Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Mississippi forces River Bandits to find new home

The field at Modern Woodman Park, home of the Quad Cities River Bandits, is still safe. It's just that no one can get to it anymore.

The flooding Mississippi River continues to encroach on the River Bandits ballpark and today it forced Quad Cities to move the remaining three games of its current homestand to different ballparks.

Those interested in the full story will find it here.

For those who want the short version, Quad Cites will play its series against Lansing in three different cities: Cedar Rapids, Clinton and Iowa City. The first two sites are the homes of the Midwest League’s Kernels and Lumber Kings. Iowa City is the home of University of Iowa. Three games in three different parks makes for a tough “homestand.”

Modern Woodman Park became modern through renovations prior to the 2004 season. During that time the city added berms and floodwalls to protect the park from the frequent floods.

The River Bandits are on the road following Wednesday’s game until May 8. The Dugout hopes all are safe and dry along the Mississippi. There’s much to anticipate if the River Bandits are able to return for their next homestand, starting with Redneck Night, 70s Night and Dead Musicians Night

Brat wash: Rain also affected the Wilmington Blue Rocks; albeit not nearly to the extent it hurt Quad Cities. The Blue Rocks were today’s Promo of the Day, but the Tribute to the Brat Pack was washed away. Wilmington will try again on Tuesday as part of a doubleheader. If they can pull it off, The Dugout hopes to have pictures.

Photo Courtesy Quad City River Bandits

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

It didn't take the SCL long to fold

A little more than a month ago The Dugout lamented the independent South Coast League’s Macon Muzak decision to cancel their planned promo to mock disgraced New York governor Eliot Spitzer.

The league said it was bowing to public outcry. The Dugout argued that, because of the SCL’s financial problems, the decision likely didn’t matter. The blog concluded:

Sadly, Macon probably could let the June 13th date stand. With the money issues
the four-team SCL appears to be having, would anyone be surprised if the entire
league went out of business before then?

Those who bet the under on June 13th are winners. Late last month the SCL announced it was suspending operations. In its press release the league left the option open to restart next season.

But anyone who’s followed the league probably realizes it was never headed toward success. The Dugout is sad to see the SCL suspend play because it puts baseball players out of jobs. Hopefully the fans in Macon, Ga., Aiken, S.C. and Anderson, S.C., will have someone to root for in the near future.

For those who bought season tickets for a SCL club, follow this link to get your refund. The release that announced the suspension follows:

South Coast League Suspends Operations
March 29, 2008 - (Macon, GA) The South Coast League of Professional Baseball announced today that on April 1st, the league will be suspending business operations and postpone the 2008 season indefinitely. The league made its Inaugural Season debut in 2007 to six markets located in South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida.

Most recent plans called for the replacement of one team by a new addition to the league out of Jackson, Mississippi. Recent developments within the company as well as lengthy discussions with the entire ownership group led to the decision that was handed down to league officials and the markets currently home to the league’s teams.

Like many businesses caught in the economic downturn, the South Coast League has not been able to close on a sufficient amount of debt and equity financing to ensure a successful 2008 season. The league owners have indicated that they will continue to plan for a possible restart in 2009, possibly under new ownership. The South Coast League wants to thank the many fans, sponsors, and local leaders who made the 2007 season possible.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Atlantic League offered Bonds a spring training spot

The Dugout spent some time in Lakeland, Fla. where the Atlantic League holds its spring training. Confirmed from commissioner Joe Klein that the league did offer Barry Bonds the opportunity to work out with the teams during their eight-day season prep. The offer was genuine - Klein has a prior baseball relationship with the large-domed slugger and his agent - but Bonds chose not to accept. The league, which has been home to Jose Canseco, Rickey Henderson and Ruben Sierra, has yet to sign a big name player for this season, but Klein said that usually happens nearer to the start of the season.

While there, had the most interesting conversation about Tommy John surgery ever with, you guessed it, Tommy John. He’s managing Bridgeport. He told a pretty good story about what dogs shouldn’t do at the ballpark that will appear on the site.

The week also included St. Louis pitcher Mark Mulder’s rehab start for Palm Beach (see photo). Mulder looked good, getting plenty of ground balls. His velocity is still down – didn’t touch 90 – so he’s still going to need a couple more starts. The next one could come as early as Sunday for Double-A Springfield.

Palm Beach is continuing a St. Louis organization experiment that started last year by going with an eight-man starting rotation in which two starting pitchers piggy back each other, starting every four days. On Thursday starter Brendan Dickson threw five no-hit innings, but was pulled to bring in the second starter. Look for a story on the main site in the coming days.
That’s it for this update. Need to go chat with Birdzerk. Could be another story…

Monday, April 14, 2008

Pope-on-a-Rope is divine inspiration

Blame the post office. That's what The Dugout is doing.

Loyal visitors have been asking to see the Pope-on-a-Rope giveaway from Saturday's Charleston RiverDogs/Rome Braves game. For those who missed it, here is the write-up from the Promotion of the Day feature on the main MinorLeagueDugout.com site.

Charleston can always be counted on for some “free-thinking” promos, but the RiverDogs staff has outdone itself with this one. In honor of Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to the U.S. next week, the RiverDogs are giving away a most extraordinary Soap-on-a-Rope to 1,000 fans. Emblazoned on the soap is a picture of His Eminency. The RiverDogs are hoping the giveaway will entice the pope to visit Charleston, which is known as the Holy City. At the very least, the giveaway may help fans wash their sins away.

The pope soap on said rope finally arrived in the mail today and is even cooler than expected (see photo). It smells reasonably good – somewhere between church incense and urinal cake – and the image quality is better than expected.

Major, major, major kudos to the Charleston folks, especially Jim Pfander. Calling the RiverDogs offices is, without fail, a highlight of any day. Can’t even imagine how much fun those creative meetings are.

Don’t think it would be too cool? Next time you are in meeting at work, try working the phase “pope on a rope” into the conversation. Or ask youself "What would Chuck Norris do?" - a promotion planned for later in the year. Now imagine doing it and not having your coworkers try to get you fired or committed.

No idea is taboo in Charleston. Remember, this is the same club that a decade ago offered to give away a vasectomy on Father’s Day. A RiverDogs representative said that stunt caused the bishop of Charleston to cancel his season tickets.

The Vatican didn’t issue a statement about the giveaway. News services in the Charleston area didn’t report any protests. People around Charleston accepted this promotion for what it was: good, clean fun.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Cleaning the Dugout

Just a few notes from around minor league ballparks:

Little Legend: The Lexington Legends kicked off a program they called “Lexington's Little Legend of 2008” during their first home game of the season. The Little Legend is the baby born closest to the official first pitch at their first home game of the season on April 7.

The honors and prizes bestowed on the Little Legend’s family include a baby fit and a childhood-long membership in the kids club.

Not a bad idea, guys.

Charleston two-step: Fresh off their Writers Strike Back promotion where Charleston made its public address announcer Ken Carrington ad-lib the entire game – including promos – the RiverDogs show they can help the community. Friday they host Salute to Larry Riggs night.

Riggs, the women’s basketball coach at Charleston Southern, has been diagnosed with cancer. The night will serve as a fundraiser for Riggs, who will throw out the first pitch.

The Dugout will also feature another Charleston promotion in the coming days.

Kicking it around: Jupiter pitcher Jeff Allison is off to a good start in the race for hard luck pitcher of the year. In his second start since missing two years battling substance abuse and legal problems, the former first round draft choice allowed a single unearned run and did not factor in the decision.

Allison is 0-1 on the season despite not allowing an earned run in seven innings of work.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Allison shows he still has skill

Frequent readers of the main site understand that The Dugout isn’t all about prospects. On Friday, however, a seemingly lost prospect was the story.
Jeff Allison started on the mound for Single-A Jupiter - his first regular season ballgame since 2005. Florida chose Allison with in the first round of the 2003 draft, but the troubled right-hander from Peabody, Mass., hasn’t come close to living up to expectations.
Allison has battle substance abuse problems and legal issues over the past several years. He took the mound on Friday despite being on probation in North Carolina after striking a plea bargain with the Greensboro district attorney on charges that included larceny and drug possession. Here is a story from the Palm Beach Post detailing Allison’s troubles.
Marlins officials on hand for Allison’s performance had to like what they saw. He retired the first five batters and didn’t allow a run through three innings. Things fell apart for Allison in the fourth after right fielder Jeremy Hermida, in Jupiter on a rehab assignment, dropped a routine fly ball.
Allison fell into a bit of a funk after that and didn’t record another out. His fastball hit 93 mph and his offspeed pitches consistently fooled Palm Beach hitters.
Despite the bad fourth, Marlins pitching coordinator Wayne Rosenthal termed Allison’s first outing “encouraging.” He said stamina problems early in the season are to be expected after a long layoff like Allison’s.
Following the game, Allison said walking out to the mound after his two-year hiatus was “surreal.” He came across as shy and quiet in the clubhouse, reluctant to talk about the past – can you blame him? – or even his first outing.
Still, he seemed pleased to be on the mound again, almost relieved. Allison said his post game plans were to go home and go to bed.The Dugout should get to see a decent amount Allison this season. It will be interesting to see how he handles the grind. Could this be another Josh Hamilton-type success story?

Friday, April 04, 2008

Opening day has big league flair in Jupiter

The Jupiter Hammerheads had a pretty interesting opening night, employing a starting lineup that featured major league rehabbers Jeremy Hermida and Mike Rabelo.

Rabelo’s night didn’t go so well, 0-3 with two strikeouts, while Hermida doubled in his first at-bat and scored the game’s opening run.

Palm Beach countered with Tyler Herron on the mound, a former first-round draft choice who went to high school about 15 miles from Jupiter’s ballpark. He struggled a bit, allowing three runs in four innings and didn’t factor in the decision – a 5-4 Palm Beach win.

Herron was limited to four innings because Palm Beach is going with an eight-man rotation. The Cardinals are trying to develop starting pitching, so they are having two “starting” pitchers pitch each game, both maxing out at four innings.

The pitcher that starts the first game becomes the second pitcher used four days later. Should be interesting to see how it works this season.

Mascot shenanigans: The Fresno Grizzlies mascot is planning on a work stoppage is more fans don’t come to the ballpark. Fresno sent The Dugout the following press release on Friday. Enjoy.

Parker On The Verge Of Challenging Fans, Team To Pack The Park

FRESNO, CA – Seven days before the Fresno Grizzlies home opener against the Tucson Sidewinders, scheduled for Friday, April 11th at Chukchansi Park, the team’s beloved mascot has revealed that he is considering a walk-out. Electrified by the environment at Chukchansi Park last Wednesday when the Grizzlies defeated the San Francisco Giants in front of a Park-record 14,084 fans, Parker has informed management that he may stage a walk-out until the team packs the Park for their home opener.

“He wasn’t upset, but he was resolute that if Grizzlies fans could produce that type of atmosphere for an exhibition contest, it should be no problem to do it again for Opening Day,” said the team’s Vice President of Marketing, Scott Carter, who met with the mascot on Thursday evening as the Grizzlies kicked off the 2008 season in Portland, OR. “Parker is a baseball purist at heart, and like all baseball fans he realizes the special appeal that Opening Day has. His point was simple: ‘Real Fans Go To Opening Day’.”

The mascot, who debuted at Chukchansi Park on April 14, 2006, stunned the Fresno front office with his challenge. “He’s one of the most important, if not the most important, personalities in this organization,” said Grizzlies Executive Vice President Mike Maiorana. “It certainly wouldn’t be Opening Day without him.”

Parker was honored as the ‘Best Mascot’ in all of professional sports by industry publication GameOps.com following the 2007 season. According to GameOps, “Parker is an integral part of the game-day experience in Fresno, as well as a popular community ambassador…a great sense of humor, fun-loving and popular with fans.”

Though Parker could not be reached for comment at the time of this release, team officials have said they expect to hear from him on Monday, hopefully after he has reconsidered.
“Quite frankly, I don’t know what we’ll do if he carries through with this,” said Carter. “If Parker decides to walk away, we’re going to need the help of the entire Fresno baseball community, and we hope they’re up for the challenge of bringing him back.” The Grizzlies opened the 2008 season on Thursday night with an 8-4 loss at Portland’s PGE Park. The regular season at Chukchansi Park begins on April 11th when Fresno hosts the Tucson Sidewinders in Pacific Coast League action. For more information on the Grizzlies game schedule and promotional calendar, please call 559.320.HITS or visit fresnogrizzlies.com.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

A Miner Day, a (somewhat) major trade

Just a couple of notes as The Dugout prepares for opening day festivities.

Congratulations to the Southern Illinois Miners. Their logo won CNBC’s online NCAA basketball tournament-style play off, defeating the Wichita Wingnuts with 55 percent of the final votes.

Also wanted to give props to the Everett AquaSox, who issued a press release on Tuesday alerting the media that they had traded their mascot to Tri-City in an even-up swap. Of course, the date on top of the release was April 1. Good to see some people having a little fun.

Here is the entire release:

Everett’s favorite frog to join Tri-City Dust Devils

Everett, WA - The Everett AquaSox Baseball Club has announced today that its principal mascot, Webbly, has been traded to the Tri-City Dust Devils of the Northwest League in exchange for their mascot, Dusty the Dust Devil.

During baseball’s annual Winter Meetings in December, the AquaSox re-signed the team’s other two mascots, Frank and Popfly, each to a one-year extension, to keep them both in Everett through the 2008 season.

The AquaSox felt that it was important to keep all three mascots in Everett indefinitely, especially with the 2008 season being the 25th anniversary of Minor League Baseball™ in Everett, but could not come to an agreement with Webbly.

Webbly’s existing contract with the AquaSox was set to expire at the end of the 2008 season. The 12-year veteran frog made it known through his agent that he hoped to re-structure and extend his agreement in order to avoid a potential hold-out.

“Webbly has been an integral part of the success of the AquaSox and we wish him the best in Pasco,” said AquaSox General Manager Brian Sloan, “however, we must look to the future. I am confident that Dusty will be a positive addition to our staff and I believe that a Dust Devil, a Hot Dog and a Puppet can coexist on the same team and continue to entertain AquaSox fans for the next 25 years.”

Dusty first blew into the Tri-Cities in 2001 and has spent the past 7 seasons entertaining fans as the mascot for the Colorado Rockies Class A Affiliate.

Webbly, who is a cross between a Pacific Tree Frog and a Central American Red-Eyed Tree Frog, had been with the AquaSox since the 1997 season.
The Northwest League season begins June 17.