Saturday, October 25, 2008

Is Newark's folding an omen for the Atlantic League?

As the Philadelphia Phillies go for their first world championship in more than a quarter century, there is some big news coming from a minor league based in the northeast.

News out of this week’s Atlantic League winter meetings is that the Newark Bears have folded. Friend of The Dugout Mike Ashmore is all over this story on his Atlantic League blog.

Newark made national news early in their existence by signing the likes of Rickey Henderson and Jose Canseco. The Bears have been far less flashy of late and apparently that has not helped.
The Bears informed their employees on Friday that it was their last day of work. Newark is the second Atlantic League club to have offseason issues. League president Frank Boulton had to purchase the Bridgeport club a few weeks back.

Ashmore notes that half of the Atlantic League clubs failed to turn a profit this season, which obviously has league officials worried. The Camden Riversharks, who play their home games across the river from the Phillies, have yet to be able to create a consistent fan base. Will they be next?

The good news for the Atlantic League is that their newer clubs in Lancaster, York and Southern Maryland appear to be doing well. Earlier this season AL commissioner Joe Klein optimistically talked about doubling the size of the eight-team league in the coming years. With the economy seemingly on a downturn, Klein’s hopes may have been too grand.

It is unclear as of now whether the Atlantic League will try to find another owner for a Newark club, or will perhaps have to bring back the homeless Road Warriors for another season.

For the past decade the Atlantic League has served as model for other independent leagues to follow. They’ve lost teams (Nashua and Atlantic City) before and continued to grow. Hopefully this simply serves as another small bump in the road, but for fans of independent baseball this certainly bears watching.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Mulligan explains the singing bullpen

JUPITER, Fla. – The deciding game in the Florida State League's three-game East Division playoffs is less than an hour away. It will start on time, a feat which a few hours ago seemed as likely as Michael Phelps drowning.

Phelps, in fact, could have used those Aquaman skills around these parts. Tropical Storm Hanna brushed the coast, dropping as much as six inches of rain in the area. The fact that they are even considering playing this game, let alone starting it on time, only further elevates the Roger Dean Stadium grounds crew to the top of the food chain. No other FSL ballpark could have experienced these last 20 hours of rain and still considered playing.

Palm Beach hosts Daytona tonight to decide who advances to face Fort Myers for the FSL title.

The Dugout caught up with Cardinals reliever Casey Mulligan (photo) a little while ago. He’s the self-appointed ringleader of the Cardinals bullpen. That’s the same crew that sang the National Anthem before their ballgame last week.

Like many bullpens, the Cardinals keep a list of rules that all players must adhere to or risk being banished to the dugout. One of those is that everyone must sing along to the National Anthem.

“I thought we did pretty good,” Mulligan said of the bullpen’s first performance in front of a crowd. “We kept it low. We didn’t struggle at all.”

Even the non-American natives got into the act.

“Our closer, (Francisco) Samuel , he knows all the words now,” Mulligan laughed. “He’s getting much better. We taught him well.”

Mulligan volunteered the bullpen as Anthem singers again, but that seems unlikely now that the playoffs have started. That’s a shame, considering the response the bullpen’s version received from the Roger Dean front office.

“They said they’ve heard a lot worse out of the Anthem singers we hear every day,” Mulligan said.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Daytona proves winning isn't everything

Daytona defeated Jupiter moments ago to claim the Florida State League East Division second-half crown. The Cubs took the title despite failing to win the most games in their division.

Jupiter can make that claim, and the Hammerheads can load that hollow victory into their duffle bags as they depart for their off-season hometowns in the coming days.

Tropical Storm Fay and the afternoon thunderstorms that followed washed away Daytona’s entire series in Vero Beach and all but one game in St. Lucie two weeks ago. Those rainouts can’t be made up and as a result the Cubs played only nine games since August 18.

Sunday’s season finale was only Daytona’s 62nd of the half. Jupiter, by contrast, played 69.

FSL rules dictate that when teams don’t play an equal number of games, the team with the best winning percentage wins the title. That’s Daytona. It’s not a great rule, but there is really no other way to handle it, especially in South Florida where it rains almost every day.

Daytona’s title-clinching game actually began on Saturday. It had to be suspended in the bottom of the fifth with Daytona leading 9-1 when winds from one of those powerful South Florida storms prevented the grounds crew from deploying the tarp.

The game restarted today as part of a doubleheader. Daytona ultimately won the title, but had to wait for the champagne until the completion of the second game. Manager Jody Davis' post-game high fives (photo) was pretty much the extent of the inital celebration.

“We’ve got it for after the second game,” said Ty Wright between games. “I can’t wait for that. Hopefully this next game goes by fast.”

That three-hour bus ride back to Daytona should be interesting…

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Palm Beach bullpen converts National Anthem

Palm Beach pitcher Casey Mulligan likely won't remember much from the uneventful seventh inning he threw in the Cardinals 9-1 victory over St. Lucie in the first game of Wednesday's doubleheader.

The National Anthem, however, might be something Mulligan tells his grandchildren about.

Mulligan, along with the entire Palm Beach bullpen, stepped to the microphone behind home plate and sang the National Anthem. Lisa Fegley, Roger Dean Stadium’s director of promotions, shot the above video.

It’s unlikely these guys are going to win a Grammy, but they could become Youtube celebrities.

Music critics will point out that some of the harmonies were a smidge off. There were a few notes that, perhaps, shouldn’t have been there. Who cares?

This was the best rendition of the Nation Anthem The Dugout has ever seen. Watching overblown karaoke singers try to have their American Idol moment before every baseball game is like watching a child try to impress its parents with Picasso-like art skill by drawing on a wall – no matter how good it is, they still deserve a whipping.

Listening to famous stars put “their touch” on the Anthem is worse (Except for Carl Lewis – that is the gold standard.)

The Cardinals had apparently been asking to sing the Anthem for a few weeks. Management was hesitant, fearing the Cardinals might try to have a little too much fun.

Those fears were unfounded. The Cardinals were magnificent. Could this start a trend? It wouldn’t be a bad thing?

Kudos guys.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Captains tattoo you; Kost gets fired up

As part of their 80s Hair Band Tribute, which captured the August 21 Promotion of the Day on the main site, the Lake County Captains offered free tattoos of their logo for any fan willing to be pricked hundreds of times with dye-imparting needles.

Five fans actually took the Captains up on their offer.

Other clubs have held similar promotions – Daytona and Brevard County come to mind – and they took it a step further by providing season tickets for life to any fan that got the tattoo. Lake County didn’t make that offer, which is their prerogative, but perhaps they should have.

Buck Rogers, who started the program in Daytona and continued it when he moved to Brevard, figured that anyone willing to provide free advertising for life deserved free admission to all games.

Still, the fact that five Captains’ fans were willing to put a logo on their body functions as a pretty good marketing move. Lake County was kind enough to send the above photo showing one of the tattoos.

Shout it from a mountain top: The Harlingen Whitewings of the United League apparently fired general manager Dave Kost this week. In an odd turn, Kost decided to let the rest of the baseball world know he was now a free agent by issuing a press release about his removal.

Kost seemed like a good enough guy when he offered free admission to WhiteWings’ games to all affected by a Hurricane Dolly earlier this season. This release, though, may go a long way to reinforcing Harlingen ownership’s decision to let him go.

The email Kost distributed is below, followed by the release he wrote. You be the judge:


It has been brought to my attention that the current leadership of the Harlingen WhiteWings and United League ownership has decided to not make a formal announcement of my termination on Thursday, July 14, 2008, because they said it doesn't benefit anyone to make the announcement.

I have been in baseball for over 20 years and my reputation is untarnished and I prefer it stay that way therefore, I am releasing the following document for your eyes and would very much appreciate you releasing through the means available to you. It is extremely important to me that the baseball community fully understand that I in fact was relieved of my duties and did not resign. It is fear that the United League may eventually release this transaction as a resignation on my behalf and that couldn't be further from the truth.

Below is my offical release on this matter for your use as you see fit. Thank you.


8/26/2008 6:56 PM

Kost Fired as General Manager of WhiteWings

Harlingen, TX – The Harlingen WhiteWings Baseball Club relieved Dave Kost of his General Managerial duties on Thursday, July 14th.

When Kost was announced as the new General Manager of the Rio Grande Valley WhiteWings back in October of 2007, he made it very clear that his mission was to change the overall attitude about WhiteWings’ baseball in Harlingen, surrounding communities, and the Rio Grande Valley. It was very obvious that Kost meant business by changing with team name from Rio Grande Valley to Harlingen which included team logo, color, and uniform changes. “It made sense to make those changes then and it appeared to work because we had a lot of fans visit the clubhouse store this year to buy their favorite team apparel”, Dave Kost said.

Despite the fact that the WhiteWings were the worst team, on the field, this year in the United League finishing the 2008 campaign with a record of 20-62, which included the cancellation of the final 3 regular season games in Amarillo, fans seemed to buy into this new attitude created by the WhiteWings front office under the direction of Kost. Part of the mission statement included providing the community with affordable family entertainment and with attendance much higher than last year, fans certainly agreed. “Since day one of my tenure I made it known that our goal was to get families back to the ballpark by providing affordable family entertainment and we enjoyed seeing our hard work payoff”, Dave Kost said. “We were experiencing great crowds right up until Hurricane Dolly changed the landscape of the valley and particularly Harlingen”, added Kost. “Attendance was light for the 3-4 days after that but picked up nicely for the remaining home games”.

So to recap, a new name, new logo, new uniforms, new attitude, new General Manager, and higher attendance creates the mystery of why would you fire the person who created a successful trend. “Of course I was given a reason as to why I was relieved of my duties and it’s important for me to have people understand that it had nothing to do with nothing, in terms of the explanation I was given by ownership”, Kost said. “Several issues remain unresolved regarding my contract but I am more concerned that our fan base, season ticket holders, and community know that I was fired and I did not resign”, Kost said. “I made a commitment to turn this organization around and we were well on our way to doing that so I don’t want anyone to think, for a second, that I bailed on this project because that couldn’t be further from the truth”, Kost added.

“I want to take this opportunity to personally thank our fans, vendors, season tickets, City of Harlingen, and the entire community for their outstanding commitment to the WhiteWings during my tenure”, Kost said.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The pie is big, Fay may be bigger

Let’s start with the photo. The Lancaster Barnstormers grabbed the August 8 Promotion of the Day honors on the main site with their Salute to the Whoopie Pie. As part of that special night, one of the local bakeries pledged to create a 150-pound version of the pie.

The photo shows the giant whoopie pie as it was displayed at the ballpark. While it’s big, The Dugout isn’t quite sure it reached the stated weight goal – that cake would have to be awfully dense. Still, it is impressive.

Kids and staffers must have enjoyed that post-game treat.

All day Fay: Tropical Storm Fay simply won’t go away from Florida. The Florida State League postponed or canceled most Monday games because of the storm. A well-timed off day kept the league from losing any games on Tuesday, but the storm stalled halfway up the state on Wednesday, washing out a couple more games.

Jupiter’s scheduled doubleheader started an hour and a half late, but the skies are nearly clean now so there’s reason to believe both games will be played. Major kudos go out to the grounds crew, which pulled the tarp at least five times Wednesday afternoon and made a soggy infield and warning track playable.

The FSL always has its share of rainouts – especially in August. The addition of Fay on top of the wetter-than-normal summer will make for difficult schedules the rest of the way.

With this doubleheader out of the way, Jupiter is the lone contender for the East Division crown to have only one doubleheader remaining. That’s against Daytona, who entered Wednesday tied with the Hammerheads, on the final weekend of the season. The Cubbies will play at least two more doubleheaders, and that’s if they can get back on the field tomorrow at Vero Beach. The town of Port St. Lucie is still underwater. Schools have already been shut down for the rest of the week. The Mets say they will play on Thursday, but that field doesn’t drain well.

The schedule isn’t any better for Palm Beach. The East Division’s first half winner will enter the playoffs after playing five games on the final three days of the season. How’d you like to set that rotation?

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Woodstock's rain extends past Brockton

Brockton started its weekend-long ode to Woodstock off properly – with a thunderstorm. It came on so quickly that the staff was unable to completely cover the infield. Friday’s series opener against Worcester couldn’t be played. The teams split a doubleheader on Saturday before Brockton claimed the series with a victory on Sunday.

The Rox wore special uniforms in honor of Woodstock Weekend. The uniform design is located in the above photo. Brockton auctioned those game-worn unis to its fans.

FSL double time: August afternoon thunderstorms occur almost as frequently as sunrises in Florida, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t raining chaos into the Florida State League schedule. With Tropical Storm Fay ready to turn toward the Florida peninsula, life may get even wetter.

That shouldn’t have too much of an effect on the West Division, where Dunedin holds a 10-game lead with two weeks remaining in the regular season. That’s not the case in the East.

Jupiter, which leads the East by one game, already has two doubleheaders left on its schedule. One of those is against second-place Daytona during the season’s final weekend – the only two-gamer currently on the Cubbies’ schedule.

Third place St. Lucie, which enters Monday 2 ½ out of first, completes a stretch of four doubleheaders in seven days on Wednesday. If history is any indicator, all teams should have at least one additional rain-aided doubleheader added to its schedule before the end of the season.

Free delivery: St. Paul’s Extra, Extra… promo didn’t grab Promotion of the Day honors on the main site, but it still deserves a little recognition. Apparently the Saints public address announcer has gone weeks without picking up his paper from the curb. He’ll bring all of them to the ballpark on Monday as a prize for one lucky fan. He’ll also be doing a crossword puzzle throughout the ballgame.

Several famous newspaper comic characters like Superman and Dennis the Menace will be at the ballpark. The highlight, though, may be the Saints take on Dear Abby, where one of their staff members will give advice on how to deal with some uncommon problems.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Miracle want to help Ohio St. win

Each spring the folks at Fort Myers entertain a class from nearby Florida Gulf Coast University to talk about the business side of minor league ball. During this season’s meeting one student, who hails from Michigan, sarcastically suggested that the Miracle hold a night where Ohio State, losers of the last two NCAA football championship games, is finally allowed to celebrate a victory.

The Fort Myers area is loaded with transplants from Michigan and Ohio, so the Miracle decided it was worth a shot. Thursday is “It’s a Miracle: Ohio State Finally Wins” night in Fort Myers.

In theory, Fort Myers is going to rig every between-inning contest so that a representative wearing OSU clothing will win. Beware, though. At least one Miracle staffer doubts that even with the advantage the OSU rep will be able to pull off the victory.

Fans dressed in college gear will be automatically eligible to win tickets to various college contests, including this season’s Ohio St. vs. Michigan football game.

The Dugout heartily approves of poking a little fun at universities that take themselves so seriously, but should the Wolverines really be the ones giving the first nudge? After all, at least OSU made it that far.

Jammers a hit: As mentioned in yesterday’s entry, Jamestown stacked a couple of pretty nice promos together last week. Their “Salute to 1-Hit Wonders” on Friday Night just missed out on the Promotion of the Day. They did compile a pretty good list of 1-hitters and were kind enough to send them along. Enjoy:

One Hit Wonder Songs:

1. “Who Let the Dogs Out” –Baha Men
2. “The Safety Dance” – Men Without Hats
3. “Groove is in the Heart” –Deee-Lite
4. “Mmm..mmm…mmm…mmm”- Crash Test Dummies
5. “It’s Raining Men”- The Weather Girls
6. “Video Killed the Radio Star” – Buggles
7. “Turning Japanese” – The Vapors
8. “Mambo No. 5” – Lou Bega
9. “My Sharona” – The Knack
10. “Louie, Louie” – The Kingsmen
11. “The Final Countdown” – Europe
12. “How Bizarre” – OMC
13. “Just A Friend” – Biz Markie
14. “Ice Ice Baby” – Vanilla Ice
15. “And I Ran” – Flock of Seagulls
16. “Cars” – Gary Numan
17. “Funkytown” – Lipps, Inc.
18. “Whip It” – Devo
19. “Tainted Love” – Soft Cell
20. “Jump Jump” – Kris Kross
21. “What Is Love” – Haddaway
22. “Come on Eileen” – Dexy’s Midnight Runners
23. “I Wanna Be Rich” – Calloway
24-30.The Kazaam Soundtrack
31. “Achy Breaky Heart” – Billy Ray Cyrus
32. “Life is a Highway” – Tom Cochrane
33. “I’m Too Sexy” – Right Said Fred
34. “Jump Around” – House of Pain
35. “Whoomp There it is” – Tag Team
36. “Total Eclipse of the Heart” – Nicki French
37. “Breakfast at Tiffanys” – Deep Blue Something
38. “Cotton-Eyed Joe” – Rednex
39. “I Wish” – Skee-Lo
40. “Macarena” – Los Del Rio
41. “Absolutely” – Nine Days
42. “Back Here” – BBMak
43. “Days Go By” – Dirty Vegas
44. “Heaven” DJ Sammy
45. “All the Things She Said” t.AT.u
46. “Girls of Summer” – LFO
47. “Why Can’t I” – Liz Phair
48. “The Reason” – Hoobastank
49. “Everytime We Touch” – Cascada
50. “Bad Day” – Daniel Powder

Salute to One-Hit Wonder Celebrities, Athletes, etc.

Ronald Murray, Seattle Sonics
Richard Hatch from Survivor
William Hung from American Idol
Ryan Leaf
Doug Williams from Washington Redskins
Brian Bosworth
Timmy Smith, all-time Super Bowl rushing record then disappears
2007 1-win Miami Dolphins
Mark FidrychGeorge Mason Patriots

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Kane County and Jamestown receive their due

There has been an error in The Dugout. Several clubs held some pretty good promotions over the past couple of weeks. They weren’t the Promotion of the Day, but they still deserved notice.

Kane County was kind enough to send this photo of its attempt to break the world’s record for the largest pillow fight. The Cougars gave away 1,000 pillows in an attempt to get 4,000 fans on the field to fight. Though they didn’t quite reach their goal – 3,872 took the field to batter each other with sleep aids – they did break the existing record by more than 100 people.

Of course the folks at Guinness still have to ratify the record, but it appears the Cougars have a sufficient amount of photos and video to back up their claim.

Kane County actually tried to break this record last season, but came up about 600 participants short. Congrats to the Cougars for sticking with the idea and pulling it off. It’s a record that should stand – at least until next season.

Jammin’ Jammers: Jamestown had two great promos last week, but both happened to land on a day where some other club offered something a little more brilliant. Still, the Jammers deserve their props.

Lancaster’s Salute to the Whoopie Pie barely edged Jamestown’s Night of 42 Promotions last Wednesday. The Jammers posted 42 wins in their best season ever. To celebrate the number, the Jammers’ staff came up with a promotion for each win. Below is a list of the promos.

Two nights later the Jammers saluted 1-Hit Wonders, but more on that in the next entry. For now enjoy the 42 promos.

1. Answer some fun and exciting trivia and win a small prize that will last forever!
2. Through out the game so you do not forget the stats or your favorite players, we will be giving away colorful post-it notes!!!
3. Free Bubba Hugs (mascot)
4. 42 people will Learn the Robot Dance with Bubba!
5. Receive 100 of this special prize and you will have a $1.00 aka Penny Giveaway!
6. Number 1 music hits from around the world on the PA all night long
7. Meet the wonderful Jamestown Jammers staff of 2008!!!
8. Attempt to start the largest Wave in Chautauqua County history
9. Join in while we do the Macarena
10. Bull-pen player name game
11. You have been wondering? Ask the GM one question of your choice!
12. Salute to the chia pet
13. Watch your Jamestown Jammers interns take on one another in the Intern Olympics
14. 42 bugle calls
15. 15% of a non-sale item in the Gift Shop
16. Salute to the Yodel
17. Jammers Card set toss into crowd
18. Electric Slide on the field
19. Look out for flying peanuts! Catch them if you can!
20. Wrestling theme music
21. Tribute to 42nd President Bill Clinton
22. Pay tribute to your hometown girl by doing I Love Lucy impressions!
23. J-E-L-L-O toss on-field
24. Kids bring your muscles to join in on a tug of war challenge
25. Test your running skills by running in backwards clothes
26. Anyone who throws 42 at Speed Pitch wins a prize!
27. Water balloon toss
28. Salute to our manager, Darin Everson
29. Salute to baseball caps
30. Meet the grounds crew
31. Meet outfielder Ray White
32. Moment of silence for our troops
33. Come to the game with your blue tooth and win a small prize
34. Salute to the Eggplant
35. Free high fives
36. Spend a fun filled inning with Bubba!
37. Jr. PA Announcers
38. Free T-shirt toss
39. Salute to Boy Bands
40. Salute to the 42nd state, Washington
41. Free stadium tours

42. Free pocket schedules

Thursday, August 07, 2008

The passing of Buck Kinnaird

The normal press box jocularity and (somewhat) witty banter ended abruptly during last night’s game at Roger Dean Stadium when the staff learned of the passing of Buck Kinnaird.

Buck was a fixture at the ballpark, operating the scoreboard and acting as its ambassador since RDS opened more than 11 years ago. Before that he was one of the most recognizable sports personalities in Palm Beach County. A longtime sportscaster for the local NBC affiliate, at one time Buck was also the spring training public address announcer for the New York Yankees. He died in his home of heart problems.

It didn’t take any effort to like Buck. He always seemed to be in a good mood, smiling even when criticizing decisions or policies worthy of criticism. Upon meeting a new person, Buck immediately considered them a friend.

His love of sport – particularly baseball – was never challenged. Buck's father owned part of a minor league team, the Clarksburg Generals. When the Cardinals moved their High A team to Jupiter to share RDS with the Jupiter Hammerheads, Buck attended all 140 games at RDS.

There are many at RDS who were lucky enough to know Buck far longer than I did. What was truly amazing was that even in his 80s, Buck got along just as well with the 20-something interns as he did with the older media, press box workers and baseball men. The Grandfather of Roger Dean Stadium treated all warmly and with respect. He had a story for every occasion.

Buck’s memorial service will be held at Roger Dean Stadium on Monday at 10 a.m. RDS would do well to rename its press box Buck’s Box at that time.

I’m not a believer in ghosts, but if they do exist, RDS would be graced to have Buck back in the ballpark – if only for a few innings.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Yankee Stadium wrecking ball, meet racing sushi

Brockton claimed today’s Promotion of the Day honors on for its unique remembrance of Yankee Stadium. For those who missed it here’s the write-up as it appeared on the site:

Yankee Stadium Wrecking Ball Giveaway – Brockton Rox

Saturday, August 2, 2008
Not everyone is getting all misty over Yankee Stadium’s last
season. Some, like the folks in Brockton (Mass.), can’t wait. In anticipation of
the stadium’s razing, the Can-Am League’s Rox are giving away miniature replicas
of the old ballpark that features a crane parked in the infield swinging a
wrecking ball. Will more than 50 percent of those giveaways make it home

There isn’t room allotted on the site for photos that accompany the Promo of the Day, but there is plenty of room here. As you probably already guessed, that top photo is a picture of the giveaway, courtesy of Bailey in Brockton.

Also heard from a friend north of the boarder, where they are apparently turning Japanese. Instead of racing sausages, presidents or even a pork roll, egg and cheese, Vancouver has chosen to race raw fish.

There is apparently a growing population of Japanese in Vancouver and they appreciate a race between Mr. Kappa Maki, Ms. BC Roll and Chef Wasabi. The running gag is that Chef Wasabi never wins, and you can see why in the video below.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Brandon Moss, friend of The Dugout, becomes a Pirate

Sure, Boston traded Manny for being Manny and the White Sox got older by adding Junior. Brandon Moss, however, is the player involved in yesterday’s deadline deals that means the most to The Dugout.

Moss spent most of 2004, his third year as a professional, with the Augusta GreenJackets. Prior to one of their games that summer, Moss and then teammate Brett Bonvechio, who began this season with Camden of the Atlantic League, sat on the bleachers with The Dugout and offered the following story, which ended being published in The Funniest Thing I’ve Ever Seen: More than 100 crazy stories from minor league baseball.


Jamming Up Jammer
Playing for the Augusta GreenJackets is almost a home-field
advantage for outfielder Brandon Moss. The 20-year old grew up in
Monroe, Georgia, about an hour and a half drive from Augusta.
Moss compares his teammates to family: “It’s like having 25
brothers all together. Everybody makes fun of everyone.”
He also experiences the comfort of having his biological family and
hometown friends visit and watch him play.

For a high school draftee especially, playing close to home makes
for a smoother transition into professional baseball. Moss is able to
concentrate more on baseball because he is operating in familiar

As much as Moss enjoys playing close to home, he actually prefers
being on the road.

“We don’t have to spend our own money – we get meal money,”
Moss said. “I like playing in different parks. I like sleeping in hotels
better than our apartment because [hotels] get cable for free.”

Moss also looks forward to seeing the fans in different baseball
towns and especially likes getting booed by them. He’s interested to
hear original criticisms because, he says, it makes him laugh.

One sure fire way to incite a home crowd is to take on the home
team’s mascot. That’s what Moss did one night while playing against
the Jamestown Jammers of the New York/Penn League.

Brandon Moss: Remember when Randal Simon hit that
[Milwaukee Brewer’s sausage] mascot last year? All that
controversy was going on.

During the fifth inning the mascot always ran around the bases.
[The mascot] was a dog, because they are the Jammers and they
had a dog for some reason. I don’t understand why.

He was running around the bases and I tackled him on the
ground and started hitting him and all that stuff. It was great. The
general manager for the other team and I were the only one’s who
knew [what was going on]. I wasn’t supposed to be hitting him, but I
was trying to get the crowd to go wild. I got in a lot of trouble with
the fans on that one. The whole time they thought I was just doing it
to be a showboat, but I wasn’t. I was told to do it.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Barr twins share American Association airwaves, Meola attempts 48-hour broadcast

Eyes open or closed, fans that listening to Grand Prairie's American Association game against El Paso on July 23rd heard double.

Alan Barr, voice of the AirHogs, and his identical-twin Jon, voice of the Diablos, combined to produce a duel game broadcast heard in both team’s home towns (photo, Alan on right).

Jon handled the play-by-play in the first, second, fifth and sixth innings, switching to analyst when Alan took over play calling duties. The twins agreed play-calling duties in the ninth would go to whichever broadcaster’s team was leading. That turned out to be Jon’s Diablos.

At times the brothers acted like brothers, quickly refuting statistics with a number that shed their team in a more positive light. They also offered a trivia question: Which team won the World Series with the least amount of wins.

They answer? The Minnesota Twins, of course.

Long weekend: Sticking with the minor league baseball announcer theme, Sioux Fall’s Matt Meola can put in for some serious overtime. Beginning July 18th the Canaries offered 48 hours of continuous baseball.

The weekend included three Sioux Falls games, several local amateur contests, and pickup games during dead times. Despite their efforts, the Canaries were technically unable to complete their 48-hour goal. Rain twice interrupted events, affording Meola a chance to sneak a nap.

Meola also received a surprise break Sunday morning when a local church asked him to take an hour off so that they could use the frequency to broadcast their service.

“I figured, alright, I’m not going to mess with God,” Meola said.

Meola killed some time by interviewing American Association Commissioner Mile Wolff, former Minnesota Twins pitcher Bert Blyleven and other people affiliated with professional baseball.

Will he ever try it again?

“I think it’s a one-time deal,” Meola said. “It was real taxing and real long. It was fun to be able to say I did it, but I don’t really know that there’s a benefit to doing it again.” salutes the effort.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Plumbers and mustaches all in one night

Fans that enjoy bizarre minor league promotions had a pretty good day on Wednesday when Bowie's Gorgeous Grandma Night grabbed's Promotion of the Day award over some pretty stiff competition.

South Bend combined two odd promos into one, offering Mustache Appreciation Night and Hug Your Plumber Night. Thanks to New York’s Jason Giambi mustache-induced offensive tear, mustaches have become popular promo fodder across the minor leagues. South Bend starting pitcher Josh Collmenter (photo) is having similar success since he grew a mustache.

In an effort to mimic Collmenter’s success, several other members of the Silver Hawks stopped shaving their upper lips. Fans then judged which of those players grew the best mustache.

Any fan that came to the ballpark that night sporting a mustache received a free ticket. Those without growth received stick-on mustaches as they entered the park. The whole night received the approval of the American Mustache Institute – which apparently really exists and has a theme song. They sent a video endorsement that was played on the video board.

Incidentally, Reno is also holding a mustache contest, only theirs involves fans. The contest started July 1 and ends July 31.

Back in South Bend, the Silver Hawks gave plungers to the first 1,000 fans to kick off the Plumber portion of the night. Fans also had the opportunity to pay a dollar to hug a plumber. And there were plenty of toilet-related songs played between innings.

Over in St. Paul, the Saints celebrated the 25th anniversary of George Brett’s pine tar incident on Wednesday by holding Major Meltdown Night. St. Paul gave away bats that already had too much pine tar on them and one local anger management clinic gave away a free pass to one of their seminars.

The Saints didn’t stop at Brett’s breakdown. They highlighted Robbie Alomar’s excellence in expectorating with a between-inning seed-spitting contest and offered a Bobby Knight chair-tossing contest.

The PA announcer even offered a meltdown of his own.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Florida Minor Leaguer Jeff Allison's comeback worthy of attention

The original plan was to run the Jeff Allison story later in the year. The Dugout wanted to let Allison get through an entire season and talk about those experiences, along with upcoming expectations.

Josh Hamilton’s Ruthian first half, followed by a Home Run Derby display that left NASCAR wondering whether it could harness his power, sped up the timeline for the story.

Hamilton’s success focused a spotlight back on Allison, who’d been quietly working through his first Florida State League season in Jupiter. Peter Gammons explained during the Derby telecast that, like Hamilton, Allison was trying to overcome drug addiction.

Gammons actually called Allison following the All-Star Game to ask if it was OK to pass his number along to Hamilton. Still don’t know whether they talked, but should have an update on that in the coming days.

One surprising aspect of the story has been the slow but steady criticism of the overwhelmingly positive coverage of Hamilton’s ordeal. Critics point out that unlike various players who’ve overcome cancer or political strife, Hamilton made his own problem.

That’s, well, true.

That doesn’t mean, however, that Hamilton’s ability to overcome drug addiction can’t inspire others. Allison, who lost the three of the last four years to drug addiction and prison time, says he’s feeding off Hamilton’s success.

Talk with Allison about baseball and the excitement for the game is clearly evident. Turn the conversation to his past transgressions and that excitement quickly turns to embarrassment. To Allison’s credit, though, he does talk. He offers glimpses of a world that most people are glad they don’t know and hope they will never experience.

He’s personable, even when irritated. In short, he makes people want to route for him. Allison isn’t showing the 97 mph fastball that caused the Marlins to choose him with the 16th overall pick in the 2003 draft, but he is giving Florida reason to believe he can contribute at the major league level in a few years.

Still, as well as Allison does this season, his biggest challenge way come when the season ends. Returning to his Peabody, Mass. home with all that free time will undoubtedly lead to temptation and opportunity.

Yet Allison is no more concerned about returning to Peabody than he is getting through one more day at Jupiter.

“I started using drugs in Massachusetts in the town where I grew up and I stopped using drugs in Massachusetts where I grew up,” Allison said. “Going back there is just going to a different spot. At the end of the day, I’m my biggest problem. If I’m going to use, it’s on me to do it. Every place in the world has drugs. It’s a matter of whether I’m going to do it or not. Right now, right this second, I’m not.”

Allison admits he created his own problem. Hopefully he can beat it. And if he needs the help of someone like Hamilton or a teammate or fan, what’s wrong with that?

Friday, July 18, 2008

They weren't Promo of the Day, but they were still pretty good...

This was a good week for minor league baseball promotions. Wanted to take some time to point out some of good ones that just missed being's Promotion of the Day.

Start with Newark, where the Atlantic League’s Bears are celebrating Michael Jackson’s 50th birthday tonight. Needless to say, the Bears are bringing a Jackson impersonator to the park. They actually hired this guy last year, too, and the video is from that night.

Along with the impersonator Newark feature a countdown of their favorite “Wacko Jacko” moments, a trivia contest about 1958 (Jackson’s birth year) and a Don’t Forget the Lyrics contest. The most visually interesting on-field contest, however, will likely be musical chairs, where contestants will have to circle the chairs while moonwalking.

A little further up the eastern seaboard from Newark, Lowell is hosting Superstition Night. To kick the night off, the Spinners age giving away Wade Boggs bobbleheads. In honor of Boggs’ traditional pre-game meal, Lowell is converting its between inning sandwich-eating contest to a fried chicken-eating contest. Instead of trying to throw a ball into a bucket, like a contestant would do on a normal night’s contest, tonight’s contestants will try to throw balls that will break mirrors. All contestants will enter the field by walking under a ladder and the 13th fan to enter the ballpark wins a special prize.

St. Paul offered another bizarre promo on Thursday night. As part of their A Monkey Could Do It Night, the Saints brought in a couple of live monkeys, Mr. Monk and Mindy Monk, and asked them to perform a couple common ballpark jobs. The monkeys tried their paws at ticket taking, ushering and broadcasting, among other things. Just sent St. Paul a note to see whether there were any final stats on monkey success.

Update: Just got this note from Saints broadcast and media relations guy Sean Aronson:
Other than appearing on the broadcast with me, where he sat there and held my finger and rested his head on my finger I’m not sure what else he did because I WAS BROADCASTING. He did a good job taking tickets I saw that. Other than that I’m not sure.

On Wednesday Grand Prairie held Pickup Truck Night. All pickups parked for free and any pickup carrying 10 or more fans qualified for the group discount. There are other interesting things going on in Grand Prairie, but those are being saved for the next blog entry.

Monday, July 14, 2008

All Christmas, all the time

Here's the math: At least 30 different minor league clubs are hosting a Christmas in July promotion this month. Five minor league teams have the promotion planned for July 25 and Christmas can be found in at least one ballpark on 17 of the July's 31 days. Class AAA Iowa was the first down the chimney on July 2. Class AA Tulsa wraps it up on July 31.

Friday night was the St. Lucie’s turn. Fans that brought an unwrapped toy to the park saw the game for free. Santa tossed the first pitch and posed for pictures. And there was Christmas music. Tons of it, starting an hour before the game. Drove those in the press box nuts. The Dugout doesn’t like Christmas music to begin with. They only time it should be played is on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. To hear it in the sweltering South Florida July heat approached torture. In fact, didn’t our troops blare Christmas music at the Iraqi palace until they surrendered? And there must be plenty of rockin’ Christmas tunes at Gitmo.

Just out of curiosity, why don’t any teams offer Hanukkah in July?

The upside of the night was Orlando Hernandez’s rehab start for the Mets. Making his first start for the Florida State League’s Mets since opening day, and only his third overall in the minors this season, Hernandez threw 77 pitches in 5 2/3 innings, allowing two earned runs on five hits while striking out five.

The righthander still sports the high leg kick, but the 90-plus mph fastball appears long gone. Hernandez touched 86 on the gun, but most fastballs barely cracked 80. He even offered a few sub-60 mph curveballs.

Thought St. Lucie manager Tim Teufel summed up the performance pretty well: “He looked like El Duque out there, mixing it up. I thought he threw well. He kept everybody off balance. I know he’s pitching against A-ball, but no one really got a good swing against him.”

Bud-buy: Apparently it’s official. Belgium-based InBev bought Anheuser-Busch for $52 billion. Anheuser-Busch, most famous for brewing Budweiser beer, is a huge supporter of sports teams – baseball in particular. There’s no reason to believe InBev will discontinue that commitment, but anything can happen after the buyout is complete. Many ballpark managers are certainly nervous. There’s a lot of advertising money in play.

Bad day to be a baby: Wilmington barely missed out on grabbing the Promotion of the Day honors on the main site with its Celebrity Fall From Grace Night. Prior to the start of the ballgame the Blue Rocks will mock Brittany Spears by having a staffer dressed like her driving around the field with an infant doll on her lap. Later a staffer (who happens to be white) will offer his best Michael Jackson dance moves; then dangle a baby doll off a balcony. Apparently the O. J. Simpson look-a-like won’t be asked to slash a baby.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Watching fireworks in the rain

It's between games of a doubleheader at Roger Dean Stadium, but the start of the second game is being delayed by rain. That's nothing new here. It rains just about everyday in South Florida, usually for about an hour, then everything returns to normal.

This summer has been particularly wet, though, especially the last couple of weeks. This doubleheader, necessitated by Tuesday’s suspended game, was supposed to be played yesterday. Rain kept the second game form being played.

Today is one of the few scheduled fireworks shows at this ballpark, and they’ve announced it will happen rain or shine. Should be interesting to see the fireworks shot off in the rain.

The plan seems to be that they will shoot off the fireworks, then play the second game. Will be interesting to see if the rain delay is followed by a smoke delay. Might be more interesting to see how many fans stick around for the second game. Will likely be a friends and family game.

Meanwhile people wait. The press box, normally empty, is packed with scouts escaping the rain. Baseball people talking baseball. The Dugout can think of worse ways to spend a night.

Nice pics: As promised in a previous blog, those photos on the right were sent from St. Paul. The first couple are from Sasquatch’s birthday party. They invited other famous monsters and ghosts and set up a photo booth where fans could get their pictures taken with part of Bigfoot in the background. The other pictures are from Purple Night, when the Saints celebrated hometown artist Prince’s 50th birthday.

Odd trend: Lakeland’s 20-inning, 3-2 victory over Daytona on Sunday took six hours and six minutes. It was the 12th time a Florida State League game has lasted 20 innings including one in each of the last three seasons. Losing pitcher Jonathan Mota was 0-8 with five strikeouts as a third baseman before taking the mound in the 19th inning. An error by his replacement, Robinson Chirinos, allowed the winning run to score. Dontrelle Willis made his first FSL appearance, pitching relief. Both teams had the bases loaded in the 16th but couldn’t score.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Fitzgerald pulls Playing for Peanuts

If it seems impossible for find John Fitzgerald’s Playing for Peanuts, there’s a good reason: it is. Fitzgerald pulled the show off the air because of a dispute with SportsNet New York (SNY).

When Fitzgerald agreed to have SNY carry Peanuts, he said he did so with the stipulation that the network promote the show in the New York area. That was a natural, he figured, because of the Wally Backman factor. Backman, the manager of the South Georgia Peanuts, was a former infielder for the Mets.

Fitzgerald said SNY agreed initially, but then started hitting the pause button on the promos. After five episodes aired, Fitzgerald decided he could wait no longer. He basically told the network to promote it or lose it.

SNY said it doesn’t promote shows that aren’t its creation, so Fitzgerald pulled the show.

He hopes to find another network to air Peanuts, but that might be difficult this late in the summer. Still, The Dugout has to agree with Fitzgerald’s decision. Without SNY’s promotion, Fitzgerald was essentially giving away his product. And while there are artistic aspects to the creation of such a work, there are also financial obligations. Fitzgerald needs to – and deserves to – make money off his show. At the rate things were progressing, he wasn’t even going to be able to break even.

With teams folding, Backman’s turmoil and the league’s general financial troubles, the second half of the South Coast League’s lone season certainly promised plenty of oddball entertainment. It would be a loss to baseball fans and television enthusiasts everywhere if the final five episodes never reach the airwaves.

Oh, Canada: To all of you north of the border, happy Canada Day. Like American teams on the Fourth of July, most Canadian teams make a big deal out of July 1. The folks in Ottawa couldn’t wait. The Can-Am League’s Rapidz celebrated Canada Day Eve on Monday night.

The game featured jugglers, face-painters, and balloon animals. In front of a crowd clad in red and white – Canada’s national colors - the Rapidz gave away free mini Canadian flags and asked Canadian trivia between innings.

Another northern view: The Dugout received a whole slew of photos from St. Paul that show some of their more interesting promotions from the last few weeks. Toledo also sent some photos this way. Both sets will be on this blog in the next few days.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Olympics and Chuck Norris make for Sioux-perior Tuesday

Tomorrow (June 24) is going to be a fantastic day to be a ballpark that a Goldklang Group-owned minor league club calls home. The New York-Penn League’s Hudson Valley Renegades claimed’s Promotion of the Day with their weird creation of kiddie Olympics. One item that wasn’t in the write-up was that the Renegades also plan to give free gas cards to some of their fans.

Hudson Valley beat out fellow Goldklang (think Mike Veeck) teams Charleston and Sioux Falls for the honor. The RiverDogs will attempt to answer the philosophical question: What would Chuck Norris do? This was supposed to be the most macho night on Charleston’s schedule, but it lost a little toughness when various media outlets reported that Norris’ wife made him shave his beard.

Now Charleston is going to have a little fun with that. Chelsea, the Riverdogs’ female mascot, will shave male mascot Charlie before the first pitch. Later in the night a group of young karate kids will come onto the field and break things that newly shorn Norris imitator couldn’t.

Throughout the night Riverdogs staffers will ask fans various Chuck Norris questions such as: If Chuck Norris walked into a bar, what would be the first thing he would do?

A. Order a drink
B. Put money in the jukebox
C. Roundhouse kick someone in the bar

Needless to say, the roundhouse will always be an option, and with Chuck Norris it’s always the right option.

Sioux Falls, the Riverdogs’ sister club in the American Association, hosts Sioux City on Tuesday in a battled they’re calling Sioux-perior Night. The Canaries intend to give their reasons – 27 of them in fact – why their Sioux-based city is better. The area on the backs of players’ uniforms that is usually reserved for a player’s name will instead contain reasons why Falls topples City. Some affirmations:

Doesn’t smell
The Falls
No state income tax

The Canaries are choosing to back up their tough talk by guaranteeing victory. Should the Explorers silence the Canaries, all fans win a free ticket to Thursday’s game.

Goldklang teams aren’t the only ones having fun. Everett is giving away a hot dog bobblehead. Everett was a San Francisco affiliate before switching to Seattle and becoming the AquaSox. During those days their on-field mascot was a hot dog dubbed “Frank.” Though Everett’s main mascot is now a frog named “Webbly,” Frank is still around. Every time the Sox talk about retiring Frank they are inundated with phone calls demanding he stay. This is the second year the Sox have given away a Frank bobblehead (top photo).

“Once you give a guy a second bobble, you can’t get rid of him,” spokesman Rick O’Connor said.

By the way, these are the same AquaSox that announced in a press release dated April 1, 2008 that they had traded Webbly to the Tri-City Dust Devils. O’Connor said they still get one or two fans a day asking when the Dust Devils’ mascot will arrive.

Spam folder: Reading claimed the Promo of the Day last Friday for its Spam Carving Contest. There were two categories: freestyle and Pagoda. The Pagoda is a Japanese-style building that sits atop a hill in Reading. The folks at Reading were kind enough to send a photo of the winning Pagoda (lower photo).

Sunday, June 22, 2008

More praise for Playing for Peanuts

The previous blog promised comments from CSS – the network that is broadcasting Playing for Peanuts via Comcast cable to the Southeast. Time to deliver on that promise.

The Dugout spoke with two members of CSS upper management, both of whom were extremely complementary about the show.

“We’re getting very positive feedback,” said CSS General Manager Mark Fuhrman. “It’s a very unique take on the minor leagues. It gives people an insight on what these people go through.”

Fuhrman said CSS reaches nearly six million households. Though Peanuts is not subject to a traditional rating, Fuhrman did say that it’s exceeding expectations.

CSS currently debuts new episodes on Friday at 7 p.m., then replays it two or three more times throughout the week. The above video is the preview for the show’s fourth episode.

“I think it works well for us for a number of reasons,” CSS Director of Programming Larry Haber said. “It’s good geographically and it works with the audience that we’re trying to hit with our college baseball.”

The positive response has prodded CSS to give Peanuts an even larger rotation during the summer – which is good news for fans of minor league baseball.

Better start: Even after today’s rainout, St. Lucie is tied atop the Florida State League’s East Division. Sure, the second half is only four days old, but the Mets improvement is worth noting. It took the Mets 11 outings to win two games to start the first half. They didn’t notch their third win the 23rd game.

The Dugout spent plenty of time this season documenting the Mets’ poor play. Here’s some props. For their sake, let’s hope they’ve turned the season around.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Former SCL CEO Toole pleased so far with Playing for Peanuts

Original plans for the Playing for Peanuts story, currently the headliner on the main site, included an interview with former South Coast League CEO Jaime Toole.

Locating Toole turned out to be a little more difficult than expected. Rather than hold the story any longer, the story was published without his comments.

The Dugout did reach Toole earlier today, talking by phone for about 20-minutes.

“I like it,” said Toole, who is currently working as a marketing consultant. “I think John (Fitzgerald) did a nice job. It gives a pretty accurate portrayal of what it’s like on the road and I think the overall tone of the show has been positive.”

Toole added that he isn’t concerned about being portrayed in a bad light when the show delves into the controversial suspension/retraction of South Georgia manager Wally Backman.

“I’m not worried about it,” Toole said. “As long as it’s true to the actions that happened, then I’ll be OK with it.”

In the surprise moment of the conversation, Toole said he and some others are attempting to buy the assets of the South Coast League. He thought the initial demographic research the league conducted yielded positive data. The Southeast, he believes, can still support an independent league.

Just don’t look for them to return to Anderson, S.C., Albany, Ga., or any of the other previous SCL cities.

“When you suspend operations, you almost suspend all the hope of the vendors we were working with,” Toole said.

Toole still seemed proud of his work with the SCL, pointing out more than once that the league sent 15 players to affiliated baseball.

According to Toole, the league finished its lone season $750,000 in debt which, he said, “wasn’t insurmountable.”

If he had to do it over again, Toole would have concentrated more on the hiring processes for team front office personnel. He said the rapidity with which they needed to staff six teams caused the league to rush the process of filling those slots.

Toole suggested his potential new league would have an age limit, which would allow the league to lower costs by keeping players' salaries down. Cost would also likely prohibit the hiring of big-name coaches like Backman or Cecil Fielder, who took over an SCL team midway through the season.

Overall, the conversation was pretty interesting. The Dugout has no real way of confirming most of Toole’s facts, but there was no immediate reason to challenge his assertions, either. One statement he made intending to pump-up the SCL was pretty funny, though.

“You’d be surprised how many people don’t realize the league is not playing this year,” he said.

The Dugout doesn’t know how many people that is, but it’s certainly less than the amount of people who never knew the league existed.

The tarp incident: The latest episode of Playing for Peanuts, which aired tonight in Florida, featured the grounds crew’s inability to pull the tarp, which was mentioned in the main story. Watched the show with a couple of people who hadn’t seen Peanuts before. They found that scene laugh-out-loud funny. The episode ended with Backman getting tossed, which should make next week’s show a must see.

Coming attractions: The Dugout also talked with people from CSS, which broadcasts the show in the Southeast via Comcast Cable. Intended to add their opinions of the show on this blog, but it grew a little long. Look for it tomorrow.

And, yes, a blog or perhaps even a full story about last night’s experience in ambidexterity during the New York-Penn League’s game between Staten Island and Brooklyn is in the works. Likely deluged by media requests today, the league office wasn’t answering phones. Here's a look at the switch hitter vs. switch pitcher video:

Thursday, June 19, 2008

St. Paul Saints brings replay to baseball

The Dugout is not a fan of instant replay in sports. It’s bad for football and would be awful for baseball. Instant replay helps correct some bad calls, which is what made it appealing when it first debuted in the NFL, but it didn’t take long for NFL officials to start overturning calls that were made correctly on the field – decisions exponentially worse than getting a call wrong the first time.

The Dugout also finds merit in the argument that replay removes flow from games.

The biggest problem with replay, though, is that video lies. Seriously. Taking a three-dimensional world and stuffing it into the two-dimensional television box inherently distorts an image. Moving a camera even a few feet away from the goal line can make a football that never reaches the line appear to cross it. It’s happened more than once.

Errors will be repeated in baseball, especially in today’s irregular-shaped parks where shooting in straight lines presents a far greater challenge than it does on a football field.

Baseball doesn’t need to be slowed down by replay, and it doesn’t need umpire’s calls questioned even more than they already are. Leave television out of baseball.

With that rant out of the way, the St. Paul Saints announced today that replay will be available to umpires when they host the American Association's All-Star Game on July 22.

The game will be televised regionally and umpires will have access to feeds from all seven cameras via a videophone carried in the crew chief’s pocket. They will be able to select which camera to view, and control the speed of playback.

By putting the choice to go to replay in the hands of the umpires could keep delays to a minimum. Allowing them to reach into their pocket to see and control all camera angles will give them the best possible – though still not 100 percent accurate – view the play in question.

The Saints partnered with Best Buy Inc. to develop the system. The Dugout spoke with St. Paul executive vice president and general manager Derek Sharrer earlier today and he said the impetus for creation of the system actually grew from an offhand remark by Tony Kornheiser during ESPN’s Pardon The Interruption. Apparently Kornheiser suggested that if Major League Baseball wanted to develop a replay system, they should go shop at Best Buy.

Someone at the Best Buy headquarters, located in the Twin Cities area, heard the remark and contacted the Saints. A short time later they collaborated to design this system.

See, watching PTI can be educational.

Here is the press release issued by St. Paul announcing the introduction of replay:

Best Buy Mobile Builds Professional Baseball’s 1st Instant Replay System for St. Paul Saints

Replay system to be instituted during American Association All-Star Game keeps calls on the field and in umpires’ hands with mobile video solution that costs approximately $1,000 retail

ST. PAUL, MINN. (June 19, 2008) – On July 22, umpires will use instant replay in professional baseball for the first time ever.

While Major League Baseball debates the logistics and timing of replay, Best Buy Mobile will implement a mobile instant replay system with the St. Paul Saints during the American Association’s All Star Game in St. Paul, Minn., marking the first time in the history of baseball that instant replay will be used in a professional game.

“It’s amazing how many disputed moments in baseball -- Jeffrey Maier reaching over the wall at Yankee Stadium, the disputed dropped third strike to A.J. Pierzynski in Game 2 of the ALCS or Don Denkinger's call in Game 6 of the 1985 World Series -- could have easily been resolved with an instant replay system that now costs about $1,000,” said Derek Sharrer, executive vice president and general manager, Saint Paul Saints. “This summer, we’ll take the first step toward giving umpires the same clarity on the field that fans have at home.”

To avoid adding substantial time to the game, video replay will be streamed to a mobile phone kept in umpire crew chief’s pocket, giving him immediate access to the play from his position on the field. The umpire will be able to control the video – functions such as rewind, fast forward and pause – from his phone using Slingbox technology.

“Baseball purists contend that instant replay takes the game out of the umpires’ hands. With the help of Geek Squad, we’re keeping calls – literally – in umpires’ hands using mobile video,” said Shawn Score, president of Best Buy Mobile. “Streaming video is just one of the hundreds of ways mobile technology can be a plus to people’s lives – whether they are passing time at the DMV, making the most of their three-hour layover in the airport, or umpiring a professional baseball game in front of 25,000 screaming fans.”

The American Association All-Star Game takes place on Tuesday, July 22 at Midway Stadium in St. Paul, MN. It will pit the best players in the independent league. Game time is scheduled for 7:05 p.m.

"We are happy to have the American Association be the leader in testing this new technology,” said Miles Wolff, American Association Commissioner.

Umpires will review decisions involving homeruns, fair or foul ball, hit batsmen, catch or no catch, plays at the plate and any play with two outs. The crew chief will have the authority to overturn the original call. Geek Squad Agents will be stationed in each team’s dugout in order to quickly respond on the field to any technical issues experienced by the umpires.

The solution designed by Best Buy Mobile and Geek Squad includes the following components:
· Sling Media Slingbox Pro
· TiVO Series 2 Digital Video Recorder
· HTC Touch smart phone

About Best Buy Co., Inc.Best Buy Co., Inc. (NYSE: BBY) operates an international portfolio of brands with a commitment to growth and innovation. Our employees strive to provide customers around the world with superior experiences by responding to their unique needs and aspirations. We sell consumer electronics, home-office products, entertainment software, appliances and related services through approximately 1,300 retail stores across the United States, throughout Canada and in China. Our multi-channel operations include: Best Buy (,, and Best, Future Shop (, Geek Squad ( and, Pacific Sales Kitchen and Bath Centers (, Magnolia Audio Video (, Jiangsu Five Star Appliance Co. ( and Speakeasy ( Best Buy supports the communities in which its employees work and live through volunteerism and grants that benefit children and education.

Rainout leaves St. Lucie ready for fresh start

The first half of the Florida State League season officially ended tonight. That was the good news for St. Lucie. The bad news was that rained splashed away the Mets game at Jupiter, depriving St. Lucie of it’s only chance to win a 20th game.

St. Lucie finished the first half at 19-50, making the Mets the lone affiliated team not to reach the 20-win mark. The Mets are only the sixth team to fail to win 20 games in a half since the FSL went to the split-season schedule in 1988.

The Dugout spent part of the day at Roger Dean Stadium, which was smacked by a line of South Florida thunderstorms most of the afternoon. Despite the rain, there were a few Mets who wanted a shot at that 20th win. Most, however, were looking forward to the rebirth of sorts starting Thursday.

“The first half is going to be finished, finally,” St Lucie manager Tim Teufel said. “When you have such a long half, it’s nice that in a day we’re starting fresh.”

Is Warthog that bad?: Winston-Salem is moving into a new ballpark next season, and the powers that be thought the Warthog nickname and logo (above) simply wouldn’t fit with the new d├ęcor.

Winston-Salem asked fans to suggest new nicknames. Warthog management narrowed it down to these five: Aviators, Racers, Rhinos, The Dash and Wallbangers.

Of these five, The Dugout reluctantly prefers The Dash, a nod to the combo name of the parent city. However, none of these five names is nearly as good as Warthogs. Put an end to the contest before less interesting heads prevail.

By the way, here’s one columnist who thinks he’s figured out exactly what the nickname will be, and his logic makes some good-ole southern common sense.

Next name, please: Fort Wayne is the latest minor league club to hold a nickname-the-team contest. Like Winston-Salem, the Wizards are moving into a new ballpark next season and likely expect a merchandising boost from a new moniker.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Floods force Iowa to play in empty park

In 2002 Charleston hosted Nobody Night - a bizarre promotion that saw the Riverdogs play in an empty ballpark in order to set the record for the least attended baseball game.

Iowa hosted a similar game on Saturday, not by choice. Flooding has forced the evacuation of much of the city of Des Moines. The parking lots surrounding Principal Park were under water.

The Cubs postponed Friday’s game but figured they needed play Nashville on Sunday to ensure the integrity of the 144-game schedule. The city granted permission, provided Iowa didn’t allow fans in the ballpark (see photos, courtesy Iowa Cubs).

A couple of scouts and a few Cubs’ staffers were the only people in attendance to see the Cubs defeat the Sounds 5-4.

The Dugout understands the Pacific Coast League’s desire to play every game on the schedule and admires the players’ eagerness to get at least one game in. After all, they were probably tired of sitting in their hotel rooms watching the water rise.

Boredom and a paper schedule, however, are not reasons to play a game in an area that city officials deemed treacherous. Assume the game doesn’t get made up. What’s the worst that happens?

Sure, weather has made mockery of the PCL’s schedule. Many Midwest teams inside and outside the PCL are struggling to play all their games - earlier this season a similar flooding problem forced Quad Cities to move three of its home games.

The spread-out nature of the PCL makes scheduling make-up games more difficult and costly. In this case that’s exactly what should have been done. Cancel the game for now. If that one game becomes so crucial, there will be time to make it up before the post-season. Should it be needed, the rescheduled game will draw far more fan interest than Saturday’s game would have on a dry day.

The only sane reason to intentionally play a game without fans blossomed from a promotion cultivated in Charleston’s wonderfully bizarre front office – and even that decision was questionable.

FSL All-Star recap: The West Division’s all-stars defeated the East in front of 3,500 fans in Saturday's Florida State League All-Star Game. Brevard County put together a nice night. While most people were watching the post-game fireworks, The Dugout snuck out early to peek through the numerous telescopes that were set up in the parking lot (bottom photo). Pretty cool.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Pigs, astronomers and homers - just another FSL All-Star Game

Viera, Fla. - There aren't supposed to be pigs on the side of the road. That's not a shot at the police. Three times in the last two months The Dugout has been driving on major Florida roads and seen what can only be assumed to be wild pigs foraging on the shoulder.

It happened again today en route to the Florida State League All-Star Game, which is being played at Space Coast Stadium near Melbourne, Fla. Prior to the game a group of people set up telescopes outside the ballpark, allowing fans to look at solar flare activity. They promised even more telescopes will be there following the game.

Brevard County has a pretty good crowd for the All-Star game, especially by FSL standards. Looks like it could be 3,000.

The crowd was significantly less than that for the homerun contest, which was won by Vero Beach’s J.T. Hall. With the wind knocking down nearly everything hit to left field, left-handed swingers enjoyed a distinct advantage. Hall made the most of that advantage - not that the 6-foot-3, 230-pound designated hitter needed it. The top photo shows Jupiter pitcher Jeff Allison congratulating Hall after the first round.

Yes, that is the same Jeff Allison who was a former first-round draft choice by the Florida Marlins, then lost three seasons to drug addiction. Allison is 4-6 with a 4.36 ERA for Jupiter. The stats don’t scream “top prospect,” but at least he’s back on the mound. His velocity has not returned to the mid-90s yet and the control isn’t where either Allison or the Marlins would like it to be. Given time, maybe both will return.

The Dugout hopes to sit down with Allison in the coming weeks. He’s one of the most outgoing players in the Hammerheads’ clubhouse. He seems like someone worth routing for.

More from Friday the 13th: Grand Prairie passed along some photos from its Joe Pool Lake Loch Ness Monster Night. The AirHogs asked fans a simple question: If the local lake had a monster, what would it look like. The bottom photo is one interpretation.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Gibbons to restart in the Atlantic League

Former Baltimore outfielder Jay Gibbons appears to be back on the right track.

Gibbons, who admitted to using human growth hormone, was released by the Orioles in March. Since then the 31-year-old has contacted all 30 major league teams looking for a job. On Wednesday ESPN published a copy of a letter Gibbons sent to each club in which he took responsibility for his actions and offered to prove himself in the minors.

According to the article, Gibbons received a smattering of responses from clubs, but no offers. Tired of waiting, or simply facing the reality that his name is too toxic right now, Gibbons appears ready to give the independent Atlantic League a shot.

The Baltimore Sun reported in today’s edition that Gibbons expects to play for a New York or New Jersey club, a list that would appear to include Newark, Somerset, Camden and Long Island. It’s a good move by Gibbons. The Atlantic League is where he belongs.

It’s wonderful that Gibbons raised himself a rung or two higher than others mentioned in the Mitchell Report by admitting he cheated. But that admission does not carry automatic absolution.

Set aside the perception that major league teams have privately conspired not to sign players named in the Mitchell Report. Why would any organization want the negative publicity associated with signing Gibbons? What team wants to appear to condone steroid use? Where’s the upside?

The Atlantic League is different. It has a history of providing opportunities to former major league players who’ve messed up their careers. If his talent is still there, Gibbons will have the chance to show he can still play in the major leagues.

No doubt major league clubs will be monitoring his progress. They may not want to be the first to sign him, but if Gibbons shows he can still play, some big league club won’t have a problem with being the second team to offer redemption.

Friday the 13th: Friday’s calendar date is providing all kinds of fodder for minor league promotions. There are several Halloween in June nights, and a few more honoring the movie: Friday the 13th. The winner of’s Promotion of the Day award really took it to the next level (You’ll have to check the main site to see what it is.)

Monday, June 09, 2008

Fort Myers links minor league baseball to gas

Gas prices have risen so high that they are now the standard by which minor league prices are measured.

Every Monday, Fort Myers sets the ticket price for that night's game by the cheapest price for a gallon of gas in the area. They are also linking the prices for beer, hamburgers and bratwursts and chicken sandwiches. Admission for tonight’s game cost $3.95.

In addition the Miracle will hold gallon giveaways, where between-inning contest winners will leave with a gallon of water, pork and beans, and broccoli (you can keep that one). Finally, some fan will win a free gas pass.

Look for more teams to work the high cost of gas into their summer promotions.

More fun with wieners: Sunday night’s Wienermania in San Angelo got the attention of at least one local television station. The Colts were kind enough to send a link to the story. Here it is:

The magic 20: Rome and Lexington of the South Atlantic League each won their 20th game of the season in recent days, leaving the Florida State League’s St. Lucie Mets as the only team stuck in the teens.

St. Lucie won its 16th game last night, assuring that it won’t post the fewest single-half wins since the FSL split its season into halves in 1988. The Mets have just seven games remaining to reach the 20-win mark.

Lehigh Valley, incidentally, started 2-20 but with a good week won’t finish with the worst record in the International League. There are a couple of teams the Iron Pigs could pass.

Nice race: The Dugout will keep an eye on the Texas League’s north division, where Arkansas, Northwest Arkansas and Springfield are in a three-way tie for the lead with nine games remaining.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

San Angelo's Wiernermania elevates United League

Congratulations goes out to the San Angelo Colts, who today became the first United League team to ever claim the title of's Promotion of the Day.

Based in Texas, the six-team United League began play in 2006. It hasn't received much national attention, but as numerous leagues in the past have shown, making it to a third opening day is no small accomplishment.

San Angelo doesn’t offer many wild promotions. There are a few giveaways in the coming months, but none of which are likely to gain Promo of the Day honors. Still, the Colts seem to have found something good with Wienermania.

Judging from the pictures on the right, quite a few people brought their dachshunds to the ballpark in previous years. The dog owners appear to put quite a bit of effort into getting their pooches to look good. And San Angelo puts in its fair share of effort, too.

Several teams host wiener dog races. Few also hold the costume contests and other games the Colts provide. San Angelo is the host of this season’s United League All-Star Game, which is usually a pretty good sign of the health of a franchise. Here’s to seeing this promo featured many times in the coming years.

The Dugout hopes to have pictures from this year’s event for an upcoming blog.

Dueling stories: Sunday’s Florida vs. Cincinnati game featured two pitchers who leant stories to The Funniest Thing I’ve Ever Seen: More than 100 crazy stories from minor league baseball.

Florida’s Joe Nelson recently got called up to the bigs. The Marlins’ broadcast team relayed the story of how Nelson met his wife – the same story that’s featured in the book. That story deserves its own blog entry, so it is being saved for a slower day.

While waiting, peruse Majewski’s tale.

What, No Wake Up Call?
His given name is Gary Majewski, but his teammates call the Houston native “Tex.” Today, exhaustion makes his southern twang a little slower.

Yesterday’s longer-than-expected travel – the bus left his Charlotte Knights waiting at
the airport – combined with today’s already completed 10:15 a.m. start have left most of
his Charlotte Knights teammates short of rest.

The game hasn’t been over for more than 20 minutes, yet half of the Knights have already
headed home to bed.

Majewski is seated at a table eating lunch. He, too, would likely be on his way home if he weren’t so hungry and hadn’t agreed to an interview. Tex might be even more tired had he pitched in either of the last two games – both Charlotte losses.

Slumped over a sandwich, Majewski doesn’t look like a typical closer. The intimidating goatee is there, but with shaggy, curly hair and the wire rimmed glasses, the 24-year old could just as easily pass for a hip physics student.

Ah, but the attitude is there.

“You have to be just an arrogant bastard on the mound,” Majewski explained. “You have to be the biggest dickhead in the world. You have to learn to deal with it and [the coaching staff] has to learn to deal with you. When I’m on the mound everything is toned down. I don’t hear anything. From when I step on the mound until that last out, that’s the point of the game where I have to concentrate the most. That’s my job. That’s what I get paid to do.”

Majewski has another job with the Knights – one that’s as necessary as it is unofficial. Tex is a prankster. He likes to target players who are easily angered. It’s worth the screaming, Majewski
says, just to see the looks on their faces.

“I do it to keep myself sane,” he said. “You’re gone for eight months out of the year. You play for six months. There’s another month and a half for spring training. It’s like (the movie) Groundhog Day. Every day is the same. You have to do something to change it up
a bit.”

Gary Majewski: Jake Meyer and I were in Louisville in the hotel.
We had just gotten back from [lifting] weights. Our buddies, Aaron
Myles and Ryan Hankins, were going to get something to eat. Jake
and I got their room key and went into their room.

We went to the beds and put the mattresses [on the floor] and
the box springs on top. Then [we] remade the beds. Then we put
some plastic wrap over the toilet, underneath the seat. We also put
some K-Y jelly on top of the toilet seat.

We saw them coming back to the room so we took off. We got a
call about five minutes later from Myles. He’s mad because he
kinda dove into his bed without even thinking. Thump. So he’s fired

At the same time Hankins went to the bathroom. I guess he
walked into the bathroom and saw the plastic wrap, but he didn’t
notice the KY jelly. He had to take a No. 2. Needless to say he had alittle KY on his ass.