Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Top 10 of 2008

It's that time of year. Last-minute shopping, bad sweaters, office parties, and Year In Review lists. We at the Brooklyn Baseball Blog are nothing if not traditionalists, so here's a look back at some of the most memorable (AKA embarrassing, shameful, humorous, insensitive) moments of year that was:

10. 24 Hours of Baseball: I'm lumping this all together as one for two reasons:
A) Most of the experience could comprise a Top 10 list all by itself
B) It's all still a blur and I'm not really sure how much of it was real, and how much was completely imagined, St. Elsewhere-style.
Anyway, 24 was a blast (mostly in retrospect). We took on 12 teams in consecutive two-hour games, playing baseball for an entire day. The sun was up, went down, came back up, and started to go back down again...all before Gary even got his first hit! (But after he broke his ribs.) Read all about it.

9. Tarp Duty: Unfortunately, 2008 was a summer filled with rain. And with rain comes the call for TARP! It's that time-honored minor league tradition, in which every member of the staff, from top to bottom, becomes an immediate member of the Grounds Crew and sloshes around in an attempt to save the field and get the game in before Mother Nature ultimately gets her way. This year alone, we pulled tarp on 17 out of 38 home dates. Amazingly, though, we only had two rainouts! I don't know how that's possible. It's like Steve actually parts the seas for three hours just so we can play that night's game. This year, I personally ruined dress shoes, sneakers, suit pants, khakis, and even spandex! Not fun. Tarp Duty really belongs more on a "Bottom 10" list than a "Top 10," but you can't talk about the Summer of '08 without at least acknowledging it.

8. The All-Star Game: Any time we, as a staff, embark on a road trip, a few things are guaranteed to ensue -- hilarity, misdirection, awkwardness, and borderline violence. The 2008 NYPL All-Star Game was a classic example. In a three-day span, we re-wrote the lyrics to Piano Man to revolve around Gary, learned that my mild-mannered intern was a degenerate horse-racing handicapper, almost got into a fistfight with an umpire, had to help Brad Holt file a restraining order against Pat, played a cutthroat game of darts in a bar in which I thought I might actually get my throat cut, got lost five times despite having two navigation systems in the car, watched Cyclones pitchers blow away the best talent in the league, dealt with a hematoma on my leg, learned the merits of Denny's Moons Over My Hammy, wondered why Joyce was shunning a chiseled strapping Iraqi war veteran, almost went to an after-party in a morgue, and generally questioned the sanity of myself and all of my colleagues. And that wasn't even our most outrageous trip ever!

7. Fireworks Week: What a great idea. A whole week full of fireworks, with spectacular explosion-filled light shows eminating from a movable stage on the warning track. What could be better? That is, until we almost burned down the batter's eye, got fined by a fire marshall, and spent every morning that week on our hands and knees picking up spent fireworks shells from the centerfield grass. Next year, I suggest sparklers.

6. The Follies of Ricky: In the past year, we have watched the inimitable Richard Viola try his hand at catching (you can't really call it that if you don't actually catch any of the pitches, but whatever), fall just short of banging out 20 pushups before collapsing on the floor of Applebee's, come in a close second in a pre-game hamburger-eating contest, miss the mark in his try-out as a pitcher, use his Eagle Eye to work more walks than anyone in the history of 24 Hours of baseball, use that same Eagle Eye to watch fly balls drop inside of a two-foot radius from his position in left field, beat Rebecca in a controversial Battle of the Sexes footrace (I wish I could overlay Chariots of Fire music on that clip), get tackled and mauled by Maverick, attempt to lose 195 pounds in one week, exhibit a paranormal knowledge of all things Billy Joel, make inappropriate comments and advances to men and women at all ends of the spectrum, inquire about purchasing a trained skunk, and regale newcomers to the organization with his exploits (and eventual shame) as a standout High School Wide receiver. You absolutely never know what you're getting from Ricky, but at least you always know it'll be entertaining.

5. Cohen in Costume: Let me preface this with a bit of brown-nosing...there aren't many GMs of successful teams who do what Steve does in the name of entertainment. The guy will literally do anything to make the Cyclones more fun -- on the field, in the stands, or in the office. That includes taste-testing pork rinds and Robbie Dawg treats, singing imaginary lyrics to Broadway musicals in the rain, or screaming a makeshift version of the Spanish language at a street fair. However, when Steve gets in costume, that's when he's at his best. Some of Steve's costumed 2008 highlights include singing Happy Birthday to Joyce while wearing a Sandy the Seagull costume; taunting fans, Applebee's Man, and Warner Fusselle as the Pink Ape or the Land Shark (AKA "Man in a Grey Suit"); nearly asphyxiating as Radioactive Man on Superhero Night; or berating the Ticket Office for their lackluster work ethic while dressed as Captain Jack Sparrow.

4. Mad Mahoney: Kevin's been known to have a temper, just a slight one, from time to time. In 2008, he nearly came to blows with a 75-year-old umpire in a charity game (the guy deserved it...he told Kevin to turn his hat around), two interns at the annual softball game (they deserved it...for being interns), a Parks Department official on the boardwalk (she deserved it...she told Maverick not to poop on the sand), the first-base coach for the Produce Team during 24 Hours of baseball (he deserved it...the pitcher on his team was actually trying to pitch well against us), a pizza delivery guy (he deserved it...he tried to deliver a pizza with broccoli that we ordered), Rishi, Gary, Steve, me, two Season Ticket Holders, the UPS guy, the clubhouse guy, Edgar Alfonzo, Gary, a guy from an ad agency, Carl Erskine, Dean Bell, Gary, a traffic cop, the exterminator, members of the Military Olympics Team, Joe Smith, Carlos Muniz, David Wright, and Gary. I have to admit, I've been known to egg him on from time to time, as well. At this point, I just like to see how quickly I can get him to blow his stack, and try to see if I can beat my own personal best times. I'm pretty sure by the time he gets to this sentence, he'll be coming down the hall to kill me. Success!

3. Down the Stretch: By the way, we do mix in some baseball around here, too. After an up and down season, the team on the field had an amazing final few weeks of the season in which they went 12-4, including nine wins in a row to storm back into the playoff hunt. Unfortunately, we didn't make the playoffs, missing out on a postseason berth by one (measly, stinking) game. A heartbreaking loss on the penultimate day of the season sealed our fate, and a rainout on the last day of the year made the whole ending anti-climactic, but those last couple of weeks were pretty darn exciting. It was a fun team. Lots of good guys, lots of top prospects, lots of good memories.

2. Promo Nights: At the heart of the Cyclones experience is the entertainment that surrounds the game. This year's highlights included Pirate Night, Superhero Night, a Rock Paper Scissors tournament, Medieval Times Night (I get in trouble for the horses every year), thgiN sdrawkcaB, bobbleheads, special appearances, fireworks, clowns, jugglers, stilt walkers, and more. Basically, every night is a party here, and when it all comes together (and it doesn't rain), there's no place better.

1. The creation of the blog: OK, technically it was December of '07, but '08 was really the year it became really real. For real. And technically, it probably wouldn't actually make many Top 10s, but hey, I'm the only one with the password, and it's my list, so take that! (Incidentally, on the subject of blogging autonomy, there is nothing more fun than watching Steve break into a cold sweat and sprint to his monitor when I ask -- while unable to suppress a grin that he knows can't be good -- if he's read the blog lately. Good stuff. It's what keeps me coming in every day.) Full of inside looks and inside jokes, the blog is a way for the front office (OK, mostly me) to think and act outside the box a bit and share other sides of ourselves with Cyclones fans. It's also the thing that I will likely look back on as a cornerstone of my other-worldly success, or the reason I was fired, fined, and arrested/institutionalized (more likely the latter). But that's neither here nor here. A few laughs, a few interesting tidbits, and a few things that -- like the immortal Freedom Williams said -- make you go hmmmmm, and I'll chalk it up as a success.

Stay tuned. There will be even more to blog about in 2009...especially now that I've figured out how this whole Internetblogosphereworldwidewebbything works. (I think it's gonna be huge! We should, like, get a website or something.)

Happy New Year!

-- Dave

Friday, December 12, 2008

What Happens In Vegas...

OK, so my original game plan was to log in with semi-live quick-hit updates throughout the Winter Meetings from Las Vegas, but that was before I realized that I had issues getting online at my hotel (and by "issues" I mean that, as I quickly learned, like everything in Vegas, internet time was grossly overpriced and difficult to get to). So instead, from the "better late than never" department, comes a longer-than-I'd-like-it-to-be post-meeting recap that I hope will still be of some interest (which is currently being written about an hour after my red-eye flight landed, so bear with me).

The Meetings kicked off on Monday with the Bob Freitas Seminar, which is about seven or eight hours of idea sharing via lectures and roundtable discussions. Topics range from things like "How to Incorporate a Cash-Free System Into Your Business Model" to "How to Squeeze As Much Entertainment As Possible Into Every Half-Inning Break," and just about everything in between (the actual titles were much more catchy, but far less descriptive).

You have to pick and choose which discussions to visit, and the ones I attended were all pretty good. In my opinion, what makes them "good" is if you can glean one or two new ideas -- something you can either outright poach from another team, or something that sparks an idea to do something new, or improve something you already do. Lots of times they'll be very small things that might at first seem trivial, but actually all greatly contribute to the overall experience of a Cyclones Game (I won't bog you down with too many details just yet, but look for things like new endings to our Kiss-Cam skit, or a Make-Your-Own Sign station on the Concourse). Anyway, good stuff at the Freitas Seminar. Lots of things I think we already do well (and in some cases maybe even better than the people presenting on the topics), but like I said, if you can grab one or two good ideas, it's a success. And I alone jotted down about six or seven.

On Tuesday, we attended the New York-Penn League General Session, in which the league president, Ben Hayes, leads a discussion of several areas of interest regarding the NYPL's member teams. In addition, each GM briefly recaps the previous season and sums up any new developments for the year ahead. Steve, in particular, captivated the group with his update:
Ben Hayes: What's new in Brooklyn?
Steve: Well, we're getting new carpet in the office. (Silence.) It's blue. (At this point, I actually think I saw a cluster of tumbleweed drift by.) I'm pretty excited.
In general, there's a list of mostly boring housekeeping-type stuff like new uniforms for the umpires, post-game food spreads for the players, budget updates, and rules regarding teams taking infield at the All-Star Game. Among the more interesting topics to me was the ongoing development of the controversial BAM/BIRCO agreement regarding MiLB websites, and how our site and the way we do things online might be affected. Stay tuned.

On Wednesday, we hit the Baseball Trade Show at the convention center, which is probably my favorite event at the Meetings. Vendors introduce new products, new ideas, new foods, new designs, and generally hawk their services. This is a GREAT idea-generator, as far as I'm concerned. Seeing, feeling, wearing, or using the actual products gives you a true sense of what you're buying, and what may or may not be possible. Lots of these ideas are things that will be unveiled on our 2009 Promotional Schedule. I don't want to ruin too many surprises, so I'll keep most of them secret, but things like a paintable bobblehead, a customized Slinky, and a baseball card with a game-worn uniform swatch may make their way into your summer plans.

Overall, I think it was a pretty productive trip, with some fun, merrymaking, money-losing, networking, overeating, overspending, and (over?)socializing mixed in. Hopefully we'll be able to use some of the ideas from the past week to make the 2009 season the best one yet.

-- Dave

Friday, December 5, 2008

Winter Meetings

Starting on Sunday, the Baseball Winter Meetings will be taking place in Las Vegas, and a few of us are heading west for the event.

It's about five days worth of seminars, league meetings, networking, trade shows (by far my favorite part of the meetings), awards banquets, and idea exchanges that hopefully contribute to the enhancement of the overall Cyclones experience. Among other things, the Meetings provide an opportunity to see what our colleagues and competitors are doing, and vice versa. The gathering gives teams a chance to explore what works, what doesn't work, and what we might be able to improve on. Some of our most exciting theme nights and giveaways have been spawned at the Winter Meetings, and hopefully this year will inspire even more.

It's not ALL work, of course, and this year's particular location has made the '09 Meetings one of the most highly anticipated in recent memory. While we're away, I'll try to report in with updates and long as they don't ruin any surprises we have in store for the summer (or get anyone in hot water). I'll clue you in on some of what we learn, some of what we see, and some of the ideas we're kicking around. Basically, I'll try to make sure that not everything that happens in Vegas will stay in Vegas. But don't worry, your inside look will have its limits. I'll spare you the gory details of rooming with Gary, or as I like to call him, "Captain Underpants!"

-- Dave