Monday, April 30, 2007

Cubs prospect Samardzija rocks Roger Dean

Chicago Cubs minor league prospect Jeff Samardzija (top photo) might as well be a rock star. It's amazing the way a crowd seems to follow the former Notre Dame wide receiver. In the days leading up to Sunday's start at Roger Dean Stadium, the ballpark had an unusually large amount of fans wearing Notre Dame gear.

When he walked to the clubhouse after charting pitches for Thursday's game he looked like the pied pier, leading a trail of mini Notre Dame gold helmets being hoisted by young Irish fans.

That was no different following today's start. There wasn't a big crowd when Palm Beach hosted Daytona, but it seemed like all of them were waiting at the bus with something for the former Notre Dame wideout to John Hancock.

Sunday wasn't a great outing for Samardzija. He said afterward that he wasn't really thinking about the NFL draft and didn't care whether he was drafted or not. Still, it's hard to believe that all the people asking him about it in the days leading up to Sunday's start didn't affect him in some way.

That being said, Samardzija seems uber confident he made the right choice. The $2.5 million signing bonus probably helps ease the tension.

The Dugout is looking forward to seeing him pitch a few more times this season. Those who enjoy can look forward to a "Rounding the Bases With:" segment featuring Samardzija in the coming weeks.

Going Outback

The Palm Beach Cardinals treated their season ticket holders to dinner from Outback Steakhouse after Sunday's game against Daytona (bottom photo). They made it into a pretty cool event, bringing the players into pavilion and making them available for autographs and casual conversation.

The players also got a free meal out of the deal, making it a win-win event. Florida State League players usually only get to eat Outback when a big leaguer is down on a rehab assignment.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Drafting May Promos of the Day

Sure, The Dugout followed today's NFL draft. It was the perfect accompaniment to the day's task of tracking down the May promotions.

There are some pretty interesting ones coming up. The Dugout isn't going to give anything away, but the West Virginia Power suddenly appears ready to make a strong run at the Promotional Organization of the Year award. (We need a better name for this. Any suggestions?)

May brings a few more leagues into the Promotion of the Day derby. Most of the independent leagues start in May, beginning with the Atlantic League. The highlight from a promotional standpoint is the first pitch of the American Association in the middle of the month. St. Paul and Sioux Falls, teams owned by Mike Veeck, begin the season with some promotions that will bring a chuckle.

June is when the short season leagues come on line, along with the remainder of the independent leagues. July is the first full month featuring every league in action.

After spending eight hours tracking down the May promos, The Dugout isn't exactly looking forward to the extra time spent in those months. But that's just the writing of tired eyes. Finding those bizarre promos from the obscure leagues is what really makes this Site fun.

Speaking of fun, The Dugout has a big day tomorrow. Former Notre Dame wide receiver Jeff Samardzija is pitching for Daytona. It’s pretty cool that he’ll be pitching on a day that he’ll likely be drafted. Look for a big story on tomorrow evening.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Is Poteat just a piece of meat?

Today is Seth Poteat's big day. Normally a mild-mannered corporate sales representative for the Lexington Legends, Poteat draws the spotlight tonight when the Legends hold a "Win a Date with Seth Poteat" promotion.

The 29-year-old said the Legends came up with the promotion because several girls who work in the front office want to get him married. Poteat decided to play alone.

"I'm looking forward to it," Poteat said. "Everyone keeps asking me, 'Why are you doing it?' It's not for me. It's for all the lovely ladies here in Lexington."

Lexington radio broadcasters have been promoting the event for the past week, and word is season ticket holders are excited to participate.

What kind of girl is Poteat hoping to meet?

"I'm not going to lie to you, she's got to be attractive," Poteat said. "She's got to be comfortable with herself. She has to not take herself too seriously."

Poteat says he prefers blonds, but adds that for some reason he seems to date more brunettes.

The Legends will pay for the date, sending the couple to local restaurant and possibly to a concert.

The best part of the promo? The girl Poteat chooses doesn't actually have to go out with him. She can take the prize and walk away, leaving Poteat to, ahem, fend for himself.

The Dugout will monitor the promotion and get back to you with the results.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Atlantic League opens spring training with new faces

LAKELAND, Fla – The independent Atlantic League started its spring training here this week. Seven of the league’s eight teams came to Tigertown – Detroit’s spring training complex – for 10 days worth of workouts. Only Newark didn't head south.

Tuesday and Wednesday were team days. Spring training games begin Thursday afternoon. The Dugout hopes to attend one of those matchups (Camden vs. York).

Speaking of York, The Dugout spent some time with Jim Seip, the beat writer who covers the Revolution. Kudos to the York Daily Record for sending a writer to Florida for a week. After the winter they’ve had, Seip is awfully pleased to spend a week in the Sunshine State.

The biggest name in camp, Carl Everett, will play for the Long Island Ducks. Everett had fun in batting practice trying to reach the cars parked beyond the outfield fence. He succeeded several times, offering to autograph the dents.

Bobby Darula, who has two of the funniest stories in the book The Funniest Thing I’ve Ever Seen: More than 100 crazy stories from minor league baseball, started last season with Bridgeport before returning to affiliated ball with Atlanta. Darula is back with Bridgeport this season after a freak elbow injury suffered last season side-arming a ball back to the infield. He underwent Tommy John surgery and expects to be ready to start the season.

Just cause it’s bugging us: Sheryl Crow's suggestion that we should be limited to one square of toilet paper per bathroom trip in order to stop Global Warming may be the dumbest idea ever. Ever. Ever.

Did she really say that out loud? Crow now claims it wasa joke. The Dugout thinks that's Global Revisionism.

After using our allotted square, would it be alright to use the booklets that are packaged with her CDs? Or is that just too much crap in one place?

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Stop me if you've heard this one before...

A priest and a beer vendor are trapped in a ballpark...

Minor League clubs aren't limiting their bobbleheads to baseball players anymore. In less than a week, two different teams have truly expanded the rules as to who can appear on a bobblehead.

Chattanooga hosted a Mystery Bobblehead Night on April 20th. The Lookouts did a pretty good job of keeping the bobblehead’s identity a secret. All that they would say was that they were sure it was a one of a kind giveaway.

Fans who arrived at the game recognized the face of Richard the Beerman on their new toy (photo, top right). Richard has been hawking swill at the ballpark in Chattanooga for more than 20 years.

Word is the bobblehead is a pretty good likeness. The Dugout, however, is taken back by the size of the beers Richard is selling. It looks more like he's carrying kegs instead of pints. If that's the case, it’s no wonder he's so popular.

Corpus Christi traded beer for wine, choosing to put the local bishop on their bobblehead (photo, bottom right). The Hooks say Bishop Carmody is so popular in South Texas that he could be a rock star.

That may be true, but what are the non-Catholics supposed to do with the doll? And there’s also that whole worshipping false idols thing in bible. Forget it. It’s baseball. Let it slide.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Cardinals' prospect Tyler Norrick forgets the Ks

The Dugout recently sat down with Palm Beach pitcher Tyler Norrick for an article that ran in the Palm Beach Post. Norrick is off to a fantastic start. He's off to a 3-0 start in four games and has allowed just one run in 24 innings.

The reason for the strong start? Up until a couple of weeks ago Norrick thought he was a power pitcher. The lefty, whose fastball has been clocked as high as 93, tried to overpower hitters, especially when he was in a jam.

That changed during spring training. The Cardinals have been working on teaching Norrick to pitch, not throw. From the things he said during the interview, he's buying into their philosophy.

One of the benefits of writing online is that there is essentially an unlimited amount of space to tell a story. That is not the case with print. The following are some interesting quotes that didn't make it into the print article.

What's working for him: I'm throwing the fastball for a strike, both the four seamer and the two seamer and throwing good sliders off that. I'm getting bad swings out of my fastball and slider right now. If I had to say that was my go to pitches.

On his lower strikeout totals: I decided it's not even worth the effort. I can get the ground balls and the pop-ups early in the count and go deep into games, and maybe punch guys out when the situation presents itself. If I get ahead of a guy and need a strikeout, maybe I go for it, but other than that I don't worry about it until I get an 0-2, 1-2 count.

What the Cardinals are looking for in a pitcher: In the higher levels, particularly the big league level, the organization spent all their money on their infielders to catch ground balls. Their philosophy on pitching is to throw ground balls. They don’t have a lot of strike out pitchers.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Can a midget swing a left-handed bat?

There are crazy jobs, and then there’s Jim Pfander's.

Pfander is the director of promotions for the Charleston RiverDogs – a team owned by the Goldklang Group, which counts Mike Veeck among its members. If you work for Veeck, you are going to end up doing some strange stuff.

Loyal readers may remember the note from about a week ago where Charleston was running around crazy because the midget who was going to take part in the post-game midget wrestling match was having trouble getting a flight out of Minnesota.

The Dugout talked with Pfander today for the first time since the zany midget madness. According to Pfander, the midget's plane arrived at the Charleston airport with two outs in the ninth inning.

The airport is about 20 minutes from the stadium. Pfander said an intern may have broken several speed records getting the midget to the park. The RiverDogs conducted their post-game ball tosses and other entertainment, then started stalling until their wrestler arrived. Just when Pfander through they were about to lose the crowd the midget came sprinting onto the field and into the ring. The crowd went nuts and a midget-wrestling induced riot was avoided. No one in the crowd ever knew there was a problem.

These kinds of episodes are the norm, not the exception, in Pfander's days.

The RiverDogs are holding a left-handed bat giveaway (think about it) in June. Since Charleston announced this promotion, Pfander has been receiving calls from concerned parents wondering if their right-handed hitting children will be able to use the left-handed bat.

He's got two more months worth of those phone calls to go.

Those kinds of stories are why The Dugout always gets excited when Charleston is in the running for the Promotion of the Day. Talking with Pfander is one of the best parts of the job.

Just a bit outside: The Dugout once again apologizes in advance from transgressing into the world of major league baseball, but something happened in the Florida-Washington game that needs to be noted.

Washington pitcher Matt Chico just threw the wildest pitch in the history of baseball. With runners on first and second, Chico's pitch sailed over the first-base dugout and into the stands. He missed the target by at least 100 feet. He was wide of the screen that protects fans from foul balls. Rick "Wild Thing" Vaughn and Harry Doyle would have been proud.

It's worth watching SportsCenter tonight if only to see the replay.

Friday, April 20, 2007

And then there were none

Minor league baseball's last unbeaten team, the Dayton Dragons, finally fell last night. The Swing of the Quad Cities trounced Dayton 15-4 in a Midwest League game. Gotta hand it to Dayton – when they lose, they lose in style.

The Swing's Jaime Landin fell a single shy of the cycle, leading a 13-hit attack. The thirteen runs scored by Quad Cites was more than half of the 20 total runs the Dragons allowed in their first nine games.

As noted in the last post, Dayton remained unbeaten the longest, but they did not start the season with the most consecutive victories. That honor goes to the Greensboro of the South Atlantic League, which started the season by winning its first 12 games.

Dayton's streak lasted longer because the weather banged a bunch of their early season games. Still, it must have been cool being able to dream about an undefeated season as late as April 19th.

Color blind: The Dugout knows this is a minor league blog. Sometimes the big boys make decisions that are just as odd as their minor league counterparts.

Take the Boston Red Sox. They are honoring long-time Boston Celtic all-everything Red Auerbach by wearing green jerseys for tonight's game. They are wearing green to honor a man named Red.

The Dugout gets the Celtic green connection, but, come on. Couldn't they have worn all red to honor Red? Some of the biggest selling jerseys and hats at spring training are the green ones the Red Sox wear for St. Patrick’s Day. Seems like just another money making promotion for a team that doesn't need the money.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled minor league blog…

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Wicked spring weather claims another victim

The Atlantic League's York Revolution isn't scheduled to play their first game for almost three weeks, but the wicked weather in the northeast has already affected the start of their season. Snow has slowed construction on Sovereign Bank Stadium, the ballpark for the first year franchise, so much that the Revolution announced on Wednesday the ballpark will not be ready in time for the season opener.

At least 15 games will have to be rescheduled, with as many as 12 being moved to a neutral site. Those games are expected to be played in Camden, pending the approval of the league. That could happen as early as today.

The new home-opening date is slated for June 15 against the Newark Bears.

The March snowstorms delayed construction, but they were not the only factor causing the delayed home opener. According to their web site, York also needed to remove thousands of tons of rock from the construction site – something they didn't expect.

Even though the ballpark is scheduled to open on June 15, it is not slated to be completed until August. Apparently York management expects enough of the construction to be completed by mid June that the club will be able to secure the necessary permits to allow fans to enter the ballpark.

The delay is, of course, bad news. The Dugout wonders if this delay is just the beginning. Planning to open an incomplete ballpark seems like quite a risk. If management wins this gamble, maybe York should be playing its neutral games in a different New Jersey town - Atlantic City.

Unlucky 13: Greensboro won its first 12 games of the season before losing 5-1 to Columbus on April 15. That leaves the Dayton Dragons of the Midwest League as the lone remaining undefeated team in minor league baseball. The Dragons, who lost a bunch of games to bad weather, are 9-0 entering Thursday’s games.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Salem makes right choice

The Dugout doesn't live anywhere near Blacksburg, Va. and has no ties to Virginia Tech, but it couldn't let the events of the day pass without notice. As of this moment 33 people were slaughtered today when a yet-to-be identified man for some yet-to-be identified reason pulled out a gun and started firing.

Watching the death toll climb throughout the day was almost unreal. It went from one to ten to 22 to 33 and may still go higher if some of the wounded don't make it out of the hospital. It is said to be the largest mass shooting in our country's history.

The Carolina League's Salem Avalanche, the Single-A affiliate of the Houston Astros, play their home games about 30 minutes from the Virginia Tech campus. They were scheduled to host Potomac tonight, but chose to postpone the game in the wake of the tragedy.

"The Salem Avalanche felt that playing baseball tonight would be a disservice to those who have lost loved ones, friends and acquaintances in the tragedy at Virginia Tech today," John Katz, Avalanche VP / General Manager said in a release posted on Salem's Web site. "A moment of silence is not enough to honor these young men and women who have lost their lives in Blacksburg today."

The teams will play a doubleheader today starting at 11:07. The delay of sixteen hours won't be enough to allow the Salem community to comprehend the events of Monday morning. Still, sometimes it really is the thought that counts. It seems this is one of those instances where baseball, and particularly the Salem organization, can help bring the community back together.

The Dugout commends Salem’s efforts and offers its deepest condolences to all those affected by the acts of a mad man.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Will Bob L. Head please report to Portland?

Portland is hosting one of the most creative year-long promotions The Dugout has ever seen. The Pacific Coast League's Beavers are attempting to create the ultimate bobblehead doll.

They are scouring the country looking for people named Bob L. Head and asking them to submit an explanation as to why the Beavers should create a bobblehead doll in their likeness.

Portland has received five submissions so far; two from California, one from Indiana, one from Iowa and one from parts unknown. The Beavers won't have to choose the winner until much later in the season. The doll giveaway is slated for August 18.

The Beavers have linked up with the tourism bureau to make this promotion a way of highlighting the good things Oregon has to offer.

The winner will be flown to Portland to be a part of a weekend's worth of festivities. So far, Beavers officials aren't aware of anyone legally changing their name in an attempt to win a trip to Portland.

Bad date: The Dugout could only find two minor league organizations that used today's date, Friday the 13th, as part of their promotions. Lake Elsinore hosted Frightfest, while Clearwater held a Halfway to Halloween night. Seems like some other organizations missed out on a good opportunity.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Windy day drives up ticket prices in Lancaster

Apparently Lancaster's "Tumbleweed Tuesday" promotion caused a bit of confusion. When the JetHawks held the promotion last year fans received a 10 cent discount for each mile per hour of wind measured at 4 p.m. on game day. This year, Lancaster has switched it around. Fans pay 10 cents for each mile per hour of wind. It's a pretty important distinction.

The wind today was clocked at 25 mph. Under last year's rules, a ticket would have cost $4.50. Today, the same ticket goes for $2.50. Fans get a better deal this season, and for that, The Dugout salutes Lancaster.

By the way, a spokesman said it's been exceptionally windy in Lancaster this season. The $2.50 price may end up being the highest for the year. Pretty good deal if you live in the area.

No small problem: What do you do when your midget wrestler is stranded in a Minnesota airport? That’s that problem faced by the Charleston Riverdogs. Charleston is planning to offer midget wrestling following tonight's game, but at 2:30 this afternoon one of the competitors had trouble catching a flight. He finally caught a plane and as of 5 p.m. the wrestling was on as scheduled. The Dugout is still unsure what the little guy was doing in the Land of 1,000 Snowdrifts.

Aqua Buhner: Former Seattle Mariners outfielder Jay Buhner is part of a group that will purchase the Everett AquaSox, the Mariners short season affiliate in the Northwest League. Buhner also serves as a commentator on Mariners’ broadcasts.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Going Nuts in Modesto

The Modesto Nuts have a new toy and they are proud to show it off.

The Colorado Rockies' California League affiliate installed a new scoreboard complete with a video screen just before the start of the season. They are incorporating video into most of their promotions this season.

The Nuts, who won's Promotion of the Day award on April 6, are in the running for another award later this month for some of their other ideas.

Today they are holding Goofy Neighbor night. They will show video of some of Hollywood's goofiest neighbors (Kramer, Wilson, etc.) on the big screen throughout the game.

In the coming weeks Modesto will also pay tribute to Bond movies (April 11), horror movies (April 23), and the 80s classic, Weird Science (May 4).

They have some other interesting promotions on the schedule, making Modesto an early front runner to claim’s Promotional Organization of the Year Award.

On top of all that, the Modesto Nuts have one of the best logos (right) in sports. The Dugout encourages all readers to make their logo the background on random computer screens. We know for a fact it is already loaded on one of the Palm Beach Post's (Fl.) computers.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Some snow is good, some not so much

The Dugout is dreaming of a white Easter.

Snow is everywhere this weekend. For the second consecutive night, snow postponed several minor league games. The New Hampshire Fisher Catsare threatening to bring in a zamboni to clear the field and are offering free tickets to fans who help shovel their field. Gametime for today's contest has been moved to 4:05 in order to give the sun more time to melt the snow.

On the west coast, the Fresno Grizzlies are giving away snow – kind of. The first 2,500 fans will receive a snow globe containing a replica of their ballpark (right). It looks pretty cool. Think New Hampshire will send Fresno some real snow for their ballpark?

Florida parks don’t have to worry about snow. Rattlesnakes, however, are another story. Last night's Florida State League game between Jupiter and Palm Beach was delayed fifteen minutes when a rattlesnake slithered onto the field.

Rattlesnakes have been spotted before on the back fields of the Roger Dean Stadium complex, which hosts the Florida Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals for spring training. This was the first time one made it onto the main field during a game.

A full story about the incident will appear on the minor league dugout site shortly.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Why sharks can't get driver's licences

Last night The Dugout witnessed one of the worst mascot entrances in the history of minor league baseball. The Jupiter Hammerheads' mascot, Hamilton R. Head, usually enters Roger Dean Stadium from behind the left field wall driving a go cart. He is supposed to speed across the outfield warning track all the way around to home plate.

Usually this takes a few seconds but last night seemed to take forever. The drama grew as the P.A. announcer egged him on. Laughing fans were wondering aloud whether the cart would make it to home plate.

Was the cart out of gas? Did it have a flat tire? Was the engine failing? Was Hamilton driving with two left flippers?

When Hamilton finally arrived at home, he jumped out of the cart and waved to a relieved crowd. Then a Hammerheads' staffer jumped into the cart, released the parking brake, and sped off down the left field line.

Add Hamilton to the long list of Florida drivers who prefer to drive slow in the fast lane.

There's no snowing in baseball: As noted in yesterday's blog, not every opening day goes as planned.

The snow and cold weather that struck the east coast on Thursday cancelled games as far south as Richmond. Rain interrupted several Florida State League games, including the one The Dugout attended in Jupiter. Nothing like an hour and 20 minute rain delay to start the season.

While the rain put a damper on the fans, it came too late to please local fire marshals. Palm Beach became the latest FSL team to cancel a fireworks show. The Roger Dean Stadium front office banged tonight's display before the start of yesterday’s game because of drought conditions.

As disappointing as that is for fans, no organization is having a worse opening weekend than Akron. The Eastern League's Aeros postponed their season opener because of snow and were forced to cancel tonight’s fireworks show because of high winds. It's not a great week to be in Ohio.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

The long wait for opening day might be too short

What amazes The Dugout about opening day in the minor leagues is how much shorter most of the young guys are in spring training compared to their big league brethren.

Most of the players who take the field today arrived at camp weeks after their major leaguers, yet the season starts just four days later. Mind you, most of the pitchers have been in camp the full time, which is the group of players who really need the time to shake off the winter. And most of the position players think the spring lasts too long, anyway. After about a week, those guys are ready to hit.

Still, you'd figure major league organizations would have a vested interest in making sure all of their players have sufficient time to prepare for the season, especially considering many of these guys who basked in the Arizona and Florida sunshine are now in less than ideal baseball conditions. It would seem to be a question of protecting one’s investment.

That being said, no one is happier than The Dugout that the season is underway.

Less bang for the buck: Not all opening days go as planned. The dry conditions in South Florida caused the Fort Myers Miracle to cancel their opening night postgame fireworks show. If the drought continues, look for more Florida State League teams to have to move their fireworks nights.

More weather woes: A cold front moving through the northeast is supposed to bring snow to upstate New York and New England, which could make for a very unpleasant opening night for fans of International League teams.

Up in the sky: The Florida State League’s Lakeland team has changed its nickname from the Tigers to the Flying Tigers to honor the World War II flying group. The name works, in part, because the Lakeland complex was built on an old military base. Some of the old buildings are still in use. The Dugout likes the way Lakeland managed to add some local history to its name without losing the connection to their major league affiliation with Detroit.

Monday, April 02, 2007

On rubber ducks and baseball

Today is the true opening day in Major League Baseball (one game on Sunday doesn't count), which means minor league opening day isn't far away – Thursday to be exact.

The Dugout has always found minor league opening day be like that duck pond game at traveling carnivals, where you pick a duck and get the prize that’s on the bottom of the duck. You are guaranteed a prize, you just don’t know how good it’s going to be.

Fans of Major League Baseball have a pretty good idea of who's going to be on their teams well before opening day. That's not the case with minor league fans. Take the Jupiter Hammerheads of the Florida State League.

The Big League Marlins' housecleaning last season left Jupiter unsure of its opening day lineup until the days prior to the opener. The young, mostly unrecognizable roster didn't fare well. The personalities never seemed to click and the team failed to captivate the fan base.

What a difference an off-season makes. The Hammerheads have yet to announce their roster, but it appears it will boast five pitchers drafted in the first round and another early second-rounder. One of those aces, Chris Volstad, is a hometown kid, which should help build the fan base.

So relax and enjoy today's MLB openers. And get ready for the carnival to start this weekend.