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Alone together: Teams forge connections

In time of isolation, Minors clubs across country show creativity
From beer and drive-thru food to customized billboards and video games, Minor League teams are getting creative during quarantine.
March 26, 2020

If you work in Minor League Baseball, the last week of March is crunch time. Opening Day looms and everyone, no matter their role, is checking last-minute to-do items off of what seems to be an endless list.

If you work in Minor League Baseball, the last week of March is crunch time. Opening Day looms and everyone, no matter their role, is checking last-minute to-do items off of what seems to be an endless list.

That's usually the case, but these are unusual times. Opening Day is delayed indefinitely and Minor League teams, like all of us, have been forced to adjust. So what have they been up to? The following is a detailed but by no means entirely comprehensive roundup of creative Minor League endeavors as teams everywhere seek to uplift, support and, perhaps above all, distract their fan bases. In times like these, we could all use a distraction.

Baseball: Happening Now
Visitors to the Binghamton Rumble Ponies' website might be surprised to see the team's top headline: "Rumble Ponies Set for Home Opener April 9." The Rumble Ponies, Double-A affiliate of the Mets, will play every one of their originally scheduled games via the MLB The Show 20 video game. (This season, for the first time ever, The Show features full Minor League rosters.) 
To prepare for what will surely be an arduous virtual campaign, the Rumble Ponies are playing out the entirety of their Spring Training schedule. For now, this is as real as baseball can be. 

Similarly, the Lehigh Valley IronPigs and El Paso Chihuahuas recently staged a three-game The Show series, which was live-streamed via Twitch. The IronPigs, buoyed by the support of their actual players, swept the hapless Chihuahuas in convincing fashion.

Take Home Some Peanuts and Cracker Jack
What's your go-to ballpark concession item? If you live in Pensacola, you might be able to get it to-go. The Blue Wahoos have launched a ballpark drive-thru of sorts, in which fans can place an order via phone and pick it up curbside at Blue Wahoos Stadium. The menu is extensive, featuring bargain-priced family meals as well as Wahoos-specific ballpark favorites such as the crab mac and cheese dog and bacon-crusted shrimp tacos. 
"People are asking around on 'Who is open, who can do meals?'" Blue Wahoos food and beverage general manager Eric Kroll said. "So, really, we're just trying to help families and people in the community and do our part with just being available for people who can't cook or aren't available to."
The Blue Wahoos' drive-thru comes on the heels of another noteworthy initiative. On March 13, in the wake of news that the 2020 season would be delayed, the team announced a $25,000 relief fund to aid gameday employees. 

Testing Grounds
Similar to the Blue Wahoos, the Lake Elsinore Storm are offering a "meal relief program" for the local community. Meanwhile, the parking lot of the Storm's ballpark, The Diamond, has been used by the county as the site of a "drive-through novel coronavirus testing program." Per the local Press-Enterprise, the tests were available to "high-risk" individuals living within a 50-mile radius of the city of Riverside. 
Grab and Go
A week ago, the Kannapolis Cannon Ballers became the latest Minor League team to introduce its own beer. Baller Beer, a partnership with the locally based Cabarrus Brewing Company, is available via the brewery's "brew-thru." Cannon Ballers operating partner Scotty Brown said that fans waiting for the baseball season to begin can "taste a delicious new brew while supporting a small local business safely in the privacy of your home." 

The Cannon Ballers, formerly known as the Intimidators, will be playing at a new downtown ballpark this year. On March 13, the team acheived its latest construction milestone: a ballpark "super flush," in which the sewage system was tested via the simultaneous flushing of all 104 of the facility's toilets. 

Hit the Books
Kids everywhere are now "learning remotely," and many teams are offering at-home educational activites. The Richmond Flying Squirrels, for example, have provided their Education Day curriculum, which was originally designed for student field trips to the ballpark. Meanwhile, in Columbia, South Carolina, the Fireflies have launched a four-week at-home reading program that includes a variety of ballpark-based prizes for those who complete it. 
And speaking of reading, the Lake County Captains received a heartwarming assist from their manager, Greg DiCenzo.

The NCAA's March Madness basketball tournament was canceled. While nothing can come close to replacing it, the tournament's structure has inspired a variety of online-based Minor League Baseball endeavors. The Staten Island Yankees are pitting 32 of their team-worn and giveaway jerseys against one another, for example, while the San Antonio Missions are trying to determine nothing less than the "greatest player in franchise history.
This month's biggest upset occurred in Omaha, as the Runzas topped the Royals in a tournament to determine the best team name in franchise history. 

Back, back, back ... backed!
Myrtle Beach Pelicans fans might not be able to visit the stadium, but the team has offered a way in which they can still Back the Birds. It's offering "special edition" ballpark Splash Cash, an in-stadium currency that never expires. Those who purchase $100 in Splash Cash will get their names on an outfield billboard as well as the opportunity to throw out a ceremonial first pitch. 

Wipe Right
Ballpark team stores, like most everything else these days, are closed to the public. Online sales continue apace, however, and one team is really a-ply-ing itself. The Oklahoma City Dodgers, aware that toilet paper is inexplicably the nation's hottest commodity, are throwing in a free roll with any order of $30 or more. 

We See You
The soothing sounds of baseball may be a ways off, but the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp are here to remind us that soothing sights can be accessed on an around-the-clock basis. 

Other teams offering ballpark cams include -- but are certainly not limited to -- Durham, Winston-Salem and, still under construction, Wichita.

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