Archive for the 'Minor League Memories' Category

Minor League Memories: Part Six

Monday, February 16th, 2009

Our Minor League Memories feature continues with a look at some more wacky weather. For the past collections of our favorite memories, click here.

For me…sunny skies, maybe a few clouds to offer some relief, a temperature of 78 degrees and a light wind blowing out to left field. That sets the scene for a perfect day at the park. Maybe you like it a little warmer, with no clouds in sight, or maybe a bit cooler with no wind. However you like the weather at the ballpark, you don’t want it like this.

Too hot:
One summer in Hagerstown for Group Sales Manager Julie Goldberg was a bit uncomfortable. Much like you can’t control what ping-pong ball will be pulled each night in the lottery; you can’t what Mother Nature will have in store for you on any given day.

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Minor League Memories: Part Five

Wednesday, February 11th, 2009

The Ejected Groundskeeper

Part five of our Minor League Memories feature brings us back a few years to 2003 and a night that will live in baseball lore.

The BlueClaws were playing Kannapolis wrapping up a week of rain delays and wet weather. With both teams eliminated from the first-half race, the game meant nothing to either side, and the ominous looking skies meant there was a pretty good chance they were not going to finish the game anyway. Bill Butler, then the BlueClaws groundskeeper, was ready.

“Both managers said that once we got to the fifth inning they wanted the tarp on the field,” said Butler. “They were worried someone was going to get hurt.”

It was pouring by the fourth inning, but the BlueClaws took the lead, and then got three outs in the fifth, making the game official. But the umpires refused to put the tarp on.

“A few batters were hit,” said Butler. “Then someone threw a ball into the stands, slipped right out of their fingers. The ball was soaked.”

BlueClaws Asst GM Brandon Marano was waiting in the tunnel to help put the tarp on the field. “I see Bill go right out there, during play, with a printout of the radar. I’m thinking, ‘Here we go.’”

“I told them there’s no window at all,” said Butler. “He said ‘I don’t want you out here’ and I told them that someone was going to get hurt.”

Words escalated, and then Bill Butler became the first groundskeeper to be ejected from a professional baseball game.

“Bill started arguing and jawing with the umpires,” said Marano. “I go out there and I’m grabbing him, and pulling him back towards the dugout. It was crazy.”

“I didn’t do it on purpose,” said Butler. “I was just trying to do the right thing.”

The BlueClaws received unprecedented attention, with stories written up from Florida to Alaska. ESPN-tv, ESPN the Magazine, Fox Sports, and Sports Illustrated were among those that covered the one-of-a-kind event.

“A lot of people are not going to believe this,” Butler said at the time. “I’m not sure I do now.”

Minor League Memories: Part Four

Monday, February 9th, 2009

Our Minor League Memories feature continues here, and this time we take a look at a few moments from outside the BlueClaws organization. The first has to do with only the best athlete in modern history. The second involves some bad weather.

Back in 1994, the Birmingham Barons of the Southern League had an outfielder described in their media guide by having ”played shortstop and pitcher in Little League . . . in 1975 was named ‘Mr. Baseball’ for North Carolina’s 12-year-olds by the Dixie Association. . . .”

His name was Michael Jordan, and he was known for a few other things in sports by then too.

Over 10,000, with 130 media members, came out for his debut in Birmingham, but a few days later, Jordan played his first road game in Chattanooga, in front of current BlueClaws Asst GM Rich Mozingo.

“Between the Jordan bus, and the whole level of excitement of having him in our ballpark, it was amazing,” said Mozingo.

“By Southern League rules, we could put up a temporary fence in the outfield, so we put up an orange snow fence. Fans were literally a foot away from him,” Mozingo recalled. “The stadium capacity was 6,500. The first night we had 10,400 and the next night 11,300.”

Just step back and picture that. Thousands of fans on the field a foot away from Michael Jordan in right field at a Double-A baseball game. It doesn’t even sound right. But it’s true.

We continue in Wilmington, North Carolina back in 2001. Joe Harrington is the General Manager of the Wilmington Sharks of the Coastal Plain League, a collegiate summer wood bat baseball league. They have just a 26-game home schedule, so every date is critical. Unfortunately, Mother Nature apparantly didn’t see it that way, as the team lost six (of 13) games due to rain in the first-half of the season.

In a previous job, with the Geneva (NY) Cubs, Harrington’s boss said that he would sleep in the press box until the team finally won a game. This included a night in the Omaha Royals’ press box while attending a wedding in Nebraska.

So Harrington made an off-handed remark, based on the actions of his previous employer, to an intern. This quick thinker threw a line about Harrington sleeping in the press box for a week if they lost a game to rain into a team press release. Sure enough, it rained.

“I had to protest Mother Nature’s treatment of our team,” said Harrington. “The writer called me out on it, but we got some great coverage in the paper and on television.” As if the story needed anything else, his in-laws were in town that week.

Minor League Memories: Part Three

Wednesday, February 4th, 2009

Minor League Baseball, as you know, is quite unique. The experience at a game is not typically looked at along the lines of if the team won or lost, but rather along the lines of the game experience. The basic question we asked for this section was “If you could use one example to describe Minor League Baseball to a person who has never attended a game, what would it be?”

Let’s look at the answers.

Lakewood, like many other teams, is not short of interesting promotions that the fans enjoy on a yearly basis, but one thing that sets the BlueClaws apart are three giant eyeballs that race in between innings.

“You won’t see that anywhere else,” said Special Events Manager Steve Farago. “It’s the crazy things you see here that you just don’t associate with baseball, like three giant eyeballs or something like the pork roll, egg and cheese characters.” 

Irish Heritage NightWe asked Asst. GM Brandon Marano to describe Minor League Baseball to someone who has never seen a game.

“Irish Heritage Night,” he said. “We can paint the bases green, wear green jerseys and put a player on the scoreboard with a pipe, a shamrock and drums. We can shape a game however we want.” 

RPSDirector of Marketing Mike Ryan recalled a Rock-Paper-Scissors tournament the BlueClaws held, fully equipped with a giant bracket. He added that “The game is great and can be really exciting, but you come here to be entertained.”

And what isn’t entertaining about a giant Rock-Paper Scissors contest that anyone can participate in? 

Finally, sometimes it’s the fans and players themselves that make the whole experience a memorable one. Director of Business Development Dan DeYoung recalled the time that professional wrestler Jerry “The King” Lawler came to FirstEnergy Park. He remembered one of the gameday workers excitement to see Lawler.

“From about 20 feet he yells at Jerry Lawler like it’s the most important thing in the world. ‘Hey Jerry’ he yelled and the 100 people in line all turned around a looked at him and Jerry didn’t know what was going on, but then the guy started doing the dance from wrestler Shawn Michaels in front of everyone, that was minor league baseball in a nut shell.”

Fortunately Dan also mimicked the dance for us for the proper visual. 

So those are some of the answers from our end. Let’s hear a few from your end. Part three on Monday.

Minor League Memories: Part Two

Monday, February 2nd, 2009

Last week, we started a feature here at BlueClaws Blog entitled Minor League Memories, as a way at looking back over the first eight years of BlueClaws baseball. Part one looked at the BlueClaws 2006 South Atlantic League title. Here’s part two, selected especially for today in light of last night’s Super Bowl halftime show.

Bruce SpringsteenThe BlueClaws will host multiple birthday parties on a given night, of course several more during the summer. One night back in 2002, seemingly a routine summer evening, turned into anything but.

As it turned out, Jersey’s favorite son, Bruce Springsteen, came out to FirstEnergy Park that night. His son’s friend was celebrating his birthday with the BlueClaws, so Springsteen decided to make trip down to Lakewood.

Placed in charge of walking around the ballpark with Springsteen was BlueClaws Director of Community Relations, and Springsteen fan, Jim DeAngelis, who went to his first Springsteen concert back in 1977.

“We just wanted to make sure he had some privacy walking around the park,” said DeAngelis. “We didn’t want anyone to bother him and we wante to make sure he had a good experience.”

Bruce SpringsteenWord spreads quickly when one of Jersey’s most popular residents is at some public function. “People would approach us as we walked around,” recalled DeAngelis. “I would say ‘Mr. Springsteen is here with his son and requests the privacy’ and that was that. It would be fine.

“Well, we’re going around and this sailor, in uniform, started to approach Bruce,” said DeAngelis. “I said what I had been saying to everyone all night.

“But Bruce jumped in and said ‘Wait Jim’ and then ‘Come on in here son.’ I took the sailor’s picture with Springsteen,” said DeAngelis.

“He made that sailor’s summer. I thought that was great.”

Here you go.

Feature: Minor League Memories

Wednesday, January 28th, 2009

A new feature here at BlueClaws Blog, every Monday and Wednesday, beginning today, we’ll be putting out a new blog series entitled Minor League Memories. We’ve gone around the office and surveyed staffers, and we want you to share your favorite memories here with us. Here is part one.

CelebrationAs we went around the office asking folks about their favorite BlueClaws memory, the runaway winner was September 15, 2006…the BlueClaws winning their first South Atlantic League title. 

Lakewood took a two-games-to-one lead over Augusta into game four at FirstEnergy Park, and they had one of their three aces, Matt Maloney, on the hill. The BlueClaws scored two runs in the first inning, and after Maloney still hadn’t allowed a run through three, Director of Marketing Mike Ryan made a promise. 

“I’m sitting in a stool up in the production room,” he recalled. “After the second inning, we had the lead. I vowed right there that I was not going to move until we gave up a run. I sat there the entire game.” 

Maloney pitched a shutout and the BlueClaws won 5-0 to clinch the SAL title.  But it was more than just one night. This built up over the last few months of the year; the BlueClaws went 47-23 in the second-half, and the fans caught on quickly.  “The promotion each night was basically this great team and this great pitching staff,” said BlueClaws Director of Promotions Hal Hansen. “It made our jobs much easier.” 

For several, including BlueClaws Director of Community Relations Jim DeAngelis, then in his ninth year of baseball, the SAL title was special for other reasons. “Until then I had never been with a winning team. To win a championship was very exciting.” 

“I was here when this was a pile of dirt with a sign that said ‘Future Home of Lakewood Professional Baseball,’” said Ryan, who has an original construction helmet behind his desk. 

“It made all the 14-hour days we work all summer totally worth it,” added Director of Group Sales Jim McNamara. “I slept underneath my desk that night.”  

Trophy presentation