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Not-so-lean cuisine: 2021 ballpark food highlights 

They came, they saw, they chowed down: Designated Eaters tell all
@BensBiz
October 28, 2021

Hungry? You will be after reading this article. During the 2021 season I visited eight Minor League ballparks, bringing my career total to 182. At each one I recruited a Designated Eater: an individual who consumes the ballpark food that my gluten-free diet prohibits. (I was diagnosed with celiac disease

From player to usher, with 40 years in-between

Williams, member of 1980 Alexandria Dukes, now FredNats staffer
@BensBiz
October 13, 2021

FREDERICKSBURG, Virginia -- In 1980, right-handed pitcher Wesley Williams played his third and final Minor League Baseball season as a member of the Alexandria Dukes. Forty-one years later, he is again employed by that very same franchise. The Dukes, established in 1978, relocated from Alexandria to Woodbridge, Virginia in 1984.

Anime to actuality: Wu travels unique baseball path

Nanning, China native furthers career in Fredericksburg front office
@BensBiz
October 6, 2021

FREDERICKSBURG, Virginia -- Zhancheng Wu, director of production for the Low-A Fredericksburg Nationals, was a key part of the front office during the team's inaugural season at FredNats Ballpark. He created graphics, helped produce the livestream broadcast and assembled a wide variety of original video content, often with his dog,

Pass the mic: Patriots' Paul Spychala moves on

Somerset PA announcer reflects on 23 joyous seasons in the booth
@BensBiz
September 24, 2021

BRIDGEWATER TOWNSHIP, New Jersey -- TD Bank Ballpark, home of the Somerset Patriots, hosted its first game on June 7, 1999. Paul Spychala made his debut as the team's PA announcer that evening, beginning a 1,396-game run that came to an end on Sept. 12. After 23 seasons, six Atlantic

Somerset Patriots recover from ballpark flood

Eight days after devastating storm, Yankees affiliate returns home
@BensBiz
September 15, 2021

BRIDGEWATER TOWNSHIP, New Jersey -- Dan Purner, head groundskeeper for the Somerset Patriots, doesn't particularly enjoy being the center of attention. He says groundskeepers are like umpires: "If you don't think of us, it's probably a good thing." As the Patriots took the field at their home of TD Bank

Baby Conrad brought to life by young performer

Copeland collaborates with Crawdads to create new character
@BensBiz
September 8, 2021

HICKORY, North Carolina -- Alex Copeland, a mild-mannered 14-year-old, has a secret ballpark identity. Upon arriving at the Hickory Crawdads' home of L.P. Frans Stadium, he morphs into a fun-loving and gregarious infant crustacean. He is no longer Alex. He is Baby Conrad, Crawdads mascot. "I go around, see the

What a moment: Preserving history at Polar Park

WooSox president Dr. Charles Steinberg wants to tell team's story
August 27, 2021

WORCESTER, Massachusetts -- It's Aug. 13, and the Worcester Red Sox are hosting the Syracuse Mets at their downtown home of Polar Park. The evening's ballgame has just begun, the first of a doubleheader, and soon, team president Dr. Charles Steinberg will step out of his office to watch it.

Larry Ward, the Lookouts' veteran voice

Chattanooga icon is longest-tenured Double-A broadcaster
@BensBiz
August 18, 2021

CHATTANOOGA, Tennessee -- Some nicknames require explanation, while others are self-evident. Larry "The Voice" Ward falls firmly in the latter category. Since 1989, Larry Ward has served as the voice of the Chattanooga Lookouts. He's the longest tenured broadcaster in Double-A baseball, now in his 32nd consecutive season with the

Summer Santa: FredNats usher spreads cheer

Thompson, through adversity, brings Christmas spirit to ballpark
@BensBiz
August 6, 2021

FREDERICKSBURG, Virginia -- On a recent Friday evening at FredNats Ballpark, usher Bruce Thompson was stationed in front of the playground located in the right-field corner of the concourse. Most of the children he was supervising had never seen him before, yet they knew exactly who he was. "Tonight, I've

Live from the concourse, it's Greazy Keyz  

Organist sets the tone for the Kannapolis Cannon Ballers
@BensBiz
July 30, 2021

KANNAPOLIS, North Carolina -- At the Low-A Kannapolis Cannon Ballers' home at Atrium Health Ballpark, nine innings of baseball are complemented by nine innings of live music. The melodious sounds are courtesy of Jason "Greazy Keyz" Atkins, concourse organist. Atkins can be found directly behind home plate during every Cannon

Say it loud: Mega Man, Minions cheer for Crawdads

Hickory's section 108 roots for the home team, heckles opposition
@BensBiz
July 28, 2021

HICKORY, North Carolina -- When a player strikes out at the Hickory Crawdads' home of L.P. Frans Stadium, it takes, on average, 21 steps to make it back to the dugout. This bit of esoterica comes courtesy of Christopher "Mega Man" Pack, Crawdads superfan and heckler extraordinaire. He, of all

Launch angle: Smokies usher has NASA past 

Eason, in search of new frontiers, went from space to the ballpark
@BensBiz
July 23, 2021

KODAK, Tennessee -- In his current occupation, Stephen Eason helps people get to their seats. In his former occupation, he helped people get to outer space. It just goes to show, you never know who you might meet at a Minor League Baseball game. Eason, a self-described "good old country

Jay Bell serves as skipper of the Rocket City ship

Former MLB star guiding Trash Pandas through inaugural season
@BensBiz
July 21, 2021

MADISON, Alabama -- Jay Bell has done a lot of things over the course of his long professional baseball career, including scoring the winning run in Game 7 of the World Series as a member of the 2001 Diamondbacks. This season, however, he's doing something that no one in the

In Chattanooga, fans look out for Wanda

Charismatic program vendor is a beloved ballpark fixture
@BensBiz
July 14, 2021

CHATTANOOGA, Tennessee -- If you're making your way to the Chattanooga Lookouts' home of AT&T Field, you'll hear Wanda Goins long before you see her. Her voice, lilting yet forceful, rises above the gameday din and carries well beyond the front entrance. The phrasing has changed over the years, but

MiLB memory box: Mementos from the road

Traveling writer digs deep into the archives in search of souvenirs
@BensBiz
10:00 AM EST

"Do you collect anything?" As someone who has visited 177 Minor League Baseball ballparks, many more than once, I get that question a lot. The individuals who pose this query, usually collectors themselves, are curious as to whether I have made it a point to procure the same sort of

Ben looks back at 2019's ballpark road trips

Traveling scribe visited Fayetteville, Amarillo, Vegas and more
April 16, 2020

The best thing about Minor League Baseball? In this writer's estimation, it's ballpark road trips. With 160 teams spread out over 14 leagues and six levels of play, there's no shortage of places to visit. It's a great way to see the country, giving fans a reason to visit locales

In it for the long haul: A fan, remembered

An appreciation of Bruce Rogers, passionate High Desert supporter
April 2, 2020

On Dec. 30, 2019, Bruce Rogers died at the age of 79. Rogers, who lived most of his life in Victorville, California, was a husband, father, military veteran and heavy haul trucker who enjoyed a career highlight of sorts when he transported a stolen one-man submarine back to its rightful

Time to move on: Minors' defunct ballparks

Road-tripping writer takes annual look back at bygone facilities
January 30, 2020

Four new Minor League ballparks are opening in 2020, the most in a single season since 2009. But for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.The arrival of four new facilities means there are four ballparks that are no longer part of the Minor League landscape. This article,

Meetings meaningful for Jane Rogers

Staten Island exec returns to baseball family after cancer fight
December 10, 2019

SAN DIEGO -- At the 2018 Baseball Winter Meetings in Las Vegas, Jane Rogers received the New York-Penn League's Executive of the Year. Yesterday morning, in San Diego, she finally heard the applause. Rogers, the Class A Short Season Staten Island Yankees' first -- and therefore longest tenured -- employee, currently

Designated Eater: Tim's Burger, Suns Dog

Chris Ruffner, on cusp of college, samples Hagerstown cuisine
November 1, 2019

Municipal Stadium, the home of the Hagerstown Suns, is 89 years old. As you might guess, octogenarian ballparks don't offer much in the way of amenities. But what they do offer is history, intimacy and, more often than not, plenty of charm. 

Designated Eater: A final meal in Potomac

Jennings Compton invents new item at penultimate P-Nats game
October 30, 2019

August 28th, 2019 wasn't just any evening at Pfitzner Stadium. It was the Potomac Nationals penultimate home game. The end of the season loomed and, just beyond that, a move 30 miles south to a new ballpark in Fredericksburg, Virginia. I was in town to say goodbye to the Pfitz (as

Designated Eater: Daniel Rivas chows down

The Grizzly Fanatic samples tri-tip, "car"-ne asada, tacos, more
October 29, 2019

Daniel Rivas, seen in the photo at the top of this article, is a native of Laton, California who currently lives in Salinas and works as a high school math teacher. But when Daniel visits the Fresno Grizzlies' home of Chukchansi Park, he dons Ultimate Warrior-inspired facepaint and thus transforms

Designated Eater: Nando meets the Mets

Noted Syracusan samples the goods on Butter Sculptures Night
October 28, 2019

Nando DiFino is a relentlessly exuberant and deeply loyal individual. He brings people together, pays for their drinks and seeks out commonalities, all while deflecting the well-deserved praise he recieves for so consistently acting in this manner. To know Nando is to love him.

Designated Eater: Improvisations in Auburn

Cotton candy dog inventor creates new item at Doubledays game
October 9, 2019

Tom Ando knows food. Tom, a Buffalo, New York native who now lives across the border in Fort Erie, Ontario, has experience as a food and beverage manager in a variety of professional sports settings. He currently handles club-level concessions at the Buffalo Sabres' home of KeyBank Center; this job followed

On the Road: Shagging in Hagerstown

Suns co-owner Dahbura found 'key to happiness' on field
September 12, 2019

Hagerstown Suns co-owner Tony Dahbura holds a prestigious position at Johns Hopkins University, assists with his family's printing and commercial real estate businesses and freelances as a data analytics consultant. He's a man of many hats and thus goes by many names, be it Dr. Dahbura, Tony or his given