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Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Looking Like Minor League Soccer

So, the baseball season is over (for the minors) and I'm casting about for something else to do. Next weekend looks like there may be a trip to Louisville to watch Louisville City FC (so named because soccer fans get heartburn every time that someone comes up with an original name that might not sound vaguely Euro). LFC is in a second round playoff match for the United Soccer League championship and it is against the Charleston Battery. USL playoffs play a single game elimination format, so go now if you are interested.

LFC was formerly in Orlando, Florida and I'm pretty sure the ugly color scheme (purple and yellow) migrated to Louisville with the team, but the rather generic shield has what I suspect is supposed to be the Louisville skyline and a fleur de lis (prominent on Louisville's city seal). They play in the Louisville Bat's stadium and I'm not sure how that works out when they lay down the soccer field, but I suspect it limits the availability of good seats. Still, I think it would be cool to go see a game.

I didn't make it to any minor league soccer games this year, but next year I may try to mix more of them in - particularly since I think I've gotten to every minor league baseball team within easy driving distance.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Proof That Someone Associated with the Cubs Can Win It All (Congrats Pelicans)

Congratulations to the Myrtle Beach Pelicans won the Carolina League (A+) title last night with a bases loaded single in the bottom of the 9th. They swept the best of 5 series and every one of you should go watch the game on MiLB.

In winning the game they have proven my hypothesis that if you are a Cubs farm team, but you've resisted having the bear imposed upon you it is still possible to win a championship. Stay strong on the mascot, Pelicans, and keep winning championships.

Monday, September 14, 2015

This Year's Odyssey: Best Experience at Each Level

Of course, traveling around this summer to games I saw many stadiums and crowds. There were only a couple stadiums that were abysmal and few crowds were really bad. I've chosen my favorite experience from each level and then compared them to come up with my five favorites.

5)  AA - Carolina Mudcats - Honestly, all the AA teams I went to this year had good stadiums, but the Mudcats just stuck in my head. They didn't have the newest stadium in the world, but the crowd was live and loud and they edged out the Tennessee Smokies to get on this list.



4)  Rookie - Burlington Royals - When I went to Burlington I wasn't expecting much. It was the last weekend of the year, Burlington was already out of the running for the post season, and the night before I had a very disappointing experience at a different rookie league stadium. Then I got there and the stadium was better than most in the Appalachian League, the crowd was enthusiastic, the people running the stadium were obviously trying to make things fun, they had a mascot (Bingo) who seemed to have a never ending well of energy, and there were kids everywhere having a blast.

3)  A+ - Salem Red Sox - This was another pleasant surprise. This stadium probably had the friendliest staff I ran into over the summer. The crowd was so into it that they even belted out "Sweet Caroline" which is played at all the Carolina League games (and inexplicably at other non-Carolina teams as well). I had a blast.




2)  AAA - Durham Bulls - The Bulls have an unfair advantage over other teams because of the movie and they shamelessly take advantage of it. And it's great. Then, on top of all that the fans are great. I don't just mean they are enthusiastic. They act as though the Bulls are an old school single A team with players still living in host family houses. The folks sitting around me were talking about the players by first name and talked about different interactions they'd had with them. They were also fiercely loyal to the vendors. A man pretending to be a peanut vendor came down the aisle on his way to take part in a skit on the dugout and the locals started in on him about poaching Darnell's business and almost ruined the skit. It's a great littlish-big stadium experience.


1)  A - Dayton Dragons - This place was simply the most amazing ballpark experience. This single A park sells 8,000+ tickets per game. I couldn't even buy a ticket for a seat. I had to buy a ticket to sit on the grass berm behind the outfield wall. It was early in the season and they were already making announcements that if you want a chance to get season tickets for next season you need to contact stadium representatives now. When you check minor league attendance records there are only 6 teams which average more than the Dragons do per game and they are all AAA teams. In fact, 19 out of the top 20 teams were AAA with the only exception to the rule being single A Dayton. That means Dayton is selling its stadium out a lot while the AAA teams are maybe selling half their seats. And it's not hard to see why Dayton is so successful. Every part of the stadium was state of the art and they used everything they had to keep that stadium rocking. The crowd was having a blast and there wasn't any of the tired, same-old-same-old activities between any of the innings. Hands down, this was the best experience I had at a game all summer long. If you are ever within a 90 minute radius of Dayton and you can get tickets, you must treat yourself to the Dayton Dragons experience.

Friday, September 11, 2015

The Real Origin of the Cubs' Curse

This is just a work in progress, but here's what I've uncovered so far:


Wednesday, September 9, 2015

This Year's Odyssey: The Best Mascots

Almost every team has some sort of mascot. Like everything, they vary in quality. The majority range from sad to bland to fun and exceptional. Here are the five mascots that made the biggest impression on me and the one I owe an apology.

1) Greensboro - The Bat Dogs: This was the most unique thing I saw in any stadium. The Grasshoppers had somebody in a pretty lame costume, but the real mascots were the dogs. When the home team was batting, the dogs chased down any balls which were dead in the plate area and they picked up bats after batters hit the ball.  Then they brought them straight back to the dugout. Between innings the dogs brought balls out to the home plate ump in a bucket. It was cool, different, fun, and the fans loved it. In fact, one of the dogs was retiring the weekend I was there and the people around me were quite sad about it. Heck, it's worth going to a Grasshoppers game just to see the bat dogs.

2) Louisville - Louisville's mascot is unique in that it is rather ugly. On the other hand, it is far outside the fur/feather generic costume and the costume is such that it allows far more movement than most. And the guy in the costume took full advantage of it. He bounced around like a madman for the entire game leading cheers, dancing on the dugouts, and making some truly lame entertainment which the Bats had scheduled for that day enjoyable. The mascot was manic and fun and those wings were flaring all around.

3) Burlington - Bingo is about as generic a mascot as you can find. It's an indeterminate orange blob with a ping-pong type head, huge eyes, and a home team uniform. It looks like a giant muppet. At first I didn't pay much attention, but it quickly became obvious that the B.Royals fans were nuts for him. I didn't get it until Bingo got up between innings and danced on the roofs of the dugouts. Lots of mascots dance, but this one was about a 9.5 out of 10. And the crowd was really into it. They love him and he worked the crowd the entire game. It's an example of starting with less and building a whole lot more.

Richmond - The Richmond Flying Squirrels have a terrible logo and name. Imagine my surprise when I got into the park and the coolest looking superhero squirrel came out. I don't remember him doing anything particularly impressive, but it was probably best costume I saw all Summer.





Jackson - The Generals' mascot is a bulldog lieutenant general. He didn't really do anything particularly spectacular, but it was one of the more impressive looking mascots and the entire game kids were chasing him and people were getting pics.







Toledo - The Mud Hens' mascot was above average, but that's not the reason I remember him. I had arrived at the game early and I had already bought and was wearing my hat (third favorite hat of the summer) while I sat in my seat watching warmups. The mascot was working the crowd and walked behind me without me knowing he was there. He reached down and patted me on the head. Surprised, I reacted on instinct and flung my arm back slugging the mascot. Thankfully, the costume was thick enough that the guy inside didn't even notice and he just kept walking. I've always felt a little regret about hitting the mascot, but, on the other hand, reaching down a hitting an unwary fan on the head probably isn't a good idea.



Weirdest Mascot Behavior: I won't name the particular team, but at one AAA game there was a group of fairly rough characters drinking it up. About halfway through the game they were well into their cups when I noticed that a woman in the group and the mascot interacting. I don't know who started it, but the mascot was making motions to her encouraging her to raise the front of her shirt and she was making the same motions back at him, although I never saw her actually flash him. This went on for several innings every time the mascot came back into the area until the woman left with her companions sometime late in the game. I've never seen anything like that in a game before or since (thankfully).

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Astros Are The Champions!!!! (The Greeneville Ones)

Congratulations to the Greeneville Astros who won the rubber match against the Princeton Rays in an excellent and hard played 8-7 game and became the Appalachian League champs. I look forward to seeing y'all and the entire league again next year.