Archive for September, 2009

Get Your Bus Leagues Eat On

Man v. Food samples the Homewrecker Dog (photo courtesy of Travel Channel)

Man v. Food samples the Homewrecker Dog (photo courtesy of Travel Channel)

The Travel Channel show Man v. Food is touring minor league parks tonight at 10pm ET. I talked to some of the people who make the food that host Adam Richman will sample tonight for an ESPN article, but the quotes I selected aren’t going to make it into the finished product, so I’m going to share them here.

The show visited the Yankees A affiliate the Charleston RiverDogs (home of the ambidextrous pitcher and owned by Bill Murray, Michael Veeck, and former AL President Gene Budig), the independent Gateway Grizzlies, and the West Michigan Whitecaps (Detroit A). The show looks fun, so check it out.

Follow in Man v. Food’s Footsteps

Gateway Grizzlies
GCS Ballpark (2002) – 6,000
2301 Grizzlie Bear Blvd. Sauget, IL 62206
Frontier League, Independent

Signature Food: Baseball’s Best Burger. A standard bacon cheeseburger with a twist: the bun is a Krispy Kreme donut cut in half. Condiments are discouraged.

“The hardest part is convincing someone to try it,” says Grizzlies Events Coordinator Jeff O’Neill. “A lot of people will look at the idea and think it sounds disgusting. It is truly amazing to see the reaction once they try it. The combinations of the sweet bun, the saltiness of the bacon and burger and the bitterness of the cheese melt all together for a little taste of heaven.” 

West Michigan Whitecaps
Fifth Third Ballpark (1994). Capacity 10,071.
4500 West River Dr. Comstock Park, MI
Midwest League, Detroit Tigers Class A
Whitecaps in the Majors: Brandon Inge, Joel Zumaya, Cameron Maybin

Signature Food: The Fifth Third Burger. Five beef patties, topped with chili, nacho cheese, American cheese, salsa, sour cream, chips, and lettuce. One a one lb. bun.

Josh Kowalczyk is the Whitecaps promotions intern in charge of the massive burger. According to his meticulous records, nearly 2,000 Fifth Third burgers have been sold this season. 476 intrepid souls have attempted to eat it over the course of nine innings, and an amazing 298 of those succeeded in eating the whole… thing.

Kowalczyk remembers the scene when Adam Richman and the Man v. Food crew came out to the ballgame. “A lot of people found out he was coming, and it was absolutely crazy,” he recalled. “Our attendance that night was 7,921, but more people watched him than the ballgame. He talked to people everywhere in the stadium.”

Charleston RiverDogs
Joseph P. Riley, Jr. Park AKA “The Joe” (1997). Capacity 6,000.
360 Fishburne St. Charleston, SC
South Atlantic League, New York Yankees, Class A
Famous owners: Mike Veeck, former AL President Gene Budig, and comedian Bill Murray.
RiverDogs in the Majors: B.J. Upton, Rocco Baldelli, Delmon Young, Orioles Manager Dave Tremblay.

Signature Food: The Homewrecker Dog. A ½ pound frank is the palette. 25 potential toppings are your colors. The standard condiments are all here, but a true connoisseur will experiment with the likes of sweet-potato mustard, fried okra, and cole slaw.

“Mike Veeck firmly believes in the motto ‘Fun is Good’,” says team representative Andy Solomon. “Which means entertaining the fan from the time he purchases a ticket to the time he leaves the parking lot. Bill Murray sometimes attends games as an ordinary fan in the left field bleachers, with his hat pulled down over his eyes. Other times, he comes out on the field and takes part in the Sumo wrestling. You never know.”

A lack of predictable fare is part of the RiverDogs mystique. Just peruse the concessions board (), which features unique items like the Elvis (peanut butter and bacon), the Tijuana Tornado (a true “hot” dog), and Ye Olde turkey leg in addition to the Homewrecker.

Important Dates For Fall And Winter Baseball Leagues

Browsing MLB.com this afternoon, I found a page with some important dates for various Fall and Winter Leagues, so I thought I’d post them.

October 9 – Mexican Pacific League Opening Day
October 9 – Venezuelan Winter League Opening Day
October 13 – Arizona Fall League Opening Day
October 16 – Dominican Winter League Opening Day
November 7 – Arizona Fall League Rising Stars Game
November 20 – Mexican Pacific League Second Half Begins
November 23 – Arizona Fall League Championship Game
December 13 – Dominican Winter League All-Star Game
December 21 – Dominican Winter League Regular Season Ends
December 30 – Mexican Pacific League Regular Season Ends
February 2 – Caribbean Series Begins
February 8 – Caribbean Series Ends

Right after Eric started Bus Leagues, he noted that a passionate fan could probably manage to follow minor league baseball all year long.  He’s right – if one reaches outside the United States and considers the entire Western Hemisphere, there’s always something going on.

I’ll do my best to provide some updates for all these leagues (there’s a young man making his debut soon in Arizona who I imagine we all have some interest in).  It will largely depend on what MiLB.com has available for box scores and recaps, but I’ll see what I can do.

United States Wins Baseball World Cup, 10-5, Over Cuba

The 2009 Baseball World Cup came to an end today when the United States used a six-run seventh inning to defeat Cuba, 10-5.  The Americans had two outs and nobody on before Tug Hulett walked, Buck Coates doubled, and Trevor Plouffe reached on an error to open the floodgates.

It was the second consecutive World Cup win (and fourth overall) for the United States.  Cuba had won the previous nine events and 25 of 38 total.

Cuba loaded ’em up with two outs in the ninth but couldn’t push any runs across.  Nate Field recorded the final out to pick up the save.  Brad Lincoln gave up three runs in 4.2 innings, including the game-tying homerun to Ariel Borrero in the sixth, to pick up the win.

Justin Smoak won the Most Valuable Player Award after hitting .291 and leading Team USA with nine homeruns and 22 RBI.

Rattler Radio followed the World Cup from the beginning and has the results of the various “place” games.  The order of finish was as follows:

1. United States
2. Cuba
3. Canada
4. Puerto Rico
5. Australia
6. Netherlands
7. Venezuela
8. Taiwan

Bus Leagues Contest: Win A Copy Of Joe Posnanski’s “The Machine”

Thursday was one of those “good news, bad news” days.  The good news: I received a copy of Joe Posnanski’s “The Machine” in the mail from Harper Collins (I’m still not entirely sure why this happened, but at least it made me feel important).  The bad news: I already bought the book a couple days after it came out.  (Actually, I bought two books on that trip to Barnes & Noble: “The Machine” for me and Dan Brown’s latest for my wife; as luck would have it, her mother had already picked up the latter title, making this the single most pointless trip to the book store ever.)

Okay, so the “bad news” is only bad for me.  For everyone else, it’s good, because it means we’re gonna be having a contest and a giveaway – and who doesn’t like the opportunity to win free stuff?

Alright, here’s the deal: there’s a quiz on Sporcle where the object is to name the eight regular starters for the Big Red Machine.  (Posnanski linked to it earlier this year, and if memory serves, this quiz was my introduction to Sporcle, which means I should both bless and curse the name of Joe Posnanski.  God only knows the total number of hours I’ve wasted on that amazing site.)  Take the quiz and email me your time at onemoredyingquail@gmail.comThe reader with the fastest time on that quiz wins the book.  Easy as that.

As for the book itself, it was an interesting and entertaining read, focusing largely on Reds manager Sparky Anderson and his four biggest stars: Pete Rose, Joe Morgan, Johnny Bench, and Tony Perez.  The most fascinating part (aside from the implication that Ken Griffey Sr. was a remarkable player who Anderson and The Machine kept from reaching his full potential) was the way Rose and Morgan were portrayed.  Fans today “know” those two in particular – Rose as the unapologetic gambler who bet on baseball and Morgan as ESPN’s number one color commentator – and Posnanski paints vivid pictures of the people they were back then.

Tales From The Minors, As Told By A Minor Leaguer

Almost every other day, it seems, I find a great new minor league-related blog or web site.  Today’s find was Life in the Minors, a blog written by Giants minor leaguer Garrett Broshuis.  One of his recent entries, “Notes on a bus trip,” had me laughing from the second paragraph on:

10:37 pm:
I’m talking on the phone to my wife just outside of the bus, prior to its departure, when suddenly a giant teenager rushes me. It turns out to be Bumgarner. “Hey, let’s go catch a ‘possum!” he excitedly yells. Since nobody can turn down this enthusiasm, I tell my wife I’ll have to talk to her later; ‘possum hunting comes first.

We chase a ‘possum up a tree, crawl into the tree, and then search for another. Nearly sprayed by a skunk, we unsuccessfully return as Madison talks of spiders. The bus nearly leaves us as we sprint the last 50 yards.

How priceless is it that Madison Bumgarner apparently acts like a four-year-old (and on the day before he’s scheduled to pitch, no less)?  I can only imagine what the Giants clubhouse is like with him and Lincecum in there.  Finger painting at two, story time at three, nap time at four, sheer dominance at seven.

Broshuis’s minor league view isn’t all humorous – he has also recently written thoughtful pieces on former teammate Angel Villalona and the difference between “pitching to the situation” and “pitching to the score”.  It’s all worth checking out.

There’s A New Team In Richmond

After a one-year absence, minor league baseball has returned to Richmond, Virginia.

Officials announced earlier today that the Eastern League’s Connecticut Defenders franchise, which just lost in the championship round to the Akron Aeros, will move to Richmond in time for next season.  The team will play at The Diamond (the ballpark that contributed to Atlanta’s departure after the 2008 season) and its affiliation with the San Francisco Giants will continue at least through 2010.

Greg’s Connecticut Defenders Blog referred to the move last week as “the worst kept secret in minor league ball”; apparently the Eastern League has been looking to get this done for quite some time.  He’s holding out hope that the Defenders will be replaced by a short-season team as early as 2010 while accepting that the era of Double-A in Connecticut has come to an end.

If forced to find a silver lining to the situation, I guess this is it: the folks in Richmond are holding a contest to name their new team.  Entries must be submitted by September 30; one grand prize winner will receive a package that includes two season tickets for life, while four runners-up will two 2010 season passes.  I think I might suggest “Richmond Ashes,” for Richmond native Arthur Ashe, but there are a ton of potential names out there.

Giants Prospect Angel Villalona A Murder Suspect

Saturday night, a 25-year-old man named Mario Felix de Jesus Velete was shot to death in the Dominican Republic.  Earlier today, a suspect, 19-year-old Angel Villalona, voluntarily turned himself in to local police.  The fact that Villalona is a person of interest in this case is noteworthy because he is a person of interest to this blog, a top Baseball America prospect (#33 in 2008, #44 in 2009) two years running.

Villalona made his professional debut at the age of 16 with the AZL Giants in 2007 before finishing the season with the short-season Salem-Keizer Volcanoes just after his 17th birthday.  The next year he moved up to the South Atlantic League and hit seventeen homeruns, earning another promotion, to the California League.  He appeared in 74 games for the San Jose Giants this season before his season ended prematurely in July.

According to the AP, “Villalona will appear in court on Monday and could face up to 20 years in prison if found guilty” of the murder.  If this was the United States, I could see some sort of deal being worked out (depending on the circumstances); not knowing anything about the criminal justice system in the Dominican Republic, however, it’s hard to say what sort of punishment Villalona might actually be facing.