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.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Watson's hitting streak now tied for 13th longest in minor league history

Brandon Watson just keeps on rolling. The Dugout was impressed when Charleston's Mitch Hilligoss posted a 38 game hitting streak earlier this season. Watson has blown by that mark.

He already has three hits tonight in the Columbus Clippers' International League contest, pushing the streak to 40 games. And that’s at the Triple-A level. Not to take anything away from Hilligoss’ mark because 38 games is tough to do in beer-league softball, but Watson is doing this against staffs that contain former and soon-to-be big leaguers. In theory, those guys know how to pitch.

The streak is the longest in Columbus' history, and is now only two shy of the longest in International League history, Jack Lelivelt's 42-gamer for Rochester in 1912. Joe Wilhoit holds the all-time record, hitting in 69 consecutive games for Wichita in 1919.

Here are the Top 15 minor league hitting streaks of all time:

Games Name Year
69 Joe Wilhoit 1919
61 Joe DiMaggio 1933
55 Roman Mejias 1954
50 Otto Pahlman 1922
49 Jack Ness 1915
49 Harry Chozen 1945
46 Johnny Bates 1925
43 Eddie Marshall 1935
43 Orlando Moreno 1961
43 Howie Bedell 1947
42 Jack Lelivelt 1912
42 Herbert Chapman 1950
40 Brandon Watson 2007
40 Frosty Kennedy 1953
39 Brandon Watson 2007
38 Mitch Hilligoss 2007
38 Hubert Mason 1925
38 Paul Owens 1951

In case your wondering (and because The Dugout is currently waiting out a ninth inning Marlins/Indians rain delay at Dolphins Stadium), only six major leaguers have ever strung together hitting streaks of 40 games or more. We all know that Joe DiMaggio's 56-gamer is the longest in the show. Willie Keeler hit in 45 straight over two seasons (44 in a single year). Pete Rose tied Keeler's single season mark of 44 in 1978. Bill Dahlen hit in 42 straight for the Chicago Cubs in 1894, George Sisler hit safely in 41 consecutive games for St. Louis in 1922, and Ty Cobb reached the 40 plateau in 1911.

Put them all together and Watson's is the longest streak in nearly 30 years.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Fort Myers capitalizes on Billy Donovan fiasco

Single-A Fort Myers is making big news in Florida with its latest promotion. On June 20th the Miracle will hold "Billy Donovan Night," poking fun at the University of Florida basketball coach who announced a couple weeks back that he was leaving the two-time defending national champion Gators to coach the NBA’s Orlando Magic. A few days after the announcement Donovan changed his mind and had to negotiate a release from his Orlando contract so he could return to Florida.

The Miracle acted quickly on this one. Mocking Donovan's indecision and subsequent legal negotiations to get out of his contract, Fort Myers is going to require fans who want to leave the ballpark early to negotiate their own "out-clause." As part of the negotiation process, Fort Myers will require fans to shoot a basket using a ball that has either a Florida Gators or an Orlando Magic logo on it.

Fans will not be required to have perfectly manicured hair, however.

The ultimate question: Charleston won yesterday's Promotion of the Day award for their "Is It a Sport?" night. The RiverDogs asked the 3,000 fans in attendance to vote whether seven activities – NASCAR racing, cheerleading, hot dog eating, pro wrestling, figure skating, fishing, and rock paper scissors – were sports.

Four of the activities were voted sports. Figure skating received the most "yes" votes with 75 percent, followed by fishing, professional wrestling and NASCAR racing.

Fans were most adamant that rock, paper, scissors was not a sport (77 percent), and neither were hot dog eating (70 percent) and cheerleading (64 percent).

The Dugout believes the good people of Charleston went a little too easy with their voting. NASCAR is the only event of these seven that is truly a sport. The ballot process was obviously flawed if scripted professional wrestling is thought to be a sport.

A good rule of thumb to follow in these discussions: If judging is the sole determinate of the outcome, the activity is not a sport.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Josh Wilson may be the Devil Rays' best reliever

In case you missed it, Tampa Bay may have found the solution to its middle relief option on Friday night. After three relievers .combined to allow eight earned runs in two innings, the Rays turned to shortstop Josh Wilson.

Although he hadn't pitched since high school, Wilson preformed somewhat effectively. He allowed a broken-bat single, a walk, and hit the backstop with a pitch, but didn't allow a run.

The Dugout is particularly proud of Wilson's performance. He is yet another played featured in the book, The Funniest Thing I’ve Ever Seen: More than 100 crazy stories from minor league baseball, to have an impact in the majors this season.

And since you asked, (The Dugout can hear you all the may over here) the chapter that features Wilson is right here:

Did He Use Shampoo And Conditioner?

Some people seem to have little choice but to be baseball players. Carolina Mudcats outfielder Josh Wilson is among those players.

Wilson’s father Mike is the head baseball coach at Duquesne University. As a youth, Josh Wilson worked at a local batting cage, allowing him to hone his skills and get a little spending money.

The 21-year-old Wilson and the rest of his teammates still spend much of their time whacking baseballs around, and many could still use a little extra spending money.

“The biggest misconception is that a lot of people think minor league baseball players make a lot of money,” Wilson said. “That’s absolutely not the case with most players.”

Wilson figures that most players are “severely underpaid.” He points to the $100 million-plus contract signed by Alex Rodriguez and says people assume all ball players are making somewhere near that kind of money.

Even a modest bump in salary would help many minor leaguers live more comfortably.

“The off-field stuff would be a lot easier,” Wilson said. “The living situation would be a lot better. You could actually spend some money and get a nice place to live. Even buying food is a struggle for a lot of guys.”

The lack of significant income causes many young players to give up on the game and get started with “real life” – life after baseball. However, Wilson explains that money wasn’t the driving force behind John Skinner’s first retirement. Skinner had other issues while pitching in a 2001 Single-A game for the Kane County Cougars.

Josh Wilson: It was the last series before the playoffs and we were playing the Quad City River Bandits. [Skinner enters] in the sixth inning and gives up a whole bunch of runs. I think we were winning by like two or three runs. He ends up blowing the lead.

But he works through it and gets out of the inning. He’s so mad about how he pitched that he goes into the locker room and starts throwing everything, breaking everything in sight. He takes his uniform off, gets in the shower and starts showering up.

The inning had already gone on for a while. We end up coming back and scoring three or four runs, and have taken the lead again. One of our pitchers comes in and says, “Skinner, what are you doing?"

He says, “I’m done. I’m tired. I quit. I have had enough.”

He was like, “But Skinner, we just took the lead again. You’re going back in.”

So in the middle of the game he had showered and retired. Then he had to go back out and pitched through the inning. I guess he redeemed himself.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Photos of new Toledo mascots

This one will be short and sweet. The Toledo Mud Hens were nice enough to send The Dugout pictures of their new mascots. Muddevious and Muddiva were introduced today as part of "They Came From Outer Space Night." chose the unveiling as the Promotion of the Day. Congrats, Toledo. Enjoy the newest members of your family.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Slow-paced draft not made-for-TV showtime.

Major League Baseball finally opened its first-year player draft to a live television audience today. The timing could have been better.

Sure, the Devil Rays did what was expected, taking Vanderbilt pitcher David Price with the first overall pick. Price was the biggest name in the draft, a proven commodity likely on the fast track to the bigs. The problem for MLB was that Price was pretty much the only big name.

The Dugout watched as teams chose top high school talent, which is fine for baseball. High school talent, however, is virtually unknown to the general viewing public, creating a fairly disinteresting broadcast.

What makes the NFL draft so captivating is that even when your team isn't on the clock, you’ve seen the players the other teams are taking play in college. New England fans follow their team, but they are able to form some type of an opinion as to how the Jets, Dolphins and Bills are doing, too.

Even the most ardent follower of amateur baseball has a tough time determining whether the San Francisco Giants filled their needs. Football players have an immediate impact. Baseball draftees are generally at least three years from making it to the big club. By that time their draft position is barely a footnote even to the most knowledgeable fans.

How does baseball make the draft more exciting and interesting? For starters it needs to raise the profiles of the players being drafted. MLB can do that by helping the NCAA get more college baseball games on television. MLB should also hold the draft after the College World Series – the most watched college baseball broadcasts.

Both suggestions are doable. Whether MLB chooses to do so is another matter. The high school element of the draft will always be a drag on the draft’s popularity. So will the amount of rounds. It's a long process.

Perhaps baseball officials realize their draft won’t be the money maker enjoyed by their counterparts in football. If that’s the case, give MLB credit for allowing for fans’ voyeurism without trying to be too glitzy. If the NFL draft offers HBO-type entertainment, the MLB draft is C-Span.

That’s OK. Though C-Span sits unwatched on most TVs throughout the year, it’s kind of nice to know you can look into your government’s actions should you desire. Maybe that’s how it should be with the baseball draft, too.

Disturbing number: Wanna feel old? Check out the birthday’s on some of the early picks. Some of the players taken in this year’s draft were born in 1989. A year from now kids born in the decade of the 90s will be eligible to play professional baseball.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Fund established to help injured Sky Sox VP

Most of the time The Dugout enjoys writing this blog because there are so many fun tales to tell. This is not one of those times.

Colorado Sky Sox senior vice president Rai Henniger was severely injured last month when an industrial fireworks shell exploded in his face. In an interview with Sports Illustrated earlier this week, Henniger's wife revealed that he has lost the use of one of his eyes in the May 11 accident. Henniger remains a Denver hospital with multiple skull fractures. He is expected to be there for a couple more weeks.

The Sky Sox shoot off fireworks after every Colorado home run and during other promotions. Henniger, who is licensed to handle fireworks, was setting up the display game when the shell exploded.

The Henniger’s and the Sky Sox have established the “Rai Henniger Family Fund” at Security Service Federal Credit Union. Fans and Friends can drop off donations at the credit union, or they can mail them to:

The Rai Henniger Family Fund
1485 Kelly Johnson Boulevard,
Colorado Springs, CO 80920.

Contributions will help offset the immediate and future medical costs Henniger faces.

Anyone wishing to send Henniger cards or flowers can send them to the ballpark at:

"The Henniger Family"
c/o Sky Sox
4385 Tutt Boulevard
Colorado Springs, CO 80922

The Sky Sox are delivering all mail and packages to Henniger's hospital room.

The Dugout wishes Henniger and his family well and hopes he is able to return to the ballpark soon.

Let’s do the right thing Dugout nation.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Johnson goes Pyro, Hilligoss loses streak and Wellman is suspended

The Jupiter Hammerheads' roster has been sprinkled with big leaguers on rehab assignments all season. Reliever Carlos Martinez took the mound tonight and it didn't go to well. He gave up a long home run and was up in the zone most of the inning he pitched.

Sitting in the dugout watching the game was Florida starting pitcher Josh Johnson (right), also in Jupiter on a rehab assignment. Johnson actually pitched on Sunday and looked good. Most big leaguers don't spend much time with the minor leaguers when they aren't on the field. Johnson is different. He appears to be one of those players who truly enjoy being around the game, which is why he is a new favorite of The Dugout.

Johnson will take the mound for the Double-A Carolina Mudcats on Friday. He looks close to returning. The big righty honored the unwritten code of big leaguers purchasing a post-game spread. Johnson went with Pyros, a local eatery that is a Hammerhead favorite.

The young Marlins are having a good week. Martinez bought Outback Steakhouse for the Hammerheads on Saturday and they feasted on Outback at a season ticket holder reception on Sunday. It's a good life, just don’t get too accustomed to it guys.

Hilli-done: Charleston third-baseman Mitch Hilligoss' record setting hit streak came to an end on Sunday at 38 games. Hilligoss was 0-for-4 with a walk at Savannah. He grounded out in the ninth inning in a final attempt to extend the streak.

The Dugout promised a full feature on Hilligoss if the streak reached 40 games. It likely won’t happen now. Still, a 38-game hitting streak, the 13th longest streak in minor league history, is awfully impressive. Congrats, Mitch.

Let's see if he gets moved up to the Yankees' FSL team in Tampa in the coming days. Think it's possible that the only reason he is still with Charleston was that the Yankees wanted to see how far he could take the streak?

Wellman suspended: The interesting part of Mississippi Braves manager Phillip Wellman's three-game suspension is that it was imposed by the Atlanta organization, not the Southern League. A league suspension will surely follow, but the Braves suspension suggests this will be Wellman’s last season managing a Braves team.

In case you missed it, here is the videoclip of Wellman's meltdown

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Mississipi manager Wellman's antics looked staged

This blog was not supposed to have anything to do with the Southern League. It was going to be about Bob L. Heads and bobble-heads. Then the video of Mississippi Braves manager Phillip Wellman’s meltdown hit SportsCenter and the Internet.

Suddenly the focus shifted. If you haven't seen the clip, it is available on the site. As meltdown's go, it’s pretty good. There is definite humor value.

Wellman, in his first year managing at Mississippi, threw his hat, buried home plate, drew another home plate in the dirt, stole two bases and imitated a soldier throwing a grenade. While parts of the grenade toss are inventive – the rosin bag he tosses sprays chalk when it lands at the feet of the home plate umpire – The Dugout believes a little too much thought went into the routine. It's just not something an irate manager comes up with on the fly.

By the end of the meltdown Wellman is blowing kisses to the fans in Chattanooga. He obviously knows his antics were entertaining, which is fine to some degree. However, it is still the minor league manager's job to teach the players how to conduct themselves like big leaguers. Atlanta manager Bobby Cox is about to set the record for most ejections and he has never put on a display like the one in Chattanooga on Friday Night.

The Southern League will likely hand Wellman a nice suspension and a hefty fine. The Dugout wouldn't be surprised if Atlanta also disciple their minor league manager. And don't be surprised if he's with a different organization next season.

Timing is everything: Palm Beach pitcher Adam Ottavino was ejected from his Florida State League game on Wednessday night. During the argument, it looked as though Cardinals manager Gaylen Pitts was trying to get tossed, too.

The Dugout asked Pitts, a lifelong baseball man, whether it was his intent to get an early shower. He said that he'd been thrown out enough in his career and he's actually trying to make 2007 his first managerial season without an ejection.

The next night, less than 24 hours later, Pitts was ejected for arguing.

"I didn’t make it, did I?" Pitts said on Friday. “I jinxed myself. You never expect those things to happen, they just happen. Hopefully, I got that out of my system for the season.”

Friday, June 01, 2007

Promos, Hilligoss and the empty South Coast League

The Dugout just finished scouring the Web for June's promotions of the month. Again, there are some awesome ideas out there. Car giveaways are big this month. Toward the end of June three minor league clubs will give away autos on the same day. Another, Tulsa, is holding their second annual clunker car night, too. Go to the ballpark in one car, leave with another.

Still empty: Any idea who is leading the South Coast League? isn’t sure either. The Dugout went to the SCL site a couple of days ago as part of the promotion hunt, but stuck around a little longer to see what’s going on in the first-year league. There are still no scores and no standings available on the site. The “coming soon” message that appears on those pages probably means “we’ll get to it after the season.”

Go-go Hilligoss: A day after laying claim to the longest-ever South Atlantic League hitting streak, Charleston’s Mitch Hilligoss added a four hit night to push his streak to 37. One of those hits was a homerun for the Yankees’ minor leaguer.

RTB guys: Kevin Slowey and Ian Kennedy, two players featured earlier this season in’s Rounding the Bases feature, are having pretty good weeks. Minnesota promoted Slowey from Triple-A Rochester to the bigs. He started on Friday against Oakland, allowing one run in six innings of work. Tampa pitcher Ian Kennedy was named to the Florida State League’s All-Star team on Friday. Maybe there’s something to this whole RTB thing…