Power Park

Power Park
The National Anthem is performed moments before the Lexington Legends play the West Virginia Power in Charleston.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

West Virginia Power 2014

We were able to make it to Charleston West Virginia to catch the Power take on the Legends.  The weather was great, and Charleston is a great town for South Atlantic League baseball!

Charleston is a town that has really grown on me over the last few seasons, along with this part of West Virginia.  I really enjoy making the drive over to this area.

It was a bonus that this was a Saturday DAY game.  I would like to see more teams have day games on a Saturday.  Since the game started at 2, we were able to drive up early, enjoy some other sites nearby, and then drive home after the game.  No need for a hotel room (or to drive in the dark) on this trip!

We got seats near the Toastman at this game.  I have noticed him before, but it was a real treat setting in his section!  This guy is lively!  He holds up signs with fun nicknames for the West Virginia players, and he taunts the opposing players when they strikeout (by making toast and throwing it into the crowd).  Seriously, Toastman is a very entertaining part of the game.

I really like coming to Appalachian Power Park to see the Power for many other reasons too.  For one thing, the staff at the park is always helpful and calm.  They are OK with people moving around a bit, and enjoying the game from different perspectives.  These guys don't have staff harassing fans to return to their seats.  The park has a pleasant "locals who all know each other" vibe.  You feel like kids and families walk down to the park not just to see a game, but to see their friends.

I really can't emphasize this enough.  At this park I feel a real retro calmness.  This is one of the more casual parks I know of.  The buildings around the park have an older feel and you do feel like you have gone back in time.  I don't want to make any over used comparisons to Mayberry but.......

I love the scenery around the park too- lots of mountains, plus, the previously mentioned older buildings.

Oh, and I did see some people watching the game from rooftops nearby!  I would love to work in one of the gorgeous older buildings that overlook the park.

I have noticed a vendor at the games who seems to always be selling hats for $5!  Like the Toastman, this guy is witty and always making jokes!

I could go on and on about how much I love this park.


Friday, April 4, 2014

Wild Pitches

Do you check out Kurt Smith's site, "Ballpark E-Guides"?  I have mentioned this site before, but it is worth mentioning again, as Kurt puts up a lot of fun, interesting, and helpful info.

I really liked his article about the Expos moving from Montreal.  Check it out here-

Kurt has written a very brief and easy to understand explanation of what went down.

He also got me thinking about all of the ballparks and teams that have moved on, or that are about to move on.  I don't mean to sound sappy, but I do feel a bit sad about defunct baseball teams.

It is well known that this is the last season for the Huntsville Stars, and Kurt's story reminded me of my visit to their park a few seasons ago.  The place was empty.  I grabbed a seat behind home plate, and I could listen to the radio broadcast live, as the voice of the Stars had his window open, calling the game right behind me.

On a brighter note, the season has started!  I am looking forward to visiting some new parks, and to seeing the local teams that I love.  The Lexington Legends play in my backyard, so I will be seeing a lot of their games.  The Florence Freedom start up in May, I will be at several of their games.  There are some teams a little further out that I look forward to seeing a time or two each season, like the Tennessee Smokies, the West Virginia Power, and others.  Visiting those teams at their home park is like visiting an old friend.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Fandemonium at Smokies Stadium

This past weekend we made our way down to Kodak Tennessee, one of my favorite spots for baseball!

Its kind of funny, I am sometimes not exactly sure of how to refer to this area.  When someone says they are going to Kodak, Sevierville, Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, Knoxville, or the Great Smoky Mountains, I know they are going to this general area.  And I know that they will be having a lot of fun.

I like visiting this area during the baseball season because of the Smokies baseball team, and I like coming down any other time I can because this is just a great area.

There were several other baseball events going on this weekend, but the Smokies were hosting their "Fandemonium" event which sounded like the thing to go to in my books.

In fact, we came down for the weekend, and we had plenty of time to drive around the Smoky Mountains, and to walk the strip in Gatlinburg.  Any weekend during the baseball season we can come down, catch a game, and have a lot of fun in the surrounding area.

So we got to the Fandemonium event a little after it opened at 10am.  The team had shirts, hats and game used jerseys on sale and the prices were right.  I can never pass on a game used jersey for under $50.  The Smokies have a well stocked and very diverse team shop anyway.  These guys know about marketing their merchandise.

After making a few purchases, we took the self guided tour of the park.  This is another reason that I love these preseason minor league baseball events.  You get to take a thorough tour of the facilities!  Its actually pretty rare for the public to get a behind the scenes look at the smaller parks.  Most of the MLB parks give tours all the time, but not in the minors.

This was the first time that I saw a team offer a self guided tour like this.  There were signs with arrows, pointing fans in the right direction.  Also, staff were everywhere answering questions, and helping people who did not notice the signs.

Its always fun seeing the clubhouse, the batting cages, and inside of the dugout.  I can't say why exactly, but its just cool.

Mascots were on hand for photo ops, and the inflatables were open for the kids.  AND, the team was giving away hot dogs, beverages, and popcorn!  My first park hot dog of the season tasted great!  AND it was free!

Smokies Stadium is becoming one of my favorite venues for a game.  You have those fun cities nearby I mentioned before that are exciting and lively, but they still have a very rural vibe.

And that might be why I like this park so much.  This is a AA team playing in a solid AA park- but it doesn't feel like it is in a city area.  It feels like it is in a small town.

Plus the mountainous scenery around the park is amazing.  As you watch the game, right over the outfield wall you see those green curves.  You are in the beautiful south, dealing with friendly southerners.  The Smokies and Smokies Stadium get an A+.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Bonds back in Pittsburgh


Check out the above article by Mark Townsend.  Mark obviously feels that it is a good time for this to happen (Bonds making an appearance during a pregame ceremony in Pittsburgh).

For me, I am more interested in some of the other names appearing at the same event.

He will be presenting the MVP award to Andrew McCutchen.  This just doesn't seem right to me.  I think of McCutchen as a totally classy guy with a lot of heart.  Obviously this is my own personal bias but I don't put these guys in the same category at all.

Hey, tell Manny Sanguillen to stop selling BBQ for a few minutes so he come out and present the award.  That guy still has class.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Star Wars Uniforms this Season

OK, I admit, I love it when minor league teams were the odd themed jerseys.  AND, I loved Star Wars growing up.  Check out this fun article from Yahoo Sports about Star Wars jerseys being worn this season-


Friday, March 14, 2014

Bowling Green Hot Rods

I have really developed a fondness for the Hot Rods over the last few seasons.  Bowling Green is a nice town, and the Bowling Green Ballpark is in a nice, easy to get to area with plenty of street parking, and a convenient garage right next door.

There is a really cool antique shop close by, and the cozy coffee shop, Spencer's, right next door too.  Spencer's is a great place for soup, sandwich, and some of the best coffee in Kentucky.

It is very easy to spend a relaxing day near the park, and then catch a Hot Rod's game in the evening.

So, I am always looking for a reason to get to this area, even if a game is not going on.

Luckily, the team recently hosted a preseason event.

I love it when teams, especially minor league ones, do this.  Its not everyday that you get a guided tour of the smaller parks, with a chance to see the clubhouse, walk through the bullpen, and have a seat in the dugout.  Its always a cool experience!

AND, the very cool Jennifer was our tour guide.  She has worked for the team for SIX years (that's a pretty long time in the world of minor league baseball).  Jennifer was able to talk about previous players on the team, updating locals on which players have moved up, or down, in the Rays system.  She was also very knowledgeable on stats, and playing conditions of the park.

Jennifer mentioned a lot of promotions for the upcoming season, and how the Hot Rods are focusing on being "funner" this season.  The team is taking a lot of pride in their food options at the park this season.

Mascots were available for photos, and the team was giving away free Pepsi and popcorn!  Drawings were held for a free TV too!

And, as if they had not been generous enough, the team was having a great sale in their gift shop!  I could not leave without a new hat and t-shirt myself.



Monday, February 24, 2014

Former Lexington Legends Manager, Gregg Langbehn is back in affiliated baseball

I always like Gregg Langbehn when he was in Lexington managing the Legends.  He always seemed like a good guy.  After parting company with Lexington, he spent a good 5 years leading the Beach Bums in the Frontier League.

Now, he will be working for the Cleveland Indians in a VERY new role!  Check out this article by James Cook from the Traverse City Record-Eagle!


Thursday, February 20, 2014

Minimum Wage in the Minors

Check out this article from Bay City News Service.  A class action lawsuit has been filed by former minor league players against MLB.  The players are making an argument that they were not paid minimum wage.  Very interesting read!


Thursday, January 30, 2014

Mark Monninger aka Rally Bear- Unofficial Professional Mascot

I remember hearing about "Rally Bear" making an appearance at game 3 of the NLCS at the end of last season. The Dodgers, who are one of the few MLB teams left without an official mascot, seemed to have finally found a great one!

BUT, the Rally Bear was not endorsed by the team. I found out later that the man behind the Rally Bear mask was indeed a professional mascot, and he is someone who cares about sports in Los Angeles.

Sadly, security at Dodger Stadium escorted Rally Bear out, and they informed him that he could not come back to Dodgers' property for 6 months.

Many people in the area felt that this was uncool of the Dodgers, and Rally Bear has received a lot of support since then.

I was able to find Mark Monninger (aka Rally Bear) very easily online. I sent him a note and he VERY kindly agreed to answer some questions for the blog!

Mark's responses to my questions are in bold.
So Mark, it seems that you have worked with MANY pro sports teams at the highest levels. What teams have you worked with, and which team and mascot was your favorite?
In 1993, they brought a minor league baseball team to our city of Rancho Cucamonga. The Quakes were a HUGE hit in our town, we sold out every game in our first three seasons. I was asked to help create a new mascot. A dinosaur named Tremor, the Rallysaurus was born. The costume was built by the same company that had just created new mascots for the NFL the year before. Tremor became the hit of the game, and many said them often came to the game just to see Tremor perform and were very entertained by him. Being Tremor led to being the mascot for the Rams, which lead to being the Dallas Cowboy mascot for the 1994 Super Bowl vs. Buffalo. That was probably my favorite moment, being the Cowboy mascot for our country’s biggest sporting event.

Do you have a favorite mascot that you have not played? Do you enjoy watching other mascots when you go to a sports event as a fan? 

 In 1995 I was asked to attend an All-Star Mascot Event in Florida representing Tremor, and got a chance to meet and work with most all of the working mascots in the NFL, MLB, NHL & NBA at the time. I still think the Philly Fanatic is one of the best. He’s very creative, he’s very animated and works his costume well. The Famous Chicken – “the grandfather” of all professional mascots, certainly gave me a lot of inspiration to be a mascot in college. I even did a term paper on how he got his start and his success in the late 70s and early 80s.
What makes a good mascot?
When I was a mascot instructor in college, we taught high school and college mascots one major theme...EXAGGERATE! Make you movements big so that everyone in the stadium can see you. A good mascot must also relate to their fans. Love everyone equally, make them smile, respect and know the game you work. Be entertaining but try not to upstage the main reason that people are there...and that’s to watch their favorite team compete in a sporting event.

After the Dodgers response to the Rally Bear, are you still a fan of the team? Will you return to Dodger Stadium at the end of your 6 month ban?
I was born and raised in Southern California, so I actually like both the Dodgers and Angels. I’m a fan of the game, and enjoy great players from all teams. I didn’t attend a lot of games last season, so a ban wasn’t such a big deal for me.
Surely you have been contacted by some other teams or other businesses interested in Rally Bear. I hate to think we have seen the last of him! What are his plans for the future?
I was approached by another minor league team to come and perform at their stadium, but I wasn’t really interested in going back to performing at minor league games again. I really think that the Angels and Dodgers should rethink their stance on a entertaining mascot. A mascot doesn’t have to be the one that runs with a kid around the bases, or just shoots shirts into the stands, they can also represent the team at children’s hospitals, and school events. They can be an ambassador for the team and be part of their marketing plans. A good mascot that is loved by the fans young and old will also sell a LOT of merchandise. That would help pay for a Kershaw-like salary!
I was listening to the LA ESPN radio show when they interviewed you. They talked about how easy it was to locate you (I think they said it took them 7 minutes). Other than me, have other people tracked you down through your place of business wanting to talk about Rally Bear?
A few. Mostly a lot of media. The few people that did call said they thought it was great what I did, and some that even said they were opposed to a mascot, but if it was one like me, they would support it. That was good to hear, cause that’s the message I’ve been trying to get across to the Dodgers for the last year. It would work if you just get the right person in the right costume. I got lucky and found a costume (actually a Ted costume I got a Halloween Shop) that didn’t offend, was cute, could be tied into the state (the Bear is on our state flag) but a carefully planned costume by the Dodgers or Angels would really go over well.
Anyway, thanks Mark, I hope we see a lot more of Rally Bear in the future!
Me too.....Thanks Jim.
Here is a link to a site supporting Rally Bear-
If you are in the Rancho Cucamonga area, you can buy some furniture directly from Rally Bear!  Check out Mark's company site at-

I didn't ask Mark if he ever thought about writing a book, but I hope he considers it....  A Super Bowl appearance AND he has worked with all sorts of different teams!  I bet he has some more great stories to share!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Quad Cities River Bandits Park Updates

Fun guy Benjamin Hill wrote a great article on milb.com about the Quad Cities River Bandits park getting some amusement park style additions.

Here is the article-


First off, have you been to Modern Woodmen Park in Davenport?  The place is amazing.  It is a unique and beautiful place to see a game.  Here is some info from my visit there back in 2012-


I guess I am asking myself, "Does adding a Ferris wheel to this park make me want to visit it again?"

The answer is, "Absolutely."

Again, even without rides and updates, this park is perfect.  That bridge is amazing, and in a cozy little park like this, you are going to have a great baseball experience!

Still, I tip my hat to the River Bandits organization for wanting to do more.  They obviously want this park to be beyond amazing.  They want the baseball purist, and the young kid to have a great time.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Wild Pitches

It's January and pretty much nothing baseball related is going on.  I am itching for anything baseball related right now.

So, is it strange that I got excited the other night while watching the GREAT TV show "The Middle" (which is set in Indianapolis) and they mentioned going to an Indianapolis Indians game?

I remember "Seventh Heaven" had some references to the Modesto Nuts on their show (I never saw the show, but when I went to a game in Modesto, some of the staff were talking about it). 

We all know about the connection "MASH" had to the Toledo Mud Hens.  That was cool.

I think it would be great if the Heck family found their way to Victory Field sometime this season! 

Friday, January 17, 2014

Wild Pitches

There are some interesting things FINALLY going on in the world of minor league baseball right now!

Joe Mikulik is managing again!  I REALLY like this guy, and I am glad he has another chance to do his thing.  For over a decade, the man was a huge part of baseball in the SAL.  Here is some more info blueridgenow.com-


AL.com has put together a timeline for the Huntsville Stars, who will be playing their last season in 2014.  They will be moving to Mississippi.


I do hope that area sees a pro team again.  BUT, I have to be honest, I can think of many other baseball towns I would enjoy roadtripping to in the south more (Chattanooga, Nashville, Sevierville, Birmingham, Savannah, etc). 

Lastly, I am sure you know about the fire that broke out at Fifth Third Ballpark near Grand Rapids Michigan.  I love this park and the entire area around it.  For some reason, I keep finding myself there and I have come to admire this team, its park, and the surrounding community.  I am certain that the park will be back in shape by the start of the season.  I really look forward to seeing more games there.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Seating and a Foul Ball Lawsuit

When I get to a park and buy my tickets for the game, I can get a bit particular.  If its a park I have never been to before, and the person selling tickets seems competent, I might ask for their opinion about where to go for the best skyline view, or where to get a seat without the sun in my eyes.  If it looks like there might be rain, I will ask for a seat under an awning.

Normally though, I simply ask for an aisle seat, near third, without netting obstruction.  Sometimes when I ask for that, I get a blank stare.

But, I am aware of the dangers of foul balls, especially at the smaller minor league parks I love.  Our ears have been grazed, seats we were sitting in have been nailed seconds after we get up for a dog....  I can go on.

There are some horror stories out there.  Coaches and fans have been hurt over the last several seasons.

I know when I go to a game with my dad, he would rather have the seats behind the net.  I like taking pictures from my seat though, and the net is terrible.  I know a lot of people feel differently about this.  I would hate to have a day when you go to the ballpark, and ALL seats are protected by netting.  What do you think?

Here is an article by Dan Carden with the Northwest Indiana Times about some legal concerns relating to a fan hit (and seriously injured) by a ball.


Thursday, January 2, 2014

Risks of Bringing a New Park to Town


I just read this Freeman Klopott article about risks to a community of building a new park.

If you aren't a fan of minor league baseball, the article might be a tad confusing as it goes back and forth discussing the independent leagues and affiliated baseball teams, but the article makes an interesting point.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Jared Reaves- Tigers Minor League Prospect

I got a great note from Jared Reaves talking about his career and the past season!

Jared let me know that this season started slow, but he feels that he managed to catch his stride and finish well.

He loved playing for the Whitecaps, and he let me know that the most impressive park in his league was Fort Wayne.

I asked him about missing home, and he said that he does miss the South when he is away, especially in April and May when it is warm.

He did grow up a Braves fan, but that changed when he was drafted by the Tigers organization.  He is proud to be with the Tigers, and he says that the people are caring and professional.

He does acknowledge that he still likes to see the Braves win...  unless they are playing the Tigers!

He ends his note with a "Roll Tide!"

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Huntsville or Biloxi?

I hate to keep posting links to other articles....  but there have been some interesting ones lately!  And, to be honest, I got nothin' right now myself!

Check out this article by Mark McCarter concerning a possible move of the Huntsville Stars to Biloxi-


Have you been to a game at Joe Davis Stadium?  We were there a few years ago, and the place was dead.  I hate to put it that way, but......

Anyway, this is a very interesting article about the pros and the cons of a 2015 move for the team.  Check it out!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Indy Star article on 1917 Brewers Controversy

Forgive me for pointing out another article from the same source to posts in a row!

The Indy Star has become my go to site for news about one of my all time favorite towns, Indianapolis!

The Star does a fun job of covering sports and local news, and they also care about the area's past.

Check out this article involving a murder in 1917.  Baseball is not the focus, though the manager of the Milwaukee Brewers (then of the American Association) is!


Monday, December 2, 2013

Bush Stadium in Indianapolis

Here is a great article from the Indy Star about the old park in Indianapolis- it is now an apartment complex!  I tip my hat to the paper for such a cool article and to Indianapolis for doing this!!!


Monday, November 25, 2013

"Bottom of the 33rd" by Dan Barry

So, have you had the chance to swing by Pawtucket on any of your baseball pilgrimages?  This is one of my favorite areas.  I love New England, though it is very different from my home state.

Anyway, if you HAVE been to McCoy Stadium, you know that they have a ton of pride in the fact that the longest game was played there.  To be honest, I wasn't very aware of the the game until my stop there just under a decade ago.

The circumstances surrounding the longest game are very fascinating.  In case you don't know, on April 14th, 1981, the Pawtucket Red Sox hosted the Rochester Red Wings in a game that got started late, and that was still going on the next morning.  32 innings were played to a 2-2 tie!  Two months later, the teams got together again to finish the game.  The 33rd and final inning took 18 minutes.

Dan Barry writes a great book about the players, the history of the field, baseball in Pawtucket, and he lets you know about what happened to the players after the game.  If you know anything about this game, you know that a future Hall of Famer participated with each team.  You know that less than a couple dozen fans were still at the park for the 32nd inning.

Mr. Barry gets in to some of the more foggy facts about the game, and inaccurate legends surrounding it (one pitcher tells a story about a particular strike out in the game that never happened).

The game has a very Twilight Zone feel to it, with several odd factors and events affecting the game- including a paragraph missing form the rule book, a missed phone call, and bot teams scoring in the 18th inning.

There are several guys I remember from my days following the 1986 Mets and Red Sox (as a kid, that was the first year I really followed baseball).  Its great reading about these players BEFORE that great season.

AND, it was great fun reading about some of the other players.  Dave Koza, the star of the game and a Pawtucket legend, really becomes the focus of the book towards the end.  In fact, his personal journey after the game is just as interesting as the game that made him famous.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Steve Stewart- Kansas City Royals Radio Ntwork

Steve Stewart has been in baseball for over 20 years!  He has worked with the Red, Cardinals and the Royals during that time!

Steve was kind enough to send me a note recently about some of his thoughts on baseball.....

I asked Steve about his favorite players and he mentions Sean Casey, Brandon Phillips, and Bronson Arroyo.  He says Adam Dunn is a favorite too, and he is a funny guy.

"For the Royals...my favorite current players would probably be Alex Gordon...and among the young guys Salvador Perez and Eric Hosmer are both a lot of fun to watch.  Favorite former player...just in terms of being a great guy...is Jeff Francoeur."

He says that, other than Kansas City, Chicago is his favorite road city.  He went there a lot with the Reds, and now with the Royals.  Steve describes Chicago to be like a second home to him.

He says that he feels Detroit is the best sports city in America.  This might sound a little odd at first, but Steve Stewart makes a good argument, noting that they have all of the major sports team (MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL) AND major college sports.  All of those teams draw good crowds.  PLUS, Detroit has a NASCAR race each year and golf majors from time to time.

Concerning the Royals, Steve says that the Royals fans are the best and most loyal in baseball.  He says that the town was electric this past summer as the Royals were fighting for a playoff spot.  He says the Chiefs broke the decibel record last Sunday when they beat Oakland.  He also talks about how huge college sports are here.

Check out his blog!


Monday, November 11, 2013

Trustmark Park- Mississippi Braves

On a recent road trip we had a moment to BRIEFLY stop by Trustmark Park, home of the Mississippi Braves.

You KNOW I was miserable as I stood outside looking in, on a non-game day, as the place was closed.

I could tell Trustmark MUST be a great place to be when the M-Braves are in town.  The place looked amazing as I stood outside looking in.

Sometimes you plan a road trip through a minor league baseball town even though you know you won't be able to time things out for a game day.  Its a double edged sword- you KNOW you will get to see a park, BUT you won't get to see the park in all of it's glory- with two teams on the field. 

Monday, November 4, 2013

Sweet Right Brothers


We didn't see as many acts at the park this year as usual.  We DID catch the Sweet Right Brothers.

I love all of these acts and hope we see plenty next season!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Akron RubberDucks

One thing I do miss about living in northern Ohio is all of the access to great baseball.  You can see just about all of the Indians farm teams with a short drive.  I have enjoyed Captains and Scrappers games (had partial season tickets for both teams).  I used to catch the Clippers a couple times each season (they weren't affiliated with the Tribe at that time though) and I used to work walking distance from Canal Park, where the Akron Aeros played.

I always thought that the name "Aeros" was kind of goofy.  I never liked it.

Well, the team is NOW the Akron RubberDucks!  And yes, I absolutely love this name!

I remember the team asked fans to vote on keeping the Aeros name or going with a new one several years ago.  The Rubber Ducks name was an option, but fans voted on keeping the Aeros name.

Still, I think this is a team in desperate need of rebranding, and I think they have done a good job....  so far!


Monday, October 28, 2013

Joe Kruzel and Modern Woodmen Park


I was thinking about some of my favorite baseball experiences over the last few seasons.  One of the all time coolest minor league parks is Modern Woodmen Park in Davenport Iowa.

See my previous post on it, but there have been some flooding issues (see link above). 

I sent former hitting coach Joe Kruzel a photo to sign that I took of him at the park.  I love his inscription!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The El Paso Chihuahuas


The Padres' new AAA team is the El Paso Chihuahuas.  I KNOW there are some people upset about this, but I absolutely love this team name!  El Paso just got bumped up on my "areas to visit" list.

I am a Chihuahua person (I have had one all of my life) and I love them!

Also, I think it is just cool that a team is going with this name.  There is something tough about it- kind of like when a team wears pink.  It's kind of like saying, "we're so tough, we are going to call ourselves the Chihuahuas!"