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Ben's Biz hits the road for the final time this year

Here's what is coming soon to a ballpark (that might be) near you
September 8, 2023

This is an excerpt from the latest edition of the Ben's Biz Beat Newsletter, bringing Minor League Baseball business and culture news to your inbox each and every Thursday. Check out the full newsletter HERE. Subscribe HERE.

This is an excerpt from the latest edition of the Ben's Biz Beat Newsletter, bringing Minor League Baseball business and culture news to your inbox each and every Thursday. Check out the full newsletter HERE. Subscribe HERE.

By the time you're reading this, I plan to be somewhere along I-65 highway whilst traveling between Bowling Green and Louisville. The Bowling Green Hot Rods, I saw them yesterday. The Louisville Bats, I’m seeing them tonight. My current road trip itinerary is above.

Material from this trip will provide sustenance to this newsletter well into October. But for now, let’s bask in what little Minor League Baseball we have left. Here are six promotions of note for this week, we’ll start with the one that happened on Wednesday:

Iona Cubs (Iowa Cubs, Sept. 6)
College basketball coach Tobin Anderson grew up just outside of Des Moines (he was a basketball star at Interstate 35 High School, so-named because of its proximity to, you guessed it, Interstate 35). Last year Anderson led 16-seed Fairleigh Dickinson to an upset win over 1-seed Purdue. Then, he took a job as head coach with Iona College in New York. Anderson threw out the first pitch prior to September 6’s Iowa Cubs game, and the scoreboard read “Iona Cubs” in his honor. The following day, Sept. 7, he was inducted to the Interstate 35 Wall of Pride.

Conrad the Crawdad is ready for things to go from horrible to even worse.

Night of Even Worse Promotions (Hickory Crawdads, Sept. 7)
Last year, the Crawdads staged a Night of Horrible Promotions. This year is, like Weird Al’s seminal 1988 album, Even Worse. The team says that “From mispronouncing player names and rigging the on-field games, nothing is off-limits.” (I can think of quite a few things that will probably be off-limits, but let’s just take the Crawdads at their word.)

When it comes to this type of promo you have the Altoona Curve to thank (or blame), as they used to annually stage “Awful Night.” I attended 2007’s Awful Night, which marked the first time I traveled to a ballpark in any sort of professional context. The evening culminated with an on-field laser light show, which turned out to be then-broadcaster Jon Laaser dancing in the outfield while wearing a green body suit and waving glow sticks.

Digital Underground Postgame Concert (Hartford Yard Goats, Sept. 8)
Digital Underground are hip-hop legends and stalwarts of the Bay Area scene, and their inventive and wide-ranging discography goes way beyond the (admittedly awesome) “Humpty Dance.” Seeing them perform postgame at one of Minor League Baseball’s greatest stadiums -- Hartford’s Dunkin’ Park -- should be a great time. And yet, I feel sad and conflicted. Shock-G, the heart and soul of the Digital Underground as well as Humpty himself -- died in 2021 at the age of 57. The show must go on, I suppose.

Snooki Night (Hudson Valley Renegades, Sept. 8)
Tonight, the Renegades are doing it all for the Snooki. That, of course, would be "Jersey Shore"star Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi, who grew up in Marlboro, N.Y. (just west of Hudson Valley’s Heritage Financial Park, on the other side of the Hudson River) and once worked as a Renegades gameday employee. The Renegades will wear Snooki-themed jerseys and give away Snooki bobbleheads while also offering a pregame Snooki meet and greet. Snooki Night is presented by the Snooki Shop, a chain of clothing stores which has a location in nearby Beacon. I really can’t imagine a night with more Snooki than this one and, believe me, I’ve tried.

Huntsville Stars Tribute Night (Rocket City Trash Pandas, Sept. 8)
The Rocket City Trash Pandas play just west of Huntsville, in Madison, Ala. The region’s prior Minor League team were the Huntsville Stars, who operated out of Joe Davis Stadium from 1985-2014 (and then moved to Biloxi and became the Shuckers). The Trash Pandas are pulling out all the stops for tonight’s Huntsville Stars tribute night, during which they will wear Stars uniforms. Thirty former players will be in attendance, including 13 from the inaugural 1985 team, as well as 15 former staff members.

I got the chance to visit Joe Davis Stadium on three occasions, and the first was particularly memorable. Let me explain.

A young Ben’s Biz (left) takes on sword swallower Dan Meyer.

The year was 2009, and two high school pals and I visited Huntsville in order to take part in an all-night game of Wiffle ball scheduled to take place after the Stars game. The game was rained out, however, and all-night Wiffle ball was canceled. General manager Buck Rogers booked sword swallower Dan Meyers that evening -- like, why not? -- and he ended up performing to a small group of people on the rain-soaked outfield after the game was postponed. At one point, Buck removed a sword from Dan’s mouth with a bullwhip (the video is still on YouTube). It was one of those highly surreal “Only in Minor League Baseball” moments that solidified the idea that this is what I want to do with my career.

John Gochnaur baseball card giveaway (Altoona Curve, Sept. 10)
Who’s the worst player in MLB history? According to Google, it’s John Gochnaur, a hapless shortstop who played from 1901-03 (mostly with Cleveland). He hit .187, never hit a homer and, most alarmingly, committed 146 errors in just 264 games. Gochnaur was an Altoona native, and he returned there after his career and worked as a policeman. The Curve, progenitors of the aforementioned Awful Night, are paying homage his life and legacy on Sunday with a John Gochnaur baseball card giveaway.

Benjamin Hill is a reporter for and writes Ben's Biz Blog. Follow Ben on Twitter @bensbiz.