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Not-so-lean cuisine: 2021 ballpark food highlights 

They came, they saw, they chowed down: Designated Eaters tell all
12:00 PM EDT

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
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
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
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
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
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

Larry Ward, the Lookouts' veteran voice

Chattanooga icon is longest-tenured Double-A broadcaster
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
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
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
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
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
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

Concourse cuts: Rocket City's ballpark stylist 

Kevin Da Barber sets up shop at Trash Pandas' Toyota Field
July 16, 2021

A hot dog, beer and a haircut? Fans can obtain all three at Madison, Alabama's Toyota Field, home of the Rocket City Trash Pandas. The brand-new ballpark includes a mobile barbershop on the left field concourse, overseen by local barber and business man Kevin Thomas. Haircuts are available during every

In Chattanooga, fans look out for Wanda

Charismatic program vendor is a beloved ballpark fixture
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

Freedom! Looking back at memorable Minors' 4th

Milestone holiday weekend featured big crowds and positive vibes
July 8, 2021

The Fourth of July is always an important date for Minor League Baseball teams, but this past weekend was extra special. After the cancellation of the 2020 season and a delayed, capacity-restricted start to 2021, this year's festivities represented both a return to normalcy and an opportunity for cathartic celebration.

The hatching: Mayflies invade Saints' ballpark

St. Paul's insect cleanup involves blowers, vacuums and shovels
July 2, 2021

The mayflies were coming. The St. Paul Saints just didn't know when. "We’re so close to the Mississippi River, and once a year, we get one really bad day," said Erik Franke, field operations manager at the Saints' home of CHS Field. "I wish we could set it on a

Encore! Emeralds again go all in on Pride Night 

Eugene celebrates LGBTQ community with colorful jerseys, bases
June 29, 2021

When the San Francisco Giants became the first Major League team to take the field wearing Pride colors earlier this month, they were following in the footsteps of their High-A affiliate. That team is the Eugene Emeralds, who, in 2019, wore jerseys featuring a rainbow flag team logo. In doing

Foul's alarm: Batted ball prompts park evacuation 

Barstad's fluke hit triggers sirens, resulting in unique delay of game
June 23, 2021

A baseball box score beautifully and succinctly tells the story of the game. But there are some things that a box score can't tell you. Take, for instance, what happened during Friday evening's contest between the Low-A Jupiter Hammerheads and visiting St. Lucie Mets. With one out in the bottom

Celebrating Juneteenth in the Minors

Teams hosting community celebrations, Negro League tributes
June 18, 2021

Juneteenth, commemorating the end of slavery in the United States, has been observed on June 19 for over 150 years. But now it is a federal holiday. Juneteenth's increased -- and long overdue -- prominence has prompted Minor League teams to stage their own commemorations. Some of these endeavors took

Crooked Numbers 2021: Return of the weird

May in the Minors includes unlikely cycles, way too many walks
June 4, 2021

Welcome to Crooked Numbers, a long-running column dedicated to Minor League Baseball on-field anomalies. The column, like everything related to the Minor Leagues, was forced to take a hiatus in 2020. But now is a time for optimism. We're one month into a new season, and it's time to once

Done waiting: Dunedin Jays finally return home

Toronto affiliate ready for first game at TD Ballpark since 2018
June 2, 2021

Tomorrow, for the first time in 33 months, the Dunedin Blue Jays will play in front of fans at their home ballpark. Like most teams in the Florida-based Low-A Southeast, Dunedin operates out of the Spring Training home of its parent club. They would normally begin their home schedule at

Best of 36: Bulls and Jumbo Shrimp cook up rivalry

'Surf and Turf' loser to give away T-shirts commemorating defeat
May 28, 2021

Despite hundreds of years of professional baseball history between the two cities, 2021 marks the first occasion in which Jacksonville and Durham have operated within the same league at the same time. It didn't take long for them to become rivals. Earlier this week, the Jumbo Shrimp and the Bulls,

Locked in from afar: Calling road games at home

Lugnuts' Goldberg-Strassler discusses 2021 broadcast realities
May 26, 2021

The Lansing Lugnuts completed their first road trip of the season on Sunday, having split six-game sets against both the Dayton Dragons and Fort Wayne TinCaps. Lugnuts broadcaster Jesse Goldberg-Strassler and his partner, Adam Jaksa, were on the call for all 12 games, narrating every moment of the action. There

Your name here: Snappers' fans christen ballpark

Beloit auctions off Pohlman Field naming rights on a per-game basis
May 21, 2021

Last week, a Wilmington, North Carolina man by the name of Bob Graff visited Beloit, Wisconsin, for the first time. The occasion? To see a game at a Minor League ballpark that had been named in his honor. The Beloit Snappers played their first and only game at Bob Graff's

Renegades go renegade after videoboard meltdown

Embracing the ridiculous, Hudson Valley utilizes low-tech solutions
May 19, 2021

On Saturday morning, Hudson Valley Renegades director of digital media and video production Zach Neubauer woke up to a troubling reality. The control room computer that serves as the hub for videoboard graphics and video had ceased to function. "Sometimes components go bad. We didn’t have a replacement and it