.”

As a bald American, Clark says he was easily recognizable in his
new town. Residents constantly came up to ask how he was playing or
how the team did that night. Clark considers the Mexican fans
knowledgeable about baseball, cheering often overlooked aspects of the
game such as advancing runners and good fundamental baseball.

“They cheer the home team,” Clark said. “They don’t boo the
visiting team. They have a certain class about them that made it fun to
come and play.”

But the league did have its downside. Some of the facilities weren’t
up to the standards of American minor league parks. The smaller parks
can lead to some interesting nights on the diamond and, in this case,
one dog-day afternoon.

Howie Clark: In 2001 I went down to Mexico to play for the
summer. For their spring training you play in tiny, tiny towns. The
dugout is very small and it’s super hot.

I played for the Yucatan Leones, which was in the city of Merida.
We were playing Cancun’s team in the spring, playing in this tiny
town a couple hours from Cancun. I just remember it being so hot
and there was no shade.

In the middle of my at-bat a dog ran onto the field. It just kind of
came on and ran by the pitcher’s mound. Then it stopped. Then it
started running all around. Nobody wanted to go after it. It stopped
the game for a little while, but [the game] started up again.
It happened three times that game. The same dog just came
out. I don’t know whether it just liked the game, or what. It was
definitely far removed from anything around here. They called time
and they were chasing this dog for what seemed like forever trying
to get him off the field.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Home Team Handz gives baseball the clap

The Dugout is still waiting for Home Team Handz to announce its first contract with a major or minor league ball club. That wait shouldn’t be long.

For those yet to see the story on the main MinorLeagueDugout.com site, Home Team Handz debuted a nylon glove with plastic half-globes attached to the palms at the winter meetings in Nashville. The front and back of the gloves are pictured on the right.

Clapping your hands while wearing these gloves produces a sound significantly louder than skin on skin. The gloves, which may be a bit pricey for a minor league giveaway even with the spot for sponsorship on the back of the glove, should make their appearances at major league parks this season.

The Dugout, for one, doesn’t want to be at that game. They are loud. As Matt Moore, a friend of The Dugout, put it: They are a headache on a glove.

That doesn’t mean the product won’t sell. Look at ThunderStix. Those things are utterly annoying, yet they were the hit of promotional giveaways for, what, five years? Home Team Handz puts the thunder in your palms – which is actually a benefit to those sitting behind you.

The gloves are also more durable, therefore more usable, than the balloon-like Thundersix, which should help increase the amount of grade-school detentions if giveaway days precede school days. People who wear these clap-traps seem to love them. And they draw a crowd.

They are another example of a simple idea that thousands of people will wear and think, “How come I didn’t think of this?” So congrats to Marc Kohn and Craig Maniglia for executing a good idea. Fans of these sorts of promotional noisemakers should hurry to get a pair. Those who don’t like this stuff, well you should probably get your hands on some, too. Trust The Dugout, you may not be a fan of the noise, but you certainly don’t want to be the only fan without them.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Winter meetings start dealing

Baseball’s Winter Meetings are in full swing – so to speak.

The Dugout is currently position just to the right of ESPN’s broadcast position. The media pool is in a frenzy chasing the big trade. For those who haven’t heard, several media outlets are reporting that the Florida Marlins have traded both Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis to Detroit for centerfielder Cameron Maybin, pitcher Andrew Miller, and catcher Mike Rabelo.

Maybin was the Tigers’ first-round selection in 2005. Miller was their No. 1 pick the following year.

The Marlins will also receive three other minor league pitchers. Eulogio De La Cruz is reportedly one of them. The Detroit Free Press is reporting Burke Badenhop and Dallas Trahern are also part of the deal.

This just in: Harold Reynolds just walked. He’s now working for MLB TV. He picked up a copy of The Funniest Thing I’ve Ever Seen: More than 100 crazy stories from minor league baseball. Can’t hurt to have him carrying it around.

In another player movement note, the Yankees just signed catcher Jose Molina to a two-year deal. The move is significant to Dugout fans because to make room for him, the Yankees removed Andy Phillips from their 40-man roster.

Phillips told one of the stories featured in the book Reynolds is about to read.

The Dugout spent most of the afternoon canvassing the convention center floor. The next great promotional item has been identified. You will never clap the same way again. Look for the story to be posted either later tonight or early tomorrow.

There will also be features about the latest in popcorn accessories, an interesting way for fans to giveaway their unused tickets, and perhaps a little something about an online academy that trains students for careers in sports management and marketing.

Will leave you with this guy on the right - if i can get the picture posted. For some resaon the site is exceptionally slow. His human horn show was one of the highlights of last night’s convention opening – for about 30 seconds. He clearly had too much time on his hands for a long portion of his life. Pray a ballpark near you doesn’t find this guy attractive.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

FSL fixture Rabenecker flying the coop

Fans of the Florida State League were shocked on the opening day of the playoffs to learn that longtime Roger Dean Stadium general manager Rob Rabenecker had resigned.

Rabenecker (right) told Florida Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals, both of whom call RDS home, of his decision on Friday. The news hit the Palm Beach Post on Monday and was the third most read story on their internet site. And that’s with the Dolphins preparing for their first game, Florida State football losing its opener and the Marlins in the midst of a losing streak.

Rabenecker, a fixture in the FSL since 1989, was responsible for brokering one of the most unique deals in minor league baseball. RDS hosts two full-season minor league clubs, the only such arrangement in baseball. Including major league spring training, there is a professional baseball game at RDS nearly every day from March through September.

Because of his reputation as a jokester, most of the RDS staff did not believe Rabenecker when he told them of his decision. It seemed even more like a prank when Rabenecker told people he was leaving baseball to become an owner of a Chick-Fil-A franchise in South Florida.

But Rabenecker is serious. He seems genuinely excited about his new prospect, which is fantastic to see. With Florida State League commissioner Chuck Murphy unable to leave Daytona, Rabenecker was the FSL representative in St. Lucie for Monday’s opening round playoff game between the Mets and Brevard County.

Scores of fans, agents and members of other organizations wandered over to Rabenecker to make sure the news was true. Super size, waffle fries and off-on-Sunday jokes floated through the park all night. Rabenecker joked that he may use his Sundays to actually watch a baseball game for a change.

Rabenecker helped The Dugout get a foot into the baseball batters box, and for that I will always be grateful. There will certainly be a few trips to the Wellington Mall Chick-Fil-A in the future.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

The doggest day of them all

The final day of the baseball season can as much fun as opening day for fans.

The Dugout is sitting in the press box of Roger Dean Stadium watching the final regular season game of the Florida State League season between Palm Beach and Jupiter. Baseball games are generally pretty laid back. Today, however, there is almost a backyard feel to the game.

Neither team is going to make the playoffs, so there isn’t really any pressure. Players not in the starting lineup were wandering through the stands before the game shaking hands and signing autographs. Undoubtedly there will be plenty of autographs signed following the game.

Members of the stadium staff have been walking through the stands handing leftover prizes to those few hundred or so that chose to brave the Florida mid-day heat.

And for the semi-hardball falls who complain baseball just takes too long, this is the ideal game. If it seems like the guys are playing like they have a plane to catch, it’s because many of them do. The over-under on expected 3-2 counts today is two – and both of them will come on accident. As the Cardinals clubhouse manager said before the game, they should treat it like a softball game and start every count at 2-1.

Most leagues end their regular season today but a few, the New York-Penn and the Northwest in particular, have a few more games before starting the postseason. Look for a regular season wrap-up/playoff preview on the main site in the next day or two.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Other interesting quotes from the Gulf Coast League story

The Dugout has been a bit lax in updating this blog. Please accept all apologies. The start of football season spreads most reporters thinly, especially in Florida where there is high school, college and NFL.

On the minor league baseball front, this weekend marks the end of the regular season in most leagues. The Gulf Coast League is well into its playoffs – the champion may be crowned tonight.

We’ll have a complete look at the playoffs in the coming days. For now, wanted to share some of the quotes about the Gulf Coast League that didn’t make the story. Enjoy.

GCL Marlins third baseman Matt Dominguez:
There is a nice breeze today. They say it is going to get worse. It will get a lot worse if there is no breeze. It’s pretty humid.

GCL Cardinals pitcher Zach Russell:
You come out here thinking its going to be what you see on TV – and its not.

GCL Cardinals pitcher Deryk Hooker:
The next level, it should be more fun. Here, you just have to pay your dues.

GCL Mets pitcher Nathan Hedrick on having family visit for the game:
It’s a blast. It’s something comfortable. Being out here the whole time, you kind of get homesick. They bring a little piece of home to you. It’s something that kind of revives you to get you through the rest of the season.

GCL Cardinals manager Enrique Brito, on being a Latin-born manager:
If you have a manger that comes from those places, it makes it easier for the players to understand American baseball.

Florida Marlins pitcher Scott Olsen on his GCL memories
You are up at six or seven every morning at the field. You eat the same breakfast everyday. You have a workout for like two hours in the morning in the sun, go inside and eat the same lunch, go back out high noon play a game in the heat with no shade - sitting there doing nothing if you are not pitching. You are bored out of your mind.

You go from being 17-18 playing with fans, playing with people you know back home, playing night games and all that good stuff with people around you. And you get to the Gulf Coast and it’s 95 degrees at 12 noon and there ain’t nobody around but you and the other players. It sucks.

Cleveland Indians first baseman Travis Hafner:
I actually loved it. I remember coming out of college and we played baseball every day. After two weeks of games they gave us a pay check. I was almost like, Wow, they pay us to do this. I thought it was the greatest thing ever.

St. Louis vice president of amateur scouting and player procurement Jeff Luhnow, on why the Cardinals return to the GCL is good for Latin players:
Our experience has been that sending them straight to the Appalachian League is a really tough jump and this was a perfect intermediate step between where they are and Johnson City.

GCL Marlins catcher Brett Lawler on teammates who have cars:
“Those are the golden boys. Make sure you get friends with them because they can take you to Wal*Mart if you need them. If you want to go out, those are the people you want to call.

Lawler on communicating with teammates:
There are many different cultures and many different people coming together trying to figure out how to play this same game. Having to communicate on the field, you figure out how to speak Spanish in different ways or speak whatever you need to so that they understand you.

GCL Marlins manager Tim Cossins:
Managing is a term that you have to put at the front of it, but in my opinion you have to take it beyond just playing the game. You can’t focus solely on that because there is so much more going on at this point of development that you have to focus on. You want to mature them on the field but you also want to mature them off, and in the clubhouse because that is a big part of this.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Pedro is Pedro in third rehab start

The Dugout got a little treat tonight, taking in Pedro Martinez's third rehab start in St. Lucie. He fared much better than the last time out, finally looked like a pitcher that can help the New York Mets during a playoff drive.

Making his third, and by far his best, rehab start since undergoing shoulder surgery in the offseason, Martinez allowed two unearned runs on two hits in five innings and struck out four in an important victory that allowed the Mets to take a two-game lead over Brevard County.

“Today I looked more like I should look than I did in the previous two outings,” said Martinez, who threw 52 of his 72 pitches for strikes. “Now I’m just hoping I can continue to do that so I can get myself back to the big club.”

The outing impressed the entourage in town to see Martinez, which included New York pitching coach Rick Peterson, bullpen coach Guy Conti and brother, former major league pitcher Ramon.

“It’s the difference between watching a NASCAR race on television and sitting next to the driver going around the track,” said Peterson, who had only seen video of Martinez’s first two rehab starts. “It was great to be able to ride with Pedro around the track a few times.”

Martinez was in a fantastic mood following the outing. The following are some of the better quotes to come from the press conference.

On his ability to work his sinker:
I wanted a ground ball to get a double play and I got it. I went back to it on the next batter and still got another ground ball. That’s what I meant to do. I’m getting ready for the big leagues. If, when I need to do that, I’m able to do that, believe me the double plays will be turned.

On his second to last pitch of the game, a high and tight fastball to Lorenzo Cain:
That was a fastball in. That was the one I really wanted to make a statement with.

On throwing 52 of his 72 pitches for strikes:
If I’m on and I’m healthy, I throw strikes. I get it over with quickly. They either hit me quickly or I get them quickly.

How close is he to returning to the majors?
If I was a reliever I’m pretty sure I’d be up there already because you don’t need to make that many adjustments to throw one inning or two.

What he would say to fans who are waiting for him to return to the majors:
I wish I was there with them but they know they want me there healthy. They want a Pedro Martinez that is going to help them. They don’t want to just see my face up there. I’m not that good looking.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Creating the "Ultimate Bobblehead Doll"

Some of the greatest promotional ideas never make it to the ballpark.

The Dugout was bouncing some weird ideas with some promotions people, media relations guys and radio broadcasters in the Florida State League. The best idea, and one which will surely never make it to a ballpark, was the 2007 Ultimate Bobblehead.

The way the group figured it, the ultimate bobblehead would have three figures on it. The first would be Long Island’s Jose Offerman menacingly wielding a bat at the second figure – a man wearing a Mike Vick jersey and restraining a dog. Watching the scene from the side is a man wearing an NBA referee’s uniform, taking bets as to the winner of the throwdown.

The arm and bat in the Offerman portion of the bobblehead would bobble, as would the head of the dog being restrained by the Vick figure. Either the head or the arm of the referee that is writing down the bets would also bobble.

Hey, it never hurts to dream.

The real Bob L. Head: Speaking of bobbleheads, congrats again to Portland for one of the best conceived and executed promotions of the year. At the beginning of the season Portland scanned the country to find the ultimate person named Bob L. Head. The promotion ended Saturday with the handing out of the dolls. Portland flew Bob L. Head from his Iowa home to Oregon to take part in the event. Nice job, guys.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Klein must ban bat-wielding Offerman immediately

You see some strange things in the independent leagues of minor league baseball. Last night something frightening happened. Former major league all-star and current Long Island shortstop Jose Offerman charged the mound wielding his bat after getting hit by a Matt Beech pitch in the second inning of Tuesday's game in Bridgeport.

Offerman reportedly swung the bat wildly at Beech, striking Bridgeport catcher John Nathans in the back of the head. Nathans left the park on a stretcher after suffering a possible concussion. Offerman eventually hit Beech in the hand with the bat, breaking a finger.

The game was delayed 20 minutes because of the melee. Offerman was ejected, then arrested by Bridgeport police. He posted a $10,000 bond and was released.

Bridgeport officials immediately called Atlantic League commissioner Joe Klein, asking that Offerman be suspended for life. Klein didn’t go that far, issuing the following statement on the League’s web site today:

The Atlantic League announced that LI infielder Jose Offerman has been indefinitely suspended based on his actions during the 8/14/2007 Long Island @ Bridgeport game.

His violation of the Atlantic League on field behavioral policy is under review and a decision on his status and that of other participants will be announced by weeks end.

It's a start, but come on Klein. The Dugout believes you have to ban Offerman permanently from the league, and quickly. This isn’t affiliated baseball where union agreements force league officials to follow a series of protocols. You have the power. Use it.

Offerman charged the mound because he thought Beech threw at him intentionally. He might be right. It doesn’t matter. As soon as Offerman took the bat to the mound and started swinging, he committed a crime. Moreover, he broke baseball’s code of conduct.

No one seems to be denying that fact. Let justice be swift. End his career. Already 38 years old, no team will pick him up after this incident. Then you can sit back and enjoy what the Bridgeport justice system does to him.

Monday, August 13, 2007

The power of Cleo, Hail to Joba and a pillw fight with a happy ending

The Dugout has been a bit lax with the blogs the past few days. Sorry for that, but sometimes life intervenes where baseball really should rule. Currently sitting in a hotel room in Lumberton, N.C., which you I-95 fans probably know is just a few miles north of South of the Boarder.

Figured you at least deserved a couple of housekeeping items.

To begin with, Cleopatra won Jupiter/Palm Beach's "Who's Then" promotion. As far as anyone can tell, it was a pretty huge upset. The former Egyptian Pharaoh defeated Marilyn Monroe in the opening round, then shocked George Washington in the semies before downing Pete Rose to take the crown.

Cleopatra won the title thanks to a huge internet push. Actually it was too big. More people voted for Cleo than attended the game, suggesting that someone may have hacked into the site. The folks at Roger Dean Stadium don't really care too much - and rightly so. The fact that an idea so dumb moved someone to try to affect an outcome is more than could have been asked for.

On a different front, MinorLeagueDugout.com's timing on the Trenton pitching staff story couldn't have been better. Two of the players featured in that story - Joba Chamberlain and Ian Kennedy - were called up to the big squad in the past week. Congrats guys.

Finally, Kane County fell about 500 participants shy of breaking the record for the World's Largest Pillow Fight (August 11 Promo of the Day). The day was still pretty successful for the Cougars, who broke the Midwest League's attendance record with 14,492 fans. Here's their press release:



GENEVA, IL – In the opening night of a two-game series against the Peoria Chiefs, the Kane County Cougars hosted a record-setting crowd of 14,492 fans for the Saturday evening contest. The flock of fans at Elfstrom Stadium surpassed the Midwest League single-game record of 14,452 that was set by the Cougars on August 16, 2003.

Before, during and after Saturday’s game, fans were treated to one of the most exciting nights of the season, culminating in a spirited attempt for the World’s Largest Pillow Fight sponsored by Back to Bed. Fans earnestly signed up to be a part of the fun, many bringing pillows from home, while the first 3,000 fans received mini-pillows courtesy of Back to Bed. During the attempt, feathers were flying on the outfield grass as fans laughed their way through the 90-second try. While the Cougars’ attempt came up just short (3,085 fans took part – the current Guinness World Record stands at 3,648 pillow fighters), it will be remembered as one of the most unique events in the Cougars’ 17-year history.

A pre-game autograph session, along with a fireworks show, a performance by the Jesse White Tumblers, and an opportunity for fans to run the bases after the game only added to the excitement.

“Although we fell short of breaking the record for the world’s largest pillow fight, we realize that every fan in attendance was part of a special night at Elfstrom Stadium,” Cougars General Manager Jeff Sedivy said. “Last night’s record-setting crowd was one of the most entertaining nights in the history of our organization. It was truly a great experience for our fans.”

The Cougars series continues today against the Chiefs, as both teams take the field at 2 p.m. for an intra-division battle. Kane County travels to Peoria Monday for a two-game series before continuing the road trip in Davenport, Iowa against the Swing of the Quad Cities.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Pedro rehabs with a mound full of kids

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. - The funny thing about playing in minor league games is that everyone eventually gets treated equally.

Pedro Martinez has been rehabbing here after undergoing rotator cuff surgery last October. He's pretty much holed up in the minor league complex, keeping separate from the Florida State League’s St. Lucie Mets.

He was slated to pitch last Wednesday with St. Lucie, but got rained out. The Mets were on the road the next day – a whopping 30 minutes away in Jupiter – but Martinez opted not to make the trip, choosing instead to pitch a simulated game at the Mets minor league complex.

He finally made a start for St. Lucie tonight, but never moved into clubhouse, choosing to dress in the minor league complex well away from the ballpark. Once he entered the gates, though, he could no longer duck the minor league hubbub.

The Dugout laughed as St. Lucie took the field accompanied by about 50 children who were part of a baseball camp. Dozens followed Martinez to the mound, asking him questions and shaking his hand before the National Anthem.

St. Lucie third baseman Daniel Murphy could only look over at the gathering. None of the campers joined him at the hot corner.

“That’s one of the things you are not used to,” Martinez said of the pow-wow. “It’s fun. It’s beautiful. It’s nice to see those kids out there. I think about mine and it gives me the same joy.”

Martinez said the kids told him it was nice to meet him and that they were his biggest fan.

“You recognize your spring training hat,” Martinez laughed. “It’s beautiful.”

Martinez gave the fans a little something back when he struck out designated “Taco Bell K-man of the Game” Max Leon in the second inning, earning every fan in the stadium a coupon for a free taco.

For those interested in the numbers, they we’re pretty. He allowed five earned runs on six hits in three innings of work. He blamed most of the trouble on his inability to get a feel for his sinker.

He was jovial following the performance, stating more than once just how pleased he was to pitch in a real game again.

“I can’t wait for the next five days to come by so I can get back in there and make the adjustments I have to make to actually get back to New York,” said Martinez, 35. “I’m bored. I don’t want to be in Florida anymore.”

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Really, ESPN? Really? wnba over Bonds?

Barry Bonds has endured more than his share of insults and ridicule (most of which The Dugout believes are deserved), but even the biggest Bonds bemoaners had to be shocked by the events of Tuesday night.

The hundreds of thousands (millions?) of baseball fans across the globe tuned into ESPN2 at 10 p.m. to see if Barry could break the record only to find the game had been moved to ESPNNews. The “Worldwide Leader in Sports” was televising a wnba game that went into double overtime.

Contractual obligations forced ESPN2 to stay with the sub-minor league out-of-season basketball game. Seriously.

Bonds was on deck. He was about to attempt to break the most hallowed record in all of sports, and ESPN could only put it on a channel that doesn’t reach millions of viewers. What did they think they were covering, the NHL?

While many may feel that Bonds' breaking the record without the national spotlight is poetic justice, ESPN execs must have been beating their heads with their shoes for every minute the anti-Heidi dragged on.

Come on Bristol. Someone up there must have the brains to throw the switch. What’s the worst thing that could happen? You lose the wnba contract? Oh rapturous bliss!

Luckily for the baseball world, Randy Wynn made the final out of the first inning, allowing ESPN2 to join the Giants game in the second inning, in time for Bonds first at-bat.

Waiting all year: How long do you think this headline has been in the works? On Saturday Charleston defeated Greensboro 4-3 to give pitcher Jonathon Hovis his first victory of the season. The headline of the RiverDogs press release read:

Smith's 11th Inning Walkoff Single Lifts Charleston as J. Hovis Witnesses First Win


Monday, August 06, 2007

A little late, but this is still funny

The Dugout loves crazy promotions, especially those that mock really stupid ideas. Here's a press release from two Florida State League clubs that share the same ballpark. Enjoy. More later.

Palm Beach Cardinals and Jupiter Hammerheads to attempt to determine “Who is Then?”

Over the past weeks, ESPN has done a phenomenally awesome job of answering the incredibly unimportant question, “Who is Now?” The Jupiter Hammerheads and the Palm Beach Cardinals plan to take the question to its logical follow-up. Beginning on Friday, August 3, the two Florida State League clubs will finally put to rest the question that’s been on everyone’s mind, “Who is Then?”

The person who is the most “Then” was more than just a top performer in their field. They had all the peripherals, too. In their day they all had entourages, endorsement deals and a little thing called respect. Choosing not to limit ourselves the way ESPN did, the Cardinals and Hammerheads threw the field wide open to some of the greatest names in the history of history. They were leaders of empires, opinion makers and household names. Now they are largely irrelevant to everyday life.

The most “Then” person will be decided via tournament bracket. The field has been limited to the elitest of the Elite Eight. Each night two of those monsters lacking modernity will face off. Our panel of experts – usually ballplayers from the night’s game – will give their opinions about the contestants. The voting will then be turned over to the fans. Each fan that enters the ballpark will be given one vote per day. There will also be an internet vote on RogerDeanStadium.com. The ultimate winner – the Zen of Then – will be determined on August 9th, when the Hammerheads host Dunedin.

An Now the Matchups

Opening Night (Friday, Aug. 3): Plato vs. Bill Clinton

Plato: Plato used his brain to climb to the top of Mt. Philosopher. In his famous work, The Republic, the influential Greek philosopher attempted to establish guidelines that would allow humans to lead a good life. During the height of his thinking, Plato was followed around by the top thinkers of his generation who may or may not have been wearing togas. Plus, his name is easier to spell than Socrates and Aristotle.

Bill Clinton: The former U. S. president became famous for thinking with another part of his body. Bubba served two terms in the country’s highest office, balancing the budget while walking a tightrope with congress. His entourage seemed to include most of the women in Arkansas, though he appealed to a younger audience in Washington D.C.

much to “Pseudo-Now” wife Hillary’s chagrin. While Abraham Lincoln will be remembered for his Gettysburg Address, no one will ever forget Clinton and the Blue Dress.

Night Two (Saturday, Aug. 4): Pete Rose vs. Stuart Scott

Pete Rose: The Hit King was pretty now when he broke Ty Cobb’s record for most career hits. He was even “Now-er” when he was banned from baseball for gambling. Rose had many endorsements during his hey day and even owned two restaurants, one in Boca Raton, the other in Boynton Beach. His entourage included various wise guys in joggling suits, allowing Charlie Hustle to reinvent himself with a new nickname – Charlie the Hustler.

Stuart Scott: In theory, Scott must have been “now” at some point. How else can you explain why this guy constantly shows up in America’s living rooms via ESPN? The man famous for using the maximum amount of words to provide the least amount of useful information seems like he’s been an anchor on ESPN since the days of Plato, but really it’s his act that’s constructed out of Play-Doh. This viable contender for The Most Then is truly cooler than the other side of the cucumber.

Night Three (Sunday, Aug. 5) Marilyn Monroe vs. Cleopatra

Marilyn Monroe: The buxom blonde is still the standard-bearer for Hollywood starlets. Few, if any, actresses have ever reached the popularity of Miss Monroe. Her aura extended past celluloid, seeping into the very fabric of the United States. She had arguably the most impressive entourage of anyone in the competition, marrying former Yankees slugger Joe DiMaggio and reportedly owning an all-access pass to John F. Kennedy’s White House. Paris and Lindsay, drink your heart out. Monroe was so “It”, you could argue she is both “Now” and “Then.”

Cleopatra: The Egyptian pharaoh is perhaps the most famous female ruler of all time. During her reign of Egypt, Cleopatra maintained such a tight grip over the empire that coins contained her face and name. Her entourage included her brother Ptolemy XIII, who was also her husband, Julius Cesar and Mark Anthony. Cleopatra has served as inspiration for great works of art and literature, although most of the current creations have gone straight to video.

Night Four (Monday, Aug. 6): Napoleon vs. George Washington

Napoleon Bonaparte: The French general is considered to have possessed one of the greatest military minds in history, helping spread the French Revolution throughout Europe. The man who was twice the emperor of France uttered many famous quotes, including, “An army marches on its stomach.” He was married twice, the first time to Josephine and the second time to Marie-Louise. Famously short in stature, will he prove to be more “Then” or will this be his Waterloo? Again.

George Washington: Often referred to as the Father of our Country, Washington led the rebel forces in the Revolutionary War. He spent many a winter freezing in the fields of the northeast, yet thousands of starving and unwashed men followed him anyway. He was America’s first president, serving two terms. As a youth he became famous for chopping down a cherry tree, then taunting those around him by saying, “Yeah, I cut the thing down.” Or something like that. He was pretty brave and awfully “Now” back “Then.”


Night Five (Tuesday, Aug 7): Semi 1 - Plato/Clinton winner vs. Rose/Scott winner.

Night Six (Wednesday, Aug. 8): Semi 2 – Cleopatra/Monroe winner vs. Napoleon/Washington winner.

Night Seven (Thursday, August 9): Finals

Those considered contest but ultimately judged “Not Then-worthy” included: Gary Coleman, Vlad Dracula, Attila the Hun, Ghengis Kahn, Julius Cesar, Fred Flintstone, John Wayne, Barry Bonds, Chris Berman, John Madden, Joan of Arc, Noah of ark fame, Alexander the Great, Thomas Edison, Ben Franklin, William Shakespeare, Abraham Lincoln, William Howard Taft, the Hawley Smoot Tariff, Dale Earnhardt Sr. and Mr. Ed.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Rain stops Pedro and Two Cents, and outtakes from the Trenton pitching story

The Dugout is experiencing one of those weird baseball days. The original plan was see Pedro Martinez' rehab start in St. Lucie, but that game was rained out. So The Dugout headed south to catch Palm Beach’s game against Daytona.

It was raining there, too. In fact shortly before the 5 p.m. start of the doubleheader, the park was struck by lightning, knocking out the speakers around the ballpark. The lack of audio forced the Cardinals to postpone their My Two Cents Night, which incidentally, is today’s MinorLeagueDugout.com Promo of the Day.

Though the doubleheader started late, it appears as though both games will be played. The Cardinals won the first game and have just taken the field for the second game. Jeff Samardzija is pitching for the Cubs. Fervent readers may remember the MinorLeagueDugout.com feature on Samardzija from earlier in the year.

Speaking of pitching, the much anticipated story about the Trenton Thunder pitching staff is now up on the site. For those Yankees fanatics, and there are plenty of you, here are some of the quotes that didn't make the story. There won't be many, if any from Joba Chamberlain. Those are being saved for a Rounding The Bases segment which will appear on the site later this year.

Manager Tony Franklin breaks down Trenton’s success:
No. 1, we’ve got some very good arms that can make some quality pitches and have a pretty good understanding of how to pitch.

No. 2, we have a tremendous pitching coach in Scott Aldred. He’s done quite a bit to nurture the talent hat we have here.

No. 3, things have just been clicking overall for us this year.

Franklin on the starters:
It's pretty much a phenomenon when you can pitch five guys out there for five straight nights and you can get to the sixth or seventh inning – and we’ve done that quite a lot this year.

Franklin on the future of the staff:
I wouldn’t say it's out of the realm of thinking that some more guys could go to the major leagues this year. I think we've got some major league pitchers. How soon they’re ready to pitch there is yet to be determined.

Trenton catcher P.J. Pilittere:
Those guys definitely make my job a lot easier and it’s definitely exciting for me to come to the park every day. These guys are on a pretty good roll right now.

OK, one quote from Joba:
Down there [Tampa] they had a great pitching coach in Greg Pavlik and he broke down mechanical things. Here we’re working on the mental game and being prepared for the hitters. It makes it a little easier when you can get your mechanics down in High-A so that when you get here you have a little less to worry about.

Pitcher Alan Horne on the starters:
They are guys running out with quality start after quality start each time out. Each time one of us takes the hill, we feel like we have a great chance to win.

OK, that's it. Gotta run. Going to be a guest on Palm Beach's radio broadcast. Enjoy.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Minor league promos continue to mock Michael Vick

We're about to enter what is essentially the final month of wacky minor league baseball promotions and there are some pretty good ones on the way. There will be some tough decisions in the coming days. MinorLeagueDugout.com's Promo of the Day battle for August 8 looks to be a toss-up between Lincoln and St. Paul. The Dugout doesn't want to give anything away, but some info on those nights is available on their site. If you are a Christmas Eve present opener, you can cheat by looking at their sites, now. Those Christmas Day present openers will choose to wait until the 8th.

Who knows, one of those two might not even be the winner. The Dugout has spent the last two days inspecting the Web sites of every minor league team, checking for the August (and September) promos. However, there are still a couple of leagues left to be examined (Golden, United and South Coast). This is by far the most time-consuming part of The Dugout’s month.

Before turning the page on July promos, there are a couple worth noting. Several teams have capitalized on Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick's alleged misdeeds, combining their Bark in the Park promos with some sort of animal awareness or animal rescue night. The above photos are from Sioux Falls' promo. The Canaries dressed their mascot in a Vick jersey and allowed the canines to chase it down.

Long Beach captured Sunday's Promo of the Day honor with their night, which allowed fans to turn in their Vick jerseys at the ballpark. The Armada originally planned to start a bonfire with the collected jerseys, but couldn’t get a permit. Instead they gave fans the option of turning their jerseys into pooper scoopers or a wee-wee pad – their words, not The Dugout’s.

The Armada actually had a pretty busy couple of days. They planned to use Monday as Barrow, Alaska day, but members of their adopted sister city were unable to make the trip. Kudos for trying that one, though. On Monday they are hosting Un-Olympics day, which may earn the Armada its second Promo of the Day honor in three days. You’ll have to check the site on Monday to know for sure.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Trenton, the minor leagues' best franchise?

TRENTON, N.J. - The Dugout is confirming is status as Giver of Rain. The water started falling at the start of the third inning of Trenton’s Eastern League game against Binghamton. The tarp was on a half inning later (top photo). It appears the only rain in the entire Northeastern U.S. is centered above Waterfront Park.

That’s OK, it provides more time to write.

The sign hanging on ballpark’s brick facade (lower photo) brags to all who enter that Minor League Baseball tabbed the Thunder as the minor’s best franchise. I believe they are referring to winning the President’s Trophy. The Thunder, however, are not the reigning “best franchise in the minors.” That honor, according to Minor League Baseball, is currently held by league rival Altoona. If you were the Curve, wouldn’t you plan a late-night raid on that banner?

The ballpark is neither remote nor centrally located. The houses across Route 29 just beyond the leftfield wall look old – the 1960s may be a young estimate – and a little rundown. The view of most to those places is blocked by three stories worth of advertising, which may not be a bad thing. The Delaware River is just beyond the rightfield wall, obscured mostly by trees.

The Thunder have a dog, Chase that Golden Thunder, that retrieves Thunder bats at the end of home innings. Other than that, the between innings contests and entertainment have been pretty mundane. Just a few seconds ago they held a musical chairs contest on the field and both of the finalists were able to fit solidly in the remaining chair. Kinda humorous.

The hot dog was big, similar to other big dogs at minor league parks. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. While it lacks creativity, it’s still a solid dog. They also have something called “crab fries,” which The Dugout is looking forward to trying when the drizzle subsides.

The big thing Trenton seems to have going for it is romance. So far this season 11 couples have gotten engaged at Thunder games. It works out to an average of about one engagement for every five home games. Ah, there’s no place like Trenton when the concrete is in bloom.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Is there such thing as a "perfect cycle?"

A couple of minor leaguers had a couple of big nights yesterday. Guillermo Moscoso threw a perfect game for Oneonta - only the second nine-inning perfect game in New York-Penn League history. Meanwhile in the Appalachian League, Greenville's Jhaysson Agustin hit for the cycle.

The Dugout is searching to figure out how many times, if ever, players have combined to hit for the cycle and throw a perfect game in the same day.

It also begs the question, which accomplishment is more impressive? Those who favor pitching will obviously lean toward the perfect game. That’s where The Dugout sides. Both accomplishments take luck. Moscoso struck out seven. For the 20 other outs, he needed to rely on at least one other teammate to make a play. The Dugout remembers watching a game in the 1970s where a Bill Russell error cost Jerry Reuss a perfect game.

A cycle often requires something lucky, like misplayed ball by an outfielder.

Baseball Almanac’s web site shows that only 17 pitchers have been perfect in the major leagues, while the Athletics alone have seen a hitter go for the cycle the same amount of times. Only 14 cycles in major league history were of the “natural” variety (single, double triple and home run are hit in order), making them rarer than perfect games.

Still, they can hardly be considered the more important accomplishment. A nine-inning perfect game essentially ensures victory. That’s what is most important, right? (Note: Two pitchers have been perfect through nine only to see their teams lose in extra innings. Those games are not considered “official” perfect games.)

Just a thought: Can we start calling a four homerun game the Barry Bonds cycle?

The unseen derby: A couple of days ago The Dugout wrote about last week's Eastern League Home Run Derby and All-Star game, both of which were affected by Connecticut fog.

The Dugout had the opportunity to ask Reading’s Mike Costanzo, a participant in the derby, how bad the conditions really were. Costanzo, who hit 17 homers before the break, failed to connect during the derby – at least as far as he knows. Pictured at the top of the page following Wednesday’s Reading game, Costanzo laughed about the experience.

During the home run derby:
“We were right behind the plate and we were like, did it go out? You would hear the ball hit the second wall for a home run, but some of them came back in (and didn’t count). A guy hit one that was a ground rule double and they counted it.”

About the game conditions:
“I was surprised they started it and it got worse and worse by each inning. The ball was hit to right field and the guy was running the wrong way. We were like, we can’t play this game anymore.”

About the night:
“I had a blast. It was a really cool experience. It was pretty awesome being around there.”

Thursday, July 12, 2007

An all-star Wednesday and some excellent minor league parks

READING, Penn. – Wednesday was a night full of all-star happenings throughout minor league baseball. The Triple-A game pitting the Pacific Coast League against the International League, as played in Albuquerque, N.M., and televised live on ESPN. The Dugout was glad to see Brandon Moss have a pretty good day. Moss, who tells a pretty good story in The Funniest Thing I've Ever Seen: More than 100 crazy stories from minor league baseball, homered in the International League’s win.

The Eastern League All-Star game, held in Norwich, Conn., turned into an adventure. The fog was so thick during the home run derby that Norwich sent staffers with radios to the outfield wall. They had to tell the public address announcer whether the batted balls cleared the wall.

They actually tried to play the game, and the comedy that ensured found its way onto SportsCenter. Routine fly balls were turning into doubles and triples as fielders struggled to locate the balls. The game was called in the third inning.

The start of the Atlantic League All-Star game was delayed by rain, then shortened by another storm in the eighth inning. The Dugout was in attendance and was completely impressed by Lancaster’s ballpark. Located in the middle of downtown, players who hit the ball over the right field wall during the home run contest actually sent the balls down city streets.

Fans saw the action on two, count them two, video boards that could be operated independently. Many major league parks don’t have two video boards. And Brooks Robinson was at the game. Great guy. Look for a story about him in the coming weeks.

The atmosphere was fantastic. Minor league fans need to make this park a stop on their next trip to the northeast. The Dugout doesn't quite understand that mascot named Flamey, though. And the first building The Dugout saw in Lancaster was called the Sushi Grill. Think about that for a moment. The top photos on this page are from that game.

The Dugout is currently in the fifth inning of the Reading Phillies game against the Harrisburg Senators. Talk about a difference in ballparks. First Energy Stadium may have been built before there was energy. OK, it was 1950. Still, these guys know how to put on a baseball game. Reading proves you don’t need a new ballpark to draw fans. There may be more than 8,000 fans here.

The action is non-stop. Between the pool sitting atop the rightfield wall, the party deck beyond the leftfield wall, the staffer dressed as an ostrich hurling hotdogs into the crowd and the train that shoots shirts into the crowd, fans don’t have time to look away.

If you like new-school minor league baseball played in an old-school park, Reading is the place to be.

Stephen Colbert - the missing Charleston quotes

OK – so this will be the final installment of the coverage of Stephen Colbert's appearance in Charleston, where he threw out the first pint before the RiverDogs' game against Savannah.

The main story is finally posted on the MinorLeagueDugout.com site. There were, however, some great quotes that didn’t fit the story but are worth seeing.

A television reporter asked Colbert if he ever considered doing any real reporting.
Colbert: My theory of reporting is that I take the real reporting and I just say it again and people assume that I’m making a joke.
Reporter: And why is that?
Colbert: Because the real reporting is such as joke.

On the contributions he made to developing AmeriCone Dream:
Colbert: I had no input, other than I put it in me.

On the 2009 presidential debates:
Colbert: Have you seen the debates? They’re riveting. I’m on the edge of my coma.

On why he wasn’t participating in the Global Warming concerts:
Colbert: We’re saving the world through the ice cream. We’re combating global warming with freezer cases.

Question: MinorLeagueDugout.com named your appearance here as the Promotion of the Day.
Colbert (excitedly): Oh, really?
Question: MinorLeagueDugout, great minor league baseball Web site or..,
Colbert: The greatest Web site – you got me to say it.

Jerry Greenfield on whether he was going to try to do something wacky during the game:
Greenfield: I think it’s hard to follow up Stephen Colbert throwing a pint of ice cream.

Greenfield on the Charleston RiverDogs promotional staff:
Greenfield: These guys must be on the cutting edge of wackiness.

The photo at the top of the page is Colbert signing autographs for fans after doing the radio interview. The Dugout promises no more Colbert info – that is until we get the video up on the site.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Stephen Colbert, Lucero and why Maryland sucks

The Dugout's been a little quiet lately and for that an apology is in order. After seeing Stephen Colbert in Charleston, The Dugout headed north to Philadelphia, which is apparently the home town of the sun, lava, Jessica Alba wearing only a banana peel, and everything else that is hot. It’s literally 100 degrees and The Dugout is staying in a place that doesn't have air conditioning. That makes the fact that the house has no meaningful internet access all that more adorable.

As expected, Colbert was great. He now has a copy of The Funniest Thing I’ve Ever Seen: More than 100 crazy stories from minor league baseball. He also called MinorLeagueDugout.com "The Greatest" minor league baseball site. Trust him – he’s on TV.

Jerry Greenfield of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream was also there and served as the catcher when Colbert threw out the first pint of AmeriCone Dream – his new Ben and Jerry’s flavor. Jerry was unexpectedly funny. The Dugout was a student at the University of Hartford when Greenfield and Ben Cohen received honorary degrees. Greenfield admitted he has no idea where that diploma is now.

Charleston, unfortunately, experienced a bit of bad luck. One out into the game, the rain came, forcing postponement. A complete story about the night will be one the main site as soon as The Dugout finds a suitable internet connection.

Lucero in Philly: The Dugout made it to Philadelphia in time (barely, more on that in a few moments) to catch Lucero (photo, top right) at the North Star in center city, Philly. Great, great show. They are kind of like a southern Bruce Springsteen. You must see them. Fantastic.

The Dugout attended the show with a couple of cousins (Julie and Joanie – photo, right) and Julie’s husband, Greg. A great night – and Joanie’s place had air conditioning. Thanks for the bed and the fun. The Dugout does feel a little bad for Joanie and Greg, who had to work the next morning. Is that what it’s like to have a real job?

Dear Maryland, You Suck!: The Dugout almost missed the show thanks to the Terrapin State. Twenty five miles of stop and go traffic caused by a toll plaza on I-95. Then it was five bucks for the privilege of the aggravation. It was so bad that it even carried over into Delaware. Marylanders – you could stop this. Since you choose to put up with it, You suck! (Puts soap box away and goes to grab a beer…)

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Colbert's a hit, even with the rain

Eight hours – that’s all it takes to go from Delray Beach, Fla. to Charleston, S.C. The toughest part of the drive was passing the Daytona Motor Speedway knowing that one race was in progress and another was coming.

Oh well, at least the traffic was light.

It's less than an hour before the start of Charleston’s South Atlantic League game against Savannah, which means Stephen Colbert should be about to make his appearance. The RiverDogs staff is bustling about and the fans are starting to file in.

It should be a packed house. Look for a big Colbert blowout story on MinorLeagueDugout.com in the coming days.

Update: A rain delay descended on Charleston in the bottom of the first inning. Colbert spent the delay in a suite above the press box. Several fans congregated below the box chanting for Colbert as the rain began to let up. He appeared on the balcony and started tossing ice cream to them.

iPig, The Photo: A few days back The Dugout congratulated St. Paul for its innovative iPig, a fully functional pig/telecommunications device designed to compete with the iPhone. The photo of the iPig is at the top right of this page. How freakin’ awesome is that!

Charleston, part dos: As if having a national television celebrity who happens to be a hometown hero on hand wasn’t enough, the RiverDogs also brought in about 20 little league teams to the park. It’s also Transformers Night. In addition, the outgoing president of the Sally League, John Henry Moss, is in attendance as part of his fair well tour. The RiverDogs are also giving away beach towels. Word is, they don’t have to be used to dry actual dogs.

Gamel keeps rolling: Brevard County’s Mat Gamel extended his hitting streak to 33 games last night in the Manatees’ 3-0 win over Jupiter. While a 33-game streak is certainly newsworthy, Gamel was outshined by teammate Steve Garrison, who flirted with a no-hitter. Garrison didn’t allow a hit until the sixth. He left the game after 7 2/3 innings, having allowed two hits and three walks, while striking out seven.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Stephen Colbert, America's leading pundit, honored in Charleston

It's like Christmas Eve for The Dugout. Tomorrow’s plans: wake up early, jump in the car and drive 10 hours to Charleston, S.C.

The folks in Charleston are masters of promotion, but Saturday's promo sells itself. South Carolina’s native son, The Colbert Report’s host Stephen Colbert, will be at the game throwing out the first pint and leading the crowd in Take Me out to the Ballgame (see Saturday's Promotion of the Day).

As anyone who has ever seen The Colbert Report knows, Colbert is lord-god of all things Americana. It is only right that he's gracing America’s pastime with his presence. Fans who can't make it to Charleston can still enjoy the fun. Colbert will spend an inning with RiverDogs broadcaster Josh Maurer. The Dugout will attempt to throw a microphone into that booth. Hopefully that audio will find its way to the main site.

What will Colbert say about minor league baseball? Hard to guess. Just when you think you've got Colbert's views down, he comes up with another way of looking at the world. Hopefully minor league baseball doesn’t find its way into the Threat Down. There are several “Bears” teams out there. Mobile, you may want to lay low.

With any luck, fans of The Dugout will be able to enjoy the first in our one part series “Better Know a TV Commentator” in the early part of the week.

That will be our word.

Tough choices: Pensacola took today’s Promo of the Day honor with its Salute to 150 years of toilet paper, but there were a couple of other teams deserving recognition.

Bowie is hosting Bad Breath Night, honoring halitosis with a bad breath-testing intern named Harrison who will be sitting in Harrison’s Halitosis Hut. Dubbed the Bad Breath Ref, Harrison will decide which offender receives a prize pack that includes mouthwash, toothpaste and gum.

Even those who begin the night without bad breath should have it by the final out. Concession stands will serve garlic jumbo dogs, garlic burgers, nachos with raw onions, and anchovy, onion and garlic pizza. Ever the thoughtful club, all fans will receive a breath mint as they leave the park.

Meanwhile, Binghamton hosted Ridiculous Night. They are planning to play a Culture Club concert DVD before the game to get their fans in thee mood for strangeness. Prizes for their on-field competitions include Barry Manilow records, hubcaps and “other things nobody wants.”

The Dugout salutes these two efforts, even if they didn’t achieve Promo of the Day status.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Baseball and fireworks reign on Indepence Day.

When is the third the fourth? When baseball teams have a home game on July 3 but not July 4. Check out the "Promotion of the Day" section of MinorLeagueDugout.com for the list of teams who are shooting off fireworks following their games.

While many teams are putting on shows on both days, the vast majority of teams on today's list don't have home games tomorrow. One notable exception of both – or neither depending on how you look at it – is Roger Dean Stadium, home of both the Palm Beach Cardinals and the Jupiter Hammerheads.

The Cardinals appear ready to drop the first game of today's doubleheader and hope to be able to play the second game before a line of thunderstorms reaches the park. The fireworks are scheduled to follow, although by the look of the red spots on the radar, nature may provide the lights in the sky tonight.

Palm Beach is on the road tomorrow, but the Hammerheads return to the park for a home stand. Jupiter gets its own celebration on the Fourth. At the start of the season, these displays were scheduled to be the third and fourth of the season. The South Florida drought, however, forced the cancellation of the first two fireworks shows. Wouldn't it be ironic if rain postponed the third and fourth shows?

Carpenter goes Outback: Chris Carpenter started the first game of the doubleheader for Palm Beach – his first of potentially four rehab starts before returning to the bigs. He got knocked around pretty good, giving up five runs – three of them earned – in less than two innings.

Carpenter was originally slated to start last night but the game was rained out. When the Cardinals returned to the clubhouse after yesterday's rainout, they found an Outback Steakhouse post-game meal waiting for them courtesy of Carpenter.

Gamel keeps rolling: Brevard County's Matt Gamel extended his hitting streak to 30 in the first game of the doubleheader against Palm Beach. Surprisingly, he is not in the second game's starting lineup.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

The South Coast League: Two steps up, one step back

The Dugout has been critical of the South Coast League a couple times this season. It's time for a pat on the back.

Slowly but surely the SCL seems to be getting some of its Web issues under control. The Dugout is pleased to announce that the South Georgia Peanuts are currently the league's top team. As recently as a couple of weeks ago, fans couldn't find this information on the league’s site.

In addition, fans can now find up-to-date scores and statistics. It's good to see the league making strides in its accessibility.

The SCL appears to have had its first player signed to an affiliated team’s contract. South Georgia's Jon Zeringue was plucked by Oakland and is expected to report to the A's Class A team in Stockton. Two other SCL players, Macon's Josh Thompson and Bradenton's Tim Bascom, were selected by major league organizations during the recent first year player draft.

To be viable, independent leagues must be able to return a reasonable amount of players to organized baseball. While the short term effect of losing a star player can hurt the team he's leaving, it ultimately raises the level of play in the league. The more players the SCL sends to organized baseball, the better caliber player the league will be able to attract in the future.

The news has not been all good for the SCL, however. The league announced last week it was relocating its Bradenton team to a yet-to-be-determined city for next season. The Juice hoped to play next year in the Pirates spring training complex, but that deal fell through. They’ve already spent the last month playing on the road at other SCL team sites after their temporary deal with Manatee Community College fell apart.

While it's tough for a six-team league to potentially lose one of its franchises, it is certainly not debilitating. The Atlantic League, for example, has been playing the last several years with a travel team called the Road Warriors. Every year they thought that team would be unnecessary, only to see the likes of Nashua and Atlantic City change leagues. It’s a growing pain that is almost unavoidable for a new league.

One other SCL note: Cecil Fielder is now managing the Charlotte team. It will be interesting to see how long this lasts and what affect it has on the Redfish food budget.

Friday, June 29, 2007

St. Paul's iPig proves Saints are still promotional geniuses

The Dugout is constantly being asked which organization puts together the best promotions.

While there are plenty of teams to chose from, every once in a while St. Paul, the originator of wacky promotions, steps up to remind the up-and-comers it is still lord god of minor league promotions.

St. Paul had enough with the hype surrounding today’s launch of Apple’s iPhone – their new multipurpose phone/music player/remote control/blender. Last night they beat Apple to the proverbial media punch by launching their entry into the multitasking portable electronic devise – the iPig.

For years the Saints have used a trained pig to deliver baseballs to umpires. Last night they gave their pig (named Garrison Squeeler) a futuristic makeover. For the most part, the iPig functions like a traditional pig. However, with speakers mounted on its sides and a pouch for a MP3 player, the iPig allows owners to listen to their favorite music. The iPig also contains a pouch for telephone storage, allowing the user “complete wireless functionality.”

The iPig will retail for $299 – half the cost of a new iPhone. While some will see the iPig’s size as a drawback, the Saints website notes that it’s almost impossible to misplace the iPig.

“Taking on a major player like Apple is daunting, but our sense is that Apple has exposed a niche that these pigs fill,” Saints general manager/executive vice president Derek Sharrer said on the team’s Web site. “Our critics will say there’s no market for trying to reinvent the pig. We’ll see.”

Only one iPig has been produced thus far, but the Saints would like to create more to meet demand.

The iPig promotion, while fantastic, only served to dwarf another St. Paul announcement from earlier in the week. On July 7, the Saints will host Being Jason Giambi Night, where fans will have the opportunity to confess their misdeeds to Bud Selig or George Mitchell.

Check back with The Dugout in coming days for more on this one.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Giving Somerset its due

A technical glitch on the main site kept yesterday's "Promotion of the Day" from appearing properly. Somerset of the Atlantic League deserves the credit, especially since The Dugout thinks their giveaway was pretty cool. Here is how the entry should have appeared:

Jeff and Graig Nettles Bobble-head – Somerset Patriots

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Graig Nettles was a star third baseman in the late 1970s and early 1980s for the New York Yankees. His son Jeff hasn't experienced that kind of success as a professional, spending just a couple of seasons for the Yankees’ Triple-A franchise. For the Patriots, however, Jeff is one of the all-time greats. He’s the career leader in RBIs and is second in home runs, hits and doubles. The father and son are immortalized on one bobble-head in one of the coolest Father’s Day giveaways ever.

Free fireworks in: Albuquerque, Bowie, Camden, Cedar Rapids, Charlotte, Fort Wayne, Frederick, Hagerstown, Iowa, Kane County, Kannapolis, Montgomery, Nashville, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Peoria, Quad Cities, Rochester, San Antonio, Trenton, West Michigan, West Virginia, Wilmington and York.

Watson keeps going: Columbus' Brandon Waston extended his hitting streak to 42 games last night, tying an International League record that has stood for 95 years. His fourth-inning double brought him into a tie with Jack Lelivelt, who set the record in 1912.

Brandon Watson extended his hitting streak to 42 games, matching a 95-year-old International League record, as Columbus edged host Ottawa, 5-4, on Saturday afternoon. The hit made Watson a star on SportsCenter.

As of right now (1:54 p.m., Sunday) Watson is 0-2 in his attempt to break the record.