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.'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 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: 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 "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 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 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.