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Batchelor ready to bring the heat to Norfolk

Guinness World Record holder, stuntman primed to set self aflame
July 7, 2015

Minor League teams are known for the creativity of their gameday promotions. On Tuesdays this season, we preview the most intriguing for the week ahead. If you'd like a particular promotion to be considered for this feature in the future, please send it to [email protected] with the subject line: "Promo Preview" or send a Tweet  to @bensbiz, hashtag "#promopreview."

The term "on fire" is used liberally in the world of baseball, but almost exclusively in the figurative sense. A pitcher mowing down opposing batsmen at a rapid clip is said to be "on fire," as is a hitter who reaches base at a prodigious rate.

But only one man can claim to literally be on fire while within ballpark confines, and that man is stuntman Ted Batchelor. On Friday, Batchelor brings his incendiary routine to the Norfolk Tides' home of Harbor Park. Following that evening's doubleheader against the Charlotte Knights, Batchelor will, as the teams puts it, "light himself on fire and take a trip around the bases while fully engulfed in flames."

Batchelor's Norfolk appearance is especially significant to him as it marks the first time that he will be lit on fire in the state of Virginia. His ultimate goal is to be lit on fire in all 50 states, and over the past five years he has performed at Minor League ballparks as a way to further this goal. His first such appearance was at Savannah's Grayson Stadium, and since then he's run the basepaths "while fully engulfed in flames" while visiting the Myrtle Beach Pelicans, Harrisburg Senators, State College Spikes and Frederick Keys.

So how did Batchelor, an unassuming husband and father now in his mid-50s, come to embark on this strange quest?

"When I was a junior in high school, I knew I wanted to be a stuntman but I had never done anything with fire," Batchelor told me during a 2010 interview. "But one night I had a dream where people were betting me to dive off a waterfall while on fire. The next day I was in class, creative writing, and I ended up writing a poem about my dream.… My friend got a hold of it, started showing it to people, and the next thing I know he's my manager, taking $5 and $10 bets on whether I was going to do this or not."

This led to Batchelor's first stunt, diving off Ohio's Chagrin Falls while on fire. Through the years he has achieved professional legitimacy as a stuntman with his fire-based work remaining a constant. In 2011 he entered the Guinness Book of World Records for "longest run on full body burn" (492 feet), and two years later he achieved the longest-ever full body burn (two minutes, 57 seconds). In order to achieve such feats, he applies a layer of fire-resistant gel to his body and then swaddles himself in several layers of cotton and wool clothing.

Batchelor's Minor League appearances are a comparative walk in the park with each one taking approximately 45 seconds to complete. He traditionally ends his runs by sliding into home (headfirst, so that the flames stay away from his mouth). 

"What's driven me through the years is the desire to keep improving," said Batchelor. "You can never master fire."

Best of the Rest

Reading Fightin Phils (Eastern League)
Galapagos Gang appearance, July 8

It is common knowledge that the Phillie Phanatic was born in the Galapagos Islands, but until recently little was known about the life he left behind upon relocating to Philadelphia. As it turns out he had a dedicated foursome of friends in his home country -- the so-called Galapagos Gang -- who recently moved en masse to Pennsylvania in order to connect with their long-lost pal. On Wednesday, the Galapagos Gang -- Iggy the Land Iguana, Bessie the Blue-Footed Booby, Sid the Sea Lion and Calvin the Giant Tortoise -- travel to Reading for their first-ever Minor League ballpark appearance. Fans will thrill to the antics of this heavily inflated crew, who, unlike the Phanatic, are not of indeterminate species origin. 

Richmond Flying Squirrels (Eastern League)
Doug E. Fresh appearance, July 8

In recent seasons, Biz Markie has performed at a Fresno Grizzlies game and Coolio has taken the stage following a Clearwater Threshers contest. The latest old-school hip-hop icon to grace a Minor League ballpark with his presence is Doug E. Fresh, widely acknowledged as the genre's first (and best) human beat box. Doug E. (or is that "Mr. Fresh"?) visits the Richmond Flying Squirrels on Wednesday, where he'll pose for pictures, sign autographs and, presumably, teach the assembled masses how to Dougie.   

Charleston RiverDogs (South Atlantic League)
Downward Facing RiverDog, July 11

The Charleston RiverDogs' ownership group includes former American League president Gene Budig, whose daughter, Kathryn, is an acclaimed yoga instructor. These Budig family passions collide Saturday when Kathyrn leads a "Downward Facing RiverDog" yoga session at Joseph P. Riley Jr. Park. Tickets to this 10 a.m. endeavor cost $10 with the proceeds going to "Poses for Paws" (an organization "dedicated to raising money for animal shelters through yoga"). It remains to be seen whether this event will be attended by mascot Charlie T. RiverDog, whose downward-facing abilities are unparalleled.  

Tennessee Smokies (Southern League)
Grateful Dead theme jerseys, July 11

The Grateful Dead's long, strange trip has finally come to an end, but Minor League promotions paying tribute to the Dead may very well live forever. On Saturday, the Smokies take the field in blue and purple tie-dyed jerseys, which feature the band's iconic skull logo slightly reconfigured so as to better fit the baseball theme. These jerseys will be auctioned off following the game with proceeds benefiting the Remote Area Medical Volunteer Corps. If you ever receive assistance from those guys, you'll feel grateful to be alive.

Quick Hits

Why burn out when you can fade away? What follows is a succinct roundup of succulent informational morsels regarding this week's top promos:

July 8: The Charlotte Knights celebrate Back to the Future at the ballpark, complete with an appearance by the DeLorean time machine.

July 9: It's "Raining Money Night" in Great Lakes as the Loons drop money from a helicopter onto the playing field below.… The Greensboro Grasshoppers host a "Stop Light Party" with participants wearing green ("Single), yellow ("It's Complicated") and red ("Taken") T-shirts. Proceed at your own risk. 

July 10: The Akron RubberDucks poke fun at turn-of-the-century technological paranoia via their "15 Years Since Y2K Night."… Don't Panik, use the Force: The San Jose Giants give away Joe Panik bobbleheads on "Star Wars Night."… It'll be tough to have a beef with the El Paso Chihuahuas as they stage "Cow Appreciation Night."

July 11: Wrestler Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat appears at the Lakewood BlueClaws game on the same night in which the team pays tribute to their Piedmont Boll Weevil heritage. Coincidence? I have no idea.… Duck Dynasty promos are, like the show itself, on the way out. But the Jackson Generals persist, welcoming bearded dude Jep Robertson to the ballpark.… It's Silver Sox Weekend in Reno as the Aces pay tribute to a previous iteration of Minor League Baseball.… Is the original still the best? The West Michigan Whitecaps host their 10th annual Star Wars promo.     

July 12: The El Paso Chihuahuas' "Bark in the Park" promo includes a doggy bank giveaway featuring mascot Chico.… In Quad Cities, the River Bandits host the best Star Wars promo to have ever taken place on the banks of the Mississippi. 

July 13: The Lowell Spinners pay tribute to Vietnam War veterans during their aptly named "Vietnam Veterans Night."… Tommy John -- the man, not the surgery -- crosses the border in order to visit the Vancouver Canadians.

July 14: During the Williamsport Crosscutters' "Dominican Plate Dinner," Dominican players serve Dominican food. Proceeds from the dinner got to a charity supporting sustainable development projects in the Dominican Republic.

Benjamin Hill is a reporter for and writes Ben's Biz Blog. Follow Ben on Twitter @bensbiz.