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At Home With ... At Home With04/02/2009 10:00 AM ET
By Benjamin Hill / Special to MLB.com
Over the past 13 months, we at MiLB.com ran a weekly team profile feature entitled "At Home With ... " The stated intent was to "spotlight just how interesting and varied the world of professional baseball can be."
As the author of "At Home With," my viewpoint is hopelessly biased. Nonetheless, I believe this compendium of memorable moments will sway you to my side (as if you weren't already there).
What follows are the greatest hits of "At Home With," featuring notable excerpts from dozens of team profiles. Not surprisingly, there is a significant emphasis on promotions and concessions. If this information doesn't make you want to get out to a Minor League Baseball game, I'm afraid nothing will.
Enjoy, and thanks for reading.
MiLB.com: Has your team staged any notable promotions in recent years? Any that just didn't work?
Carl Gutelius (Auburn Doubledays): The most attention we have received recently was for our Abner's Plan Night. The basic theme was, "What would happen if solving global warming was put into the hands of our mascot?" We did some fun and silly things like selling beans at the concession stand to increase natural gas output.
Stephanie Bindewald (Augusta GreenJackets): In 2006, we made an entire night based on the famous ejection of Asheville Tourists manager Joe Mikulik entitled Anger Management Night. This theme night included soothing music, base-throwing competitions and a stress ball giveaway.
Pete Intza (Chattanooga Lookouts): We commemorated the infamous "rosin bag toss" incident by Mississippi Braves (and former Lookouts) manager Phil Wellman. ... Some of the highlights for the promotion included giving away rosin bags to the first 300 fans...using a rosin bag for the first pitch and crafting a Phil Wellman mannequin for fans to toss a rosin bag at.
Phil Wrye (Bowie Baysox): Each season, we attempt to break a Guinness world record. The best was the attempt to break the record for the most people simultaneously sitting on Whoopee Cushions. We had over 3,500 fans sit on Whoopee Cushions at the same time -- what a sound that makes!
Dave Campanaro (Brooklyn Cyclones): [In 2009], we are extremely excited about our Baracklyn Cyclones promotion, in which we are changing our name and uniform for the night to honor our president. We introduced our own stimulus package (discounted tickets), health care plan (free Band-Aids) and exit strategy (free flags for fans as they leave the ballpark) and are giving away limited-edition bobbleheads, in addition to other events and surprises throughout the night.
Danny Reed (Charleston RiverDogs): Over the past few seasons, we have set an all-time lowest attendance record on Nobody Night, kept our entire crowd hushed on Silent Night and, of course, we've had celebrities like Stephen Colbert and UNC basketball coach Roy Williams visit from time to time. There have been a few [promotions] that have missed though. Vasectomy Night on Father's Day a few years back didn't pan out too well, and neither did Tonya Harding Bat Night in 2000.
Steve Gliner (Fort Myers Miracle): "Cheaper by the Gallon" helped us create a great spin on a negative item -- we priced Monday night games at the cheapest price of a gallon of gas in South Fort Myers.
Scott Carter (Fresno Grizzlies): My personal favorite promotion we have done was our Price Is Right Night [in 2007]. ... From our ridiculous jerseys to the amount of detail that went into our game presentation, it was a blast to be a part of and the fans had a great time. We actually made a trip down to see a taping of the show before Bob Barker retired and got to present him with his own Grizzlies' Price Is Right jersey.
Buck Rogers (Huntsville Stars): We once did a Monday night "Ladies Night" that offered 2-for-1 prices to anybody in a dress, with the hopes that all of the guys would bring their women and double our Monday night attendance. It failed because 57 guys decided that they'd rather wear a dress and drink alone and just left their women at home. I don't know what that says about the state of marriages in this country.
Andrea Breen (Iowa Cubs): We did not stage it, but our ballpark became an island on June 13 when the Des Moines and Raccoon rivers flooded. It brought some publicity to our team because we ended up playing a game the very next day with an official crowd of zero due to city evacuations.
Shawn Touney (Kane County Cougars): Our attempt last season to break the world record for the largest pillow fight is an event that fans continue to talk about and say that they were a part of. The pillow fight, in particular, was one of those "only in the Minor Leagues" type of promotions that both our staff and fans rallied behind.
Geoff Brown (Lakewood BlueClaws): In 2006, the day the movie "Snakes on a Plane" was released, we hosted "Snakes in the Ballpark." We brought in a bunch of snakes and had them in cages, all along the concourse. Some fans loved it, but I think some fans were a little freaked out.
Brad Seymour (Lancaster JetHawks): We host Tumbleweed Tuesday, when we price tickets based on the wind speed the previous day and pay tribute to the Antelope Valley's windy conditions.
Chris Metz (Portland Beavers): In 2007, the team staged a Bob L. Head giveaway. The club conducted a nationwide search for people named Bob L. Head, so that one of them could be honored with a doll bearing his own likeness.
Donny Baarns (Visalia Rawhide): Lately, we've kicked off the new Cowbell Section, a block of 32 seats that each come with a free cowbell, which the fans are encouraged to use liberally during the game.
Ryan Alexander (West Michigan Whitecaps): One that stands out from  was our Salute to Bubbles Night, when we had bubble machines that produced more than a million bubbles an hour. The famous clown team of Mr. and Mrs. Bubbles made an appearance for the night and we handed out bubble wrap to all kids entering the park.
MiLB.com: Does your concession stand serve any regional specialties or otherwise remarkable items?
Steve Hurlbert (Albuquerque Isotopes): Tacos, enchiladas and burritos are all readily available throughout the park, all smothered with a choice of New Mexico red or green chile. One item that is a little unusual for ballparks is our Bananas Foster station, of which we have two in the ballpark. Fans can actually watch the delectable treats made right in front of them.
Jason Dambach (Altoona Curve): The most regional special item we offer would have to be our "Parney Fried Bologna" sandwich, which was a childhood favorite of general manager Todd Parnell and an item that isn't likely to be on many other menus across Minor League Baseball.
Stephanie Bindewald (Augusta GreenJackets): Just like during the Masters at Augusta National Golf Course, we serve pimento cheese sandwiches and egg salad sandwiches.
Danny Reed (Charleston RiverDogs): Our version of the Sloppy Joe includes cole slaw. We also feature the Dixie Dog (a hot dog served with pimento cheese and chili), shrimp and grits, grilled turkey leg and boiled peanuts.
Steve Gliner (Fort Myers Miracle): We began to offer Alligator Ribs in 2008 (yes ... Alligator Ribs!), and these were a huge hit! We will be offering fried conch on our party deck in 2009.
Eben Yager (Hudson Valley Renegades): [In 2008], we started serving the "Chili Davis." It is chili cheese fries in a wrap and tastes amazing! Our food and beverage director, Joe Ausanio, pitched for the Yankees at one time and served up a couple to Chili Davis back in the day. Hence, the "Chili Davis Wrap."
Geoff Brown (Lakewood BlueClaws): Our most unique item has to be the BellyBuster sandwich. Bring your appetite: it's a half-pound of pulled pork, half-pound of brisket, cole slaw and onion rings. It comes with a free T-shirt too.
Ben Chiswick (Quad Cities River Bandits): The Bandit Dog -- get ready for this -- is a juicy jumbo hot dog that is sliced down the middle, stuffed with cheese, wrapped in bacon and smothered in chili sauce.
Rob Hackash (Reading Phillies): Our signature item is the Churger. It's a slice of American cheese between a quarter-pound burger and a boneless chicken breast, served on a fresh roll and "made with a whole lot of love," according to Jamie "Scoly" Scolastico, who runs the Grand Slam Grill in the right-field food court.
Jen Orlando (State College Spikes): We have a pretty unique item called the "Walking Taco." This consists of all the ingredients of a taco mixed together in a bag (like a taco salad). It is definitely a fan favorite!
Mike Melega (Tulsa Drillers): The most unique item that we have is "Garbage Can Fries." They basically take regular fries, sweet potato fries, sliced red onions and jalapenos and fry them up together and serve them in generous quantities. People like spicy here and these can knock your socks off!
Denny Madigan (Vermont Lake Monsters): We are looking to introduce a new item next season called Champ Chips (named after our mascot). Champ Chips are breaded deep-fried pickles served with ranch dressing.
Ryan Alexander (West Michigan Whitecaps): Deep Fried Pepsi was added [in 2007]. It's deep-fried Pepsi-flavored donut balls with Pepsi syrup and whipped cream poured on top.
MiLB.com: What type of merchandise sells the best at the team store? Are there are any unique items available for purchase?
Steve Hurlbert (Albuquerque Isotopes): Every night we run a chile race similar to the famous sausage race in Milwaukee, only our competitors are a red chile, a green chile, a taco and a jar of salsa. A couple years ago, we started selling plush dolls of our chile race competitors, which all have been received extremely well.
Justin Firesheets (Birmingham Barons): We still sell our Michael Jordan jersey from when he played here in '94, and that continues to be a popular sell.
Sarah Marten (Lehigh Valley IronPigs): Pig noses, pig noses and more pig noses!
MiLB.com: How large of a role does your mascot play, both at the stadium and within the community?
Jason Dambach (Altoona Curve): I would say that Steamer, in particular, is by far the most recognizable "thing" in Central Pennsylvania. His large green head, which represents the stack of a steam engine, and his fat belly are his best and funniest characteristics.
Pete Intza (Chattanooga Lookouts): This season, we added a bunny and an eagle to the mix, who randomly chase each other on the field from time to time in what seems to come straight out of a scene from a Fellini film.
Rob Hackash (Reading Phillies): [Our five mascots] are best known for their work as a band. Every Saturday from June on, the five of them play postgame concerts. Quack sings and plays the guitar, Screwball is the drummer, Bucky is on bass, Change-Up is on the bongos and Blooper strokes the keyboards.
MiLB.com: Minor League stadiums often vary greatly from one another. What are the positives of playing in your facility? Any drawbacks?
Dave Campanaro (Brooklyn Cyclones): We are located in the heart of Coney Island, with neon lights, roller coasters, ferris wheels and freak shows over the left-field wall and a boardwalk, beach and panoramic ocean view over the right-field wall.
Buck Rogers (Huntsville Stars): We actually have seats above and behind the scoreboard and outfield wall where you can't even see half the game. We sold sponsorship on them and turned them into our "Uecker Seats." Like Andy Dunn (president of the Vancouver Canadians) said when we worked together in Brevard County: "Buck, when life gives you lemons, grab the tequila and salt and go with what you know." People do pay to sit in those seats because they're now "Uecker Seats," not just restricted-view seats.
John Hadden (Idaho Falls Chukars): At one point during [Melaleuca Field's] construction, the wall in the right-field corner fell over. When we put the wall back up we decided to bring it in a ways, but no one ever measured the new distance. This means we don't know the exact distance to the right-field foul pole.
Byron Dike (Missoula Osprey): [Ogren Park is Allegiance Field] is home to live osprey living in their natural habitat on a pole just over the center-field wall. These fish-hawks love to fly over the seating bowl with their talons clenched around their latest catches, showing off for the fans.
MiLB.com: What have been some of your favorite moments since you've been with the team?
Eric Long (Binghamton Mets): Our "Great Spiedie Race" at every game is always funny and unpredictable, and in one particular instance last year one of the characters tripped over a phone cord by the bullpen and his head popped off.
Dave Campanaro (Brooklyn Cyclones): The time Relish won his first hot dog race!
Randy Whitaker (Harrisburg Senators): Nothing can beat the ultimate highlight: the 1999 Eastern League championship, when we were going for our fourth championship in a row. The Senators were down, 11-9, with two outs and a 3-2 count in the bottom of the ninth inning when Milton Bradley hit a grand slam in the rain to win it all. They wouldn't dare write it in Hollywood because no one would believe it.
Steve Gliner (Fort Myers Miracle): Opening Night last year created a fun buzz in the ballpark. We had someone in a bear costume sit on the camera deck in left-center field. He sat there for most of the game and would jump up and down when the team would score a run, etc. Fans were calling our offices to inform us that we needed to bring in Animal Services to take care of the bear. We continued to leave him out there most of the night and let the buzz just keep going.
Eben Yager (Hudson Valley Renegades): Most memorable moment -- not my favorite one, though -- was on our "Pirates of the Caribbean Night" when the pirates overtook the P.A. booth for part of the game and then proceeded to start a fire in the booth.
Andrea Breen (Iowa Cubs): [Mr. Potato Head] had the honor of throwing out the first pitch during a game. On the way to the mound, he tripped over the grass in the infield and fell.
Brad Seymour (Lancaster JetHawks): In 2007, we had two players hit four home runs in one game, on two separate occasions. This marked the first (and second) time in California League history that anyone had accomplished this feat. It was incredible to see it happen once, when Aaron Bates did it in May and to have Brad Correll come back weeks later and do it again in front of the home crowd was something that no one who was here will ever forget.
Tim Bawmann (Lowell Spinners): My favorite on-field moments include holding NFL footballs for New England Patriots place kicker Stephen Gostkowski to kick into the stands. The sight of 5,000 fans on their feet as an NFL kicker sends footballs into the seats is one I'll never forget.
Byron Dike (Missoula Osprey): Last season, we debuted our $10,000 Thursday promotion, where each inning a fan can win $10,000 if a designated baseball event happens during that inning. During the top of the first inning on the very first night of the promotion, the Osprey turned a triple play. One lucky fan, who was a season-ticket holder, won $10,000.
Chris Metz (Portland Beavers): In terms of memorable moments, but certainly not a favorite one, Beavers first baseman Tagg Bozied ruptured a ligament in his knee after hitting a game-winning grand slam. The injury was suffered while launching himself in the air at home plate with his entire team around him celebrating.
Ben Chiswick (Quad Cities River Bandits): While the flooding Mississippi River was ravaging the Midwest, we were fortunate enough to be able to continue playing, thanks to a bridge built by the City of Davenport. The bridge allowed fans to enter Modern Woodmen Park, despite the fact that were essentially playing on an island -- completely surrounded by water on all sides! We drew nearly 9,000 fans to the two games and the energy inside the ballpark is something I will never forget.
Vic Christopher (Tri-City ValleyCats): Fan Appreciation Day last year was especially memorable. Several rainouts toward the end of the season created a buildup of items in the Promo Room. On the final day of the season, we had to give away everything that was left over to make room for the next season's products. For nine innings, it seemed like it was actually raining T-Shirts, softee balls and Frisbees. People were leaving the ballgame with shopping bags full of stuff.
Shawn Touney (Kane County Cougars): It's tough to pinpoint one particular moment. ... When I come to work every day, my office is a ballpark. If you've having a bad day, it's important to remind yourself of that.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.